NPR: How To Talk About Sex (And Consent): 4 Lessons From The Kink Community

I don't remember when the concept of consent as it relates to sex became part of my vocabulary, but it shapes how I approach my personal relationships and affects the way I move through the world. I was shaken when the #MeToo movement exploded, not only by the stories of sexual assault and harassment but also by the stories of women who had felt pressured or coerced into having sex they didn't want.

I flashed back to my own similarly uncomfortable experiences, when I was single and new to D.C. I remembered times on dates when I had expressed my discomfort by simply pulling away or turning my head when a guy tried to kiss or touch me when I didn't want to be kissed or touched. I was familiar with the sickening feeling of being distressed by something that was happening, while also feeling unable or hesitant to speak up for myself.

It has been on my mind a lot recently, how I, like so many people, have been socialized not to talk about sex because it's uncomfortable or awkward or it might kill the mood. I thought about how that hesitancy to speak can muddy the waters of consent, and I wanted to explore that idea with people who talk about sex a lot: the kink community, or kinksters, as they're known.

Merriam-Webster's definition of kink is "unconventional sexual taste or behavior" and includes a wide variety of behaviors and preferences. That includes BDSM — a subset of kink — which stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. Being tied up or handcuffed (bondage), spanked (discipline) and role-playing all fall under BDSM.

To make sure each partner is on the same page, kinksters have to talk about sex in a way that vanilla people — those who don't participate in kinky activities — often don't. Julie, a kinkster and sociologist in the Washington, D.C., area, believes that the communication kinksters have with one another distinguishes them from "vanillas."

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How to talk about Sex (and Consent): 4 Lessons from the Kink community by Mallory Yu

June 1st, 2019

DAZED: Why it’s bizarre to try ban kinks and fetishes at Pride

Yesterday, as happens often, someone wrote a tweet which sent the internet into meltdown. A list of statements about Pride, it began so promisingly:

“1. large corporations just want your money” – Well, quite!

Eagerly anticipating the serving of more scalding hot tea, I read on:

“2. Lesbian exclusion is ugly. 3. Trans woc are the ones that lead the fight for our rights” – by this point, I was punching the air and cheering in agreement. But then... instead of being served more tea, I found myself spitting out my own, all over my laptop:

“4. Please don’t bring your k*nks/fet*shes to pride, there are minors @ pride and this can sexualise the event”.

It’s worth saying that the person who wrote this tweet seems well-intentioned, as proven by their previous three excellent points, and attacking them personally would be both unkind and pointless. But the attitude the tweet embodies is worthy of critique, and I’d like to unpack the ideas being suggested: that children need to be protected from displays of kink (whether that’s rubber, leather, BDSM, animal roleplay... I could go on), and that Pride shouldn’t be sexualised.

In the furore which followed this tweet going viral (at the time of writing, it has been liked a disturbing 30,000 times), many people suggested in response that children shouldn’t even be at Pride in the first place. Others argued, more mildly, that the essence of Pride shouldn’t have to change to accommodate them. I’m sympathetic to the latter point, but a ‘no kids at Pride!’ rule risks excluding queer parents who can’t afford childcare, the children of queer parents (who have every right to celebrate their own families), and the many children who will grow up to be queer themselves, and are perhaps beginning to realise this themselves.

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Why it's bizarre to try to ban kinks and fetishes at Pride by James Greig

May 29th, 2019

ENGADGET: Sex, lies, and surveillance

Silicon Valley's biggest companies have partnered with a single organization to fight sex trafficking -- one that maintains a data collection pipeline, is partnered with Palantir, and helps law enforcement profile and track sex workers without their consent. Major websites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others are working with a nonprofit called Thorn("digital defenders of children") and, perhaps predictably, its methods are dubious.

Thorn offers internet companies its content moderation tool "Safer," and for law enforcement, its separate data-mining and user-profiling tool "Spotlight." Both use data sources and AI to automate policing of sex content. Of Thorn's 31 nonprofit partners, 27 target adults and vow to abolish consensual sex work under the banner of saving children from sex trafficking.

"With our work on child sex trafficking, we recognize that this crime often presents itself within the broader field of sex work which does include consensual adult sex work," Thorn CEO Julie Cordua told Engadget via email. "We also realize that the reasons why people have sex for money are complex and varied. This is a complex field with a lot of nuance. Our programs are designed specifically to channel very limited resources on the recovery of children who are being exploited through sex trafficking, not on consenting adults."

Before Engadget reached Thorn for comment on this article, its website listed partnerships with data dealers, web scrapers and identity brokers including ConnotateTrusonaTrade DeskLaxdaela, and 41st Parameter(Experian). When asked about Thorn's relationships with the now-removed partners, Cordua told Engadget that our queries reminded Thorn its "Partnerships" page "is outdated."

