How to Stay Kinky After You Have Kids

New for VICE! Illustration by Heather Benjamin.

Having children changes your life, plain and simple. The newfound responsibility of caring for an infant will bleed into all aspects of your existence, from your career and social life, to your home and personal life. It probably goes without saying that your sex life will be as affected as your sleep schedule during the first few years of being a parent.

As they grow older, you’ll hopefully regain some semblance of your former lifestyle, but what if aspects of your identity are at odds with what people tend to consider a “child-friendly environment”? For parents who embrace kink and consider BDSM a core aspect of their identity and sexuality, how far should you go, if at all, to hide your adult interests from your mini-yous?

“Sex is for consenting adults, sex toys are for consenting adults—that doesn’t need to be around kids. Kinky stuff or non-kinky stuff, it doesn’t matter,” says New York City-based kink-friendly therapist Dulcinea Pitagora.

VICE spoke to several parents who embrace kink and BDSM. Though they had various takes on the limits of privacy, the most consistent attitude was that maintaining happy, true-to-themselves sex lives keeps them happy parents, which makes for happier families.

James from Wisconsin
Two Kids, Ages 2 and 7 Months Old

VICE: Will you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your sexuality and kinks?
James: I identify as straight, but truthfully I’m heteroflexible. I like people who are feminine with little regard to what genitals they have. I’m a dominant male, with some sadistic undertones, but I spend 99 percent of my time as just a vanilla dad and husband.

Do you have any stories about the two worlds intersecting?
The older boy is in his explorative stage. Once he found my spouse’s steel butt plug, and couldn’t wait to show it off to our vanilla guest. My spouse didn’t skip a beat, and with a gleam in her eye explained that was mommy’s toy and to give it back. Our guest got red in the cheeks and was obviously interested in the idea of the plug, but was quick to state she had never tried one.

We spend a lot of time in front of our kids nude. Our son has seen marks on his momma, and points to them and says, “Owie!” We nod and say, “Yeah kiddo; that’s momma’s owie.” That’s the end of it. I’m sure once he reaches school age, we would be more discreet with our bodies, but honestly, that’d be more to let him know he can’t just run around naked in front of guests. We want our children to be comfortable in their skin and to know they are beautiful and not to be hidden in some weird standard placed by Puritans hundreds of years ago who would stone us for enjoying sex if they had their way.

How do you explain things to the kids when they find toys?
Our son is of an age where he finds things even if we try desperately to hide them. As such, he often finds things that aren’t his, but he knows when we tell him something is Dad’s or Mom’s to leave it alone. My spouse and I have always said we will be in a sex-positive home. Even as our kids learn what a vibrator is and that those Velcro straps on our bed are for momma. We never had the intention of hiding them, but rather wanted to keep them out of sight at a responsible level without inconveniencing or acting like such toys are shameful.

What advice would you give to other kinky parents?
Be true to yourself. Your (legal) kink isn’t something to be ashamed of, and your kids will respect honesty more than a person who is afraid of themselves and their needs.

J. from Texas
Four Kids: Ages 13, 16, 19, and 21

VICE: Tell me a little bit about your kinks. You’re a dominant-switch, correct?
Jay: I didn’t start out as a switch, but that happens a lot to people in the kink world: you start out as one thing and then keep evolving. [My husband and I] evolved together; we are partners in pretty much everything. We live in a small town where my husband has a very prominent position, so [our sex life] is not an open thing. He’s the financial earner in our household. Eight years into our marriage, I went from being a sub or bottom [to a dominant switch]. As far as fetishes, we play with temperature, texture, and do food play. When I had kids, we started incorporating adult nursing in the bedroom. I’m up for trying anything. It’s worked for the 23 years we’ve been together.

Do you have to worry about keeping sex toys hidden from your kids?
We are into spanking, but with belts and stuff that is part of our household. I don’t wear a collar, never have. I have hair that’s down to my waist. My husband doesn’t need a leash; my hair is my leash. I have a toy chest that’s filled with silk restraints, blindfolds, candles, and other BDSM toys. Our kids have been aware for a long time that mom and dad have a sex life. I always wanted my kids to see a good physical relationship. That’s something we don’t hide from our children. You get the sense they are slightly embarrassed but like it too. You have families who are in crisis, and, to my kids, I’m like: “This is for you too so you can see that everything is OK.” I think our openness with our children really developed from that. I’m the crazy mom that goes out and buys my 16-year-old condoms, cock rings, and lube. If they’re going to explore this, I want them to do it safely, with some forethought to what they’re doing.

Have you talked to them about kink?
My oldest one, who’s 21, is definitely into kink. But she didn’t express so until she went to college and got into a situation where somebody took her boundaries past the level of consent, so we started having those conversations then. I think if we had talked [earlier on] maybe she wouldn’t have been in that relationship, but when my daughter needed support she felt like she could talk to us because she knew that we were into kink. She didn’t know specifically what we did, but there was enough evidence that she knew.

