Kinky sex has been around for eons, since long before Richard von Krafft-Ebing popularized the terms “sadism” and “masochism” in 1886 with his seminal work, Psychopathia Sexualis. But for a long time, it hasn’t really been spoken about in polite company. Only recently, with the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, has kink — generally defined as BDSM, which includes bondage, dominance and submission, and the consensual use of pain and humiliation for pleasure — earned a sort of mainstream acceptance. People are now willing to test the waters more than ever before.
Naturally, this is an area rife with misinformation and stigma. That’s part of why the Alt Sex NYC Conference, held last week in New York, was so important. The conference allowed researchers, clinicians, sex educators, and community members to discuss the most up-to-date research on what is known in the field as alternative sexuality (a term which encompasses kink, consensual non-monogamy, polyamory, and non-traditional relationship structures). For a population that has long been misunderstood and marginalized, the sharing of this information was much needed. Presentations ranged from myths about non-monogamy to best clinical practices when working with individuals from the community.
In honor of the conference — I streamed it remotely from Toronto — here are three key insights from the scientific study of kinky sex and non-monogamy.
(1) Swingers don’t get more STIs than everyone else
“Consensual non-monogamy” is an umbrella term referring to relationships in which partners agree that romantic and/or sexual relationships with other people are allowed. This includes swinging (which is primarily sexual in nature), polyamory (which is primarily romantic in nature), and open relationships (which are a mix of both sex and romance).
A frequent theme throughout the conference was the preconceived notion that monogamy is associated with better sexual health. It is widely believed that monogamy prevents the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and many people will say fear of getting HIV is their main reason for not “opening it up.” In theory, this makes sense, considering how nonmonogamous couples are exposed to a greater number of sexual partners (and if those partners are also nonmonogamous, then their partners, too, by proxy). In actuality, though, this isn’t the case, as research has shown that rates of STIs do not differ between monogamous and consensually nonmonogamous people.
The similarity in STI rates between the two groups exists for a few reasons. First of all, nonmonogamous people are more likely to engage in safe-sex practices, such as discussing their sexual history and being tested for STIs (roughly 78 percent compared to 69 percent of monogamous folk). When engaging with other partners sexually, nonmonogamous people are also less likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol — substances that can impair one’s judgment and lead to high-risk (or condomless) sex.
By contrast, monogamous couples don’t tend to follow these sexual health practices. They typically stop using condoms as soon as they decide to be exclusive with each other, and don’t often get tested for STIs or discuss their sexual-partner history before doing so. Needless to say, going exclusive doesn’t get rid of any STIs that are already there. This would also suggest that rates of STIs in monogamous relationships are, in fact, underreported.
And although consensual non-monogamy may appear to be driven by reckless passion and spontaneous sexual encounters, a great deal of thoughtful planning and preventive measures are involved. These relationships revolve around consent, transparency, and communication, and — at least in the best cases — any “extracurricular” sexual activities are discussed between partners well in advance to ensure that personal boundaries are respected. ...
The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA), a San Francisco non-profit community research organization, announces that on April 1st, 2016 it will launch the first ever national survey to examine the impact of kink sexuality on health and healthcare usage.
Why the survey?
Patients who engage in non-traditional sexual practices, including kink, BDSM, and fetishes (see terminology, below), have been largely ignored by healthcare providers and clinical researchers. TASHRA’s research strives to explore the interaction between kink and health, and specifically to describe the physical and mental health of the kink population, their use of healthcare, and their experiences engaging with the healthcare system.
TASHRA’s pilot study (manuscript in review), was a qualitative study based in the San Francisco Bay Area, conducted from 2013-2015. The study concluded that patients have genuine healthcare needs relating to their kink practices and identities, and that they wish to “come out” to their clinicians about their kink sexuality. However, only 38% are out to their current primary care clinician, with most citing fear of stigma as the reason for their non-disclosure.
