An Alt Lifestyle Blog for and by Our Communities

The Kink-Poly Confluence, part 1

While there is very little academic literature that’s been published on the intersection of polyamorous- and kink-identified individuals, there are numerous mentions of people who identify as both kinky and poly in research on one or the other of the two communities. The overlap of kink and poly tend to be acknowledged, accepted, and depathologized in both communities, and consensual nonmonogamy (CNM1) or polyamory are sometimes considered the norm in certain kink subcultures2,3. 

Following is an overview of this common confluence of identifications, and a discussion of approaches in therapy specific to the kink-poly dynamic.  For clarity’s sake, I’ll be referring to “kink-identified individuals” in terms of to those who self-identify as kinky or BDSM-oriented, and engage in BDSM as their main form of erotic and/or sexual expression; those who may or may not identify as kinky, enjoy vanilla sex, but also incorporate BDSM into their erotic and/or sexual interactions; and those who identify as being in a BDSM-oriented relationship that extends the relational power dynamic beyond erotic and sexual interactions into lifestyle4,5,6,7. “Poly-identified individuals” will refer to those who self-identify as polyamorous, and self-define their intimate, romantic, erotic, and/or sexual relationships as being or having the potential to be consensually nonmonogamous with the awareness and agreement of all partners involved6,8,9. 

Also in the interest of clarity, it’s important to note that polyamory falls under the umbrella term of CNM, though polyamorous individuals self-define their relationship structures in a variety of ways, and can closely resemble other styles of CNM such as open relationships or swinging1,10. Kink-identified individuals who are also poly-identified likewise self-determine their relationship structures, though because the emphasis in successful kink-poly relationships is often on transparency and connection, their focus might tend to be on cultivating deeper emotional intimacy, whether those interactions are frequent or infrequent, consistent or inconsistent, and/or short- or long-term7,9.

There are common themes in the academic literature that notes an overlap in the kink and poly communities, including: 1) the central tenets of transparency, negotiation, and communication; 2) a greater openness to sexual and gender diversity and other non-mainstream identifications; and 3) a willingness to challenge social norms2,8,11. The literature emphasizes consent as a defining characteristic of both poly and BDSM lifestyles—it’s what distinguishes BDSM interactions from abuse, and polyamory from infidelity10,12. That’s not to say that abuse never occurs in kinky relationships and that infidelity cannot occur in a polyamorous relationship, but unless action is taken, the persistence of these behaviors indicates the potential disintegration of a functional kinky and/or poly dynamic.

The literature also references common motivational themes in kink-poly-identified individuals. As noted above, communication, transparency, negotiation, and consent are central tenets of both the poly and kink communities; therefore, individuals who practice BDSM tend to have cultivated a set of ethics and skills that dovetail well with the practice of polyamory, and vice versa2. Other avenues for crossover can be described in terms of direction. For example, in the direction of poly expanding into kink, many poly-identified individuals decide to do so because they want to avoid constraining their capacity for love or eroticism9, and this relationship structure provides the ideal context in which to explore erotic or sexual interests that cannot be met within their current relationship2,7,11,13. In the direction of kink expanding into poly, during BDSM scene negotiations, a discussion around shared common interests, hard limits, and logistics might organically, and in some cases necessarily, include how many individuals and who will be involved2. BDSM interactions are designed to challenge conventional sexual norms, therefore the challenging of conventional relationship structure norms, or mono-normativity2, often seems a logical progression8,14.

Research indicates that polyamory is more common in the kink community than BDSM behaviors are in the poly community2,3,13, and is common to the point of being a cultural norm in non-straight subsections of the BDSM community2,3. For example, in leatherdyke and dyke + (i.e., self-identified dykes, queers, and trans individuals) BDSM communities, an individual who identifies as monogamous might have difficulty in finding another monogamous partner2,3. This, combined with an abundance of role models in an environment of depathologization, might strongly influence a historically monogamous individual to entertain polyamory as viable and perhaps necessary2,3.

Another common motivator for the expansion of a monogamous relationship into a kink-poly-oriented relationship relates to the vastness of sexual diversity—individuals may find themselves in an otherwise highly functional partnership that cannot incorporate important aspects of their sexuality, such as in the case of partners who have unshared BDSM interests or conflicting sexual identities or power role orientations2,13. Examples of such relationship configurations might include a kinky and a non-kinky member; two dominant- or submissive-identified individuals; a dominant- or submissive-identified individual and one who is a switch, i.e. fluid in their power role preference5; or a partner who identifies as monosexual (i.e., exclusively hetero- or homosexual), and one who identifies as bisexual, pansexual, or queer7,11. Additionally, a relationship might have a partner who remains monogamous while another partner is nonmonogamous7. For example, because there tends to be more submissive- than dominant-identified individuals in the kink community, a kink-poly-oriented relationship might consist of a nonmonogamous dominant with multiple monogamous submissive partners3,7. Alternately, in the kinky/non-kinky relationship, the non-kinky partner may choose to remain monogamous, while the kinky partner is nonmonogamous, and seeks out other relationships only to satisfy their BDSM desires7.

