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. ...
It was rounding 1 a.m. as I teetered my way across a tiny stage, covered in damp dollar bills.
Daisy Ducati was tugging at the leash attached to the leather collar around my neck, pulling me down to my hands and knees. A small but lively audience had gathered around the private stage in the back of Little Darlings, the North Beach strip club known for its nude dances and explicit VIP shows. The handful of testosterone-fueled young men, full of bashful bravado, egged Daisy on. They got noticeably nervous, however, when she ordered them to spank me and clothespin money to my breasts.
"Yes, Ma'am," they would say, almost hypnotized, and open up their wallets a little wider. The dollar bills they threw into the air fluttered down and stuck to my skin, melting into my sweat-soaked body like snowflakes.
There's nothing quite like being on a stage naked and having people throw money at you. Of course, not every night at the strip club is full of make-it-rain magic, but a good night can feel like you're channeling supernatural powers of femininity, using mind-control and body glitter to dismantle the patriarchy.
This was one of those nights. Daisy and I were feature dancing, so we got to live it up as the stars of the show. We were making excellent money and having a blast. Near the end of the night, Daisy caught my eye as we played in front of the crowd. The spark of electricity that passed between us communicated a mutual understanding that the pole, the high heels, and especially the money may as well have been sex toys. Our girl-on-girl tease show had transformed into an edgy, erotic scene that had both of us genuinely aroused.
Hours later, when the club had finally closed, we poured our tired bodies into a taxi, trying in vain to conceal the giant trash bags filled with cash. We held hands and looked out the window at the moonlight shining over the bay, and I let out a dreamy sigh, happy I had accepted her invitation to sleep over. Later, as we counted our money in bed, she teased me with a violet wand.
I do many types of sex work, but porn and escorting are my bread-and-butter. As with any kind of high-end sales, I do my best to make people think about the money as little as possible. All finances are negotiated prior to bookings, and once I'm with a client, I focus as much as possible on staying present to ensure we have the best time we possibly can together.
Talking about money is awkward for most people, never mind perfect strangers from different backgrounds trying to negotiate an erotic, semi-illegal transaction. It can be a hot mess if not handled with care.
I grew up working class. I was raised on federally distributed commodity foods, and I am deep in student-loan debt. Sometimes I feel as though my clients, who usually make upwards of six figures, can somehow smell the generations of poverty on me — in the way I hold my fork or how I pronounce certain words.
Sex work has been my life-hack for hauling myself, rung by rung, up the class ladder. But social climbing is a game rigged by the patriarchy. Once I realized that most women are destined to deal with different forms of objectification while living in a man's world, regardless of what career they choose, I made the choice to capitalize on its spoils.
For the last six years, I've thrown myself into the hustle of the adult industry — the one industry where women are the top earners — marketing myself as "The Whore Next Door," an approachable, all-American girl with a nerdy heart and a pervy mind. I do my best to deflate the power of the money my clients give me — to make it seem like an afterthought — when in fact, it's the main event. Rarely, if ever, do I discuss money with my clients. Thus far, this approach has served me well.
But in the past year, something began to shift. I came to realize that as a sex-positive person who is also an adult industry professional, my sex drive is not a constant. Rather, it's an ever-evolving tidal wave of weird. And the more knowledge I amass, the more curious I become.
I do occasionally explore power exchange and kink with my clients, but it is always on their terms, as I am providing a service to them. If they desire a BDSM fantasy with me in the role of mistress, it's their fantasy. I have simply been cast as the leading lady. Though I may enjoy my time with clients, and even play director now and then, I am temporarily under their employ, not their mistress.
However, six years of holding sex and money so close together in my mind has changed my relationship to both. Now, there is no more denying it: Money turns me on.
It turns all of us on — that's capitalism. But more specifically, during the exchange of power that happens when men, who wield the bulk of the power and privilege in our society, relinquish their money to women who hold substantially less power and earning potential, I feel something stir and flutter inside me.
A constant power exchange exists in a strip club between dancer and client, as the former encourages the latter to spend increasing amounts of money as the night presses on. Grinding my hips on his thighs, whispering, "Do you wanna get another dance?" breathily into his ear even though I already know the answer, and feeling him willingly place a little slice of his power into my underwear in the form of crisp, green paper — it feels edgy, brave, and sometimes intensely erotic.
"Financial domination is very intimate, and personal," says Penny Barber, a San Francisco dominatrix, porn star, and author, in her talk on the subject for Kink University. "It's almost more intimate than having sex with someone. It's the ultimate way to control someone's time on this planet." ...
