“Sometimes my friends and I stop each other mid-sentence and say, ‘Oh my god, you guys. We go to Harvard. This is so weird,’” Maria, a junior, said recently over Skype chat.
Harvard had been Maria’s dream school for years. (She requested a pseudonym, but not because she’s not proud of her alma mater.) A valedictorian of her New England public high school, she got in on the basis of a 4.0 GPA and started working toward an English major. Last year, she began looking around for some extracurricular activities to enrich her college experience. There were more than 400 student groups to choose from. Maria chose a group called Harvard College Munch. Her goal was to meet new people, to explore something new, maybe to release some of the pressure that comes with trying to compete in an intimidating hothouse of rampant overachievement.
Maria is petite, with honey-blonde hair and brown eyes. They widened as she ticked off a few of the areas she hoped to explore in her free time: “Bondage, handcuffs, ice play…”
Maria is, she said, less a masochist than a submissive. “So a lot of taking orders and stuff like that,” she explained. “I’m really into the whole exhibitionist thing, semi-public places, mirrors…” In addition to educational meetings on campus, Munch has hosted private events where members can get together and “play.” Since joining, Maria’s had a chance to explore some of her fantasies. “I’ve been hit with a riding crop, a belt, a paddle, canes, a flogger … floggers are my favorite.”
The popularity of 50 Shades of Grey has accelerated a mainstreaming of the BDSM subculture already underway—the initials stand for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism—and the trend has been especially pronounced in our more elite institutions of higher learning. Columbia has a BDSM group. So do Tufts, MIT, Yale and the University of Chicago. Brown, UPenn and Cornell have hosted BDSM educators for on-campus seminars entitled “The Freedom of Kink” and “Kink for All.” It looks like conservatives who have long viewed the Ivy League a bastion of depravity may have a point after all.
But some young members of such groups are finding the subculture is offering them more of an education than they expected, confronting them with serious issues involving consent, disclosure, anonymity, sexual violence, guilt and innocence, crime and punishment.
While the scene’s mantra—“safe, sane and consensual”—is heard so often it might as well be translated into needlepoint, violations of these maxims are common. In the last year, hundreds of people have come forward to describe the abuse they’ve suffered within the scene. The victims are mostly women, and like 50 Shades’fictional 22-year-old Anastasia Steele, many are also young, submissive and uncertain about their boundaries.
In December, and Victoria (not her real name), a 20-year-old English major at an Ivy League school, had decided to skip reading period, apply more makeup than usual and venture on her own to a kinky meet-upshe had read about on FetLife, a social networking service for fetishists. Victoria didn’t have any experience with submissive sex, but she had been drawn to it for years; she sometimes had fantasies about dungeons or about being restrained or embarrassed, and she recalled family trips to Medieval Times having given her an unusual erotic charge.
The meeting was fun. Victoria had interesting conversations about neurobiology and religion and, of course, about kinky sex. It was near the end of the evening when a man walked in whom she recognized; he had tried to form an S&M club on her campus a few years before. Eric had a doughy, impish face and slicked-back hair, and he wore his cell phone in a carrier on his hip. ...
There are a lot of things to find disturbing about GQ's Rihanna profile, featured in its December "Men of the Year Issue"—like how naked she is or how she appears to have used the interview to stage another meeting with Chris Brown, further evidence that the two are back together and juicing the controversy of their reunion three years after Brown assaulted her.
But I admit I'm irritated about something else, too. In the words of writer Jay Bulger:
I ask what turns her on, because I know she'll answer. "I like to feel like a woman," she says. "I have to be in control in every other aspect of my life, so I feel like in a relationship, like I wanted to be able to take a step back and have somebody else take the lead." Do you ever switch things up? I ask. "I could absolutely be dominant," she answers. "But, in general, I'd rather ... How do I say this in like a ... non-X-rated version?" Right. Lastly, any boundaries I should know about? "Love makes you go places you probably wouldn't ever go, had it not been for love. But I think everybody still has their limits."
In the piece, this is the end of a clearly delineated section. And the next describes the night out that ends with Rihanna and Brown's rendezvous at a club. The connection is meant to be clear: Rihanna's preference for submission is the reason she's going back to Brown, going "places you probably wouldn't ever go, had it not been for love."
But submission doesn't have to be about seeking out abuse, be it physical or emotional. Dominance and submission are tools partners can use to negotiate what they want out of a sexual experience or a relationship. That power dynamic still allows for all involved to be safe. Similarly, women who return to partners who abused them aren't necessarily involved in dominant and submissive sexual relationships. ...
MY favorite CASE: A UK sadomasochism case allows us to consider when the state should be allowed to criminalise actions between consenting adults
What is your favorite case?