Some kink-poly-identified individuals prefer hierarchical relationships, whereas some prefer more egalitarian relationships among partners2,4,15. Hierarchies can be expressed in terms of more intimate or emotional connections taking precedence over purely sexual or erotic ones, or in terms of power role orientations3,7. In kink-poly-oriented relationships that incorporate BDSM into lifestyle, the hierarchical prioritizing structure of primary/secondary/tertiary/ancillary partnership structure is common, with prioritization based on a variety of factors, including chronological seniority, legality (i.e., marriage), and/or emotional connection7. Incorporating hierarchy into relationships doesn’t necessarily translate into a devaluation of non-primary partners; the way that kink-poly-oriented relationships are defined is specific to the individuals involved, and might also fluctuate7.

Another overlap in kink and poly communities is the concept of “family” or ongoing group connections. These configurations might be called a poly or leather family, and may include partners who share connections that are emotional, erotic, and/or sexual, as well as include partners who engage solely on an emotional, erotic, or sexual level8,15. Both poly and leather families are “chosen families,” though leather families may or may not consider themselves to be polyamorous, and vice versa. Leather families are more often hierarchical than poly families tend to be, and are based on protocols and traditions originating around the 1950s from “Leather Culture”15.

Converging Kink-Poly Histories

There is evidence in the literature noting the existence of BDSM behaviors long before the adoption of the terms “sadism” and “masochism” by Krafft-Ebing in 1886, though nearly a century passed before BDSM communities began forming in the early 1970s16. Similarly, references to non-monogamy have appeared throughout much of recorded history3 and specific references to polyamory as a descriptive term are said to have begun circulating in the 1920s. Polyamory as a self-identification and community did not come into popular use until around 1990, and was finally entered into the Oxford English dictionary in 20068,12. 

A historical overlap between the BDSM and consensual nonmonogamy communities can be traced to progressive political movements in the 1960s, when activism around these and other unconventional lifestyles and belief systems gained momentum9. Though stereotypical beliefs around the kink and poly communities assume a male-dominant/female-submissive structure, it is much less common in both communities (relative to the general population) to incorporate this type of relationship structure, and both kink and poly communities are more likely to be profeminist14,17. Similarly, egalitarian relationships not only exist in the kink community, but in some cases are intentionally enacted to allow for power play that takes place solely within heavily rule-bound, time-delimited scenes8. McClintock’s19 exploration of the intersection between fetishism and gender power asserts that the parameters of a BDSM scene provide a safe space where any gender can adopt any power role, challenging the constraints of stereotypical gender expression.

An unfortunate historical overlap is the tendency for kink-poly-identified individuals to experience stigma and discrimination2,11,19. Individuals who practice BDSM behaviors and lifestyles have been pathologized since prior to the coining of the term sadomasochism by Freud in 1905. Pathologization and stigmatization continues today, recursively reinforced by socialization, media representation, and clinical and educational inertia. Though polyamory has not been pathologized in the literature to the extent that BDSM has been, academic, political, and popular discourses have historically presented essentialist mononormativity as the only morally correct relationship structure, and considerations for consensual non-monogamy are rare within mainstream psychology and therapy practices10. Those who are out (or outed) about their lifestyles might face consequences such as the loss of employment, housing, and custody of children, as well as rejection by friends and family11.

Born this way, or personal lifestyle choice?

Essentialist theories of identity assert that there are true essences in humans originating internally from or before birth20. Conversely, social constructionists argue that identifications such as gender and sexuality originate externally through the social construction of reality20. Because there is extraordinary diversity and fluidity in sexual expression within society, subcultures, and the individual, it follows that a wide variety of choices can be made in self-defining and expressing one’s kink-poly-orientation. This notion of self-defined identifications could be seen to conflict with the essentialist suggestion that these identifications might instead be inherent19,20. A study exploring BDSM participants’ initial awareness of their BDSM interests found more essentialist than constructionist narratives, and some noting an interactive effect, in that they believed their identification was inherent, but noted the influence of socialization prior to discovering an interest in kink19. The researchers note that these proportions—more essentialist than constructionist, and a smaller combined proportion—is common in research pertaining to atypical sexualities19.

