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Inside the Koreatown Dojo Dedicated to the Art of Japanese Rope Bondage

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Mention anything bondage-related and Zetsu Nawa reflexively geeks out.

A participant in a recent Tuesday night class learns the basics of shibari, Japanese rope bondage.

By Lila Seidman

A casual reference to a dotted gag in one of his thousands of drawings and photos of bound women launches him into a mini-lecture about its “humiliation factor” in modern Japan. It’s just a dishtowel, he explains. “It’s like he grabbed the thing you’re using to wash your hands to gag you.” As he talks, he’s caressing a length of Japanese jute rope, which he extols for its “toothiness.”

Zetsu — an American who adopted the pseudonym to protect his identity — is the head of a one-room school in Koreatown dedicated exclusively to shibari, or erotic Japanese rope bondage. His rope work has been featured in Katy Perry’s music video “Bon Appetit” and on the cover of Jhené Aiko’s album Maniac.

Launched in its current space in 2014, L.A. Rope Dojo is tucked away on the second floor of an unassuming office building just off Western Avenue and Second Street. The walls are plastered with images of women in various states of constraint. Wooden beams stretch from wall to wall — not coincidentally, the perfect height and size for binding willing men and women to.

On a recent Tuesday night, mostly fresh-faced, young couples stream into the dojo for its sold-out, bimonthly beginner’s rope play class. They look, well, totally normal.

“Most of the people who come here would never set foot in a BDSM dungeon,” Zetsu says, crediting the historical, philosophical and artistic appeal of the practice.

At most dungeons in L.A., people go by BDSM aliases, “like BadMaster79,” Zetsu explains. “Here, people are ‘Beth’ and ‘Kevin.’” In class, Zetsu goes by his real first name. “Nobody’s thinking about hiding in a way that people tend to do in the broader BDSM scene,” he says.

Zetsu, who could pass for anyone’s affable uncle, begins every intro class by detailing the origin of shibari, which synthesizes elements from Kabuki theater and an ancient samurai policing technique.

Before students start immobilizing one another, he asks the “top” (the one doing the tying) to think of a word before grabing their partner’s wrist. The first word is “sensual.” The second is “mine.”

Subtle acts like this reflect the essence of the teaching style he learned from his longtime instructor, Yukimura Ryuu, a grandmaster of the erotic art, who stressed the Japanese concept of kokoro, or “heart,” over technique.
“If your partner is feeling things that they need to feel, then the rest of it doesn’t matter,” Zetsu says. “The rope is just a conduit to get to those feelings.”

As class progresses, a petite girl with her hands bound becomes flushed and sinks to the floor. Her equally flushed male partner asks her if she’d like to be untied. She breathes “no” and they embrace.

(Class assistant Howard, who also goes by Rope Daddy, describes the feeling as “rope drunk” — a sort of euphoric high some people experience via bondage.)

Baltimore-born Zetsu says his path to enjoying bondage was significantly more fraught than many of his students.’ In the late 1970s, at age 12, he would wait 45 minutes to download a single pixelated photo of a bound Japanese woman. He stored the images on cassette tapes; floppy disks didn’t yet exist.

It wasn’t until 2006 that he found himself in Tokyo for work and decided he had to finally explore “this thing.” He took a class with a German expat, Osada Steve, who in turn connected with him a teacher in L.A. At that time, it was still a rarefied practice in the West. Now, “It’s everywhere!” Zetsu says.

In 2010, he returned to Japan to study rope more explicitly. He is now one of only two people in the United States with a teaching certificate from the late Yukimura.

Zetsu says that in Japan, teaching “is an obligation, and a very sacred one.” He had no choice but to spread the knowledge he acquired.

Significant cultural translation is needed to bring the essence of the art form to Angelenos, he admits. For one, Zetsu says in Japan it is normal to “molest” the models during a lesson. Here, that wouldn’t go over so well.
While Zetsu acknowledges ethical questions inherent to sexual power exchange, he believes it’s a basic question of consent.

“It should ultimately be about love and care for your partner, which sounds kind of ironic as you’re tying them up and hitting them,” Zetsu says. “But that’s the whole point: You only do that to people who need it and crave it and love it.”

Ivy, a 20-something Asian woman who came to the class Tuesday with her boyfriend of 3½ years, looks gleeful in the dingy hall outside the dojo. She says she was happy to act on some of her desires for the first time.

