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. ...
On the rooftop of an empty building in Zagreb, Dino Helvida carefully pierces his client Kaitlin's torso, legs and face before putting hooks through her skin.
Shortly after, he suspends her from a metallic frame, her heavily tattooed body dangling horizontally in the air.
Helvida, 27, is a professional piercer and body suspension expert from Bosnia Herzegovina, who for the last six years has been hanging up the bodies of those brave enough to partake in what is an extreme form of body piercing, sometimes for hours.
The process is carefully done, and in this case Helvida works with his girlfriend Zorana. It involves first piercing the skin with needles, putting through metallic hooks, which are then attached to a thin rope to lift the suspendee off the ground.
"You can do one hook or you can do 100. You have different hooks for different positions and different hooks for different body parts," Helvida told Reuters.
"So everything is really calculated and it's safe."
It took Helvida around an hour to prepare Kaitlin, visiting Zagreb from the United States, for suspension. Devotees say the practice gives them a huge sense of well-being, and Kaitlin did not complain of discomfort once.
"It is painful. Piercing is painful, it's just like regular piercing," Helvida said. "Every time it's a new piercing and the wound heals really fast, it can heal in two weeks. I had hooks in my forehead and nobody can tell I had them." ...
Exploring one of the most popular — and dangerous — trends of our generation.
by Kelsey Lawrence
This May, a 20-year-old Texas man was charged with the 2014 death of his prom date, who didn't wake up the next morning after a night of allegedly "rough" sex. Though her death was exacerbated by the alcohol and hydrocodone in her system, Eddie Herrera choked Jacqueline Gomez while having sex, and, due to the drugs and "deep hemorrhaging" around her neck, she died in her sleep that night. Yet despite the inherent risks of engaging in increasingly physical sexual activity, our generation is clearly captivated by it.
In Pornhub's 2015 Year in Review, a comprehensive look at the search analytics of their users worldwide, one of the most interesting statistics went relatively unnoticed. Ranking just under "lesbian" and "solo male," women are searching categories like "hardcore," "rough sex," and "bondage" significantly more often than men. The "rough sex" category alone was viewed by women 106 percent more often than men last year. Under "top gaining searches" for both men and women, the term "hard rough" was searched 454 percent more often in 2015 than in 2014.
Our porn habits aren't necessarily indicative of what we want IRL, but if we're watching rougher porn, does that mean our generation, generally speaking, is having rougher sex? And, furthermore, what do we even mean when we say "rough sex"? Cosmopolitan.com spoke to six Millennials and a sex therapist to investigate whether twentysomethings are playing harder in bed — and, for the first generation to have access to porn since before we even knew what sex was, what that actually looks like. Okay, we're not knocking on apartment doors with a postcoital census poll, so we can't exactly prove whether Millennials are, in fact, getting rougher. But we can look at some common themes to examine where our boundaries tend to be and explore what seems to be the most dominant trend: a disturbing lack of education surrounding consent to these activities.
ARE WE GETTING KINKIER?
Dr. Gloria Brame, sex therapist and author of Different Loving Too: Real People, Real Lives, Real BDSM, doesn't necessarily believe people are kinkier than they've been in previous generations, because she believes those desires to be inherently genetic.
"We're all wired for different things," Dr. Brame tells Cosmopolitan.com. "Some people are always going to be more intrigued by intensity. People in BDSM communities will say it's the internet that's transformed BDSM ... I think that's because it allowed people who might previously have had a tiny fantasy to suddenly realize, 'Wow, does that mean I have the potential to be kinky?'"
In 1953, a Kinsey Institute study found that 55 percent of females and 50 percent of males had experienced an erotic response to being bitten. Clearly, desires for rougher play have always existed in some incarnation. We're also undoubtedly influenced by what we see around us. A University of Arkansas study from 2010 showed that 88 percent of the scenes from 50 top-selling porn videos contained a variety of aggressive acts, from spanking to gagging.
Whether or not these desires are innate, it's undeniable that we've experienced a culture shift of rough sex and BDSM culture permeating mainstream media. As evidenced by the success of the (arguably misinformed) Fifty Shades of Grey and even the trendiness of bondage-inspired clothing, elements of BDSM have become increasingly commonplace. Rihanna's 2010 song "S&M" featured copious whips-and-chains references. Even a recent commercial for pistachios featured a dominatrix seemingly, um, making a pistachio submit to her command. So while humans have likely always had kinky desires, there's no question those desires are more widely accepted and embraced by pop culture today. ...
