The allegations in the indictment were shocking: A young woman had been held captive for years as the sex slave of a Missouri couple. She had been locked in a cage and subjected to electrical shocks. Parts of her body had been nailed to wooden planks. When announcing charges last month, U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips called the case one of "the most horrific ever prosecuted in this district."
Authorities said the woman was a mentally deficient runaway who was recruited by an older man at the age of 16 to live in his trailer. The situation came to light in early 2009, after the woman, then 23, landed in a hospital following what prosecutors said was a torture session.
But as more details have emerged, more questions have arisen about the accuser, including her involvement in violent sex practices, her posing for a pornographic magazine and her work as a strip-club dancer. Supporters of the defendant are speaking out, too, saying many of the acts described in the indictment are practiced every day between consenting adults.
Ed Bagley, 43, faces 11 federal charges, including conspiracy, sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, and forced labor trafficking. Four other men also are charged with various crimes.
A graphic 21-page federal indictment describes medieval-like sexual devices being used on the woman at Bagley's mobile home about six miles outside Lebanon, in southwest Missouri. Accusations of waterboarding, suffocation and beatings are mentioned throughout.
Bagley's wife, Marilyn, said she and her husband knew the girl because she had dated their son. That relationship had ended, Bagley's wife said, but the girl wanted to come live with the couple when relations with her adoptive parents soured. She said the girl moved in when she was 17, not 16, and never had sex with her husband until after she turned 18.
"She was not a runaway," Marilyn Bagley said. "We picked her up from her adopted dad and stepmom. They were right there and everything."
Marilyn Bagley said prosecutors have told her she also will be charged if she doesn't agree to testify against her husband. But she said she will not take the stand against him because she believes the two did nothing wrong.
Prosecutors said Ed Bagley posted videos and other images on the Internet showing the young woman engaged in sexual activities. He allegedly described her as his sex slave and advertised that she would perform sex acts and submit to torture for other people during encounters online or in person.
Bagley is accused of taking payments of cash, cigarettes, computer hard drives, even meat, to let other men come to his home and torture her.
Bagley and other defendants are also charged with transporting the woman to California in 2006 and 2007 for prostitution. She appeared on the cover of the July 2007 issue of Taboo, a publication owned by Larry Flynt's Hustler Magazine Group, and was the subject of a story and multipage photo spread inside.
Prosecutors said Ed Bagley also forced the girl to work as an exotic dancer and threatened to punish her if she was not a top earner at the clubs where she stripped.
But another dancer at the same Missouri strip club said the woman seemed to enjoy the attention she got when she danced, often showing off the issue of Taboo magazine that featured her on the cover.
"This girl was spoiled," said Katie Smothers, who said she spent time at Bagley's trailer when she needed a place to stay but never participated in bondage activities.
"She would take customers to show them her magazine, and she had a bucket of photos at the bar. She bragged about it."
Susan Dill, Bagley's Kansas City-based attorney, told reporters recently that the indictment tells only one side of the story. She said the defense will present evidence that the woman practiced BDSM — bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism — by choice.
Dill declined to go into detail, and attorneys for the other defendants turned down requests for comment.
The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City also declined repeated requests to comment, saying the indictment speaks for itself.
Marilyn Bagley, who for years shared a bed with her husband and the woman, told The Associated Press the woman often left the Bagleys' home to go into the community.
She believes the woman's family coerced her to go to police after she was taken to a hospital suffering from cardiac arrest, which Bagley claims she suffered while getting ready for work — not during a torture session.
"She started seizing, and when she was done, she stopped breathing. Ed gave her CPR. I was on the phone to 911. We were freaking out. We didn't know what to do," she said.
Dr. Keely Kolmes, a San Francisco-based psychologist who sees patients who practice BDSM, said that many of the acts listed in the indictment can be part of consensual activities. But others might indicate Bagley was an abuser, such as allegations that he shot animals the woman cared about to prove he could kill her and that he refused to stop immediately when the woman used a "safe word."
"Consensual BDSM does not involve holding minors hostage against their will or causing physical or mental harm," Kolmes said in an e-mail to the AP. "That is a criminal behavior."
Susan Wright, spokeswoman for the Baltimore-based National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, said some of the things Bagley is accused of are clearly abuse, if true.
"Certainly in abusive relationships, sometimes it's hard to parse out what people do voluntarily and what things they are coerced to do," said Wright, who helped write a sadomasochism vs. abuse policy statement in the late 1990s that has been adopted by national BDSM groups.
At times, it all becomes "tangled up," she said. "And at that point, I don't think any consent you give is legitimate consent."
Where does consent begin and end in the eyes of the law when it comes to rough sex involving dominance and submission play?
