Exploring one of the most popular — and dangerous — trends of our generation.
by Kelsey Lawrence
This May, a 20-year-old Texas man was charged with the 2014 death of his prom date, who didn't wake up the next morning after a night of allegedly "rough" sex. Though her death was exacerbated by the alcohol and hydrocodone in her system, Eddie Herrera choked Jacqueline Gomez while having sex, and, due to the drugs and "deep hemorrhaging" around her neck, she died in her sleep that night. Yet despite the inherent risks of engaging in increasingly physical sexual activity, our generation is clearly captivated by it.
In Pornhub's 2015 Year in Review, a comprehensive look at the search analytics of their users worldwide, one of the most interesting statistics went relatively unnoticed. Ranking just under "lesbian" and "solo male," women are searching categories like "hardcore," "rough sex," and "bondage" significantly more often than men. The "rough sex" category alone was viewed by women 106 percent more often than men last year. Under "top gaining searches" for both men and women, the term "hard rough" was searched 454 percent more often in 2015 than in 2014.
Our porn habits aren't necessarily indicative of what we want IRL, but if we're watching rougher porn, does that mean our generation, generally speaking, is having rougher sex? And, furthermore, what do we even mean when we say "rough sex"? Cosmopolitan.com spoke to six Millennials and a sex therapist to investigate whether twentysomethings are playing harder in bed — and, for the first generation to have access to porn since before we even knew what sex was, what that actually looks like. Okay, we're not knocking on apartment doors with a postcoital census poll, so we can't exactly prove whether Millennials are, in fact, getting rougher. But we can look at some common themes to examine where our boundaries tend to be and explore what seems to be the most dominant trend: a disturbing lack of education surrounding consent to these activities.
ARE WE GETTING KINKIER?
Dr. Gloria Brame, sex therapist and author of Different Loving Too: Real People, Real Lives, Real BDSM, doesn't necessarily believe people are kinkier than they've been in previous generations, because she believes those desires to be inherently genetic.
"We're all wired for different things," Dr. Brame tells Cosmopolitan.com. "Some people are always going to be more intrigued by intensity. People in BDSM communities will say it's the internet that's transformed BDSM ... I think that's because it allowed people who might previously have had a tiny fantasy to suddenly realize, 'Wow, does that mean I have the potential to be kinky?'"
In 1953, a Kinsey Institute study found that 55 percent of females and 50 percent of males had experienced an erotic response to being bitten. Clearly, desires for rougher play have always existed in some incarnation. We're also undoubtedly influenced by what we see around us. A University of Arkansas study from 2010 showed that 88 percent of the scenes from 50 top-selling porn videos contained a variety of aggressive acts, from spanking to gagging.
Whether or not these desires are innate, it's undeniable that we've experienced a culture shift of rough sex and BDSM culture permeating mainstream media. As evidenced by the success of the (arguably misinformed) Fifty Shades of Grey and even the trendiness of bondage-inspired clothing, elements of BDSM have become increasingly commonplace. Rihanna's 2010 song "S&M" featured copious whips-and-chains references. Even a recent commercial for pistachios featured a dominatrix seemingly, um, making a pistachio submit to her command. So while humans have likely always had kinky desires, there's no question those desires are more widely accepted and embraced by pop culture today. ...
...Lack of Consent and Education
Of all the themes that arose while reporting this story, this was the most disturbing. Robin, 23, described a one-night stand who tried to choke her during sex without asking first. "It was not OK with me by any means," she says. "Would it have been OK with me if, instead, they were a long-term partner? Most likely." But BDSM activity, even when consensual, can still be prosecuted under state criminal laws, according to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. In March, a federal court in Virginia ruled that there is "no constitutional right" to engage in even consensual BDSM.
There's a lot of interesting, valuable discussion surrounding consent and BDSM scenes on FetLife forums and through talks sponsored by the NCSF. Much of that conversation, however, may not reach young people who are experimenting without really becoming part of that community. Eddie Herrera's 25-year sentence for choking his girlfriend is proof of what can happen when these acts go wrong (and it is all too easy for something to go wrong).
We also tend to think of consent in the steps leading up to sex. But even if you're already in bed with someone, asking for consent needs to continue, particularly when playing around with anything that could potentially hurt someone. Kristin, 24, has had experiences with an ex-boyfriend who didn't seek her consent before trying things like name-calling and anal sex. Several months into the relationship, he all of a sudden started calling her a "dirty slut" and attempting anal sex — all with no warning. "It was the most unchill situation I've had with a partner I was actually dating," she says. "I most definitely stopped him and asked what the heck was up. It shifted the entire dynamic of the relationship, unfortunately." ...