“It’s just sort of intimidating, taking that first step,” she explains. She’s already plotting her return.

Complete Article HERE!

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Fantastic kinks and where to find them

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“What do you two think about my cock ring?” With a baby blue T-shirt on top and bare as a baby’s bottom below, the stranger nodded down toward his crotch. A bright yellow, adjustable strap was fastened around his pink dick and balls.

“It kind of looks like a watch.” I said abruptly, a bit taken aback by his appearance. I was more modestly dressed in a flowery lingerie set, a UC Berkeley lab coat tied around my waist.

In stark contrast, my close friend and Cal-alumna was wholly unfazed by his sudden, very naked presence. “You should get a figure-eight cock ring!” She advised. “One ring goes around your balls and one around your shaft.” She wore an underbust black dress which showed off her much-complimented heart-tattooed nipples.

“God, I know, right? My boyfriend got this one for me.” His velvety soft dick gently brushed up against my hand like a delicate feather boa. “I wish it was black,” referring to the cock ring.

Last week was the first time I attended Folsom Street Fair, the world’s largest event for BDSM wares and fetish culture. As our Lyft driver pulled up a street away from 8th and Folsom, a man in assless underwear sprinted toward what we could only assume was his kinky oasis. Taking up a sprawling five blocks, I marveled at bondage demonstrations, two public blowjob scenes and the strangest of them all, a plethora of Bud Light stalls.

While others were receiving the blood and body of Christ on Sunday, I received a Bad Dragon grab bag yielding two glow-in-the-dark condoms, a coupon for their high-fantasy sex toys, and their coveted collectable mini silicone dicks, otherwise known as Teenie Weenies. The sex shops and burlesque shows I attended in the past paled in comparison to the absolute spectacle and sexual liberation that embodied Folsom.

Though I have been a longtime patron of the kinky arts, the first time I ever interacted with kink in real life was through a second-hand experience of another Berkeley friend a few years ago. His experience wasn’t the most ideal, as his ex-boyfriend had cheated in order to explore his interests with more seasoned kinksters.

At Folsom, he was asked, as a Filipino man, “how are your people so smooth,” by his ex’s white kink mentor. I was horrified to hear that a seemingly more mature BDSM practitioner unabashedly fetishized Asian bodies. While the sadomasochistic community’s motto is “safe, sane, and consensual,” I realized these words couldn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s easy to forget that existing social stratifications can permeate communities we normally consider to be free of such restrictions.

This is most noticeable in “raceplay” roleplaying in the BDSM community, which frequently focuses on a slave (usually a person of color) servicing their master (usually a white person). While I definitely do not want to be a kink policer, one must note that many kinksters are white and male. Engaging with these scenes uncritically can lead to excusing oppression as simply a “fetish.”

Seeing my friend’s genuine heartbreak and confusion opened my eyes to the potential negativity the BDSM community held within its leather clad jaws. While I still enjoyed consuming kinky content, I was intensely judgemental when my friend’s old flame showed up to a 4th of July barbecue with his “daddy,” who easily looked double his age.

Despite going to Folsom accompanied by a more kink experienced friend, I still had a lot of reservations. Nevertheless, I was determined to challenge my preconceived notions towards kink’s true shades of gray.

When the same cockring man, who also happened to be white, first approached us, I steeled myself for the inevitable harassment and entitlement.

As soon as he said, “women usually don’t tell you what they like, but you two really speak your mind,” I was ready to fall back into the comfortable trap of my preexisting antagonism toward white kinksters.

Feeling defeated, I replied with, “Well, that’s also because many women are still shamed when they talk about sex openly,” and prepared myself for the excuses and false apologies.

After a beat of thinking, he said, “Oh, you’re right! I never thought about it that way.” He ended the exchange with a cheery “Happy Folsom!”

Even my friend, an active participant in kink since her teens, was surprised by the lack of nonconsensual touching and photography, which she had warned me about beforehand due to her previous experiences. Besides that and the masses of entry-level gay boys who wore the same leather chest harness and frayed jorts, the only other discomfort I faced was the oppressively hot sun beating down on all of us — the ultimate dom.