TASHRA’s pilot study was conducted in a single urban setting, and the results should be generalized with caution. As a qualitative study, the results serve to bring salient issues to light, but do not provide statistics relating to the frequency of the findings, nor do they permit comparisons between subgroups of study participants.
The next step in TASHRA’s research agenda, then, is to distribute a survey to a national kink population, which will allow us to quantify the impact of kink on both physical and mental health, and examine nation-wide issues of healthcare access, specifically as they relate to the experience of healthcare-related stigma.
TASHRA will be recruiting U.S. adults, 18 years and older, who practice at least one non-traditional sexual behavior or fetish, including but not limited to: bondage/discipline, sadism/masochism, domination/submission, sexual role-play, or sexual objectification.
The survey is available online at: http://tinyurl.com/kinkhealth. It will be advertised at kink conferences and community events across the country, along with kink-oriented social media sites and Facebook.
More about TASHRA:
TASHRA is a community-based organization whose mission is to improve the physical and mental health of people who engage in BDSM, kink and sexual fetishism. This is achieved by conducting community-based research, educating healthcare professionals and patients, and by fostering the development of kink-friendly healthcare services.
TASHRA was started in 2012 by Jess Waldura, MD, Richard Sprott, PhD, and Anna Randal, MPH MSW. Jess Waldura, MD, is a family physician, HIV provider, and researcher at UCSF. Richard Sprott, PhD, is a developmental psychologist and director of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS). Anna Randall, MPH MSW, is a clinical sexologist and researcher in private practice. TASHRA is guided and supported by a Community Advisory Board consisting of 16 kink-identified community members.
The singer said she is “unafraid” of any criticism of her lifestyle
By ALISTAIR FOSTER
Vaults singer Blythe Pepino says she is happy to talk about being polyamorous and does not consider it to be “a big deal”.
The 30-year-old, who fronts the London-based electronica group, is in relationships with a man, a woman and another couple and insists she is “unafraid” of any criticism of her lifestyle.
Vaults — whose other members are Ben Vella and Barney Freeman, both 35 — have clocked up almost 20 million YouTube views without releasing an album.
Ellie Goulding, Alt-J and Bastille are among their fans and they had a song on the soundtrack to 50 Shades Of Grey.
Pepino said: “I’m quite a free person when it comes to relationships. I’ve got more than one relationship and as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine. Because in my world I’ve been living like this for quite a long time, it’s not that big a deal. I’m big into open communicationand honesty between people and in relationships. I think a lot of people find that a crazy idea, but it’s not really if you just look into it. ...
It was rounding 1 a.m. as I teetered my way across a tiny stage, covered in damp dollar bills.
Daisy Ducati was tugging at the leash attached to the leather collar around my neck, pulling me down to my hands and knees. A small but lively audience had gathered around the private stage in the back of Little Darlings, the North Beach strip club known for its nude dances and explicit VIP shows. The handful of testosterone-fueled young men, full of bashful bravado, egged Daisy on. They got noticeably nervous, however, when she ordered them to spank me and clothespin money to my breasts.
"Yes, Ma'am," they would say, almost hypnotized, and open up their wallets a little wider. The dollar bills they threw into the air fluttered down and stuck to my skin, melting into my sweat-soaked body like snowflakes.
There's nothing quite like being on a stage naked and having people throw money at you. Of course, not every night at the strip club is full of make-it-rain magic, but a good night can feel like you're channeling supernatural powers of femininity, using mind-control and body glitter to dismantle the patriarchy.
This was one of those nights. Daisy and I were feature dancing, so we got to live it up as the stars of the show. We were making excellent money and having a blast. Near the end of the night, Daisy caught my eye as we played in front of the crowd. The spark of electricity that passed between us communicated a mutual understanding that the pole, the high heels, and especially the money may as well have been sex toys. Our girl-on-girl tease show had transformed into an edgy, erotic scene that had both of us genuinely aroused.
