Open-uri20190426-4-tavb3f_thumb

Kayleigh Stack

Activist, Writer, & Ethnographic Researcher

New York City

Kayleigh Stack

NY-based writer, blogger, ethnographic researcher, human rights activist, & Provocateur

Open-uri20201005-4-1kv0d0z_profile

The momentum of change

What do our current displays of anger, rage and hurt communicate? I asked myself this after returning home from another night of protests in New York City. The first protest I attended was Friday May 29th, 2020 at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The following Sunday, protesters gathered in Foley Square and marched up Broadway to Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
Open-uri20190522-4-1mt2r0i_profile

Never Alone In New York

Waking up at 4am, for most, can be the precursor for a difficult day. For others, going to bed past the hour of midnight has the tendency of setting one up for failure. Myself, far more resonating with the former, would prefer 6am, as even this is early for the earliest of us. However, on occasion, especially when not being as social as an extrovert like myself would prefer to be, I find myself perfectly well fit to rise before the sun with a tea in hand sitting besides a candle lit window cracked open in the allowance of the late-spring-turning-to-summer air seeping through its screenless creaves to greet my skin.
society & Culture Link to Story
Open-uri20190507-4-207s5t_profile

Why New York

Ever since I was a young girl I would idyllically obsess over a potential life for myself in New York City. I should mention that I am a New Yorker, however, it wasn’t until the age of 17 and moving to the city proper that I had come to learn there was a critical identity distinction between us upstaters and those who were born and raised in New York, NY.
Society & Culture Link to Story
Open-uri20190425-4-1b1jfpj_profile

Sex- its fall, its rise, or its unprecedented trajectory?

