But she's been hiding in plain sight, going to great pains to conceal her name, face and identity on the blog — even as she exhorts her readers to "be open and honest."
The blog has become a safe space for sex-positive readers in St. Louis and all over the world to come together. It's created a virtual community, and Holliday and some of her kinky friends want to take that momentum and push the Midwest forward into greater sexual freedom and openness.
And it's hard to do that when you're hiding. So Holliday is coming out.
Kendra Holliday is 38, with long auburn hair. She favors the sort of rich brocade velvet dresses seen at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire. Her shoulders are often dusted in her signature silver body glitter, and a large gold pendant bearing the letter K always hangs from her delicate neck. She's got the lithe glow of a long-time vegetarian..
She grew up outside Creve Coeur, in the house her parents still share with her youngest sibling (a 25-year-old sister), three dogs and two cats. The house has photos of all five kids on the wall, alongside photos of nurse Mom and sailor Dad from the beginning of their 44 years of marriage. There's inviting-looking furniture on a back deck, the smell of recently burned incense, a patriotic welcome mat and Mom's collections — camel figurines and books on genealogy and history.
In a lot of ways, Holliday's early years were fairly conventional — on the surface. She was a smart girl and in her school's gifted program. With all the kids around, things were busy, and money was tight, but her siblings looked up to her then and still do now. She went through a goth phase and a weird-hair phase before getting married at 23.
But chaos, hurt and mental illness are themes in her family's history, just as much as the obvious love that its members share.
Holliday's parents are happy to talk about her childhood, but like many people in her life, they don't want to be identified by name. Incidentally, "Holliday" doesn't give away her parents' surname or her ex-husband's. She chose the name for herself and made it legal after her divorce.
Her parents adore her. They recall entering her into a beauty contest in Texas when she was three and are still genuinely shocked she didn't win. ("Some rich kid won," Dad sneers.)
Mom and Dad met cute — real cute.
"I was in the Navy, and my buddy had this fiancée," he says. "I told him, 'When you're writing your letter, if any of her friends want to write to me, I promise I'll write back.'" Holliday's mother took him up on his offer; after a year and a half of letters, they finally met — and got engaged on the spot. "Six months after we met, we were married."
That was damn near half a century ago, and when Dad leaves the house, Mom gets a big smooch from him.
The pair decided they wanted to have two biological kids and adopt two more. But years went by with no kids, so they adopted two boys first.
Then came Holliday, and four more biological children followed. Then a son died only a few days after he was born.
Mom's mental health went downhill, fast. There were suicide attempts and institutions and deteriorating relationships with the kids. Holliday says her mother attempted suicide at the baby boy's funeral.
Then the trouble with the adopted sons came to light — they were molesting Holliday and her sisters, starting when she was eight or nine.
"I was introduced to sex at a premature age, and not on my terms," she says.
Holliday told her parents about the abuse, but it took two awful years from that time to get the boys out of the house.
Cutting the adopted boys out of the family was traumatic, and, coupled with the baby's death, it was a crushing blow. Holliday's father responded by becoming increasingly caught up in work, even as her mother became more and more unhinged.
Around age sixteen, Holliday lost her virginity and was then institutionalized herself, her first of three stays in a mental hospital.
"A week shy of 16, this creepy 24-year-old I met at a party got my number, and he kept bothering me," she says. "He was manipulative and badgering me. I insisted on a condom. I decided I was pregnant and freaked out. I spent Easter in the mental hospital."
Holliday blames her mother.
"My mom screamed at me: 'Slut!' She used to be so smart and beautiful. I was nine years old, and my baby brother died. She's been crazy ever since. I didn't understand why she'd forsake her other kids."
"I didn't do it well," Mom allows. Today, she's in therapy and takes antidepressants. Her speech is slurred from some of her more radical treatments. "The others seemed to get over it so fast. I felt left alone, to feel all that pain by myself. There didn't seem to be any reason to go on living."
