@WickedGrounds is closed today. We are very sorry for any inconvenience.
That tweet went out two Wednesdays ago. It was at once cryptic and unsurprising. On the one hand, it might just mean what it said: Wicked Grounds was closed for the day. On the other, it could mean something more, because the city's only kink-oriented coffeehouse had suffered financially since its opening. The fact that it was still open at all was because of an enormous effort by regular clientele to raise funds. (The owners had announced it would close at the end of April.) When the tweet went out, everyone froze for a minute, wondering whether the axe had finally dropped.
Once the baristas started posting on Twitter and Fetlife about finding new jobs, it seemed very clear: Wicked Grounds was closed for good -- and with it an important hub of San Francisco's BDSM community.
I can't pretend to have journalistic objectivity on this subject. For the past two years, Wicked Grounds has been central to my social life in the city. When it opened, I wrote it up for CarnalNation, the website where I worked at the time, and when it looked like it would close, I participated in the fundraisers to keep it open. A lot of my writing has been done sitting at one of its tables while people openly practiced bondage knots a few feet away. My main response to its closing is a profound sense of grief and loss.
Those feelings are even more acute because the story of Wicked Grounds says so much about the state of San Francisco's sexual subculture. Just getting the café's doors open in 2009 was a community effort. Before the first coffee was poured, people volunteered their help to get the space into shape. Co-owner Ryan Galiotto (who was joined by his wife Rose White) acknowledges that they probably wouldn't have been able to open without that assistance.
But as much as that says something about the fundamental decency of our local pervs, the closing of Wicked Grounds also shows a real problem: Kinksters are fighting tooth and nail to keep community spaces. It's not just one coffeehouse. ...
I believe most modern Americans have a very low capacity for pleasure. I don't just mean sex. I mean being tactile, receiving touch, feeling the wind rush past your body, swimming, getting in bed at night and rolling around in your clean sheets for a few minutes. Tactile pleasure makes us more whole. I believe we all need sensual touch every day.
It's highly important for me to tune into the subtleties of sensation in my body. It's transformational, and I can bring it into my life 24/7, from writing an article to having a business meeting. I can be present and involved, wanting to expand everything I do to its most delicate and exquisite place -- because that's what I practice during sex. As I just suggested, there are other ways to find that capacity, but sex works for me.
Unfortunately though, as a society, it appears we're going virtual. There are so many ways to communicate these days via electronics that I believe we're going to see a rise in very sophisticated teledildonics -- people remotely controlling devices to stimulate a partner somewhere far away. Stuff like that is already starting to happen.
Also, S and M practices are popular, because people in this culture are constantly craving the next level of excitement, a bigger dopamine rush in the brain. That neural reward circuit is addictive, which is why so many westerners are into compulsive cycles of smoking, drinking, drug taking, internet surfing, multitasking, fast driving, and just pushing the edges all the time, looking for sharper highs. So people's sexuality gravitates to harder faster stronger. "Give me something edgier, more out there."
Neo-Tantric practices are edgy in a different way. When you move backwards into subtle areas of breath, softer presence, sensual touch, those kinds of practices are expandable for a lifetime. You can get more and more detailed and minute with what you're exploring. You can look for a new erogenous zone under the eye or on the neck, or it suddenly dawns on you to try using both your hands in some different way when you're touching your partner, or to get your partner to move energy by brushing energy away from their genitals up to their chest. And then they get the idea, "Oh that feels different! I've got to breathe deeper and expand into this . . ." So you're always in new territory!
Now someone who's really into BDSM might say you can always find more territory there as well. Well, fine, but at some point, doing that, you're going to be playing with seriously dangerous edges. Whereas with tantra, the scary edges are more likely to move you into kundalini experiences, or profound states of consciousness, or super-deep intimacy where you don't know where your body went, where you've gotten so involved in the lovemaking that your boundaries have dissolved and you don't know whether it's you or your partner who's having the orgasm....
