The Sexy, Secret History of Leather Fetish Fashion

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From post-war motorcycle groups to modern-day sex apps, this is the story of how leather became a symbol of masculinity and sexuality

By Louis Staples

This article is part of a series on AnotherManmag.com that coincides with LGBT History Month, shining a light on different facets of queer culture. Head here for more.

“When I’m wearing my leathers, I like the way I get to be such a symbol, a trope, of masculinity and sexuality,” explains Max, a 38-year-old gay man from London. Max is a “leatherman” or “leatherdaddy”, two common descriptors for gay and bisexual men who fetishise leather clothes and accessories.

“Fetish fashion” is the term used to describe the intrinsic link between clothing and sexual fetishes, with materials like leather, lace, latex, and rubber holding particular prominence. Dr Frenchy Lunning, author of the 2013 book Fetish Style, writes that fashion has historically been the easiest way to “traverse” from one spectrum of fetish to the other. Lunning gauges that, in the history of fetish fashion, there have been two climaxes – no pun intended – with the first occurring between 1870 and 1900. “The Victorians went crazy over silk and velvet,” writes Pat Califia, author of Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. “As quickly as new substances were manufactured, somebody eroticised them.”

When fetishwear resurged for its second peak a century later, between 1970 and 2000, leather was the material of choice. On the gay scene, an infatuation with leather was alive and well as early as the 1950s. Today, leather fetishwear is worn by leathermen like Max in sex clubs, parties, Pride parades and hook-ups, but some incorporate leather into their everyday lives, too. Common clothes and accessories include leather trousers, boots, jackets, gloves, ties and caps, with harnesses, masks and jockstraps more often worn during sexual encounters.

While leather fetishwear is not exclusively queer, there is a widely acknowledged parallel between the increased visibility of gay and lesbian identities and leather-based fetishes in contemporary culture. Recon – a fetish app for gay and bisexual men – allows leather wearers to connect with others and follow a year-round calendar of global events such as “London Fetish Week” and “Leather Prides” in cities from Los Angeles to Belgium. Paul, a 34-year-old Recon user, tells me that he equates leather with “power, strength and dominance”. He doubts that he could be with someone “vanilla” – a term for someone who doesn’t have any fetishes. “There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity,” he says. Max, who was first drawn towards leather five years ago, also associates it with manhood. “It’s just so fucking masculine,” he explains. “The more masculine I’ve become over time, the more I’ve been into it. When I wear leathers, it feels like my exterior is reflecting my interior. It’s weighty too: the opposite of something light, diaphanous and feminine.”

“There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity” – Paul, 34

These remarks reveal leather fetish fashion’s significance to masculine gay identities, particularly those relating to sadomasochistic (S&M) sexual practices. In Hal Fischer’s seminal photography book Gay Semiotics, which analyses coded gay fashion signifiers in 1970s San Francisco, leather accessories like caps were indicators that the wearer was interested in sadomasochistic sex. Lesbians also adopted leather and, nowadays, female sex workers and dominatrixes often wear the material. Though, traditionally, the gay leather scene centres on “dominant” men wishing to “own”, or exert control over, a “submissive” male partner.

Sociologist Meredith G. F. Worthen, author of Sexual Deviance and Society, writes that the leather community first emerged after the Second World War, when military servicemen had difficulty assimilating back into mainstream society. For many of these men, their military service had allowed them to explore homosexual desire for the first time. When the war ended, a void was left by the absence of homosexual sex and same-sex friendships. Instead, many found sanctuary in motorcycle communities where leather clothing was popular. The men who rode these bikes were icons of cultural masculinity, conjuring up an image of dangerous rebelliousness that was alluring to many gay men who were weary of seeing themselves depicted as effeminate pansies. Peter Hennen, author of Faeries, Bears and Leathermen, believes that this caused gay men to “invest in leather with a certain erotic power intimately tied to the way it signalled masculinity.” Queer cultural historian Daniel Harris suggests that the “raw masculinity” that leather evokes “shaped a new form of masculinised gay identity among leathermen.”

Leather’s military routes, combined with its significance in hierarchy-driven male social groups, are thought to be behind its importance to sexual practices like S&M, which centre on order, discipline and control. Yet outside the leather fetish scene, artist Andy Warhol famously used garments such as the leather jacket as a device to appear more masculine from the 1950s to 1960s. Transforming his personal style, Warhol sought to present a more macho, aloof persona to the heterosexual male-dominated New York art establishment.

“Tom of Finland ‘set the standard’ for the ‘quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock’”

Max tells me that cultural imagery, such as “Tom of Finland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Marlon Brando and James Dean” contributes to his love for leather. Finnish artist Touko Valio Laaksonen, commonly known as Tom of Finland, is behind leather’s signature homoerotic aesthetic. According to feminist studies professor Jennifer Tyburczy, Finland “set the standard” for the “quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock.” By depicting working-class men like construction workers, bikers and lumberjacks, Finland allowed gay men to feel masculine and strong while maintaining their interest in those of the same sex. His images are the antithesis of the effeminate gay stereotype that was widely circulated at the time, bringing connotations of hyper-masculinity, strength and, of course, sex to black leather. After being circulated in physique magazines such as Physical Pictorial throughout the 1950s, his work quickly became emblematic of the gay fetish community.

Following the popularity of leather in the queer sanctuary cities on America’s coasts, international travel increased its global appeal, with leather kink scenes developing in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and parts of Scandinavia. Imitations of Finland’s images became the customary advertisement of fetish events in these places, which were often disguised as motor sport or biking clubs. For the first time, Finland’s reclamation of masculine imagery provided gay men with what communications professor Martti Lahti describes as an “empowering and affirmative” gay image.

Though after years of resurgence, the leather fetish scene is facing challenges. Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers. Lesbian leather wearers, who have traditionally operated their BDSM club scene separately, have been most harshly impacted by club closures as most gay leather nights purposely ban women from entering. With a full outfit of leathers costing several thousand pounds, it is little wonder that younger kinksters are turning to cheaper alternatives like rubber or sportswear to fulfil their fetish needs.

“Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers”

The extended rights and freedoms won by queer people in recent decades have also resulted in pressure from wider heterosexual-focussed society to assimilate to their norms. Queer historian Lisa Duggan has described how the pressure to comply with what she calls “neoliberal” aims has resulted in a “depoliticised” and “desexualised” gay identity revolving around “domesticity” and heteronormative institutions like marriage. This gay identity can be exclusionary to those that fall outside its “acceptable” norms.

As the visibility of “vanilla” gayness has extended, heterosexual kink aesthetics have moved further into the mainstream, ushered in by pop moments like Madonna’s Justify My Love, Rhianna’s Disturbia and Christina Aguilera’s Bionic era, plus books such as 50 Shades of Grey. Reality star Kylie Jenner even graced the cover of Interview magazine dressed as a “sex doll”, clad entirely in skin-tight black latex. Though despite figure skater Adam Rippon wearing a leather harness once on the red carpet and the occasional performance costume from Jake Shears, the Village People’s Tom of Finland-inspired outfits and Robert Mapplethorpe’s extremely explicit photographs – both almost 40 years old – remain gay fetish fashion’s most visible representations.

With visible mainstream gay identities remaining “desexualised”, the false link between kink, sexual deviance, immorality and even criminality – a trope peddled for decades to depict gay men as “socially wrong” or “sick” – still lingers, even within the LGBTQ+ community. Andrew Cooper, author of Changing Gay Male Identities, suggests that overt sexuality has become less important to gay identities since the AIDS crisis, when sex – and communities like the leather scene that revolve around sex – became associated with death and shame. In Beneath the Skins, a book that analyses the politics of kink, Ivo Dominguez Jr writes that, as gay identities and attitudes become more sanitised, “leatherphobia” remains a significant barrier. Dominguez suggests that those who practice leather are seen by the wider LGBTQ+ community as “poor relatives they wish to hide” or an “albatross around their public relations neck”.

Yet the leather scene could certainly be more inclusive itself. In addition to its exclusion of women, it is overwhelmingly white. When combined with the fact that elements of the leatherman aesthetic have been co-opted by various sub-fetishes and groups that eroticise white supremacist roleplay and Nazi iconography, this paints a particularly objectionable picture. Then there’s the fact that much of the hyper-masculine culture that surrounds leather promotes the idea that feminine men are inferior. Society’s ever-evolving understanding of the effects of entrenched, socially-constructed gender binaries and toxic masculinity has undoubtedly reduced its appeal further.

However, despite its current challenges, the history of leather fetish fashion is as fascinating as the black cowhide is transformative to those who lust over it. Leather can conjure solidarity among those who feel alienated, while acting as a symbol of sexual liberation. Its history tells a nuanced, important story of just how integral fashion can become to communities and subcultures. To its devotees, it represents more than mere aesthetics or the leather-clad bikers of the past. To them, leather fetish fashion is a way of life.

Complete Article HERE!

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A lesson on consent

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The difference between writing and BDSM is… kind of a lot

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Despite living mere blocks from a sex shop, I’d never been inside. Until one sweltering evening this past summer, when my writer friend, Elle, invited me to a “Scene Building 101” class hosted by Pleasures & Treasures (2525 University Ave.).