In DeLamater and Hyde’s20 literature review of essentialist and constructionist theories of sexual identity, the authors suggest that the possibility of a combined effect is unlikely. In contrast, Ryan and Jethá’s21 book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality asserts that the truth behind genetically versus socially determined behavior lies somewhere in the confluence of these theories. Dynamical systems account for those who feel that their sexuality is innate and fixed, as well as those who feel their sexuality is more fluid and influenced by interpersonal relationships19. The authors of Sex at Dawn assert that Wilson’s introduction of the theory of evolutionary psychology in 1975 did not make absolute statements about the influence of genetics on psychological phenomena, the controversy that it spurred served to polarize scientific and academic absolutist beliefs21.

Regardless of how an individual’s atypical identification is formed, those with atypical identifications face difficulties that those with typical identifications do not. For example, because kink-poly-identified individuals have the ability to pass and are therefore often assumed by those outside the communities to be non-kinky and mononormative, they may suffer effects associated with having a concealable stigmatized identity due to anticipated stigma (i.e., the fear their sexual interests will be revealed) and cultural stigma (i.e., the risk of social devaluation), which have been found to contribute to increased risk of depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms22,23. Fortunately these symptoms can be mitigated by a strong social support network, which exists for kink-poly-identified individuals in kink and poly communities. Social support can also exist within a kink-poly-oriented relationship, in that when the relationship is successful, it allows for and perhaps forces personal growth by virtue of the high level of communication skills and self-awareness that such relationships require. Therapy can also be helpful when kink-poly-identified individuals experience problems associated with negative external influences, as well as in dealing with relational struggles within the kink-poly dynamic.

Read more: The Kink-Poly Confluence, part 2

_____________

1 Rubin, J. D., Moors, A. C., Matsick, J. L., Ziegler, A., & Conley, T. D. (2014). On the margins: Considering diversity among consensually non-monogamous relationships. Journal für Psychologie, 22(1), 1-23. Retrieved from http://www.journal-fuer-psychologie.de/index.php/jfp/article/view/324/355

2 Bauer, R. (2010). Non-monogamy in queer BDSM communities: Putting the sex back into alternative relationship practices and discourse. In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.), Understanding Non-Monogamies (pp. 142-153). London, UK: Routledge.

Deri, J. (2015). Love’s refraction: Jealousy and compersion in queer women’s polyamorous relationships. Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division. Kindle Edition.

4 Green, R. (2007). Total power exchange in a modern family: A personal perspective. In D. Langdridge & M. Barker (Eds.), Safe, sane, and consensual: Contemporary perspectives on sadomasochism (pp. 292-296). Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

5 Moser, C. & Kleinplatz, P. J. (2007). Themes of SM expression. In D. Langdridge & M. Barker (Eds.), Safe, sane, and consensual: Contemporary perspectives on sadomasochism (pp. 35-54). Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

6 Ortmann, D. M. & Sprott, R. (2012). Sexual outsiders: Understanding BDSM sexualities and communities. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

7 Taormino, T. A. (2008). Opening up: A guide to creating and sustaining open relationships. Berkeley, CA: Cleis Press. Kindle Edition.

8 Klesse, C. (2011). Notions of love in polyamory—Elements in a discourse on multiple loving. Laboratorium, Russian Review of Social Research, 3(2), 4-25.

9 Sheff, E. & Hammers, C. (2014). The privilege of perversities: Race, class, and education among polyamorists and kinksters. Psychology & Sexuality, 2(3), 198-223. doi:10.1080/19419899.2010.537674

10 Barker, M. & Langdridge, D. (2010). Whatever happened to non-monogamies? Critical reflections on recent research and theory. Sexualities, 13(6), 748-772. doi:10. 1177/1363460710384645

11 Sheff, E. (2013). The polyamorists next door: Inside multiple-partner relationships and families. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

12 Pitagora, D. (2013) Consent vs. coercion: BDSM interactions highlight a fine but immutable line. New School Psychology Bulletin, 10(1), 27-36.

13 Labriola, K. (2010). Love in abundance: A counselor’s advice on open relationships. Eugene, OR: Greenery Press.

14 Barker, M. (2005). On tops, bottoms and ethical sluts: The place of BDSM and polyamory in lesbian and gay psychology. Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review, 6(2), 124-129. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/17267/2/5470E82F.pdf

15 Rinella, J. (2011). Partners in power. Gardena, CA: SCB Distributors. Kindle Edition.

16 Sisson, K. (2007). The cultural formation of S/M: History and analysis. In D. Langdridge & M. Barker (Eds.), Safe, sane, and consensual: Contemporary perspectives on sadomasochism (pp. 10-34). Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

17 Kleinplatz, P. J. & Diamond, L. M. (2014). Sexual diversity. In D. L. Tolman & L. M. Diamond (Eds.), APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology: Vol. 1, Person-Based Approaches (pp. 245-267). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. xxviii, 804. doi:10.1037/14193-009

18 McClintock, A. (1993). Maid to order: Commercial fetishism and gender power. Social Text, 37, 87-116.

19 Yost, M. R. & Hunter, L. E. (2012). BDSM practitioners’ understandings of their initial attraction to BDSM sexuality: Essentialist and constructionist narratives. Sexualities, 3(3), 244-259. doi:10.1080/19419899.2012.700028

20 DeLamater, J. D. & Hyde, J. S. (1998). Essentialism vs. social constructionism in the study of human sexuality. The Journal of Sex Research, 35(1), 10-18.

