Supreme Court decisions on marriage unlikely to directly impact status of polygamy, other multiperson relationships
The U.S. Supreme Court could rule any day on challenges to two laws blocking legal recognition for same-sex marriages – the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's voter-approved Proposition 8 – but advocates for polyamorous couples say "marriage equality" for that minority group is unlikely in the immediate future.
Anita Wagner Illig, a longtime polyamory community spokesperson who operates the group Practical Polyamory, is unsure of the direct impact of a ruling that would legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide.
Until recently, she noted, "the polyamory community has expressed little desire for legal marriage," but now more options seem possible in the future. "We polyamorists are grateful to our [LGBT] brothers and sisters for blazing the marriage equality trail," Illig said.
Illig believes there is indeed a "slippery slope" toward legal recognition for polygamy if the court rules in favor of nationwide same-sex marriage, an argument typically invoked by anti-gay marriage advocates. "A favorable outcome for marriage equality is a favorable outcome for multi-partner marriage, because the opposition cannot argue lack of precedent for legalizing marriage for other forms of non-traditional relationships," she said.
But Illig concedes, "there will be quite a lot of retooling of the legal system necessary to establish marriage equality for marriages of more than two people. A marriage of two people of the same sex requires a lot less in terms of adapting today's systems, such as Social Security, for example, to accommodate it."
"It is hard to predict" the possible legal side-effects of the Supreme Court rulings "since [the cases are] about official recognition rather than criminalization," George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told U.S. News.
Turley is representing the polygamist Brown family, which has four wives and one husband, in their challenge to Utah's cohabitation law. The Brown family stars in TLC's "Sister Wives," which records the family's day-to-day life, as well as their flight from Utah to Nevada after local authorities began to surveil them and openly mull felony charges. ...
Polyamory Research Survey Background From February 10th to April 2nd 2012, Loving More (http://www.lovemore.com/) ,with the endorsement of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom https://ncsfreedom.org/) (NCSF) conducted an internet-based survey of over 4000 participants who self-identify as polyamorous. This is the largest survey of self-identified polyamorous individuals to date. Individuals were recruited through local and regional listserves, Loving More email list, the Poly Researchers list, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality's (IASHS) student and alumni lists, and the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists' (AASECT) AltSex list. With the exception of five questions, all the questions were drawn from among those asked in the NORC's biennial General Social Survey (http://www.norc.org/Research/Projects/Pages/general-social-survey.aspx) (GSS) in order to compare a sample of the polyamory community with the general US adult population.
The American Psychiatric Association has depathologized kinky sex – including cross-dressing, fetishes, and BDSM – in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Now the paraphilias are considered to be “unusual sexual interests,” while those who have sex with children or people who haven’t consented, or who deliberately cause harm to themselves or others, may be diagnosed with a Paraphilic Disorder.
“The APA has made it clear that being kinky is not a mental disorder,” says Susan Wright, Spokesperson for NCSF. “That means people no longer have to fear being diagnosed as mentally ill just because they belong to a BDSM group. We’ve already seen the impact – NCSF immediately saw a sharp rise in the success rate of child custody cases for kinky parents after the proposed DSM-5 criteria was released three years ago.”
NCSF would like to thank everyone who participated in signing our DSM Revision Petition and for telling the APA about their own stories of discrimination and persecution. NCSF also thanks every member of the APA Paraphilias Subworkgroup for responding to our concerns, and drawing a hard line between consensual adult kinky sex and those who willfully engage in nonconsensual or harmful activities.
NCSF is proud to build on the work of kink-aware professionals who have come before us, including Race Bannon and Guy Baldwin, who helped make seminal changes in the DSM-IV in 1994.
The following are some statements about the various paraphilias in the DSM-5. Although highly clinical in language, they show the APA’s intent to not demand treatment for healthy consenting adult sexual expression:
“A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.” p. 686
“In contrast, if they declare no distress, exemplified by anxiety, obsessions, guilt or shame, about these paraphilic impulses, and are not hampered by them in pursuing other personal goals, they could be ascertained as having masochistic sexual interest but should not be diagnosed with a sexual masochism disorder.” p. 694
“Many individuals who self-identify as fetishist practitioners do not necessarily report clinical impairment in association with their fetish-associated behaviors. Such individuals could be considered as having a fetish but not fetishistic disorder.” p. 701
“Clinical assessment of distress or impairment, like clinical assessment of transvestic sexual arousal, is usually dependent on the individual’s self-report.” p. 703
NCSF relies entirely on your donations to advance the rights of consenting adults and to do advocacy like our DSM Revision Project. Please donate now!
But it generated a seven-year legal battle so bitter it ended up in federal court.
And when it was finally done Thursday evening, Gold Coast resident Kim O’Brien didn’t get a single cent out of the multi-millionaire ex-husband she’d sued for allegedly holding her against her will as a “sex slave.”
