BDSM and consent

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How to stop rough sex crossing the line into abuse

When allegations of assault were made against New York’s top prosecutor Eric Schneiderman this week, he denied them, saying engaging in non-consensual sex was a line he would not cross.

“In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone,” he told The New Yorker magazine, which broke the story.

Four women say he repeatedly slapped them and one said he insisted she call him “master” in non-consensual situations.

One former girlfriend, Michelle Manning Barish, said: “This was under no circumstances a sex game gone wrong… I did not consent to physical assault.” New York prosecutors are investigating the allegations.

This is not the first time a man accused of assault has claimed he was consensually engaging in rough sex (in Mr Schneiderman’s case, he was in a sexual relationship with three of his four accusers; a fourth woman said he hit her after she rebuffed him).

In 2014, Canadian musician and former radio host Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of multiple sexual assault charges after several women claimed he had choked, slapped and bitten them without warning or consent.

And in 2015, nine women accused adult film star James Deen of assaulting them and not respecting their sexual boundaries or safe words. He denied the accusations and no charges were ever brought.

In recent days, Mr Schneiderman’s case has come under close scrutiny in the BDSM community, an overlapping acronym for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism.

The BBC spoke with sex experts and prominent members of the community who said full and free consent was a vital element of the practice, in which partners consent to inflicting or enduring pain or physical abuse.

They said they were keen to explain what does, in fact, make a consensual BDSM relationship.

“Stuff like this, doesn’t give [BDSM] a good name,” said Allen TG, one of the directors of Torture Garden, the world’s largest fetish club. “Generally in a BDSM relationship, there are fairly strong guidelines – it’s all about consent.”

Many people who practise BDSM, which is an aspect of kinky sex, may not consider themselves to be in a BDSM relationship or an active member of the community because the exploration of boundaries in sexual imagination are deeply personal and subject to individual tastes.

Certified sex coach Sarah Martin explained: “A lot of people start with something as simple as a blindfold, and it can be erotic and connecting, it doesn’t have to involve equipment or paraphernalia.

“Consent should be freely given, and it should be reversible at any point,” said Ms Martin, who is also executive director of the World Association of Sex Coaches. “Many people think that if you consent, that you agree until it’s done, but that’s not at all how it’s done.”

BDSM vocabulary

  • Kink – a broad term that usually encompasses sexual acts considered outside the norm
  • BDSM – this acronym is described as a pre-agreed power exchange, sometimes not explicitly sexual
  • Dominant and submissive – the names for the roles individuals enact during BDSM practice
  • Play and scene – BDSM participants describe themselves as playing in a scene
  • Munch – a casual social meet-up for people involved in or interested in BDSM
  • Vanilla – refers to someone, or sex, that is not kinky
  • Safe words – words or a gesture pre-agreed with your partner to alert them to your physical and mental limits
  • Aftercare – argued to be just as important as the scene, this is personal to the individual but may involve blankets, cuddles, conversation and a cup of tea to ease both participants physically and emotionally back to normality

To exercise informed consent, the sub – the abbreviated form for submissive – needs to know what activities will take place and how.

“Different bodies respond to touch in different ways,” explained the sex coach. “You may agree to spanking, but then if your partner uses a paddle, then that’s not informed consent.”

“It is entirely unacceptable to ‘surprise’ someone with slaps, whips, blindfolds, or anything like that if you haven’t spoken to them about it before,” said anonymous sex blogger Girl on the Net.

Mr Allen added that there’s a misconception that the dominant partner – or dom as they are sometimes called – is the one with control.

“A good dom is giving pleasure to the submissive, and that’s what gives the dom pleasure. If it’s only going one way, then that’s when it’s not healthy,” the fetish club organiser said.

Clinical sexologist Dr Celina Criss agreed. “It can be said that the power in a scene lies with the submissive because nothing can happen without their agreement.”

Playing it safe

Communication and understanding are cornerstones to any healthy relationship, the experts say. Because there is intimacy in divulging personal fantasies, a level of trust is also developed when establishing a BDSM relationship.