I realized Folsom wasn’t a whirlwind of perceived blasphemy. It was the first time I saw such a variety of racial demographics and age ranges congregate for a specific event. As well as that, snug among all the flogging paraphernalia were free HIV testing stalls courtesy of Trans men 4 men, Queer Asian education booths and gay-friendly doctors. Folsom Street Fair itself is a nonprofit, generating approximately $300,000 annually, and provides a home for other organizations focusing on sex education, AIDS research and kink-friendly psychotherapy, such as Planned Parenthood.

Among the genitalia, latex and leather, Folsom feels like the epitome of debauchery, but it is also inherently tied to education and charity culture. As I watched an older East Asian man lead his White partner around with a chain secured to his balls, I felt like this was the true beginning of my quest to understand the complexities of the BDSM world. Just like Indiana Jones, I will continue to uncover the lost treasures of kink with a crack of my bullwhip.

Complete Article HERE!

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A new way to love: in praise of polyamory

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Polyamory isn’t monogamy and it isn’t swinging, it’s being open to having loving relationships with different people of different sexes at the same time, and in that way learning to love yourself, too

‘It’s like any normal relationship, except with more time management’: Elf Lyons.

By Elf Lyons

I have never enjoyed typical monogamy. It makes me think of dowries and possessive prairie voles who mate for life, and historically all monogamous relationship models have owned women in some way, with marriage there for financial purposes and the ownership of property.

For the last few years I’ve defined myself as a polyamorist. Friends before defined me as a “friendly philanderer”. I love to kiss people. Friends usually, or women who wear polo-necks. Polyamory is consensual non- monogamy. It’s a philosophy. Rather than the active pursuing of multiple partners in a lascivious way, it’s the embracing and understanding that it’s possible to fall in love, and have relationships, with more than one person at the same time.

Alongside developing CEO-worthy skills in multitasking, polyamory is the most empowering way of loving that I have encountered. It gives women more autonomy than other relationship models ever have. Although monogamous relationship models work for many, they’re not the only way to have relationships in society. In non-monogamous relationships, their success relies on everything being on the table from the start. I believe that it could be the huge relationship revolution that the feminist movement needs.

Many think it’s about sex – it’s not. It’s not swinging. It’s not Pokémon Go, you don’t have to catch them all. It’s about the freedom to be honest about the evolving ways you feel. It opens up the boundaries between friend and lover in a safe and transparent way.

‘As a teen I questioned what it was to be adulterous. I saw infidelities on a different level to other friends’: Elf Lyons.

As a teen I questioned what it was to be adulterous. I saw infidelities on a different level to other friends. When partners mentioned they found other people attractive, I never minded. It made sense. “Why wouldn’t you want to kiss Stephanie? She’s a legend!” Apparently that was not considered a normal way to react.

If I had known as a teenager it was possible to love more than one person, it would have saved so much anxiety, guilt and time spent writing awful poetry. I spent years beating myself up about it. It often caused me to end relationships rashly, giving excuses like “I’m not ready to be in a relationship,” or “I have commitment issues,” or “I’m not into Warhammer as much as you think.” I didn’t want to end the relationships, but admitting how I felt seemed a worse betrayal, so I would lie, breaking friendships in the process.

I discovered polyamory when I was 23. I met a parliament of poly performers at the Adelaide Festival who were hippyish, liberal and kind. These performers spoke about their partners, children, poly-families. There were ex-couples who were working together on shows while their other poly families toured elsewhere, married couples who had live-in partners, triumvirates where they all balanced an equal partnership. I was entranced by their openness. It seemed symbolic of our changing global world, and most peoples developing nomadic lifestyles where we travel for work and find love with others on the way.

So when I went to study at theatre school in Paris (fresh out of a relationship with a 45-year-old French father of three), I decided to embrace my inner Barbarella. And the reality? Non-monogamy is rather ordinary and occasionally dull. Stereotypes of weird Eyes Wide Shut sex parties and Sartre/de Beauvoir/Olga ménages à trois aside, it’s like any normal relationship, except with more time- management, more conversations about “feelings” and more awkward encounters with acquaintances at parties who try to use you as their “Sexual Awakening Friend Bicycle”, ie that shy girl from book club will get drunk and put her hand on your leg, before leaning in to kiss you, hiccuping: “I really loved Orange Is the New Black…”

‘Sexual awakenings do not mean the absence of consent’: Elf Lyons.