A jury took just four hours to reject the 52-year-old’s claims that wealthy Wisconsin businessman Kevin Anderson, 57, intentionally emotionally abused her and tied her up, gagged, beat and raped her during an unwanted introduction to the world of bondage, submission and sadomasochism on their California honeymoon in 2005.
The four men and four women jurors instead found it more likely that O’Brien was a “gold digger... motivated by greed” who’d enjoyed kinky sex and had lied about the abuse, as Anderson’s lawyer argued.
O’Brien — who endured repeated innuendos during the two-week trial suggesting she was a prostitute, and was shown naked, bound, blindfolded and spanked in humiliating photos displayed for jurors — pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows as the verdict was announced.
Wearing dark sunglasses, she quickly left the courthouse without comment. Her ex-husband had already returned to Wisconsin and was not in court to hear the verdict.
Earlier Thursday, lawyers for both sides told competing accounts of the couple’s deeply dysfunctional romance, which began when they met in Aspen, Colo., in 2000, saw Anderson shower O’Brien with luxury gifts and expensive trips before he proposed in a Michigan Avenue church in 2005, and ended in divorce soon after.
Representing O’Brien, Dean Dickie said during his closing argument that “whenever there is an allegation or an accusation between a man and a woman about what happened in the privacy of their bedroom ... inevitably it turns into ‘it was all the woman’s fault, and the man was the victim of something that was made up.’”
He said O’Brien had been “psychologically scarred” by being violently held to the terms of a “slave contract” that required her to address her husband as “master” and parade around the house naked, adding that other women would be at risk if Anderson was not held liable.
But representing Anderson, Charles Cole said O’Brien’s account was “a fantasy — it’s a movie script.”
Arguing that O’Brien had lured Anderson into sadomasochism as part of a pre-planned “setup” to later sue him, Cole showed a large naked photo of an apparently unhurt and smiling O’Brien taken hours after the alleged honeymoon assault. ...
What do you call it when a husband beats his wife with a paddle for disobeying him? Some would say domestic abuse. These people say he’s doing God’s work.
The Daily Beast
On a pain scale of one to 10, Chelsea ranks the epidural-free birth of her child as a six. Her husband’s spankings? Those are an eight.
First, he uses his hands for “warm-up” slaps. Then comes a combination of tools based on the specific infraction. The wooden spoon is the least severe; for the worst rule-breaking—like texting while driving (“It could kill me,” Chelsea admits) or moving money between accounts without his permission—she’ll be hit with something else: a hairbrush, a paddle, or a leather strap.
But this isn’t domestic abuse, Chelsea says. This is for Jesus.
Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.
Clint was in the room while I talked to Chelsea. They do everything together, including running their blog, Learning DD, which chronicles their exploration of domestic discipline. When Chelsea gets flummoxed by a question, she asks Clint for guidance in a voice so high-pitched that it belies her 28 years: “Honey, how long does the spanking usually last?” (About 5 minutes, Clint says.)
He has left bruises, Chelsea says, but it’s rare, and she attributes them to anemia.
You don’t have to be a Christian to practice domestic discipline, although many of its practitioners say they believe that domestic discipline goes hand in hand with their faith. Specifics of the practice vary by couple, though CDDers all seem to follow a few basic principles. Foremost, that the Bible commands a husband to be the head of the household, and the wife must submit to him, in every way, or face painful chastisement. ...
Jurors were given a peek Wednesday at a sex-slavery contract and documents outlining the basics of sadomasochism in a Gold Coast woman’s lurid lawsuit against her former husband.
Kimberley O’Brien, 52, is suing 57-year-old Kevin Anderson in federal court, claiming he lured her into a violent marriage in which he was the master and she was the slave — allegedly raping her on their honeymoon and leaving her suffering panic attacks.
Anderson denies he sexually assaulted O’Brien and says any sadomasochistic sex was consensual.
On Wednesday, O’Brien took the witness stand as her attorney, Dean Dickie, displayed love letters from Anderson on a projector. In one greeting card, Anderson told O’Brien in 2000: “hope I can make you smile for ever.”
But the letter also showed a strain in their new relationship — about five years before they were married — with Anderson writing: “I don’t know why you don’t call me since I feel as though you don’t love me.”
O’Brien testified that she was avoiding Anderson because she discovered he was still married while dating her.
After showing the love letters, Dickie displayed documents that Anderson allegedly downloaded on his computer in 2002 to research sadomasochism. One of them, titled “Slave Rules,” had a handwritten star next to the passage: “Whenever Master speaks, even when I am speaking, I am to immediately become silent so I may be able to listen intensely to what He has to say.” ...
Being abstinent from drugs and alcohol doesn't mean forsaking fun. A thriving community testifies that kink and sobriety go together like a fist in a leather glove.
What's the link between BDSM—the catchall term for bondage, discipline, domination/ submission, sadism and masochism—and sobriety?
Can you be clean and sober and still engage kinkily? For those who identify as clean and kink-friendly, the answer is a resounding "Yes, please (may I have another?)." The connection is being borne out as supportive communities of like-minded people are springing up around the country.