21 Ryan, C. & Jethá, C. (2012). Sex at dawn: How we mate, why we stray, and what it means for modern relationships. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

22 British Psychological Society (2012). Guidelines and literature review for psychologists working therapeutically with sexual and gender minority clients. Retrieved from www.bps.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/rep_92.pdf

23 Quinn, D. M. & Chaudoir, S. R. (2009). Living with a concealable stigmatized identity: The impact of anticipated stigma, centrality, salience, and cultural stigma on psychological distress and health. Journal of Personal and Social Psychology, 97(4), 634-651. doi:10.1037/a0015815

All Oppression Is Connected

All Oppression Is Connected

Staceyann Chin’s poetry inspired Jim Chuchu to create this gorgeous poster for you to download and disseminate at will, “as long as you don’t – you know – sell them, or use them to vandalize places.”

Neurotypical Privilege

Guest post by Mike Blejer, a comedian living in New York with a degree in philosophy and 98 degrees in his mouth. He has worked as a humor consultant for the Air Force and Microsoft, two institutions known for their urbane ribaldry.

by Christine Denewith for Everyday Feminism (click the image to read the full cartoon)

I totally agree with the content of the cartoon in this article, but something about the use of the word privilege in the headline rubs me the wrong way. Currently trying to figure out if there’s any good reason for that or if I’m being silly.

On the one hand, of course it is a privilege to not experience the kinds of mental anguish and cultural stigmatization that people with schizophrenia experience.

On the other hand, the use of the word privilege as a suffix for every identifier you could put in front of someone’s name seems a bit overwhelming, and to paint all these subjects in the same light. The kind of privilege I experience as a male seems really different to me than the kind of privilege I experience as a white person, and this is doubly so for the “privileges” of having two legs, or a neurotypical experience of the world. It also seems weird to me to use the same word to group say blacks and people with schizophrenia. One makes you suffer as the result of a societal disease (racism), the other actually is a disease, and I assume that most of the people who experience it don’t want to have it whereas I don’t think most black people are wishing they could be white, I think they wish that the world would stop being so shitty to them, but it’s the world they want to change, not themselves—not that schizophrenic people don’t want the world to stop being shitty to them, but I gotta think that’s 2nd on the list after “wish I didn’t have schizophrenia. I mean I’m not schizophrenic, but I have experienced some mental health stuff in the past and I had a broken arm for four years as a kid as a result of a hollow bone and became obese for a time, but while I did hate the way people were shitty to me, I actually also wanted to not suffer from the things I had. It seems weird to me to use that same language then for things like race or gender. Women, to my knowledge usually want men to stop being such shits to them, they don’t just want to not be women. If they want to not be women, then they can not be women and deal with a whole different privilege situation.

I dunno. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’m not articulating what rubs me the wrong way about the use of the word privilege. But if anyone has any elucidating thoughts that don’t involve being needlessly shitty to either me or to people with mental health issues, I’d be happy to hear them.

Cross-post: Same-sex marriage is a right!

Guest blog originally posted on June 26, 2015 at undercoversblog.com by community member Sasha Grossman. Sasha is currently obtaining her Masters of Social Work at NYU, and eventually hopes to become a kink, poly, and LGBTQ affirmative sex therapist. For now, she is an avid reader and prolific writer of sex-positive literature. 

Congratulations to the SCOTUS for finally not fucking up. First, it saves Obamacare, and then it legalizes gay marriage across the country! Words cannot express how utterly thrilled I am that people are not being denied their rights simply because of their sexual orientation. The following paragraph, written by Justice Kennedy, about sums up the soaring hearts of many Americans today:

However, there is still something that lurks in the back of my mind: what about the rest of us? What about those of us who don’t want to get married? Why is it still believed that a lack of marriage condemns someone “to live in loneliness”? What about those who are polyamorous? Why does that love not constitute “the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family”?

