Ever wonder what goes on between other people's sheets?
Pillow talk is a weekly series which explores what goes on behind closed doors and what other people are getting up to between the sheets... This week we meet Julia*, 39 who lives with her long term boyfriend Jamie*, 41, in West London. They've been together for five years. They met through mutual friends in 2010 and have been living together soon after. You can read part one and two here.
My husband and I have been together about five years and we've been married for over two of those. Prior to us being in our relationship, I'd come out of a celibate marriage and he'd been single for a while. We knew each other through mutual friends before we got together but we became close really quickly and we moved in together after about six months.
During the first couple of months we'd have long conversations about what we wanted, late into the night and from this discovered a joint curiosity of BDSM. Neither of us had experienced it previously but it was important, particularly for me, to explore a side of my sexuality that I'd never had the chance to previously. I also have chronic fatigue syndrome and this affects all aspects of my life, from how well I function physically, to my mental health and libido. My husband never knew me before I became ill over a decade ago, and has always been supportive and ensured I don't overstretch myself.
Due to my health we don't have the heteronormative 'PIV' (penis in vagina) definition of sex as often as we'd like, but that's not the be-all and end-all of sex. Mutual masturbation, sexting, kinky play and other activities all contribute to our sex life and it's great. Since being with my husband, I've come to realise that a lot of what we see and read about sex can lead to disappointment - everything tells us that orgasm is the end point of sex and that's not always achievable for me. At first it felt almost like failure, but now I enjoy the intimacy just as much and orgasm isn't so big a priority.
Our sex life does fluctuate, like anyone else's. For us, it's mainly due to my health - what we can do one day may be out of the question the next. My body can feel hypersensitive at times and this can develop at any moment. Also, my stamina isn't great after a decade of not being able to do much physically and on a bad day, I'm unable to walk far or climb the stairs in one go. We communicate really well and my husband knows that if we're in the middle of something and I say 'no', not to take it personally. It's frustrating for us both, but we know to switch what we're doing to something else that works for either him or us both (if I'm able).
I'm more submissive in the bedroom, so wait for my husband to initiate sex or a kinky play session. That said, if I'm in the mood, I will subtly let him know what I want!
When we first got together we were used to very 'vanilla' sex but over time we've found that we get off on kinky sex a lot more. From him holding me down or using restraints to spanking or being rougher with me, it works for us both. We always joke that even our romantic sex probably wouldn't look very romantic from an outsider's perspective! We definitely spend a lot of time talking about what works for each of us and it's brought us very close together. ...
When you think of porn, you probably picture a cable guy getting seduced by a busty customer. But that type of erotica—the type that's geared toward men—is just mainstream porn. There's also porn—both visual and written—for women, LGBT people, and other groups. Rachel Kramer Bussel should know: She's written her own erotica and has also edited more than 60 women's erotica anthologies. She has even more in the works, including Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 3, which is currently taking submissions.
We talked to Kramer Bussel about what her work has taught her about women, porn, and desire.
How did you first get into writing and editing erotica?
I was in law school and reading a lot of erotica at the time. I saw a call for submissions for a book of celebrity erotica titled Starf-cker. This was 1999, so my immediate inclination was to write about Monica Lewinsky. I did, in a story called "Monica and Me." It got published, and I've pretty much been writing sexy stories ever since. My anthology editing came directly out of having short stories published in other editors' anthologies.
Are there any themes you often see come up in erotica created by women more so than men?
The biggest commonality I see when I put out a call for erotica by women, without specifying a specific theme, is stories about submissive women exploring BDSM. I think that's part of what made Fifty Shades of Grey such a runaway bestseller and that even women who aren't into kink in their personal lives are curious about and hungry for stories where power dynamics, which we all deal with in our everyday lives, are so explicitly laid out and then eroticized.
Yes, women are interested in practices like spanking and bondage and being in submissive/dominant relationships, but I think beyond the specific ways BDSM plays out, what's refreshing about kinky erotica—and why women authors gravitate toward it—is that it's a space that allows women to ask for what they want outright and to own those desires. Often, you'll see stories where the dominant partner, of any gender, is commanding a woman to expressly articulate her filthiest, naughtiest, most out-there desires in order for them to be fulfilled. She's being "forced" to say "I want this or that," and that might be something that would make her, and likely many of us, blush or squirm or be filled with uncertainty. But it is also something that completely turns her on, even if she doesn't know why.
