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A graphic history of sex: ‘There is no gene that drives sexuality. All sexuality is learned’

Changes in sexuality over time have made the modern family what it is. What next? Homa Khaleeli asks the authors of a groundbreaking graphic guide, The Story of Sex

The Story of Sex … some images from the book. Illustration: Laetitia Coryn

The Story of Sex … some images from the book. Illustration: Laetitia Coryn

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Philip Larkin famously announced that sexual intercourse began in 1963 (“Between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban / And the Beatles’ first LP”). Being French, and a psychiatrist to boot, Philippe Brenot takes a rather longer view. In his latest book, The Story of Sex, a bestseller in France, he runs an anthropological eye over the sexual mores of human societies from prehistoric times to today. Yet Brenot believes that the sexual revolution did spark a dramatic change, creating the modern couple, which is the basis of our families today. Now, however, he thinks this partnership of equals is under assault from all sides.

The academic, who has the wonderful title of director of sexology at Paris Descartes University, has spent his life studying sexuality. The Story of Sex is an irreverent, graphic novel (in both senses), filled with fascinating – if alarming – history. Cleopatra used a vibrator filled with bees; the word “trousers” was considered to be positively pornographic in Victorian England. Illustrator Laetitia Coryn’s extremely cheeky, but never sordid, pictures liven up the page and keep the narrative zipping along. The book was a real collaboration, says Coryn, who says it was made easier by Brenot’s firm ideas – and the fact he liked her jokes.

The illustrator admits she hesitated slightly over collaborating on the book. “I told my publisher we have to be careful with the drawings and with the jokes – we have to be sensitive,” she says, because she wanted the book to have as wide an audience as possible. “I didn’t put any porn in it!” As a reader, however, the frankness of the pictures still shocked me (you, er, might not want to whip out the book on public transport or in the office).

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Philippe Brenot and Laeticia Cory.

Talking to Brenot over the phone (through charmingly accented English that becomes somewhat eccentric as he struggles with the complexities of his ideas) it’s impossible to escape the psychiatrist’s anxiety about our attitudes to love and intimacy today. We have never been freer to define our own relationships, and follow our own pleasure, he says, but despite this we are far from satisfied; and the modern couple is looking dangerously fragile.

“It’s incredible the difficulties couples have,” Brenot declares, in a tone that makes me imagine he is throwing his hands in the air in despair. Of the couples he sees in therapy, he says, “there is nothing wrong with them psychologically, but still they cannot communicate quietly, live calmly and have sexual fulfilment”.

While we think of lovers as a timeless relationship model, it has been the family that has been paramount in society for most of history, the 68-year-old says. “The couple used to get together for the sake of the family,” he explains. And the idea of equality in long-term pairings is even more recent, with “traditional” marriages putting men firmly in charge of their spouses.

“Love marriages have only been widespread for a century or so, and homosexuality was condemned until very recently,” Brenot notes.

“Since the 1970s, we have begun to invent modern couples with respect for each other and equality between the sexes,” he says. “This only came about after ‘marriage’ as a concept began dying out. Not because people stopped getting married, but because marriage stopped being seen as a sacred union – couples instead started developing on their own terms.”

Yet the rise in divorces since the 1970s and breakups of long-term relationships shows that the modern couple is not surviving, Brenot argues. In part, he says, this is because we are demanding more than ever before.

“It is difficult to live intimately, because we want perfect love and perfect sex and that is very difficult in a long-term relationship. We want a lot more than a reliable person to raise kids with.”

The solution, he says, is for us all to learn more about sex – which is where his book comes in. “It’s not possible to understand our intimate sex lives without looking at centuries of history, and even the origins of human life,” he says. “We understand what we live today if we understand from where we came.”

For instance, he says, if we look at the way relationships were formed in early human societies we can see echoes of our own problems. “We came from primates, but in chimp society there are never couples or families. There are lone males and females with children.” It was only as our brains evolved and emotions developed – including love – that monogamous relationships set in. For the first time (“somewhere between 1 million BC and 100,000BC”), it was possible to know the paternity of a child.