It sounds like a writing class, we joked. Let’s go learn a thing or two! 

But, no, it was not a writing class. This was a BDSM class. “Scenes” and “play” are what we plebes lump into the cliché umbrella of roleplaying, but to the BDSM community this sort of thing is fundamental.

Scene Building 101, taught by Bikkja Amy, is considered a “soft skills” class. Hard skills, on the other hand, are things like spanking and mummification. (I’ll save you the private browser googling session: Mummification is wrapping your sub entirely in plastic wrap for an escape scene or for sensory deprivation.)

Elle, it turned out, had been to a Pleasures & Treasures class before (FYI it was a hard skills class). I learned this as we went around the room for introductions. Everyone was asked to identify themselves as a top, a bottom or a “switch,” and whether it was our first time at a class. It was hard for me to focus on everything I had just discovered about Elle, but I was up next.

“I’m Julia. I’m–” Oh god. I didn’t want to out myself as a nothing, nor did I want to pretend. I also didn’t want to out myself as a writer because it felt just as incriminating to either be a journalist or a wannabe BDSM novelist who was there to gather material.

For the love of God don’t say, “I’m a writer,” I thought.

“Just say you’re a switch,” Elle whispered.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

The class was primarily structured around where to find new ideas, and how to start and configure a “play date.” Seated in folding chairs in a circle, it was less instruction and more of a brag-adjacent discussion. I wrote in my notes, I think this class could really benefit from narrative and character elements!

I also wrote down some of the zingers: “I saw someone with a fishnet outfit and people cutting it off with a knife. And I was like, gonna try that!” one woman said. “I like to light people on fire and throw them in the pool,” someone else said.

As the class progressed, I was so busy marveling at the sheer variety of previously unfathomable BDSM kinks that I almost didn’t notice the bulletproof lesson on consent rippling quietly beneath the surface. 

Everyone here had braved a stuffy evening discussing pervy stuff with near-strangers to master the “ask,” and to learn how to lay groundwork. Scene building in the BDSM community is not about developing relatable characters with a full narrative arc ahead of them. It’s laying out expectations, boundaries and, most importantly, consent.

“If I didn’t mention it [beforehand], those things are off the table. It is the stupidest thing on the planet to say you have no limits,” the instructor explained.

A woman spoke up, in a weirdly chill voice: “So, I’m a masochist? And I don’t want to top from the bottom.” Her concern was that spelling out her boundaries ahead of time can sometimes feel like “topping,” but the instructor was steadfast. Set the boundaries and exchange consent, all the time, and every time, they told us. Find creative ways to do it, but definitely do it.

It wasn’t the place I expected to hear such a clear message on something so wholesomely universal. I think I found my kink.

Complete Article HERE!

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11 Sex Tips for Guys Just Coming Out of the Closet

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By Zachary Zane

A few pointers for people who are just starting to explore their sexuality!

Right after coming out as gay/bi, the idea of having sex with another man can be nerve-wracking. The mechanics, while simple, aren’t necessarily intuitive. It also can be tough to really connect to another guy sexually right after sashaying out of the closet. Well, as we begin 2019, let’s make a New Year’s resolution to explore having better and more meaningful sex. With that in mind, here are 11 sex tips for guys who’ve just come out as queer.

1. There will always be cute guys

Cute guys are a dime a dozen. There will always be cute guys, so don’t be upset if one rejects you. Seriously, it’s not the end of the world! Don’t do anything stupid just to have sex with one. Relax. You have the rest of your life to sleep with cute guys.

2. Use condoms (even if you’re on PrEP)

If you just came out and are just starting to get comfortable with your sexuality, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is getting an STD or STI. Honestly, it’s just going to bum you out and make you never want to have sex again. So wear condoms. (Even if you’re on PrEP!)

3. Tell him what you’re into beforehand

Sex shouldn’t be a guessing game. If you’re into something, let him know beforehand that you like X, Y, Z, and it would really turn you on if he did that to you. That’s one of the (few) things that’s great about apps like Grindr. You can explicitly state what you’re into before meeting up without any judgement.

4. Be vocal during sex

In addition to saying what you’re into before things start heating up, you should also be vocal about what you like during sex. If that position isn’t doing anything for you, tell him you want to change positions. He isn’t a mind reader. Let him know what’s up!

5. Have sex with guys who are outside your normal “preference”

We all have men who we are attracted to and not attracted to. I’m not saying that you should sleep with men you’re not attracted to, but I am saying that you should broaden your horizons. Often, societal norms dictate to us what’s attractive. If we’re able to break away from societal standards of beauty, it opens us up (metaphorically and physically) to a wider range of sexual and romantic partners. 

6. Be vers

It’s 2019. Being a top or bottom only is so passé. Do it all. Be a millennial, renaissance man! Besides, being vers makes you a better lover because you’re aware of the mechanics of both types of sex.

7. You can say “no” anytime before or during sex

You can always say no anytime before or during sex without an ounce of shame. If you don’t feel comfortable, you have a right to stop having sex at anytime. Is it awkward to kick guys out of your house? Yes, it is, but it is worth the awkwardness. If you’re not into it, and he’s being aggressive, tell him to GTFO.

8. Figure out your own method of cleaning your butt

There are plenty of ways to get a deep clean. Figure out if a douche (or some other way) is the right way for you! While I douche, I’ve heard of some folks using ear syringes to clean out because it’s less forceful.

9. Never feel embarrassed, ashamed, or awkward about asking a guy’s status

You should never get uncomfortable or feel bad for asking a guy what his status is, as well as asking him to use a condom. In the era of PrEP, there is definitely a little bit of condom-shaming, but while you shouldn’t judge them for not wearing a condom, they shouldn’t judge you for wanting to wear one.

10. Use lube

Lube is your best friend. The more lube the better. You want to be turning that bed of yours into a Slip ‘N Slide! Additionally, it’s important to see what type of lube feels best for you. Some guys prefer water-based, whereas others prefer silicone or a hybrid mix of both. 

11. Explore your kinks

We all have some form of kink. Something a little more exciting that we’re into. Explore them now. There’s literally no reason to wait. And no matter how “weird” you think your kink is, there are literally thousands (if not millions) of guys who have the same one. You’re definitely not alone.

Complete Article HERE!

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Kinky Sex and Fetishes:

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How to Talk to Your Partner About Them

It’s normal to want to try new things in bed, but communicating those desires can feel wholly unnatural. These tips can help.

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Chances are, you’ve fantasized about having kinky sex. Most people have, according to sex researchers and people who say words. It’s also likely that more people have enjoyed what might be considered “fringe” activities in the bedroom than we would likely assume. So, the window of what constitutes “normal” sexual behavior is expanding. But not everyone has jumped onboard. Although, maybe they should. Studies show that novelty is a major contributor to sexual satisfaction, especially in the context of a long-term relationship. And, honestly, kinks and fetishes are nothing to be ashamed of.

Of course, there are a lot of opportunities to fail in the quest to become a sexual adventurer. Deliveries can go awry. Desires can be miscommunicated. At the end of the day, there’s no shortage of ways trying to introduce something new can dissolve into an embarrassing misadventure. Yeah, talking to your partner about sex can be weird. Still, it’s important to try. Listed below, we bring you a few different ways to kick off the conversation.

Start Small

So you want to try something new during sex. Maybe you’ve been thinking of bringing some BDSM, one of the most common fetishes, into the bedroom. Our advice is to start small. Remember, the acronym covers a lot of territory. It’s probably better to err on the lighter side of the spectrum before throwing on the gimp suit. In fact, it’s probably best to avoid accessories all together during the introductory phase. Instead, try talking to your partner about some light spanking, hair pulling, or maybe some edge play before diving into deeper waters.

Watch Some Erotic Films Together

We’ve said it before: if those who can’t do, teach, then those who can’t say, show. If you don’t have the words to communicate a certain sexual interest, then don’t worry. There is most certainly a video out there able to demonstrate your desires. As Rule 34 of the Internet states, “If it exists, there is porn of it.” The professionals have a way of making things look more appealing. Just keep in mind that it’s not realistic.

Read Some Erotic Literature

Ok, so porn might not be for everyone (although, research statistics would suggest that those who don’t care for the medium fall within a decreasing minority). Fortunately, there’s a slightly less explicit option out there to entertain, and it comes in the form of words. Erotic literature has become an increasingly popular genre over the past couple of years, with websites popping up all over the place designed to host this kind of content. Try combing through the selection. Find a passage that speaks to you, and your kink. Now go ahead and share it with your partner.

Go to a Sex Shop Together

Not everything has to have a specific aim and purpose. Entertaining more nonchalant activities can also help get the erotic wheels rolling. Try hitting up a sex shop with your partner. It’s a low-stakes way to become familiar with what’s out there. Sometimes, the best kind of inspiration comes when we aren’t looking for it.

