As I've written about numerous times, I am a strong believer that when it comes to sexuality, the field of psychotherapy is moving away from a more authoritarian top-down lens (and I would consider sex addiction to fall into this category) to a more humanistic, harm reduction approach. To further along this body of work, I, along with colleagues Dulcinea Pitagora and Markie Twist, have initiated research to better understand the motivations and subjective experiences of individuals that engage in sexual behaviors that have historically been marginalized and pathologized.

More specifically, we are on the verge of completing a study on the differences between those who engage in high impact play as part of a BDSM scene and those who engage in non-suicidal self-injuring (NSSI) behaviors, and we are currently crunching the numbers. Our rationale for this study is that for many clinicians in the mental health field, those who engage in intense sensation play of BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) are often co-mingled and conflated with behaviors of those who engage in self-harming behavior. As a result, individuals who belong to the BDSM subculture are often pathologized and misunderstood in clinical settings, and so may find themselves without adequate psychological care.


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BDSM as Harm Reduction by Dr. Michael Aaron, PhD

October 13, 2016

THE ATLANTIC: That Time I Tried BDSM Therapy

Whips, chains, collars, gags, blindfolds, handcuffs, knives… My eyes roam the soundproof room in which we are enclosed. The subject of our conversation is BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism, and Masochism), a discipline that includes a wide variety of consensual power-exchange activities suggested by the various implements on display.

“Whether they are soldiers or victims,” Leslie Rogers explains, “there is nothing that binds people together better than war. What I'm re-creating in BDSM is like war—but in re-creating war, I'm ending it. I'm going to a place with you where I shouldn't go, and we’ll meet there, and in the end we’ll realize that we are still capable of being loved.”

I am talking with Rogers in a dungeon beneath a cabin in Salinas, California. The burly 36-year-old has one hand on the bar of a jail cell. The other clutches the nape of his partner’s neck, 33-year-old Tani Thole.

“We come across as really straight and vanilla,” Thole noted with a grin. “I have this soccer-mom vibe, and Leslie has a businessman vibe. People are very surprised when they find out who we really are.”


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That Time I Tried BDSM Therapy by Roc Morin

October 26, 2015

BITCH MEDIA: What Do We Do with “Good Boys?”

Discussing dating in the digital age is nothing new. Between endless dating apps and words like ghostingorbiting, and breadcrumbing popping up left and right, dating just doesn’t make sense right now, and we’re constantly talking about it online in an attempt to collaboratively parse out its secrets. We’re at a point where confusion around dating, bolstered by increasingly digitized communication, is clashing with an increasing number of women who demand relationships that actually make them feel good. Writers like Shelby Lorman are a big part of this. As marriage becomes less of an immediate priority for women in their mid-20s, we’re crafting our own rules and guidelines for what an ideal hookup, date, or partnership looks like, and honesty is a big part of those new boundaries, according to the conversations swirling in the comments underneath Lorman’s Instagram (@awardforgoodboys) photos and the stories she details in her book.

Lorman’s work often explores the warped concept of “good boys,” or the men in our lives who aren’t necessarily horrible but aren’t exactly great either. These men’s behaviors sometimes overlap with the faux male feminists who often dot our timelines: They say the right things, but they aren’t actually doing the work of feminism. We want to be able to ask for what we need without the men in our lives making assumptions about our asks based on their sexist ideals of what women really mean. In this interview, I spoke with Lorman about boundaries, the loss of nuance in the time of the internet, and building a community of women who expect more from their relationships.

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What do We do with "Good Boys?" by Rachel Charlene Lewis

Aug. 28th, 2019

BITCH MEDIA: Adopting Hoe Aesthetics Requires ACTUALLY Supporting Sex Workers

I recently hosted an all-girls yacht day where most of the attendants were Sex Workers. As we exited the boat, drunk and sore from twerking, I overheard something that moved me: “It was so nice to be able to talk about work today without judgment.” For one day, a group of Sex Workers talked amongst ourselves about our job—the hard days, the lucrative days, strategies, lessons, and growth. These are topics most people discuss every day. Sex Workers, however, cannot. Like you, Sex Workers wake up every morning intending to provide for our families and make ends meet. However, unlike you, there’s no universal safe space for Sex Workers to exist, much less talk about the ins-and-outs of our day. On a good day, we encounter people who devalue our labor and personhood. On a bad day, we are reminded that the work we do can land us in jail. Our safety is of so little priority that jokes about our deaths are commonplace and met with impunity. And yet, what Sex Workers call “hoe aesthetics,” are still being appropriated with little nuance or respect for Sex Workers.

The punch-lines are worse when they are directed toward survival Sex Workers, Black Sex Workers, disabled Sex Workers, trans Sex Workers, or a combination of any of the above.