“People who participate in the BDSM community pride themselves on their communication and negotiation skills,” said Dr Criss. “Ideally, negotiation happens before partners ever touch each other.”

Traffic light colours are common safe words used between BDSM partners

Girl on the Net recommended listening carefully, reading the other person’s body language and tone, asking questions to check in and making sure they’re comfortable at every step of play.

The anonymous author also explained that in BDSM there are “pre-agreed safe words or gestures that mean – stop this immediately”.

A simple and common example of this is the traffic light system, using colour cards or the words themselves. Green means “that’s great, keep going”, explained Ms Martin. “Yellow is a check in, but not necessarily a stop, and red is no – it means stop, it means it’s done.”

So why isn’t “no”, as a word, enough?

“For some people, saying no but not being listened to may be part of the sexual fantasy,” explained the sex coach. “But you’ve negotiated this ahead of time so the dominant knows that’s part of your cathartic pleasure.”

Crossing the line

Overstepping a sexual boundary can and does happen, but sexologist Dr Criss said an adherence to communication, negotiation and repeated mutual consent keeps rough sex from becoming wilful abuse.

“People who are not involved in BDSM are likely to have many misconceptions based on what they’ve seen in movies,” she said, referring specifically to the popular erotic romance novel and film series Fifty Shades of Grey.

Ms Martin warned that such mainstream depictions of BDSM relationships are fantasy, and almost never show the level of negotiation and ongoing conversations that shape a successful BDSM experience. She says: “The quickest way for [abuse] to happen is if there isn’t communication.”

Girl on the Net likened it to a contact sport. “BDSM is to abuse what boxing is to being punched by surprise. The former is done with consent and an understanding of risks. The latter isn’t, and is assault.

“I also know that ‘BDSM made me do it’ has been an excuse used by powerful men in the past to try and dodge accountability for their actions. It’s not acceptable… BDSM is not an excuse for abuse.”

“It can be sexy, but also deeply caring,” explained sex coach Ms Martin. Kinky sex should never be used as a way to defend violent behaviour, she said.

“It makes me feel it makes an attempt to take advantage of general societal ignorance of BDSM,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

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Queen Mother of the South: My Life as a Transgender Parent

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The Southern part of the U.S. has to be one of the more conservative regions in the nation. Rooted in traditional, religious, and conventional values, it is often referred to as the “Bible Belt.” Southern traditionalists marvel at their old-fashioned ways and high moral standards. These standards are applied to every aspect of Southern culture, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, or gender.

Evonne Kaho

This is most evident in the Southern family. As experienced by many in the South, I was taught that the family should consist of a father, a mother, and children. As in my family, these roles are defined and dominated by principles engrained in “Southern tradition.”

Although I embraced this experience, deep down I knew that my life would take a turn that would clash with the very things I had been taught to respect and uphold. In 2000, I became a transgender woman. My transformation was a long-awaited accomplishment that symbolized my freedom, but not an end to my struggle as a member of the transgender community. I so desperately wanted to be a parent, but I shivered at thought of becoming one in Mississippi. As a transgender woman, I hoped, but I thought that I had no chance of having my own child. After all, as a child, I was taught that only traditional families that consisted of heterosexual couples should have children.

In 2002, I met the mate of my dreams, and we were married. In 2003, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Watching the women in my family, I knew how to be a mother, but society was not ready for it. Even my parents criticized me and told me that my household was an abomination to God and was not the right environment in which to raise a child. With less and less support, I became stronger and more determined to be the parent that my child needed. I was taught that support, love, understanding, patience, and empathy were needed to successfully raise a child, and I possessed them all. My transgender identity did not prevent me from loving my daughter, nor did it take away from the positive contributions that I made in her life.

My daughter is 15 now and more beautiful than ever. She is one of my more, if not my most, important accomplishments. She is loving, caring, empathetic, and most of all open-minded. I taught her not to judge or to be critical of those who differ from her. My mate and I both reinforced choice. We would often explain to her that her choice to be whatever she wanted should not be dictated by who we were.

