THE SWADDLE: BDSM Culture Can Make Women More Assertive In Work, Relationships

“I don’t know how to explain it … but I have more clarity the morning after. It’s come to a point where my partner and I ensure we engage in a play scene before any big meetings I have. It really gives me the boost I need.”

R.P. is a 32-year-old consultant living in Mumbai. When she joined a high-powered consulting firm seven years ago, she found herself struggling to keep up with the pace and make herself heard.

“Around the same time, I got into a relationship with a man who was into BDSM [bondage and discipline; dominance and submission; sadism and masochism] and kink play. He introduced me to it and I instantly took a liking to it,” R.P. says. “Surprisingly, I found myself gravitating towards the role of the Dominant. Within the confines of a loving and safe space with a partner I trusted, I was able to assert myself in ways I couldn’t outside my bedroom. Slowly, I began to notice that especially on days after we had engaged in a play scene, I would feel more focussed, composed and clear-headed. It was almost as if the satisfied feeling I felt in bed, in that position of power, flowed over the next day. I feel like I know more about myself — my mind and my body.”

According to recent research by Dr. Brad Sagarin, a professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University, kinks such as BDSM alter the blood flow pattern in the brain, creating altered states of consciousness. For those who assume the dominant position in BDSM, these mental states are called “flow” — the term popularized by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Flow is defined asan “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” It’s a state of hyperawareness, laser focus, and euphoria, which resonates with R.P.’s experience. “I just feel more brave, if that makes sense,” she says. Sagarin’s research confirms just that. The study found that people who regularly experience flow as an effect of dominant BDSM roles report improved concentration, clarity about goals, decision-making skills, and listening and intuitive skills. They also demonstrate lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, less self-consciousness and less aversion to risk.

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BDSM Culture can make Women more assertive in work, relationships by Pallavi Prasad

July 28th, 2019

PAPER: Rubber Queen Mistress Ariana Chevalier on the State of Domme-ing

A long-time veteran of NYC's domme scene, Mistress Ariana Chevalier has been a fixture of the fetish scene since way before domme-ing had become a pop cultural fascination. From helming the city's biggest, woman-run dungeon to being on the frontlines of Bloomberg's infamous brothel crackdown — which shut down dungeons on the basis of New York's antiquated sodomy law — Chevalier has seen it all.

A rubber specialist, Chevalier has traveled across the globe to meet clients who had heard of her legendary skills. Armed with an arsenal of hoods, catsuits, and whips accumulated over several decades of working, Chevalier is, arguably, the person to call when you want to explore rubber play.

After all, she's been in the game since the mid-90s. While searching for a second job, Chevalier dove headfirst into the femme domme world after getting hired at a dungeon purchased by a husband-wife team. The only downside? The man in charge overtly told Chevalier that she "wouldn't be able to make as much as any other women because of [her] skin color."

That said, she spent this formative period honing her craft and making sure that every client who came her way always had the best time — to the point where she "eventually was booked the entire time." Unfortunately, it also soon became apparent to her that "money was going missing."

Fast forward to Chevalier's decision to break away from the male-owned dungeon and start her own with two other women. And she hasn't looked back since.

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Rubber Queen Mistress Ariana Chevalier on the State of Domme-ing by Sandra Song

June 20th, 2019


One night in the 1820s, a man in Rugby, England, came home to find his wife drunk. As punishment for her “unacceptable” behavior, he threw her into a nearby pond, quickly dragged her out, and shoved a bar of soap into her mouth. “She has had plenty of water to wash with. She ought now to have a little soap,” the man said, according to a court account cited in an 1832 law lecture given at London University.

Many of us think of washing someone’s mouth out with soap as an outdated punishment for ill-tempered children, but for a long time it was also commonplace as a corrective for women who ventured beyond the bounds of what their husbands considered wifely. It’s also no accident that such a penalty was enacted in conjunction with the submerging of the offending party into a body of water. After all, washing away sin is an act as old as civilization itself, and one that’s most often associated with children, women, and others considered uninitiated in the ways of morality and faith. Baptism is meant to purify, through Christ, children born with sin. While any Jew can go to the mikveh, or ritual bath, women have to go after their menses to wash away the impurity of their own blood.