Science fiction fans keen on Star Trek will know a different version of subspace than what we're talking about here, but, just like in the show, "subspace" in BDSM refers to a specific kind of space with its own rules, texture, and properties -- a kind of altered reality.
In BDSM, this altered reality usually takes place in the mind, although changes in the surrounding physical space can make a difference as well. This is why, for instance, people go out of their way to visit dungeons or set up private play rooms. These intentionally designed settings make it easier to get into the mood of an interaction -- to enter a psychological state where all the worries, cares, underlying thoughts, and emotions are stripped away, and your deepest, darkest fantasies can become reality.
When we're talking about "subspace," we're talking about the specific psychological state of mind that the submissive partner (or "sub") enters into during a scene with a dominant partner. To enter this subspace, the sub must be completely comfortable with the dominant partner, as they completely give up control to the "top" or "Dom/Domme" partner.
In many ways, getting into a subspace follows many of the same steps of practicing basic mindfulness, and is not nearly as strange as it may sound. Like with mindfulness, you have to be 100 percent present with your partner and in the moment. Many performers, musicians, and athletes use similar techniques to "get in the zone," where nothing exists except the experience itself.
Ever had a book you couldn't put down or a TV series you just had to finish, even if it meant an hours-long episode marathon? Subspace is the same. It's that feeling of utter presence, when all of your senses are heightened and your mind and emotions are totally wrapped up in the suspense of the moment. For the sub, entering subspace is an experience that melts away all their worries and fears. They don't have to think about anything or make any tough decisions.
All they need to do is obey and go with the flow.
On a psychological level, the point of this kind of exchange is to make the sub feel that the scene is real, thereby triggering their sympathetic nervous system into the "fight or flight" response. Tying them up, spanking, whipping, or flogging them may be part of this, as are later elements of pleasure such as the use of a vibrator or sensory play. Verbal putdowns, humiliation and begging are often part of the scene. Though it may seem intense, this sort of play is often tailored to match deep-seated fantasies that the sub harbors but has been unable to express outside of the emotionally safe space of the scene. ...
What better way to celebrate and enjoy a beautiful, sunny Father's Day than to trek over to the Folsom Street East festival? The 15th annual event was held this past Sunday in the urban valley of West 28th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, under the watchful eye of the newly opened section of the High Line park. After all, hanging out during daylight with lots of sexy guys wearing nothing but skimpy scraps of leather, a healthy sprinkling of freaks, a little BDSM in the open air and some beer on tap was lots better than buying Daddy a tie and taking New Jersey transit out for a tedious day with dysfunctional family members. Instead, this celebration of sexual freedom offers what daddies really want: some rubber puppy paws, a plastic tail plug and a rubber dog hood for puppy play sessions.
Although you might think the event caters only to a fringe group, I bumped into a lot of my friends there. "I love leather, and I think this event is one of the sexiest of the year," photographer Rob Ordonez told me. He and his friend, fashion designer Geary Marcello, are regulars and were dressed in typical Folsom Street attire, with matching spiked dog collars, leather straps, face piercings and tattoos.
When I arrived around 3 p.m., the block was crammed with mostly men, a few women (some in leather) and drag queens. And one living blow-up doll: A person encased in a latex mask covering his entire face, who was also wearing black latex—with balloons for tits. I pushed my way through the crowd looking for the press table on the other side of the block and thought about getting a beer ticket for $5 because it was starting to get hot (in more ways than one).
As I expected from photos I'd seen from previous Folsoms, some men were semi-nude and consisted of all different body types, ages and colors. Some wore leather chaps with ample ass hanging out, some wore other bondagetype fashion (harnesses being the most common) and some were just wearing average, everyday clothing. What made the day fun was the sense of adventure and friendliness of the crowd.
The stage shows were emceed by porn star personalities Mike Dreyden (who later participated in the most unique pie-eating contest ever conceived) and Will Clark. Sassy drag queen Peppermint performed and—although there were some wellplaced taunts from the average-looking gawkers on the High Line—it was a feelgood day.
My friend, nightlife photographer Teague Clements, seemed to have a great time. "It was a veritable cornucopia of sexual freedom: leather daddies with their lovers, lesbian doms with their boi slaves, muscular bears walking hand-in-hand," he said. "And every now and then, people just... kissing. And yes, there were straight folks, too."