The frequency in which one has sex is different for each person. Some of the factors that play into individual sexual frequency are religious beliefs, cultural constructs, the dynamic of a relationship, difficulty finding a partner, finding a partner only to realize you're not sexually compatible but the companionship feels safe, or perhaps you still live at your parents and it’s killing your mojo. Either way, why some are and others are not having sex with healthy frequence is unique with each individual and can not be diluted by broad-stroke blanket statements. One might believe with all the online dating apps out there (tinder and okcupid no longer the sole competitors) that there must be an endless supply of attainable sex. Attainable, available, copious amounts of sexual partners that everyone is engaging with except for...you? Purportedly recent evidence has demonstrated that you may not be alone. The current generation of young adults may live in an era that simulates an allure of limitless options, but in truth has created more of a spectator sport out of dating than one of participation, as is represented in the Atlantic’s “Sexual Recession” piece. Sex, in addition to marriage and religion, are all inextricably linked to one’s overall happiness, reports Wilcox and Stone is their article “The Happiness Decline”. Wilcox and Stone correlate the decline of these three variables in recent years to the decrease in our overall happiness. This begs the question of whether such factors of marriage and religion, as well as sex in the conventional definition, should continue to be used to measure happiness or not, especially in younger generations. If such factors are no longer reasonable gauges for measuring the sexual frequency of current generations the question remains whether our sex lives have truly been on the decline or if our measurements used in the past are unable to gauge the more recent trend of the atypical dynamics of romantic partnerships. If this is the case, perhaps it is rather our sex lives no longer fall into conventional frameworks. With the advent of gadgets, technology, robots, and other options for forming intimate relationships over the past two decades, we as a species have begun to chart unpredictable territory in terms of pairing up. As the mechanisms for forming interpersonal connections are changing, as are the relationship themselves. In these unconventional times of bonding there becomes a need to re-examine how both the current and future generations will define partnership. Treading the water of binaries is a danger zone, however, with a current dialogue claiming a sexual recession in recent generations, it becomes hard not to sway attention to the simultaneous existence of another sexual trajectory hatching, contrasting the storyline of a culture in sexual decline. Sex parties Community organized sex parties are not entirely new and in fact have provided hedonistic outlets for pleasure seeking adults for much of the developing world. However the ubiquity and their more mainstream accessibility among certain demographics have begun to make what was once taboo increasingly more acceptable. More often than not these are parties that do not discriminate against sexual orientation and invite authentic connection for encouraging safe spaces to explore unconventional ways to fulfill the very human need for touch and intimacy. These generally safe spaces foster conversation of consent, vulnerability, and of course the use of protection if one choices to move is such a direction although it is by no means necessary. What was once something taboo, whispered about, or perhaps soley a San Francisco past-time either as an artifact of the 60s or reserved for the filthy rich of the Silicon Valley’s Brotopia, has become a global multigenerational movement. The rise in safe and increasingly sober spaces for non-judgemental sexual intimacy among mature adults is perhaps filling some of the void that researchers have alluded to when linking the decrease of marriage and sex to happiness decline. As more people are marrying later in life or choosing different versions of relationship outside of monogamy, it would be easy to equate the evident decline of marriage and sexual frequency that to a decrease in happiness. However, perhaps this might be a bit premature. Community sex parties are not only a solution for the interpersonal deficit that has been felt with the advent of technology, but it also presents an option for those who are of a generation that appreciate their indepence, are happy with their personal work-life balance involving friends, hobbies, and travel, and are therefore seeking different options apart from the commonly trekked trajectory of monogamy and marriage. In fact such events can be seen as an innovative solution for encouraging the next generation to be more authentic about their sexual desires both within and appart from partnership. What in the past has been coined “Monogoanish” orpolyamorous is perhaps demanding an entirely new and reformed definition. While some might call this community of hedonists “non-committal”, this perspective must be challenged by one of an alternative viewpoint. It is easy to stigmatize that which is unfamiliar, as humans have been notorious of such derisive behavior for centuries. Instead embracing a generation adapting to a new model of companionship could be a healthy solution that contrasts from the baby boomer’s often choices of marriage or divorce. What is being asked now more than ever is what lies within the gray area between the two historically diametrically opposed options? New models such as sex parties challenge what has generally been the status quo. However, like any innovative growing trend, with time and increasing acceptance, such alternative options for engaging in new forms of intimate adult encounters could likely fade from the labeling of “alternative culture” to that of being normalized, as is already becoming the case within small pockets of adults in the US. As a culture, and a species, we are in a deep need of one another, specifically in the form of physical touch, more than ever before as technology continues to create simulated- two dimensional versions of connections via facebook, video chat, remote office meetings, or google hangouts. Although it's fantastic to be able drop in with friend or a lover halfway around the world at the drop of a hat through a gadget that can fit in the size of our palm, none of these are viable options for substituting for the real thing- human touch. Therefore you might be surprised with the increasingly casual demeanor it could become to receive an invitation to a sex or cuddle party- where you can bring a partner or have no shame joining alone. OMing: Apart from the explicit sex parties, another phenomenon has grown dramatically in the more recent generations, known as “Orgasmic Meditation”, or “Oming” for short. This is a nationally recognized mediation group that provides, specifically female, sexual pleasure in the form of clitoris stimulation. Like the sex parties you can opt to go either with a significant other or find a (hopefully dexterous) stranger at the event itself to partake in the activity. Single or in partnership this national trend has become a safe space to explore intimacy and deepen connection. Oming is not necessarily a place to find a relationship or a romantic partner, although I personally have heard of such things happening, but rather it is a safe space to connect intimately with another person by enjoying the giving or receiving of pleasure without being goal oriented. Orgasmic Meditation does not place priority on climax, as it’s not about “getting or going anywhere”. More so it's about connecting to one’s body and oneself while being witnessed and held in a supportive container to do so. One of my favorite poets- John O’Donohue has mentioned that “Nothing in creation is ever totally at home in itself”. In being witnessed by another in one’s pleasure without the need to sexually reciprocate or perform, the being seen by another at moments of esatic pleasure can aid in this sense of wholeness alluded to in O'Donoghues writings. Pleasure is just as essential as food, shelter, and water. Yet, even in contemporary culture sex and pleasure can feel taboo and obligatory, as though there is some holy scripture saying one has obligation to sexually satisfy thy partner. Often times this false sense of responsibility held in sexual dynamics remove us from our own bodies and pleasure centers, making what is meant be erotic more like an arduous task. OMing is a movement that eliminates the need to “do anything” and allows for one to simply feel the experience. The Orgasmic Meditation movement has carved out a place for fine-tuning the art of receivership in a goal-oriented world cultivated around the constancy of optimization and doing. Tantra: The Tantra movement, which in recent years has been given the epithet of Neotantra, has had a revitalization. Tantra, with its origins in the the word tanoti meaning “to expand or to liberate” offers philosophies and methods for connecting to oneselves more deeply and allowing that personal connection to the self to be a place from which connection in then made with others. As modern Tantra programs, coaches, and mystery schools continue to arise and disseminate their interpretations of traditional Eastern texts, the core of what is being focused on in such derivatives of the teachings are different forms of authentically relating as adults. While Tantra is often considered a practice of sacred sexuality, the sexuality that is explained in the practice is not entirely oriented in the physical act of sex. In fact, the mechanism of sex itself could be considered more of a happy byproduct than the purpose of the practice. The current tantra schools and coaches host workshops to provide tools for adults in cultivating more fulfilling sexual and loving relationships with self and others. What the philosophies of (neo)tantra is offering in an era of supposed sexual paucity is a practice and school of thought where both women and men can communicate fears and desires around sex in an open non-judgemental forum. The encouragement of such open conversations potentially can deconstruct deeply ingrained acculturated beliefs and habits around sex that have historically subjugated both men and women. The most predominant voice on the scene right now in the creation of sex educators is ISTA- the International School of Temple Arts. ISTA is a non-profit educational organization that focuses on cultivating fearless and shameless relationships with self and others through sexuality. Sex doll Robots: A far newer trend that has arose more recently and appears to be growing, as demonstrated by researcher Kate Declon in her new book “Turned On: Science, Sex, and Robots” are Artificial Intelligence sex dolls. This has probably been, and will continue to be, the most taboo of all the current sex trends in response to technology and the changes it’s had on human companionship. Kate says that while there are many critics in response to the growing market, she cautions those who are not within the community to hold off from jumping to conclusions and stereotypes. Herself having received access not only to Abyss Creations in California, which is where the company’s warehouse that make the dolls is located, but she was able to meet some of the purchasers of the product and found they are probably opposite from what may be assumed. Rather than being socially isolated, a hallmark characteristic that generally makes it hard for someone to form companionship, she instead found they were a very social, close knit community and often engaged with one another in supportive ways. It is easy to pigeonhole technology being the culprit for eccentric desires such like this, yet ancient Mythology that Kate shares throughout her book, demonstrates that the ideolozation and desirous behavior for effigies or inanimate object is far from a recent behavior. Even apart from mythology she provides an example from the 1700s where sailors were given bundles of clothing made to appear like a women for them to have sex with while out to sea for long periods at end. Long story short, it’s not a new trend. Those that buy the dolls are also not always doing so for sex. Many purchase the artificial lovers for the companionship. In this sense, what is so different from one’s choice the companions of a cat versus a companionship of an AI dolls? It might just be a matter of preference. Due to it’s unfamiliar terrain it's easy to criticize such behavior, however Kate believes the fear around this “soon to be growing market” is a result of that which is unfamiliar. The unfamiliar, as she mentions, is very uncomfortable and there has yet to be a collective construct around how to respond to such a product for people to take any comfort in. The AI sex doll is our generation’s response to meet a human desire that far predates dating apps. It is meeting the desire for the deep-seated need for longing and human companionship, in the new era of convenience meets romance. Sexual Recession or renaissance? Our culture's relationship to sex, marriage and the role in which each play in our lives are showing evidence of declining perhaps due more to the dynamics for exploring intimacy changing in recent years, with a few detours from how previous generations approached romantic encounters. As new trends for adult connection become increasingly traversed- through apps, workshops, private and public sex parties, erotic mediation groups, tantric trainings, and human sized robots- the way in which conversation will be held around topics of sex and happiness will need to become much more nuanced than the conventional understanding of the classic dyad of the traditional coupling. In a world that has been built in the direction of convenience, our definition of what it means to be supported by a romantic partner has broadened to an uncharted domain.
Society & Culture Link to Story
Open-uri20190427-4-870tyu_profile