Many years before the publication of EL James’s 50 Shades of Grey, sadomasochism was slap-bang before the English courts. The case of R v Brown Ors whipped up controversy and undoubtedly left its mark on the issue of consent and non-fatal offences.
In the late 1980s, a group of more than 40 men decided to video themselves inflicting sadomasochistic tortures on each other on numerous occasions at a variety of different locations.
The videos spanned a 10-year period and showed the men engaging in various acts, including beatings and the maltreatment of their genitalia with a selection of instruments such as fish hooks, hot wax, nettles and cat-o-nine tails.
All acts were carried out in private, consensually and for no other purpose than achieving sexual pleasure and gratification.
The videos were copied and distributed among members of the group. Unfortunately for the men, the police came into the possession of these videos.
Some members of the group were charged with unlawful and malicious wounding and assault occasioning actual bodily harm on each other contrary to Offences Against The Person Act.
The trial judge ruled that the accused men could not rely on the defence of consent and the men were convicted in 1990 and sentenced to terms of imprisonment. An appeal against the conviction to the Court of Appeal failed, so the men appealed to the House of Lords.
The question before the House of Lords was, “Where A wounds or assaults B occasioning him actual bodily harm in the course of a sadomasochistic encounter, does the prosecution have to prove lack of consent on the part of B before they can establish A’s guilt under section 20 or section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861?”
The appeal was dismissed by a bare majority of the House of Lords.
Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, in the majority, held that “in considering the public interest, it would be wrong to look only at the activities of the appellants alone, there being no suggestion that they and their associates are the only practitioners of homosexual sadomasochism in England and Wales”.
Lord Jauncey seemed concerned that others who practised these “rather curious activities” may not be as “controlled or responsible as the appellants are claiming to be”, which could result in wounds becoming septic, the spread of Aids or the “proselytisation and corruption” of young men. ...
The lawyer who represented families in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has published another blog post about RCMP Cpl. Jim Brown after the latter filed suit against him, which claims his online posts were “false and defamatory.”
Lawyer Cameron Ward’s post responded to a civil suit filed against him and three others last week that claims several posts on cameronward.com could suggest Brown is “closely and criminally associated with Robert Pickton,” among other serious allegations.
Brown has been headlining media coverage since summer, when many pictures depicting the Mountie in bondage scenes with women were published and resulted in the RCMP initiating a code of conduct investigation. He’s seeking costs for damages and to restrain the defendants from publishing further material about him.
Ward, meanwhile, has been adamant that Brown should have testified at the Missing Women’s Inquiry and has called for an inquiry reopening to question Brown’s links to a Pickton informant.
“If he had been called as a witness, Cpl. Brown could have explained whether his off-duty interest in ‘bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism, fetish and kink’ had anything to do with the Mountie’s foot-dragging and inaction,” he wrote on his Monday post.
“Too many lingering questions remain unanswered.” ...
Rumor had it that Fifty Shades of Grey would generate a brand new baby boom that would surpass even the one created by World War II. While that remains to be seen, E.L. James' "mommie porn" novels have spawned a bizarre new fashion line--for babies. No, that's not a misprint. A new line of 50 Shades of Grey-inspired baby clothes has just hit the Internet. And probably a few select retail stores as well. However, before prudes and haters faint dead away after conjuring nightmarish visions of infants clad in black leather jammies, stilletto booties, and bondage harnesses with tiny detachable handcuffs, the novels' BDSM theme is manifested on the clothing only in the form of words. The outfits themselves are quite normal--tops, bibs, bonnets, jammies--all emblazoned with funny "Fifty Shades-inspired taglines."
"I'm a product of 50 Shades of Grey," reads a cute pink onesie, while another proudly states:
"I'm the result of my Mommy reading Fifty Shades of Grey."
An identical white onesie conveys the same message a trifle more explicitly. "9 months ago," it reads, "my mommy read Fifty Shades of Gray."
Still another explicit message on a tiny sweatshirt top proclaims: "My mommy pretends Christian Grey is My Daddy."
Yikes. Does that mean Daddy pretends Mommy is Anastasia Steele?
Other catchy Fifty Shades-related phrases include a "Laters, Baby" onesie so called after Christian's signature phrase; a bright yellow bib stating "I'm 'LiL Blip' Thank you 50 Shades of Grey", and a "Generation Grey" tee-shirt that comes with a bizarre accessory--a tiny checkered/plaid tie. The little tie is a free gift. Presumably it's also a clip on. ...
Tuesday's election results showed that 52 percent of Maryland voters bought the "fairness" argument those proponents of the state's same-sex marriage law used.
That was the percentage who voted for Question 6, the referendum that allowed the same-sex marriage law the Maryland legislature passed earlier this year to stand. Opponents of the law managed to get enough signatures on a petition to take the matter to referendum, but during the campaign it was hard to find a pro-Question 6 ad that didn't have the "f" word -- "fairness" -- in it.