Within the incredibly diverse LGBT community, the worldwide Leather/fetish/kink family is undoubtedly one of its most close-knit subcultures. Leathermen, Leatherwomen, and their allies have created a large and diverse — yet simultaneously intimate — network from Amsterdam to New York City. Throughout the year, there are an endless number of social events taking place, both large and small. Those events include the many annual Leather and fetish contests. Whether it is a bar title or a state, regional, or international title, the winner of the Contest is expected to dedicate a significant amount of time to community service and to take on a philanthropic cause that he or she is passionate about. Forty year-old Dan Ronneberg, a former Officer in the U.S. Air Force who lives in Arlington, Virginia, became the thirty-second Mr. DC Eagle in March 2015. Nine months later, he won the prestigious national title of American Leatherman 2015 during American Brotherhood Weekend (ABW) in Chicago. Ronneberg is an Aviation Safety Inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration. He serves as the National Chairperson for FAA GLOBE, the FAA’s LGBT Employee Association. Fifty-one year old psychiatrist and U.S. Army veteran Todd Leavitt is also a dual Titleholder. In January 2016, Leavitt was named Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2016. It was the highest honor in a Contest held during one of the country’s largest and most anticipated Leather/fetish/kink events: Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in Washington, D.C. Leavitt, however, is not a newcomer to the Leather world. Almost 25 years earlier, he had won the Title of Mr. Leather Detroit in May 1991. Leavitt is taking his journey even further later this month: He is one of 59 men from all over the world competing for the envied Title of International Mr. Leather (IML) 38 in Chicago during Memorial Day Weekend.
Dan and Todd, both incredibly muscular, make an instant impression wherever they appear. In keeping with their responsibilities as Titleholders and role models, they make a lot of public appearances all over the States as well as in other countries. It’s clear that the two of them are devoted to each other, and that they share at least one common interest: bodybuilding! They are both handsome, intelligent, and outgoing. Their three-year relationship, however, is a bit more complex than a casual admirer on the street would perceive. Dan and Todd have a modern consensual Master/slave relationship. It’s an example of a “Dominant/submissive” relationship, the spectrum of which also includes “Daddy/boy” relationships among gay men. But here comes another twist in this happily renegade family portrait: Todd is legally married to Randy Gooch, who has been his life partner for 20 years. Dan is Master to both Todd and Todd’s husband Randy. The three men live together. (And, yes, they all sleep in the same bed, along with their two English bulldogs.)
Obviously, every power differential relationship is different. Some partners choose to enact their roles on variant levels when in public and in private, for example. Although I had known Dan for quite some time, I had not yet officially met his slave Todd. To show the significance of the dynamics of a Master/slave couple, I actually felt it appropriate to ask permission of the Master before freely speaking to his slave. As you may have gathered by now, it was fine!
It is impossible to accurately estimate how many Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, are in power differential and/or polyamorous relationships. Despite superficial pop culture interest in BDSM culture, the whole subject remains largely misunderstood and often disrespected in American consciousness. In the Leather community, however, these relationships are often open and supported. Still, the idea of both BDSM and polyamorous relationships may be considered at best unusual, and at worst controversial even among the LGBT community at large. But one thing is clear: This unique Leather family makes it work. More importantly, they make it work well. Dan and Todd took the time out of their incredibly busy travel schedule for an enlightening discussion about their relationship, HIV and PReP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) awareness, and the current state of the Leather community.
JR: Hello gentlemen. Thank you for speaking with me. So, Dan, let’s start with you. A lot of people, even in the LGBT community at large, may have a hard time understanding the dynamic between a Master or Daddy and his collared slave or boy. They may have a negative impression because they say that the relationship is not “equal”. How would you explain that to them?
Dan: They aren’t equal. It’s very clear that they are power differential relationships. One person is agreeing, consensually, to give up some of their power to make decisions or to do certain things. But it is an exchange. So, the other person is agreeing to take over those roles and to be responsible for that. And that really does mean being responsible to it. That means sexually as well. I am completely responsible for making sure that they (Todd and Randy) have a good time, and that they get off, and that they are happy. There are two of them and just one of me, so I have to make sure we do things that involve all three of us, and that nobody feels left out, and to figure what we are going to do next. I have to put some thought into how I play with them and what we do. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “catering”, but it is paying attention to certain needs and interests — which may be very different for Todd then they are for Randy and determining how can I do both of those at the same time. ...
What better way to celebrate and enjoy a beautiful, sunny Father's Day than to trek over to the Folsom Street East festival? The 15th annual event was held this past Sunday in the urban valley of West 28th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, under the watchful eye of the newly opened section of the High Line park. After all, hanging out during daylight with lots of sexy guys wearing nothing but skimpy scraps of leather, a healthy sprinkling of freaks, a little BDSM in the open air and some beer on tap was lots better than buying Daddy a tie and taking New Jersey transit out for a tedious day with dysfunctional family members. Instead, this celebration of sexual freedom offers what daddies really want: some rubber puppy paws, a plastic tail plug and a rubber dog hood for puppy play sessions.
Although you might think the event caters only to a fringe group, I bumped into a lot of my friends there. "I love leather, and I think this event is one of the sexiest of the year," photographer Rob Ordonez told me. He and his friend, fashion designer Geary Marcello, are regulars and were dressed in typical Folsom Street attire, with matching spiked dog collars, leather straps, face piercings and tattoos.
