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." ...
By Stefanie Iris Weiss | Photos by Jonathan Alpeyrie
They met on the dance floor at Burning Man.
Michel Madie, a 57-year-old French Jew of Algerian descent, a former veterinarian, and a real estate mogul in New York City. Rasmus Foyer, a 27-year-old Swedish civil engineering student with an open heart and a talent for fire dancing. Their thirty-year age-difference was a minor challenge when compared to all that would stand in the way of their love: geographical distance, sexual orientation, and the vagaries of technology and time.
Michel and Rasmus’ encounter might have been as fleeting as any other in Black Rock City, where the desert sands often act as the pixie dust of love at first sight. Thousands of people fall into instantaneous, erotic rapture with fellow travelers during this annual experimental desert arts festival with radical self-expression at its core, only to go back to their workaday lives alone. But fate’s hand interceded for Michel and Rasmus and it could not be ignored: On December 12th, 2015, sixteen months after they first met, the two men were married by a rabbi in the converted Harlem church that is also their home.
Surrounded by hundreds of friends dressed in faux fur, feathers and LED-lit animal costumes, the couple took their vows and was blessed under Michel’s ancestral tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl. Each of them stomped on a symbolic glass under a chupah threaded with feathers, African masks, tribal chest pieces and dream catchers. The crowd wept and burst into cheers. Then the party went for another 24 hours, starting with a traditional Algerian dinner, and followed by belly and flamenco dancers, acrobats and a rotation of five gifted DJ’s spinning deep house, down-tempo and funk. Glowing antlers and mermaid tails swayed to the beat, sky-high on the thumping love buzz.
“Dancing is a place of giving free expression, giving in to who you are with movement, being an animal – being your own animal,” says Michel, whose wedding guests embraced his philosophy that night. All four floors of the building vibrated with explosive joy and in some cases, nakedness and sharing of intimate pleasures. Sexual evolution is part of everyday life for this pair, so conscious sexual play was a natural denouement of their wedding ceremony.
In the summer of 2016 they will have a second wedding at Burning Man — one that will surely somehow outdo the first one, whose invitation beseeched guests to:
Be your totem animal: body-paint on your bare skin or body suit, full-on animal costume, or CREATE your own CREATURE. What we want present at our wedding is the beast inside of you. Is it furry, feathery, fuzzy, prickly, clawy, funny, mystical, dark, ethereal, dangerous, charming, sexy, all the above…? Cartoons and fairy-tales, jungle and fantasies, Noah’s Arch and mythology, be invited!
Both men are strikingly handsome, tall, and unflinchingly masculine; disarmingly attractive and seemingly completely free of pretense and affectation. It seems natural that Rasmus and Michel’s lives would change the moment they saw each other – so much raw power colliding – but it would be a few months until either understood exactly how.
Michel and Rasmus were each in relationships with women the night they met, and both had been previously married to women. (Michel also has a 35-year-old son from a previous relationship who lives in Paris, and attended the wedding.) They both made it clear that their blossoming partnership was no ethical breach – their previous relationships had ended before they allowed themselves to consider pursuing each other. ...
PHOENIX (KSAZ) - In the middle of a major spring snowstorm, the streets of Denver seem deserted, but it's a celebration of love, at the National Loving More Convention in the Denver suburbs. Here a wife may be dancing with her boyfriend, and her husband doesn't mind. That's the polyamorous way.
"It is loving more than one in a committed relationship, it's that simple," said Torin Caffrey.
Robyn Trask runs the nonprofit dedicated to promoting polyamory. She is married to Jesus but has had a year-long intimate relationship with Ben.
Photo Exploring polyamorous relationships
"I just came to terms with the fact I wasn't a monogamous person, if that meant I had to be alone then I would rather be alone than cheat or be dishonest," said Robyn Trask.
"For me it just comes naturally, I love seeing Robyn happy, so the thought of her going out and seeing her giddy it actually just warms my heart," said Jesus Garcia.
Robyn met Ben years ago at a conference, and the two have been close ever since.
"Over time anything is going to change, and when people see that there are options they didn't know they had, some of those people are going to be interested," said Ben.
People came from across the country to attend the conference; some say they've been "polys" as long as they can remember, others are just learning about it. Attendance at the event has grown every year, and the organizers say the younger generation tends to be much more accepting of the lifestyle.
