We all have at least one, and most of us have many: Sexual fantasies. In fact, it's normal, and even healthy, to have sexual fantasies.
What might not be normal is the type of sexual fantasy you're daydreaming over. A new study is helping shed light on which sexual fantasies are prevalent and which are unusual and rare.
Until recently, scientists had limited data on what constituted a normal sexual fantasy versus an unusual one, and most surveys that had explored this sensitive territory had surveyed only university students. But a big new data set has changed that.
To find out once and for all what the general population thinks about, a team of scientists at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, straight up asked 1,517 adults residing in Quebec about their sexual fantasies. They published their findings on Friday in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
"Clinically, we know what pathological sexual fantasies are: they involve non-consenting partners, they include pain, or they are absolutely necessary in deriving satisfaction," lead author Christian Joyal said in a statement released by the university. "But apart from that, what exactly are abnormal or atypical fantasies?"
The team conducted an internet survey with 799 women and 717 men, where the mean age of the subjects was 30 years. Of the sample, 85.1% said they were heterosexual, 3.6% said they were definitely homosexual, and the rest were in between.
The survey involved 55 statements that probed the nature and intensity of the subject's sexual fantasies. The subjects rated each statement on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 meaning they had experienced a very intense fantasy about what was described in the statement and 1 meaning they had not felt any intensity at all for that fantasy. ...
You go to a therapist. You dump all your neuroses out. The therapist prescribes antidepressants against your will, tries to get your children taken away from you and reaches for the phone to call the cops.
Probably not what you bargained for. But it’s just one of the stories Charley Ferrer has heard from a client who told a past therapist she loved being whipped. Ferrer is a sex therapist and psychologist who specializes in clients who prefer so-called kinky sex, which essentially means unconventional sex practices. Ferrer’s particular focus is on people who engage in BDSM, or bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadomasochism — think whips, blindfolds, paddles, cuffs and more. “It’s my job to help people accept themselves,” says Ferrer.
Turns out, a huge chunk of the population is kinky. A 2005 Durex survey reported that 36 percent of Americans used masks, blindfolds or bondage during sex, and the more than 3 million users on Fetlife.com, a social network for kinky people, is a good indicator of how widespread kink is. What’s more, observers have seen an uptick in both therapists and clients — Ferrer’s have tripled in a few years.
But therapists with kink know-how are hard to come by — there are only 1,500 listed in the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom’s Kink-Aware Professional Directory — meaning millions are underserved. And those who practice it say this community in particular needs access to therapy: Stigma is still widespread, and past traumas can emerge during BDSM sex. Ferrer recalls clients breaking down when a suppressed experience came rushing back after a flogging session. The trauma could be the result of child/domestic abuse or even something seemingly unrelated. Other times, therapists have to help clients whose fetish is taking over their lives moderate their extracurricular activities. Plus, the overall social stigma can cause people to second-guess what they find attractive and develop anxiety or depression, says Dr. Randy Carrin, a Connecticut-based clinical psychologist. ...
As the community steps out of the shadows, “an explosion” of Ferrer-types will soon come around, predicts Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom , an advocacy group for alternative-sex practitioners. Indeed, post-Fifty Shades of Grey, the public conception of whips and cuffs is changing: Until 2013, the American Psychological Association considered people mentally ill if they fantasized about or were voluntarily “humiliated, beaten, bound or otherwise made to suffer.” The new definitions undid that, opening the door for more Ferrers to abound. But the APA says it has no “official recommendations” on how treatment for kinky people should change.
We’ll see how many more clients step through Ferrer’s door now that Fifty Shades has hit theaters.
I watched 50 Shades of Grey last night, and all I could think about through that long, sloppy, and ultimately failed orgasm was Gigli.
Oh, you remember Gigli. How could anyone forget Ben Affleck as a disgruntled hornball in a leather jacket who holds hostage and verbally abuses a differently-abled man? Or Jennifer Lopez as the lesbian turned straight by Affleck? That one is seared into our collective memory forever.
Unsurprisingly, Gigli walked straight into a Sandlot-style smack-down of criticism following its release, including disapproval of its anachronistic plot device of 'curing' a gay person into becoming straight. People were like, "It's 2003! We know Mel Gibson just won a People's Choice Award so no one is going to look back on this year as a landmark time for progress, but… seriously?"
Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic romance novel by E. L. James that originated as fan fiction for Twilight enthusiasts, is now bringing its Gigli-inspired non-conventional sex shaming bullshit back to the big screen. Just in time for V-Day.
Mr. Grey Just Up And Decided To See You Now
50 Shades tells the story of Laney Boggs from She's All That, err... I mean the young, white, ponytailed virgin known as Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson), who falls in love with the closeted BDSM practitioner, Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan). Christian has a 'damaged' past that leads him deep into the Conradian heart of kinky darkness with a Regis Philbin haircut to boot. The story revolves around Anastasia's descent into Christian's kinky underworld, with her playing the Submissive and Christian as the Dominant. Throughout the film, Anastasia works ridiculously hard to 'cure' Christian of his interest in kink through a combination of dopey eyes, sad faces, and compelling arguments, like "can't you just not?"
Now, pretend you've never heard of 50 Shades for a moment. Journey deep, deep down into the recesses of your televised memory (if you hit Cool As Ice you've gone too far-- get outta there). Try to picture the last BDSM practitioner you've seen characterized on screen. It's probably not an Oscar-worthy moment.
"Kinky people are really discriminated against because of the misconceptions out there," said Susan Wright, spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), over the phone. "We were considered mentally ill. We had to fight that misconception."
NCSF has been leading the charge for years to dispel that myth that kinky people are mentally-ill or somehow damaged. "Millions of people do this," said Wright. "Some people are just wired to like intense sensation. Some people like extreme sports and some like extreme sex. Look at Christian Grey—he had a hard life, right? 50 Shades really repeats that tired old stereotype. But that's the romance novel trope; the wounded hero has to be saved."
50 Shades might be able to play the "romance novel trope" card to get away with advancing the denigrative stereotype that an interest in BDSM, kink or fetishes is derivative of childhood abuse or qualifies someone as mentally-ill, but really this misconception is much bigger than one giant ejaculation of box-office garbage. It speaks to a larger issue of oppression and vilification of non-normative sexual expression by larger social and political structures, including psychiatric and medical institutions, mainstream media and pop culture.
In a 2008 survey conducted by NCSF, 26 percent of nearly 3,000 kinky people reported being discriminated against because their SM, leather or kink fetish or perceived fetish. Six percent reported a loss of child custody, 20 percent reported a loss of job or contract, and an additional 13 percent reported a loss of promotion or demotion due to their sexual expression or a perception thereof. NCSF hit a landmark moment in 2010 when the American Psychiatric Association agreed to change the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism in the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for 2013. This pathology had real repercussions for kinky people--particularly when used in court battles over child custody.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should. NCSF is up against a battle that LGBT and queer activists have been fighting for decades. In fact, it wasn't until 1974 that the listing of homosexuality as a mental disorder was removed from the DSM-II, and only to be replaced by ego-dystonic homosexuality until its removal in 1987. ...
Christian Grey knows exactly his hard limits in sadomasochism and he may also know a thing or two about his legal limits. The Dominant character Grey in the fantasy fiction Fifty Shades of Grey is bent on alluring his coprotagonist, Anastasia (Ana) Steele, to become his Submissive in a BDSM – Bondage & Discipline (BD) Domination & Submission (DS) Sadism & Masochism (SM) – relationship.
The layers of coercion, consent, pleasure and pain are as complex as the acronym itself and defined by the participants themselves. The cinematic account of this fiction – released this past weekend – illustrates some of the problematic demarcations in the law of assault in the real world.
When Grey informs the innocent Ana about the unnegotiable “hard limits” he sets down in a contract governing their BDSM activities – including no fire play, cutting, piercing, bloodletting, gynaecological instruments, scarring, permanent disfiguration, breath control, defecating/ urinating or use of electric current – she is confounded (probably with a blush and the cautious words of her subconscious). The law is a bit confounded too.
“Hard limits” – in the BDSM arrangement between Grey and Ana – are those activities excluded from the pair’s BDSM arrangement as a safety precaution. “Soft limits” – such as caning and flogging – are more negotiable: Grey does not regard them as a safety issue but they’re left open for negotiation on the grounds that they may cause unbearable pain.
