NCSF on Twitter   Subscribe to the NCSF RSS Feed   NCSF Blog

Wallet Card (Word document)
A pocket reference for dealing with law enforcement

Susan Wright of NCSF held the positions of Public Relations Director and Media Spokesperson for TES Fest 08, a 700-person weekend event over the 2008 July 4th weekend hosted at the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway NJ. This TES event, like the previous one, had the challenge of establishing a working relationship with a new venue and a new town. Susan continued to be a great ambassador for us as she met with the hotel, police and fire departments and did a spectacular job with helping us to forge a new set of relationships. She also, along with her vast resources at NCSF, helped research all relevant laws in the new town we were in to ensure that our event was in total legal compliance. In particular, she also performed admirably at-event in interfacing with the local law enforcement personnel which we hired as auxiliary security staff. We owe Susan a hearty "Thank You" for a series of 4 TES Fest's that were trouble free!
 
-Jeff
Director, TES Association
Executive Director, TES Fest 08

OUR MISSION: 

Mission: To decriminalize consensual BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance/submission, sadomasochism) in U.S. law by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes.

Unlike most other sexual issues (rape, for example), BDSM activities—a “scene”, a dungeon party, a Dominant/submissive or Master/slave relationship—can result in a criminal prosecution and conviction even where the activity is entirely consensual. It’s important to remember that most BDSM activities are treated as violence and not sex. This is not speculation; in 2010, NCSF’s incident response help line received 204 requests for help concerning criminal prosecutions.

NCSF’s research of cases throughout the United States revealed that not a single appellate court decision has allowed consent as a defense to a BDSM-based criminal prosecution for assault, sexual abuse, etc. Even where a state law allows the consent defense in cases that do not involve “serious bodily injury,” appellate courts have ruled that the use of nipple clamps or hot wax produces “serious bodily injury”.

The realization that our communities are at risk of criminal prosecution led to the launch of the “Consent Counts” initiative in 2006 at a Leather Leadership Roundtable at NGLTF’s Creating Change. At this Roundtable and one held subsequently at the Leather Leadership Conference, decriminalization of consensual BDSM was determined to be the number one priority of the BDSM/Leather/Fetish communities.  It was subsequently determined that NCSF would take a leadership and coordinating role.  This is, with the related initiative to change the way BDSM is viewed by psychiatry in the DSM criteria, NCSF’s most important project.

Our “Consent Counts” initiative is multi-faceted. We have researched the statutes, court decisions and relevant law review articles in all 50 states, and the results of that research are available on the NCSF website. We are presenting programs and holding meetings with our communities across the country, to build understanding of the issues and to develop consensus on an effective approach to nationwide activism. A national discussion guide has been created to facilitate local discussions to assist in the drafting of a community-wide statement on consent at LLC at Seattle 2013 with the goal of decriminalization and to promote local and national activism.  This aspect of our initiative also includes an EOP focused on Frequently Asked Questions about the criminal law issues and on Best Practices by which individuals and groups can reduce the likelihood of prosecution and—equally important—enable us to argue more effectively that what we do is mutually pleasurable erotic activity (not violence) and
that care is taken to ensure consensuality and avoid excessive stimulation or unintended harm. In addition, NCSF has published primers for both alleged victims and for those accused of consent violations.

The activism aspect of “Consent Counts” will be equally multifaceted. We have already begun reaching out to law enforcement, to legislators and to educators. In the coming year, we will be presenting continuing legal education (CLE) programs to lawyers, working with bar associations and law student groups, and participating selectively with “friend of the court” briefs in legal cases. Further down the road is the development of grass roots activism to change state laws and law enforcement practices.

In all of this, we need your help. You can report BDSM-related criminal investigations and prosecutions to NCSF. Your local groups can host “Consent Counts” presentations and discussions on activism strategies and on community practices that can help avoid criminal problems. As we go forward, we are seeking volunteers for various forms of activism and educational outreach. And, of course, your continuing donations to the NCSF Foundation (tax-deductible) and NCSF are essential for making this project effective.