What happened after you spoke? Do you talk to your other children about kink?
I learned she was very much into choking, which for me, is not a hard limit because we do it some, but it is a soft limit. My therapist was into kink, and she died in a scene because her trachea was crushed. The more you do it frequently, the softer the trachea becomes. Hers collapsed, and her partner couldn’t bring her back. So we talked about that and choking and the different kinds of holds.

My 16-year-old and I are very close, and he is a submissive male and into bigger girls. I’m like, “Do your friends make fun of you?” And he’s like, “No mom, I make fun of them for the skinny girls they date!” We’ve also talked about male submission and doing it in a healthy way.

Our 19-year-old daughter is more conservative in her views of sex. We are perfectly fine with that. In my household, your kinks are your kinks and your non-kinks and your non-kinks. As long as you’re not hiding from yourself who you are.

Chris from New Jersey
35 Years Old
Two Kids: Ages 3 and 19 Months

VICE: You and your wife were high school sweethearts. Did you discover your kinks together?
Chris: I am kinky by nature. I had these urges before I knew what they were. The process of me coming to grips with them took a very long time because I grew up in a rather conservative household. By my 20s, I had accepted who I was, but only now recently have I truly become proud of it. My wife, ironically, is from a household that has the motto of letting your freak flag fly, but she didn’t know much of anything about kink until she met me.

What are some of your kinks?
I’m bisexual, but I haven’t actually had sex with another man. I’d love to do it. I am a sexual bottom and the best term I use to describe my sexuality is “sensation slut.” I like being on the receiving end of things and not able to control it. I like pushing myself to the limits of the sensations I receive, good or bad.

What’s your at-home kink setup like?
We live in a three-floor Victorian house. At the moment, all of our kink activities occur in our bedroom. We have a large plastic foot locker in our bedroom closet that we keep all of our toys in. I recently got over $200 in electrical eStem equipment, which has been a joy. I finally got an actual gag after all this time because I’m very noisy. I picked up a new hood, a pair of latex briefs with a built-in anal plug, a spreader bar, and a couple different whips.

Have your kids ever seen your toys?
My son had a dentist appointment on Wednesday and the dentist gave him a toy, one of the infamous latex gloves blown up into a balloon. He thought it was the greatest thing in the whole wide world. Unfortunately, he ripped it open after coming home and was crushed. I went upstairs, and he followed me to said footlocker of things that shall not be mentioned. I grabbed another latex glove, since we have those. I came back down, and he happily had another glove to play with. My wife looked at me and was like, “You did not show him what was in there… Our Rain Man son is going to remember that that item came from that location, and in three months we’re going to be in that room, and he’ll be asking for a glove balloon.”

Would you be open with them about your kinks if they asked?
Jesus, they’re three and one and a half. In another ten years, I’m going to have to have a conversation with them that’s a little more serious. I hope to be as honest as I can without providing specific details.

Any words of advice for someone kinky considering having kids?
Just because you have kids doesn’t mean kink is over. You may have to slow down for a minute; you may have to put in on the side, but you’re not going to forget it. Sometimes innocuous black luggage is the best place to hide things with a little lock because no one ever thinks to look there.

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Parents who embrace sex-positive, kinky relationships may create a more open and healthy environment for children to grow up in. BDSM requires a certain level of openness and honesty, and practicing that behavior could even help parents teach their children about the importance of topics such as consent or keeping an open mind to non-normative taste and not being ashamed of what you’re into. “Not that [kids] need to be privy to the specifics of what you are negotiating or consenting to, but the kind of relationship that kinky parents might have could be a great model for communication and setting boundaries,” says Pitagora.



Angel Olsen On Being Her Own ‘Woman’ On Her New Album

I profiled Angel Olsen for Nylon’s September issue. Photographed by MichaelBeckert. Styled by Liz Rundbaken.

Angel Olsen has the power. Of course, she’s always had it, but with the release of My Woman, she doesn’t really care about how you perceive that power. “People think they know you entirely based on the work that you project, famous or not famous,” says Olsen over lemonades in a Brooklyn tea shop. “But you still have to be a person, and wake up and go through human struggles while everybody is thinking of you as not a human who goes through those things. You’re living the life of the self that you project, in the life of your actual self.”

Olsen is disarming in person—a celebrity with the air of a perceptive, considerate, and passionate friend, discussing the difficulties of being a working woman in her late twenties, and defying the limiting expectations of the public. My Woman, her third studio album and the follow-up to 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness, is demonstrative of her ability to disregard these constraints and portrays the broad spectrum of Olsen’s musical talent, which ranges from her signature folk, steeped in her superior songwriting chops, to synthy glam rock.