Let Pop Culture Guide You

Maybe these explicitly sexual options aren’t for you. Don’t worry; there are, in fact, some PG approaches to talking about R-rated activities. All you have to do is put on some TV. Want to put pegging on the radar? Just tune into Broad City for a brief introduction. Interested in analingus? The cast of Girls has got your back. Into a good spanking? Check out Secretary. Seriously, there’s so much out there.

Amp Up Your Sext Game

Millennials have been accused of prioritizing digital communication over in-person encounters. And while that may come back to bite us in some ways, it does provide us with a skill set we can use to combat anxieties over speaking about sex, IRL. Chances are you text your partner throughout the day. Try introducing a little spice into the routine. You never know when a sexy message will spiral into a more substantial dialogue.

Complete Article HERE!

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What is BDSM?

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A beginners kinky guide to getting started with BDSM

By Mistress Scarlett

Many people think of BDSM as whips and chains in dark, scary dungeons, but the truth of it is, anyone could be practicing aspects of BDSM in their own homes to spice up their sex lives, live out fantasies or enjoy minor taboos that in the past were not even mentioned in public. BDSM as a term stood for bondage and discipline, domination and submission and sadism and masochism in the past, which could make it sound quite intimidating to many people. BDSM is now used as a blanket term for fetishes and kinks that fall outside of mainstream behaviors. Many of these kinks and fetishes actually have nothing to do with sex at all while others are intricately entwined with what goes on in the bedroom. Some BDSM practices are only carried out in the bedroom while others such as TPE (total power exchange) may actually be ingrained in to every aspect of daily life. There are actually far too many aspects of BDSM today than what can be categorized in to neatly label little boxes, so we are just going to look at a small portion of what makes up BDSM and focus on the more erotic side of the topic.

Remember, the first rule in BDSM is consent and the persons giving the consent need to be fully informed of all the risks and be able to legally consent to whatever aspect is being introduced. Remember, BDSM as practiced by real people is not the same as what is shown in entertainment such as movies or porn. Most kinks, fetishes or role play do need special gear, clothing, equipment or even a dungeon. If you want to wear fun outfits for role play, that is up to you but the only thing that limits your BDSM play is your own imagination. If you do get wrapped up in all things BDSM you might then want to invest in equipment such as bondage gear, ropes, floggers, canes, electro-play equipment, sounds, leather, chains and more. There is a vast variety of equipment available online and in certain adult stores. Always purchase good quality, body safe equipment for any BDSM play to keep everyone involved as safe as possible. Do not try any of the more risky kinks such as suspension bondage, knife or needle play and so forth unless you have had some training and are 100% sure you can keep your partner safe from unintended harm. Even simple play such as spanking can go wrong if you don’t know the person you are playing with well and their potential health problems. Research everything thoroughly if you plan to go in-depth in to BDSM and get a mentor if possible. Go to events and moots to learn more so that you always play safely.

Let’s look at some basic BDSM play. Bondage can refer to ropes, cuffs and other restraints but can also include aspects such as mummification, vacuum packing, sensory deprivation, masks, gags and more. Bondage can be for a short time or extended periods and can be gentle to extreme. There is aesthetic bondage such as Shibari which is done for body decoration to suspension bondage where the person in bondage is actually hoisted off the floor / bed / flat surface. Both of these types of bondage require dedication, study and knowledge to keep everyone safe from injury. Discipline can be part of domination and submission play or just spankings for fun. Erotic discipline such as flogging can be extremely enjoyable to all involved while spanking for punishment can be attached to behavior modification and control. There are so many variables and aspects to this type of play as well and it is very important that research is done before embarking on any type of BDSM play.

In dominance and submission there is generally role play where one person is in control of another person or persons. For some people this role play happens in the bedroom only, while for others this can actually become part of their daily lives. Some people may also switch and be dominant on some occasions or with some people and be submissive at other times. These dynamics can change quite a bit as well. A male dominant is usually referred to as a Dom or Master and a female dominant as a Domme, Domina, Mistress, Goddess and other honorifics. The person is the submissive role is generally referred to as a sub or a slave depending on their roles. This type of play also encompasses “Littles” with Daddy/Mommy figures and other types of play such as Puppy, Pony and Kitten play. There is nothing wrong with experimenting in the different roles until you figure out what you enjoy and what you don’t. Just stick to the golden rule of consent and safety at all times.

Masochism and sadism usually features someone who enjoys inflicting pain with someone who enjoys receiving pain. This can be mild spanking to CBT and includes play such as knives, needles, hot wax and more. This type of play can be very erotic and can also be quite extreme depending on the people involved and what gets their motors running. There are many, many, many other kinks, fetishes and more that can be explored under the wide umbrella of the term BDSM. If you are interested in making things a bit more interesting in the bedroom or even your daily life, spend some time on sites dedicated to BDSM; go to events and meetings with like-minded people. You may very well be surprised at what turns you on.

Complete Article HERE!

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What the BDSM community can teach us about consent

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By Olivia Cassano

In heteronormative porn scripts, enthusiastic consent is about as common as a real female orgasm.

However, there’s a fringe of mainstream society that actually knows how to practise affirmative consent, and one from whom the general community could learn a thing or two: BDSM enthusiasts.

As it turns out, kinksters are the ones who have been doing sex right this whole time.

According to a recent survey conducted by the sexual health charity FPA (Family Planning Association), 47% of the 2,000 people surveyed think it’s OK for someone to withdraw consent if they are already naked, and only 13% said they would discuss issues of consent with a partner.

Too often in sexual encounters, consent is considered implicit: it’s rarely asked for, and sex continues until someone – usually the woman – says no.

However, in BDSM scenarios, only a clear, enthusiastic and ongoing ‘yes’ constitutes consent. There’s a big difference between our mainstream ‘no means no’ mentality and BDSM’s ‘yes means yes’ approach.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk, sex educator, queer porn maker and BDSM provider Pandora Blake explains that the absence of a ‘no’ isn’t enough to constitute consent.

‘We’re conditioned from a young age to not say no,’ Pandora tells us. ‘Women are socialised to be people-pleasing, and when you get into the habit of people-pleasing it can make it hard not only to say no but to even be in touch with what we want.’

Because BDSM is an umbrella term that encapsulates a wide spectrum of different activities, Blake explains that you can never assume what your partner will be keen on.

‘Saying “I’m into BDSM” doesn’t mean you’re going to know what the other person actually likes, and you have to talk through it to find out if you have any kinks in common.

‘In mainstream sex people think they know the script, and actually that script doesn’t work for a lot of people, but there’s this assumption that they know what sex is.’

In the BDSM scene, partners explicitly negotiate specific sex acts beforehand, rather than assuming it’s kosher until somebody says no. Because BDSM can be risky and push people’s comfort limits, those who practise it don’t just assume a partner will be okay with a certain act just because they haven’t said ‘no’.

‘Everybody who plays BDSM games has their own ways of keeping themselves safe, and there are different community standards which different people subscribe to,’ says Blake. ‘One of the mantras that people use is Safe, Sane and Consensual, which is the idea that any riskier activities are done in a way that minimises risk and is as safe as possible.

‘Sane refers to people’s abilities to give informed consent, so: are they in a state of mind where they’re able to look after themselves? Are they sober, for example? Are they going through a crisis in their life right now where they’d be inclined to make bad decisions?

‘Another system people use is Risk-Aware Consensual Kink, which makes slightly more space for risky activity, if they consent.’

BDSM is a subculture where consent and negotiation are normalised and accepted. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that compared to vanilla people, the kink community had significantly lower levels of benevolent sexism, rape myth acceptance, and victim blaming.

Another survey published in 2012 by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom also found that 85% of BDSM practitioners polled agreed with statements such as ‘a person can revoke consent at any time’, ‘consent should be an ongoing discussion in a relationship’, and ‘clear, overt consent must be given before a scene’. Over 93% of respondents endorsed the statement ‘consent is not valid when coerced’.

‘From pre-negotiations to post-mortems – just talking about things before, after and all the way throughout – it really just comes down to communication and making sure that everybody is on the same page,’ explains Blake.

‘Most consent violations happen because people are selfish and don’t have the communication tools to find out what’s going on with the other person, but most of us want to be having sex with people who genuinely want to be having sex with us.

‘There is nothing sexier than getting that information from your partner.’

Pleasure plays a huge part in consent, and heterosexual women are the ones who get the sh*t end of the stick in bed. While 95% of straight men regularly orgasm during sex, only 65% of straight women do. Society discourages us from talking about sex (ahem, prudes), making it harder for women especially to explore what they like in bed.

If we don’t encourage women to speak up about what they want in bed, how will we ever normalise affirmative consent?

‘This idea that consent is a contract is really pernicious,’ Blake says. ‘Consent is revocable and ongoing, and being encouraged to change your mind is necessary for consent. By saying you’ve changed your mind, you’re helping your partner respect your boundaries.’

‘Consent isn’t about just avoiding negative situations, it’s not about getting permission to do something, it’s an active process and collaboration between two people who respect each other to create the best experience for everyone involved.’

The same rules of engagement the BDSM community respects can easily be applied to vanilla encounters. Talking about what you want before, during and after a sexual encounter isn’t just necessary, but can be incredibly sexy too.