Should adults engaging in consensual sexual behavior be subject to criminal laws including assault and battery? What local, state, or federal laws could be used against you for engaging in consensual BDSM activity? What does consent mean, who can give it, and what are its limits? How do we distinguish between consensual BDSM and domestic violence or abuse when such matters come before our law enforcement officials and enter into the court system? What are the boundaries of consent and sexual freedom?
Riverfront Times Kendra Holliday is a total slut. Go right ahead and say it — she does. She's not hiding from it anymore.
In some ways, she's always been honest about it. She's unflinchingly blogged every detail of her sex life for years — she's a bisexual, polyamorous, joyously partnered divorced mother, living and writing and fucking (and yeah, it's a lot of fucking) in St. Louis. Her blog, www.thebeautifulkind.com, details all of it. It has made her into a celebrity of sorts. It has cost her a job. She's called it her second partner.
But she's been hiding in plain sight, going to great pains to conceal her name, face and identity on the blog — even as she exhorts her readers to "be open and honest." The blog has become a safe space for sex-positive readers in St. Louis and all over the world to come together. It's created a virtual community, and Holliday and some of her kinky friends want to take that momentum and push the Midwest forward into greater sexual freedom and openness.
And it's hard to do that when you're hiding. So Holliday is coming out. ... The situation is definitely complicated. Susan Wright of the Baltimore-based National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, a nonprofit that helps protect the rights of people with alternative sexual interests, applauds Holliday's decision to out herself.
"When people knew people who were gay and were able to think of them as their friends and family, they could think of them outside the stereotype," she says. "We need to get the help of the bulk of Americans who really don't care about other peoples' sex lives, so we can fight against the people who want to legislate morality." But Wright, along with others, can see the point in staying hidden.
"I would use as a caveat: If you are a parent of a child under eighteen, don't come out," Wright says. "You could have a great relationship with your ex — once you go public, they could get blowback from people in their lives and try to get custody. I would discourage it, but I admire it and support her wholeheartedly."
The Paladino for the People campaign of New York real estate developer Carl Paladino, who earlier on Monday called gay pride parades “disgusting” during an appearance on NBC’s “Today,” briefly hosted a picture of three nude leathermen on its blog as part of what the campaign manager is calling a computer hack.
“It certainly wasn’t us doing it,” campaign spokesman Robin Wolfgang told Politerati. “We certainly had no intention of posting nude pictures on our web site.” The campaign manager for Paladino, Michael Caputo, told Capital Tonight the blog was hacked.
“Regardless of which side of the gay marriage debate one happens to embrace, I think a seperate debate can he held on the issue of whether or not children should necessarily be encouraged to attend gay parades?” the blog asked in the item with the photo before it went offline. “Are gay parade’s wild displays helping or hurting the struggle to win wider public acceptance?”
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is coming to San Francisco!
Please join us for an enlightening evening of discussion of NCSF’s Consent Counts project to decriminalize BDSM. You’ll find out about the state of the law regarding BDSM and consent and how you can help support this important national project.
Judy Guerin, NCSF Consent Count’s Director & Richard Cunningham, Esq., NCSF Consent Counts Advisor
Appetizers, wine & other beverages provided
Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 7:30
The Law Offices of Alex Austin & Shannan Rapoport 799 Castro Street San Francisco, CA. 94114
Please RSVP to Judy Guerin at
Richard O. Cunningham, B.S., M.A., J.D., has advocated for over 30 years on issues of gender, race and sex. He has played a leading role in landmark legal cases, including being the supervising attorney on the Supreme Court Case regarding women in military academies and the initiating attorney for the lawsuit during the Vietnam War that resulted in equal media political coverage. He has served as chair of the boards of both the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom Foundation (NCSF) and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation. He is senior international trade partner at Steptoe & Johnson, LLP in Washington, D.C. Dick is currently advising on legal and policy aspects of the NCSF Consent Counts initiative.
Judy Guerin is a well-known activist, writer, speaker and educator on issues of sexual freedom and gender expression and has been dedicated to activism on these issues for over 30 years. She is a long-time member of the BDSM/leather/fetish community and currently directs the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom’s Consent Counts Project to decriminalize BDSM. She is the former Executive Director of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and a former board member of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation and GenderPAC. She is a former steering committee member of the National Policy Roundtable of GLBT & HIV/AIDS groups and an advisor to the European Union on issues of sexual freedom, gender expression and GLBT issues.
Throughout his journey from Ph.D. student at Columbia Business School to CEO of a bondage-porn empire based in San Francisco, Kink.com's Peter Acworth has had his finger on the pulse of sexual proclivities in America. Here, we ask Peter a few questions about his unlikely rise to Internet-sex power player and what the future holds for a public seemingly addicted to online porn.