SM Related Legal Research Resources

SM Related Legal Research Resources

  • Conducting SM Related Legal Research

    It is extremely important for members of NCSF constituent communities to understand the laws that may affect us.  Overview The law is interpreted – sometimes to our favor, and sometimes not. For example, while the NCSF firmly believes that consensual SM activity between adults is legal, there are those that have a differing opinion and will intentionally interpret the law in an unfavorable way. Therefore, it is extremely important for the SM-Leather-Fetish communities to have an understanding of the laws that may affect us. Knowing relevant laws will greatly assist our communities in safely organizing and maintaining SM-Leather-Fetish activities and functions. There are numerous laws, ordinances, and regulations at all levels of government - federal, state, regional, county and city. It's not easy to locate all of the laws that may affect us, but it's very important. You should make every attempt to thoroughly research your laws if your activities may come under the scrutiny of law enforcement or local authorities. In addition, NCSF recommends that thorough legal research should include consultation with a knowledgeable…






    Tags: Legal Legal Education
Jovanovic Case (Consent)

Jovanovic Case (Consent)

  • Affidavit of Susan Wright in Response to Affirmation in opposition to motion to file

    Affidavit of Susan Wright in Response to Affirmation in Opposition to Motion to File a Memorandum of Law Amicus Curiae   N.Y. Co. Ind. No 10938/96 Cal. No. 98-10474   1. I, Susan Wright, am the Executive Director of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) .   2. I write this affidavit in response to the DA's Brief in Opposition to the NCSF request to file an Amicus Curia…






    Tags: Legal Case Curiae
  • Affirmation of Michael Thomas Fois in response to opposition to motion to file

    SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE DIVISION: FIRST DEPARTMENT -----------------------------------------------------------------------X THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, Indictment No. Plaintiff-Respondent, 10938/96 -against-   OLIVER JOVANOVIC, Defendant-Appellant. -----------------------------------------------------------------------X   AFFIRMATION OF MICHAEL THOMAS FOIS IN RESPONSE TO OPPOSITION OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO MOTION TO FILE A MEMORANDUM OF LAW AMICUS CURIA Michael Thomas Fois, an attorney admitted to practice in front of this Court, affirms and…






    Tags: Legal Case
  • Affirmation in opposition to motion to file

    AFFIRMATION IN OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO FILE A -against- MEMORANDUM OF LAW   AMICUS CURIAE   SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE DIVISION: FIRST DEPARTMENT ------------------------------------------------------ THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK Respondent, AFFIRMATION IN OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO FILE A -against- MEMORANDUM OF LAW AMICUS CURIAE OLIVER JOVANOVIC, N.Y. Co. Ind. No. 10938/96 Defendant-Appellant. Cal. No. 98-10474 ------------------------------------------------------   MARK DWYER, an attorney duly…






    Tags: Legal Case
  • Memorandum of Law of Amicus Curiae, NCSF

    MEMORANDUM OF LAW OF AMICUS CURIAE  NATIONAL COALITION FOR SEXUAL FREEDOM  SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE DIVISION: FIRST DEPARTMENT ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------XTHE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, Indictment No. Plaintiff-Respondent, 10938/96-against- OLIVER JOVANOVIC, Defendant-Appellant.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------X  MEMORANDUM OF LAW OF AMICUS CURIAE  NATIONAL COALITION FOR SEXUAL FREEDOM  PRELIMINARY STATEMENT   This brief is filed by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom ("NCSF") as amicus curiae. Defendant Oliver Jovanovic…






    Tags: Legal Case
  • Affirmation of Michael Thomas Fois

    AFFIRMATION OF MICHAEL THOMAS FOIS   SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE DIVISION: FIRST DEPARTMENT ----------------------------------------------------------------------- x THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, Indictment No. Plaintiff-Respondent, 10938/96   -against-   OLIVER JOVANOVIC, Defendant-Appellant. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- x       AFFIRMATION OF MICHAEL THOMAS FOIS     Michael Thomas Fois, an attorney admitted to practice in front of this Court, affirms and states under penalty of perjury,…