Asking and giving consent doesn’t have to be a formal sit down where you lay out all the things you’re ok and not ok with (although, if you want to do it that way, it’s perfectly cool).

In fact, foreplay and dirty talk are perfect ways to practice explicit consent. Asking things like ‘can I do X?’, ‘do you like it when I X?’, ‘I want to do X to you, do you want that?’ not only make the experience that much hotter, but they make sure you’re respecting your partner’s boundaries.

The only reason some people think of consent as a formal request for a sex, something that ruins the mood, is because in heteronormative, vanilla sex scenes, consent is rarely given as explicitly as it should be.

Explicit consent has a number of advantages over the implicit consent practised (or better yet, not practised) in traditional sexual scripts because everyone is required and encouraged to ask for what they want.

Boundaries and acts that are off-limit are clearly discussed, there’s no intimidation or coercion, and there’s no ambiguous silence that can be exploited. Just because you’re not keen on a flogging session, doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two from BDSM.

Complete Article HERE!

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What it really means to be in a dominant/submissive relationship

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Real D/s relationships go beyond ‘Fifty Shades.’

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When it comes to understanding BDSM, non-practitioners generally equate the kinky lifestyle with the chains, ropes, whips, and handcuffs found in Christian Grey’s “red room of pain” in Fifty Shades of Grey. And among the different elements included in the BDSM portmanteau (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism), the middle portion (a dom sub relationship) may be the most difficult to understand for those outside the kink community.

Often equated with sadism and masochism (SM), dominance and submission plays with the concepts of power and control rather than physical sensation. In a Dominant/submissive, aka Dom/sub or simply D/s, relationship, the power dynamic between the participants is the kink. Essentially, the person in the dominant role takes partial or total control over the person in the submissive role.

What defines a dom sub relationship?

Types of dom sub relationships

While the D/s relationship can be physical and/or sexually intimate, physical contact is not necessary for domination and submission, which may be conducted digitally or over the phone as well. For example, financial domination (findom) doesn’t require any physical contact, just monetary transactions. There is no singular way to be in a D/s relationship. People in D/s relationships can also be romantically involved with one another or not, monogamous or not (as in polyamorous or open), and of any gender or sexuality.

 

Some dominants and submissives (doms and subs) only remain in their roles during play scenes; a “switch” can play either role and may even negotiate swapping in the middle of a session. The ones that take on their D/s roles full-time are often in what is called a Total Power Exchange (TPE) relationship. In the BDSM community, the participants in these types of relationships are typically referred to as a “master/mistress” or a “slave,” depending on their role. Master/slave relationships (M/s) must always be consensual, and sex is not necessarily involved in these relationships. 

D/s relationships can be between BDSM lifestyle practitioners, or with a professional dominator/dominatrix (pro-domme) or a professional submissive (pro-sub).

Taking on the Dominant role

Also referred to as a “top,” the dom exerts power over the sub in a D/s relationship. This dynamic is made obvious even in the capitalization of the letters, as members of the BDSM community intentionally leave the “s” in D/s lowercase to easily denote the lower hierarchical position.

Subs are usually required to address their doms by a specific title—for example ”sir” or “mistress.” Doms can wield their power in various ways, in and out of the bedroom. There are different play scenes they can perform with their subs, from whipping and bondage to humiliation and forced chastity. Doms must have received consent from their sub to carry out any of these acts.

There are many misconceptions about doms. “Women who take on the dominant role are stereotyped as cruel and bitchy,” dominatrix and BDSM practitioner Yin Q. said in an interview with Apogee. “But to be a responsible dominant or top, one must embody humility and mercy.” Contrary to the optics, there is a lot of care and labor that goes into being a dom, from getting proper training on how to tie ropes and use toys to providing aftercare following a scene.

Two popular categories of domination are “femdom,” in which the dom is female, and “maledom,” in which the dom is male. However, a quick Google search reveals that the search term “femdom” has over 20 times more search results than “maledom” (309 million vs. 14.5 million)—it was also searched far more frequently by users, according to Google Trends.

How to be a sub

Even as femdom imagery becomes more popular online, the archetype of the feminine submissive (i.e., Anastasia Steele from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy) remains ever-prevalent, though there are subs of all genders.

A sub, or “bottom,” releases some or all control over to the dom in a D/s relationship. In the case of male submission (malesub), scenes can take the form of forced feminization, cuckoldry, and more. Because gender is inexplicably entangled with sex and power, it often—though not always—plays a major role in scene playing. Once again, the sub must consent everything that occurs during a play scene or session with a pro-domme.

The necessity of consent ensures the sub is never truly powerless during D/s play. The sub is also playing out their own kinks and fetishes in a D/s relationship. While less common than pro-dommes, pro-subbing also exists for those seeking to play the dom role in a more professional setting.

“A pro-submissive session is similar to what’s happening when you go to see immersive theatre or performance art,” pro-sub Louisa Knight told Dazed. “You go into this space that has been created, it’s very atmospheric, and you’re able to lose yourself in the experience, because you know it is a held space.”

Taking on submission as a lifestyle can lead to more than just satisfying one’s kinkiness; D/s or M/s relationships can even lead to self-improvement in other areas, including improving one’s diet and health

Consent is key

In case you haven’t caught onto the recurring theme yet, consent is vital to a functional D/s relationship. While the Fifty Shade of Grey misses the mark on consent, it at least introduced the masses to the concept of a D/s contract, which those beginning a D/s relationship can draw up to negotiate and define their arrangement. Contracts can be drawn up per play scene, as well as when entering a longer-term TPE or M/s relationship.

A safeword can also be used if a player gets uncomfortable during a scene—”mercy” is a commonly used safeword.

There is a massive difference between D/s relationships and abusive relationships, and that distinction is consent. Without consent, BDSM acts—such as sexual humiliation and caning—would be considered immoral and likely felonious.

Demystifying dom sub relationships

Being in a D/s relationship doesn’t mean you’ll start dressing up in latex and bondage gear 24/7 all of a sudden. People in D/s relationships do many of the same things as those in “vanilla” relationships—which is what those in the kink community call couples who engage solely in normative, kink-free sex—like fart in front of each other or get the flu.

Though some lifestyle slaves or subs may choose to sport a collar to signify their D/s relationship, others may be wearing more covert accessories, like labeled underwear, or otherwise appear completely vanilla. While sex positivity has allowed some to be more open about their kinks, including BDSM, there are still many who choose to keep this part of their lives private due to the stigmatization of non-normative sexuality.

Sarah, a lifestyle practitioner who has been in different types of D/s relationships for 10 years, didn’t want to share her last name, as she has yet to come out publicly about her kink. “I have not shared it with my parents, because as immigrants and as people of color, I don’t think they would appreciate the appeal or value of something that appears akin to slavery,” Sarah said.

The benefits of D/s relationships

While BDSM and/or kink cannot substitute real psychotherapy, sex therapists and practitioners have suggested that playing out these fantasies can have therapeutic benefits and can help some heal from trauma.

“I also don’t think that people would understand the spiritual or therapeutic way in which I approach D/s.” Sarah elaborates, “When I was a 24/7 slave, I really feel like it helped me stay grounded and attached to the world. The stability of that relationship did a lot for my feelings of abandonment and desire to be heard. My master had a singular commitment to me, my well-being physical and mental. I am no longer in that relationship, but we are still in touch over five years later.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Make Consent Sexy, According To A Dominatrix

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By Kasandra Brabaw

When Mistress Velvet, a BDSM dominatrix in Chicago, spanks a client, she demands that they tell her how much it hurts on a scale from 1 to 10. “I have to be careful and not just ask them, ‘Do you like this?’ Because I need them to feel submissive to me,” she says. That means she’s continually asking clients for their consent to hit them and tie them up, which can be tricky when the whole point is that they feel submissive to her. “When I ask for a scale, I’m gauging where they’re at so I know how to play with them next time.”

Mistress Velvet calls covert questions of this sort “consent training,” because even though people seek her out to dominate them in a sexual manner, getting consent from her clients is paramount to everything that she does. People who don’t engage in BDSM may assume that consent isn’t a huge part of bondage and masochism. How much can you really care about what a person feels if you’re intentionally causing them pain, the thinking may go. But purposely inflicting pain is a delicate task, especially when struggles, shouts, yelps, and begging someone to stop are all part of the experience. That’s why dommes and their submissives establish safe words before a BDSM scene even gets started, and why consent is so vital to the work Mistress Velvet does. It ensures that both she and her clients have a safe and satisfying experience. The argument that asking for consent “ruins the mood” is infuriating to her. There’s never a reason to risk someone’s bodily autonomy, she says, and it’s 100% possible to ask for consent while keeping the sexy mood alive — in fact consent can heighten the erotic energy in both BDSM and non-BDSM exchanges in ways you might not expect.

Just because someone let you put your hands up their shirt, doesn’t mean that they want you to put your hands down their pants.
Mistress Velvet, BDSM Dominatrix

In both Mistress Velvet’s work and personal life, she’s a huge proponent of affirmative consent, the idea that you should be asking for a verbal “yes” at every step (from kissing to caressing to penetration) of intimate and sexual encounters. “Just because someone let you put your hands up their shirt, doesn’t mean that they want you to put your hands down their pants,” she tells Refinery29. “Just because my client is okay with me spanking them in some ways doesn’t mean they’re okay with me spanking them in other ways.”