"I always knew that our family was a little different from our friends, but I never really paid a lot of attention to it until about age 11 when I noticed some of my mom's friends weren't just friends," said Marina Trask.
Trask has nothing bad to say about her mom's lifestyle. She says she is polyamorous too.
"I feel like my mom being polyamorous made her more honest with me, she used the same honestly, she did with me, and she did with her partners, and any child would want to have that honest with their parents," said Trask.
Seminars at the convention were taught by longtime supporters of the lifestyle; one literally wrote the book on polyamory.
"Love doesn't equal ownership if I'd go to a party and people would say who do you belong to, and I would say didn't slavery go out a long time ago, I really believe love is about giving not about clinging," said Mim Chapman.
Make no mistake we live in a monogamous world; we've all heard about swingers, but polyamory, supporters say, is different. It's more about long term relationships than flings. But with those multiple relationships come a range of emotions, including jealousy.
"With a polyamorous relationship it is important that a person is ready to give time to each of the people they are involved with, give emotional space to each person they are involved with," said Frances. ...
Fargo, ND (WDAY/WDAZ TV) - Love can be felt and described in a number of ways and to many, its often defined as a relationship between two people but an age old practice is seeing a new movement in the Red River Valley that challenges the social norm.
The polyamorous community is now reaching out, showing that they are here, should be accepted and that it's more common than you may think.
Game night with family and friends can bring a lot of laughter and love but for many in this room, love has broader boundaries than many traditionally think.
“None of this, I have to have a secret life in my head,”
“Yes, I have played wingman for my husband. It's a thing.”
Kurt Mesford and his wife, who's asked to be called Ashton and have her identity hidden, share a view on love that's not the norm.
“At the moment, I don't think we have,” said Kurt.
“We don't have anyone shared,” said Ashton.
“That would be convenient.”
“Then they could just show up at the house and hang out with whoever's there.”
“I don't share your taste in women.”
“We're attracted to very different types, I guess.”
They're polyamorous, which means many loves.
Each currently has five relationships, a dynamic they're open with in their church where Ashton teaches Sunday school, with their family and friends and with their young daughter Haven.
“She doesn't know anything more about our love life than she would if we were monogamous,” said Ashton.
With the unique family dynamic, Haven has had to explain it to friends.
“I just say one person loves more than one person that's not in the family,” said Haven.
But she loves her parents as well as all of their partners, including one of Ashton's boyfriends, Andrew Tyson.
“If you're married and you're falling in love with a second person, your options are to either cheat or grit your teeth an bare it. Polyamory offers another option,” said Tyson.
As a once monogamous married man, Andrew has made polyamorous activism his passion with the recent creation of a group called PolyAware.
He estimates about 1,000 people in Fargo-Moorhead are polyamorous and he wants others who are interested to know there is a place to learn more and feel accepted.
“Monogamy is so present and engrained in our culture that people never really question it. It's rare that you find someone who questions and wakes up one day and says 'huh, I wonder if I really should be monogamous', because they don't realize they have other choices,” said Tyson. ...
Monogamy has been the standard for relationships, especially ones that are "true" and built upon "love." I grew up internalizing this, seeing this in all the relationships around me, and trying to believe this. As an adult though, I've struggled with the idea that I wouldn't ever be able to love other people because I'd only be allowed to love one person. On the inside, I felt I could love my primary partner while simultaneously having other relationships with people, regardless of whether they were intimate, long-term relationships, or just dating. Even though it wasn't the norm, practicing polyamory has worked for me. But when people judge my sexual identity and my relationships and tell me that love doesn't work that, all of those feelings about what was "right" and "wrong" come rushing back.
These days, after trial and error — and even more trial and error since every person is different — I've learned a lot about what non-monogamy looks like. Monogamy is definitely not for me, and I can also say non-monogamy isn't as glamorous and exciting as its made to look. Believe it or not, non-monogamy, at least in my experience, has been incredibly similar to monogamous relationships, just with multiple people involved. It's something that often confuses my friends. They like to make jokes with me about my "monogamous non-monogamy," and sometimes it's funny, but other times its just annoying. They assume that if I'm looking for relationships outside of my current relationship, it's because there must be a problem. What they don't understand is that, for me, the fact that I could be interested in pursuing relationships other than my primary one because my primary relationship is secure. I feel like they're so quick to label non-monogamy as "cheating" and they forget that cheating is something that stems from what's been broken, damaged, or neglected. Pursuing other people, while practicing ethical polyamory, under those circumstances, are not encouraged. If anything they are discouraged.