The “Sharing” Economy

The philosophy behind the Sharing Economy – where access to resources and assets have become more important than ownership itself (Conrad 2014:7) – is far from new. Albeit revolutionary to the current neoliberal market economy in which all conventional monetary exchanges take place, the very concept of access to 'shared' resources can be dated back to medieval times (De Moor 2008:179), if not earlier. Essentially, the Sharing Economy – an economy marketed as an innovative alternative to the omnipresent capitalistic economy – has been predicated by multiple iterations of alternative models, which brings us full circle to the origin of shared access to resources – the commons. Although some have claimed that society is being redesigned to ​promote ​the commons (Conrad 2014:4), it is more appropriate to say that the concept of the commons is simply getting more bandwidth and notoriety via technology and collaborative communication outlets. The increased awareness is effectively emphasizing a ​need for a​ redesigning of society in more favor ​of ​the commons in the effort for citizens to reclaim ownership of public resources and their labor value, to build a 'market' of shared responsibility (Barlow 2014:36).
Academic Link to Story
Open-uri20190427-4-lh9m1w_profile

The Radical Acu-Punk Movement

As acupuncture has become more integrated into the dominate Western medical system with accreditation and licensure, much of the radical history of its introduction to Western culture has been skillfully neglected. The institutionalization of acupuncture education has developed in capitulation to the Western medical model's licensure standards, essentially adopting the 'master's tools' in the effort for the practice to be validated through legalization protocols as a safe, and initially, affordable form of health care (Elbasani 2011). With the institutionalized control of the profession, what was once an affordable health care practice for marginalized communities has been subsumed by capitalism's white privilege (Jones 2015).
Social Activism Link to Story
Open-uri20190427-4-c3lwoo_profile