When I contracted HIV, the hardest thing was not accepting that I had it, but deciding how I would explain it to my daughter. I didn’t want the ignorance and stereotypes of society to determine her view of me or those like me.

I remember the morning that I told her. I asked myself, “Am I really prepared her this?” Sure, she knew about HIV/AIDS. My mate and I had both talked to her about it. However, other people had the disease, not one of her parents. It was one of the hardest things that I had ever done. She looked at me and said, “Mama, they have medicine for that, and you will be OK; I will help you.” I had not failed. That was one of my defining moments as a successful parent. The loving, caring, and empathetic spirit that I had worked so hard to impart to my daughter had revealed its beautiful head.

That day, as well as my experiences since, has equipped me with the skills I need to care for others like me. The number of transgender families has increased since 2003. As the CEO of Love Me Unlimited for Life, a non-profit transgender organization in the state of Mississippi, I have the resources to help transgender families and those living with HIV/AIDS. My organization serves as a support system for individuals who lead alternative lifestyles.

Becoming transgender after forming a family can be hard. We provide support for the whole family. In addition, we provide a repertoire of resources for families whose parents are living with HIV/AIDS. It’s very hard to explain to your child what HIV/AIDS is and what it means to live a long healthy life with it. It’s neither a death sentence nor a punishment for being homosexual or transgender; it’s a life change like having any other chronic disease.

Over the years, I have become a mother to many in the LGBTQ community. I have utilized the same parenting skills that I began using with my own child in 2003. Regardless of their ages, they appreciate the love and support that they receive. I am thankful that I have been able to serve as a beacon of hope for so many.

After all, I am known as “Queen Mother of the South.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What Your Recurring Sexuality Fantasy Really Says About You

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Turned on by whips? Tickled by images of same-sex lovers, threesomes, and sex on public park benches—despite your straight, monogamous, and law-abiding identity?

Congratulations! You’re human. Sexual fantasies are part of a healthy sex life—they’re simply thoughts and scenarios that get you going, says Laura McGuire, Ed.D., a sex educator in New York. They may be inspired by an image, something you hear, or something you read, she says.

Fantasies let your brain take the risks your body and society might not allow, says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and sexuality counselor in New York City, author of She Comes First. What’s more, they facilitate pleasure—and can really come in handy when residual stress from, say, a bad day at work, seems to be orgasm-blocking you. “Studies have shown that as women get aroused and approach orgasm, parts of the brain associated with stress and anxiety need to deactivate,” Kerner says. “If fantasy enables that brain deactivation, then more power to the fantasy.”

Fantasies can give you a window into your desires and even strengthen your relationships when pursued consensually, safely, and legally. “Fantasies are where people start to make sense of things,” says Nasserzadeh. Here’s what common fantasy themes really mean—and how to put them into action:

1 Forbidden Love

Your mysterious coworker. Liam Hemsworth. Your ex. Your sister-in-law. Fantasizing about people other than your partner—even while you’re in bed with them—is common, and doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love your partner or aren’t enjoying the sex you’re having, Kerner says.

Sometimes, though, such fantasies—like any—could mean you’re craving something you’re not getting in your current relationship. You may consider discussing that missing link with your partner, or maybe you can find that clarity on your own. Whatever you do, though, “never cheat,” McGuire says. “Lying and not telling people the truth is not the way to go in life, much less in bed.”

2 Submission

Consider it a positive sign of the times: More women are holding high-powered jobs than ever. But, as a result, they may not want to also be the boss in bed. “Women who are so powerful in their jobs…want that space where they can put their guards down and make a mistake or two and not be judged and [be] completely vulnerable and taken over,” Nasserzadeh says. Other times, women have this fantasy for no clear reason, and that’s totally fine.

Sound appealing? McGuire recommends studying up, since there are different kinds of domination and submission dynamics. See what interests you and your partner or, if you’re solo, what kind of a partner you want to find. “Make sure that explicit and enthusiastic consent are present throughout your interactions, and be sure to decide on what are your yes, no’s, and maybe’s beforehand.”