Sexuality is so fraught for so many women that even saying something as simple as, "I want to kneel on the floor at your feet," can be complicated because then we often ask ourselves, "What does it mean that I want to kneel at someone's feet?" Especially if it's a man you're submitting to, it can make you question your feminism, your autonomy, and your identity, all of which makes submissive erotica especially ripe for exploration on the page. That's also why it crops up (pardon the pun) again and again. I think there's really an endless demand for kinky erotica that showcases the wide range of reasons women want to submit and what they get out of it and how their submissive desires can play off a dominant's creativity.
Let me be clear that not all women are interested in writing or reading erotica about submissive women. Plenty of authors are also writing about dominant women and about nonkinky sexuality. That's just one of the largest themes I've encountered year after year, and that interest doesn't seem to be waning.
La ciencia ha absuelto ciertas prácticas sexuales que hasta hace poco tiempo se consideraban patológicas, pero la sociedad aún se resiste a aceptarlas.
by JAVIER YANES
Siempre nos habían contado que el porno era un instrumento vejatorio para la imagen de las mujeres, que las degradaba a la categoría de objetos. Al menos hasta que en agosto de 2015 un estudio de la Universidad de Ontario Occidental (Canadá) publicado en la revista The Journal of Sex Research llegó a una conclusión sorprendente: "Los usuarios de pornografía sostienen actitudes más igualitarias [de género] hacia las mujeres en puestos de poder, hacia las mujeres trabajadoras y el aborto, que los no usuarios".
El porno ya no es lo que era, si es que alguna vez lo fue. Desde que los sex shops pasaron de ser tugurios oscuros con ventanas opacas en los callejones de los barrios rojos a ocupar locales con amplios escaparates y decoración zen en los centros comerciales, las páginas web de pornografía siguieron un camino similar. Hoy son empresas normales de servicios, con departamentos de comunicación que difunden sus propios estudios estadísticos. Y éstos nos revelan que el panorama del porno ya no es el del cine Carretas que cantaba Sabina: según datos de 2015 de Pornhub.com, casi uno de cada cuatro usuarios de esta web de pornografía (24%) es una mujer. Y lo que ellas buscan con preferencia pasmará a muchos hombres: sobre todo sexo gay, tanto femenino como masculino.
Quizá más novedoso para algunos sea que los practicantes del sexo tenido por muchos como el más violento, el de cuero, látigos y cadenas, son en realidad muy diferentes al retrato estereotipado de la moralina hollywoodiense. Si uno se atiene a películas como Asesinato en 8 mm, Instinto básico o Nueve semanas y media, el BDSM (siglas en inglés de Bondage, Discipline/Dominance, Submission/Sadism, Masochism) "parecería a primera vista una práctica abusiva propia de sádicos sin corazón y víctimas con baja autoestima", resume a EL ESPAÑOL Sandra LaMorgese PhD, dominatrix, escritora, formadora y comunicadora, autora del recién publicado libro de memorias Switch: Time for a Change (Edge Play Publishing. aún no publicado en español), en el que cuenta cómo el BDSM cambió su vida. "Pero las apariencias suelen engañar, y con el BDSM esta confusión es especialmente profunda", insinúa LaMorgese.
Un ejemplo es el estudio publicado el pasado abril en la revista The Journal of Sex Research, donde se descubre que los practicantes del BDSM, acostumbrados a una cultura basada en normas de consentimiento mutuo, son más intolerantes que el resto de la población hacia la violación y la culpabilización de las víctimas de agresiones sexuales, así como hacia el llamado "sexismo benevolente" que niega la autonomía de las mujeres. Los investigadores destacan que "los resultados contradicen un estereotipo común del BDSM" que erróneamente representa esta actividad como "una salida aceptable para la agresión sexual contra las mujeres".
SALIR DE LA MAZMORRA
En los últimos años, el BDSM ha sido objeto de una transición que lo ha sacado de las mazmorras de la depravación moral para situarlo como una opción más dentro del amplio menú de diversiones, que no perversiones, sexuales. Sin duda ha contribuido a ello el fenómeno literario y cinematográfico de 50 sombras de Grey, del que se dice que llevó el sadomasoquismo a muchos hogares donde hasta entonces el único látigo era el de las películas de Indiana Jones. Pero sobre todo, y dado que ni los psiquiatras ni los jueces se guían por las películas o los libros de moda, lo que ha llevado el BDSM al territorio de la normalidad sexual ha sido el cese de su definición como patología mental.