In medieval times, and up to as late as the early 19th century, women who were presumed to be witches (or simply deemed immoral) would often be strapped to a chair and submerged in water as both punishment for their perceived crimes and as a form of purification. And soap, layered on top of the symbolically cleansing water, was often portrayed as the “cure” for nonwhite cultures that white imperialists sought to indoctrinate—violently, if necessary—in their notions of faith, family structure, and goodness. One infamous 1890s advertisement for Pears’ Soap depicts a military man washing his hands in a basin, with copy that reads, “The first step towards lightening The White Man’s Burden is through teaching the virtues of cleanliness.”

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Bad Mouths by Rachel Klien

July 15th, 2019

IN THESE TIMES: Should HIV-Positive Workers Be Allowed in the Sex Industry? Some Advocates Say Yes.

Individuals who are HIV-positive are not permitted to participate in the adult entertainment industry. That standard is enforced through the Performer Availability Screening Services, otherwise known as PASS. Anyone who tests positive for HIV is permanently banned from the system.

The same applies to other regulated subsets of sex work. To date, Nevada is the only state where full-service sex work is legal. All individuals who apply for work must undergo medical testing for STIs, including HIV. According to Jeremy Lemur, a P.R. representative for one of Nevada’s 21 legal brothels, anyone who tests positive for the virus is not welcome to work at any legal establishment within the state.

But not all sex workers think HIV-positive people should be banned from the field. Jacen Zhu is an adult performer and LGBTQIA activist. According to him, there are schools of queer performers who believe in opening up the industry gates to those living with an undetectable HIV status.

The word “undetectable” is important to emphasize here. The advance of antiretroviral therapy has dramatically shifted the prognosis of those who test positive for HIV. The medication works by preventing copies of the existing virus from replicating and blocking new ones from entering human cells. So long as they remain vigilant with this medication regime, HIV positive individuals are able to maintain a normal lifespan. In fact, the medication is able to suppress viral loads so effectively that standard blood tests will not be able to detect any trace of the virus. This is what it means to become “undetectable.” And that’s an important status to carry, especially in the context of intimate relationships. A 2017 report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 49% of people living with HIV in the United States had reduced their viral loads to an undetectable level.

“If you have an undetectable viral load for an extended period of time, say 6 months, it is extremely unlikely that you would transmit the virus to an uninfected partner,” explains Dr. William Short, an infectious disease specialist based in Philadelphia. Short is also an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania and serves on the board of directors for the American Academy of HIV Medicine. “Thousands and thousands of acts of condom-less sex have been studied,” he adds. “The science is very clear.”

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Should HIV-postive workers be allowed in the sex industry? Some Advocates say yes. by Carrie Wisemen

July 10th, 2019

VICE: Your Brain on BDSM- Why Getting Spanked and Tied Up Makes You Feel High

There's no denying that understanding how the human body works can lead to some intense sex. After all, as clichéd as it is, the brain is the biggest erogenous zone—and BDSM is no different.

It may conjure up images of bondage, discipline, sadomasochism, dominance, and submission, but many BDSM practictioners attribute the pleasurable pain of their fetish to the endorphin rush that accompanies the acting out of their fantasies. There's even a word for the state of a submissive's mind and body during and after consensual kinky play: subspace, often described as a "floaty" or "flying" feeling.

"For all of us, endorphins bind to opiate receptors to naturally relieve pain," explains Maitresse Madeline Marlowe, a professional dominatrix who also works as a performer and director for, a leading BDSM content producer. "Since BDSM play can include power exchange and masochistic acts, endorphins are one of the most common neurotransmitters [produced]."

As far back as 1987, leather activist and author Dr. Geoff Mains hypothesized that BDSM activity stimulated the release of endorphins, but scientists have yet to tease out the exact relationship between neurochemicals and S&M. But subspace does exist: Dr. Brad Sagarin, founder of the Science of BDSM research team and a professor of social and evolutionary psychology at Northern Illinois University, has compared it to runner's high, the sense of euphoria and increased tolerance for pain that some joggers feel after a long run. Except, obviously, one is caused by the asphalt flashing beneath your feet, the other by a whip swishing through the air.


