Let’s Get Kinky

BDSM has shown me there’s more in life than just missionary and cowgirl.

I’m starring at a wall of dildos in every length, girth and color you can imagine. I’m seriously questioning who the hell is fitting that large of an object in any orifice of their body. If I turn around I’m faced with nipple tassels, edible lube and Ben Wa balls. I happen to be right off Interstate I-80 in Newton, Iowa at the Lion’s Den, an “adult superstore.” Being that this was my first visit to a sex store of this magnitude—I’ve only ever perused the back department of Spencer’s and giggled at the penis shaped macaroni and cheese—I had no idea where to begin. So I started with gaping like a fool and avoiding eye contact with other customers and workers.

I’m here because I want to get kinky—or at least attempt to.

With my boyfriend in tow, we’re aspiring to try our hand (or should I say bodies) at BDSM to see what all the hype is surrounding the type of sex life Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele have in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. I’m a pretty basic girl when it comes to sex, and don’t get me wrong, that works great for me, but if a culture like this is spreading like mad there has to be something special about it. And I wanted to find out just what.

Of course, unless you’ve been living as a monk in Nepal, you’ve heard of the Fifty Shades of Grey series—and even then a copy probably got snuck into the monastery. It has topped best-seller lists around the world, selling over 125 million copies worldwide. The series depicts erotic romance, featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM). Although the books (and films) have been widely successful in pop culture, there’s debate over whether the stories are representative of real BDSM practices.

The Guardian interviewed real life BDSM enthusiasts to see what they thought of the film’s depiction. The real life enthusiasts weren’t too impressed. “I was shocked by how awful the film was. Ridiculous, really. The sex scenes were so vanilla. It didn’t look particularly kinky to me,” said Emily Sarah, a fetish model and performer. Possibly to the surprise of many, Sarah found the film vanilla; a term used within the BDSM community to describe sexual activity that does not involve BDSM play. 

Real Life Kink 

With this disconnect between the film and the real life culture, I found it more useful to understand what regular, everyday kink looks like. Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, defined what kink meant to her in an interview with the Des Moines Register. “It’s about stimulating other parts of the body and the mind and the heart,” she said. “… For some people, it’s not a sexual thing at all. It’s a spiritual response, a cathartic response. For other people, it’s an endorphin rush, like a runner’s high. For other people, though, it’s sex and how they have sex.”

While this article with The Des Moines Register was very useful and informative, it took a while to find online information about BDSM that wasn’t, well, frightening. Google searching phrases like “dominatrix near me,” and “BDSM for beginners” took me deep down a rabbit hole of sketchy online group chats and erotic photos of women being tied up. Not quite what I was looking for. I’m still waiting for Facebook to pick up the analytics from my searches to customize my ads. There’s a bit of a difference between Victoria’s Secret and erotic bondage ads—especially if someone decides to look over your shoulder while you’re scrolling through your feed.

It took a decent amount of digging, and rewording of my searches to find helpful information on BDSM; a BDSM for Beginners would have been great.

From Vanilla to Everything But The…

For someone who has been having very tame, rom-com style, vanilla sex all her life, my research on what BDSM really is did not calm my nerves for what I needed to do. The two conflicting stories of what the Fifty Shades series presents, and what the community describes for realistic BDSM left me a little uncertain of what to incorporate into my sex life. I wanted to try things that were considered to be inside the realm of BDSM, but I also found the craze surrounding the kink in Fifty Shades to be compelling. With my boyfriend in agreement to basically have a ton of sex for a week or two, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try a little bit of everything (Okay, well my vagina got sore after a while, so it did hurt a little).

We kept it pretty simple the first night; my boyfriend tied my hands together to the bed frame with a tie. Then he pulled my shirt up so that it would cover my eyes and prevent me from seeing anything. This may sound pretty sexy, but in reality, I couldn’t stop giggling the whole time.

Just as things were heating up, we decided to cool off with some ice cubes.