Hasta 1987, el Manual Diagnóstico y Estadístico de los Trastornos Mentales (DSM) de la Asociación Psiquiátrica Estadounidense, considerado en todo el mundo como la biblia de la psiquiatría, incluía las prácticas habituales del BDSM dentro de las "desviaciones sexuales". Sólo 14 años antes, en 1973, la homosexualidad había abandonado la lista de las enfermedades. En 1987 se introdujeron las parafilias como trastornos mentales, pero en 1994 se acotó este diagnóstico exclusivamente a los casos en que existía "sufrimiento o disfunción clínicamente significativos".
Por fin la quinta edición del DSM, publicada en 2013, distingue entre parafilia y trastorno parafílico. "La parafilia es una condición necesaria pero no suficiente para tener un trastorno parafílico, y una parafilia por sí misma no necesariamente justifica o requiere intervención clínica", dice el DSM-5. El diagnóstico de trastorno parafílico se reserva así para los casos en que existan "consecuencias negativas para el individuo o para otros", como ocurre con la pedofilia o el exhibicionismo, que "para su satisfacción conllevan acciones que, por su nocividad o daño potencial para otros, se clasifican como delitos".
Sin embargo, este cambio no llegó por sí solo. En la absolución psiquiátrica de las parafilias consensuadas entre adultos desempeñó un papel clave la tenaz campaña emprendida de 2008 a 2013 por la Coalición Nacional para la Libertad Sexual (NCSF), fundada en EEUU en 1997. "La gente venía a la NCSF en busca de ayuda porque estaban sufriendo discriminación por los profesionales de la salud mental debido a la errónea creencia de que, por ser kinky [término referido a los practicantes del BDSM], eran enfermos mentales", explica a EL ESPAÑOL la fundadora y portavoz de la NCSF, Susan Wright. Simplemente por practicar sado, vestirse de mujer (los hombres) o confesarse fetichistas de pies, muchas personas "estaban perdiendo la custodia de sus hijos y sus empleos", señala Wright. Una encuesta de la NCSF determinó que el 37% de los kinky eran víctimas de acoso o violencia.
"El cambio en el DSM-5 ha tenido un impacto drástico en los niveles de discriminación hacia la gente kinky", dice Wright. Los datos son contundentes: en 2009, 132 personas perdieron la custodia de sus hijos por este motivo; en 2015, sólo 19. "La misma semana en que se publicaron los cambios, sometimos los nuevos criterios en un caso de custodia, y el juez reprendió al trabajador social por no estar al tanto de la ciencia actual", cuenta Wright. La portavoz añade que el número de personas que acuden a la NCSF en busca de ayuda se ha reducido a la tercera parte desde antes del DSM-5. ...
6 ways to determine if an open relationship is for you...
BY JAZZ KEYES
At the peak of racial and social trauma in the world, one could argue that the last thing society should be concerned with is who or how many people a person decides to love. Yet, sex still stands to be one of the most taboo topics in our culture. Many will reject the idea that a person can love many, but for those who choose to live this lifestyle, their decision is supported by numerous benefits.
I would have purchased front row tickets to see the reactions on people’s faces as they watched world-renowned comedian, actress, and mother, Mo’Nique boast proudly about her open marriage. In a society that promotes monogamy and marriage, the boldness it takes to hold hands on a Christian-based television show and unapologetically declare that you have chosen a nontraditional arrangement should be praised.
As a proclaimed free spirit, I honor everyone’s right to choose a life and love of that is pleasing to them. I’ve both cheated and been cheated on. I’ve been in love, and still desired the conversation, affection, or time of other people. As a woman who has done all of these things, I wonder if Mo’Nique and her husband are valid in believing that it’s best to have an open relationship.
Polyamory is defined as the desire to have more than one intimate partner. I wonder if polyamorous relationships are a relief to all the difficulties that come with monogamous relationships, or would having more than one partner only complicate things on the home front?