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Your Brain on BDSM: Why Getting Spanked and Tied Up Makes You High by Gareth May

February 16, 2017

THE ESTABLISHMENT: Yes, You Need to Talk to Kids about Porn

Thirteen years ago, Erika Lust, a political science graduate who specialized in gender studies, decided to start making porn films. Frustrated by the tacky, chauvinistic content of mainstream porn, she wanted to see if it was possible to make a different kind of adult film — one that focused on story, characters, and the female gaze. Since then, she has since gone on to create over 100 highly crafted, ethically produced porn films, a host of which have won awards.

Her latest project is a continuation of her engagement with dominant porn culture — but from a decidedly different angle. Inspired by her role as a mother, and her desire to give something back in her area of expertise, she and her husband Pablo Dobner launched The Porn Conversation, a nonprofit initiative that aims to help parents talk to their children about porn. The website offers age-specific guides, starting with kids under 11 years old, that were put together in consultation with parents, sexologists, and psychologists, as well as other tools and resources for parents and educators.

I interviewed Erika in Berlin, where she recently spoke about The Porn Conversation at Tech Open Air, an interdisciplinary festival that brings together technology, arts, and culture.

Madhvi Ramani: Why is it important for parents to have “the porn conversation” with their children?

Erika Lust: Porn is part of the reality we live in. It has grown enormously in the last 10 years, because of the internet and the proliferation of porn tubes [free porn sites that do not require registration], which are the biggest part of pornography today. The kind of content available on these porn tubes is highly racist, misogynistic, and chauvinistic. It is something that parents can’t ignore because children, at a very early age, are coming across this content online. They are going to find it, and look at it, and it’s going to influence their perceptions about sexuality and gender roles. So, if parents talk to their children before or during this time of discovery, they can help them think more analytically and critically about the images they are seeing.


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Yes, You Need to Talk to Your Children About Porn by Madhvi Ramani

January 9, 2018


iNews: BDSM Practitioners Less Likely to Have Victim-blaming Attitudes in Sexual Violence Cases

People who take part in BDSM sex activities (bondage, discipline/dominance, submission/sadism, masochism) are less likely to hold attitudes consistent with rape culture, research has found.

Victim-blaming attitudes are less widespread as well as acceptance of so-called rape myths in sexual violence cases, according to the study.

The reason for this could be because the BDSM subculture has “affirmative consent norms,” says Kathryn Klement, co-author of the study called “Participating in a culture of consent may be associated with lower rape-supportive beliefs“.

Affirmative consent is a conscious, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity, either by words or actions.

It means explicitly saying “yes” to questions such as “Can I take your clothes off?” and “Can I touch you?,” says Ms Klement, from the department of psychology at Northern Illinois University. Affirmative consent is seen in the Yes Means Yes policy enforced in colleges and universities in some US states including California and New York. It can be contrasted with a policy where consent is assumed – until someone says no.

Negotiations and safe-words

Within the BDSM community, there is a culture of affirmative or negotiating consent. Practitioners will “negotiate what to do ahead of time,” discuss limits and have safe-words for when they want activities to stop, she says.


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BDSM Practitioners less likely to have victim-blaming attitudes in sexual violence cases by Serina Sandhu

August 17, 2016

THE NEXT WEB: Erika Lust "#MeToo left sex workers behind"

There’s no questioning that sex workers face judgement and stigma, as well as blatant, systematic discrimination. In media, they’re punished for their nonconforming sexuality by being victimized, criminalized, or slut-shamed.

And despite the arrival of a new era of feminist activism, it seems that yet again, feminism has left the rights of sex workers behind.

“To be honest I feel like not much has changed in the adult industry since the #MeToo movement,” Erika Lust, a Swedish erotic film director, screenwriter, and producer, told us in a recent TNW Answers session. “When a woman has sex for money, people have a hard time accepting that she has the right to consent to what she does sexually.”

According to Lust, there are still people that don’t believe sex workers can be sexually assaulted: “This makes it harder for performers to speak up, harder to be believed, and harder to move forward after sharing their story.”

Tarana Burke, a black activist and advocate, launched the #MeToo campaign over a decade ago to provide “empowerment through empathy” for survivors of sexual abuse in underprivileged communities. As Burke alludes to in her post, many claim #MeToo has been hijacked by white women, and diverted from its original purpose to serve marginalized survivors, including sex workers.