When Holliday was eighteen, her mother kicked her out of the house.
"I feel badly about it now," Mom says. "She wouldn't empty the dishwasher, and it was her job. I felt bad about it. I said, 'You can't live here anymore.'"
Her father didn't intervene: "I was just...at work," he says.
"She never really has forgiven me," Mom says. "It was an awful thing I did, putting her out of the house. I always said I'm never going to talk to my kids with the hateful voice my mother would use. Then I heard it coming out of my own mouth."
Holliday supported herself by stripping and escorting.
"I was nineteen; it was the worst year of my life," she says. "I felt like men were the enemy. It still wasn't on my terms. I mean, I did it; I drove over there. But I was taken advantage of."
"I always was along with everything you did, but I was super worried about you," says Mom.
In her early twenties, Holliday met the man — a dashing romantic character — who would become her husband, and then her ex-husband. Their sex life started out steamy but cooled after they became Mr. and Mrs. They had a child. After seven years, when Holliday was 30, they divorced.
Holliday, a natural writer, took to the Internet on a simple WordPress blog in 2006, mainly for "ranting," she says.
"I read a lot of blogs and thought, 'I have more interesting things to say.'"
Early posts were about prosaic topics: getting hit on by a doofus at the grocery store, books she liked, getting a job.
But Holliday's sex life was interesting, and getting more so — she was in a relationship with a man who initially wanted monogamy. Then another girlfriend moved in with them.
The more she blogged about it, the more people wanted to read about it.
"Through my twenties, I was in a contained box; it was safe and secure," she says of married, non-blogged-about life. "I turned 30 and was able to leave my husband and explore." She calls the blog "a safe haven for perverts, a way of replacing negative energy with positive."
The blog's name was conceived by her daughter, who wondered aloud during a car trip what kind she and her mother were, and then answered herself: "We are the beautiful kind!"
As the Beautiful Kind grew more racy, Holliday began to review porn films, answer questions and profile other sex-positive bloggers and real-life friends. But even with her interest in the wider world, Holliday kept things intensely personal: She has chronicled sex work, stripping, living in a triad with a male and female partner, having her heart broken and ultimately finding peace with a man who neither expects nor offers monogamy.
That man, her partner of two years, is known as Beast.
Like Holliday's parents, Beast was happy to talk about her, but he wouldn't allow his real name to be used. He's a 34-year-old mountain of a man, a divorced father of two, with a commanding and genial magnetism.
Beast and Holliday met through an ex of Holliday's. She wrote posts detailing the beginning of their love affair. They've been together ever since, without plans to marry or cohabitate or be sexually exclusive.
"Kendra's and my relationship works so well because I know what she wants," he says. "She can be who she wants to be. I don't give her guilt trips. We allow each other to be who we want to be."
And who they want to be is on full display on the blog. It's written primarily by Holliday, but Beast, her friends and her lovers write guest posts from time to time.
It's a beautiful-looking blog — and it gets upward of 1,000 visits each day.
"It is a fiercely loyal audience," says the Web Master, who, of course, also refuses to be quoted under his real name. "Generally, most of our traffic is current visitors — we get a lot of direct traffic from people who visit the site."
Holliday and the Web Master were coworkers once upon a time. He now volunteers his time to create their shared vision.
"Right now we're kind of preaching to the choir," he says. "She's trying to promote sex positivity — we want to reach people who haven't had that opportunity yet."
He says they're launching a revamped and much more interactive site, ideally in spring 2011. Plans include discussion forums and member profiles.
"Currently the website is not profitable," he says. "We'd like it to be. We're trying to broaden the website's appeal. We'd love to have advertising, partnerships with different companies."
The Beautiful Kind has a positive take on sex, in all of its sweaty, raunchy glory — and it never flinches when things get raw.