After the success of her last record brought Olsen to the stages of late-night television and into the hearts of an ever-growing fan base, the repetitiveness of fame and the unavoidable typecasting as a female folk singer led her to question where her hard work had landed her. “It went from the positive inertia of creating something alone in a room that no one cared about to a commercial image that you’re just living over and over again,” she says. “Despite the fact that I was doing well, and the album was doing well, I wasn’t doing well.” Naturally, her admirers viewed her through the self-absorbed lens of fandom, oblivious to the fact that even celebrities need repose. “People come up to me and they’re like, ‘You saved my life.’ Even though it’s amazing to hear that, when people compliment you in that heavy way, there is some sort of expectation. They want something back,” says Olsen. “I feel very fortunate to have fans that would say that to me, but when was somebody gonna pull me aside and be like, ‘Are you okay?’ No one was doing that.” She sips her lemonade and continues: “So I went to therapy, took a break. I just didn’t want to tour as much. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this. Maybe I should reconsider my plan.’”

Ironically, it was on the road where Olsen felt reinvigorated, thanks to the camaraderie of fellow musicians on the festival circuit, such as St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett, and Mac DeMarco. “You think all these bands are getting together and getting shit-faced and there’s probably drama, and there is,” she says, “but behind the scenes and on the sidelines, there’s also a lot of community that’s being built. It was really refreshing to talk to people—even in a drunken way—about our careers, and to know that I wasn’t totally isolated in the experience. Hearing that other people were bummed, and making fun of ourselves, like, ‘I’m so famous, my life is so hard,’ really saved my career. I was like, ‘I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep doing this.’ And after that I wrote a bunch of material.” Thus, My Woman was born.

The world was introduced to the new music via the morbidly beautiful lead single “Intern,” the video for which was directed by Olsen herself and filmed with a micro-crew of friends in Asheville, North Carolina, where the singer has resided for three years. The visuals for “Intern” and its commanding follow-up, “Shut Up Kiss Me,” star a silver-tinsel-wig-adorned Olsen, invoking comparisons to “Life on Mars?”-era David Bowie. “I wanted to create my own character and be more in control of the image I project through my own music,” she explains.

Olsen’s also determined to expose the hypocritical manner in which men and women in the industry are received by critics. Although male rock stars can howl misogynistic lyrics without being quizzed on feminism, when a female artist writes her own music and names an album something even moderately gutsy, she’ll likely be interrogated about it. With that in mind, the singer is already swatting away the line of stereotypical questioning that the title of her record will inevitably conjure up. “The album is called My Woman, and people are like, ‘Are you afraid that your male fans might be turned off by this title?’ I can’t wait for the questions like, ‘So, as a feminist, your album is a feminism album?’” says Olsen with a scoff. “I can’t deny that I’m a feminist. I don’t like that it’s hip right now, because I don’t want it to be a trend. Just because it’s being talked about doesn’t mean that people are getting the picture.”

She finishes her lemonade—a fitting drink for a discussion about the limitations put on artists who happen to be women (see Beyoncé’s latest album). In spite of it all—the cages of fame, the insistence of critics on typecasting her, the archaic categorization of female artists by their gender, and her occasional bout of exhaustion—Olsen has no plans to slow down. “I did name my album My Woman, so it’s very easy for people to think all these things,” she says. “It is a really bold move, but that’s what you gotta do. I’m going to be audacious enough to say that I’m important.”


Kitchen Witches Are Brewing Lube for the Bedroom

This article originally appeared in VICE Broadly.

In the intersection of kitchen witchery and kink, magical women are brewing balms, ointments, potions, and lotions, which they bring into the bedroom for BDSM purposes and in lieu of mainstream oils and lubes. While Judeo-Christian traditions carry shame around sex, pagan traditions celebrate it, as many view sexuality and spirituality as one of the same.

“Sexual intimacy can be used as a ritual representation of the fertility of Earth and Goddess when celebrating the cycles of seasons; as a spontaneous reaction to psychic energy either during ritual, meditation, or spell work; or a consenting form of kink as energy play between two or more people,” says Arwen, a 23-year-old Neo-Druid from Orange, California.

Considering the overlap between sexuality and spirituality, it makes sense that self-identified witches are combining nature with their sex lives. “My work with salves is a big part of my life,” says Gg Irkalla, a 29-year-old artist from Olympia, Washington. “A few years ago, I was part of a sacred whore temple wherein there were bowls of coconut oil. It’s terrible for toys and condoms, but amazing for everything else—especially massages, healing work, and skin health.” She defines witchcraft as “not tidy maypole ceremonies in someone’s backyard in the suburbs, while Enya plays timidly in the background. It’s hashish, opium, Adderall, cocaine, anal sex, BDSM, sex work, sorcery, ordeal, and holy rage.”