    Tags: Legal Case
  • Notice of motion requesting leave to file memorandum of Law as Amicus Curiae

    NOTICE OF MOTION REQUESTING LEAVE TO FILE MEMORANDUM OF LAW AS AMICUS CURIAE   SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE DIVISION: FIRST DEPARTMENT -----------------------------------------------------------------------X THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, Indictment No. Plaintiff-Respondent, 10938/ -against-   OLIVER JOVANOVIC, Defendant-Appellant. -----------------------------------------------------------------------X   NOTICE OF MOTION REQUESTING LEAVE TO FILE MEMORANDUM OF LAW AS AMICUS CURIAE   Please take notice that, Upon the annexed Affirmation of Michael…






    Tags: Legal Case
Barbara Nitke Case (CDA)

Barbara Nitke Case (CDA)

  • CDA Expert Testimony in the Barbara Nitke Case

    UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK ------------------------------------------------------------------X BARBARA NITKE, THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR SEXUAL FREEDOM, and THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR SEXUAL FREEDOM FOUNDATION, Plaintiffs, -against- JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; Defendants. 01 Civ. 11476 (RMB) PLAINTIFFS' RESPONSES AND OBJECTIONS TO DEFENDANTS' FIRST SET OF INTERROGATORIES AND REQUEST FOR DOCUMENTS -------------------------------------------------------------------X   Plaintiffs Barbara Nitke ("Nitke") and…






    Tags: CDA Nitke
  • Govt Motion to Affirm Nitke and NCSF Reply (PDF)

    Govt Motion to Affirm Nitke 05-526 (pdf) (posted 3/2/06) NCSF Reply to Govt Motion to Affirm (doc) (posted 3/2/06)






    Tags: Civil_Rights CDA
  • Justices Reject Photographer's Appeal

    The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal yesterday from a New York photographer who said that a federal decency law violated her First Amendment rights to post explicit pictures of sadomasochism and bondage on the Web, The Associated Press reported. The justices affirmed a decision by a special three-judge federal panel upholding the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which made it a crime to post obscene materials on the…






    Tags: Supreme Court Sadomasochism Decency Act
  • Supreme Court Affirms Lower Court's Ruling in Nitke Appeal Without Hearing Oral Arguments

    WASHINGTON, DC - The Supreme Court today denied an appeal by photographer Barbara Nitke and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) in the case of Nitke v. Gonzalez. The appeal challenged the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act on the grounds that the obscenity provision of the CDA is overbroad. Last year, a three-judge panel in New York's Southern District had dismissed Nitke's lawsuit, ruling that there was "insufficient…






    Tags: Nightclub Supreme Court
  • Supreme Court Decision in the Communications Decency Act (CDA)

      March 20, 2006 - Washington D.C. Today the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Federal District Court's decision in Barbara Nitke and NCSF v. Alberto Gonzales, the challenge to the Communications Decency Act, #01 CIV 11476 (RMB). The Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court's decision without hearing oral arguments, sending a clear signal that the court will not protect free speech rights when it comes to sexually explicit materials.…






    Tags: CDA Legal Supreme Court Nitke
  • Justices Pass on Internet Obscenity Case

    March 20,2006 | WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court turned back an appeal on Monday from a photographer who claimed a federal decency law violated her free-speech rights to post pictures of sadomasochistic sexual behavior on the Web. Justices affirmed a decision last year by a special three-judge federal panel upholding the 1996 law which makes it a crime to send obscenity over the Internet to children. The court could have…






    Tags: Legal Supreme Court
  • NCSF and Nitke vs. Gonzales Supreme Court Update

    March 3, 2006 - In documents filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Justice Department did not contest NCSF's assertion that NCSF's Communications Decency Act challenge is properly before the Supreme Court on direct appeal. That is a big step forward because that means both sides agree that the Supreme Court should rule on the merits of NCSF and Barbara Nitke's case, and not on any procedural grounds. The…