Again, neither one of us could take this seriously, but we tried our best. The premise of the ice cubes is to have your partner take the ice in their mouth and drop icy kisses all across your body. So, as I lay tied and blindfolded on my bed, I waited in anticipation of what was coming. And, actually, it wasn’t that bad. Nothing too stimulating or earth shattering, but kind of nice. The only moment when the touches of ice made me suck in my breath was once it made it down to my lower regions, but even then I was feeling ok about the whole deal.

Lions and Dildos and Flogs, Oh My!

While the light bondage and goose bumps from the chill of the ice was a lovely first try at kink, we needed more intensity. And by more intensity I mean something along the lines of a flog or paddle. This is how we landed in the Lion’s Den surrounded by sex dolls, dildos and purple fuzzy handcuffs. I can honestly say I have never seen such a wide selection of fake penises in my life. We slowly made our way around the store, ogling at all products, exchanging confused and alarmed looks, and making a number of inappropriate jokes.

After the cashier had already asked us twice if we needed help with anything, which I politely declined due to the fact that I was beyond overwhelmed, we made it to the bondage/fetish section of the store. As expected, there was a section dedicated to toys used in the Fifty Shades movies right next to the other bondage and fetish items. I took a quick look at them but swiftly saw they were way beyond my price range, so I stuck with the generic ropes and flogs.

After a lot of contemplation and pacing back and forth, my boyfriend and I left with Ben Wa balls and a two-in-one feather tickler and flogger. The Ben Wa balls are used in the Fifty Shades book (I’ll go into full detail on these later) and of course we had to get some good flogging into our “play” time, but a more vanilla version that involves gentle feather dusting as well.

Getting Ballsy

We’re now well equipped with the tools to really heat things up. First up are the Ben Wa balls, these are for women and they are inserted into the vagina. There are two balls connected on a cord that also has a long loop on one end for retrieval. When the balls are in place, slight movements of the hips or thighs should cause them to roll or make contact with one another, producing a pleasant vibration.

Sticking a foreign object up my vagina is not necessarily my idea of a sexy time, especially when a lot of sources give you tips on how to get them out if they become stuck. In full preparation to bear down and push them out if needed, my boyfriend helps me insert the balls. They’re of a normal size so the insertion is nothing frightening. Once they’re in I start to wiggle around. I stand up, sit down, and move my hips and butt back and forth. Nothing. My boyfriend rubs and massages my thighs and butt to see if they’ll move around. Nada.

A little disappointed, we remove the Ben Wa balls (which come out with ease, thank the Lord). Hopefully some flogging will cause a little more excitement.

My boyfriend starts out nice and easy with the feather tickler along my sides, which is effective due to the fact that I am intensely ticklish. Then—when I least expected it—he’d use the flog end. The flog we bought was small so each slap with the tails/thongs left behind a mere sting that quickly went away. The tails of the flog actually felt nice when slowly dragged across my body, and just as soon as I would calm down after a slap and enjoy the gentle touch, my boyfriend would coil back for another light flogging (it was merely a flick of the wrist, and kind of annoying to me, which was hilarious to my boyfriend). Although I still felt pretty foolish and way out of my element, the whole act felt fun and sort of mischievous. It made me understand the excitement of doing something people consider to be so taboo.

Future Dominatrix?

I have to say after my experience with BDSM and all the research I did into the subject, I have a better understanding and appreciation for the culture and those that participate in it. Here’s the big ‘but:’ I highly doubt I will continue any further endeavors into this lifestyle. Through most of my experience with BDSM I felt uncomfortable, silly, and that I wanted my vanilla sex back. I do believe this experience helped spice things up between my boyfriend and I for a couple weeks, and if we ever get too used to the taste of our normal sex, we now have some tricks up our sleeves.

I’m convinced BDSM is not for everyone, and I’m also convinced that whether it is for you or not, that’s ok. If you like to tie people up, enjoy the sting of a flog, or like to have your nipples clamped than that’s your prerogative. People shouldn’t feel judged for doing what they like. I, on the other hand, just so happen to enjoy my less aggressive, somewhat lovey-dovey sex. And I think that’s just fine too.

Animals Are Not Collectables

Animal hoarding cases are a serious matter; one small town in Iowa discovered just that.

