BRIDGING THE KINK AT THE ANNUAL SEX CONVENTION IN DOWNTON SAN FRANCISCO.
It was clear this was no ordinary party when I saw naked girls tied to scaffoldings in Shibari, Japanese bondage rope. Unlike the other parties, there was no alcohol or upbeat music, but there was definitely forbidden action going on. Yes, this was a sex party! The popular annual kink convention, which drew about 1000 people, has very strict confidentiality. For the purpose of this article, the adult event will be referred to as Hidden Dungeon.
San Francisco, an interesting pocket of California, has its own world of the kink and definitely part of the 5% of the USA population that sexually deviant, according to a Kinsey Institute report. Sexually deviant fetishists tend to go beyond experimental, even by the open-minded standard. The Bay Area is often seen as the center of kinky life in the United States; it is the home of the Folsom Street Fair, the world’s largest leather event and the famous BDSM porn studio Kink.com. When it comes to an alternative lifestyle, San Francisco is always at the top.
Hidden Dungeon is popular among the self-proclaimed “kinksters”, renowned for its queer party and its brazen flouting of over the top sexuality. Created in 2003, this convention has become the home of top-notch play spaces and mindboggling events that provide a safe, non-judgmental environment where fantasy becomes reality. Hidden Dungeon once again has proven that this city knows how to get down and dirty. The event, which happened in November, broke all kinds of sodomy taboos.
Hidden Dungeon featured more than 50 educators and performers for its workshops and parties that weekend. The days were packed with 80 workshops on the broadest mix of erotic and kinky topics, such as the sexy bondage scenes from Suspension Showcase, the exploration of Pussy Play and Orgasm Training, as well as the intense strikes of Caning 101. When the night came, the ballrooms turned into play spaces for the kink party and sexy performances, exploring the sensual delight of dark desires. Carnal Casino’s libidinous gambling game and the Spank Bank’s burlesque show were some examples of the jaw-dropping entertainments.
The leather fetish event took over the entire basement of a hotel located on Van Ness Avenue. The location of the hotel was not divulged to the public; only the approved, registered ticket holder could get the link to the address. To ensure security and comfort, photographic equipment including cellphones were not allowed. If guests didn’t wish to be photographed by the official event photographer, they could get special colored wristbands at the registration.
Once guests put their nickname badges on and entered the basement area, they immediately walked into another world. The 20,000 square foot ballroom space was transformed into dungeons with an open, tolerant and sexual atmosphere containing many BDSM, kink and fetish equipment. Sex swings, restrainers, stripper poles, medical restraints, A-frames, Berkley Horses flogging apparatuses, BDSM slings, bondage benches, X-crosses, giant barrels, and many other wild sex furniture was ready to be used as desired.
Equipped with the trendy all gender toilets, the event was a melting pot of diverse identities and interests that welcome people of all genders, sexual orientations, and erotic persuasions. The attendees were a broad community, including leather people, latex fetishists, swingers, pansexuals, tantra practitioners, straight couples, LGTBQ people and gender queers. There was no dress code; in fact as expected, most people chose not to wear anything.
“For somebody like me who has been in the BDSM scene for more than 30 years, it is nice to see kink cultures come out of the closet and become more and more accepted to the point of having an event in a hotel like this,” said Master Gym, a 50-year-old ‘dominant’ who attends Hidden Dungeon’s events annually with his female ‘submissive’. The guy was wearing a casual t-shirt, jeans, a leather jacket and boots. A horse-riding crop was sticking out from his black backpack. His submissive was only wearing a mini black skirt, a metal collar and leather handcuffs. “[This] is considered a big event, people actually fly in for this. It is discrete and private, unlike Folsom. They also provide the best equipment in this convention. We like to experiment here to add excitement and passion with our partners. This convention is informative for both young and old,” he explained.
Hidden Dungeon was jam-packed with live dominatrix plays and enough naked queers to completely desensitize your life. Almost every guest attended the party with their sexual partners and engaged in different lustful activities. People were having group sex near the stripper pole, sex slaves were moaning when they were restrained and teased with Magic Wand sex toys, sex pets were running around in the cages begging for their masters, and condoms were offered instead of beverages. Watching was acceptable but there was absolutely no touching without consent. Interfering scenes in progress was absolutely forbidden.