...Lack of Consent and Education
Of all the themes that arose while reporting this story, this was the most disturbing. Robin, 23, described a one-night stand who tried to choke her during sex without asking first. "It was not OK with me by any means," she says. "Would it have been OK with me if, instead, they were a long-term partner? Most likely." But BDSM activity, even when consensual, can still be prosecuted under state criminal laws, according to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. In March, a federal court in Virginia ruled that there is "no constitutional right" to engage in even consensual BDSM.
There's a lot of interesting, valuable discussion surrounding consent and BDSM scenes on FetLife forums and through talks sponsored by the NCSF. Much of that conversation, however, may not reach young people who are experimenting without really becoming part of that community. Eddie Herrera's 25-year sentence for choking his girlfriend is proof of what can happen when these acts go wrong (and it is all too easy for something to go wrong).
We also tend to think of consent in the steps leading up to sex. But even if you're already in bed with someone, asking for consent needs to continue, particularly when playing around with anything that could potentially hurt someone. Kristin, 24, has had experiences with an ex-boyfriend who didn't seek her consent before trying things like name-calling and anal sex. Several months into the relationship, he all of a sudden started calling her a "dirty slut" and attempting anal sex — all with no warning. "It was the most unchill situation I've had with a partner I was actually dating," she says. "I most definitely stopped him and asked what the heck was up. It shifted the entire dynamic of the relationship, unfortunately." ...
For kinky people, finding a shrink who knows the difference between ball gags and cock and ball torture can be a godsend.
by Alice Sanders
Finding a therapist can be a major problem for anyone who's into BDSM or fetish. The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, updated in 2013, is the first version in the 62-year history of psychiatry's diagnostic bible that does not classify BDSM as a marker of mental illness. But surveys show that far more people are into kink than commonly assumed: A 2008 survey from Durex found that 36 percent of people in the US deploy masks, blindfolds, and bondage tools as part of their sexual repertoire.
Kinky people need therapy to deal with the stresses of life just as much as their vanilla peers, but they can run into problems when trying to find a therapist who knows the difference between a dungeon monitor and a domme. Demand for kink-identified therapists has led to websites like LGBTQ-oriented Pink Therapy in the UK and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom in the US. On the NCSF website, therapists are divided into three classifications: kink friendly, kink-aware, and kink-knowledgeable.
"By stating that you work with kinky clients you're raising the possibility that you're also kinky," says Joanna*, an integrative therapist working in London. "Some clients will make that assumption, especially if you have a high level of kink knowledge." She goes on to say that she's comfortable outing herself as a BDSM practictioner to a client if they have explicitly told her that they are part of the community.
There are good reasons to do this. Clients often come to her having already had a bad experience with a therapist who lacked BDSM understanding. Katie*, a psychodynamic therapist also working in London, tells me that she sees one kinky couple who have been through four previous professionals. "I believe they've been treated poorly by the therapists they've approached."
More than just a simple lack of knowledge of kink, vanilla therapists can sometimes bring their own negative preconceptions of BDSM to sessions. It's something both Joanna's clients and friends have had to deal with in the past. "Therapists have suggested that kink is externalized self-harm; that's it's problematic playing with power, that it's a form of unhealthy risk taking." She explains that some keep bringing up kink as symptomatic of a deeper mental health issue, but kink-positive therapy means that "clients can reveal this information in passing, and it's accepted as a normal healthy part of their relationship."
Kink can sometimes involve behaviors that someone not in the scene may struggle to wrap their head around (toenail fetishes, anyone?) and clients often don't want to waste time educating a kinky therapist on the terminology and dynamics of the scene. When a shrink come out as kinky, it's not just to assure their clients that they won't have a bad experience in therapy, but to show they can have a positive one.
"There's often an assumption that BDSM-ers are attempting to re-enact childhood abuse, whereas no studies have ever found any correlation," Joanna explains of non-kinky therapists. With those who do incorporate S&M into their personal lives, however, "there's a better understanding of the differences between consensual kink and an abusive dynamic, which may be more difficult for therapists who aren't kinky themselves." In fact, a recent Northern Illinois University study showed that those who participated in BDSM are far more likely to understand key issues of consent.
But identifying yourself as a kinky professional can come with its challenges, too. Therapist and client will usually have zero relationship outside of the therapeutic space, but that isn't possible in places with small kink scenes. It brings with it the risk that the client will learn personal details about a therapist. Katie suggests that any extra information revealed to a client can tamper with the therapeutic process. "You can get into a bit of a problem if a client is able to glean so much information they can say, 'That person is like me, that's why I'm going to them.'"