Holliday has detailed scenes of her partner physically dominating her, tying her up and pissing on her. She writes in great detail about the night her partner brought home a black man so they could enjoy watching his ebony skin (and dick) in and on her alabaster flesh. She describes meeting an elderly man for sex through the now-closed Erotic Services section on Craigslist.
A recent pair of posts took two views of one night. Her partner, Beast, described in breathless tones the night he met a female friend for drinks — a woman with whom he'd long had sexual tension. The pair had sex in the bar, with the bartender, after it closed for the night. The post is full of macho high-fiving.
Then Holliday wrote her take, detailing the searing jealousy she felt as Beast texted her photos of the pornographic scene at the bar.
"This is her passion; this is what she needs to be doing," says Beast. "She's absolutely, 100 percent helping people every day."
Holliday is assured, through e-mails and meetings, that she's changed lives.
Two lives she's touched are a married St. Louis couple, who — of course — prefer to go by the nicknames they use in the scene and on the blog.
"She is most certainly an innovator..." says Rockabilly Boy.
"...and a force in the community," finishes his wife, Rockabilly Girl.
The couple, who've been together non- monogamously for fifteen years, met Holliday and Beast after reading the blog and have since become dear friends. They occasionally comment on TBK and appear in stories when they're sexual playmates with Beast and Holliday.
"She's kind of a spirit guide," Rockabilly Boy says. "She's there to allow you to explore yourself. Kendra will tell you if she's speaking from experience. Before trying to educate you, she will learn."
The blog, they say, helps bring together the disparate elements of St. Louis' kinky scene — and they believe that cohesion will only increase when Holliday's name and face are attached.
But Holliday's growing influence has come with a price.
The blog had been going strong for four years, two of them almost entirely sex- focused, when in April, through an accidental linking of her personal and TBK Twitter feeds, Holliday's identity was briefly traceable.
Almost immediately, the nonprofit where Holliday worked fired her.
The person responsible for the firing did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment, even with anonymity guaranteed.
But a story that ran on the Daily RFT blog after the firing included an excerpt from the e-mail Holliday received from her supervisor:
"We simply cannot risk any possible link between our mission and the sort of photos and material that you openly share with the online public. While I know you are a good worker and an intelligent person, I hope you try to understand that our employees are held to a different standard. When it comes to private matters, such as one's sexual explorations and preferences, our employees must keep their affairs private."
The firing nearly ended the blog.
"I took the site down for three weeks. I thought that I should scrub myself from the Internet and find a desk job," Holliday says.
But she decided to forge ahead, resolving to make the blog bigger and better.
It wasn't easy. Holliday had been enlisted to appear in the New York City Sex Bloggers Calendar, which raises funds for sex-positive causes. But after she was fired, its organizers decided they didn't want Holliday as a model after all. (They told her she was too controversial because she had used her blog to rail against the firing.) She took heat on online forums and lamented in a post titled "I Am Not a Sex Blogger" that she wasn't being supported by her online cohorts.
One online community, however, decided to step up its support for Holliday. EdenFantasys .com is a Jamesburg, New Jersey-based adult-toy store with active forums — more than 7,000 threads are currently active. The store also publishes a magazine called Sexis, which Holliday has written for since 2009.
"We were disappointed when she was already thrown under the bus with being fired, and people started to abandon her," says Victoria Bowman Steinour, marketing director for the website. "There was not a lot of solidarity."
EdenFantasys.com decided to take a greater role in promoting the Beautiful Kind. It will be doing even more as she unmasks herself.
"We want to help her on to the next level in her life," Steinour says.
And that's where she's going.
Holliday's blog has long urged readers to be outspoken. Its motto is, "Be open and honest. Don't be ashamed of your inner pervert. Work the kinks OUT."
There have been plenty of scathing, not-safe-for-work photographs: a series of photos in late September documented Rockabilly Girl fisting Holliday's vagina. When the website Fleshbot picked it up, 10,000 people decided to have a look-see. But Holliday's face was always artfully obscured, and her name was never anything but the Beautiful Kind.