Stepping outside of the magical lens, kinky people use plants through figging, the act of placing of piece of ginger in an orifice. “[Figging is] often used in D/S [dominance and submission] dynamics and as part of other aspects of intense sensation play, as it creates burning sensation,” explains Dr. Michael Aaron, a NYC-based sex therapist and author of the upcoming book Modern Sexuality. “Some folks’ fetish involves molding it into butt plug shape; it’s important to have some form of handle to retrieve it.” (He advises keeping figging confined to ass play due to the vagina’s particular pH balance.)

When using any essential oil that can cause burning sensations, it’s important to dilute the oil to prevent skin damage. “You definitely need some sort of carrier oil. It could be a sweet almond oil, or a fractionated coconut oil, whatever kind of scent draws you in. There are good things like sesame oil, grape seed oil, wheat germ oil—the list goes on,” says Sheeba, a 31-year-old energy healer from Portland, Oregon.

While drugstore brands such as KY sell warming oils, many women are more interested in a natural and homemade concoction. Sheeba recommends cinnamon oil, which creates a burning sensation and holds an association with the goddessesVenus and Aphrodite. In her own BDSM scenes, Sheeba often uses thieves oil, a blend of clove, lemon, rosemary, cinnamon, and eucalyptus, as part of CBT, a.k.a. cock and ball torture.

“We used thieves oil on the top of [one of my sex partners’] penis and around the head. I have this really mean clip that fit all the way around the tip of his penis,” Sheeba says. “Some of where his extreme pleasure comes from was from that extra sensitivity from the oils and that constriction.”

For cooling oils to soothe oneself after BDSM play, Arwen enjoys a concoction of Calendula, a healing oil associated with love, blended with olive oil for both aftercare and massage. “Steeping Calendula in olive oil in the light of the sun imbues the chemical compounds and energy of the plant to create a healing oil to anoint during ritual or to soothe the body after impact play,” Arwen explains to Broadly.

Other magical women, such as crystal healer Katie Manzella, turn to aloe, coconut, and CBD oil for sex. “When I make love, I find the aloe vera plant to serve as a wonderful way to enhance the experience. Usually I don’t need its assistance, but it’s always fun to work with plants to make life more magical and healthy,” Manzella says. “Coconut and CBD oil is wonderful too!”

Lube has other important mystical uses as well: It’s important to remember it when integrating stone magic into your sex life. Vanessa Cuccia, the creator of Chakrubs, a line of sexual wellness products made from 100 percent mother crystal, recommends using coconut oil when using a rose quartz dildo. “Especially when somebody is making it themselves, I think that makes it more special,” Cuccia says. “When you’re making it yourself—that work that’s going into it, that you’re going to appreciate so much more.”

Coconut oil comes with one downside, however. As Irkalla mentioned, the oil is not latex friendly. If you’re looking for an organic lube to use with condoms, stick with something like Good Clean Love.

Simply creating your own massage oil or BDSM tool from plant ingredients found in your home can make you feel like a crafty kitchen witch, but the true magic is the power and healing that takes place when sex and spirituality meet. “Whatever you are doing can be seen as spiritual no matter how kinky it is, as long as you’re understanding that what you are doing is sacred,” Cuccia says.

When consulting with clients interested in Chakrubs, she will work individually to find the right crystal catered to individual healing. “Bodies carry a lot of hurt, trauma, and loneliness,” Irkalla says. “Sacred sex is a vital tool for addressing these issues.”



I profiled Dev Hynes of Blood Orange for the cover of the 20th edition of Rollacoaster Magazine. Photo by Michael Bailey-Gates.

Devonté “Dev” Hynes is one of pop music’s most important figures. The songwriting mus- cle behind Sky Ferreira’s breakthrough banger “Everything Is Embarrassing” and Solange’s equally mesmerising “Losing You” (as well as songs by everyone from Skepta to FKA twigs), he’s spent the last decade moulding his very own perfect-pop utopia, and surrounding him- self in New York’s scintillating, underground creative forces. This summer, as Blood Orange, Dev returns with his most honest, bravest long-player to date, Freetown Sound. Rollacoaster was invited into Dev’s brave new world for an exclusive, up-close-and-personal preview of it.

From the US to the UK, political upheaval is Trumping creativity. At least the artists have their messiah in the enigmatic form of Dev Hynes, who this summer returns with his solo project, Blood Orange.

The London-born musician, who has resided in New York City since 2007, along with releasing an upcoming beautiful and bold album, Freetown Sound, maintains a community of artists, musicians, models, and performers in New York like (previous Rollacoaster star) Whitney Vangrin. In his support of others, Hynes manages to come across completely unpretentious, a difficult feat for a celebrity of his status. “Everything I do is really how I want to be treated,” he tells me. “That’s the only way I base anything. I’m also still just a big fan-boy of things, so if I’m a fan of something, and it’s something I know or am in a proximity with, then if there’s anything I could possibly do to help them in some way, then I will do it. I just want them to create as much as they can.”