While many will squirm at the idea of an open relationship, I think it’s worth examining. Those who practice a non-monogamous lifestyle would argue there are multiple benefits to open relationships including:
At the core of a polyamorous relationship is the need for strong communication. Polyamorous relationships require constant open dialogue, truthfulness, and the consideration of your partner’s feelings. The constant exchange increases trust between partners, and the free flowing transparency gives permission for emotions to be addressed in a healthy way. Polyamory allows partners to openly express their attractions, desires, wishes and needs all in a way that minimizes unhealthy emotions like insecurity and jealously that is often present in more traditional unions.
You Stop Demanding Perfection in One Person
We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. It suggests that we will never get 100% of what we need from our partners. The friction occurs when we give more attention to the 20% we don’t receive. In monogamous relationships, you simply learn to appreciate what you do have, instead of focusing on the 20% you are not receiving. In poly relationships however, instead of going without a portion of what you need in order to experience complete satisfaction, you and your partner seek 100% satisfaction by connecting with more than one person.
It’s Not All about Sex
Most rush to judgment when it comes to polygamous relationships. Despite what the consensus may be, these relationships are less about sex and more about developing healthy, rich connections with people. Polyamorous relationships allow you the freedom to exchange energy and build healthy, empowering friendships with people who serve to connect you to your higher self. These connections may never lead to sexual intimacy. ...
In Portland, Oregon – one of America’s most sexually tolerant cities – it seems you can’t throw a stone without finding a consensual non-monogamous relationship
by Melanie Sevcenko
hen Franklin Veaux was 10 years old, his elementary school English teacher read his class a story about a princess being wooed by two princes. “I thought, princesses live in castles, and castles are big enough for all three of them, so why does she have to choose one?” he said.
Throughout his life, Franklin – now 50 and living in Portland, Oregon – has never chosen one. In fact, he’s never had a monogamous relationship in his life, even while he was married for 18 years. “Monogamy has never connected with me, it’s never made sense to me,” said Franklin, who took two dates to his high school prom and lost his virginity in a threesome.
Yet it wasn’t until the 1990s that he found the language to describe his lifestyle. Until then, he just considered himself “open”.
Polyamory is the practice of intimate relationships involving more than two people with the consent of everyone involved. In recent years, polyamory is working its way to becoming a household term. Researchers have estimated that 4 to 5% of Americans practice some form of consensual non-monogamy. A 2014 blog post by Psychology Today revealed that 9.8 million people have agreed to allow satellite lovers in their relationships, which includes poly couples, swinging couples and others practicing sexual non-monogamy.
And in Portland – home to swingers’ clubs, the most strip bars per capita, and annual porn festivals – it seems you can’t throw a stone without finding a poly relationship. Although there’s no official data supporting an exact number, various Meetup groups boast a few thousand members each, while other Facebook groups have hundreds.
“Portland is an amazing place if you’re poly, oh my god,” laughed Franklin, who is rarely seen without his bunny ears. (Given to him by a lover, he refers to the ears as “sexually transmitted”, meaning his other girlfriends now wear them too.) “It’s actually one of the most poly friendly cities I’ve been to,” he said, listing Boston, Tampa, San Francisco and Vancouver, British Columbia, as other poly hotspots. As for its social acceptability, Franklin said, “a lot of it is just exposure. It was almost impossible before the advent of the internet to find other people that were polyamorous.”
Polyamory in the public eye
That exposure has only risen recently. Showtime’s reality TV series, Polyamory: Married and Dating, has certainly helped herald the lifestyle into homes across the US. But this spring another show, hailed as television’s first polyromantic comedy, also launched. You Me Her follows married couple Jack and Emma – attractive, suburban and professional – as they enter into a polyamorous relationship with grad student Izzy. Unsurprisingly, the show is set in Portland.
“I kid that I have a Portland fetish,” said You Me Her writer and creator, John Scott Shepherd. “I just dig the city for its vibe, including the social tolerance thing, like being named the gay friendliest major city in the country.” But Shepherd said he wasn’t fully aware of Portland’s poly reputation when he chose the city for the show.
Since airing You Me Her, he’s been contacted by a number of members of the poly community. “They appreciated the creative decision to go with so-called ‘normal’ people who never thought they’d do something like this,” said Shepherd, whose show has been renewed for a second and third season. “That creative conceit seemed to reflect their experience: they don’t see themselves as ‘sex people’.”