Similar to sex, consent should be fun, even if you’re not into BDSM. Asking someone, “Can I kiss you?” isn’t a mood killer, it’s an important step for intimacy to continue in a way that confirms everyone is on the same page, comfortable, and safe. You can also get creative with how you say it by lowering your voice or throwing some sexy eyes your partner’s way. As long as you remain clear and give the person you’re being intimate with the space to object or say “no,” asking for consent shouldn’t be much different from other communication during intimacy.

You can use the same kind of language throughout a sexual experience — saying things such as, “I’m going to rip your clothes off now, okay?” or “What do you want me to do to you?” — so you don’t have to stop having sex in order to obtain ongoing consent.

“If I was having sex with someone for the first time, I wouldn’t want them to assume that I like to be choked,” Mistress Velvet says. “But there’s a way to ask when they’re pounding me and they’re like, ‘Do you like to be choked? And then I can be like, ‘Yes, choke me daddy.'” The same scenario works in the reverse if you want to offer consent. So, if you like to be choked, but aren’t sure that your partner will ask, then you can say, “Can you choke me?” during sex. Asking for what you want — whether it’s choking, oral, or a simple ass grab — won’t ruin the moment, it’ll make things even more steamy.

If I was having sex with someone for the first time, I wouldn’t want them to assume that I like to be choked.
Mistress Velvet, BDSM Dominatrix

Of course, you might feel as if you’re being thrown out of your sexy headspace at first if you or your partner aren’t accustomed to asking questions before, during and after sex. But practice makes perfect, and eventually you’ll not only get used to it, but also come to appreciate the benefits of getting exactly what you want, and being able to give someone else exactly what they want.

Mistress Velvet says that she struggled to make consent sexy at first, too. “Definitely at times [in my vanilla sex life], people would say, ‘Why are you asking me so many questions?’ and it would sometimes pause things,” she says. In those moments, she would explain that she has a history of sexual trauma, and so it’s important to her that her needs are being heard.

Maybe there’s no trauma in your past, but it’s still important to ask for and give consent regardless of your sexual history. When you’re first starting to have these conversations, you’re likely not going to be good at it. And there’s a chance that starting the consent convo will take you out of the mood, or that someone might no longer want to have sex with you because they feel that you’re making it too complicated. Those are moments to ask yourself: Is it more important to have sex or more important to learn how to stand up for my needs?

“If someone doesn’t make the space to have that kind of conversation with you, I would question if they’re a person that you feel safe with,” Mistress Velvet says. “A conscious and aware person would be like, ‘Yeah, this feels really awkward and I don’t have experience with this. Let’s just try it out.'”

Complete Article HERE!

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I Am A Barista By Day & A BDSM Teacher By Night

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By Kasandra Brabaw

To the people who come through the coffee shop where she works every day, Afrika is simply a barista. But to the BDSM community members who frequent the dungeon where she works every night, she’s Envy Adams, a “dom/sub/switchy sado-masochist” and all-around “kinky girl.”

In her dungeon life, Afrika is able to play with gender identity and power dynamics. She feels masculine and dominant in her everyday life, but is able to be more feminine and shy or submissive when she’s negotiating a BDSM scene with one of her play partners. “In my normal day, I’m wearing joggers and a button up and my backwards hats. And now I’m shopping for latex skirts and nipple tassels,” she says. In a new video for Refinery29, we see Afrika make the transition from masculine barista to hyper-feminine BDSM dungeon worker. As she shops for a wig and outfit for her alter ego, she explains how the BDSM community allows her to explore her sexuality and gender identity, and why consent is so essential for BDSM play.


 
“There is no sex involved, it’s just all play,” Afrika explains about the dungeons. The fact that BDSM doesn’t always involve sex — which Afrika defines as touching genitals — is only the first stereotype she breaks. She also shatters the idea that the BDSM community doesn’t really care about consent, given that the whole point is intentionally inflicting pain. In reality, people who practice BDSM are often way more skilled at asking for consent throughout an intimate experience than are people who don’t have kinky sex. “[BDSM is] a very consensual community. It’s an understanding, non-judgmental community,” Afrika says. “Gender and sexuality is not a big, important issue there. It’s all about how you treat the person, and your consenting and negotiating of the scene that you’re going to partake in.”

Without ongoing consent, Afrika wouldn’t be hitting her play partners, or tying them up, or doing anything else with them. It’s also very important to her that there’s never alcohol involved in any of her BDSM scenes, because alcohol blurs lines of consent. “Being sober during a scene is super critical,” she says. “You don’t want to negotiate anything under the influence.”

So while it may seem to non-kinky folks that BDSM is a free-for-all, do-whatever-you-want kind of sexual experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As Mistress Yin, a BDSM dominatrix, told Refinery29 previously: “Even if you’re saying ‘Yes, I want to be placed into bondage,’ it does not mean that you’re saying yes to all the different things that could happen to you while you’re in bondage. There has to be so much really honest communication with your partner.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A Professional Dominatrix’s Advice For Powering Up Your Sex Life

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A professional Dominatrix explains how a trip to the dungeon can help average couples enhance their sex lives.

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It’s been said that every hopeful needs a mentor, and it may be so. But when it comes to sex, there’s not a lot of hierarchy around to guide you. Unless, of course, you look to the professionals. Mistress Justine Cross has been a professional BDSM consultant and lifestyle Dominatrix for more than a decade. In that span, she’s helped a lot of individuals bring their deep-seated fantasies to life. More recently, however, she expanded her practice to include a new demographic of potential clients: married couples. She brings couples down to her dungeon and offers them tips, tricks, and a little bit of rough treatment. Considering how one of the most popular sexual fantasies in America is BDSM, it’s a smart business move. We spoke to Cross about what the dungeon can teach these duos about intimacy, communication, and good sex.

Booking an appointment with a professional Dominatrix seems like a pretty extreme move, especially to the pedestrians out there. What could regular couples gain from a trip to the dungeon?

I think heterosexual couples tend to have one idea of what sex is and why it needs to be a certain way. BDSM allows you to explore things that fall outside of the standard penis-in-vagina sex. There are other intimate things to do. I do consultations with people who want me to talk them through different dynamics and role-plays. Other times, I introduce couples to some new moves. I teach them how to tie each other up, or how to hit someone without hurting them. I’m there to spice things up for them. I’m there to make things more fun.

How often do they come back for more?

I get some repeat clients. It’s not usually something they do all the time. It’s kind of a special occasion thing. I get a lot of birthdays and anniversaries. A lot of women come in on their own, too. They want to learn about BDSM and bring home some skills to surprise their husbands with.

Sex is a pretty intimate process. Why would a committed couple want to bring a third person into the mix?

When there are two people, there’s no referee. I kind of act as a mediator. I get to see what the dynamic is between the couple, and then I get to call them on their shit. Sometimes one partner is trying to communicate something but the other isn’t listening. That’s when I get to tell them to shut up and let their partner talk. I can also be nicer than that. But, basically, the goal is to give both people what they want in a way where they can both be seen and heard. I also leave some time towards the end of the session for couples to be alone. It’s important for them to reconnect within the space without me there.

Sexy stuff aside, how can this kind of experience bring couples closer together?

Well, it’s kind of weird coming in here. I mean, a lot of people come in excited, but it is kind of weird, if you think about it. You’re about to go into this dungeon located in a strange part of town, where you’re going to take off your clothes and this tall, mean, and beautiful woman is going to do things to you. I mean it’s exciting, but also scary and weird as hell. It’s definitely different from going to pick up the dry-cleaning together. It’s a different kind of adventure.

Which BDSM staple would you most recommend couples adopt?

Communication. I’m always trying to get couples to really express what they like, and what they don’t. It’s important to have an idea as to what those things might be. Sometimes people spend a long time fantasizing about a certain scene, or a certain kind of sex that they want to have, and then realize it’s not actually for them. It’s important to recognize why they didn’t enjoy it, what they might want to change, and how they might want to experiment in the future. It’s important to give yourself room to make mistakes. You might not know what your limit is until you meet it. Being able to talk about it is what makes people feel safe.

Are there any common requests you get from couples?

With heterosexual couples, the guy is often put in the dominant position. But some guys want to switch it up. If their partner is also submissive, I can top both of them. Or maybe I’ll co-top one of them alongside their partner. There are a lot of different ways it can play out. I just cater to the couple in terms of what they want.

Is there anything else the dungeon can teach us about a healthy approach to sex?

I think it’s important to remember that sex can also be funny. It’s important to be able to laugh. Maybe you have a whole scene mapped out in your head, but you trip and fall in the middle of it all. It’s ok to laugh about it, even if your partner is tied up across the room. You have to give yourself room to make mistakes.

 

Most people become parents as a result of having had sex. At the same time, “parenthood” and “sex” aren’t exactly considered compliments. How do you think BDSM can help bridge the gap?