That's all changed.
"I keep thinking of Rosa Parks," Holliday says. (For the record, she stresses that she doesn't equate what she's accomplishing with the civil-rights hero's efforts.) "She could have decided she didn't want to be a nuisance. The fact that I'm doing this with a child makes it so deep. It's me saying I deserve to be here just as much as you do."
Holliday sees spreading the gospel of kink as her life's calling and has decided that the only way she can be true to her mission and to herself is to be out in the open.
EdenFantasys.com plans to help promote the newly revealed Holliday in several ways. Holliday filmed a video interview, which will soon be live on its site. She'll also participate in an interactive chat with readers.
"It's an honor to be there for her," Steinour says. "There are gonna be people who regret throwing her aside."
Today, Holliday lives in a little house not too far from where she grew up. She describes it as a fairy cottage — she says she's a witch, and ten-year-old Kiddo, who lives with her half the time, is a fairy. There are plants and terrariums and a huge stuffed giraffe called Matilda in the dining room. Three cats and a guinea pig live there, and there's a doll house that will reduce anyone who's ever been a little girl to squeals of delight — paid for with stripping money.
There are shelves full of books on erotic exploration, and Holliday pushes pieces of furniture in front of them when other kids come over to play. There are gorgeous paintings of her on the walls — some, but not all, are nude.
A candle burns in the small, neat bathroom. There's a book in progress next to the toilet: Ian Kerner's instructional tome on cunnilingus, She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman.
Holliday's bed is a simple futon mattress on the floor in her room, with a Hitachi Magic Wand (pretty much the Cadillac of vibrators) plugged in at the ready like a charging cell phone. There's a small altar with deities that inspire Holliday and a huge glass curio case that's mostly filled with glass dildos.
Kiddo is incandescent with energy, her long blonde braid jumping along behind her. She's got a trumpet, a sketchbook full of anime characters and a secret jar of secret ideas. It's a rapid-fire tween girl candy life, and Kiddo seems pretty pleased with it.
In the bedroom, Kiddo points out the dildo curio.
"This is my mom's...collection," she says, with the kind of eye-rolling disdain that ten-year-old girls have perfected.
Holliday acknowledges that, while outing herself will be a relief in many ways, there are almost certainly negative consequences on the horizon. It must be nerve-wracking for the neighbors to realize that it was her vagina full of fist they e-mailed to their friends. And while her parents and ex-husband know about the blog, Holliday still worries about the fallout for her partner and, of course, for Kiddo.
Recently, she gave the principal at Kiddo's school some advance warning about this story and her own publicity blitz.
She received harsh words in exchange.
"She was like, 'You're being selfish; you're going to hurt your daughter.' Yeah, she might be made fun of a few times, but it might save some lives," Holliday says, referencing the recent rash of bullied gay teens committing suicide. "I'm thinking ahead. I'm thinking long term."
The situation is definitely complicated. Susan Wright of the Baltimore-based National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, a nonprofit that helps protect the rights of people with alternative sexual interests, applauds Holliday's decision to out herself.
"When people knew people who were gay and were able to think of them as their friends and family, they could think of them outside the stereotype," she says. "We need to get the help of the bulk of Americans who really don't care about other peoples' sex lives, so we can fight against the people who want to legislate morality."
But Wright, along with others, can see the point in staying hidden.
"I would use as a caveat: If you are a parent of a child under eighteen, don't come out," Wright says. "You could have a great relationship with your ex — once you go public, they could get blowback from people in their lives and try to get custody. I would discourage it, but I admire it and support her wholeheartedly."
And Holliday does fear her daughter taking heat, if people make the connection between the two of them.
"I'm most afraid of anything happening to my partner or my daughter," Holliday says. "I don't want them to feel the heat of my courageous decision. If anyone says anything about me, and it's true, I'll own it. They can't shame me — 'Oh, she's a slut.' OK."