There are misconceptions – a date once grabbed me for a kiss unexpectedly despite the fact I had made it clear I was in no way interested (my words were exactly: “This is not going to work. We have entirely different opinions on the EU and you have just told me I am ‘very funny for a woman’.”) When I pushed him away he was shocked. He believed because I was “sexually awakened” he could do what he liked. Luckily my experiences have meant that I am more vocal and confident, and able to stand up for myself. Yes I am open about my relationships and desires, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s allowed to touch me without my permission. Sexual awakenings do not mean the absence of consent.

I must admit, when I first dipped my toes into polyamory I misunderstood, went overboard with Tinder. The experience was stressful and would involve me asking awkward questions like: “Do you think crabs think fish can fly?” while wandering around the National Gallery for the third time that month. (There is no denying that polyamory suits the self-employed schedule). I learned that when people don’t know what polyamory is, they misunderstand it as another term for “hook up”, which it’s not. So previous partners have usually been friends I trust.

People often ask: “How can you truly love someone if you want to be with someone else?” and “Don’t you get jealous?” I think these statements enforce unhealthy relationship ideals. I feel it’s dangerous to think that you’re the only person that can complete someone else’s life, and be their confidant, their friend, their support network and their sexual partner. It’s too much pressure! When you take a step back, drop your ego and realise you’re one unique component of someone’s life, it’s liberating and freeing. Jealousy ebbs away and you realise that, of course, they may find another person attractive, because we’re all different pieces of a puzzle. This has made me more comfortable about myself – I am not holding myself up to standards about traditional female beauty, because I can experience it in a hundred different ways.

Of course, there have been tears, heartbreaks, existential crises and moments when I felt left out. I’ve wondered if it was actually making me more free, or more insecure, with jealousy popping up at the most inconvenient times. I’ve dated people who have lied and I’ve had relationships that have ended because they didn’t trust or believe in polyamory.

But, despite the downs, non-monogamy has revolutionised the way I view love. First, it made me less ashamed of my sexuality. I fancied girls way before I fancied boys. But as a teenager at house parties I remember being made to think that female sexual relationships were purely to turn men on. We’d all seen that scene in Cruel Intentions. I remember girls kissing at parties and the guys cheering. It was performative. Except, I wanted to kiss girls because I liked girls.

When I started getting to know people in the poly community it was as liberating as taking off an underwired bra. I have had partners of both genders. I didn’t have to “choose”: the people I met understood that it was possible to give infinite, equal love to both sexes. My confidence soared. I wasn’t hiding. Men and women had equal place in my life. I no longer felt like a pendulum, swinging from one to another. This refreshing awakening did result in many awkward conversations with my mum and dad though, which would go something like this:

Elf: “Mum and Dad, I am queer.” [Mum puts the hummus down.]

Mum: “What does that mean?”

Elf: “It means I have relationships with men and women”. [Mum picks the hummus up.]

Mum: “Oh! Well, I’m queer. Your father’s queer, your grandmother’s queer, we’re all queer darling!”

Elf: “No you don’t understand. I mean I have sex with men and women.” [Mum drops the hummus.]

Mum: “Oh Elfy… No wonder you’re so tired.”

Although I love sex, because of past unpleasant experiences I’m also mildly afraid of it. So when I started experimenting with non-monogamy the idea of being intimate emotionally as well as physically with more than one person was a challenge. But, the choice gave me a power and ownership over my wants which I felt I had lost and been made to feel ashamed about. I’m not saying I jumped in the sack with everyone I met. God no. I’m too busy. But through being less judgemental on myself, I relaxed, opened up to the people I trusted and started loving myself again. It forces you to be really honest, to live life with an undefended heart.

It’s not been plain sailing. But to quote RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love anyone else” – this is integral to non-monogamy. You can’t use multiple relationships to fill the void and give you the gratification that you should be able to give yourself. More love doesn’t mean better love. If you are dating multiple people in order to enhance your self-worth, you end up feeling like out-of-date hummus, feeling jealous anytime anyone chooses to spend time with anyone else, resulting in you treating your partners badly and without respect.

We shouldn’t feel ashamed about being socially and sexually confident. Women have been made to feel embarrassed for their desires for too long. It’s about having the trust to speak our minds and behave the way we want to. The moment you start to crumble you need to stop and ask exactly what it is you want and if it makes you happy. Being loved and loving multiple people should make you feel stronger, not weaker.

In a time of censorship on women, increases in assault and constant critiques on how we should behave, polyamory and its manifesto of embracing our evolving feelings, sharing responsibility and communicating and working effectively with people from all around the world could help revolutionise the way we tackle privilege, inequality and control of women’s rights.

