NXIVM Trial: How the Sex Cult Bought $900 Worth of BDSM Sex toys – Rolling Stone
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Sex Toy Testimony at NXIVM Trial Raises Questions About Kink and Consent

Graphic testimony about a $900 purchase of BDSM sex toys drew gasps from the crowd

Red Ball gag on pink background. Intimate toys. Sex abuse slavery. Copy space for text; Shutterstock ID 1364149847; Purchase Order: rs.com

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Witness testimony at the trial of Keith Raniere, the founder of the self-improvement organization and alleged “sex cult” NXIVM, sparked larger questions about BDSM and consent on Friday, when Sean Welch, the chief technology officer of the sex toy manufacturer XR, L.L.C., took the stand.

During his testimony, Welch produced documents indicating that Daniela Padilla, a member of NXIVM, ordered $900 of BDSM-inspired sex toys off his website ExtremeRestraints.com, including a remote-controlled electrified collar (dubbed a  “puppy trainer”), a studded rubber paddle, a hanging, rubber-strapped cage and ankle shackles. The May 26th, 2017 order was delivered to Padilla’s Albany-area home.

As requested by prosecutor Moira Penza, Welch described in explicit detail the sex toys purchased by Padilla, some of which were replicated in painstaking detail by the courtroom sketch artist. He read descriptions for a thigh sling with wrist cuffs that allows “you [to] call the shots while your submissive partner is restrained and at your mercy” and a “puppy trainer” collar “perfect for puppy play or naughty slaves.” The graphic descriptions occasionally drew audible gasps from the crowd.

Welch also testified that Padilla placed another order for a steel cage, a “Good Boy Wireless Vibrating Remote Puppy Plug,” and a “Puppy Play Hood and Breathable Ball Gag” — which was intended to “make your pet crawl around like a bitch in heat,” according to the product description read by Welch. That order, which was placed two days later on May 28th, totaled more than $1,700.30, though it was subsequently canceled due to an issue with payment and shipping.

While Penza did not ask Welch how the BDSM sex toys were used by Raniere, it is possible they were used as part of DOS, an all-female group allegedly run by Raniere that required women to provide nude photos as “collateral” and branded them with his initials. A former DOS slave identified only as “Sylvie” testified earlier in the trial that slaves were routinely struck by paddles if they did something wrong; Sarah Edmondson, another former DOS slave, has also alleged that women in the group were threatened with paddles and to be put in cages. Additionally, a few hours after Welch’s testimony, Lauren Salzman, a former master in DOS, alleged during her testimony that Padilla, who purchased the toys, was one of the masters in DOS.

During cross-examination, Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifolo — who has consistently argued that all sexual activities between his client and female NXIVM followers was consensual — took issue with the prosecution’s classification of the BDSM sex toys as inherently degrading, asking Welch to confirm whether there was a large “community of people who choose to have sex or intimacy with these types of toys,” and whether it is “absolutely 100% legal to buy these items,” both questions to which Welch replied in the affirmative.

To further drive his point home, Agnifolo also alluded to the “50-Shades effect,” or an increase in BDSM-related sex toy sales among mainstream consumers, which many adult product manufacturers had reported following the 2012 release of 50 Shades of Grey. “All the things we talked about could be absolutely consensual, correct?” he asked Welch rhetorically. “And when done consensually, it’s absolutely legal, correct? No further questions.”

The discussion of consent following Welch’s testimony is a recurring theme in the trial of Raniere, who is facing seven criminal charges including racketeering, extortion, forced labor, and sex trafficking. Earlier in the trial, “Sylvie” testified that Raniere and a “slave” named Monica Duran, coerced her into having oral sex with him and supplying him with nude photos against her will by threatening to release her “collateral” — in her case, explicit nude photos and embarrassing documents —  if she did not. In the BDSM community, which emphasizes the importance of informed consent, the use of collateral is widely discouraged, with one BDSM educator telling Vice last year that “there should never be something hanging over your head, where you have to do something — or else. That totally violates free will and consent.”

Penza, too, appeared to have no patience with the argument that DOS was merely a kinky sex club, asking Welch to describe “the importance of consent in that community” and referring to the kink community’s espousal of the message “safe, sane and consensual.”

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