The legalization of gay marriage is absolutely a victory, and a step in the right direction. But it has gained widespread acceptance primarily because LGBT advocates have been able to prove that same-sex couples are still, at their core, traditional; that they uphold this country’s ideals: of monogamy, a desire to raise children, to live in that house with the white picket fence – that they do not threaten the status quo. But there are countless other people who are forced to hide their sexual proclivities because society does not accept their version of love. There are parents who lose custody because they are kinky. There are lovers who are barred from hospital rooms because they are not married to the patient. There are countless other occurrences of inequality that take place, simply because some people don’t fit the traditional mold. The White House tweeted this today:

But until we change our definition of love, #LoveDoesNotReallyWinYet. Despite my misgivings, today is a momentous and heart-warming day. Let’s hope the U.S.A continues to live up to the values it stands for!

Cross-post: Sliding Scale Appointments Now Available!

I have the pleasure of announcing that beginning this summer I will be working under the supervision of Dr. Kelly Wise, psychotherapist and AASECT certified sex therapist. I’ll be taking on a limited number of sliding scale appointments at his Union Square office, working with individuals, couples, non-traditional relationships and families, and current or former sex workers on issues across the spectrum of gender identification/expression, sexual orientation/expression, D/s dynamics, relationship status, and intersections thereof. Please contact me directly via email or my contact page for more information, or call me at 917-675-3446 for a free 15-minute phone consultation.  I will continue working at PCGS and my private practice as well, and if for some reason we can’t work together, I’ll be happy to refer you to ManhattanAlternative.com, a listing for alternative lifestyle affirmative providers.

Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Know Your Rights

Guest blog post by Angela Torregoza—a criminal defense and immigration attorney at the Law Office of Mercedes S. Cano, a certified LGBTBE-company by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Contributing as @venusinorbit, she writes about law and art on 12ozProphet, an online magazine featuring articles, pictures, and interviews related to graffiti. In her free time she writes about art and social justice in her blog, Venus Orbits for Justice and on Instagram

In this climate of indiscriminate and sometimes violent policing, many folks find themselves arrested for several reasons, and at times for innocuous and permissible behavior. In addition to racially-profiled apprehensions, police have also arrested folks at political protests; for “manspreading;” for jumping the turnstile; and for riding their bikes on the sidewalk, to name a few.


Even black officers are not immune to discriminatory policing. Four black parole officers recently filed suit against the Ramapo Police Department in Upstate New York, alleging their civil rights were violated when they were held at gunpoint and detained by police officers last year. Read the full article here.


Ftaapolice

Photo from Wikimedia. Labeled for reuse.

Specific groups such as immigrants and folks in the transgender community are particularly susceptible to such harassment. The combination of cultural and language barriers, lack of knowledge about the legal system and their marginalized status make them especially vulnerable. In fact, transgender people in New York City are routinely profiled and wrongfully arrested for prostitution or loitering for the purposes of prostitution. Although the law currently prohibits the use of condoms as proof of guilt in prostitution cases, LGBTQ folks living and working in highly-policed areas have expressed their continued fear of the police as well as in carrying condoms, due to the lack of uniform implementation of the law.

People never expect to get arrested, and when they do, they are usually lost in the world of legalese and often represented by an assigned counsel who is unable or unwilling to explain the arrest charges, the criminal court process and the consequences of a criminal conviction. These consequences are particularly fatal for immigrants whose immigration status can be negatively impacted.

This article is a brief guide to the criminal court process, the effects of a conviction and some suggestions on self-advocacy. This is meant to provide a basic starting point for your research and is not an exhaustive resource nor does it constitute legal advice. If you are arrested please contact an attorney.

Where to get legal help? 

Criminal Court Process:

  1. Arraignments: The arraignment is a defendant’s (person arrested and charged with an offense) first court appearance after the arrest. A judge determines whether to set bail or release the defendant without bail. If it’s your first arrest for a non-felony charge and you have a lot of positive equities (steady employment, ties to the community, etc.) you will likely be released without bail.
  2. Pretrial Hearings: More than 90% of criminal cases do not go to trial and are often resolved at the pretrial phase. Due to the financial and other burdens of a trial, defendants often plead guilty to lesser charges as part of the plea-bargaining process or their cases dismissed, often as part of a legal mechanism known as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD). The plea-bargaining and ACD processes are among the many points resolved during pretrial hearings.
  3. Trial: In a criminal trial, a judge or a jury examines the evidence to decide whether, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the defendant committed the crime in question. For more in-depth information, please click here.
  4. Disposition: This is the resolution of your criminal case and dictates whether you have to follow certain conditions to end the case. For example, if your case was dismissed, that means that the charges filed against you are null and you will not have a criminal record. In certain cases, where there is a guilty plea, you may have to pay a fine or complete certain conditions, such as community service or restitution, before the case ends.
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Photo from Flickr. Labeled for reuse.

I’m a US Citizen. What are the consequences of pleading guilty to a charge?