I have an authority and a voice that I didn’t feel I had before. My friendships are better, my health is better. Through being polyamorous and being a part of the community I have been made aware of issues, both personal and political, that need to be uncovered and addressed.

The world would be a better place if everybody was more open to polyamory. As well as that traditional idea, that it takes a village to raise a child, it would mean we’d all love more, and love better. Loving different people at the same time is like learning a different language. There are different rules every time and it’s always open for discussion. You start to realise that love is infinite. Every time you say “I love you” to someone it takes on a new meaning. It’s retranslated, and it’s wonderful.

Complete Article HERE!

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How the Nazis destroyed the first gay rights movement

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‘Damenkneipe,’ or ‘Ladies’ Saloon,’ painted by Rudolf Schlichter in 1923. In 1937, many of his paintings were destroyed by the Nazis as ‘degenerate art.’

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Very recently, Germany’s Cabinet approved a bill that will expunge the convictions of tens of thousands of German men for “homosexual acts” under that country’s anti-gay law known as “Paragraph 175.” That law dates back to 1871, when modern Germany’s first legal code was created.

It was repealed in 1994. But there was a serious movement to repeal the law in 1929 as part of a wider LGBTQ rights movement. That was just before the Nazis came to power, magnified the anti-gay law, then sought to annihilate gay and transgender Europeans.

The story of how close Germany – and much of Europe – came to liberating its LGBTQ people before violently reversing that trend under new authoritarian regimes is an object lesson showing that the history of LGBTQ rights is not a record of constant progress.

The first LGBTQ liberation movement

In the 1920s, Berlin had nearly 100 gay and lesbian bars or cafes. Vienna had about a dozen gay cafes, clubs and bookstores. In Paris, certain quarters were renowned for open displays of gay and trans nightlife. Even Florence, Italy, had its own gay district, as did many smaller European cities.

Films began depicting sympathetic gay characters. Protests were organized against offensive depictions of LGBTQ people in print or on stage. And media entrepreneurs realized there was a middle-class gay and trans readership to whom they could cater.

Partly driving this new era of tolerance were the doctors and scientists who started looking at homosexuality and “transvestism” (a word of that era that encompassed transgender people) as a natural characteristic with which some were born, and not a “derangement.” The story of Lili Elbe and the first modern sex change, made famous in the recent film “The Danish Girl,” reflected these trends.

For example, Berlin opened its Institute for Sexual Research in 1919, the place where the word “transsexual” was coined, and where people could receive counseling and other services. Its lead doctor, Magnus Hirschfeld, also consulted on the Lili Elbe sex change.

Connected to this institute was an organization called the “Scientific-Humanitarian Committee.” With the motto “justice through science,” this group of scientists and LGBTQ people promoted equal rights, arguing that LGBTQ people were not aberrations of nature.

Most European capitals hosted a branch of the group, which sponsored talks and sought the repeal of Germany’s “Paragraph 175.” Combining with other liberal groups and politicians, it succeeded in influencing a German parliamentary committee to recommend the repeal to the wider government in 1929.

The backlash

While these developments didn’t mean the end of centuries of intolerance, the 1920s and early ‘30s certainly looked like the beginning of the end. On the other hand, the greater “out-ness” of gay and trans people provoked their opponents.

A French reporter, bemoaning the sight of uncloseted LGBTQ people in public, complained, “the contagion … is corrupting every milieu.” The Berlin police grumbled that magazines aimed at gay men – which they called “obscene press materials” – were proliferating. In Vienna, lectures of the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” might be packed with supporters, but one was attacked by young men hurling stink bombs. A Parisian town councilor in 1933 called it “a moral crisis” that gay people, known as “inverts” at that time, could be seen in public.

“Far be it from me to want to turn to fascism,” the councilor said, “but all the same, we have to agree that in some things those regimes have sometimes done good… One day Hitler and Mussolini woke up and said, ‘Honestly, the scandal has gone on long enough’ … And … the inverts … were chased out of Germany and Italy the very next day.”

The ascent of Fascism

It’s this willingness to make a blood sacrifice of minorities in exchange for “normalcy” or prosperity that has observers drawing uncomfortable comparisons between then and now.

