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. ...
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? ...
I knew I’d been invited to a convention for sex therapists but my God! I could not believe my eyes. Stalls meant to educate, elucidate, and lubricate human intercourse were set up everywhere. “Contraception,” “Viagra,” “Gender Bend.” I watched a middle-aged mom demonstrate a seesaw contraption with dildos attached. It was called, she said, “The Monkey Rocker.” She explained that, yes, you can certainly sit in either direction for anal or vaginal penetration. I ambled about timid and titillated. That all these folks were chatting with the greatest of ease about sex was a rather fabulous surprise. And all so early in the morning.
I found coffee, a bagel and a table. A man sat down across from me. His floppy paper plate was stacked with chunks of honeydew. We nodded at each other.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
We exchanged some basics. He was a therapist and I explained that that I was an actor there to present a one-man play I’d written.
“Oh, that’s the sex abuse play, right?” he asked.
I cringed and stopped myself from launching into an explanation of how my solo play, The Tricky Part, was oh so much more than that “Yes. That play,” I replied.
“You going to go to the dungeon?” he asked.
“There’s a field trip Saturday night. The local BDSM community has invited any therapists who would like to, to come and observe an evening session at their dungeon.”
“Yes. Everyone’s talking about it. You should sign up.”
Before heading back to my room to shower, with a curious quickening of the blood, I made my way to the appropriate desk and promptly added my name to the list.
A tall man in blue jeans and cowboy boots greeted us at the door His nametag read, “Master John” It occurred to me that Master might be a misspelling of Mister but upon entering the premises I spotted many more nametags affixed on the shirts of friendly fellows (and women)—Master Greg, Master Steve. Most of the tags included a one- or two-word designation printed below the name.
Folding chairs had been set up on the perimeter of the main room which had loft levels and very high ceilings. We quietly took our seats. A man with long black hair came forward. He looked to be, perhaps, Native American. His voice was lovely, his words laced with an intoxicating cadence that I could not pinpoint. Spanish? Mexican?
“We all want to welcome you and thank you for coming. We want you to feel safe and taken care of. That’s how it is here. It’s a safe place and we take care of one another.”
He spoke of his work in education, his part-time job at a local ranch. I was struck by his eloquence and humor.. He talked about the reason, the importance, for this evening’s event. As best as I can recall, he said something like this:
“We are here to show you, to share with you in the mental health industry, who we are. We are teachers and lawyers and ranchers, just plain folk from all walks of life and we comprise what we lovingly call our Kink Community. It is our aim to help you understand what might be your prejudice about our community and communities like ours. Some of your own clients back home may well be part of their own kink community and we hope that you don’t automatically think of us, of them, as someone with a disorder. For many of us, our exploration of power dynamics and BDSM is our path to a deeper connection. It is simply a part of who we are and we feel open and healthy about it. Perhaps tonight we can dispel some fears or biases. You’ll notice that we’ve all worn nametags so that you can identify us by name and ask any questions related to what we are into. We are here to answer your questions openly and honestly. Once the demonstration is over, please feel free to stay and we can all talk. We’ve put together a nice potluck. Remember: if at any time you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, just know that you are free to step out. There’s coffee and tea in the lobby.” ...
Meditation makes most Americans think of a Middle Eastern Indian or Tibetan Monk sitting in a lotus position at a monastery in the middle of nowhere, remaining still for many long, agonizing hours in their silent search for enlightenment. Most of us, however, have neither the patience nor the hip flexibility for such activities, and because we weren’t raised practicing meditation, we have only this skewed image of the practice that has been given to us by the media.
Guess what though? Driving a race car, coloring, watching a movie, or practicing BDSM can all be forms of meditation too. It’s not about the yoga poses — it’s about letting go of the relentless mind chatter and focusing solely on the present moment.
According to the Institute of Noetic Sciences,
“The most popular, widely adapted, and widely researched meditation technique in the West is known as mindfulness meditation, which is a combination of concentration and open awareness. Mindfulness is found in many contemplative traditions, but is most often identified with the Theravadan Buddhist practice of vipassana, or “insight meditation.” The practitioner focuses on an object, such as the breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, or sounds. The focus is not as narrow as in concentrative meditation, for there is a simultaneous awareness of other phenomena. This mindfulness practice is often extended to daily actions, such as eating, walking, driving, or housework.”
In my free time, I like to go rock scrambling and ride a motorcycle, both of which can be dangerous and potentially fatal if I let my attention wander. When I participate, I have to be completely focused on what I’m doing and fully mindful of my surroundings. I can’t be thinking about work, the electric bill, a boyfriend, or getting my car to the garage for a tune-up. The activity is intense and demanding, and therefore my mind is — must be — clear. When this happens, I lower my blood pressure, strengthen my immune system, and decrease my emotional anxiety just as much as if I were sitting quietly, meditating on a yoga mat.