A Response to Alternative Economies Literature

The distinction, as well as unity, between the ​class​ and the​ party​ has oscillated throughout different historical revolutions. Each revolution – beginning with the German workers-council movement in the early 1900s (Bologna p. 5), followed by the Russian proletariat revolution (1917), the workers' control revolutions in Italy and Spain (1920 – 1939), the Venezuelan factory struggles and worker control initiatives (1989-2007) (Wallis p. 13-28), as well as the Argentinian uprisings (2001 -present) (Lavaca collective p. 7) - have all learned from one another and redefined the relationship between class and party in attempt to obtain further success in worker-led movements, where their predecessors may have failed. Of course these movements are not as linear as the above timeline might suggest, however, such sequential order does reveal the origin, development, and current state of international worker-control initiatives. Additionally, in understanding the historical backbone for such revolutions, it becomes clear as to how the Maoist thought - shared in the above quote - developed and if it is still relevant and applicable in today's uprisings against the neoliberal-capitalism.
Academic Link to Story
Open-uri20190427-4-1ld5omk_profile

War Tourism and its “Authenticity”

The largest tourism niche Vietnam profits from today, and has been since 1986 when the country began to encourage foreign investment and travel, is war tourism. The profits earned from the country's history and centuries of turmoil under western powers are undeniably beneficial to its economy. In addition to helping the country's economic wealth, such tourist exhibits also serve to educate those who had either never heard about the incidents or were ill informed by the media. To be able to see the location where the events took place first-hand offers both a more "authentic" experience for the tourist as well as an opportunity for the residents to clarify their history through personal narratives.
Academic Link to Story
Open-uri20190427-4-5lfqy5_profile

Debt Economy

With the continuous proliferation of capitalism post 1990's New Order Regime, and the ongoing incessant expansion into what are now becoming fewer “wild” and ostensibly “empty” territories, there have been new developments in the “whys” and “hows” for extracting and utilizing both natural and human resources globally that are beyond “an enactment of commodification or conquest” (Tsing p. 33). The injustices of commodification and conquest have been seen and experienced for centuries. More recently, the relentless push toward a globalized world, although continues to include such century-old foundational forms of power insertions, also encompasses newer neo-colonialism/neoliberalism counteracting initiatives. Such initiatives, which will be described more below, that have been adopted by government and corporate relations, are used as an attempt to “off-set” the various destructive effects of globalization, as well as both the damaging short-term, yet perhaps productive long-term, effects on human quality of living (that is depending on what side of the 1% you might be on). Using Ulrich Beck's “Risk Society” as mentioned in Etienne Balibar's ​Politics of the Debt ​(Balibar p.1) and Joseph Schumpeterian's theory of “Creative Destruction” in Geert Lovink's ​Friends with Money ​(Lovink p. 6) the following paper will attempt to draw from these two theories to explain both the disadvantages of neocolonialism's heroic intentions for sustainability, along with some of the purported advantages that claim to be experienced in the long-run, in the ever-changing unstable economic system.
Academic Link to Story
Open-uri20190430-4-1mzl72y_profile

The Acculturation of Stripping

Whether or not one has attended a strip club, most people understand the general concept of the venue; nude, or almost nude women dancing for men. Although the clubs are legal facilities, the women participants are often stigmatized from outsiders who are not involved in the lifestyle. Once inside the club, however, the stigma dissipates and the female dancers are accepted from their male customers, even venerated. In contrast, while the females are stigmatized from “outsiders”, the males that attend the venues are rarely condemned. Since the men are not permitted or ​suppose​ to do anything with the ladies, attending a strip club is not viewed as an act of infidelity for the most part, if the customers do happen to have a significant other. Just like getting a drink or playing a game of pool, the institutionalization of a strip club makes it acceptable for men in committed relationships to look at another woman’s body; often considered to be just another male bonding ritual.
Society & Culture Link to Story

About

Kayleigh Stack

I am a New York-based human rights activist, writer, and ethnographic researcher deeply passionate about society, arts, technology, and culture in NY, the sociology of love, sex, and partnership, feminism, women’s rights, gender, and issues around social inequality.

As a writer and researcher I know myself to be able to deliver high quality, well vetted content, both sophisticated and accessible to a company’s specific demographic of readers. I am highly creative in the ability to offer alternative perspectives to a commonly read subject, revitalizing and bringing new life to a popular circulated topic.

In addition to women’s rights, human rights, social inequality and gender issues, my personal interests also involve climate change, stories around civic duties to generate global environmental initiatives, health and wellness, and narratives that inspire collective incentive to do more good in the world.

While these are the subjects I believe my background of anthropology, sociology, and alternative healthcare to be most suitable for, I am also highly versatile and enjoy being challenged in a variety of topics.

Open-uri20190426-4-tavb3f_profile_large

Skills

  • Culture Writer
  • Blogger
  • Human-Rights Activist
  • Ethnographic Research
  • Writer