The negative consequences of a guilty plea often come attendant to a felony charge. These collateral consequences can be penalties, disabilities and disadvantages, other than the sentence itself, that occur automatically as a result of the conviction itself.

The most common collateral consequences include:

  • Voter disenfranchisement
  • Loss of business or professional license
  • Felon registration requirements
  • Ineligibility for public benefits

I’m not a US citizen. Will I get deported?

If you are a green card holder, someone who has let their immigration status expire, or undocumented, pleading guilty to a charge, even if it is a misdemeanor, can negatively impact your immigration status.

Pleading guilty to a crime of domestic violence, prostitution, drug charges or gambling offenses, to name a few, can prevent a green card holder from becoming a citizen since these convictions will bar a finding of good moral character required for naturalization. For the undocumented, this could prevent them from obtaining green cards, and could even trigger deportation proceedings.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, it is doubly important that you inform your lawyer of your immigration status so they can work with you to obtain a disposition that will not negatively impact your immigration status. For a useful chart from the Immigrant Defense Project, detailing the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction, click here.

How do I protect and advocate for myself?

  1. If you are involved in work or activities involving significant police enforcement or live and work in an area with disproportionate police presence, it is important to educate yourself about the laws related to your chosen work or activity. Read relevant legal guides and articles (if you’re into graffiti, read my article, Graffiti and Police Misconduct: Knowing and Understanding Your Rights on 12ozProphet), and seek legal advice from reputable organizations (contact Sex Workers Project for legal and social services for individuals in sex work). Additionally, there are websites that provide general information such as Avvo and Nolo. Lucky for us, there is also a free legal helpline in NYC, Just Info (1-855-JST-INF0 or 1-855-578-4630), which provides free legal information and referrals.
  2. Inform your assigned legal counsel at arraignments if you have any special issues, including impact of convictions on children/family members, immigration status, business or professional licenses, receipt of public benefits and other critical facts. Any history of harassment or inaction from law enforcement should also be discussed with your attorney. The more information your attorney has regarding how the criminal proceedings could affect you, the better she can advocate on your behalf.
  3. Ask your assigned counsel to explain the charges and the factual bases for your arrest. The more you know about your case, the better you’ll be able to work with your attorney in presenting a good case on your behalf. Be honest and give your attorney all the facts as you recall. Remember that your attorney is bound by attorney-client privilege, so anything you tell her will be kept in confidence. The more information she has regarding your case, the better she can advocate for a positive outcome on your case.
Immigration_Reform_Leaders_Arrested_5

Photo from Wikimedia. Labeled for reuse.

  1. Before you plead guilty to any charges, ask your attorney to fully explain the effect of that plea to your personal circumstances. Do not be pressured into pleading to any charges. You have the right to a trial and for the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are in fact guilty of the charges they have against you. If you cannot afford an attorney, you are entitled to free legal representation. If you do not meet the income threshold at nonprofit legal organizations, call the NYC Bar for low-bono legal options. More information can be obtained on their website or by calling (212) 626-7373.
  2. Take your assigned counsel’s contact information and regularly touch base with her regarding the status of your case. Most assigned counsels have a huge caseload and you do not want to get lost in the shuffle. If you think that your case is being neglected, ask to speak to their supervising attorney. When you have a criminal case, your life hangs in a balance, and it is the time to be proactive and exercise your own agency in how the next chapter of your life unfolds.
  3. If you are undocumented or out-of-status, it is always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney who can explain immigration consequences of criminal convictions. You can also call Immigrant Defense Project’s free immigration hotline: (212) 725-6422. Click here for more information. If you are a green card holder, consult an immigration attorney before you apply for naturalization. Certain convictions are bars to naturalization and an application can trigger an immigration contact or deportation proceedings. For reputable immigration providers, see American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) directory.

Cross-post: Disappointment Avoidance Ruins Relationships

With the permission of Dr. Charlie Glickman, originally posted on his blog, Make Sex Easy.

When therapists, relationship coaches, and sex educators talk about the things that get in the way of creating positive connection and intimacy, we often include things like shame, anger, resentment, and unspoken expectations. But there’s one more that doesn’t get as much attention, even though it has a huge impact on our relationships: disappointment avoidance.

Here’s a truth about relationships that we all have to face. Disappointment is going to happen. There are going to be times when you don’t get what you want, and there will be times when your partner(s) don’t get what they want. That’s just part of life. But here’s where it gets a bit trickier. You won’t always get what you want from your partner, and they won’t always get what they want from you.