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Sex, lies, and surveillance by Violet Blue

May 31, 2019

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Could Prostitution Be Next to Be Decriminalized?

Marijuana has gone mainstream, casino gambling is everywhere and sports wagering is spreading. Could prostitution be next?

Lawmakers across the country are beginning to reconsider how to handle prostitution, as calls for decriminalization are slowly gaining momentum.

Decriminalization bills have been introduced in Maine and Massachusetts; a similar bill is expected to be introduced to the City Council in Washington D.C. in June; and lawmakers in Rhode Island held hearings in April on a proposal to study the impact of decriminalizing prostitution.

New York may be next: Some Democratic lawmakers are about to propose a comprehensive decriminalization bill that would eliminate penalties for both women and men engaged in prostitution, as well as the johns whom they service.

“This is about the oldest profession, and understanding that we haven’t been able to deter or end it, in millennia,” said Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens who is one of the plan’s backers. “So I think it’s time to confront reality.”

The New York legislation appears unlikely to pass in the coming months, but the idea of decriminalization has already amassed a growing coterie of prominent supporters, suggesting that it might continue to gain traction.

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Could Prostitution be next to be decriminalize? by Jesse McKinley

May 31st, 2019

i-D: 5 dominatrices explain the rules of consent

Stigmas surrounding sex work persevere in nearly every corner of the globe. As a result, the sexualized power dynamics in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) practices are often misunderstood. At the end of the day BDSM is not about control like many people think — it’s about exploring the boundaries of pleasure in a safe and consensual way.

“People can learn a lot from the BDSM and sex work community about consent and talking about sex in an open and supportive way without judgement,” said Lucy Sweetkill, a dominatrix based in New York.

Consent plays a huge role in any BDSM scene, whether it’s between two romantic partners or a dominatrix and a client. Not only do clients and professionals consent to the specifics of any session before it begins through both dialogue and paperwork, BDSM sessions require constant communication and the reestablishing of boundaries and safety. BDSM professionals use safe words, check-ins, and reading of facial expressions, and body language to ensure that their clients are safe and comfortable for the duration of the session.

i-D spoke with 5 dominatrices from around the globe about consent in the BDSM scene and their thoughts on empowering women through sex.

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5 Dominatrices explain the rules of consent by Mary Retta

May 30th, 2019

HUFFPOST: Dear White Guys - Your Asian Fetish is Showing

Lillian, a 20-something who lives in New York and Boston, is a single Asian American woman who actively dates. Needless to say, her Tinder inbox is a hot mess.

There are the inevitable “What is your nationality? and “What are you?” messages. And there are a ton of racially charged thirsty DMs: “I’ll eat your pussy like shrimp fried rice,” one says. “I want to try my first Asian woman.”

Sure, sexually explicit messages and unsolicited dick pics are par for the course for women on dating apps, but for women of color, including Asian women, it’s almost always significantly worse.

“Most of my single white friends receive only a taste of what I get on Tinder,” said Lillian, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy reasons.

“No man has ever opened with how white women are so ‘exotic’ or opened with an assumption about how white vaginas are different from other vaginas,” she told HuffPost. “None of these messages have the same intense preoccupation with race.”

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Dear White Guys: Your Asian Fetish is Showing by Brittany Wong

May 29, 2019

PSYCHOLOGY TODAY: Sexual Satisfaction in BDSM

BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance/submission, sadism-masochism) seems to be a topic of immense fascination for laypeople and social scientists alike. Although in the past the practice has been stigmatized as deviant, and a reflection of psychopathology, there is growing evidence that consensual BDSM practices may actually be a healthy way that many people express their inner sexual desires and fantasies. A recent study (Botta, Nimbi, Tripodi, Silvaggi, & Simonelli, 2019) examined sexual satisfaction and functioning among BDSM practitioners and found that not only do practitioners appear to be well-adjusted, some, particularly those who prefer the dominant role, appear to be more satisfied with their sexuality than non-practitioners. The reasons are not yet known, but it may be because those in the dominant role may have personality traits that are particularly conducive to good mental health.

A growing body of research has explored the psychological aspects of BDSM. I have reviewed a few of the relevant studies in previous posts (hereand here). BDSM encompasses a wide range of practices typically associated with control, humiliation, physical restriction, and role playing (Botta et al., 2019). Typically, practitioners adopt particular roles during their activities, most commonly either as a “dominant” who exerts control over others, or a “submissive” who consents to being controlled. Some people have a fixed preference for either role, while some people are “switches” who prefer to alternate between these roles. The actual practices people may engage in are extraordinarily diverse, and while some practitioners may only engage in a few preferred activities, others may experiment flexibly with a wide array of scenarios. Although there seems to be a popular idea that BDSM is something only a few odd individuals engage in, surveys have shown that it is far more common: Between 10 and 50% of people surveyed have admitted to engaging in some form of it and many more at least fantasize about it (Coppens, Brink, Huys, Fransen, & Morrens, 2019).