Hynes sits in his Manhattan studio bathed in je-ne-sais-quoi spirit, his red bucket hat tilted skywards to reveal passionate eyes. In July, Freetown Sound, his third album, the follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed Cupid Deluxe, comes out. Like a beautiful natural disaster, a thunderstorm collecting weight before pouring down on parched land, his creative process involves the collection of ideas and sudden appearance of arrival. “With each album, I’ll be working — just always making music, and it’s scattered and everywhere. It’s what happened with this one, it’s what happened with Cupid Deluxe. One day someone could talk to me and say: ‘What’s up with the album?’ and I’ll be like: ‘God knows, it’s like a million songs. I can’t imagine.’ And then the next day it can just click.”

What came together with Freetown Sound is an expansive, immersive, and glorious album. 17 tracks long, it’s being praised as Blood Orange’s most personal album to date, although Hynes says that maybe we just know him better now. Or perhaps we’re just paying more attention. “The last record was completely my viewpoint, too. Maybe it’s that people know me more. So they can really see that’s it’s personal. It’s personal in a different way, because it’s more explorative of myself. This one is kind of going back in even deeper than myself and looking at my parents and before that. It’s trying to understand roots of things, musically and lyrically.”

The title derives its name from his father’s birthplace, the capital of Sierra Leone. His family is also referenced in the record’s lyrics.“My father was a young man, my mother off the boat, my eyes were fresh at 21, bruised but still afloat,” he sings sleekly in a track titled “Augustine”. It’s an earth-shattering song, laced with sorrow that calls to Saint Augustine over the death of Trayvon Martin. Along with religion, race, sexism, Hynes’ heritage is a recurrent theme of the expansive album. He tells me that his family’s role as muse on the record is the simply the result of passing time. “I’m just getting older, and I have more questions and thoughts,” says the songwriter. “I’ve been very aware lately of age. It’s always hard to discuss it without sounding incredibly morbid.”

Despite how Planet Pop, where remaining fuckable is part of the deal, wants its stars to remain growing older, Hynes has his own agenda. “I love age. I always have. I think it’s because I grew up with classical and jazz [music], where age is very different than in popular music. If I was to look at the career of a composer that I love and if I saw things he wrote in his 30s, I would view that as before he found his voice,” he explains. “As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that people that have been huge influences on me were really young when they died. I’m not talking 27, of like drug overdoses and shit like that. John Lennon, John Coltrane, Arthur Russell, all died at 40. Bob Marley died at 36. Shit is so crazy to me. So it’s been very heavy on my mind lately, and I’m trying to understand a lot of things to do with myself and my family, because I feel it’s important to know this stuff and try to work through it for my own benefit.”

Christianity and an “album of the year” may seem unrelated, but it’s an unlikely union made flesh by Hynes, who scrapes away at his own history with the observational curiosity of a scientist.“There’s a lot of looking at Christian upbringing and then rebelling against it. There’s different moments on the album that are looking at those periods, Roman-era Christianity and then even colonial Christianity in West Africa. It’s not in a sense of condemning or preaching, it’s just in the case of questioning. It’s very interesting to me.” What he’s getting at is bigger than religion: it’s the promise of hope. “Christianity was so strong in black households because of slave times, and it was always seen as this beacon of hope. Even if it was this Christianity that was handed down, the ideology was still seen as a beacon of hope. Like: ‘We’ll get through this shit, there’s a bigger plan, you know?’”

Later this summer, he’ll take on Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, too.“I like to let the album breathe and [go] from there, because I don’t do many shows. I like the shows to be really fun and entertaining for people that know the music. I love the idea of playing music no one’s heard; I would do it in situations where I just use my name. I love the idea of making music for a live situation, [but] I’ll never do that with Blood Orange because I think it’s a bad vibe when artists just play a bunch of new songs for people. When it comes to Blood Orange, I want to play it for people who have listened and want to hear it.” As summer rolls into fall, Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound will be our anthem album. For now, Dev will be enjoying the splendour of his self-made utopia.


Heroin Addicts Are Turning to Tumblr to Tell Their Stories — And Save Lives

Originally published in Mic.

“One and done is the rule for using needles,” Nicole*, an 18-year-old from Long Island, New York, writes on her Tumblr, nicolethedopefiendqueen. “After you use it once, dispose of it (capped, in a sharps or other container); you really shouldn’t be reusing needles if you can help it. A fresh, new needle is always better than a used one, even if it’s been sterilized.”

Nicole is an active heroin user. In an email interview, she said she began using at 14 after coming across her terminally ill father’s OxyContin prescription, which eventually evolved into heroin use. On her Tumblr, she posts selfies and re-blogs moody screengrabs from drug movies like Trainspotting, as well as close-up shots of spoons, lighters and syringes.