Now it becomes my sad duty to inform those Marylanders who voted for Question 6 that this wasn't about "fairness" at all, but about overhauling the institution of marriage -- and society -- in such a radical way that we might not recognize either in the future.
The overhaul started long before Question 6 got on the ballot, and long before the Maryland legislature passed the law legalizing same-sex marriage earlier this year. The catchphrase of Question 6 supporters -- "marriage equality" -- might have fooled many into thinking that the law merely allows gay and lesbian couples to marry. But it does far more.
As I've written before, there is no longer a gay and lesbian rights movement. There is now what is called the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender -- LGBT -- movement, and it's expanding.
The May 18 edition of the Huffington Post contained an article with this title, one that shows where the institution of marriage will soon be headed: "Should Groups Like Asexuals and the Polyamorous Be Included Under The Queer Umbrella?"
For the uninitiated, "polyamorous" people are defined as "those interested in relationships of one type or another with more than one partner." In any true, genuine sense, "marriage equality" would have to accommodate the polyamorous. On the Showtime television network, there is indeed a show titled "Polyamory: Married & Dating." There is at least one website dedicated to New York City's gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender-polyamorist community. ...
Oyster Stats show surprising tidbits on a range of topics using data we've accumulated from our hotel coverage and site traffic. Our goal is not to provide scientific data but to provide interesting directional insights about travel trends. Here is some whimsy from the election cycle.
Once the presidential debates started the countdown to Election Day, the country's political fever was in earnest, with everyone getting all hot and bothered, and understandably so. As Election Day approached, voters were left questioning their parties and searching for proof that the person they planned to vote for would be the best suited for the job. Well, we at Oyster.com couldn't guarantee THAT, but we DID collect some interesting evidence that may have you looking at the election - and particularly your fellow voters - in a new light. Check out our findings:
-FINDING: SWING STATE RESIDENTS ARE SWINGERS.
It may come as a surprise to you that those who live in the most indecisive states are also the most likely to decide to dabble in a swing-tastic lifestyle - or it may not. After all, the more options, the better! In our research, we found that a significantly larger percentage of Oyster.com viewers residing in the swing states were checking out hotels on our site that encourage open relationships - such as Desire Resort & Spa Los Cabos, Desire Resort & Spa Riviera Maya and Temptation Resort & Spa Cancun - than viewers in the red and blue states. So, OK fine, we understand that this may not mean that swing state residents are ACTUALLY more likely to be swingers. But it at least means that they're more likely to have it on their minds!
Page views per person: 12 (among indecisives), 6 (blue states, or Democrats), 3.5 (red states, or Republican)
Percentage of web page traffic to swinger hotels: 0.092 percent (indecisives), 0.028 percent (red and blue combined)
-FINDING: REPUBLICANS ARE CLOSET NUDISTS. ...
Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2012/11/06/2756702/unscientific-vacation-stats-show.html#storylink=cpy
The Coquitlam RCMP officer whose online fetish photos were made public is suing for breach of privacy and defamation.
Cpl. James Charles Brown is suing Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, New Westminster resident Grant Wakefield and two unidentified people listed as John and Jane Doe, who are said to be known to Wakefield.
In the suit, filed in BC Supreme Court last week, Brown is claiming an unspecified amount in general, special, aggravated and punitive damages for "substantial and persisting injury to the plaintiff's reputation, injury to his pride and self-confidence, and severe emotional distress."
The lawsuit alleges Wakefield set up false profiles to gain access to the members-only fetish website Fetlife, where he then copied photos of Brown and transcripts of online conversations. Wakefield sent the material to the media as well as Ward, constituting an unlawful breach of Brown's privacy, according to the suit.
The photos included several of Brown engaged in various "consensual acts" as well as staged images of a woman being abducted, hog-tied and sexually assaulted that were only later found not to include Brown.
What followed were at least 10 instances of defamatory expression published in the Vancouver Sun newspaper, various online blogs and via Twitter, all of which were caused by the defendants, claims Brown.
The lawsuit states that in mid-July, the defendants published, or caused to be published, several Twitter messages stating or implying that Brown is corrupt, was connected to William Pickton and attended the illegal drinking establishment on the Pickton property known as "Piggie's Palace."
At about the same time, the suit alleges, the defendants published comments in an online article that indicate Brown has used blackmail to keep his job as an RCMP officer and has hired lawyers to intimidate witnesses and silence the media.
The lawsuit also claims the defamation continued with a lengthy letter sent to several media outlets in August in which the defendants, claiming to have a background working with the RCMP and CSIS, state that Brown has a violent history that includes the sexual assault of a young woman. It also says Brown has published hundreds of sexually explicit photos online under the name "Kilted Knight," some of which "break obscenity laws." ...