Hidden Dungeon successfully achieved their mission to build a place where the craziest fantasy was possible − the truly mind-blowing carnal adventure in the most promiscuous city in the nation. The king of Californication will return to the city by the bay next year. Will you surrender your desire and explore your fifty shades of grey?
Since I moved to San Francisco, I’ve been hearing people saying that they are in a polyamorous relationship. Last year, I was dating a guy whose roommate is “poly.” Sam, a 35-year-old nurse living in Concord, has three boyfriends, and her main guy, who just moved in with her is also dating another woman whom he had a kid with. At that time, I didn’t dare to ask more about their relationship arrangement.
“I am married,” said Brad, 40, a Stanford and Princeton graduate who works for an aerospace startup. “My wife and I both see other people. She has a boyfriend, and I have a few casual partners who I see once in a while, though I am looking for something more serious.”
Another friend, Becca, is a successful owner of a startup in New York. The 42-year-old married her husband in 2010 after being together for 12 years. Their marriage has always been open from the start. She now has another boyfriend. I am unfamiliar with all of these stories.
I grew up in a conservative family in Indonesia. What I’ve been told all my life is: no sex before marriage and a man should only be monogamous with one woman “till death do us part.” I am writing this article with an open mind since I have no actual experience of a polyamorous relationship.
The word “polyamory” was first coined in the 1960s and means “many loves” in Latin. The arrangement and number of partners often varies depending on what works for each. For many, polyamory means having multiple committed relationships. It is different from polygamy, which means a state of marriage to many spouses. The level of intimacy and emotional attachment makes it deeper than an open relationship, a hookup, or a one-night-stand, which are mostly based only on sexual acts.
By some estimates, there are now a half-million polyamorous relationships in the United States, though underreporting is common. New York University Sex Researcher Zhana Vrangalova’s recent research suggests that 4 to 5 percent of general heterosexual U.S. adults, or 10 to 12 million people are engaged in consensual nonmonogamy.
Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont, is conducting an ongoing study among 5,000 poly individuals. So far, the result shows polyamorists tend to be educated and smart, with more masters and doctoral degrees than the general population.
“My wife and I have been together for 15 years, and we’ve been married for 10. Six months ago she met someone that she is interested in and she wants the freedom to explore it,” said John, who is on a journey exploring the concept of polyamory in a phone interview. He lives in the Bay Area, works as a senior product manager in a transportation network company, and has a beautiful four-year-old daughter.
“It’s something that my wife is interested in pursuing, and if I am denying something she wants in life, she is going to be unhappy,” the 36-year-old explained. “That won’t make us happy as a couple, and she might leave. The way that we envision love is about supporting each other, empowering each other, and becoming stronger. We don’t want our marriage to be limiting and controlling.”
So, is polyamory just a term for justifying infidelity? No. Being a polyamorous is the opposite of cheating, which involves deception.
THE MAIN CORE OF POLYAMORY IS COMMUNICATION, FULL DISCLOSURE, OPENNESS, TRUST, AND RESPECT – THINGS THAT ARE OFTEN MISSING IN A MONOGAMOUS ARRANGEMENT.
“People in these relationships really communicate. They communicate to death,” said Holmes to Live Science. "They’re talking a lot, they’re negotiating a lot, they’re bringing their feelings to the table a lot.“
“I’ve introduced everyone that I am with to my wife and everybody is meeting each other. There are a couple of people that I’ve seen for awhile now, and one of them wants me to leave my wife for her,” John admitted. “So you can imagine the very complicated and dangerous situation. I can’t keep everybody happy, so I have to break it off.”
What started as his wife’s desire now also benefits John as an individual. “I feel that I am far more confident as a person. Frankly, I feel a lot more attractive and desirable,” shared John. “You get to meet new people, you get to have new experiences that you’ve never done, you are constantly expanding your horizon. I still very much enjoy the freedom, the ability to be my authentic self, and not to have artificial restrictions.”