Hours later, when the club had finally closed, we poured our tired bodies into a taxi, trying in vain to conceal the giant trash bags filled with cash. We held hands and looked out the window at the moonlight shining over the bay, and I let out a dreamy sigh, happy I had accepted her invitation to sleep over. Later, as we counted our money in bed, she teased me with a violet wand.
I do many types of sex work, but porn and escorting are my bread-and-butter. As with any kind of high-end sales, I do my best to make people think about the money as little as possible. All finances are negotiated prior to bookings, and once I'm with a client, I focus as much as possible on staying present to ensure we have the best time we possibly can together.
Talking about money is awkward for most people, never mind perfect strangers from different backgrounds trying to negotiate an erotic, semi-illegal transaction. It can be a hot mess if not handled with care.
I grew up working class. I was raised on federally distributed commodity foods, and I am deep in student-loan debt. Sometimes I feel as though my clients, who usually make upwards of six figures, can somehow smell the generations of poverty on me — in the way I hold my fork or how I pronounce certain words.
Sex work has been my life-hack for hauling myself, rung by rung, up the class ladder. But social climbing is a game rigged by the patriarchy. Once I realized that most women are destined to deal with different forms of objectification while living in a man's world, regardless of what career they choose, I made the choice to capitalize on its spoils.
For the last six years, I've thrown myself into the hustle of the adult industry — the one industry where women are the top earners — marketing myself as "The Whore Next Door," an approachable, all-American girl with a nerdy heart and a pervy mind. I do my best to deflate the power of the money my clients give me — to make it seem like an afterthought — when in fact, it's the main event. Rarely, if ever, do I discuss money with my clients. Thus far, this approach has served me well.
But in the past year, something began to shift. I came to realize that as a sex-positive person who is also an adult industry professional, my sex drive is not a constant. Rather, it's an ever-evolving tidal wave of weird. And the more knowledge I amass, the more curious I become.
I do occasionally explore power exchange and kink with my clients, but it is always on their terms, as I am providing a service to them. If they desire a BDSM fantasy with me in the role of mistress, it's their fantasy. I have simply been cast as the leading lady. Though I may enjoy my time with clients, and even play director now and then, I am temporarily under their employ, not their mistress.
However, six years of holding sex and money so close together in my mind has changed my relationship to both. Now, there is no more denying it: Money turns me on.
It turns all of us on — that's capitalism. But more specifically, during the exchange of power that happens when men, who wield the bulk of the power and privilege in our society, relinquish their money to women who hold substantially less power and earning potential, I feel something stir and flutter inside me.
A constant power exchange exists in a strip club between dancer and client, as the former encourages the latter to spend increasing amounts of money as the night presses on. Grinding my hips on his thighs, whispering, "Do you wanna get another dance?" breathily into his ear even though I already know the answer, and feeling him willingly place a little slice of his power into my underwear in the form of crisp, green paper — it feels edgy, brave, and sometimes intensely erotic.
"Financial domination is very intimate, and personal," says Penny Barber, a San Francisco dominatrix, porn star, and author, in her talk on the subject for Kink University. "It's almost more intimate than having sex with someone. It's the ultimate way to control someone's time on this planet." ...
Science fiction fans keen on Star Trek will know a different version of subspace than what we're talking about here, but, just like in the show, "subspace" in BDSM refers to a specific kind of space with its own rules, texture, and properties -- a kind of altered reality.
In BDSM, this altered reality usually takes place in the mind, although changes in the surrounding physical space can make a difference as well. This is why, for instance, people go out of their way to visit dungeons or set up private play rooms. These intentionally designed settings make it easier to get into the mood of an interaction -- to enter a psychological state where all the worries, cares, underlying thoughts, and emotions are stripped away, and your deepest, darkest fantasies can become reality.
When we're talking about "subspace," we're talking about the specific psychological state of mind that the submissive partner (or "sub") enters into during a scene with a dominant partner. To enter this subspace, the sub must be completely comfortable with the dominant partner, as they completely give up control to the "top" or "Dom/Domme" partner.