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While the beginning of family life may sound like a wonderful moment, Brenot argues that it was also the start of women’s subjugation, with men taking possession of their female partner and offspring – which traditional marriage legalised. “Paternity is the beginning of male domination,” says Brenot simply. “The day that happened, men took possession of women.”

In the animal kingdom, Brenot argues, there is none of the domination of female partners that has been a hallmark of human societies through history, nor is there domestic violence. Instead, among animals “males fight against other males and females fight with other females,” he says.

“Violence between men and women is only in humans – because of marriage, which puts men above women.”

During antiquity, meanwhile, a woman’s role was to provide a child – and female sexual pleasure was dismissed. But this role was also a dangerous one. “There were so many impediments to female pleasure. In the 18th and 19th centuries, one in six pregnant women died in childbirth. Then there were the infections and sexual violence.”

For men, of course, things were different. “Men have always done what they wanted,” says Brenot.

Even for men, sex for pleasure was something that happened “outside the home – for instance with prostitutes. Women were seen either to provide offspring or pleasure.” In ancient Rome, these rules were so strictly upheld that women could take their husbands to court for ejaculating anywhere but inside her body during intercourse, “because sex within marriage was for procreation, and the wife’s role was to receive sperm”.

Even during periods that today we think of as being golden ages for same-sex relationships, such pleasures were “reserved for the elite” – and the reality was often less accepting than we think. In ancient Greece, for instance, it was only the man who was “receiving” who was not stigmatised in a pairing. Similarly for the libertines in the 18th century, “there was a fluid sexuality, but it was also the top end of society – the intelligentsia and aristocracy. Throughout the centuries and the world’s rural populations, to be gay – or for women to have control of their own sexuality – has always been frowned upon.”

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Today too, Brenot argues, while much has been written about more people exploring fluid sexualities, entering polyamorous relationships and breaking down gender norms, “we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this is trickling down to all sections of society”. And he warns too about a backlash from “new moralists” who oppose gay marriage, and will, no doubt, do the same for trans rights and alternative relationships as they gain more legal rights. Coryn says this is one of the reasons she enjoyed creating the book. “In France, people who don’t want gay people to be married, is a huge phenomenon. It’s awful. We say in the book this is a misunderstanding of sexuality; homosexuality is normal. I hope this is one topic on which people will change their mind in reading the book.”

For heterosexual couples, relationships began to look up about the time of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Up until this period, “men were having fun outside the home – hunting animals or chasing women. While women were always at home,” says Brenot. But the new spirit of education and the pursuit of knowledge changed this. Finally, says Brenot, men and women could be friends and even have platonic love.

Yet it took contraception for men and women to gain a semblance of equality. Previously “women were immobilised by marriage. They can’t get out of it, they don’t have the possibility of working or being free. The story of sex is, first of all, the story of marriage and the difficulties [it creates] for women.”

To start combating the problems that these historical inequalities have left us with, the psychiatrist insists, we need better sexual education, and one that starts at an early age. “People think sexuality is just an instinct,” he says, “that it is natural like eating and drinking. No. There is no gene that drives sexuality. All sexuality is learned.”

Because of this, says Brenot, the models for our sexuality are very important. Today, talking about sex is still taboo, and the dissemination of pornography has filled the void. “People say pornography changes adolescent life. But it changes everyone’s sexuality,” he says. “We have sex differently now; we try to imitate what we see [on our screens]. People feel bad and say, ‘I can’t do what they do.’”

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To displace this dangerous model, “sexual education should teach the rules that should govern relationships; it should teach us about communication, about consent and respect. This is not natural [to us]. We have to learn this.”

Coryn says that while the Story of Sex is not a sexual education manual, “we wanted it to be uninhibited”, to make talking about sex seem as natural as it should be.

“From the time children are little girls and boys, we have to teach them that everyone should be respected and to start accepting difference,” says Brenot. But, he says, while men and women are equal, that does not mean that they are the same. Railing against the teaching of “gender studies” departments, he says that a refusal to admit this difference is allowing gender inequality to become entrenched.

“They say, ‘Don’t speak of differences – a man is the same as a woman. Society is guilty of making differences, but underneath we are the same.’”