I once had a conversation with my mom about polyamory, without letting her know I participated in it. It happened right after my divorce, and while I was actively practicing non-monogamy with my partner, I wasn't ready to deal with what I assumed would be my mom's judgment on the topic, because, knowing her, she'd likely have plenty of it. As we were talking, she said:
Is this what people do when they can't love someone, and they just want something new because they're bored?
I remember laughing because I had that mindset once, and I explained to her that some people feel that their love for their primary partner(s) actually grows the more people they bring into their relationship. I reminded her that we can love people in so many different ways, and that loving looks different for everyone involved. She said she understood, and made a joke about how she wouldn't have enough time. Without realizing it, she said one of the most real things about non-monogamy I've ever heard. Building relationships, and then building other relationships does take time — and sometimes it's time you don't actually have, or want to give to other people. And it's always amusing when people assume that you have a bunch of boyfriends and girlfriends just like, hanging around. I can barely keep up with my one partner, how would I be able to keep up with five?! ...
Polyamory may sound sexy on Saturday night. But on Tuesday morning, you still have multiple relationships to maintain with multiple humans with multiple real-life feelings. Polyamorous relationships can be astonishingly fulfilling, exciting, and fun. But they're also incredibly challenging. There's no one-size-fits-all for figuring out whom -- and how -- to love.
After 10 years in various poly relationships, I've learned a lot of things; many of which would have made a big difference in how I approached this lifestyle if I'd known them when I was still a poly newbie.
There's no "right" way to be polyamorous
There are as many different configurations for polyamorous relationships as there are people on the planet. People who are new to polyamory often want to know what the rules are. They want to feel secure that they are doing it "right."
The truth? The only steadfast rules of poly are the same rules that apply to any relationship... no matter if you have two or five partners. Ethical polyamory includes transparent communication, authenticity of self, and an openness to others' wants and needs. Beyond that, polyamory is completely customizable according to your comfort and experience. The key is to share your needs and fears with your partners, and be honest about your intentions and behavior.
As long as you're being ethical, there's no wrong -- or right -- way to have a polyamorous relationship.
Google Calendars will save you
There's an inside joke that the only people who actually use Google Calendars are polyamorists. Splitting time between multiple partners can be a bit like keeping several plates spinning at once. Google Calendars can be shared with multiple people and help everyone communicate and stay on the same page.
If you're a poly couple, planning your dates away from your primary partner on the same night can help ward off lonely feelings or worrying about the partner left home. Just offering to share a calendar with a partner can help assure them you're genuine in your desire to maintain open communication and honesty -- which can go a long way in establishing trust in your polyamorous relationships.
Polyamory will not fix relationship issues
If you're having difficulty being ethical in your monogamous relationships, polyamory is not the solution to your romantic woes. Yes, it’s possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship. This may sound obvious, but all of your partners have to be aware that they are dating someone polyamorous for the relationship to be polyamorous. Otherwise, you're cheating.
Likewise, adding a partner to the mix is not likely to "spice up" your relationship if someone isn't getting their needs met. People are not need-filling machines. It takes a lot of communication, self-reflection, and emotional maturity to maintain romantic and sexual relationships with multiple partners. ...
DirecTV's new series You, Me, Her is testing the limits of television with its push for threesomes and beyond.
Created by John Scott Shepherd, the show hopes to normalize polyamory and “unconventional relationships” in the culture.
Shepherd confirmed to The Contenders Emmys panel Sunday that the show aims to paint polyamory in a realistic way. The average person such as the viewer could find himself or herself in this atypical situation, he said.
Perhaps not surprisingly, You, Me, Her was inspired by an article in the raunchy Playboy magazine.
“I think people are going to be very surprised,” said Faia of her new role. “The show’s not about sex, it’s about connection and relationships."
Faia said she was aware of the nature of the show’s theme, but she hoped the audience could accept it.
“I think a lot of people have this expectation of what this show is going to be,” she said. “You see this guy, who’s married, who is possibly maybe having a threesome with these two women but I think it is so different from that. It’s totally told from a unique perspective. It’s about the average joe, this suburban couple that are really falling for this girl and she is falling for them.”
Faia said the show is not only funny but also relatable. She refrained from mentioning the commonness of polyamory in the United States, which is estimated to be around 4 percent of the population. ...
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. ...