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. ...
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.
MEN'S HEALTH RECOMMENDS
Type in your name or anyone's, this site is addicting
The #1 Thing That Will Make a Woman Brag About You To Her Friends
Sales Closing Techniques You Need to Know to Succeed in the Modern Era
5 Exercises That Make You Better At Sex
What's causing your Lower Back Pain?
The New Rules Of Oral Sex
your email address
YOU MAY UNSUBSCRIBE AT ANY TIME.
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. ...