In the 1930s, the Depression spread economic anxiety, while political fights in European parliaments tended to spill outside into actual street fights between Left and Right. Fascist parties offered Europeans a choice of stability at the price of democracy. Tolerance of minorities was destabilizing, they said. Expanding liberties gave “undesirable” people the liberty to undermine security and threaten traditional “moral” culture. Gay and trans people were an obvious target.

What happened next shows the whiplash speed with which the progress of a generation can be thrown into reverse.

The nightmare

One day in May 1933, pristine white-shirted students marched in front of Berlin’s Institute for Sexual Research – that safe haven for LGBTQ people – calling it “Un-German.” Later, a mob hauled out its library to be burned. Later still, its acting head was arrested.

When Nazi leader Adolph Hitler needed to justify arresting and murdering former political allies in 1934, he said they were gay. This fanned anti-gay zealotry by the Gestapo, which opened a special anti-gay branch. During the following year alone, the Gestapo arrested more than 8,500 gay men, quite possibly using a list of names and addresses seized at the Institute for Sexual Research. Not only was Paragraph 175 not erased, as a parliamentary committee had recommended just a few years before, it was amended to be more expansive and punitive.

As the Gestapo spread throughout Europe, it expanded the hunt. In Vienna, it hauled in every gay man on police lists and questioned them, trying to get them to name others. The fortunate ones went to jail. The less fortunate went to Buchenwald and Dachau. In conquered France, Alsace police worked with the Gestapo to arrest at least 200 men and send them to concentration camps. Italy, with a fascist regime obsessed with virility, sent at least 300 gay men to brutal camps during the war period, declaring them “dangerous for the integrity of the race.”

The total number of Europeans arrested for being LGBTQ under fascism is impossible to know because of the lack of reliable records. But a conservative estimate is that there were many tens of thousands to one hundred thousand arrests during the war period alone.

Under these nightmare conditions, far more LGBTQ people in Europe painstakingly hid their genuine sexuality to avoid suspicion, marrying members of the opposite sex, for example. Still, if they had been prominent members of the gay and trans community before the fascists came to power, as Berlin lesbian club owner Lotte Hahm was, it was too late to hide. She was sent to a concentration camp.

In those camps, gay men were marked with a pink triangle. In these places of horror, men with pink triangles were singled out for particular abuse. They were mechanically raped, castrated, favored for medical experiments and murdered for guards’ sadistic pleasure even when they were not sentenced for “liquidation.” One gay man attributed his survival to swapping his pink triangle for a red one – indicating he was merely a Communist. They were ostracized and tormented by their fellow inmates, too.

The looming danger of a backslide

This isn’t 1930s Europe. And making superficial comparisons between then and now can only yield superficial conclusions.

But with new forms of authoritarianism entrenched and seeking to expand in Europe and beyond, it’s worth thinking about the fate of Europe’s LGBTQ community in the 1930s and ‘40s – a timely note from history as Germany approves same-sex marriage and on this first anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges.

In 1929, Germany came close to erasing its anti-gay law, only to see it strengthened soon thereafter. Only now, after a gap of 88 years, are convictions under that law being annulled.

Complete Article HERE!

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Amputee Love: This Is For Real

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Name: Cade
Gender: Male
Age: 23
Location: Alabama
Awhile back you responded to an Iraq vet who was having trouble in his marriage because he couldn’t get it up due to his PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I want to thank you for discussing that. It was helpful to me too. I’m an Iraq vet. I lost my right leg, to just above the knee and three fingers on my left hand to an IED. I think I’m doing ok with the physical rehabilitation. My prosthesis is state of the art and I’m even learning to run again. I joke that I’m the bionic man. Here’s what’s freaking me out though. I’m getting hit on by some really hot chicks, the kind I never could score with before Iraq. I come to discover they are hot for my leg stump. And I’m gettin all skeezed out by it. I’m passing up getting laid because this is fucking with my head. What gives with this shit?

Dude, you’ve stumbled upon, no pun intended, a silver lining of sorts, of being an amputee. Honestly, I’m not pulling your leg here, your good leg that is. Ok, ok really this is for real, Cade. But I think you already know that, huh?

Let’s begin with a definition. There is a fetish, or a paraphilia, if you prefer, called Acrotomophilia, or amputee love. It’s relatively rare, but there is a sizable Internet presence. You need only do a search for “amputee love” to get you started. These folks, often called devotees, are turned on by the limbless among us.