In John’s case, most of his friends know, but his family and most people he works with don’t. He said, “They are pretty conservative… They probably wouldn’t expect it.”
What about the fact that there is a child in the mix? John said, “She is a little bit too young now. Once she gets old enough that she asks questions about it, we are not going to hide it from her. The consequence of that is the whole family will find out because she’ll be hanging out with grandma and she will be talking about mommy’s boyfriends.”
It seems like John doesn’t have much to worry about. Sheff has interviewed more than 100 members of polyamorous families, including about two dozen children of polyamorous parents ranging in age from 5 to 17 years old. Her research is suggesting that polyamory doesn’t have to have a bad impact on the kids. Children also reported liking having many adults whom they trusted. They also spoke of the advantages of growing up knowing they could make their own decisions about how to build their families.
Unfortunately, being polyamorists face many stigmas as swingers, kinksters, promiscuous, and being all about sex. It can be hard for society to wrap around its head around polyamory. The big misconception is that polyamorous relationships are purely sexual and noncommittal, where in fact polyamorous arrangements involve high level of commitment.
"Trust me, there are so much more ways to get laid,” said John. “Polyamory can be emotionally draining since you have to invest in multiple relationships.” The inference that John makes is it’s possible to go on dates, drinks, dinners, movies, and sharing lives, just like any other romantic relationships. Sex is just a component of it, but polyamorists connect intellectually, mentally, and (again) emotionally in supporting each other.
The cultural taboo keeps many polyamorous people not want to come out of the closet. “Many poly people stay closeted out of fear of discrimination, social alienation or because they simply prefer privacy,” sociologist Elisabeth Sheff writes in her forthcoming book “The Polyamorists Next Door,” quoted recently from CNN.
But what is the hardest thing for John right now? Jealousy. He admits that he still gets jealous and trying to figure it out. “If I am all that person needs, that makes me feel really good,” he said. It’s almost like you need a supreme confidence to be able to be okay with them wanting to have other people in their life beyond what you are doing for them. If I am in a primary relationship with someone, and I have a child with her, then she is thinking about someone else all day – obviously, that makes me feel horrible.”
“I think jealousy is caused by a thought that I am not good enough for that person, I am not enough to make them happy in life,“ John continued. "But it is also almost ridiculous to think that you would be since you are just one person. Ten people, of course, will have far wider range of interesting exposure to life than you, as one person, is able to bring. “
The interesting question is, do we get more from jealousy or freedom? There is another theory that says jealousy is nurtured rather than nature. If we can learn to be jealous, we can unlearn it too. When someone makes us jealous, there is a range of ways that you can respond. Are we more civilized to learn to control our jealousy? Or, are we just fooling ourselves into believing that we’d better be happy with people that have more than just us in their life
From John’s perspective, it is a new way of life that looks for many like a six-month experiment with an unknown result. However, many testimonials from other couples suggests that it is possible for polyamorous relationships to be successful. People that practice polyamory feel that loving one person does not take away any love from another person. Many claimed that being a poly couple saved their marriage by building an environment of love, openness, and communication. Polyamorists share their trials and tribulations while continuing to go on dates and pursuing other relationships with everyone’s full support.
Poly is not for everyone. We just have to keep an open mind that a relationship can be fluid. If everybody is onboard, and nobody gets hurt, then there is nothing wrong with it. Polyamory can be a viable option to monogamy, and everyone has a right to decide a relationship system that works for him or her. The goal is to create a society’s where people can be free in deciding what they want of their personal relationship with no judgment.
This article originally appeared on Bob Cut Mag
“Mam, please put your seat belt on,” the smiling stewardess forces me to open my eyes. Yea I don’t want to put the seatbelt on, it’s like agreeing to leave San Francisco. It is too late to run now they’d already closed the gate.
Great, now I am strapped… trapped in this twenty hours flight that will send me home, sandwiched in between the selfie queen on my right and the sleepy business guy. Why didn’t I request an aisle seat! I wish I had the guts to open the emergency door and jump out of this plane.