3 Domination

On the other hand, women who spend most of their waking hours caring for others might feel turned on by the thought of taking some sexual control, Kerner says. “Sometimes somebody says, ‘I spend all day at the beck and call of others—I really want to dominate,’” he says. Again, some women may not have a clear reason for being drawn to domination, but that doesn’t make the desire any less real.

Like submission, pursuing this fantasy requires research, consent, and strategies for making sure everyone involved is on board each step of the way. Nasserzadeh recommends picking code words along a spectrum, like from green to red, rather than direct words like “yes” or “no.” Code words remove the stigma of saying “no” in the middle of the act and liberate partners to try things without worrying the whole time, she says.

4 Threesome

Kerner has worked with plenty of couples interested in bringing in a third party for all kinds of reasons. “Sometimes it’s just because of the novelty and the exponential possibility it has; sometimes it’s about really wanting to watch your partner be pleased by somebody new,” he says.

If done right, opening up a relationship either for the night or the long-term can strengthen your partnership, McGuire says. “The biggest key is communication,” she says. Talk about what sex acts you are and aren’t okay with, and how emotionally connected you want to get to the third person (if at all). Depending on your goal—a hot night or long-term polyamory—you can seek the third partner anywhere from swingers’ events to dating apps, McGuire says.

5 Public Sex

Why is it that sex on an airplane, in a public bathroom or on a beach seems exponentially hotter than the exact same act in the safety of your bedroom? Science. “Both the adrenaline rush of imagining being caught and getting in trouble, and the rush of having someone enjoying or getting off on watching you, are very stimulating mentally and thus increase physical sensations,” McGuire says.

If you’re truly considering getting naked, masturbating, or having sex in full-blown public, though, hold up: Remember: It’s illegal and you could face sex crime charges, McGuire says. To more safely explore this fantasy, consider checking out places like sex clubs, swingers parties, and orgies. Look up reputable ones in your area on sites like Fetlife.com, McGuire suggests.

6 Same-Sex Love

Fantasies that contradict your sexual identity can be confusing, McGuire finds. “Does this mean I’m bi? Does this mean I’m gay? Should I change my life because I had this dream last night?” clients sometimes ask her. Usually, the answer is no—all it means is there is something about that experience that’s resonating.

For example, the way you saw a lesbian couple kiss made you crave a similar connection. “It doesn’t break down who you are as a person and as sexual being to simply be curious and try different things,” McGuire says.

To figure out if the intrigue is something worth taking out of your mind and into practice, McGuire recommends mentally “going down that path” by, say, reading stories, looking at pictures, or watching ethical, realistic porn with those themes. Still interested? Look for a partner who’s open to helping you “try it on,” she says. “It’s okay to say, ‘I’m interested in seeing what this feels like in real life.’”

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s How Consent and BDSM Role-Play Actually Work

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In an article published in The New Yorker, four women detailed the extreme psychological and physical violence they say they experienced at the hands of former New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman. In response, Schneiderman resigned, but he also made a disturbing statement linking these women’s allegations with sexual role play. His claim was promptly dismissed by Ronan Farrow, one of the reporters who broke the story, and the women who allege he assaulted them. (One of the women wasn’t even in a relationship with Schneiderman at the time, and all the alleged acts of violence happened well outside the context of sex.) The Cut spoke to sex and BDSM educator Barbara Carrellas, who explains exactly why Schneiderman’s “role play” defense is so flawed.


Role play means two people had a conversation and decided: I think this sounds really hot, now how can we sensibly play this out. You need to negotiate before you start playing. When you negotiate, you talk transparently about what you like, your no-go zones and you state what (in certain circumstances) you might be okay with. We call it the yes/no/maybe list. For acts that you decide are a “maybe,” you should think very deeply about what conditions would have to be in place for that “maybe” to be a “yes.” Get specific — there can’t be any surprises. You also distinguish between what you would give and what you would like to receive. Maybe you enjoy being spanked, but you have no interest in spanking? Then you and your partner can switch lists you can see where they match up.

