Friday, February 5, 2010

"An erogenous zoning violation"

I really tried to come up with my own equally clever title, but I could not think of anything better than the "erogenous zoning violation" caption that the Washington Post came up with in an article published today.

The protagonist of the story, Paul Pickthorne, was cited for commercial activity in a residential zone.  Ordinarily, this citation would not make the newspaper.  Pickthorne's commercial activity, however, involved BDSM parties or "bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism."  Party attendees would pay either $20 for a basic ticket, or $50 for a VIP ticket.

One can easily imagine how this sort of activity bothered the neighbors of this "tidy street of mostly 1950s brick ranchers" in Bethesda, Maryland.  The neighbors hoped to resolve the issue quietly by talking to their local government representative.  As this blog entry illustrates, they did not succeed. 

While the neighbors may want to exclude such racy behavior, the BDSM community appears to be quite inclusive.  Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, describes the community: "Men, women, transgender, heterosexuals, gays, bisexuals.  Every ethnicity.  White-collar and blue-collar.  It's really very, very diverse -- though we do have an unusually high percentage of lawyers.  I don't know why."

As if a zoning violation involving BDSM and lawyers isn't sufficiently interesting to make the Land Use Prof blog, an additional aspect of this story is that Pickthorne rents a "castlelike 3,600-square-foot McMansion" that likely does not fit in well with the surrounding brick ranchers. I think I could teach a semester's course based solely on this controversy.

Ngai Pindell

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/land_use/2010/02/an-erogenous-zoning-violation.html

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