    Tags: CDA Nitke
  • Communications Decency Act (CDA) Lawsuit

    July 26, 2005 - New York, NY - A three judge panel has made a decision in the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and acclaimed photographer Barbara Nitke's challenge against the Communications Decency Act (CDA) which criminalizes free speech on the Internet. According to the court, the plaintiffs presented "insufficient evidence" to support findings that the variation in community standards is substantial enough that protected speech is inhibited by the…






    Tags: CDA Nitke
  • Expert Witness Reports Submitted in Nitke v. Ashcroft

    New York, December 18, 2003 - The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has submitted expert witness reports for their landmark Communications Decency Act lawsuit, Nitke v. Ashcroft (Case No. 01 Civ. 11476). John Wirenius, attorney for plaintiffs NCSF and photographer Barbara Nitke, provided 31 expert witness reports and witnesses who will testify before the three-judge panel for the Southern District of New York.   The expert witness reports support the…






    Tags: Nitke
Nea vs. Findlay Case

Nea vs. Findlay Case

  • Govt Motion to Affirm Nitke and NCSF Reply (PDF)

    Govt Motion to Affirm Nitke 05-526 (pdf) (posted 3/2/06) NCSF Reply to Govt Motion to Affirm (doc) (posted 3/2/06)






    Tags: Civil_Rights CDA
  • Case summary of Nea vs. Findlay

      Argued: March 31, 1998 Decided: June 25, 1998 Issue: Freedom of Speech -- Whether a law requiring the National Endowment for the Arts to consider "general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public" before awarding grants to artistic projects is impermissibly viewpoint-based and unconstitutionally vague. Vote: 8-1; No, the law does not violate the First Amendment. Facts: In 1990, Congress amended…






    Tags: Legal
CDA Media Reports

CDA Media Reports

Media reports covering the Communications Decency Act lawsuit launched by co-plaintiffs NCSF and Barbara Nitke.

  • NEWSBYTES - December 19, 2001

    Net Obscenity Provisions Revocation Sought NEWSBYTES By David McGuire http://www.NEWSBYTES.com December 19, 2001, Washington, DC -- A small civil liberties group has asked a federal judge in New York to revoke what remains of an Internet pornography law that was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997. In a complaint filed in a New York City Federal Court [http://www.USCourts.gov ] last week, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom [https://ncsfreedom.org…






    Tags: Media News
  • San Francisco Bay Guardian - January 14, 2002

    Techsploitation By Annalee Newitz San Francisco Bay Guardian, January 14, 2002   HERE'S YET ANOTHER wacky fact you probably didn't know about the Communications Decency Act ole Bill Clinton signed into law way back in 1996: the good citizens of some small town in Arizona or southern California might have the power to send you to jail if they think the contents of your Web site are "obscene." The CDA…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • San Francisco Frontiers - January 23, 2002

    Communications Decency Act A Lingering Coup de Grace? By Tim Kingston   January 23, 2002   You may dimly recall the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which unsuccessfully attempted to define and proscribe "indecency" on the Internet. That law's legal core--its indecency provision--was immediately challenged and rapidly struck down as unconstitutional by free- and electronic-speech advocates. But, what many may not know is that another portion of the law, prohibiting…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • Ynot News - January 2, 2002

    Can David Beat Goliath in the Battle of Obscenity? Part 2   By Judd Handler   Ynot News, January 2, 2002   Last week's editorial featured an interview with John Wirenius, lead counsel for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and Barbara Nitke, an adult content photographer. Wirenius, on behalf of the NCSF and Nitke, filed a lawsuit on December 11 against Attorney General John Ashcroft seeking to overturn Internet…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • Ynot News - December 20, 2001

    Can David Beat Goliath in the Battle of Obscenity? By Judd Handler   Ynot News, December 20, 2001   One would think it would take the giants of the industry to force the government to rethink existing, not-applicable-to-the-Internet obscenity laws. On the contrary, the little players may be the ones who are successful in getting the federal government and the Supreme Court to throw out irrelevant local community standards when…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • Wired - December 12, 2001