Being slapped, choked, spit on, and called racial slurs out of nowhere by a drunk person with no prior discussion of kink or role play is a red light of volcanic brightness. For most people, those fall under “edge play,” and that’s the most carefully negotiated play in BDSM. It’s much better to let a desire go unfulfilled for the moment than to be left physically or emotionally injured.

When you have both consented to something that requires skill, or has potential to trigger — such as receiving a slap on the face — your partner should know how to safely execute it and be prepared to support you emotionally. The kind of BDSM we have been talking about, consensual play, requires affirmative yeses, which are all prenegotiated. Of course, you can consent to being slapped on the face, or to being called a slave, but that did not happen here. The slapping as described in this article was bang-on brute violence.

In BDSM role play face-slapping is a trigger for a whole lot of people. The trigger level is so high that we really need to get three times consent. People who slap should learn how to do it safely, and you would never slap someone on an ear. Before the role play, the slapper would ask, are you sure you have no triggers from childhood? Have you ever been slapped before? If so, under what circumstances? Someone might say, “I was slapped a lot in the past by someone who hated me but I want to try being slapped in role play so I can see what it’s like.” I would move very slowly and I’d probably stop after the slap so we can process it and if the receiver wanted to go further we would pick up at a later date.

Responsible BDSM players do not negotiate or play while intoxicated. There was a lot of drinking reported in the story about Schneiderman. You can’t give consent and you can’t accept consent when you are intoxicated. When you are asking for consent you are asking someone to turn over their emotions and their bodies to loan you a piece of their power. We don’t lend power to drunks and drug addicts. People who are BDSM sadists or doms are not enacting their will on a poor, helpless victim; they are accepting responsibility to give someone an experience they have asked for and they are responsible for the result.

A master-slave contract takes time, thought, and sensitivity to negotiate. Schneiderman’s reported references to terms like “master” and “slave” are alarming. Master-slave contracts are negotiated between two consenting, loving people, and they usually take years. They are fine-tuned so that everyone knows where they stand. You discuss exactly how much power is given up and in which situations. They typically do not include what someone eats, and most masters do not order their slave to remove things like tattoos from their bodies.

Race play requires extra-sensitive negotiation and consent. It’s reported that Schneiderman called one of his partners his “brown slave” and demanded that she repeat that she was his property. Race play is just as, if not more, delicate a negotiation than master-slave. It is so loaded. They are some of the deepest, edgiest emotional role-play scenes that two loving people can agree to do together. They are not entered into casually. Or when drunk.

All play requires an affirmative yes from both partners to all planned activities. He was hitting these women so hard they had marks the next day. Marks would be part of the negotiation — you’d ask each other, “Are marks okay?” In cases where you have negotiated no marks and it seems like a sex act might leave a mark, a responsible top will stop and say: “I will not go any further because I can’t be certain that this won’t leave a mark; what else would you like that would not leave a mark?” You have to talk these things through and you have to do that when you are sober. This takes skill.

Nonconsensual breath play (choking) is about the most hideous nonconsensual act in SM, or at least it’s way high on the list. When you are controlling someone’s breath it is so dangerous. Most people don’t swim in that pond. You can do choking with a lot of acting, there are safe places on the neck like the collarbone. You can then put your fingers up over the throat to give the illusion of choking. BDSM is a collection of skills. BDSM players learn from people who know what they are doing.

Always establish a safe word.
When you use a safe word it means that you have to stop. You don’t want to deploy your safe word because you are miserable or hurt: Maybe you need to pee? Maybe a rope is too tight. You stop, come out of role immediately and ask: What do you need? The safe word would stop all play instantly — it doesn’t mean, okay, this is completely over; it just means when it’s uttered everything stops until we figure out why. Safe words are usually words that don’t come up during sex, saying “no no no no no” could be part of the scene. So when someone screams “grapefruit” in the middle of a rape fantasy, it’s clear what that means.