Her new name is Lucky Penny and that’s probably exactly how she feels to finally be in a loving home. Formerly named Karma, a bloodhound that was severely injured by attacks from other dogs in an animal hoarding case, has found a family with the very man who rescued her, Warren County Sheriff Brian Vos. Vos and a team of officers removed Lucky Penny and 18 other live dogs from various properties belonging to Lindsey Morrow.

When Sheriff Vos found his Lucky Penny she was in hypovolemic shock due to hypothermia and had extensive injuries. Lucky Penny suffered sepsis from the attacks by other dogs that were in the trailer she was being housed. She lost an ear due to the damage and was severely underweight. Her fur was thick, matted and dirty. Her face hung sadly and her expression was one of fear, pain and uncertainty. Lucky Penny was in veterinary care for four weeks before she was ready to be adopted.

When her adoption day finally arrived, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) shared a post about the heart-warming occasion. “Sheriff Vos hasn’t been able to get Karma (Lucky Penny) out of his mind since that day, and yesterday, she was cleared for adoption. So today, they meet again,” they wrote. “We are happy to announce that she will be going home with the very person who saved her life.”   

What is Animal Hoarding? 

According to the ASPCA, in the United States a quarter of a million animals fall victim to cases of hoarding. Animals “collected” by hoarders range in species from cats and dogs to reptiles, rodents, birds, exotics and even farm animals. But many people don’t know what animal hoarding looks like. Tuft University explains it like this: First, the person will have more than the typical number of companion animals. Second, they will have an inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness, and death. Lastly, the individual in question is in a state of denial of the inability to provide minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the house, and any other people living in it.

In animal hoarding cases it is common to find up to several hundred animals in various states of neglect. It is also common to find collections of other junk and garbage in the home, as well as many layers of feces. Dogs and cats have been found kept in cages, crates, hutches and even kitchen cabinets. In many instances, hoarders will even be reluctant to get rid of animals that have died.

Scott Wilson, the Animal Welfare Intervention Coordinator with the ARL, told me that, “A lot of the time you find that hoarders tend to fixate on the animals and won’t burry the dead ones.” Dead animals are frequently found in the freezer or refrigerator, or even lying around the house. Hoarders feel that they “love” their animals, but they are unable to see that they are not caring for them responsibly.

Why Do People Hoard?

Animal hoarding shares some of the same characteristics exhibited by hoarders of inanimate objects. Object hoarding has a strong association with a variety of mental health issues, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Animal hoarding, however, has some important differences in comparison to OCD related hoarding. Animal hoarding does not seem to share the same array of repetitive compulsive behaviors, and animal hoarders have a greater impairment of insight, potentially reaching delusional levels in comparison to OCD patients.

Hoarding is actually now classified in the DSM-5 as a distinct identity: hoarding disorder, under the category, “Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders.” Wilson talked to me about how it’s good that hoarding is being recognized as a separate entity, “The treatment methods and the actions you need to take with a hoarder are different then the normal obsessive compulsive behaviors.”

Gary Patronek, director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University, has done a considerable amount of research into the psychology behind hoarding. “Perhaps the most prominent feature of these individuals is that pets (and other possessions) become central to the hoarder’s core identity,” he writes in Municipal Lawyer magazine. “The hoarder develops a strong need for control, and just the thought of losing an animal can produce an intense grief-like reaction.”

One recurring theme seen among animal hoarders is a history of neglect or loss in their childhood. To put plainly, they attempt to fill their lives with the consistent love they feel they were (or are) lacking. The belief that they are on a mission to save animals is another common characteristic of animal hoarders.

The SandyVille Case

In February of 2017 the Warren County Sheriffs department in Iowa discovered three deceased dog’s bodies in various stages of decay, along with 19 neglected dogs from various properties in SandyVille, all belonging to Morrow.

“I was involved from the get go,” Wilson said. “We [the ARL] coordinated with the Warren County Sheriffs department and met a deputy out there [the property]. We swept the first property and found the two deceased dogs.”

Warren County continued the investigation and soon called Wilson back out to SandyVille, “The next day they found three locations with 19 live dogs and one more deceased. We assisted them with getting the dogs off the properties and into our care,” Wilson said.