So what does the law have to say about legal status of the sadomasochistic acts?
A legal perspective
For criminal lawyers, for humans in general, the hard limits described above may look a little bit like assault. The offence of wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent – which includes where there is permanent disfiguration or serious harm – attracts a maximum sentence 25 years imprisonment.
In Australia’s Northern Territory, mandatory prison sentences apply to first-time serious violent offenders. This may include acts involving cutting, scarring, whipping or caning. But the legislation does not prescribe the nature of violent activities or whether inflicting pain in the name of sexual pleasure is permissible.
In principle, if the participant suffering the harm consents to the violence, this would legalise what would otherwise be deemed assault.
In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey’s relentless pursuit of Ana’s consent before engaging in BDSM was well-advised, as consent provides an important pillar in nullifying assault claims – but it’s not the only pillar. There are, it seems, at least 50 shades of grey when it comes to the application of the laws relating to consensual bodily harm. ...
Forget Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s your real primer on all things kink.
by Casey Gueren
1. First things first: Here’s what BDSM actually stands for:
BDSM includes bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism & masochism (S&M). The terms are lumped together that way because BDSM can be a lot of different things to different people with different preferences, BDSM writer and educator Clarisse Thorn, author of The S&M Feminist, tells BuzzFeed Life. Most of the time, a person’s interests fall into one or two of those categories, rather than all of them.
2. It doesn’t always involve sex, but it can.
Most people think BDSM is always tied to sex, and while it can be for some people, others draw a hard line between the two. “Both are bodily experiences that are very intense and sensual and cause a lot of very strong feelings in people who practice them, but they’re not the same thing,” says Thorn. The metaphor she uses for it: a massage. Sometimes a massage, however sensual it feels, is just a massage. For others, a rubdown pretty much always leads to sex. It’s kind of similar with BDSM; it’s a matter of personal and sexual preference.
3. There is nothing inherently wrong or damaged with people if they’re into it.
This is one of the most common and frustrating misconceptions about BDSM, says Thorn. BDSM isn’t something that emerges from abuse or domestic violence, and engaging in it does not mean that you enjoy abuse or abusing.
Instead, enjoying BDSM is just one facet of someone’s sexuality and lifestyle. “It’s just regular people who happen to get off that way,” sex expert Gloria Brame, Ph.D., author of Different Loving, tells BuzzFeed Life. “It’s your neighbors and your teachers and the people bagging your groceries. The biggest myth is that you need this special set of circumstances. It’s regular people who have a need for that to be their intimate dynamic.” ...
24. There is an immensely helpful list of kink-aware professionals so you can find a doctor or therapist who uniquely understands your lifestyle.
Maybe you’re worried that your gynecologist or your lawyer won’t be sensitive to your lifestyle or doesn’t allow you to feel comfortable talking about it. Check out the Kink Aware Professionals Directory from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom to find someone who will be more accepting. ...
A group of swingers, kinksters, polyamorists and nudists is taking over a Madison hotel this weekend, celebrating Valentine's Day weekend with two days of what's billed as "complete sexual freedom." The event will draw as many as 275 "alternative sex" aficionados from all over Wisconsin, the United States as well as abroad, says Melanie, a volunteer event organizer with Camp NCN, a "sexual freedom" campground in Black River Falls, Wis.
Melanie agreed to be interviewed about the event on the condition that Isthmus not use her real name. Though Camp NCN has been hosting well-attended hotel takeovers in Madison four times a year for the past several years, there's still a stigma associated with a lifestyle that allows sexual freedom, she says.
"There's a huge misconception about the swinging world," says the 48-year-old from western Wisconsin. "A lot of people look at swingers as people who are immoral, who are whorish, who jump from one person to another, but that's not necessarily the case. It's just another type of connection."
The group rents out the entire hotel when they come to Madison, so there's no risk of children or other unsuspecting guests getting an unexpected eyeful (or earful). That also gives the group the freedom to set up a fetish dungeon, group "play rooms" with various sex apparatuses, an area with vendors selling sex toys and a dance floor with a DJ. The entire hotel is clothing-optional, with the exception of the front desk reception area.