But to hear Nicole tell it, she doesn’t just use Tumblr as a platform for blogging about her heroin use. She also teaches other users how to do heroin safely. Her blog contains information about what to do if an overdose occurs, as well as how to administer Narcan (naloxone), an emergency antidote to treat opiate overdose.


“I decided that if I’m going to have a drug addiction blog with lots of followers, I must spread harm reduction information, because addicts deserve to be healthy and to live,” Nicole said in an email interview. “I advocate for safe intravenous drug use, especially to help prevent infection and overdoses.”

Heroin addiction is a rapidly growing epidemic in the United States. The Harm Reduction Coalition reports that overdose is the leading cause of preventable accidental death in the United States, second only to car accidents. Since 2000, opiate overdoses have increased by 200%, in large part as a result of an increase of pain medication prescription, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Because pills and heroin are sold on the black market, opiate use can be difficult to track, but a 2014 report estimates there are 1.5 million “chronic” heroin users in the United States.

Nicole’s blog is one of many on Tumblr that track the lives of regular opiate users. Many of such blogs’ posts feature the hashtag #nodsquad, a community that curates images of drug paraphernalia as well as information and resources promoting safe drug use.

Such blogs are based on the principles of harm reduction, which aims to reduce harm associated with drug use, such as overdose and spread of diseases like hepatitis C or HIV, through counseling, opiate substitution programs like methadone and safer injection facilities, or legal, supervised injection facilities where people can use heroin under medical supervision. (There are currently no supervised injection sites in the United States, but some cities and states like New York have toyed with the idea of introducing them.)

As Nicole explains it, “harm reduction is about reducing the damage and harm done from using. It’s not about stopping use, it’s about safety, which is the realistic approach to saving addicts in this epidemic.”

It’s a strategy distinct from abstinence-only programs such as traditional 12-step recovery methods, as harm reduction psychotherapist Eddie Einbinder said in a phone interview. “Harm reduction is not anti-abstinence,” Einbinder stressed. “Harm reduction is pro-choice.”

Susan E. Collins, co-director of the Harm Reduction Research and Treatment Center, thinks Tumblr blogs like Nicole’s can help to reduce harm caused by heroin use.

“[Nicole] is a person who appears to really care about her community, and is trying to help people use safer,” Collins said in a phone interview. “She is trying to reduce harm, and is being honest about where she’s at and her recovery. Personally, I think all of that is really admirable.”

Social media has created a space that didn’t previously exist for active users to connect with others and share information about how to use drugs safely, such as how to sterilize a needleafter use.

“A core concept of harm reduction is meeting people where they are, and I feel like most people don’t spend their spare time reading up on harm reduction techniques. But people spend time on social media like Tumblr,” Caroline, who keeps her own harm reduction blog, fuckyeah-harmreduction, told Mic in an email.

“Having a resource for harm reduction information on a platform that people are already using is a great idea.”

Caroline is not a user, but she became involved in the movement through a harm reduction organization she volunteers at in Washington, D.C., most often doing needle exchange or distributing safer sex supplies.

That said, some of the information being shared on Tumblr, such as user videos on how to shoot up safely, can be shocking to watch for those unfamiliar with intravenous drug use. Such videos, as well as artily lit images of spoons and stashes, has prompted debate as to whether such blogs glamorize drug use. It’s also worth noting that some users visit the blogs as a way to find drugs, if asks from users looking to score in a new town or city are any indication.

“Could it glamorize the use? I think yes,” Einbinder said in a phone interview. “It is hard to create a completely objective vision when you’re creating different forms of reality.”

Other professionals agree that the Tumblr community has potential for both help and harm.

“On the one hand, users are often the experts of their experiences and their own needs. If a user is generating content which is informed, safe, promotes hygiene, and teaches people how to reduce risks, then it can be powerful and helpful in a way that resonates with other users,” Sheila Vakharia, a coordinator of a substance abuse counseling concentration for students at Long Island University, Brooklyn, said via email interview.

“However, if user-generated content is full of people doing things in risky, unhygienic ways or if they are sharing false, mixed, or un-researched information, it can be just as harmful as any other problematic content on the web.”


The blogs also raise the question as to whether Tumblr has any obligation to monitor content that promotes drug use on the platform.  (Mic has reached out to Tumblr for comment, and have not received a response at the time of publication.)

“I don’t necessarily think that platforms have a responsibility to monitor drug use content because it seems like a slippery slope,” Vakharia said. “I also understand that sales or advertisements of illicit drugs are in violation of laws. However, instructional videos from the health professions show doctors/nurses injecting patients all the time. Should a video of a person doing it to themselves be censored because the vial is filled with a substance that we think is illegal?”