Trying to avoid disappointment leads to all sorts of difficult situations. For example, if I can’t tolerate your disappointment, I’ll be a lot less likely to set a boundary with you. How can I tell you “no” if I’m worried about your reaction or if I feel guilty about it? How can I tell you what I want or need if I expect that you’ll have problems with that? Disappointment avoidance is one of the reasons that people withhold information, minimize their emotions, and allow their boundaries to become invisible.

Of course, we sometimes have good reason to try to minimize the other person’s reaction. Some people get angry, or threatening, or violent. Some people get passive-aggressive or manipulative. Some people use shame or guilt trips to try to get you to change your mind. Some people go into a shame spiral, which can be uncomfortable to be around. And if your past experience taught you that you need to avoid your partner’s disappointment in order to keep yourself emotionally or physically safe, it can be hard to shift that.

But it’s also important to be aware that much of the time, those patterns are rooted in the past, rather than your current relationship. Many of my clients are surprised when they discover that their partners can handle disappointment far more gracefully than expected.

It also helps when you learn how to talk about these things without blaming each other. There’s a subtle but important difference between “you made me feel this way” and “I feel this way because of something you did.” The first one puts all of the responsibility for your feelings on the other person, which means you’ve given up all of your power. The second one holds the other person accountable while you maintain responsibility for your emotions. That’s a much more empowered response.

That empowerment makes it much, much easier to tolerate disappointment. The difference between “you disappointed me when you backed out of the project” and “I feel disappointment because you backed out of the project” gives both people the room to let the emotion be present without getting defensive about it. That creates far more opportunities to move forward in whatever way they choose.

When you develop the capacity to allow for disappointment without blaming, shaming, or withdrawing, you lay the foundation for honest, openhearted, authentic communication. To do that, you need to be able to acknowledge that disappointment is present without trying to fix it or make it go away. You need to be able to feel it yourself, and allow for the other person to feel it. That’s not easy- it’s an uncomfortable sensation and it makes sense that we often want to fix it as soon as we can. But just like our other difficult emotions, the best way to “fix it” is to let it have its voice and to listen to it.

Having someone see you in your disappointment can be scary. It can feel really vulnerable, especially if you have fears that they will use it against you. Seeing someone else in their disappointment can trigger all sorts of feelings, including the urge to rescue them from it or to fix it. It takes a lot of practice to be able to sit with the emotions. While it takes some effort to learn how to handle both sides of the disappointment dynamic, it’s worth it because the payoff is the ability to be fully present in your relationships, to be honest with yourself and your partner(s), and to navigate boundaries with ease and grace.

A good place to start is to simply notice the ways in which you try to avoid disappointment, whether your own or someone else’s. Give it some attention and look for your patterns. Are there situations it usually happens in? Does it come up more around certain people? What are the messages you hear your disappointment telling you? What are the stories it holds? Once you have a handle on that, it becomes easier to create new patterns.

You can also explore what the somatic sensation of disappointment is for you. Where do you feel it in your body? Does it have a texture? A shape? A temperature? A color? When you know how your body responds to the feeling, it becomes easier to notice when the emotion is happening. That gives you more room to respond to it, in the same way that noticing the red light up ahead gives you more room to hit the brakes. When my clients are working through this, we put a lot of time into exploring the physical and somatic sensations of their emotions before we start unpacking the stories and meanings behind them. That works a lot better than rushing ahead to the words. (Calming breathwork also helps a lot.)

Learning to tolerate, manage, and honor your disappointment doesn’t sound like a super sexy thing. But I can promise you that it has the potential to make all of your relationships, whether sexual/romantic or not, much easier. It creates the space to be authentic and vulnerable with each other, which is what allows for connection, intimacy, and passion. Plus, it gives you far more opportunities to get what you really want. And that is where the fun is.

Charlie Glickman PhD is a sex & relationship coach, a certified sexuality educator, and an internationally-acclaimed speaker. He’s certified as a sexological bodyworker and has been working in this field for over 20 years. His areas of focus include sex & shame, sex-positivity, queer issues, masculinity & gender, communities of erotic affiliation, and many sexual & relationship practices. Charlie is also the co-author of “The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners.” Find out more about him on his website or on Twitter and Facebook. For Charlie’s sex coaching services, visit Make Sex Easy.

Celebrate the Sex Workers Project at emPOWER 2015—next Thursday!

SWP.WEB.IMG.empower_2015_poster_WEIL2-01

Click here for tickets!

Cross-posted from The Sex Workers Project event page:

Come celebrate the success, community, and future of the Sex Workers Project! SWP is the only US organization offering client-centered legal and social services for sex workers and trafficking victims.

All tickets include an open bar and hors d’oeuvres until 9pm. Allies, Activists, and Sponsors will also receive access to VIP mezzanine with a private bar, and added bonuses. Stay and mingle for 2-for-1 drink specials while getting treated to great performances by friends of SWP.