When I arrived around 3 p.m., the block was crammed with mostly men, a few women (some in leather) and drag queens. And one living blow-up doll: A person encased in a latex mask covering his entire face, who was also wearing black latex—with balloons for tits. I pushed my way through the crowd looking for the press table on the other side of the block and thought about getting a beer ticket for $5 because it was starting to get hot (in more ways than one).
As I expected from photos I'd seen from previous Folsoms, some men were semi-nude and consisted of all different body types, ages and colors. Some wore leather chaps with ample ass hanging out, some wore other bondagetype fashion (harnesses being the most common) and some were just wearing average, everyday clothing. What made the day fun was the sense of adventure and friendliness of the crowd.
The stage shows were emceed by porn star personalities Mike Dreyden (who later participated in the most unique pie-eating contest ever conceived) and Will Clark. Sassy drag queen Peppermint performed and—although there were some wellplaced taunts from the average-looking gawkers on the High Line—it was a feelgood day.
My friend, nightlife photographer Teague Clements, seemed to have a great time. "It was a veritable cornucopia of sexual freedom: leather daddies with their lovers, lesbian doms with their boi slaves, muscular bears walking hand-in-hand," he said. "And every now and then, people just... kissing. And yes, there were straight folks, too."
I was scared when she first suggested it. But as we found out what we could handle, I saw how much trust we shared
I got up around seven on my wife's birthday and made her breakfast, as usual. I do all of the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, buy groceries and run all errands, even for those embarrassing feminine hygiene products. My wife never asked me to shoulder all household chores; I insisted. The arrangement suited both of us perfectly. I always wanted someone to take care of, just as she always wanted someone to take care of her.
While we eat breakfast, it's tradition that we watch "Law & Order: SVU" on Netflix. "Do you want to watch cop-who-rapes-his-wife or little-girl-in-a-coma?" I asked.
My wife chose "cop-who-rapes-his-wife," while I, the sentimental one, opted for "little-girl-in-a-coma." We broke this impasse the same way we make other minor decisions: With a wrestling match.
I know many couples enjoy a bedroom tussle, but when my wife and I grapple, we're out for blood. We bite, scratch, punch and twist each other's limbs into painful pretzels. I am proud to say I am married to a woman who can kick my ass. This is how we are in the bedroom, too, where it's a constant shifting of dominance, rough and wild, neither of us on top for long.
My wife won, finishing me off with a move that would be illegal even in a street fight. I let her get her licks in while she could. Later that day, we were headed to the dungeon. There, I would show her no mercy.
A Wisconsin woman looking to move to New York found herself living a nightmare after a man who lured her to Brooklyn through Craigslist with the promise of rent-free digs allegedly subjected her to more than a week of sexual torture.
The victim, 27, e-mailed John Hopkins, 45, about his Web ad, which said he had a room in his East Williamsburg apartment, police sources said.
After telling her she could stay for free if she cooked and cleaned, Hopkins paid for her plane ticket and picked her up at Kennedy Airport on Feb. 4, according to the sources.
As soon as they arrived at his place on Humboldt Street, Hopkins allegedly told the woman that she was to be his slave. He then allegedly blindfolded and gagged her, handcuffed her to a radiator, and began beating and raping her.
For the next eight days, Hopkins allegedly kept the woman chained in his apartment, but then allowed her to leave for a job she had landed at a Manhattan restaurant.
Bizarrely, the woman did not call 911 while she was away from her alleged tormentor. But last Saturday, she contacted her mother, who alerted the NYPD. When cops arrived, they found her shaking on Hopkins' bed. She was treated at Woodhull Hospital.
Hopkins was hit with charges including rape, assault and unlawful imprisonment.
On the other end of the boundary spectrum is the idea of exploration and expanding your boundaries. If you have known what you enjoy for a while and are ready to try new things, there are many different activities to try to expand your sexual boundaries. Ingram and Grosser suggested the idea of BDSM (Bondage Discipline Dominant Submission Sadomasochism), an umbrella term for a lot of different techniques and activities. Perhaps you would not self-identify or be afraid of BDSM, but, in fact, many people actually perform it or fantasize about it. For instance, using handcuffs or spanking your partner are both forms of BDSM. Intrigued yet? All types of people have been known to enjoy BDSM, whether they’re gay, straight, queer, young or middle-aged women. For people who have too many responsibilities in their lives and want somebody else to take the reins, or for people who feel like they have lost control of everything around them and want to regain a dominant position, BDSM with a consenting partner could be for you.
After revealing her identity in an RFT feature and on her blog, Kendra Holliday expected fallout. After all, the blog she'd maintained anonymously for years, www.thebeautifulkind.com, features an explicit peek into her sex-positive world filled with lovers, sex toys and BDSM.
Right away she found a great deal of support and criticism, both online and in real life -- commenters on our story called her everything from a hero to a whore. Some parents of her child's classmates shunned her. ...