    New Suit Targets Obscenity Law By Julia Scheeres Wired, December 12, 2001    A national organization that promotes sexual tolerance and an artist who photographs pictures of couples engaged in sadomasochism filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to overturn Internet obscenity laws. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and photographer Barbara Nitke argue that the obscenity provision of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is so broad that it violates free speech.…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • Spectator Magazine - January 11, 2002

    STANDING UP TO BE COUNTED: BARBARA NITKE CHALLENGES JOHN ASHCROFT ON S/M AND INTERNET OBSCENITY By David Steinberg Spectator Magazine, January 11, 2002 "No matter how we're wired to express love, freedom is having the courage to be who we are." - Photographer/plaintiff Barbara Nitke On December 11, Barbara Nitke and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom brought suit in New York City's Federal District Court, seeking to have the…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • New York Press - August 28, 2002

    What's Obscene in Podunk By John Strausbaugh New York Press, August 28, 2002   Barbara Nitke is a well-known and much-seen photographer in her field. She's president of the New York Camera Club and teaches a course in darkroom technique at SVA. A nice, neat, sweet individual, she's the very very last person in New York City you'd suspect of being a pornographer. Which she's not, not exactly. She's more…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • New York Newsday - July 25 2005

    New York judges refuse to say Internet obscenity law is unconstitutional By LARRY NEUMEISTER Associated Press Writer, July 25, 2005, 7:58 PM EDT  NEW YORK -- A special three-judge federal panel on Monday refused to find unconstitutional a law making it a crime to send obscenity over the Internet to children. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 had been challenged by Barbara Nitke, a photographer who specializes in pictures of…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • New York Daily News - July 15, 2002

    Fotog vs. Feds in Obscenity Law: Files suit to keep photos on Web by Veronica Vera New York Daily News, July 15, 2002 Photographer Barbara Nitke is used to being behind the lens, but if legal matters heat up, she may soon find the government focusing on her. Nitke is ready to step into the foreground as the chief plantiff in Barbara Nitke and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • Nerve - December 11, 2001

    Nerve December 11, 2001 Photographer Barbara Nitke and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) filed a lawsuit today, claiming the Internet censorship provision of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) violates the First Amendment right to free speech. The provision stipulates that "local community standards" will judge whether or not something is indecent. Yet attorney John Wirenius argues that "By allowing the most restrictive jurisdiction to define what speech can…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • CNN - December 20, 2001

    Lawsuit targets last scraps of Net-obscenity law By Sam Costello (IDG News) CNN, December 20, 2001 The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and artist Barbara Nitke have filed a lawsuit challenging the remaining provisions of the Communications Decency Act, much of which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997. The act, or CDA, was passed in 1996 and was the first U.S. law designed to allow…






    Tags: CDA Media
  • Adult Video News - February, 2002

    NCSF Tackles "Community Standards" For The Web By Mark Kernes Adult Video News, February Issue Washington, DC The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom may not be a household name, even in the adult entertainment industry, but if their recently-filed lawsuit succeeds, they may go down in history as the first group to secure Americans' core constitutional speech rights.  NCSF is based in the nation's capital [~] in fact, only a…






    Tags: Media CDA News
  • ABC News - July 29, 2002

    Love or Obscenity? S/M Photographer Challenges Internet Decency Standards By Dean Schabner ABCnews.com, July 29, 2002 When Barbara Nitke wanted to put her photographs of loving couples on the Internet, she thought she should check into the laws first. That's because Nitke's recent photographs have been focused on how some couples express their love through sado-masochism. What Nitke found after reading up on Internet law and talking to lawyers was…






    Tags: Media CDA
  • Govt Motion to Affirm Nitke and NCSF Reply (PDF)

    Govt Motion to Affirm Nitke 05-526 (pdf) (posted 3/2/06) NCSF Reply to Govt Motion to Affirm (doc) (posted 3/2/06)






    Tags: Civil_Rights CDA

To bring a SM-related legal case to our attention,
Contact Us by emailing ncsfreedom@ncsfreedom.org
or calling
(410) 539-4824.