Julie Jeske is a Portland-based counselor who works with couples identifying as poly. “Because Portland is more progressive in general, it may be easier for someone who is exploring what others may consider an alternative lifestyle,” she said. “There is more information and more support, less stigma.” ...
When Google Calendar launched in 2006, breaking down the boundaries of monogamy was probably not the first objective of its engineers.
Polyamory, where people have more than one romantic partner with everyone's knowledge and consent, has particularly benefited from platforms like Google Calendar and Google Keep.
There isn't a great deal of technology purpose-built to support polyamory or new types of relationships. There is the Poly Life app, but it's limited by the fact it's only available on iOS. Apps like Tinder, while they do help people find partners, don't support relationships that are already formed.
Google Calendar and Google Keep, on the other hand, have helped polyamorous people work out the terms of their relationships online. While Google declined to comment for this story, the company may have inadvertently lowered the barriers to entry.
Negotiating the boundaries
Polyamory stands apart from many monogamous relationships in that it's highly negotiated — who sees which partner when, what type of contact is permitted and how much is shared.
This is where Google Calendar excels, allowing partners to work out their relationships down to the minute details. You can share all events with a partner, for example, or simply allow them to see whether you're busy or free. Alternatively, you could build an entirely separate calendar together.
Simon Hildebrandt, 37, a web developer in Sydney, and his partner have opted for full calendar sharing. "It's very much a personal choice with each person. It's something that we often discuss with people in the poly community — how open you are with multiple partners," he told Mashable Australia.
Google apps also help to keep partners on the same page.
For one 29-year-old student in western Sydney who preferred not to be named, the note-keeping app Google Keep has been particularly helpful.
On the app, which is synced to both their smartphones, she and her boyfriend keep a list of everything they've agreed to and issues they'd like to discuss. "It's mostly for agreements of what we'd like to do in our relationship," she said.
Those include the requirement they each meet a prospective partner over a number of occasions and consent to certain types of contact.
For her, using Google Calendar is also a good way to ensure you have time for yourself, something she finds vital when negotiating with multiple partners.
"Everyone is very, very concerned about making time for everyone," she explained. "Taking into account that time ... for thinking about their mental health and how much mental health time is required." ...
A few weeks ago, Diana—not my girlfriend's real name—mentioned that a friend had just quit a high-profile gig at a high-profile restaurant to embark on a new career.
"She's dancing at Saint Venus Theater now," Diana informed me.
"Oh, nice," I said. "Is that on- or off-Broadway?"
Diana narrowed her eyes in disbelief.
"You really don't know what Saint Venus Theater is?"
According to its site, a marvel of late-90s web design that still links to a MySpace page, Saint Venus Theater "is an art, music, and performance inspired erotic venue." I have attended SVT just often enough to know that the only accurate piece of that statement is the word "erotic." Saint Venus is where your iBanking buddy takes you to get touchy-feely lap dances from women who do not identify as strippers. Even "venue" is misleading—SVT has no fixed address and occupies a constantly shifting roster of vacant Manhattan clubs and restaurants. The "art" is whatever happens to be hanging on the walls, the "music" is a worst-of selection from Top 40 hip-hop and R&B. These events are members-only, and every Tuesday we lucky few wake up to an email that contains a secret password and the addresses for that week's three, sometimes four events. That password—plus $50, cash—gets you in the door.
You'd be forgiven at first for mistaking the scene inside for a boozy hedge-fund mixer. In the darkness of the sprawling spaces, the women, often vastly outnumbered, can be difficult to spot among the sea of suits. But there they are, dressed in formfitting, easy-off cocktail attire, most looking like they belonged to a sorority as recently as last semester. There are no stripper poles in sight, and only a PG-13 amount of skin. The "SVT girls," as the member emails refer to them, sip drinks, check phones, and make small talk with guests. Most of them have—and are happy to discuss—other jobs and ambitions (not that there's anything wrong with lap-dancing for a living). I've met alleged med students, alleged classical violinists, alleged actress-slash-models and, once, an acquaintance of my little sister. After giving you a fake name and asking what you do for a living, the typical SVT girl will offer you a dance—$20 a song—take you by the hand, and lead you to a back section, hidden by curtains, where the action takes place.