Surabaya Airport is always crowded since apparently it takes a village to send one passenger away. I see my parents standing in the arriving hall, surrounded by loud people who don’t know how to queue. My mom just turned 53. She now has lines on her face, still beautiful but older than I remember. My dad still looks the same, even though he complains about how uncomfortable dentures are.
“Put your seatbelt on!” Dad yells at mom when the seat belt alarm doesn’t stop going off. They always sweat the small stuff, how nostalgic. Ah, the traffic is worse now than a year ago; they are trying to turn this city into Jakarta. Funny, the dirty streets stay the same. Trashes are in every corner and the smell of untreated human waste mixed with years of garbage indiscriminately thrown into the river. Unlike in the States, hundreds of motorcycles and no one is walking. “It is too dangerous,” they said. “The air is too polluted,” they said. The fact is you would melt to death before arriving at your destination.
I hear dogs barking, I smile. Now this is home. Once I open the door, my furry babies are surrounding my feet. Soft fur, paws, wet kisses, love. The house is busier than usual; tomorrow is the big day: my sister’s wedding. I walk upstairs and then enter the lavender room, my childhood room, our room; there is the bride to be. She looks gorgeous, more than ever; I miss her. The beautiful off-white dress with a beaded bustier and a wavy voluptuous ball gown is hung on the canopy bed frame. I helped her pick the dress a year ago. I can’t believe that my sister is getting married at 21. After a year of long texts, I shook my head every time she texted me: choosing shoes, makeup, hairdo, invitations, venues, expensive menus, dealing with the drama on table seating, and figuring out who to invite. I don’t get why we have to pay for 450 people, which is considered a small wedding here, since usually, people splurge to invite a thousand – mostly the parent’s connections, not even the bride’s and groom’s friends. Well, she is happy.
I had put on a cobalt blue chiffon dress when my mom walked in.
“Are you sure you want to wear that dress, the neckline is too low, also everyone will see your back tattoos,” she complains. I remember when she fired me from the family business after I got five tattoos in one day. Yea, I used to work for my mom, just like most Indonesians who help their family businesses.
“This is the only dress that fits,” I did gain 30 pounds since I moved to the States. Pizzas.
“Are you sure?” She pulls out a pastel dress with Chantilly lace applique that I wore to the high school prom. The zipper broke when I tried to wear it.
Video by The School of Life
It’s 4 am in the morning. Sighs… Everyone has to get up this early. The wedding organizers were already busy lining up before the makeup artists arrived. Seven photographers are busy capturing the special day, the flashes are hurting my eyes. Oh shoot, here comes Aunt Ursula. She is wearing the same dress as I am, with extra flowers, crystals, and feathers and hair as tall as pineapple. “Oh I know [another single human] – he is rich. But you have to lose weight first. Then I will set you up,” the small talk grates on my last nerve. The room is loud, I hate social gatherings like this, panic attack, “Mom, where is my Xanax?”
In my bathroom – trying to breathe. The bridesmaid is knocking on the door because she left her purse inside. I ignore her. I can’t stand seeing so many fake smiles downstairs. Now the event organizer is knocking, it’s my turn to get my make up done.
At the church, “I do,” they say. My sister hugs my parents and cries.
Mom is crying, Dad is sobbing.
The ballroom looks opulent with red rose centerpieces, crystal chandeliers, black, red, and white fabrics hanging, and a black grand piano on the stage. My sister wasn’t kidding when she said she would invite the city’s orchestra. The east meets west food fusion is mouth watering. My favorite is the braised bird’s nest with fish maw, enoki mushroom, and crispy shrimp wanton. We walk to the pool area and the fireworks displays scenic colorful explosions. The wedding was beautiful; the guests were not
“Why are you still single?”
“Maybe your are too picky.”
“Why did you gain so much weight?”
“You should catch the bouquet.”
“Are you okay? Are you happy?”
Yes, I am, until I got here. Here, if you are not married, you are doing something wrong. It doesn’t matter if I have a successful career, it doesn’t matter if I pay my bills instead of relying on a rich guy. It doesn’t matter if I have a healthy dating life and a perfect social circle back in the States.
There is nothing wrong with not wanting to get married. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to continue my parents’ business. There is nothing wrong with being curvy. There is nothing wrong with tattoos. There is nothing wrong with not wanting Hermes bags or Louboutin shoes. But, they will never get me here.
