Since launching NSFW, I've been the subject of a lot of debate on a number of open-love and poly groups.
I've been called elitist for how we manage membership, was told I was promoting rape culture by allowing women to pay less for access and was called "gross" cause we seek influential, attractive members.
I was scolded for saying we promote an inclusive vibe within our community because we're selective on who gets into that community. And that even after spending over a decade promoting diversity and female empowerment within the fashion industry that I'm somehow anti-feminist and racist. My personal favorite is that NSFW is not "progressive or radical" because we charge for events. It's been a very trying hassle, but one which has taught me a lot about how little it takes to get people pissed off, including myself.
My responses have varied from calm and collected, to sarcastic and outright infuriated.
It's frustrating that those claiming to be "sex-positive" feel it's okay to shame me for my approach to sex. And it's especially difficult trying to have discussions with people who claim to be "open-minded" but who only accept their way of thinking as the only way to think.
While not all of these are trolls, and some are genuinely concerned, it feels like no amount of reasoning or explanation is enough. That no matter what our reasoning is NSFW is labeled "a bad place" because we disagree with certain ideas the community tries to dictate as law.
In literally a matter of minutes of posting a question about changing our pay-structure for events on an open-love Facebook group I was called racist, sexist, classist, a liar, non-inclusive, misogynist, in genuine, patriarchal, and my personal favorite "gross" cause I've chosen to offer reduced rates for women... a decision we made at the suggestion of female members of NSFW.
The discourse engrossed me. I felt a bit betrayed by a community that I truly felt I was in like mind with and realized just how ugly people can get when you disagree with them. The conversation spiraled into everything that's wrong with NSFW and our way of thinking and I spent most of my day trying to defend our mission to people who've never been to any of our events, haven't spoken to any of our members and who don't seem to know the definitions of the words they use as insults.
244 comments laters, soul-crimped and drained from having to be on the defensive for most of my day, I decided to just stop engaging, delete my question, leave the group and figure out a different way to explain the vision for NSFW.
So, I'm writing this article for two reasons.
One, because it takes way too much time to combat those who look to fan the flames on forums and I needed a link to send them when they start questioning our motives.
And two, cause it's very clear that most people out there don't understand what NSFW is looking to accomplish.
You can disagree. You can call bullshit and refuse to believe. Or, you can get off that self righteous high horse of yours and just accept that regardless of what you think, there are actually other ways of thinking in the world you might want to consider.
Honestly, not trying to change anyone's mind at this point, as most of the people who are against me will remain against me regardless of reasoning, but I do want this out there so that there's at least one place where the mission of NSFW isn't torn to shit by trolls and haters.
"NSFW is misogynistic."
Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls and can be manifested in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.
None of that relates to NSFW.
We don't exclude women but instead are a community seeking to support them, not only through education which promotes enthusiastic consent and empowerment through sexual wellness, but also through our charitable efforts. We donate to Planned Parenthood and causes for women's health and protecting a woman's right to choose. Our staff is majority female, including our instructors and in-house support. We don't condone violence towards women and have strict policies in place to prevent consent violations. We aren't here to objectify women, but celebrate the female form and respect a woman's right to embrace her sexuality.
While I've learned early to not call myself a feminist, as it encourages those who feel the title only belongs to women to question my every motive and more aggressively point out my flaws, fighting for female equality and women's issues has always been a highlight of my career.
During my work at Socialyte and NYLON we showcased women of all skin tones, religious creeds and body types. I fought to change fashion's obsession with traditionally white, young beauty aesthetics by representing women who were diverse and showcased attainable levels of real beauty. In addition, 90% of our staff was female including my past business partner.
While I'm sure I've made mistakes in the past, I've tried my best not to be misogynistic, not to ignore the issues facing women, and to not use my position or influence to negatively impact womanhood.
Now, you're free to disagree and think NSFW is anti-feminism, but before you do, let me ask you this, how many women's lives have you changed for the better through your actions? I have a couple million who've been impacted positively by seeing women of their body type and race in the pages of Vogue, leading the charge in changing what American publications consider "beauty". A couple dozen more I've guided in mentorship or as entrepreneurs, many now running their own media brands and becoming millionaires in the process.
Through NSFW I've helped educate men on practices which prevent the prevalence of rape culture, as well as been praised by our female members for creating a safe, non-judgmental and inclusive space in which they can explore their desires and learn more about their sexual wellness.
So I guess my question to haters would be this, how many women have you helped that you feel you're in a position to judge our work?
"NSFW is elitist."
When I was first interviewed on NSFW I used the word "affluent" to describe some of our members. This triggered a wave of people calling our club elitist and claiming we were catering to rich, white old men who pay exuberant fees to have a place to engage with younger females.
Maxim called us "New York's Most Elite, Private Sex Party" in a story and some feel that because a media publication considered our club as the most elite amongst the play scene, we somehow think we're better than everybody else.