And now my girlfriend's friend had quit her job to join them.
"She wants to dance for us," Diana said. "We should go."
Diana and I do this kind of thing from time to time. Like eggplant, I can tolerate monogamy with a dose of spice and exotic accouterments. After years of trying and failing to walk the line in vanilla relationships, I realized that, as the boxing coach Eric Kelly says, every thing is not for everybody. I don't remember exactly what I said to Diana when I fell hard for her three years ago, but it went something like this: "I'd be happy to commit my mind and soul to you, but I think we should keep our bodies in the public domain, because the idea of having sex with only one person out of a possible seven billion seems kind of insane."
Diana, who was dating a woman and a man when we first met, said that sounded good to her. ...
When she was a journalist, Olivia Troy decided to write a story on men who liked being sexually dominated. She accepted an apprenticeship with a professional dominatrix—and became hooked on the rush of power and uncensored sexuality. Now, after having spent several years as a dominatrix herself, Troy is a BDSM consultant, helping TV shows and Broadway productions tell accurate stories about kink. She's also the host of the new podcast "Bedtime Stories," where she reads erotica to listeners.
Troy views her career as part of a larger effort to empower women sexually, which she also believes empowers them in the rest of their lives. We spoke with her about what it's like to be a dominatrix and what happens when women gain control over their sexuality.
What first appealed to you about being a dominatrix?
I first thought, "I'll just do this so I can learn some things and then I'll quit" because I was like, "I don't need to be a sex worker. I have a master's degree." But I was just amazed by all of these smart, interesting, vivid women. I found myself suddenly in the company of women who really did not have to apologize for anything, women who really were themselves, their unedited selves. Among my fellow apprentices, one was a Fulbright scholar who spoke five languages and played classical piano. Another was a math prodigy.
It was an incredible opportunity to engage with men who were finally in a space where they could be their whole selves, to reveal a part of themselves that they weren't able to share or felt uncomfortable sharing with their family or being public about. There was a safe space where we could celebrate and honor that, and it felt like an incredible privilege. It just satisfied me on so many levels. It was intellectually and emotionally challenging. It allowed me to be sexual and flirtatious. It also allowed me in a healing way to hold people accountable for promises they made. It exists in a space where actions and consequences are genuine. It has been and is some of the most challenging work I've ever done.
What do you mean by "hold people accountable"?
For example, if you live with somebody and you tell them to wash the dishes and they don't do it or they won't take out the trash, then, in a relationship, you have to sort of go into this battle. But in a BDSM context, it's always, well, "I gave you an assignment to do and you didn't do it, so I'm going to give you six cane strokes"—whatever the consequence may be. But it's not as fraught. It's not as if somebody disappoints you. You can say, "Hey, you did not fulfill your obligation, so you're going to be punished."
How exactly did the dynamic with your clients work?
It depends on the submissive. Not all submissives are task-oriented. Not all people who see dominatrixes are even submissive. Some of them are fetishists. Some of them are seeking a particular experience. Sometimes, they want to be in bondage, which can be a very meditative experience, to be in very restrictive bondage. But when there is a service element to their kink or their expression of submission or to the context in which they serve a dominatrix, then there are assignments. Sometimes, the assignments are performative. Sometimes, they are life-enhancing, like assignments to lose a certain amount of weight or to modify one's diet. It's really like working as a life coach to help some men be their best selves, and one of the ways you can be your best self is by expressing and articulating all of yourself, and here's a space where you can be all the man you are without judgment, and that's a really wonderful thing. It's an opportunity that a lot of us as adults don't have.
You hear about men who feel like they have to be dominant all the time, and they see a dominatrix to get relief from that. Has that been your experience?
I think women and men, culturally, as a society, are always getting the message that we must be strong, that we must take charge, that we must lean in, that we must be independent. For some, that's true, I suppose. But you get those signals as well. Do you see a dominatrix? There's absolutely the cliche of "I'm so dominant in my professional life" and everybody wants to talk about that stupid story. Sometimes, they want to have an opportunity where they don't have to make decisions, and who doesn't want that? Suddenly, you can go into a space where there's somebody who tells you what to do. The liberty, the freedom of just being able to do what you're told, and it is not your responsibility how it all turns out—don't you want that? ...