This Week in Kink, April 7, 2018

Articles like We Asked a Dominatrix What Sex Toys You Can’t Live Without or 15 Secrets for Sparking Your Love Life from a Sex Worker are a dime-a-dozen in pop-culture magazines, so your eyes may have glazed over and you may have missed Salon’s fantastic I Tell Men “No” for a Living: What a Dominatrix Knows About #MeToo.

Clients tell sex workers their deepest fantasies, which most would never reveal to their wives and girlfriends. I have helped countless men who have been shamed for their feminine sides to embrace them, dressing them in lace and introducing them to the tender caresses they believe only women can request of their lovers. For others, I provide the pain that they crave, when their partners see them too clearly as husbands and fathers, making it unbearable to watch them bleed. Most of the time I welcome this, and consider vulnerability an alleviation of the pressures of masculinity, pressures that often lead to its toxicity. Sexual aggressiveness, domination of others and misogyny — these qualities coagulate into a strain of masculinity that is unable to form connections with others, especially women, ultimately hurting the men who engage in this toxic form of masculinity. So when I encounter men with deep-seated kinks and fantasies that complicate the dictates of toxic masculinity, I encourage them, hoping that access to submissiveness in their fantasy lives might positively influence their day-to-day.

And yet, vulnerability implies a close relationship to the truth, and the truth is that men often violate women. The same culture that produces men ashamed of their desires to put on a dress and feel pretty for the evening also produces the man who excitedly recalls spending weekends traveling to far-flung queer bars, waiting in parking lots and drinking vodka in his car until he sees some lesbians emerge, calling them “dykes,” “man-haters” — hoping one would be offended enough to assault him. Now, he calls me — a self-identified lesbian dominatrix — and pays me to kick him in the balls. Am I the safety valve our culture requires, protecting other women from his homophobic attacks? The emotional toll the word “dyke” takes on me is no different that the toll it takes on other queer women who have also been on the receiving end of the insult since adolescence. I no longer feel the hurt bubbling into my throat when I hear the word today, but on the lips of a straight man, it still ignites something deep in me, and I channel the sting of it toward the task at hand. I count my money and weigh the consequences.

Photo by Paul Grover for The Telegraph UK

So far, efforts to create a once-a-day male contraceptive pill have stalled because men metabolise and clear out the hormones they deliver too quickly. A lot of research has shifted to long-acting injections and topical gels to try to get around the problem, but researchers from the University of Washington Medical Centre have made a breakthrough with a drug called dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU). They’ve tested a daily pill on 83 men for a month, and describe the results as “promising” and “unprecedented in the devolopment of a prototype male pill”. It does suppress the testosterone and hormones required for sperm production, but unfortunately the pills also caused weight gain and decreases in HDL (“good”) cholesterol, so don’t throw away your condoms yet.

Illustration by William Joel for The Verge

We’re living in the future and anything is possible. Along with innovations that are making our lives richer, unfortunately it has also brought us Juicero, “smart” hairbrushes and a $100 bluetooth-enabled toaster. It’s also bringing a race for the next must-have high-tech sex toys, and How Silicon Valley’s Feature Creep is Ruining Sex Toys points out that they’re becoming bloated with functions we don’t want or need. For a start, they often require taking your phone into the bedroom and fiddling with it, which is an instant mood-killer. And, do we really need a sex toy that tells us how many calories we burn in a session, track how many times you masturbate or feature infinite customisable vibration settings? The VC market may be bullish for the next flashy app-controlled cockring, but how much of it is really tech companies building something for investors rather than consumers?

Kim Kardashian cover

The #MeToo tag has done some great things for creating awareness and conversation about toxic masculinity. Unfortunately, there will always be some factions who will hijack things to serve their own agenda. In February, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tied the movement to his call to ban porn.

Now, Walmart has folded to a campaign by an anti-pornography organisation, and has pulled Cosmopolitan from the shelves in its checkout aisles. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation argued that the magazine exposes people to a #MeToo culture that encourages the sexual harassment of women.