Here’s an interesting phenomenon, with the spike in seriously maimed vets returning from our numerous war zones and the media attention they’re getting these days — thanks the inadequate care some are receiving at our nation’s veteran’s hospitals — this fetish is growing by leaps and bounds.

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a conversation with a group of gay men. We were discussing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the horrific images we were seeing on the tube. Without missing a beat, a couple of the men in the group started to talk about the number of totally hot young vets they were seeing on TV. Sure they had missing limbs, but for some in the group that made them even hotter. A couple other guys were goin on and on about how they wanted to service these returning service men. Instead of the conversation weirding out the whole group, as I thought it might, most of the guys were like getting all into it.

I was being quizzed about the sexual issues, of course. Does an amputation affect a guy’s ability to get it up? …and things like that. I was totally blown away. Not by their questions, but by the fact that these men, who would otherwise be put off by a guy with a bad haircut; were beginning to fetishize seriously maimed vets. Then I thought to myself, OMG, I am watching the birth of some brand new baby devotees. And that, my friend, is how all fetishes begin.

I realize that you must be facing enormous hurtles, again no pun intended, to regain your sense of self after the disfigurement and amputations. It hardly seems fair to throw yet another curve ball your way. But, as we all know, life is supremely unfair. I suspect that you’re already feeling enough like an oddity without some chick — even a sizzilin’ hot one — coming on to you because of what you’ve lost. And that’s why I suggest you withhold judgment about all of this until you have a bit more information about this particular fetish and it’s practitioners.

Many amputees go through life without ever meeting a devotee. Others have intimate experience with these fetishists. One thing for sure, even though a devotee’s interest in you may creep you out; you can be certain that their interest is sincere. They are not like most of the other well-meaning people you’ll meet in your new life as a bionic man. A devotee will not pity or patronize you. Devotees, curiously enough, see you as more whole and desirable than those who have no missing parts. In other words, devotees are hot for you for how you are. This is not a “let’s pity fuck the gimp” sorta thing. I know this can be mind-bending, but I hope you can see the fundamental difference between the two.

Some amputee/devotee relationships are long-term, marriage and children included. Others are more recreational in nature. I suppose if you have your head screwed on right, you’ll be able to discern what might be best for you, if any of this appeals to you. Actually, in this realm, you’re absolutely no different than all your non-maimed peers. They too are trying to make sense of how love, sex and intimacy fit together.

I know some amputees are put off by devotees. They’re indignant that someone would objectify them for their stumps and not accept them as a human being first. Well, ya can hardly argue with that, can ya? But in reality, all of us do our share of objectifying. What about all the guys who flock around the blond with the big rack? You know they only see her tits and not her brain. Is the amputee/devotee thing any different? I think not.

You know how you are doing all this physical therapy to regain your ability to walk and run with your new bionic leg and foot? Well, there’s probably as much emotional and psychological therapy you need to do to adapt yourself to your new maimed-self. Part of this psychological adjustment may be embracing and celebrating the fact that you are now an object of desire for a whole new group of folks. So ok, your hotness is not the same hotness you may have had pre-Iraq, but it’s hotness nonetheless. You may not yet appreciate how a person could be sexually attracted to another person simply because of an amputation. Hell, the devotee may not even know why he or she is wired this way, but that don’t make it any less a fact. The confusion that can result from these desires or being the object of these desires can often sabotage a perfectly viable amputee/devotee sexual relationship.

Acrotomophilia, like all fetishes and paraphilias is learned behavior. Some devotees recall early childhood erotically charged encounters with women or men who were amputees. But just as plausible is that the fetish could have begun like the story I recounted at the beginning of my response — a group of people fantasizing about sex with a hot vet, who happens to be an amputee. You can see how just a little of that highly charged erotic reinforcement could turn anyone into a devotee. So it’s not so mysterious after all, is it?

I realize you didn’t choose this for yourself. But, for the most part, none of us is really in charge of what we eroticize, or what others eroticize about us. I know I nearly went to pieces the first time someone referred to me as a daddy. It wasn’t till I came to grips with the fact that I was no longer a young man, and that younger men might find me desirable, that the whole daddy thing settled in with me.

What you do with all this information, Cade, if anything, is completely up to you. Will you embrace your new bionic gimp hotness and let it take you for a ride? Or will you resist? Either way, at least you’ll be a bit more informed about what gives with this shit.

Good luck

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