Therapy relies on the client being able to create their own reality around the 'blank screen' of the therapist—the fears and emotions that a client projects onto their shrink can be very useful as insights to work with—and real information about a therapist can ruin the process. It might be harder for a client to open up if they know that they shop for spanking paddles at the same leather hardware store. As Kate puts it: "There's a reason it's easier to pick up the phone and call the Samaritans than a member of your family." ...
This sex researcher has interviewed hundreds of people with peculiar erotic tastes. Here’s what she’s learned
BY DEBRA W. SOH
You might think that fantasizing about being swallowed by a large animal sounds weird.
But a new study in the Journal of Sex Research finds that paraphilias—unusual sexual interests—are actually common: One in three people have experimented with one at some point in their lives.
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Paraphilias range from kinks you’ve heard of before, like stiletto fetishes, to more rare interests, like the fantasy about being swallowed.
Why would someone be into that? Why are some people turned on by golden showers, or wearing diapers? The subject is so riveting that I’ve made a career out of studying it.
As a neuroscientist, I’m interested in what it is about the brain that makes people like the kinds of sex that they like. When guys come in to do my fMRI study, we spend a few minutes scanning their brain. Afterwards, I ask them lots of questions about their sex lives.
Needless to say, my work never gets boring. At last count, sex researchers estimated that about 549 different paraphilias exist.
So, for starters, here are six fascinating fetishes worth learning about.
Golden Showers: Why Are Some People Into That?
People interested in urophilia—also known as golden showers or water sports—enjoy urinating on their partners, being urinated on, or both. About 9 percent of men have this interest, research suggests.
Men who are into water sports tell me the act of sharing human waste, as disgusting as it might seem, creates a bond between partners. Clearly, two people need to share a certain level of comfort in order to pee on each other.
“It’s like I’m sharing my love,” says Kevin, a 20-something university student who likes to urinate on his sex partners.
For some guys, the more disgusting or taboo the act, the more sexually exciting it becomes. Others tell me that they’re turned on by the fact it’s humiliating to be peed on.
Women’s Clothing: Why Are Some Guys Into That?
Many—if not all—straight men (who identify as men) who take part in my studies find women’s clothing, such as shoes and underwear, to be sexually arousing.
It’s one of the most common kinks. A study out of the University of L’Aquila in Italy analyzed the content of online discussion groups and estimated that 32 percent of men have a sexual interest in shoes and 12 percent are into underwear. ...
Kinky sex has been around for eons, since long before Richard von Krafft-Ebing popularized the terms “sadism” and “masochism” in 1886 with his seminal work, Psychopathia Sexualis. But for a long time, it hasn’t really been spoken about in polite company. Only recently, with the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, has kink — generally defined as BDSM, which includes bondage, dominance and submission, and the consensual use of pain and humiliation for pleasure — earned a sort of mainstream acceptance. People are now willing to test the waters more than ever before.
Naturally, this is an area rife with misinformation and stigma. That’s part of why the Alt Sex NYC Conference, held last week in New York, was so important. The conference allowed researchers, clinicians, sex educators, and community members to discuss the most up-to-date research on what is known in the field as alternative sexuality (a term which encompasses kink, consensual non-monogamy, polyamory, and non-traditional relationship structures). For a population that has long been misunderstood and marginalized, the sharing of this information was much needed. Presentations ranged from myths about non-monogamy to best clinical practices when working with individuals from the community.
In honor of the conference — I streamed it remotely from Toronto — here are three key insights from the scientific study of kinky sex and non-monogamy.
(1) Swingers don’t get more STIs than everyone else
“Consensual non-monogamy” is an umbrella term referring to relationships in which partners agree that romantic and/or sexual relationships with other people are allowed. This includes swinging (which is primarily sexual in nature), polyamory (which is primarily romantic in nature), and open relationships (which are a mix of both sex and romance).
A frequent theme throughout the conference was the preconceived notion that monogamy is associated with better sexual health. It is widely believed that monogamy prevents the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and many people will say fear of getting HIV is their main reason for not “opening it up.” In theory, this makes sense, considering how nonmonogamous couples are exposed to a greater number of sexual partners (and if those partners are also nonmonogamous, then their partners, too, by proxy). In actuality, though, this isn’t the case, as research has shown that rates of STIs do not differ between monogamous and consensually nonmonogamous people.