When people have sex, there’s really no plan. But BDSM scenes are very directed. You can put together a checklist of things you want to happen, or don’t want to happen. It’s like, ‘I have an hour to play with you, and it’s going to run this way.’ It can be very convenient when you’re on a schedule. You know you’re getting your carnal needs met in this specific way, in this specific time window of time. You get to look forward to it. And that’s an approach you can apply to more vanilla scenarios as well. People don’t really schedule sex as much as they maybe should. They think it should always be spontaneous. But that’s just not reality. It’s not a bad idea to have some kind of arrangement in place. Especially after kids.

Complete Article HERE!

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What does it mean to be a submissive?

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Until a few years ago, unless you were part of the BDSM community, submissive was just a word. 

You’d probably have thought that submissive meant meek, respectful, compliant and passive. And then 50 Shades of Grey arrived and the word took on a whole new meaning.

These days, the sexual side of the word ‘submissive’ means something else. It’s a descriptive word for a role that some people like to take during sex, role play or within their kinky relationship.

The submissive partner can be either the male or the female. It’s also possible for people to take it in turns to be the submissive one, which is known as ‘switching’.

Being submissive can be limited to during sex, when the submissive partner might be on the receiving end of masochism, bondage or other forms of domination. However, some submissive don’t limit their submission to within the bedroom, and will be a ‘lifestyle’ submissive.

Lifestyle submissive have sets of rules between themselves and their partners which govern their relationship. It might be small things such as calling your partner a term like ‘sir’ or ‘master’, it could be doing domestic labour, or it could involve spending large amounts of time naked in a cage.

Every submissive and dominant relationship is different and has different levels of intensity and different rules. It is more common to keep the dominant and submissive roles to the bedroom (or to specific periods of time) rather than living the lifestyle 24/7, as it can be difficult to sustain a relationship with an inherent imbalance, especially if you have a family.

It can be hard to understand why another person wants to be submissive if that’s not something you’re personally interested in. It’s important to try to understand and not to judge. As we have written before, there is a real difference between kinky and abusive. That difference is active consent.

Submissive relationships only work when they are based around consent. If you’re worried that a relationship has become toxic or dangerous, you should contact Relate or the National Domestic Violence hotline.

Complete Article HERE!

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9 Tips For Bondage Beginners

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By Kasandra Brabaw

Have you ever thought about tying your partner up with rope? Or being tied up yourself? It’s a kink that more people than you’d probably think are interested in trying. But as intriguing as the thought of bondage is, it can also be pretty scary.

There are so many questions when you first start out. What kind of rope do you get? What body parts are okay to tie up? Is it possible to seriously hurt your partner (or get hurt yourself)? How do you tell your partner what you do and don’t want to try? And what happens if you do it wrong?

Ahead, we talked with Yin Q, a dominatrix and writer/producer of BDSM webseries Mercy Mistress, to answer some of those questions. Read on for tips about consent, safety, rope types, and safe words.

1) Negotiation and consent.

Before anyone gets tied up, you and your partner(s) need to have a negotiation about what’s going to happen. And in that negotiation, you have to talk about consent, Yin says. “You have to know how you’re going to actually explore,” they say. You could start exploring bondage in an experiential way, where no still means no. But you could also try a theme where struggle is part of what makes bondage erotic. So, you’ll need to talk to your partner up front about what you want.

“It’s not that you just say yes to bondage and then that means that you’re saying yes to everything that happens after you’re in bondage,” Yin says. There are multiple things you and your partner have to consent to, whether you’re the top or the bottom in the bondage situation. But especially if you’re the bottom (the one being tied up). Once someone is in bondage, Yin says, they might enter something called “subspace” and might no longer feel comfortable negotiating what they do and don’t want to try. So it’s essential to have negotiation and consent up front.

2) Safe words.

Part of the negotiation process is establishing a safe word (or multiple safe words) with your partner. In BDSM, a safe word is something other than “no,” “don’t,” “stop” or any other word you’d usually use to tell someone to slow down. Because those words tend to be part of the play. “If you want to play with those roles and power dynamics, language can start changing meaning,” Yin says. Instead, use a word that usually wouldn’t come up in the context of sex. For beginners, Yin suggests “yellow” and “red.”

“‘Yellow’ meaning that you’re getting to your edge where you know something doesn’t feel right or that this is basically as much as you can take,” they say. “Red” meaning that you’re totally done with the scene and you want to be untied.

3) Knowing your bodies (and minds).

Does your partner have bad knees? Are you prone to back aches? Does anyone have diabetes or epilepsy? These are all things you and your partner should discuss before anyone gets tied up, because where you place the rope might exacerbate any of those problems.

And mental health is just as important as physical health. “If somebody has gone through trauma, language can become a trigger when you’re playing,” Yin says. Some people enjoy what’s called “slut play,” which is essentially dirty talk that uses words generally considered humiliating or degrading. But, for some, certain words can bring up insecurities. Yin, for example, feels totally fine using words like “slut,” “submissive,” and “dirty dog” in their play. But can’t stand saying or hearing the word “stupid.”

“For some reason, that triggers something in childhood for me,” they say. “It’s just not sexy to me. I’m very cerebral, so that’s going to call up a lot of insecurity for me.” So, like everything else, you’ll need to talk with your partner about which words are a no-go for them, and keep the communication open so they can tell you if something feels wrong in the moment.

4) Triggers

Just like words can be triggering, so can actions. And it’s important not to assume that something won’t be triggering, Yin says. As a switch (someone who both tops and bottoms), Yin says they can take a lot of masochism, like flogging and canning. “But, the one thing I cannot take is tickling,” they say. “I get angry, first of all, and then I also get nauseous.”

Their partners might not even consider that tickling could be a trigger — after all, tickling is something we do to tiny children, and it doesn’t hurt — but it’s important that they listen to them when they say they can’t handle it. As a beginner, you and your partner(s) might not yet know what your physical triggers are, so communication becomes important again.

5) Nerve damage.

Once you’re done with the negotiations and consent and other talking, there are some things you should know before tying someone up. Mainly, that certain areas are more prone to nerve damage than others. “Usually it’s around the elbows or the knees and especially the neck,” Yin says.

So, if you’re idea of bondage comes from beautiful photos of Shibari-style knots, then you’ll have to adjust your expectations. “Going into it as a beginner, one must learn the basics and also understand that each person’s body has it’s own capabilities,” Yin says. Anyone who’s just starting out should never put rope near the neck, because doing it wrong has the potential to cause serious damage.

6) Tingling.

If you’re the person being tied up, it’s important to tell your partner when you’re experiencing tingling in your fingers, toes, or anywhere else. That could be a sign that the rope is too tight or that you’re not in a comfortable position, Yin says. Tingling is fine for about 20 minutes, as long as it’s just a light tingle. But you should be able to move, to struggle against the rope (that’s part of the fun), and to move the rope around your skin.

When you’re tying someone up, Yin says to make sure their hands are below the heart and to get them into a position that’s going to be comfortable for them.

7) Safety.

When tying someone up, tighter might seem better. But that’s not true, Yin says. “If you’re the top, you want to be able to slip about two fingers underneath the rope, so that the rope can be moved around on the skin,” they say. That’s going to make bondage safer for the partner who’s on the bottom.

But, even if you’ve made the ropes loose enough, it’s important to have a pair of safety scissors like these close by, in case your partner needs to be cut out of the ropes quickly.

8) Types of rope.

Stretchy rope is best for beginners right? Wrong. Rope that has any elastic in it is dangerous, especially for beginners, because you can’t tell how much give it will have, Yin says. Instead, you’ll want to use a sturdy rope that moves nicely against skin. “I tend to start my classes with nylon rope, because it slides nicely against the skin, is laid very flat, and is smooth,” Yin says. “And then we graduate on to either cotton or hemp rope, which are the natural fiber ropes that are going to be a little bit more sturdy for any knots.” Cotton and hemp are more likely to give rope burn, though, so they’re not essential for beginners.

9) Aftercare.

People who do bondage often practice something called aftercare, which involves sitting down with your partner afterward and talking about what you did and didn’t like. This is especially important for beginners, since you don’t yet know what about bondage turns you on.

But don’t think that you can’t continue talking about it once that first sit-down is done. Aftercare can last days, Yin says. “If something comes up three days later and you think, ‘Oh my God, that was triggering something else for me,’ to share that with your partner or at least to be able to honestly pinpoint it for yourself is really important.”

So, once your first-time bondage is done, replay the experience again and again. Even if it doesn’t make you realize something that could have gone better, it’ll likely make you even more excited for the next time.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 kinks and fetishes that are more popular than you think

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By Lea Rose Emery

No matter how comfortable you are with a new partner, talking about kinks/fetishes can feel like a big step. But the truth is, they’re way more common than you might think — and if you feel sure that you have a totally weird kink or quirk, you’re almost certainly not alone. Most fetishes are way more common than you would imagine, so there’s really nothing to be embarrassed about.