Both Holliday and her ex-husband have made it clear that the girl must not be identified by her real name. (He doesn't share Holliday's last name.)
Yet, Holliday allows, "If I really was that protective, I wouldn't come out at all."
Indeed, her ex-husband — we'll call him Ichabod Crane, based on a shared fascination with the literary character that he says drew the couple together in the very beginning — won't be identified by name for fear of revealing their daughter's identity.
But he has a lot to say about Holliday.
At a strip-mall Starbucks patio on one of the last hot days in September, Ichabod uses a receipt from Guitar Center to mark his place in a paperback copy of The Portable Nietzsche. Like his pseudonymous namesake, he's tall and lanky. It takes an hour of conversation before he's willing to shed his black Ray-Bans.
"Kendra and I are friends. I think we have a mutual respect," he says. "I think she'll tell you I'm a good dad, just as I'll tell you she's a good mom. We're more or less joined at the hip for the next eight years, so we might as well like each other," he says.
In the same breath, though, he allows, "There's still vitriol."
The pair married when he was 30 and she was 23. Ichabod says part of Holliday's appeal was her voracious curiosity — sexually, sure, but it was her intellectual hunger that impressed him.
According to him, that was the only one that lasted.
Things started out hot. ("Our second date we had a foursome with his roommate and his date," Holliday recalls. "I thought, 'Well, I guess this won't be a relationship.' The third date, I met his parents.") But, Ichabod says, marriage changed things.
"Kendra was sexually boring when we were married," he claims. "She wasn't willing to try anything. I gave up making suggestions. I can't say I didn't float things out: 'Let's try this or that.' These balloons were shot down with harpoons. Anything we'd done previously was shot down."
"We had a very vanilla marriage," Holliday agrees.
Before they were married and all that vanilla set in, they decided to go to a Mexican brothel. In Mexico, Holliday says, they found social taboos against lesbianism to be so strong that they could either hire an undesirable prostitute to service both of them or a hot one who would only touch Ichabod.
They went with the hot option.
"I got one of those cold, prickly weird feelings," watching him with the prostitute, she says. "I was so mad at him; it was so misplaced. I never wanted to do anything like that again. It was the last kinky thing we did."
Ichabod attributes the de-kinking of their marriage to "the bourgeois Middle West married lifestyle."
The marriage ended after Holliday had a fling with a woman in Mississippi, which she says she cleared with him ahead of time and he calls a betrayal.
Ichabod takes a somewhat sardonic view of the blog and Holliday's lifestyle, tempered with a guarded admiration for her gumption.
"Kendra is very honest and forthcoming about who she is, and I think it's horrible that she has to wear a social burqa," he says.
But he claims he no longer reads the blog.
"I found it boring and self-aggrandizing. There is a kernel of truth, but there is part of it that's professional wrestler," he says. "I'm not going to read somebody's fantasy football blog because I don't give a crap about fantasy football."
"It's really hard for him to wrap his head around things because he's so vanilla," Holliday responds. "Everything I write is true. People think I'm fake. There'll be no doubt when I show my face."
She says he's envious of her freewheeling lifestyle and feels left in the dust, especially now as the blog is going public.
"She's naive in thinking everyone's going to have this orgy of praise," Ichabod says. "But I admire her saying, 'This is my calling, and I cannot do otherwise, so I'm going to stand up for what and who I am.'"
Yet he says the idea of her coming out reeks of marketing: "She's not the most employable person."
Indeed, Holliday's coming out has been a coordinated effort worthy of any marketing maven. She's teased the coming out on the blog for weeks, even going so far as promising a commenter who lamented wanting to see her face that he would, soon.
"I think she's narcissistic enough to think people are going to enshrine and worship her now," Ichabod says. "She has dreams that she's going to be famous. I don't see it as fame so much as notoriety."