A collective and cultural disgust toward Sex Workers has material consequences to our safety, well-being, finances, and our general ability to move through the world safely. Repercussions like the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act of 2017, an Elizabeth Warren-sponsored Senate bill that would close the bank accounts of people who are suspected of being trafficked. A bill that would undoubtedly affect Sex Workers from all walks of life because the government can’t clearly distinguish between “trafficking victims” and Sex Workers. (Besides that, the purpose of shutting down bank accounts of trafficking victims is lost on me.) Or hotels who intend to train their staff to “spot trafficking victims;” instead of being able to work or relax at a hotel, Sex Workers (again, conflated with victims of sex trafficking) face the possibility of being reported to the authorities under the guise of being “protected” or “rescued.”

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Adopting How aesthetics requires actually supporting Sex Workers by Raquel Savage

Aug 9th, 2019

WASHINGTON BLADE: LGBT advocates join fight for sex workers’ rights at Sexual Freedom Summit

D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large) and lesbian rights advocates Kate Kendall of San Francisco and Nadine Smith of Florida expressed support for the nationwide effort to decriminalize sex work among consenting adults at the 10th annual Sexual Freedom Summit held Aug. 15-18 at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel in Alexandria, Va.

Organizers said more than 400 people from throughout the country turned out for the summit, which is organized each year by the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a national nonprofit group that advocates for sexual freedom as a “fundamental human right.”

Grosso and his legislative assistant, transgender activist Darby Hickey, spoke as panelists at one of the summit’s workshop sessions called Removing Criminal Penalties for Sex Work in D.C. The two spoke about their effort to build community support for a bill first introduced by Grosso in 2017 to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

Grosso and others speaking at the summit noted that existing laws criminalizing sex work disproportionately impact LGBT people, especially transgender women of color, who often engage in sex work as a means of economic survival.

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LGBT advocates join fight for Sex Workers' rights at Sexual Freedom Summit by Lou Chibbaro Jr.

Aug 21st, 2019

PGH CITY PAPER: Like Many BDSM Practitioners, Financial Submissives Eroticize Giving Up Control

My first encounter with financial domination came by way of an instant message on the phone sex platform where I work. A new client introduced himself, asked if he could call me Mistress, and told me that he has been fantasizing about having me drain his wallet. Fortunately for me, I am in the business of turning fantasies into reality and after a couple hours of (non-sexual) online banter, I had grocery money for the month.

In a capitalist society, it should be no surprise that money is equated with power and that power is eroticized. It should also be no surprise, then, that financial domination — or "findom" — has emerged as a kink within BDSM that many professional dominatrices have incorporated into their work. While these relationships can take different forms, it is not unusual for a findom to have access to their sub’s — or “pay piggies” — bank accounts, credit cards, and paychecks. I talked to two financial subs about what motivates them to enter into these relationships.

David, a 47-year-old lawyer in New York City, says that while a lot of financial domination takes place online, his experiences have also been in-person. “I definitely met some people in NYC who I would just be generous with, I would take them shopping,” he says. The first time he remembers spending big was on one of these shopping trips, during which he spent $17,000 on expensive shoes, clothes, and jewelry.


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Like Many BDSM Practitioners, Financial Submissives Eroticize Giving Up Control by Jessie Sage

August 21, 2019


VICE: Sanders and Warren Left Sex Workers Out of Their Criminal Justice Plans

Some sex workers and their allies are feeling left behind by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who have both unveiled wide-reaching policy platforms on criminal justice reform this week that don’t include a single mention of decriminalizing sex work.

The senators are two of just five 2020 Democratic candidates with a public position on sex work. Though shortly after his campaign launch, Sanders said he didn’t “have an answer” to questions about whether he supports decriminalization, in June, a spokesperson for Sanders told VICE that he believes “decriminalization is certainly something that should be considered.” The statement came within 24 hours of a statement from Warren, who has said she’s “open” to the policy. It was the first time either of them expressed openness toward the “decriminalization” framework sex workers have been calling for. (Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, as well as Representative Tulsi Gabbard, have said they support decriminalization outright.)

But as sex-work decriminalization becomes an issue quickly entering mainstream political discussion—including among presidential candidates—advocates for decriminalization say it’s not enough to simply be “open” to the idea or to consider it. They want to see concrete policies that take workers and advocates seriously as a constituency, and address the ways they say their community is under near-constant attack from the criminal justice system.


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Aug 20th, 2019

BITCH MEDIA: Ari Fitz on How Instagram Fails Queer Black Creators

In February 2019, Out magazine reported that photographer Tom Bianchi had been locked out of his Instagram account because he’d posted a polaroid photograph of the back of a nude man sitting on a bed, his butt barely visible. “On Saturday morning I woke up to find that my Instagram account had been removed in its entirety for violating ‘Community Guidelines,’” he told Out. After artists, fans, and his husband posted their concerns on Instagram, Bianchi’s account—and the previously offending post—was reactivated.