Once the dogs were safe within the ARL’s care, the Warren County filed a petition for a dispositional hearing. This is a provision under state code where, rather than hold the animals for months and months pending a criminal hearing, it’s a civil hearing, where if the judge finds sufficient evidence that the dogs (or other animals) are being neglected, the judge can award them to either the local shelter or the local law enforcement division.

“We had a dispositional hearing, the judge did award all the animals to the Warren County Sheriffs office, who then signed them over to us,” Wilson said. Morrow has since been charged with five counts of animal torture and 22 counts of animal neglect, as well as theft, fraud and ongoing criminal conduct.

On The Road To Better Lives  

Once the dogs were officially placed with the ARL, the staff began work to get them on the road to recovery—both mentally and physically. “We’ve been doing behavior work with some of the dogs. There were a few that weren’t in hideous shape, so it only took a little bit of work to get them ready for adoption,” Wilson said.

Other dogs, including Lucky Penny, had to have much more serious veterinary work done. “I know one dog is still having some work done on it’s knees, they had to do some surgery,” said Wilson. Most of the dogs have already been adopted into loving homes, like Lucky Penny. Others still need a little more TLC from the ARL staff to get them ready for their forever homes.

“We’re committed to getting all the dogs into new homes. They’ve been through enough as it is and they deserve something better,” said Wilson. 

Not Just the ‘Crazy Cat Lady’

One of the most important things when it comes to animal hoarding is the help of others to prevent it. Towards the end of my interview with Wilson I asked him if there was anything else I should know about animal hoarding that I hadn’t asked about. “A lot of these hoarding situations could have been stopped when the person has 10 or 15 animals,” he said. Wilson continued to say how it’s easy for people to say, “Oh it’s just the crazy cat lady down the street, she’s not bothering anybody,” and then suddenly it becomes a case with 100 to 175 animals.

“It is so much easier to fix the problem before it becomes a crisis,” Wilson said. “People need to be willing to step forward and say there’s a problem.” The ARL’s website also reiterates this idea, saying when you see a neglected or abused animal, take action. Don’t hesitate to help the helpless. You may be the only chance an animal has to end suffering.

There isn’t a lot done to psychologically help these hoarders, therefore, animal hoarding has a nearly 100 percent recidivism rate, states The Humane Society. Removing the animals from a hoarding situation can temporarily solve the problem, but long-term intervention is needed to prevent another crisis.

“A lot of animal control divisions see the same people over and over again,” Wilson said. “State laws and city ordinances don’t recognize the need for psychological evaluation of hoarders… and they really can’t stop themselves, so they start [hoarding] again as soon as they get out of the court system.”

The Humane Society recommends that animal control, social services agencies, and health and housing agencies work together to treat each animal hoarding case as a long-term project. There needs to be more done in order to prevent the cycle of animal neglect from continuing over and over. Psychological intervention and evaluation is lacking in these cases and it needs to be addressed to save the lives of innocent animals.

They Deserve Better 

Wilson has been working as an Animal Welfare Intervention Coordinator for about 45 years, and he says it doesn’t get much easier to see what happens to the animals he encounters on the job. But, the reward comes when an animal that has been neglected, abused or tortured is able to overcome that fear and pain.

“You watch them go from a dog that’s huddled in the back of the kennel, afraid of everything that’s happening, and over the course of several weeks they begin to blossom,” Wilson said. With patience and care from the staff at the shelter, the animals become used to human interaction and are able to feel safe, which is a feeling some of these animals have never had before.

Wilson told me people don’t get into his line of work for the money, but what you get out of it is much more rewarding. “To see these animals blossom until they finally go to a new home, a home that’s going to give them what they didn’t have before—it’s worth all the money in the world to me,” Wilson said.

Her name says it all; Lucky Penny has been given a second chance at the life she always deserved. From picking her lifeless body off of the feces-covered trailer floor she was trapped in, to taking her home, Sheriff Vos has changed Lucky Penny’s life and given her a new beginning.

In the ARL’s statement on the case they thanked the Warren County Sheriff’s office for their quick action. “Karma (Lucky Penny) and the 18 other dogs are alive today—they were literally saved just in time.”