The similarity in STI rates between the two groups exists for a few reasons. First of all, nonmonogamous people are more likely to engage in safe-sex practices, such as discussing their sexual history and being tested for STIs (roughly 78 percent compared to 69 percent of monogamous folk). When engaging with other partners sexually, nonmonogamous people are also less likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol — substances that can impair one’s judgment and lead to high-risk (or condomless) sex.
By contrast, monogamous couples don’t tend to follow these sexual health practices. They typically stop using condoms as soon as they decide to be exclusive with each other, and don’t often get tested for STIs or discuss their sexual-partner history before doing so. Needless to say, going exclusive doesn’t get rid of any STIs that are already there. This would also suggest that rates of STIs in monogamous relationships are, in fact, underreported.
And although consensual non-monogamy may appear to be driven by reckless passion and spontaneous sexual encounters, a great deal of thoughtful planning and preventive measures are involved. These relationships revolve around consent, transparency, and communication, and — at least in the best cases — any “extracurricular” sexual activities are discussed between partners well in advance to ensure that personal boundaries are respected. ...
The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA), a San Francisco non-profit community research organization, announces that on April 1st, 2016 it will launch the first ever national survey to examine the impact of kink sexuality on health and healthcare usage.
Why the survey?
Patients who engage in non-traditional sexual practices, including kink, BDSM, and fetishes (see terminology, below), have been largely ignored by healthcare providers and clinical researchers. TASHRA’s research strives to explore the interaction between kink and health, and specifically to describe the physical and mental health of the kink population, their use of healthcare, and their experiences engaging with the healthcare system.
TASHRA’s pilot study (manuscript in review), was a qualitative study based in the San Francisco Bay Area, conducted from 2013-2015. The study concluded that patients have genuine healthcare needs relating to their kink practices and identities, and that they wish to “come out” to their clinicians about their kink sexuality. However, only 38% are out to their current primary care clinician, with most citing fear of stigma as the reason for their non-disclosure.
TASHRA’s pilot study was conducted in a single urban setting, and the results should be generalized with caution. As a qualitative study, the results serve to bring salient issues to light, but do not provide statistics relating to the frequency of the findings, nor do they permit comparisons between subgroups of study participants.
The next step in TASHRA’s research agenda, then, is to distribute a survey to a national kink population, which will allow us to quantify the impact of kink on both physical and mental health, and examine nation-wide issues of healthcare access, specifically as they relate to the experience of healthcare-related stigma.
TASHRA will be recruiting U.S. adults, 18 years and older, who practice at least one non-traditional sexual behavior or fetish, including but not limited to: bondage/discipline, sadism/masochism, domination/submission, sexual role-play, or sexual objectification.
The survey is available online at: http://tinyurl.com/kinkhealth. It will be advertised at kink conferences and community events across the country, along with kink-oriented social media sites and Facebook.
More about TASHRA:
TASHRA is a community-based organization whose mission is to improve the physical and mental health of people who engage in BDSM, kink and sexual fetishism. This is achieved by conducting community-based research, educating healthcare professionals and patients, and by fostering the development of kink-friendly healthcare services.
TASHRA was started in 2012 by Jess Waldura, MD, Richard Sprott, PhD, and Anna Randal, MPH MSW. Jess Waldura, MD, is a family physician, HIV provider, and researcher at UCSF. Richard Sprott, PhD, is a developmental psychologist and director of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS). Anna Randall, MPH MSW, is a clinical sexologist and researcher in private practice. TASHRA is guided and supported by a Community Advisory Board consisting of 16 kink-identified community members.
The singer said she is “unafraid” of any criticism of her lifestyle
By ALISTAIR FOSTER
Vaults singer Blythe Pepino says she is happy to talk about being polyamorous and does not consider it to be “a big deal”.
The 30-year-old, who fronts the London-based electronica group, is in relationships with a man, a woman and another couple and insists she is “unafraid” of any criticism of her lifestyle.
Vaults — whose other members are Ben Vella and Barney Freeman, both 35 — have clocked up almost 20 million YouTube views without releasing an album.
Ellie Goulding, Alt-J and Bastille are among their fans and they had a song on the soundtrack to 50 Shades Of Grey.
Pepino said: “I’m quite a free person when it comes to relationships. I’ve got more than one relationship and as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine. Because in my world I’ve been living like this for quite a long time, it’s not that big a deal. I’m big into open communicationand honesty between people and in relationships. I think a lot of people find that a crazy idea, but it’s not really if you just look into it. ...