The Sad Story of the Ted Cruz Lookalike Who’s Shooting Porn

I covered the Ted Cruz porn lookalike for Playboy.

Presidential hopeful and banner of dildos Ted Cruz is not doing porn. However, 21-year-old Searcy Hayes from Natchez, Miss., who happens to resemble Ted Cruz, is. And while plenty of folks have had a good laugh about this, her story is anything but funny.

Like so many women who face the decision of whether to do sex work, she’s doing it because she needs the money. Hayes, who lives with her family in a trailer park, told Playboy she currently makes $100-$200 a month cleaning houses. Her fiancé and soon-to-be adult costar brings in $733 a month from disability payments.

Hayes went viral after appearing on Maury to prove her fiancé, 25-year-old Freddie Green, was the father of her three-month-old-child. (He is). Hayes has another son who is nearly three in the care of her mother. After she appeared on Maury, a meme posted on Redditcirculated comparing her appearance to Cruz. The viral image caught the eyes of publicist Mike Kulich, who offered her $10,000 for a six-minute adult film, which will be available to view for free on the website. Hayes will shoot the video at home with her fiancé. “[Kulich] just told us do as many [sexual positions] as we can in six minutes,” says Hayes.

Kulich says he has seen the film, and viewers should expect “lots of hardcore BBW action between two people who truly love each other.” However, when I asked Hayes that same day, she said she has not yet shot the film but was planning to in the next few days.

No doubt there is an audience of people who to want to see a female version of “Lucifer in the Flesh” Cruz (a comparison Satanists have protested) getting nailed.

“I think Cruz is horrible, and I’d really like to get him out of the race. It’s fun controlling the internet conversation,” says Kulich.

However, for the trolls and commenters, the laughs have shifted from Cruz to Hayes, who may be the butt of a joke she doesn’t entirely get.

“I wasn’t really familiar with him,” she says of Cruz.

As a promotion for the upcoming film, Hayes has appeared in photos and videos posted to Kulich’s Facebook endorsing Trump. When I asked if she supported Trump, she responded, “I mean, not really.”

Hayes says she’s hearing from folks in Mississippi about her decision to make the film. “All of my friends are telling me that it would ruin my child’s life,” says Hayes, who says it’s the other way around. “The reason I (am) doing it is so my son would have a roof over his head and didn’t have to worry about losing our trailer. I don’t see where we’re ruining our child’s life.”

With the $10,000, Hayes plans to pay off $2,000 of $3,000 owed on her trailer, buy a new truck and make additional purchases to take care of her 3-month-old. “We’re going to buy a walker, buy a high chair, stock up on his diapers, his wipes, buy him clothes.” Hayes says that buying a newer model of a truck is for her son as well, as their current vehicle, a 1997 Mercury Sable, has no heat, no air conditioner and is unsuitable to drive with children. “[With] the car that we have now, I can’t really take him with me. It hurts my feelings because I have to leave him at home.” Like her child, over one-third of Mississippi children live in poverty.

Sydney Leathers, who rose to adult fame from her texting scandal with Anthony Weiner, knows a thing or two about the intersection of porn and politics, and she hopes Hayes has thought this all the way through.

“She should think about her future before actually doing it. It will impact future employment. Everyone she’s ever known will find out. It’s a tough thing to prepare for,” Leathers said. “It sucks, but sex workers are still discriminated against so much. She has no idea what she’s signing up for.”

While $10,000 to screw somebody you already screw may seem like a no-brainer, others are critical of the figure, pointing out that Mama June of Here Comes Honey Boo Boofame was offered $1 million by Vivid for an adult film.

Kulich says the offer is fair. “When you look at the regular adult performer they’re making about $1,000 for a 30-minute scene; $10,000 for a six-minute scene is a very generous offer.”

His figures match up with a CNBC rundown of porn salaries. However, her earnings may not be sustainable. It’s very likely this is a one-time gig.

“It’s generally not a smart financial move to do it if you’re only planning to do one. Money goes fast, so if you’re not committed to making this your career path, it’s a mistake,” says Leathers.

Hayes says she’s open to doing more porn and has even picked up a laptop for the possibility of cam work for additional income.

Ultimately, Hayes is an adult, capable of making her own decisions about sex work, ones that should be respected. “Everybody is still going to sit there and give me bad mouth because of what I’m doing, but it’s not what everybody else thinks, it’s what I think about it,” she said.




I reviewed the David Bowie tribute show at Radio City Hall for Noisey.