There are so many popular fetishes out there. That’s because not only are fetishes totally normal, but many of us actually have more than one.  According to one survey by Ann Summers, the sex toy retailer, it’s not uncommon to have more than one kink or fetish. In fact, while more than a quarter of people said they had more than one, 17 percent of people said that they had three or four. So just because somebody’s into BDSM or has a hair fetish, doesn’t mean that’s their only one. That means if you’re feeling self-conscious about your own proclivities, it’s time to relax — we’ve all been there. The more you start talking about and exploring your kinks and fetishes, whether with a partner or a community or even at a sex shop, the more normal you’ll realize they are.

And if you don’t think of yourself as a fetish person, it may be that you just have found yours yet. If you’re interested in playing around, knowing the most common fetishes is a good place to start. Though there’s no international fetish database, you can glean a pretty good idea of the most popular options by seeing what comes up in surveys the most frequently. Once you get a sense of those, you can decide what appeals the most and start experimenting.

Here are the kinks/fetishes that tend to come up the most — because you never know until you try.

1. BDSM

Call it that 50 Shades of Grey effect, call it human nature, but again and again, BDSM tops the list of fetishes. In fact, in that same survey from Ann Summers a whopping 74 percent of people said they were into it. Try subbing, try domming — who knows? You may love both.

2. Foot fetishes

Foot fetishes are another quirk that repeatedly comes at the top of fetish lists. Seriously — having a thing for feet is way more common than you think. This isn’t to be confused with a shoe fetish, which is also very popular, though they two can certainly overlap. Apparently, foot fetishes are so popular because of the way our brains are sometimes wired, although Freud thought it was all to do with the fact that feet look like penises. Which makes me wonder — what the hell did Freud’s penis look like?

3. Costumes and role play

A classic and popular fetish is dressing up and role-playing. In fact, one survey found that this was a fetish that ranked high on the desirability scale and low on the taboo scale, which means it’s an ideal way to ease yourself into trying fetishes. A lot of people are open to it and it’s nothing to feel weird about bringing up. From the classic maid’s uniform to something more daring, there are plenty of costumes to try.

4. Voyeurism and exhibitionism

There’s a reason that “dogging” is so popular in Britain. Some people like to watch others have sex — and some people like to be watched. And of course, some people like both. This fetish can manifest in more vanilla or kinkier ways. It might be that you just watch your partner masturbate or vice versa, maybe you experiment with sex in public places, or maybe group sex helps scratch that itch. You can start with more vanilla versions and work your way up to find where your boundary is.

5. Rubber, latex, and leather

For some people, it’s all about the texture. According to the sex toy retailer Lovehoney, “rubberists” and other texture fetishisms are very popular. It has a BDSM twist, with some people finding that the material itself has a bondage-like quality, although apparently for some it’s the smell that turns them on.

6. Crossdressing

Gender play is another exciting option — and one that you can experiment with to find different limits. Cross-dressing continues to be a popular fetish and can be a great way to experiment with slightly kinkier sex because it can be as simple as switching clothes.

7. Spanking

Though some might put spanking in the BDSM realm, it actually seems to be so popular in its own right that it deserves its own category.  That may be because, for a lot of people, spanking provides a slightly more vanilla option — or an intro to BDSM. It can also be combined with many other fetishes, while for some just a good spanking is enough.

There is no limit to what can be fetishized, but some fetishes are definitely more popular than others. Start experimenting with the more common ones and see what excites you — you never know where it might lead.

Complete Article HERE!

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Kinky Sex Could Be the Secret to Your Success

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Turns out whips and blindfolds are the unseen force behind a lucrative career—and a satisfying love life.

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[C]laudia wasn’t sure if it was nerves or the night before that had given her the confidence to ask her boss for a raise. Either way, negotiating her salary was easier than expected. She’d been practicing, after all… just on something a little less G-Rated.

The 36-year-old mother-of-two, who asked me not to use her last name, had spent the past few days negotiating with her husband about how she could flex her longtime fantasy of dominating him in a way they’d both enjoy. Afterward, she told me, the experience had made her feel confident, valued, secure and pleased at their ability to compromise—feelings which she was surprised to find lasted into the the following day. When she arrived at work, still swimming in the satisfaction of a fantasy realized, she decided this was it. Raise day.

The way Claudia was able to benefit from her erotic encounter is a common theme among people with knacks for kink. Many successful visionaries throughout history, from artists to scientists and even politicians, have had well-documented kinks and fetishes that affected how they operated in their daily lives. I was curious: Could it be that whips and blindfolds are the unseen force behind their artistry, leadership and innovation?

A wave of recent research has confirmed this: If it’s something you desire in the first place, kinky sex can benefit you not just in the bedroom, but outside of it as well. “Unconventional” sexual practices and fantasies, such as BDSM, group sex, or role play, have been shown to reduce psychological stress, improve mental health and can help with satisfying and communicative relationships. Kinky people have also been found to have higher self-worth than those who are too afraid or ashamed to pursue their fantasies; all positive effects, which Los Angeles-based sex therapist, Jamila Dawson, LMFT, says can help optimize your goals, mood and overall well-being even after kinky play ends.

“A healthy relationship to kink can absolutely be the underlying cause of some people’s success,” explains Dawson, who specializes in kink and polyamory. “I see this all the time in my practice.”

No wonder Claudia felt so motivated.

So, how is it that kink is able to give the people who practice it such an edge? Why would getting lost in the fantasy of floggers, blindfolds and safe-words matter in everyday moments like asking for a raise?

The answer is multifaceted, but the primary way kinky sex gives people a life boost is the fascinating way in which it can affect the brain.

Activities like BDSM can actually alter the pattern of blood flow within the brain, creating a number of favorable mental states with positive effects similar to that of mindfulness and meditation, according to recent findings by Dr. Brad J. Sagarin, Professor of Psychology at Northern Illinois University and founder of the BDSM Research Team. These mental states are highly distinctive, altered states of consciousness which can improve mood, enhance cognition and heighten our capacity to form original ideas and novel connections, adds Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a faculty affiliate of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and author of the blog Sex & Psychology. In the context of kinky sex, these distinct head spaces are called “flow.”

Flow is most often described as a transcendent state of heightened sensory awareness, focus, presence and euphoria. It can be intense—it’s not uncommon for people to feel high, floaty, melty, tingly, or detached from both time and their body. Most commonly, it’s brought on by the endorphins released during a physically intensive experience (flogging or spanking, for example; similar to a runner’s high), but the same feeling can be brought on by passionate mental or emotional stimulation.

Interestingly, the quality of these altered states can differ according to the type of kinky play someone’s involved in. In particular, Dr. Sagarin’s research found that dominance and submission activates two unique types of flow that enhance creative and emotional conditions.

More specifically, Dr. Sagarin found that the participants who played the submissive role in their experiment achieved greater transient hypofrontality, which refers to a feeling of peacefulness and happy detachment, where time has slowed down. Runner’s high, meditation and even some drug highs produce a similar effect. Meanwhile, dominant participants experienced slightly different altered state. As opposed to a dreamlike detachment, those in the dominant role felt a greater sense of control, a loss of self-consciousness, clearer goals and heightened concentration—less of a “high” in their case; more of a laser focus.

When you’re in one of these flow states, Dr. Lehmiller continues, you’re operating with much lower levels of self-awareness. You’re focused; you’re in the zone. It’s like playing an instrument—when you think too hard about what you’re doing and how each note is supposed to sound, you psych yourself out and make mistakes as your body tries to catch up to your brain’s over-analysis. But when you detach from that hyper-awareness of yourself and let things, well, flow, they come out naturally. They sound better.

That’s precisely the mental state in which both creativity and productivity flourish best—when we’re not concerned with moment-to-moment survival or the stressful mundanities of everyday life.

Outside of the bedroom (or dungeon, or… wherever), feelings of flow can stay with a person anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, during which time Dawson, the sex therapist, says many of her clients and kinky acquaintances harness their power for a variety of uses. One acquaintance in particular, she tells me, was able to overcome a severe case of writer’s block the morning after her partner finally obliged her rope bondage fantasy. The catharsis of a fantasy realized—and the freedom to inhabit her desires in a safe and trusting space—put her in a creative mood.

World-famous composer Georg Friedrich Haas is a more well-known example of this. In 2016, The New York Times chronicled the unusual union between Haas and his wife, writer and sex educator Mollena Williams—a 24/7 kinky relationship in which Haas, now a 64-year-old music professor at Columbia University, played the role of Master; Williams, his ever-doting Submissive. Reportedly, the two fell in love after Haas told Williams he wanted to “tame” her on OkCupid. (“I find intense fulfillment in being able to serve in this way,” she told The New York Times, describing the situation as feminist because it’s her choice.)

In the article, Haas directly attributes his success as an artist to his kinky (and sexually vibrant) marriage, which he said had “dramatically improved his productivity and reshaped his artistic outlook.” After three divorces and a lifetime of repressing what he’d once considered “devilish desires,” he explained that the freedom to not only explore, but live in his dominant fantasies had “roughly doubled” his artistic productivity.

This delights, but does not surprise Dawson.