Every once in a while, someone will ask me a question about something BDSM-related that I feel “done with”; I feel like I did all my thinking about those topics, years ago. But it’s still useful to get those questions today, because it forces me to try and understand where my head was at, three to seven years ago. It forces me to calibrate my inner processes. I often think of these questions as the “simple” ones, or the “101? questions, because they are so often addressed in typical conversation among BDSMers. Then again, lots of people don’t have access to a BDSM community, or aren’t interested in their local BDSM community for whatever reason. Therefore, it’s useful for me to cover those “simple” questions on my blog anyway.
Plus, just because a question is simple doesn’t mean the question is not interesting.
One such question is the “BDSM versus sex” question. Is BDSM always sex? Is it always sexual? A lot of people see BDSM as something that “always” includes sex, or is “always sexual in some way”. In the documentary “BDSM: It’s Not What You Think!“, one famous BDSM writer is quoted saying something like: “I would say that eros is always involved in BDSM, even if the participants aren’t doing anything that would look sexual to non-BDSMers.”
But a lot of other people see BDSM, and the BDSM urge, as something that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sex — that is separate from sex.
I see two sides to this question: the political side, and the “how does it feel?” side. Both sides are intertwined; when it comes to sex, politics can’t help shaping our experiences (and vice versa). I acknowledge this. And yet even when I try to account for that, there is still something deeply different about the way my body feels my BDSM urges, as opposed to how my body feels sexual urges. I don’t think that those bodily differences could ever quite go away, no matter how my mental angle on those processes changed. ...
SPACES: Sex Positive Autonomous Coalition for Environmental Sustainability. The wordy acronym may not roll off the tongue, but with this project, former Slug Elias Martinez and current UCSC student Aaron White hope to create a buzz and get people talking.
The work-in-progress is a multipronged project focused on promoting not only sex positivity but practices that are environmentally sustainable. For example, by making — and teaching how to make — vegan, “upcycled” (a term meaning repurposed from other objects) sex toys, SPACES is showing support for sexual freedom and eco-friendly practices with leather-free products.
“We decided to create an organization that addressed more of the needs and issues that we saw needed [to be] addressed,” White said. “When you have sex positivity, you are more open to the idea of sex. It doesn’t necessarily mean you engage in it, but you support people who are having it.”
Martinez and White make their products, including floggers, whips and harnesses, from extensively sterilized used bike parts, like inner tubes.
“It’s something that I’m really good at, and I really like making vegan alternatives,” Martinez said. “Our products are as good or better than the leather products in the market now.”
White said their products are user-tested and improvements are made based on feedback. They are not currently making products for penetration and have no plans to begin making them.
In the past Martinez and White have worked both independently and collaboratively on various workshops on topics such as queer anarchy and BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism). White said he’d like to see these workshops continued.
Both Martinez and White said they hope to see several large-scale projects come to fruition, including a database identifying what businesses are queer-friendly “safe spaces.” White said while there are regional networks of queer-friendly businesses, there is nothing on the national level.
“Creating a national registry insures businesses are staying true to their word and remaining queer-friendly,” White said. ...
Coming Sunday, Oct. 9th (Columbus Day Weekend): Inspired by the beauty & intrigue of Cirque du Soliel, the DC Fetish Ball will bring together some of the scene's very best DJ's, Models, Fashion, Live Entertainment, & Nationally Recognized Talent - all accented w/ an incredible play space in one of the city's most lavish venues to create an event that’s worthy of the Nation's Capitol. THIS is an evening you won’t want to miss!
Beyond the Bedroom is described by co-organizer Dan Powers, aka Daka-Dan, as an October 16 educational event about sex. But police in Lakewood, where Beyond the Bedroom was originally scheduled to take place, weren't so sure, due in part to a possible live demonstration of orgasmic meditation, not to mention a BDSM class and videos featuring female ejaculation.
"They didn't say we couldn't hold the event there," Daka-Dan recalls. "But they did say if any of the presenters did anything illegal, they'd be arrested, and me and my partner" -- pro-polyamory nonprofit Loving More's Robyn Trask -- "would be arrested, too."
Steve Davis, spokesman for the Lakewood Police Department, puts it differently, maintaining that only what he refers to via e-mail as "live sexual acts" were described as forbidden. But Daka-Dan and Trask were freaked out enough to relocate Beyond the Bedroom to Westminster anyhow.