The blackstar tattoo on my chest, which I’d gotten hours after learning of his death, smeared with glitter for the occasion, glared as a security guard scanned me with a metal detector. A crippling wave of anxiety passed over. He is gone, I am here. Bowie, his music, and his unfathomable legacy occupied a massive room in my psyche, in all of ours. When I closed my eyes and envisioned a Bowie tribute I saw bodies pressed together in a dark and messy venue, the type of scene where it was appropriate to kiss a stranger on the mouth just to taste their tears and lipstick. For that dark glamour was what Bowie meant to me. One version of what a Bowie tribute should look like for every fan left behind. At Radio City Music Hall, this was a classy affair. Time to sit up straight and act like I’m allowed in public. With the formal posture of a funeral, we were all here to pay our respects.

It was the second day of memorial following a concert at Carnegie Hall, the original show announced coincidentally on the same day of his death, featuring many of the same performers. Debbie Harry, Pixies, Mumford & Sons, the Flaming Lips and a thorough list of additional “all-stars” were here to pay tribute to David Bowie, the star who was given a constellation as he left this world. Tickets to attend both nights were being sold for $3,000. Proceeds of the concerts benefit organizations such as Little Kids Rock and Grammy in the Schools. Less charitably, vendors outside Radio City capitalized by selling crookedly printed Bowie photos for $5.

The audience was an older crowd. I was seated among other journalists, based on the lack of enthusiasm and frantic pen scribbling. Right before one of the first acts, jazz artist Esperanza Spalding performing “If You Can See Me,” the hall’s magnificent silence was interrupted. Someone very original shouted “Free Bird!” Once the lid had been cracked, a few others would later on join in the fun by adding “Feel the Bern!”, which lead to other audience members loudly requesting they shut the fuck up.

It wasn’t until saxophonist Donny McCaslin performed “Lazarus,” with Mark Guiliana, Jason Lindner, and Tony Visconti, that the mood began to form. They had helped create Blackstar. Visconti has been involved with Bowie since his self-titled and second in 1969. It was clear I would cry tonight. Despite the decades of memories and cultural currency that come with Bowie’s classics, it was songs from Blackstar that took the night. Perhaps the rationalization of why we were all there was best told through his final album, released just two days before his death.

One of the most powerful moments of the night came from Amanda Palmer, Jherek Bischoff, and Anna Calvi with the Kronos Quartet who performed the title track “Blackstar.” Palmer and company created Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute shortly after learning the news of his death. It was a perfect performance, their bodies forming a star. My anxiety broke to tears. The audience collectively stood in ovation. Through the beauty of their performance they had demonstrated the weight of what Bowie had done with Blackstar – he gave us an internal gift, and the monumental task of doing it justice. Amanda Palmer, Jherek Bischoff, Anna Calvi and the Kronos Quartet did.

Along with Palmer, Michael Stipe was one of the strongest performances of the night. In beautifully depressive Stipe fashion, before he began, he asked the needed question into the microphone: “Why are we here?”

An enormous pause, enough to make anyone decent in attendance ponder the real price of their ticket. “A celebration,” is the answer Stipe gave. A few more words for Bowie, and then came the performance. “Ashes to Ashes” has been played an unfathomable number of times, but never like this. He stripped it down to the bones, whispering the lyrics, and perhaps the first time in a million listens I was hit with the weight of the demons Bowie felt:

“Time and again I tell myself
I’ll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh, no, not again”

Stipe stole the show with his brutally honest performance. And after we had his blessing, no, orders to celebrate, both audience and performers did just that. Perry Farrell gave a lively rendition of “Rebel Rebel” full of repeated hat lifts and cheesing grins, during which everyone was up and dancing (an act requested by Rickie Lee Jones, who asked everyone to get on their feet and join her in “All the Young Dudes”), but there was a disconnect. Even Debbie Harry, a goddess that can do no wrong, left an itch unscratched in her rendition of “Heroes,” but she, and the others, had an impossible assignment. No one can be Bowie, we’re all chasing a ghost.

Other highlights of the night included The Pixies covering Bowie covering the Pixies with “Cactus” (spelling out B-O-W-I-E), which was throw-up-in-your mouth cool. The Polyphonic Spree in their glorious Kool-Aid robes reminded that “the sun machine is coming down, and we’re gonna have a party.” During their introduction we learned that Bowie affectionately referred to them as “the pretty polies,” a tidbit of newly discovered Bowie trivia that tickled my brain, imagining our hero coming up with the alliteration in his brilliant voice. Cat Power covered one of the greatest album openers of all time, the epic “Five Years.”

The show was well-orchestrated and ran right on time. When the end was near the Flaming Lips played their favorite, “Life on Mars?”, Wayne Coyne was projection-mapped while singing sitting on top of Chewbacca. Massive karaoke screens came down for the closing number, an enormous sing-a-long to “Space Oddity” lead by The New York City Children’s Chorus. The thousands of voices, from the little punks on the stage to those in the nosebleed seats pronouncing “Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do…” summed it up. He’s dead. We’re still here, struggling to make with peace with the blackstar left in our souls.