The center said in a statement:

That’s over 5,000 stores where families and individuals will no longer be automatically exposed to Cosmo’s hypersexualized and degrading article titles that regularly promote pornography, sexting, BDSM, group sex, anal sex, and more, all while marketing toward young teens with Disney star cover models.

Kate Taylor in Business Insider takes a fairly balanced view of the issue, but argues that the move reveals a mindset that seeks to punish women rather than create positive change. She says:

The center is correct in saying Cosmopolitan is known for covers featuring scantily clad women. There are certainly arguments to be made about the magazine’s highlighting a certain type of woman — often young, white, and heavily photoshopped — as sexually appealing, though Cosmopolitan is far from the only culprit.

…There can and should be discussions about how Cosmopolitan helps and hurts women. But to blame a publication primarily aimed at and created by women for the systematic harassment and assault many women endure — often at the hands of men — is an embarrassing repurposing of the #MeToo movement.

Greek mythology might be a great topic to bring up at a party, but when I say that you might be thinking of it as a conversation topic to fill in the quiet moments while the next course is coming at a cultured soirée. How about something a little more… primal?

Our society prefers habitual “Apollonian” order and restraint, but it can often feel like a pressure-cooker on the point of exploding. The ancient Greeks found outlet for this in the worship of Dionysus, the god of wine, regeneration, theatre and religious ecstasy. The impulse for irrationality and chaos represented by Dionysus is a natural inversion of all that Apollo represents.

We’ve been using the word “orgy” since the 1560s to mean any licentious revelry, but it derives from the Greek word orgion/orgia which refers to the secret rites of cults such as the Dionysian Mysteris and the Cult of Cybele, which sought ecstatic union with the divine.

In The History and Psychology of the Orgy, Dr Neel Burton describes how one of their evenings would unfold:

The procession begins at sunset, led by torchbearers and followed by wine and fruit bearers, musicians, and a throng of revellers wearing masks and, well, not much else. Closing the parade is a giant phallus representing the resurrection of the twice-born god. Everyone is pushing and shoving, singing and dancing, and shouting the name of the god stirred in with ribaldry and obscenity—giving rise to an early form of theatre and comedy. Having arrived at a clearing in the woods, the crowd goes wild with drinking, dancing, and every imaginable manner of sex. The god is in the wine, and to imbibe it is to be possessed by his spirit—although in the bull’s horn the booze may have been interlaced with other entheogens (substances that ‘generate the divine from within’). Animals, which stand in for the god, are hunted down, ripped apart with bare hands, and consumed raw with the blood still warm and dripping.

By diverting the Dionysian impulse into special rites on special days, the orgy kept it under control. The question the article raises is whether now, in a time where we keep such a tight grip on ourselves, and letting go can threaten the life that we’ve built or even the person we have become, we’re leading poorer and more monotonous lives?

Leah Bassett’s discovery that the tenants in her Martha’s Vineyard home have been using it for years to shoot adult porn has left her so distressed that she’s seeing a mental health therapist and has sued for breach of contract, copyright infringement, civil fraud, trespassing and a number of other charges.

When she rented the home, built by her father, there was no disclosure that it was going to be used as a porn set, but Bassett has been monitoring the websites of Mile High Distribution, the production company, and says that the filmmakers used “nearly every room of her home for their porn production purposes,” including her bedrooms, sofas, dining room table and laundry room appliances.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla were the first, but now Playboy has made the hop away from Facebook. They have deleted all the accounts that Playboy Enterprises manages, affecting 25 million fans according to the company. For some time, Facebook has actually been a much larger audience than the news-stands for Playboy, but they have come out loudly in support of the #DeleteFacebook movement:

The recent news about Facebook’s alleged mismanagement of users’ data has solidified our decision to suspend our activity on the platform at this time. There are more than 25 million fans who engage with Playboy via our various Facebook pages, and we do not want to be complicit in exposing them to the reported practices.

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