“In general, I’ve found that people who engage in forms of expansive sexuality such as kink are more creative or imaginative in their jobs or recreational life,” she says. “The culture of kink supports their creative drives. It gives them a space to play with the limits and boundaries of their bodies and minds, and with mental states such as surrender, fear, playfulness and surprise. In that sense, kink’s not so different from art, design or any creative venture. It’s a totally valid form of self-expression.”

Of course, not everything kinky immediately leads to a revelation, artistic inspiration or a sudden solution to a long-suffering problem, but, as Dawson points out, getting into a headspace where it’s more likely to happen definitely doesn’t hurt.

In fact, while many people still hold the belief that fantasizing in a relationship means you’re unhappy with your partner (a faulty theory devised by Freud in 1908 which has since been debunked), it has been reported that people who incorporate fantasy into their sex lives reap a surprising number of benefits. Frequent fantasizers have sex more often, engage in a wider variety of erotic activities, have more partners, masturbate more and orgasm more reliably than people who fantasize infrequently, or don’t fantasize at all.

And just having sex can also make you more productive at work. A 2017 study from Oregon State University found that having sex before work—either the night before or the morning of—made people more engaged and efficient on the job.

Fantasy-based sex can also decrease stress and anxiety much like meditation and exercise, only rather than through silence or sweat, the reward comes through say, the satisfying swish of a paddle, or the worshipping of a lovely foot. Kinky sex has also been linked to the sorts of changes in cortisol levels which can reduce psychological and physical stress; correlated with better physical and mental health, increased life span, better coping skills, and improved mood. Show us a job, relationship, creative project or personal goal that can’t be helped by those things.

Expressing a fantasy, a particularly intimate form of connection, can even increase intimacy and connectedness in relationships. One 2009 study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found people who practice sadomasochism (consensually exploring the pleasure of pain) show an increase in relationship closeness. This, researchers theorized, is because safely executing that kind of play takes a great deal of trust, acceptance and communication.

“Most people in mainstream relationships tend to reserve the most transparent and direct communication for challenging situations like a fight or some obstacle that requires they finally ‘break down’ into total honesty,” Dawson continues. “By contrast, when responsible people engage in kinky acts, there is almost always clear, intimate communication and respect for boundaries, two things that build trust like nothing else.” And even if you identify as vanilla, you can still benefit from communicating like kinky people do: with limits, safety, comfort, and compromise in mind.

Translating that to other areas of your life—either at work or in relationships—isn’t that big of a jump. Midori, a renowned fetish and sexuality educator who teaches a three-day domination intensive for women called ForteFemme, tells me her students utilize her kinky negotiation tactics in a number of practical ways.

One, an IT manager, uses her negotiation training to “discover what motivates potential employees and their compatibility with the scope of the project and team environment.” Another has a special-needs child in school. When school administrators tried to shirk their responsibilities and blame her parenting, she used the physical postures of dominance and negotiation skills Midori taught her to advocate for her daughter’s well-being.

“We learn so much about our bodies and our minds when we engage in kinky sex,” explains Dawson. “It absolutely makes sense that we’d transfer that knowledge to other endeavors.”

Perhaps this transference is why people who engage in BDSM and kink have been found to be happier, more conscientious and less neurotic than people who don’t engage in so-called “deviant” sex.

The question that remains then, is not whether kink is safe, healthy and beneficial, but how you can apply it to your life. If you’ve been harboring kinkier desires and feel empowered to communicate them, one way to cash in is pure honesty: Turn to your partner after reading this and have a discussion about how you’d like him or her to spank you, armed with the knowledge that them doing so can benefit you in ways beyond the thrill of the sensation.

Ideally, that knowledge can help mitigate any shame or embarrassment the prospect of sharing and negotiating your kinky fantasies may bring, but if you’re not ready to communicate your kinky interests—or simply don’t harbor them at all—there are other ways to go about reaping the rewards.

“Let’s be clear, it’s not kinky sex itself that makes life better,” Midori cautions. “It’s the conversational skills and self-knowledge needed to engage in it that makes life better.”

A small, but significant tool she recommends is to start noticing and logging each occasion you don’t speak what you really want, or you minimize your wants in comparison to another’s. These are areas to apply the communication, negotiation, self-awareness and creative thought kink affords. Changing these habits isn’t easy, she says, but they address a lifetime of putting your own needs aside. In kink, when there’s consent, it’s okay to put yourself first.

Dawson offers some of her own advice inspired by safe BDSM practices to help you reach flow during any kind of sex, be it vanilla or covered in more leather than an industrial tannery.

“Setting the scene, taking the time to breathe and slowing sex down to a pace that’s much slower than you’re accustomed to are all things kinky people do to get the most out of their scenes and interactions,” she says. Enhanced pleasure and erotic creativity, Dawson reminds us, can be achieved when you’re not focused on a particular outcome—rather, simply immerse yourself in the experience, concentrate fully, and remain open to what arises in the moment. You can get into the same sort of flow states that latex-clad dominatrixes can, sans the craving for control.

The experience of living one’s fantasy in a safe, consensual space that’s free of judgment and expectation, it seems, far outweighs the perceived benefits of keeping kinky desires under wraps. If you have them, try bringing them to light. At the very least, you might get a raise out of it.

Complete Article HERE!

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8 Bondage Sex Positions For When You Want To Get A Little Kinky

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[Q]uestion: Do you have a bedframe? A silk scarf? A tie? A pair of stockings? Something you could wrap around your arm without it chafing or pulling hair? Great, let’s talk bondage.

If you are looking to dip a toe into kink, bondage is a great place to start: Most of the tools you need are likely lying around your house already, making this a fairly low-fuss fulfillment of any BDSM fantasies you may have. But before you grab the nearest bandana and strap your partner to a kitchen chair, there are a few things you should know.

First of all, you and your partner should discuss your boundaries: which of you is willing to be tied up and/or tied down; what you want done to you in that position, and what you don’t; how much pressure you’re into; and what safe word will signal when one of you has had enough.

Pay attention to your partner’s body language during the act, too, and ask them how they’re doing if you think they look uncomfortable.

And remember: You don’t need to hog-tie someone to reap the erotic rewards of restraint—the mere act of having your wrists bound, whether or not you actually could worm your way out of the ties if you wanted, is hot all on its own.

See for yourself with these eight bondage-perfect sex positions.

1 Conquistador

How to: Missionary is the easiest possible position for beginner bondage: Simply lie on your back with your arms above your head and your legs spread, then have your partner bind your wrists and ankles to the bed frame.

In a previous interview with WomensHealthMag.com, licensed sex therapist Vanessa Marin recommended Sportsheets’ under-the-bed restraint system ($29, amazon.com), because its velcro cuffs are easily removed for a quick escape if you decide in the moment that you no longer want to be bound.

2 Cowgirl

Whether you opt for standard or reverse cowgirl, woman-on-top positions provide a perfect opportunity for you to take complete control.

How to: Have your partner lie on their back and bind their wrists and ankles, either together or to the bed frame, with a silk scarf, a tie, or hell, even your own underwear. Once they’re adequately restrained, straddle them facing forward or away, whichever you prefer.

Because they’re tied down, you can switch it up as often as you see fit—playing with your clit, or maybe pulsing a bullet vibe on your partner’s perineum, nipples, or clit (try the Tenga Iroha Stick, $20, amazon.com.) Basically, you get to do whatever you want—you’re in charge.

3 Leap Frog

How to: Lie with your stomach flat on the mattress (or wherever you’re going to be having sex) and have your partner bind your wrists together over your head. Maybe have them blindfold you, too, because why the hell not?

Then, have them lift your hips to enter you from behind, keeping your shoulders down and your knees rooted while he (or she) thrusts.

4 Rear Entry Standing

Here’s one for the flexible among you!

How to: Bend over and have your partner bind your wrists to your ankles, with your feet anchored shoulder-width apart for better balance.

Have your partner enter you from behind, keeping their hands on your hips to make sure you don’t topple over. Try a hands-free couples vibrator, like the Eva II ($135), for added clitoral stimulation.

5 Pinball Wizard

This one is like the leap frog, but in reverse.

How to: Lie down with your back flush to the mattress and then lift your hips into the air, as if you were doing a bridge in yoga. Then, have your partner bind your wrists behind your back and grab your butt, so you can wrap your legs around their waist as they thrust.

6 Seated Rear Entry

How to: For this one, grab a sturdy chair and park your partner’s butt in it. Then, tie their wrists and ankles to the frame, and once they’re ready to go—after a little oral sex, maybe—straddle them and pump up and down. Whether you face them or turn away is entirely up to you.

7 Knees To Chest

How to: To best introduce bondage into a knees-to-chest position, have your partner bind your ankles and calves together. Then, while you’re lying on your back, drape them over one shoulder as your partner penetrates you. You can also make use of those restraints or even cuffs, and have your partner bind your wrists above your head.

8 Downward Dog

How to: For this one, assume roughly the same position as leap frog, but have your partner handcuff your wrists behind your back and spread your legs. They should kneel between your legs and enter you from behind while your body is flat against the mattress, ground, kitchen table, wherever. Then, have them reach a hand around to stroke your clitoris—because to neglect it would be very rude indeed.

Complete Article HERE!

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