Because of this, Lust argues many survivors in the sex work industry remain silent to avoid further perpetuating society’s negative stereotypes, such as “that it’s unsafe and all women are victims or trafficked.”

There’s a deeply-ingrained assumption that sex workers do their jobs out of desperation and not choice. Those in the industry are almost exclusively portrayed in media through testimonials from survivors who have suffered abuse or addiction.

Sex workers also face the fear of becoming blacklisted by the industry if they come forward regarding their assault or harassment: “It’s unfortunately very common in some parts of the industry that directors and studios won’t work with [survivors] after they come forward with their story,” Lust said. “They mark them as ‘trouble’ and nothing happens to the men who are accused.”

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Erika Lust: #MeToo left Sex Workers behind by Cara Curtis

July 8th, 2019

HAZLITT: Good Faith

In the mid-1970s, the man who would later become my father joined the Unification Church. He had moved to a commune in Northern California after finishing college and wanted to share his newfound devotion with his parents back in Brooklyn. So, he took them to see his guru, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, at a Madison Square Garden rally.

That night, Moon spoke through a translator to a crowd of 20,000. He proselytized that all of human history was on the brink of culmination, that the third world war was going to happen within the next three years. He preached his sexual philosophy, which has since been quoted as, “Woman was born to connect in love with man’s sexual organ. Man and woman’s sexual organs are the place of the true love palace.”

And then Moon declared that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.

An enraged word pierced the hush of the reverent crowd. In front of thousands of my father’s fellow acolytes, my grandmother stood up and screamed at the top of her lungs:


Her son was humiliated. But this moment of shameless dissent would become an iconic one for me. I keep the story close to my heart the way other people wear heirloom lockets.

Still, if I met you while tipping red wine into mugs at a house party and the subject of cults came up, as I find the subject tends to in our anxious times, this isn’t the story I would tell you.

Here’s the one I would: Unification Church members like my father were to remain celibate before they were deemed worthy of participating in mass weddings officiated by Moon. After these weddings, they would become the True Children of Moon and his second wife Hak Ja Han, known as the True Father and True Mother. My dad, a communications major, was known even then for his persuasive charisma, and so he was sent on road trips to collect acolytes. On one such trip, the church sent as his companion a schoolteacher in her late twenties who had moved west following a Lutheran upbringing in Iowa. She was not persuasively charismatic, was in fact skeptical of Moon’s teachings. During that road trip, they spread the good word all right, but they apparently didn’t take their vow of abstinence very seriously. On one drive, a group leader noticed my mom leaning over to put a stick of gum in my dad’s mouth. Subsequently, yours truly was born in sexual rebellion.

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Good Faith by Tine Horn

July 8th, 2019

TIME: Sex Workers Are an Important Part of the Stonewall Story, But Their Role Has Been Forgotten

Late one evening in May of 1959, two members of the Los Angeles Police Department entered Cooper’s Doughnuts, a sketchy downtown coffee joint, looking for trouble. The LAPD, as the historians Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons have written, “prided itself on being one of the most determined enemies of homosexuality in the nation,” and Cooper’s was known to be an all-night hangout for gay people, drag queens, transgender and gender-nonconforming folks, and “hustlers”—part- or full-time sex workers. Many of them were people of color. The cops barged in that spring night and pointed at three customers, demanding, “You, you, and you—come with us.”

This was a familiar scene. Yet, for some reason, that night the crowd at Cooper’s had had enough. They started throwing donuts, then coffee. The police fled to their squad car and called for backup. Eventually, the cops managed to quell the riot, but not before fighting had spread to the streets and many of the people they’d attempted to target had escaped.

Incidents like the one at Cooper’s presaged the more famous queer uprising at the Stonewall Inn a decade later, but—except for Stonewall—these incidents have been largely forgotten. In the minds of many, Stonewall represents the beginning of a movement. Yet the activists at Stonewall built on decades of previous activism, and this activism was geared not merely toward the liberation of gay men and lesbians, but also toward the liberation of a wider group of queer people: trans and gender-nonconforming people, queer people of color and queer sex workers.

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Sex Workers are an important part of the Stonewall story, but their role has been forgotten by Scott W. Stern

June 27th, 2019