We're just different.
NSFW is highly selective on who we share our clubhouse with, we provide an luxurious, but not pretentious setting for fellow adventurers, and we push education as the cornerstone of our mission attracting renowned educators and artists who provide an elevated experience for our members.
What makes something "elite" is subjective, especially when it comes to sex.
Elite is defined as being superior in terms of ability or qualities. Other play parties have qualities that are far superior to NSFW in my opinion. Elite isn't a term that only means money.
How much a person makes isn't a make or break factor in NSFW membership. (Do you think we're asking people for bank statements?). Because of this, I've been using the more applicable term "influential" in our messaging.
Our membership is mainly made up of attractive, successful millennials and people we'd consider influential. We do this for a few reasons, but the main one is because what we teach at NSFW is important for all to be aware of.
Influential people get the attention of others and influencing the influencers is the easiest way to push a positive message across. Over the past decade I've worked with and developed campaigns around influencers and celebrities and know first hand just how impactful they can be to their fans and followers.
I've built companies through influencers, created "it" products which would sell out in minutes and pioneered a new form of marketing focused on peer-to-peer storytelling which is still the most effective way to reach ad-averse millennials.
For me, catering to influential people is an obvious way to spread our mission. One person called it "trickle down sex positivity" on a forum. I just like to call it good marketing sense.
I believe that what we are doing at NSFW is game changing. We believe teaching people how to make love (not porn) is absolutely important to bettering the sex lives of others. We believe that enthusiastic consent must be taught and practiced by more. We believe that educating people on safer drug practices is important in preventing others from overdosing or becoming junkies. We believe that through a more adventurous lifestyle people will live happier lives, focused less on material possessions and more on the experiences they engage in. And we believe sexuality can be fluid, should be explorative and that through education we can help more people open up their ideas on sex and how they view the LGBTQ and open-love community.
I believe firmly, that by making NSFW available first to a selective group of influential people, that these principals and ideals can spread faster to more people. We do this by promoting an inclusive mentality at NSFW, a major reason why we're careful on who we let in.
"NSFW is racist."
NSFW accepts all types of nationalities, races and religious creeds. We don't discriminate and in the same way I was an avid supporter for changing the ideals of beauty in fashion publications, our membership is an proud example that sexy doesn't have a shade.
Our members include troublemakers of all ethnicities. We do still choose members based on attraction and influence, but the spectrum of beauty is wide in my eyes and that of our council. Amongst our members there Muslims, Christians and Jews. Nearly every skin tone is represented (still awaiting an albino applicant). As our community grows, we'll continue to accept members of all races to ensure our values can be preached to all.
I feel people thinking we're racist and only focused on white beauty aesthetics goes back to the incorrect "affluent/elitist" standard people think we've set. Which to me is a little bit racist, no? It's almost like the person saying we're racist because of this is a little bit racist himself cause he thinks only white people can be affluent?
I myself am hispanic so understand my concern when trolls claim that I think I'm "always right" in my thinking due to "white privilege". This one is probably the most concerning comment I've received on myself and NSFW, cause it completely ignores fact.
You don't know who our members are, you don't know of my history in promoting diversity or my won civil rights lawsuit against a venue that discriminated against black and hispanic models, but you're pretty confident to defame me by saying I'm a white dude who only wants white people at my parties. Good job.
"NSFW is unsafe for women."
Over the past two years, we've successfully hosted over 85 playful and play-friendly events for members of NSFW welcoming over 400 members and their guests through our Clubhouse.
Members are required to agree to our Code of Conduct and we provide an anonymous way to report any inappropriate behavior.
For larger play events we provide guardians who walk the event ensuring all guests are safe and enjoying our space responsibly. We provide free workshops on Enthusiastic Consent, ask members to sign a consent agreement before entering PlayDate, allow members to identify themselves as being okay with Implied Consent at events, ensure no doors are lockable at the NSFW Clubhouse, and have a light-play floor to ensure the comfort of all guests in attendance.
Participation is never required. Guests can dress to their own level of comfort. There's never a strike at midnight where all women must get into lingerie.
If inappropriate behavior is reported, we take immediate action to remedy the situation based on what occurred. Penalization includes warnings and reprimand, requiring these individuals to take our workshop on consent, temporarily suspending membership, revoking membership indefinitely, and/or reporting the incident in the event a crime was committed.
Since it's our mission to introduce NSFW to more people, eventually becoming a global movement dedicated to sexual enlightenment, it's extremely important that we consistently create an environment where female guests feel safe. In play settings, it's very easy for mistakes to occur which is why we're so committed to preventing them from happening in the first place.
Recently, we introduced special rates for women. This was done to allow more women to experience NSFW and our community. While I firmly believe in equality, I am not blind to the wage gap and the excessive costs associated with products sold to women.