Honor Weil Gotschal & Manges LLP for their wonderful work with SWP on Thursday, June 11th at Taj II Lounge at 48 W21st Street, and acknowledge the many accomplishments for equal human rights achieved through SWP’s work.

Celebrate the Sex Workers Project at emPOWER 2015

SWP.WEB.IMG.empower_2015_poster_WEIL2-01

Click here for tickets!

Cross-posted from The Sex Workers Project event page:

Come celebrate the success, community, and future of the Sex Workers Project! SWP is the only US organization offering client-centered legal and social services for sex workers and trafficking victims.

All tickets include an open bar and hors d’oeuvres until 9pm. Allies, Activists, and Sponsors will also receive access to VIP mezzanine with a private bar, and added bonuses. Stay and mingle for 2-for-1 drink specials while getting treated to great performances by friends of SWP.

Honor Weil Gotschal & Manges LLP for their wonderful work with SWP on Thursday, June 11th at Taj II Lounge at 48 W21st Street, and acknowledge the many accomplishments for equal human rights achieved through SWP’s work.

The Eulenspiegel Society

By Michal Daveed, the Media Representative for The Eulenspiegel Society.

Nowadays, BDSM imagery can be found in mainstream culture, but it’s a double-edged sword.  It can be hard to disentangle fact from fiction, and seeing jokes on primetime TV about bondage don’t offer community, or emotional support. But since before the “Fifty Shades of Grey” craze, and surely until long afterwards, The Eulenspiegel Society fills the gaps.

tesThe Eulenspiegel Society, or TES, has been in constant operation since 1971.  Founder Pat Bond was a musician and educator living in New York, and tired of feeling alone for his masochistic fantasies. He saw the culture of political and social change around him, and resolved to take action himself. In December 1970, he placed an ad in Screw Magazine, which read:

“Masochist? Happy? Is it curable? Does psychiatry help? Is a satisfactory life-style possible? There’s women’s lib, black lib, gay lib, etc. Isn’t it time we put something together?”

First a masochistic woman named Terry Kolb, who would become another TES leader, answered the ad, and then a few other men followed. TES began in Bond’s apartment, a small group of masochists sitting together, discussing their shared desires and experiences. They named the group The Eulenspiegel Society, after a character from German folklore whose antics felt resonant for those New York masochists. Some months later, they began to include sadists, and soon, they were a full-fledged organization for what was then simply called S/M.

TES has been around ever since.  1970s Pride parades, The AIDS crisis, the changing face and culture of New York— TES has been an integral part of the sexual evolution and revolution in America for over four decades, and is still going strong. It offers opportunities for kinky play, including with parties at least once a month, but more than that, it offers education and support. It offers space to socialize without the pressure to engage sexually, and a chance for those interested in BDSM to explore, and meet others who share their interests.

These days, TES hosts over 100 classes a year in Manhattan, on average twice per week, ranging from roundtable discussions about kink to hands-on workshops, with prominent and well-respected instructors.

These events can be very different from one another; recent classes included both a guide to dating in the Scene and a demonstration and discussion of how hypnosis can be used in pet play. For every experience level, comfort zone, and a huge variety of special interests (some kinks have their own sub-group), TES has something to offer.

Also on the horizon July 4th weekend is TES Fest, TES’s massive annual convention in New Jersey.  Like a “Choose-Your-Own” adventure book, participants can pursue the weekend down a number of paths, from spending time playing both privately and in a dungeon (outdoor or indoor), to going to as many classes as possible (and there are going to be over 100 total).  This TES Fest will even premiere a “Wellness” track for exploring self-care, a follow-up to TES’s recent also free health fair for Kink-Aware professionals.

This all may sound like a lot, but TES is an amazing improbability.  It has always been non-profit, entirely volunteer-run, and ambitious in scope.  Kinky sexuality today in some ways looks completely different than it did in 1971, from the language used to describe it to its place in mainstream culture.  How did TES become the longest-running BDSM organization in the country?

Its challenges are the very reason TES has persevered.  TES members care passionately about perpetuating a group that has so much to offer, because there is always a need.  As the world changes, TES has adapted, evolved, and recreated everything but its original intent, which is asserting that alternative sexual identities are valid, healthy, and worth exploring.  As its creed states:

“Most of all, we extend to our brothers and sisters who may be, as we once were, isolated, repressed, and frustrated, the word that they are not alone, that a Society exists for them – straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer, all working together, with understanding and warmth, against misunderstandings and stereotypes, for freedom and fulfillment.”

TES connects those who want to act on their desires, connect with others, teach, and learn.  Subversive, ain’t it?

For more information, contact TES directly, or leave a comment below for Michal Daveed.