Bethesda, Maryland, is, according to Forbes, one of America’s most well-educated small towns. It’s also the location of the most recent battle for sexual freedom.
Paul Pickthorne, a Bethesda resident, hosts regular BDSM parties at his 3,600-square-foot home (dubbed “a castle-like McMansion” by the Washington Post, which obviously hasn’t set foot in California since the early-00s, otherwise they’d know anything under 6,000-square-feet is a Mini McMansion. But we digress).
So the guy has BDSM parties. Why is this a problem? “Zoning,” we’re told. Specifically, something called R-60 — a zoning classification for subdivisions of single-family houses where commercial activity, for the most part, isn’t permitted. Pickthorne’s guests pay $20 to attend and $50 for VIP, making his parties a violation of the zoning code.
But, as we’re sure you already guessed, this isn’t really the reason the city has moved in. The crackdown is the result of horrified neighbors sending e-mails to County Council member Roger Berliner, a Democrat whose district includes their Merrimack Park subdivision.
“I share your sense of outrage that a sex club is operating in your lovely neighborhood,” Berliner wrote back. “I want you to know that my office has been advised that our County has moved aggressively to put an end to this blight on your community.”
Pickthorne received a written warning from a zoning inspector last week. But what happens if he decides to stop charging? If his gatherings are non-commercial, then he’s not in violation of anything.
When the Post asked Berliner, the City Council member hesitated, then conceded: “Certainly one has to respect everyone’s constitutional rights.”
But he was quick to assure the neighborhood: “our county will be exploring every legal means available to ensure that the activity taking place at this particular residence does not have an adverse impact on the community.”
We here at Sex and the 405 are disappointed. It’s patently obvious that the problem here isn’t a zoning violation or disruption caused by a party but a bias against people’s sexualities. God save us from “the kinksters”! Eye roll.
Hey, at least we only hit people with their consent, suburbia.