On a recent Thursday evening at Sandrina's on the edge of the Hill, about a dozen people sit around wearing "Hello, My Name Is" stickers and having drinks. The crowd ranges from a lemonade-sipping nineteen-year-old to a sixtyish fellow in a bright Cat in the Hat button-down shirt.
There's the Rockabilly couple, the long-time polyamorous married pair — yes, Rockabilly Boy has lots of tattoos, and Rockabilly Girl has blunt-cut pinup-girl bangs. Another poly pair representing PoDGE, a.k.a. Poly Discussion Group for Everyone, can't keep their hands off each other. There's a pair of gay men who've been together for eight years, a few timid folks who heard about the meeting through the Web, a bisexual woman with a small Afro and a poised undergraduate who helps head Washington University's Alternative Lifestyle Association. The fellow in the Dr. Seuss shirt is a grizzled dom who's opening a play space for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism in the coming weeks — the culmination of years of dreaming and planning, he says.
And, of course, there is Kendra Holliday.
The group has come together to brainstorm about sex, but it's much nerdier than that. Phrases such as "clearing-house" and "501(c)(3)" and "fundraising" are bandied about through the course of the meeting. (Although at one point someone does chirp, "You think you're excited? Feel these nipples!")
The group has just launched a website, Sex Positive St. Louis, at www.sexstl.com. It's been in the works for months. Many people in the group met through Holliday's blog.
The point, they say, is that the FOX News-approved coupling of one man and one woman married before the eyes of church and state who have sex for the purpose of creating children is just one spot on a spectrum of healthy loving behaviors adults engage in. As long as everyone is consenting and respected, anything goes.
People should be able to share their expertise and experiences, they say. After all, how else are you supposed to learn how to use a cat-o'-nine-tails or a cock ring?
"To me, Sex+STL is the vanilla people," Holliday says. "There's all these different sectors of people we were able to meet. I'm still scratching my head — those people who are out in west county — they are me, and they don't know it yet."
Holliday is leading the charge, which is part of why she's coming out: She can't lead while she's hiding.
Indeed, Johnny Murdoc, one of the gay guys at the meeting, says that the sex-positive community has a lot to learn from the gay-rights movement: "If you're not out, you're hurting us."
Some national experts believe that with honesty comes freedom.
"Being anonymous and being controversial opens you up to being exposed," notes Steinour, of EdenFantasys.com. "You have to live in fear that someone someday can spill the beans. They have to wait for the other shoe to drop. It's a pretty crappy tradeoff."
Tristan Taormino, a world-famous sex educator, author, columnist, and director and actor in pornographic movies, says that she's always worked under her own name.
"Anyone I went to elementary school with can find me on Google, and has," she says. "I can go on CNN and be debating some right-wing person who's going to be like, 'You're a pornographer!' I can be like, 'Yep, I sure am.' I reclaim terms like 'queer' and 'pervert' and 'pornographer.' Your words aren't going to hurt me because they're true. There is a level of freedom."
Yet Taormino is mindful that her situation is different from Holliday's: "I work for myself, so I have job security."
Holliday, of course, hasn't had that. She supports herself now with odd jobs, such as doing figure modeling and caring for an elderly man.
"In my wildest dreams, my partner and I will be able to help people, couples, become happier," she says. "We can help and make a difference. We really want to dig in there. I'm going to take a lot of bruises and beatings. I'm putting myself out there as a martyr."
She hopes the blog will reach even more readers — especially the so-called vanilla ones.
A business plan to monetize the blog, along with paid counseling for other couples, is in the works. "I'm really hoping there's going to be some rich old pervert or a sponsor or someone who'll come in and support me," Holliday says.
"I can't be self-actualized without showing my face," she adds. "I have to take ownership of this, to say, 'This is my face.' I'm excited for it. I'm scared."
Her partner agrees. "Her motto is 'open and honest,' but she's not being open and honest," Beast says.
But that's all about to change.
"When your face is out there," he concludes, "you're legit."