The issue goes beyond physical safety; as one woman told me, "who wants to be flogged by a drunk guy?" While a number of interviewees reported they have attended play parties—often in private homes—where alcohol and drugs abound, most organized play parties frown on, or explicitly forbid, such substances and often turn away players who show up intoxicated. (This is also a common complaint of professional dominatrices, who often have to turn away drunks.)
Mollena Williams—a BDSM educator and the co-author of the guidebook Playing Well with Others—founded San Francisco's Safeword, which offers a "12-Step modeled approach to recovery for kink-identified people." She began the group in 2007 in response to her lukewarm reception at traditional AA meetings. She recalled that her tastes were considered to be incompatible with her sobriety: "People are often ready to attribute your desires to do kink or BDSM as part of your addiction." She added that many 12-steppers "equated that high you experience within a scene as a result of a dry drunk. I was accused of substituting one drink for another. They didn't see that for me Kink and Leather were the last bastions of my sobriety!"
The majority of interviewees emphasized the positive effect BDSM has had on their sobriety, going far beyond the realm of the dungeon or kinky world. Theener, a 35-year-old New Yorker who's been kinky since she got a birthday spanking in 2004, feels like she had to "learn how to be kinky all over again" after getting sober in 2008.
"You have to learn how to have fun without alcohol and drugs being the center of your fun," she said. "When I wasn't sober, I wasn't interested in spaces like [S&M club] Paddles and [support and information group] Lesbian Sex Mafia meetings because there wasn't booze. I had to appreciate later that those places were alcohol free." ...
The stark potential consequences of lack of empathy for the Other are illustrated by the Operation Spanner case.
As a result of investigation of another case, the Manchester, England police Obscene Publications Squad came into possession of a video tape they believed depicted acts of nonconsensual sexual torture. Although it is not known precisely which of several videos was seen first, acts included genital piercing, cutting of the scrotum and penis, and acts the defendants described as ‘heavy S&M’. Convinced of the depravity of these acts, and anticipating that ‘snuff’ films were being made, the OPS launched a major investigation. In late 1987, the police descended and arrested ‘dozens’ of gay men in the Manchester S&M scene. Initially, the police were incredulous that the acts depicted on tape were consensual. In the face of indisputable video evidence, and believing that consent would mitigate charges of committing gross bodily harm, 16 defendants, tops and bottoms, plead to charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The authorities took 21 months to proffer charges, but eventually proceeded with the legal claim that British case law in a nineteenth century boxing prosecution disallowed consent as a defense against assault charges. The Spannermen, as they came to be known in the BDSM world, were sentenced to prison terms of up to three years. Many decided to appeal the case, and the attempted defense of consensual BDSM in Britain would drag on for years. After losing in appeals court, the case was heard by the equivalent of the British Supreme Court; 5 Members of Parliament from the House of Lords appointed to hear the case in March of 1993. They refused to overturn the convictions 3-2. Lord Templeton spoke for the majority in ruling:
"In principle there is a difference between violence which is incidental and violence which is inflicted for the indulgence of cruelty. The violence of sadomasochistic encounters involves the indulgence of cruelty by sadists and the degradation of victims. Such violence is injurious to the participants and unpredictably dangerous. I am not prepared to invent a defence of consent for sadomasochistic encounters which breed and glorify cruelty [...]. Society is entitled and bound to protect itself against a cult of violence. Pleasure derived from the infliction of pain is an evil thing. Cruelty is uncivilized."
A number of interesting arguments were made in criticism of the convictions. The routine injuries of sports and other dangerous recreational activities ruled legal in England were compared with the degree of actual damage inflicted on the consenting defendants. The prosecution of defendants as accessories in their own victimization was challenged. All the defendants claimed that they were ignorant of the possibility that they could have been guilty of assault because they thought consent was a defense, a claim of some justice since the case that it wasn’t was largely constructed during the prosecution and appeals. And it was observed that acts of equal severity in heterosexual S&M had been ruled as noncriminal because the defense of consent was allowed, thus creating a double standard inherently discriminatory against homosexual activity.
The prosecution also made some rather novel and cogent points, the most important being that police commonly encountered repeated domestic assault cases in which (mostly female) victims would complain, then recant that domestic violence was consensual. If post traumatic stress or pathological dependency could undermine consent, how were the police to intervene to protect victims of domestic violence? Furthermore, there were a great many more domestic violence cases at risk than S&M prosecutions. This argument helped frame the Lords’ decision that the acts depicted in the videos turned on cruelty, rather than autonomy.
By the time the case was referred to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, a number of BDSM organizations in Britain and the US had taken up the cause of fund-raising for the defense. These organizations, such as SM Pride, and the Spanner Trust, continue today, long after the unanimous adverse human rights court ruling in 1997 that Britain was within its legal rights to make law to protect public morals. Fund raisers for legal defense are held at many BDSM events. ...