Attendees range in age from mid-20s to mid-70s, Melanie says, and they represent a variety of backgrounds and professions. Many are teachers, lawyers, counselors -- and she says there are even a few government officials.
"That's one of the reasons why we're so careful to protect their identities," she says. "Outing is a big concern for a lot of them. They could lose their jobs."
Though Camp NCN is LGBT-friendly, the hotel takeover events are open only to heterosexual couples and single females (who are referred to as "unicorns") as a way to ensure guests are comfortable, Melanie says. Single men are not allowed.
Finding a venue to host the event is not easy.
"The majority of hotels don't want to be associated with the types of things we do in our group," Melanie says. "It's very difficult to find one that is willing to cooperate."
The group ran into trouble five years ago in Stevens Point, when city officials tried to shut down a similar Valentine's Day weekend hotel takeover party, citing a city ordinance prohibiting "sexually oriented businesses" within 750 feet of an establishment with a liquor license. Faced with threats of fines and other legal penalties, the hotel canceled the swingers' group reservation, but a scaled-back event reportedly took place anyway.
They also faced problems in Wisconsin Dells, when a former hotel party site came under new ownership that was not interested in continuing to host the group, Melanie says.
Camp NCN's owner, Marvin Thomann, approached a number of Madison hotels before he found one that was agreeable, Melanie says.
The location of the Madison hotel takeover site is kept secret, per the request of the venue's management. The Camp NCN website doesn't even provide the information on its registration page.
The hotel's manager, who asked not to be identified, admitted that he was hesitant at first to accommodate the swingers' event. But the guarantee of a fully booked hotel -- especially during the tourism offseason -- is good for business. So far, there have been no problems or complaints. Plus, the group is "actually pretty tame," the manager says. ...
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the much-hyped movie Fifty Shades of Grey releases in theatres nationwide today. The movie reportedly grossed $3.7 million in early release on Wednesday. It’s based on the novel of the same name, the novel that introduced frank sexual discussion of sadomasochism, bondage, and domination to the book clubs of middle-aged, middle-class women the world over. Thanks to Fifty Shades, your mom now knows what “BDSM” stands for, even if you really hope that she didn’t before. A blockbuster movie based and a bestselling book go a long way toward legitimizing BDSM as a mainstream sexual preference.
Just how mainstream has kinky sex started to become, thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey? The Vermont Teddy Bear Company, otherwise known for boundary-pushing pieces like the Hoodie-Footie Pajama Bear, is hawking a Fifty Shades of Grey Bear. The bear comes with a mask and mini handcuffs. (At the bottom of the page, a safety warning reads, “Contains small parts. Not suitable for children.” Because the small parts are what makes a BDSM-themed teddy bear unsuitable for children.)
I confess that I have avoided the book on snooty literary grounds, for the same reasons I avoid Harlequin bodice-rippers and the Twilight series. I don’t object morally. I just like my books like I like my men — pretentious, difficult to understand, and weird. Characters with names as clunky and hamfisted as “Christian Grey” and “Anastasia Steele” — so symbolic! — make me break out in hives.
Whether kink’s your thing or not, the mainstreaming of BDSM is bound (ha!) to change the legal landscape. Much of the potential liability centers around consent — the authenticity of it, the legal validity of it, and the ways to prove it. So, put down the ball gag, lovebirds, and read this first.
Authenticity of Consent
Even plain vanilla sex requires a person to form a reasonable, good faith belief in his or her partner’s consent. Doing so can sometimes be tricky, even in the most bland, typical heterosexual encounters — just ask a college-aged male at the end of a date. BDSM sex, however, raises much greater concerns. It may already be hard (ha!) for guys to know the difference between coquettishness and authentic refusal. This puzzle becomes more complicated when part of the fun can be role-playing non-consent. If a woman asks her boyfriend to act out her rape fantasy, then begs him to stop when he attempts to go through with it, is she withdrawing her consent? Or will she be disappointed if he stops, since she was just resisting as a part of the role play?