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Sexual Satisfaction in BDSM by Scott A. McGreal MSc.

May 29th, 2019

AUTOSTRADDLE: View From The Top: From Physical to Psychological

Three things. Three little things brought our play from “what kind of things do you want to play with” to “I like sex that is kind of, you know… rough” to “what have you always wanted to do, but haven’t yet” to “I would so love to do those things with you” to “I’ve always wanted someone to play with like this” — from physical to psychological.

The psychology was always an undercurrent. It can feel profound to be doing rough, dirty things. When I played with Sarah*, I felt surges of strength when overpowering her physically, pushing her body around, throwing her onto the bed, holding her down, watching red marks rise where I’d smacked or grabbed or punched. I saw the lust in her eyes as she watched me. Her mouth open, breath deep.

We had our tastes of surrendering and surges long before we started to add the play of our minds. But when we changed the game a little, and added just a few little things, our play soared to new mountain summits I hadn’t even known we could reach, or let alone want.

I held her down, both hands around her wrists above her head. She was moaning, but it was late and the walls in my apartment were tissue-paper thin. My roommate was annoyed enough at my late night sexcapades.

I put my hand over her mouth. “Don’t make a sound,” I ordered. Her eyes widened. Underneath me, her hips moved, that gentle rubbing where she tried to get her clit against the seam of her jeans. She liked this.


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View From the Top: From Physical to Psychological by Sinclair Sexsmith

January 3, 2017

AUTOSTRADDLE: Bottoms Up: Denial

Ellie and I had been playing together consistently for months, and I trusted her enough that, one evening, I told her we didn’t need to check in as often during sex. I wanted her to do something new to my body or take something away from me without telling me first. I wanted room for surprise. When I’m a bottom, I don’t need an advance play-by-play because I’m not in charge; I leave my incessant need for control on the floor with my clothes.

The next time we met up, she suggested blindfolding me, to which I readily agreed. I was not only exchanging far fewer verbal cues; I also couldn’t pick up on visual ones. All I knew was it felt like electricity when she touched me literally anywhere and I was aching for each and every perfect moment of contact. And then, when I felt like I wasn’t going to think about anything but the way her tongue felt on my neck ever again, she said, “Don’t come until I say so.”

I tried to close my legs but she had me completely at her mercy. The environment turned me on so much at that moment, but I didn’t come. I don’t know if it was the direct order from Ellie or my anticipation, but I was having a blast.

I was so into the denial because I thrive on instructions...


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Bottoms Up: Denial by Al(aina)

January 25, 2017

AUTOSTRADDLE: A Balance In Subspace

I always looked for opportunities to transcend myself and become another being. But I only began to toy with the intricacies of submission recently, when reading smut on my phone when I got some alone time in the bathroom wasn’t cutting it. What started out as playful kink and bed restraints turned into me begging my partner for demeaning words and rules. While a natural top, they had to shift and stretch to become the dominant I thought I wanted.

My partner enabled me to sink into subspace, letting me become the “whore” or “bad girl” I so desperately wanted to be for them. At first, I worried about asking too much. I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable. They didn’t want to hurt me, degrade me. Given my history of abuse, it was hard to grasp my need to be controlled. But, as we discovered together, I am righteously empowered by being submissive.

Beneath them, and their commands, I gained true control by letting go. Whenever they took me, they erased my compulsory need for calculated information. My mind clear and pulsing, I forgot to clench into fear and insecurity. I internally climbed beyond myself until I reached cathartic nothingness — just flesh and heat and equanimity. I erupted in the release of myself. I found blistering strength, goaded by the pain and honesty of feeling completely consumed.

At the end of every scene, we reconnected outside of our headspaces. I easily slipped out of my submission and into the arms of the person I cared for. This natural transition was sacred and fiery. Sometimes I muttered something about having no more dry underwear from so much sexy time, and we ordered in Thai food.

And then, in the middle of exploring kink more deeply together, I took on a summer job abroad. We could not see each other, but our relationship and sexual understanding grew beyond physical touch. We played with the word “Daddy.” Even though masturbation has always been a challenge for me, I finally learned how to make myself come with the fantasy of unconditionally giving over my body to please my dominant. I got off to the visual of myself begging on my knees for another spanking. I felt powerful and in control of my body’s desire for deviance. As the summer continued, I built it up, asking my partner for more and more degradation. I started to ask for submission outside of the bedroom. Just the idea of being told to eat a bowl of cereal or to wait before speaking made me frantic. I was getting so deep into this world, meditating in my bodily freedom.


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A Balance In Subspace by Guest

February 15, 2017