Month: October 2016

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
31-Years-Old
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
45-Years-Old
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.

Follow Sophie Saint Thomas on Twitter

Visit Heather’s website for more of her illustration work.

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.

 

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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.”