Of course, experienced members of the kink community often recommend establishing “safe words” that, when uttered, let the partner know that he or she really, really wants to stop. That strategy may help with the authenticity question among partners, but more on safe words below.
Legal Validity of Consent
What if mature, competent adults want to agree to a BDSM arrangement? Unfortunately for them, the law may not recognize their consent as valid.
Consider a potential civil suit for damages for injuries arising out of kink gone awry. The defendant could argue that the plaintiff assumed a risk of injury by participating in BDSM sex. If you volunteer to have your partner dribble hot oil on your bare thigh, you assumed the risk that you might get burned, right? Maybe. A plaintiff’s knowing and voluntary assumption of risk is only going to stand a chance against ordinary negligence claims. Assumption of risk generally does not apply to claims of gross negligence or willful misconduct by the defendant. ...
Though popular tropes all hold that people interested in BDSM were all abused or are disturbed, the biological basis of kink deserves more study
by Nichi Hodgson
hen it comes to explaining the how and why of sexual desire, there are few answers more reassuring than “because it’s in our DNA”, or “because we’re wired that way”. From why men love boobs to why both partners start wanting to scratch other sexual itches after seven years, a plausible-sounding biological explanation for our sexual predilections is always welcomed – apart from, of course, when it comes to BDSM.
Most general medical discourse about kink focuses on unpicking early childhood trauma, emotional disturbance or abuse (as experienced by the protagonist in Fifty Shades of Grey). Psychological arousal is not, however, just about physical stimulation, and physical reactions don’t confine themselves to psychologically comfortable circumstances. But when it comes to consensual kink, we could greatly benefit from more focus on the physical.
Put simply, there’s a science to spanking, to nipple torture, to candle waxing and to pretty much any other sex act you could name where prolonging the anticipation of touch or relief or safely manipulating blood flow causes the release of neurotransmitters – such as dopamine, adrenalin or serotonin – that result in a chemical high. It’s true that you have to be able to find that kind of physical stimulation arousing in order to be turned on, but if you do, having a person you find attractive putting you over their knee and spanking you in a way that encourages your body to release noradrenaline, adrenalin and dopamine in anticipation of the spank, and then opioids on point of contact is likely to be a pretty positive sexual experience.
And the research backs it up. Take some conducted by Meredith Chivers of Queen’s University, for example, which found that vaginal blood flow in women interested in BDSM increases when they watch kinky porn – at the same rate as it does for non-kinky women who watch vanilla porn. Conversely, blood flow does not increase when kinky women watch vanilla porn, implying that the brain has a part to play in controlling that blood flow, and that the brains of people who respond to kinky stimuli fire up the way those who respond to vanilla sex do. The pending fMRI scans of kinksters are expected to confirm what sexologists already hypothesise: there’s nothing neurologically or biologically dysfunctional about kink-related desire.
Most of us have demons and neuroses, swallowed frustrations and some of us act on them more than others and at different points in our lives. For a minority, BDSM may be a way those are expressed – as vanilla sex is for many others. But most of us lack the self-awareness necessary to pick apart the vagaries of our psychological motives and sexual peccadilloes. If you and your partner walk away from a sex act both satisfied and unscathed – or at least with no lasting emotional or physical bruises – perhaps that’s an outcome that needs no further probing.
Fifty Shades may certainly have opened up the general debate on kink, but social and legal prejudice still prevails. In the UK, December amendments to laws governing online porn fell disproportionately on kink acts. In the US, the First Amendment still does not apply to all sexual communications under the Communications Decency Act, if they are “patently offensive under local community standards” and cannot be proved to have “redeeming social value” by the author – particularly if they are kinky and non-heteronormative. And while the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders may no longer consider sadomasochism or fetishism to be medical conditions, it still lists paraphilias such as sadomasochistic disorder and fetish disorder.
And the systemic prejudice against BDSM affects the funding of research that would help us better understand it. Off the record, American academics at major colleges have told me that their sex research projects remain on ice for months, sometimes years, and many American sexologists decamp to Canada where the liberal climate – and budgets – better facilitate research. Yet if the US National Institutes of Health won’t even fund, for example, research on the intersection of gender and health despite the massive current discussion around transgender identification, it’s unlikely to fund research on spanking and health. ...