Sexual wellness shouldn't be a luxury for women and because of this we provide a lower entry fee for our female members. Not only does this allow more women to learn from our workshops, but it also allows many to not rely on dates to cover the cost of entry, ensuring an experience that is free from reliance on men to cover things.
In addition, the request to reduce the price for women came from our female members, which we often ask for advice on making things better at NSFW.
While men at other play events may feel a few dollars is enough to earn a sense of entitlement over women, at NSFW we haven't experienced this yet. I'm truly hopeful that because we've been so selective on our membership this won't be an issue that we will have to face.
If things change in the future, or the atmosphere we've successfully cultivated over the past years changes, I'm confident that NSFW's female membership and council will be first to tell us.
Why don't you have special rates for everyone?
One of the strangest arguments I've seen is that if we give special rates to women then we should give discounts to all people who are disenfranchised.
One particularly snide commenter asked me why we don't give special discounts to single mothers or transexuals if I care about the marginalized so much. Another asked that if I'm such a supporter of those with less money why don't I let people choose how much to pay for events. I've never understood these argument.
Firstly, we're a start-up with a mission and in order to fuel that mission we need money, as much as I'd love to let members pay what they can to join and attend our events, this model doesn't work when you're trying to create a business or seeking funding. I have considered a non-profit model, or potentially exploring religious classification, but in all honesty, I don't see us raising lots of money to ensure people have better sex lives and religions are a bitch to run.
Secondly, when someone tries doing something good for one group why not praise that good act rather than say it's not enough? I don't think this way of thinking is constructive and I can normally shut these people down by asking what exactly are they doing that benefits everybody?
What major acts can they point to that didn't directly impact them, someone in their friend of family circle, or a specific cause they believed in? Do they truly rally for everything, raise for every charity and show in their actions that they are looking do things for everyone?
Instead, they waste their time pointing out the faults in other people's desire to do good. Trying to shame us for not caring enough, for not doing enough. Wasting energy on spreading hate under the guise of being "Social Justice Warriors". Trying to make others feel bad about doing something that makes others feel good.
Simply put, NSFW is looking to show support for women first.
A number of ways have been touched on above including our focus on sexual wellness and drug education, as well as our special rates for women, but we also have our Get Naughty, Give Back, which is our commitment to giving 6.9% of all profits to Planned Parenthood and other causes which promote women's health and a woman's right to choose. In addition, we host events where 100% of our proceeds are donated to women-focused causes.
So I really must ask, why is NFSW required to support all causes? Is our commitment to women's health not enough? And what outcome would you prefer? That we do nothing or only adhere to what you believe is the right way to support a cause?
NSFW isn't LGBTQ friendly.
We choose members based on attraction and influence which means our membership is made up of various sexual orientations and identifications.
We provide a number of options for members to choose from when creating their profiles including all types of sexual classifications and interests and recently removed the requirement for choosing gender.
In the same way we don't discriminate based off of religious affiliation, race or gender, we don't discriminate against any LGBTQ applicants.
I am a member of the LGBTQ community. I'm a cis bisexual male, a classification which many would say has limited representation in media and which endures it's own share of discrimination. Discriminating against other classes within my community would be senseless. Don't think for a second I don't want to do something truly impactful for the community I love and win a GLAAD award or make it on the OUT 100 someday. Total. Fucking. Dream.
As NSFW grows and our membership increases, I'm confident we'll have more opportunities to produce events that cater to specific groups, bringing our special dose of sexy to more people.
Until then, we'll continue to allow our membership to help us gauge the types of adventures we create, which have always been inclusive of all types of orientations.
NSFW isn't inclusive.
This one is true. We aren't inclusive. We are extremely selective on who we invite to join NSFW and therefore aren't a club for everyone.
Within NSFW, we do promote an warm atmosphere. We ask all members to think of each other as friends or partners in crime who share a similar thinking about sex and open love.
Hugs are encouraged.
That sense of being around friends and family is felt within our community and while we're selective on who's invited to share our space with us, we still promote a judgement-free zone for our members to enjoy.
NSFW isn't radical.
Main reason I hear this one is cause people think we only cater to rich people.
They often include an image which reads "If it isn't accessible to the poor it's neither radical or revolutionary."
Our membership is only $69 a month. Too much?
For those who can't afford that we offer a supporter membership which gives you free access in exchange for 3-hours of support at one of our events. So if you're not of means and meet our other considerations for membership, then please step right up and apply.
I would NEVER join NSFW. Gross.
Well, we didn't invite you, you didn't apply and with an attitude like that we probably wouldn't accept you anyway.
We reserve the right to be selective.
Hope that answers most of the concerns I've heard on the forums.
Always willing to hear other opinions and advice, I only ask that in the same way you expect me to respect your right to choose how you want to engage in sexual activities, we hope you're capable of respecting ours as well.