Accidents happen even when there is consent and proper preparation, but there’s a way to deal with that.
Of course role play doesn’t always go exactly as planned. If the giver accidentally makes a wrong stroke and hits some place they didn’t intend to hit, I recommend that the top should acknowledge it. You don’t have to come out of role, you don’t have to grovel. But if you tell the bottom “that was unintentional” that is very important for creating trust and letting the scene swim on. The top might put their hand on the spot to take the sting out. Or give them a kiss, and you can do all of that in a very dominant fashion.

Consent is ongoing, and it can be rescinded at any time.
Withdrawing consent is not renegotiation. Even if these women had consented to a little bit of rough sex (and there’s nothing wrong with that), they did not consent to being brutalized. They did not consent to being slapped in the face on the ear. They didn’t consent to being choked. It doesn’t matter what the role play was if they didn’t consent to that. Role-playing is consensual pretending, it is not BDSM without consent. It’s not violence and abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

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What asexuality can teach us about sexual relationships and boundaries

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There is an expectation that everyone feels sexual attraction and sexual desire and that these feelings begin in adolescence. Assumptions about sex are everywhere – most of time we don’t even notice them. Music videos, films, reality shows, advertising, video games, newspapers and magazines all use sexual content which supports the idea that sexuality, attraction and desire are normal. There is, however, a group of people that are challenging this sexual assumption, who identify as asexual.

Asexuality was once thought of as a problem which left people unable to feel sexual attraction to others. Upon the discovery that some people had little or no interest in sexual behaviour, researchers in the 1940s called this group “asexuals”, and labelled them as “Group X”. There was no more discussion of “Group X”, and asexuals and asexuality were lost to history, while studies of sexuality grew and flourished.

Even today, asexuality still seems to be something of a mystery for many people – despite more people talking about it, and more people identifying as asexual. Asexuality is difficult for a lot of people to understand. And research shows that as a sexual identity, people have more negativity towards asexuals than any other sexual minority.

What is asexuality?

What exactly asexuality is, is very much still being decided – with a lot of debate going on as to whether it is a sexual orientation or a sexual identity. There have also been discussions about whether it is a medical condition or if it should be seen as a problem to be treated.

But it seems that for many, being asexual is less about a traditional understanding of sexual attraction and behaviour, and more about being able to discuss likes and dislikes, as well as expectations and preferences in the early stages of a relationship. In this way, it is a refreshing way of being honest and clear with potential partners – and avoiding any assumptions being made about sex. Maybe because of this approach, a growing number of self-identified asexuals see asexuality as less of a problem, and more of a way of life.

Discussions about sex and sexuality during the early stage of a relationship can make partners and potential partners more respectful towards a person’s choices and decisions. They also can reduce the potential of others making requests that may make someone uncomfortable, or which carry subtle elements of coercion.

Redefining boundaries

In this way, then, with its need for honesty and clarity, asexuality is an insightful way of looking at sexuality, and the ways in which non-asexuals – also known as allosexuals in the asexual community – interact with others on a close and intimate level.

According to one asexual, her friends’ reactions to her “coming out” were underwhelming – mainly because it is an orientation defined by “what is not happening”. But for self-identified asexuals, there is actually a lot happening. They are exploring and articulating what feels right in the context of intimacy. They are considering different aspects of relationships and partnerships. They are talking to others about their experiences. And they are looking for people they can share a similar experience with.

Asexuals are thinking carefully and critically about what it means to be close to someone, and in doing so, many of them have an understanding of non-sexual practices of intimacy. By doing all of this, they are developing a very unique skill set in a culture which is often considered to be over sexualised.

At a time when there is a growing recognition that many teenagers struggle to understand what a healthy romantic relationship actually looks like, asexuality gives us a new way of understanding relationships – both sexual and asexual, romantic and unromantic. And this could have a huge potential to help others understand closeness in relationships where there is an absence of sexual intimacy.

Complete Article HERE!

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