The meditative form of BDSM is called “subspace.” My submissive clients describe it as an altered state of consciousness in which they feel completely liberated from stress. It’s a practice that allows you to completely let go of internal and external stress so that you can fully immerse yourself in the present moment. As the Dominatrix, I also experience a corresponding mental state of relaxation from my deep focus and concentration. ...
I recently realized that the benefits I get from practicing yoga—peace, energy, strength—I also get from another activity: BDSM. With yoga, when I hit the mat, nothing else matters. I am no longer a student, I don’t have homework or responsibilities. I just go through the motions, shift poses as I breathe in and out, move my body, push it further. In BDSM, I identify as a “bottom,” which means that in a scene—the space and scenario in which my partner and I play—I’m not necessarily submissive, but I am on the receiving end of pain and/or sensations. BDSM is a vital force in my life, part of my sexual identity, though not always sexual. It’s something I need on a regular basis, much like exercise.
According to a research team studying the science of BDSM at Northern Illinois University, it makes sense that yoga and bottoming have similar benefits, especially when it comes to altered states of consciousness. NIU’s team, led by professor of social and evolutionary psychology, Dr. Brad Sagarin, had participants put into pairs for a scene with one person topping and the other bottoming. Using questionnaires, cognitive testing (specifically the Stroop test), and saliva samples to measure the stress hormone cortisol before and after the scenes, Sagarin’s team concluded that both tops and bottoms enter into (different) altered states of consciousness.
For tops, this state is called “flow” (or here, topspace). Kathryn Klement, a doctoral candidate in the social psychology program at NIU, says, “In topspace, individuals feel like they are in the moment and [aware of their] next steps. While people in subspace report feeling sort of dreamy and out of it, people in topspace are very focused and driven.”
While flow is an altered state of consciousness, it doesn’t affect one’s cognitive functioning as much as a bottom's state of altered consciousness, called “transient hypofrontality” (here, subspace). Arne Dietrich originally proposed the transient hypofrontality hypothesis and investigated it as runner’s high. He suggested it was possibly analogous to meditation, and other mind states, such dreaming, hypnosis, and various drug highs. Klement explains that “when we engage in certain activities, our brain has to redirect bloodflow to certain parts based on priorities.” She added that the theory of transient hypofrontality suggests that “during this altered state, there is reduced bloodflow to the part of the brain which handles a lot of executive function, like working memory, attention, and temporal integration.”
This state was also reflected when researchers found that bottoms' cortisol levels went up during the scene (as their bodies responded to stress), but their self-reported levels of stress went down. “This is why,” Klement says, “people in such an altered state report effects of time distortion, disinhibition from social constraints, and changes in focused attention.” Other subjective experiences of subspace include reduction of pain; feelings of floating, peacefulness, living in the here and now; and little active decision making. ...
It wasn’t always Fred Hoverman’s intention to sell sex toys. Originally he was a mechanical engineer. A combination of boredom with his work and a desire to enhance people’s lives through pleasure prompted a career switch.
In 2012, Hoverman opened Kink Shoppe, the 2016 Reader’s Choice Shopping & Style winner for both Women’s Clothing and Giftware, at 126 Market Street. The high-end adult boutique aims to welcome customers for an experience that is comfortable and educational.
Some considered quaint, tourist-heavy Old City to be a surprising location for a store that sells vibrators and bondage gear. Hoverman was excited to set up in this neighborhood and says, “It encompasses everything I love about Philly in general: history, culture, great shops & restaurants.”
Previously the space served as a gallery and Kink Shoppe honors that legacy by maintaining an open floorplan and showcasing the work of local artists on the walls. There’s also the store’s contribution to First Fridays, where patrons are invited inside for wine samplings and product demonstrations.
Initially there was hesitation from some residents, concerned about the stigma associated with adult businesses, but Kink Shoppe’s community involvement, product quality and educational focus ultimately won them over.
Commitment to sexuality education drives Hoverman’s business practices. “Sex is seen as taboo, but we've created a safe space for people to explore and learn,” he says, “whether it be taking a class we offer or just coming to ask questions about the products and being able to get a knowledgeable response.”
This commitment to making customer visits an educational opportunity starts with the store’s hiring process. “Our staff includes well-tenured members of the industry and individuals degreed in teaching and human sexuality,” says Hoverman. “Everyone goes through a training period when they learn about products, safety, and how to interact with customers. We also provide resources for our employees to increase their knowledge, including books and free access to our own classes.”
So they feel more receptive to learning, patrons are first giventhe space to comfortably warm to the store. Customers are greeted when they arrive, but given an opportunity to peruse the shelves without pressure. The employees make themselves available for questions, to provide information about the products, and make suggestions based on the person’s needs. Some customers want very little input while others want an experience that’s more akin to personal shopping. The mission is to make shopping an illuminating, stress-free experience that customers will want to repeat. ...