Have you ever felt awkward being single at a wedding? Leave your response in the comments below.
I recently read some stories about Yvonne Eisenring who decided to quit her job as TV reporter to look for love. A year ago, she left her apartment in Zurich, traveled to 12 countries, and had at least 50 dates since then. Her year-long trip gave her a chance to write a bestseller book, Ein Jahr für die Liebe: 1 Jahr, 12 Länder, 50 Dates(One year for love: 1 year, 12 countries, 50 Dates).
“When I turned 27, I realized that I hadn’t been in love for a while and asked myself why,” Eisenring told Vice. “I wanted to see if falling in love is more likely to happen when you have free time and no responsibilities.”
Her story reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Hilbert – a tale of one woman’s search for self-discovery, including love. Gilbert took a year off to travel across Italy, India, and Indonesia, where she eventually met her now ex-husband in Bali.
Video credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Last year I spent four months traveling around China, and I met a lot of fellow-tourists there who just packed their bag and traveled. Some adventurers indeed live by the “work, save, travel, repeat” motto, #wanderlust. Since we are single, why not just explore the world for a self-discovery. If we are lucky, we might even find love. But last year, did I find love? No.
Yes, I did have a lot of dates when I traveled, but the deal with “vacation-boyfriends” are sweet, romantic and not causing any emotional baggage. Both parties knew that there is an end to the “honeymoon” trip. Even though we enjoyed the time together a lot, but it would be unrealistic to pretend the date can continue back in every day “real-life.” We can’t all live out The Notebook fantasy, when Rachel McAdams managed to live happily ever after with Ryan Gosling only after a short summer love affair.
It sure did help to take a time off and asking yourself on what you want in life. However, does dating full time really equal the discovery of your soulmate? Hell no! Quitting your job won’t help you to fall in love.
So, how about Eisenring? Did she find love? “I don’t want to say because that would be giving away the end of my book. All I’ll say is that I’m very happy at the moment,” she said. We can't wait to read the bestseller book in English.
But Eisenring did share her key takeaway from her forty-hour-a-week search for love:
“It’s worth it to take the risk and focus on your private life. Some people are afraid of losing control or getting hurt. Falling in love shakes you up. It’s strange that people will put so much effort into their careers but don’t want to invest anything in love.”
Should we invest more in love? Leave your comment below. You can also read Yvonne’s full interview with Vice here.
“All the single ladies, put your hands up!”
Lately, I’ve been complaining to my friend that I need a boyfriend. It is totally out of the blue for me since I am not a “relationship type” of girl. However, being single definitely has its highs and lows. Sometimes I miss cuddling or having someone that I can share my days with. But there's no doubt that flying solo is sometimes way better than dating. This may be one of the only times in your life when you can do whatever you want when you want it.
I found three videos on Youtube that every single girl can relate to:
1. One Night Stand
Video by: Comedy Central
Amy Schumer’s skit for Comedy Central is not just about the humor of the vagina, there is a deep relatable behind it. As much as I don’t want to admit that an "ONS" still bothers me, I still act like a high school student falling in love when I hook up with a hot stud that meets all of my criteria. In this video, you will see the sad reality of the different expectation of an "ONS" from a guy’s and a girl’s point of view.
Video by Buzz Feed
Personally, I date the way most people date in the city, juggling multiple partners without any real forward movement. But deep down, I still long for a successful monogamous, long-term relationship, even though it seems like a fairytale in this apocalyptic dating era. Sometimes you just can’t help feeling like "OMG, he is the one." This video shows signs that you are falling for someone.
3. Single and happy?
Video by SK-II
This video is a must watch! The New York Times wrote an article based on this issue in China. I am not sure about all of you, but as an Asian, I can completely relate to their story. All humor aside, there is still a bad stereotype out there in the world regarding being single, especially as a woman. In Asia, single girls in their 30s are often labeled the “leftover women.” I hope we can shatter this image one day, and finally can be proud to be successful, intelligent, single individuals.
If you can relate to these stories, share this post to the other single ladies!