In many ways, getting into a subspace follows many of the same steps of practicing basic mindfulness, and is not nearly as strange as it may sound. Like with mindfulness, you have to be 100 percent present with your partner and in the moment. Many performers, musicians, and athletes use similar techniques to "get in the zone," where nothing exists except the experience itself.
Ever had a book you couldn't put down or a TV series you just had to finish, even if it meant an hours-long episode marathon? Subspace is the same. It's that feeling of utter presence, when all of your senses are heightened and your mind and emotions are totally wrapped up in the suspense of the moment. For the sub, entering subspace is an experience that melts away all their worries and fears. They don't have to think about anything or make any tough decisions.
All they need to do is obey and go with the flow.
On a psychological level, the point of this kind of exchange is to make the sub feel that the scene is real, thereby triggering their sympathetic nervous system into the "fight or flight" response. Tying them up, spanking, whipping, or flogging them may be part of this, as are later elements of pleasure such as the use of a vibrator or sensory play. Verbal putdowns, humiliation and begging are often part of the scene. Though it may seem intense, this sort of play is often tailored to match deep-seated fantasies that the sub harbors but has been unable to express outside of the emotionally safe space of the scene. ...
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.
Kink community worried about state legislator’s attempt to curb domestic violence
San Diego City Beat
It’s not as if California’s gimps, leather daddies and dominatrices are going to march on the state Capitol, but the kink and fetish lobby will send a letter to Sen. Christine Kehoe, a Democrat who represents parts of San Diego, about a piece of legislation that could inadvertently clamp down on their fun.
On Feb. 16, Kehoe introduced SB 430, which would create new categories of violent crime—attempted strangulation and suffocation. Both felonies would be punishable by mandatory two, three or four years in prison, plus an extra two years if the perpetrator is in a relationship with the victim.
The intent is to crack down on domestic violence, but, because of the bill’s wording, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) says the legislation could have the unintended consequence of criminalizing a range of intense sexual activities, especially within the scope of “breath play.”
SB 430 defines “strangle” as to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a person by applying pressure on the throat or neck.” The definition of “suffocate”—“intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly impede the normal breathing of a person”—could have the greatest impact on BDSM practitioners, since even milder sexual practices, such as face-sitting and the use of leashes, gags, gas masks and hoods, can impede breathing.
What makes the bill especially dangerous to sexual liberties is it specifically states prosecutors do not need to prove intent to cause harm in order to secure a conviction. However, Kehoe’s office tells CityBeat that the law would only apply to perpetrators who “willfully and unlawfully” strangle or suffocate another person. This language, they say, would exempt legal activities, such as wrestling teams, from prosecution.
Susan Wright, national spokesperson for NCSF, says that doesn’t go far enough and the bill should explicitly exempt consensual activities.
“We would want to them insert ‘non-consensual,’ so it wouldn’t be misinterpreted by people whose standards are different from ours in terms of what they believe people do,” Wright says. “Some people like intensity with their sex.”
Even though Kehoe may have noble motives, Wright says, the bill could give sexually conservative prosecutors a tool to persecute those who engage in bondage, sado-masochism, domination, leather play and other kinks.
“Point taken,” Kehoe told CityBeat. “We haven’t heard from that community, and we’ll have to deal with their concerns when we hear more about it.”
The NCSF is currently evaluating laws in every state as part of its “Consent Counts” project to identify places where consent is not a defense to assault and battery. Wright points to the famous 2000 “Paddleboro” case in Attleboro, Mass., where prosecutors pursued criminal charges against individuals caught using wooden paddles at a sex party. The organization also supported the defense of the “San Diego Six,” the members of the “pansexual leather / BDSM fetish group” Club X who were prosecuted for various lewd-acts-in-public charges related to a fetish party in 1999. Eventually, then-San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn dropped the charges against five of the defendants. The other defendant won a not-guilty verdict. ...