According to Daka-Dan, "Beyond the Bedroom is a spinoff of what used to be called the Sex Show or the Sex and So Much More Show. That event was half adult-entertainment and half adult-sex education -- and the combination didn't work that well for the adult-education part.
"A lot of people didn't know education was available; they came for the porn. And even though they were appreciative of the education, it was hard to do a meditation-type class about slow orgasms when a screaming-orgasm event was happening onstage. So my wife at the time and I decided to put together an all-education event, with presentations about everything from relationships and how to communicate better to the wilder side of the lifestyle -- swinging, polyamory, and other things people might not have heard about but would want to learn more about."
With that in mind, Daka-Dan began looking for a hotel at which to base Beyond the Bedroom, and he eventually settled on the Sheraton at 360 Union in Lakewood. He says the sales manager at the Sheraton was kept fully informed about what would be taking place, and his fellow organizers went out of their way not to offend the sensibilities of other guests -- by, for instance, arranging for vendors of products such as dildos and vibrators to be located in a side room to which members of the general public wouldn't have access. ...
In a culture in which celebrities regularly don latex or leather and talk about kinky sex, our media outlets still have a way of trying to keep the average individual’s sexuality in check when it comes to private sexual behaviors. Tabloids such as the New York Post has a long history of taking pieces of schoolyard-like gossip and treating them like news articles, especially when it comes to women’s sexuality. In the last year alone, the Post has thrown the title of “hooker” at no less than three women in its headlines, one of which was a murder victim, and even managed to get the frontpage headline of “Crazy Stox Like a Hooker’s Drawers…UP, DOWN, UP,” complete with a photo of a lady in red, to fit what might otherwise have been a piece about the fledgling economy. The Post, it would seem, has got sex (and sex workers) on the brain.
The latest victim of the the Post‘s sharpened tongue is a lawyer for the state Attorney General’s office, Alisha Smith, who was suspended without pay from her position, following the Post’s inquiry regarding her participation in BDSM activities in her off hours. An anonymous source for the Post cited a standing executive order in the Attorney General’s Office, stating that employees must “obtain prior approval from the Employment Conduct Committee before engaging in any outside pursuit…from which more than $1,000 will be received or is anticipated to be received.”
Whether Smith is in breach of her contract remains to be seen. However, the ability of the Post to create the piece out of Smith’s story, which they then published, is now well documented. Using little more evidence than some tweets by Smith about personal lubricant and the unsubstantiated claim that “it is common in the S&M community for dominatrixes to receive payment for appearances at fetish parties,” the paper has singlehandedly managed to call a professional’s conduct into enough question to launch an internal investigation.
Responding to the suspension, the spokeswoman for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, Susan Wright, had this to say: “NCSF supports the rights of consenting adults to have a private life apart from their employment. Alisha Smith is another victim of the persecution that often occurs against people who engage in BDSM. Our research has found that one out of three kinky people have lost their job, lost child custody or has been the victim of violence because of their BDSM interests. The media should never out individuals simply to create a sensationalized story.” ...
The Peoria County Board wants to end the potential for swingers clubs sprouting up under its jurisdiction.
When the city of Peoria banned sex clubs within city limits earlier this year, the county wanted to make sure businesses wouldn't move to unincorporated regions. The proposed amendment clarifies some points that were not previously outlined.
"We just wanted to make sure there wasn't some loophole," said Stephen Morris, chairman of the land use and transportation committee.
The county ordinance does not currently include language banning live sex acts in licensed businesses. Citing public health concerns as the main cause of action, the committee introduced an amendment to the Peoria County code.
"(The amendment) will reenforce that the county of Peoria and the city of Peoria are like-minded in the respect to businesses who provide pay-to-play entertainment to adults," board member Andrew Rand said.
The committee passed the amendment with unanimous vote.
"I don't think anybody in good taste and good conscience would permit these businesses to exist," Rand said.
Only one adult entertainment business is currently licensed by the county - Pulse, a strip club on Farmington Road.
The County Board will vote on the change at the meeting on Oct. 13.