Sex-tech startups Dame Products and Unbound protested Facebook, the company that owns Instagram, in July 2019 for continually rejecting their ads and reporting their posts despite their content being much less sexual than those of male-focused brands like HimsShadowbanning, a hotly-contested term used to describe Instagram’s algorithm allegedly deprioritizing certain Instagram posts or accounts, has been rightfully critiqued for harming marginalized people. Womenqueer people, and sex workers have begun leaving Instagram entirely, saying it’s becoming increasingly difficult to build community on a platform with vague guidelines about what’s allowed. (Instagram’s policy about nipples has caused a lot of controversy, for instance). Queer Black influencer and YouTuber Ari Fitz, whose Instagram bio read, “HE/HER/DADDY,”ditched the platform, leaving behind nearly 140,000 followers. Her final post, captioned, “been fun, @instagram,” features a blurred post of Ari posing while topless, her arms covering her chest. A swipe on the post reveals a screenshot of Instagram’s notice to Fitz that the original post had been removed for violating the platform’s “nudity or sexual activity” policy.

On her final post, Fitz cropped the photo closer to her chest to showcase just how difficult it is to see her nipples, which, she assumes, is why Instagram blocked the image. The top comment on the post reads, “i follow a white [woman] who posts herself completely naked with 2 little scribbles over her nipples. and her posts are still up. bullshit.” (White models and influencers like Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski have “poked fun” at Instagram’s no-female-nipples policy.). I interviewed Fitz about her decision to leave Instagram and if Instagram’s community guidelines are specifically targeting queer people of color.

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Ari Fitz on how Instagram fails Queer black creators by Rachel Charlene Lewis

Aug 15th, 2019

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Asian women fought the West’s slave trade. And then they were written out of history

It was nearly dusk on Dec. 14, 1933, when a Chinese teen named Jeung Gwai Ying fled from a hairdresser’s shop to a “safe house” in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Trafficked from China and forced into prostitution, Jeung sought freedom for herself and her unborn child. She was greeted by Tien Fuh Wu, a former slave who’d become a key staffer at the home. In Cantonese, Wu asked the teen to tell her story. Later, Wu would provide support for Jeung as she testified in court against her traffickers, who were convicted.

In the early decades of the 20th century, Wu was a key player in the fight against sex trafficking, a pervasive form of slavery in the West. But like many other Asian activists and anti-slavery pioneers, her name and story have been all but erased from most contemporary histories, in favor of stories that cast her white colleagues — women and men — in heroic, larger-than-life roles.

Most accounts of the rescue home at 920 Sacramento St. focus on the work of its longtime superintendent, Donaldina Cameron, a white Presbyterian missionary. As the youngest daughter of a Scottish sheep rancher, she had lived on a 19,000-acre sheep ranch in the San Gabriel Valley in the 1880s before moving to San Francisco to work at the rescue home in 1895. Cameron was a tall, auburn-haired woman with a Scottish lilt who fascinated headline writers and the public alike. She regularly staged dramatic rescues of so-called slave girls from their owners, in her Victorian era’s parlance.

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Asian women fought the West's slave trade. And then they were written out of history by Julia Flynn Siler

Aug. 4th, 2019

ROLLING STONE: California Just Passed a Landmark Law Protecting Sex Workers’ Rights

When Kristen DiAngelo was younger and doing sex work, police officers would routinely do big sweeps of areas known to be frequented by sex workers. “Cops would roll up. They’d grab your purse and dump it out. They’d look at your arms for track marks. They’d look through your pockets,” DiAngelo, now executive director of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) Sacramento, tells Rolling Stone. “They’d just do it. They didn’t ask.” Sometimes, they’d find condoms during these searches — and under California law, that would be evidence enough to arrest someone and charge them with loitering with the intent to commit to prostitution.

When she was on the streets, this happened all the time. DiAngelo says the end result was that many of her peers stopped carrying condoms altogether, thus putting them at increased risk of contracting STIs. When she started working for SWOP, a sex worker outreach organization, she and other members would pass out cards telling sex workers to know their rights, informing them that searches yielding condoms as evidence were illegal and they did not have to consent to them. “They’d look at me with wide eyes and say, ‘That’s easy for you to say. I do what [the cops] want me to do. They’re God,'” says DiAngelo.

Thanks to a landmark bill in California, however, that is set to change. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB233, a Senate bill sponsored by state senator Scott Wiener and pushed forward in large part by SWOP and other sex-worker rights organizations. The bill is significant for including two key components: it contains a provision providing immunity for sex workers who report being the victims of abuse or domestic violence to the police, and it also renders condoms inadmissible as evidence of the intent to do sex work.

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California just passed a landmark law protecting Sex Workers' rights by EJ Dickson

July 31st, 2019