From Issue 3.5 - June 1997
The case of Terri-Jean Bedford -- the "Bondage Bungalow Dominatrix" -- was heard by the Canadian Supreme Court on May 27. The 5 justices took less that 15 minutes to decide that they would not overturn a lower court verdict.
Bedford was arrested in Toronto in 1993 for operating a "common bawdy house," a term typically applied to brothels. Police seized -- and still hold -- her equipment, clothing, furniture and personal items. Bedford asserts that she did not have sex with her clients, but rather engaged in activities such as spanking, bondage, and cross-dressing. The case was originally dismissed because the charges were too vague, but the government appealed the dismissal and won at the Ontario Court of Appeals last August. Bedford then appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court. Because the highest court decided not to hear the appeal, the government may now reimpose the original charges and begin the trial process anew. Canadian jurisprudence does not include the concept of "double jeopardy."
In Montreal, Fetish Cafe co-owner Mistress Sylvia Wahl faces similar "bawdy house" charges, and her case will be heard in mid-June. Like Bedford, Wahl said that she does not have sex with her clients. One of the arresting officers in her case was an undercover client she had been seeing for 4 years. Wahl was also charged with distributing pornography for selling golden shower videos to private individuals; the videos were never commercially distributed nor sold in retail stores.
Finally, another Toronto dominatrix was netted in the bawdy house snare in late May. Mistress Devier, a native of England who works out of her home, was arrested and charged with keeping a "common bawdy house." She was released after spending a night in jail. While some of her equipment was confiscated, the police did not seize her personal possessions.
The Levi Strauss company has recently outraged many loyal customers by instituting a policy of not selling their wares is stores that also carry sexual products. Levi discontinued business with the Lather Rack store last year. According to a Levis representative, "We consider sexual paraphernalia to be inconsistent with our brand marketing strategy."
Lesbians may be able to look forward to healthcare providers who are more S/M-sensitive thanks to this year's Women in Medicine Conference, held in March in Kona, Hawaii; the conference is attended primarily by lesbian physicians. Marj Plumb of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association said that the S/M workshop was "one of my highlights" of the conference. She added that "the S/M work pushes boundaries." If the physicians "can listen to what S/M means to those who practice it, what the erotic construction is, what the language is," they can be "light years ahead" when a patient brings up their S/M sexuality and activity.
Patrick Trueman of the American Family Association (AFA) called on May 13 for an end to National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) funding in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Oversight. Trueman claimed that the NEA funds many "pornographic" works. The "pro-family" advocates were especially incensed about NEA grants for the films "Nitrate Kisses" which includes depictions of lesbian fisting, and "Blood Sisters," a film about the lesbian S/M community that was shown at the 1995 SF Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. The AFA claims that the NEA has a bias in favor of works appealing to queers, despite the fact that a small percentage of the agency's budget actually funds gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender-themed art.
America Online, the largest Internet service in the U.S., raised ire last month when it decided to ban the word "bondage" from member profiles. Following considerable pressure from its users, AOL has rescinded its policy. The service said it would still ban profiles containing sexually explicit content, although they would not nix the specific word. Meanwhile, a member of a e-mail list devoted to gay and lesbian S/M reports that AOL recently rejected a personal ad he submitted in which he asked for expert help in hanging -- but not using -- a sling.
The California Assembly voted last month by the lopsided margin of 71-1 to approve a bill mandating that persons under age 18 who seek ear, lip, or tongue piercings must prove they have the permission of a parent or guardian. Piercers who fail to verify parental permission would face a $250 fine. The bill will now advance to the state Senate.
New York City's leather-S/M community will host a weekend of leather pride events June 19-22. This is also the weekend of the city's Gay Pride Rally and the weekend before the Pride parade. The main event, Leather Pride Night, will be co-sponsored by The Eulenspiegel Society (TES), Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA), the Lesbian Sex Mafia, the Men of Discipline, and the Pariahs MC. The party will take place at the Roxy (515 W 18 Street), and will feature a free buffet, auction, raffle, and flea market.
Leather Pride Night is the community's largest annual fund-raiser, and is expected to raise over $15,000 for Heritage Of Pride, The Center, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Lesbian Sex Mafia will host an open women's play party on Friday night and a women's brunch on Saturday.
On Sunday, GMSMA will host Folsom Street East, a new event modeled after San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair. The event is described as a "good old-fashioned S/M-leather-fetish block party for all interested men and women." It will take place on 13th Street between 9th Avenue and Washington Street from 2-8pm, and will feature food and drink, live entertainment, and many community groups and vendors. The fair will benefit the Anti-Violence Project. For more information, see the website at http://lthredge.com/lpn/.
The Society of Janus contingent in San Francisco's Gay Day parade (June 29) will include a flatbed truck with an awning and a lift-gate which can accommodate persons with disabilities who want to participate in the parade. For the past 3 years, Janus has sponsored a cable car, but the truck will allow improved access for wheelchair users. The group allows all to ride who can fit, but gives priority to people with disabilities or with HIV/AIDS. Janus will also have a booth at the Pride celebration and is seeking volunteers to help with both the booth and the moving contingent (call 415-985-7118 for information). The Society of Janus is a pansexual leather educational organization that supports all sexual identities. The group has been active in the leather community for over 20 years.
Gay radical sex photographer Mark I. Chester is seeking artists for his Folsom Street Fair art exhibition. Chester has been hosting the annual exhibition for 10 years at his Folsom Street studio; over 1,000 people typically visit the exhibition. This year's show will run from September 19 through October 12. Chester is looking for radical sex photographers.
Artists already included are New York photographers Barbara Nitke and
Ves Pitts. Nitke uses infrared film to give her black and white
photographs of radical sex play an "intense yet lush sheen." Pitts's
color images document live leather shows at the Lure. Chester is
seeking photographers who can show a body of work (8-10 images) that
has a coherent aesthetic style or works together as a conceptual
whole. Work should deal with radical sex, leather, S/M, non-standard
sexuality, or fetishism; Chester is especially interested in finding
photographers who depict lesbian sex radicals. Contact Chester by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; slides or photographs may be sent to
P.O. Box 422501, SF 94142.