Unpicking these ideas, he says, is the only way to combat our most pressing problems. For example, “physical strength is different from a very young age. So [children] need to understand boys are stronger and take that into account – because that is the start of domestic violence, which is a real problem.”

If we leave this teaching too late, he says, the battle is already lost: “In children’s fairy stories it is the boy who seduces the girl, so there is power play early on.” Then there is the fact men have always been free to have multiple partners throughout history, because men don’t get pregnant. It is only by introducing the idea early on that “contraception is a joint responsibility” that we can challenge this.

Today’s modern couple, he points out, faces new challenges from the rise in options for dating to “new forms of relationship,” says Brenot. Yet Coryn stresses, as does Brenot, that there has never been a better time for people to live in terms of sexuality. Yet one thing has not changed, says Brenot – everyone still wants to find somebody to love. “People are afraid to be alone at the end of their life. They are afraid not to find the perfect person to live with. It is a difficult problem for everyone today.

“We have to learn how to live together anew.”

Complete Article HERE!

BDSM for beginners – a former dominatrix guides you and your partner through S&M

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Let’s start in a very clear, very concise manner.

I’m going to assume you are two adults who want to try a bit of kink or BDSM, and you’re looking for a bit of helpful advice.

I’m going to make that caveat because I’m tired of seeing advice columns labelled ‘How do I tell my partner I want to try kinky sex?’

You just do – you open your mouth and ask.

I’m sorry if you don’t feel like you’re in an open and honest enough relationship and I feel bad for you son. But you got 99 problems and your kink ain’t one.

In recent years the S&M moniker has extended to BDSM – Bondage, Domination, Sadism, Masochism. (The S stands for Sadism – the art of hurting Someone else. The M stands for Masocism – the art of hurting Myself.)

I’m going to take you by the hand, and give you a few hints, tips and tutorials to help you start exploring your kinky side. But first, some housekeeping –

The key phrase in BDSM is ‘safe, sane and consensual’

1. Is it safe?

Figure out a safe-word, or if you’re planning a gag, try a click of fingers or a tap on the bed.

A signal of some sort to know this is where you need to stop and have a cup of tea and a cuddle.

2. Be sane

Yes, I know you get braver after a few drinks.

I know it sounds sexy to do it all when you’re full of Dutch courage but it’s not safe, and I promise you it’s not half as enjoyable as when you get to look back on it and remember it all – that feeling of power, or submission – with full clarity.

3. Be consensual

Strike an agreement. Sit down, and discuss how far you’re willing to go. If you want to go right up to 11, but your partner wants to sail on a steady 3, then fine. Start in the shallow pool.

When they say the safeword, you stop.

This goes for both sides – I’m always wary of subs who ‘Top from the bottom’ – they can be tied up and crying out for me to start doing things to them I’m not comfortable with, so I have no qualms in stopping the session.

Don’t run before you can walk.

Many people will ask who is the Dominant, and who is the submissive?

But perhaps you don’t know. Maybe you want to try both. You don’t have to put yourself into a box so early on.

You also don’t need fancy-schmancy equipment

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You don’t need a dungeon. You don’t need props, costume, or lighting.

You just need confidence, communication and a bit of imagination.

I say ‘a bit’ because there’s porn and your partner – a wealth of ideas and suggestions will come from both.

However, if you do want to try and bring some toys in the bedroom, then you can’t go wrong with visiting one of the monthly fetish fairs in the city.

In fact as a Londoner, it’s your civic duty to support these kinky artisans.

The London Alternative Market and the London Fetish Fair are monthly events who both offer handmade, sturdy and reasonably priced items to help anyone – from the beginner to the professional.

Clothing and articles are made to measure, furniture to suit all needs! I have to stop before I burst into a song worthy of ‘Oliver’.

But they’ll also provide demonstrations on various bits of equipment you might not be so familiar with.

‘Oh, but Auntie Miranda, these are all just WORDS! Give us something practicaaaaal!!’

Ok, your homework for this evening…

We’ll start slowly – work with what you know, and if you don’t know your partner all that well (hey, it’s 2016. It’s allowed) – explore.

If your partner enjoys going down on you, tell them you want them to go down on you.

Grab them by the hair and say ‘you’re going to please me until I tell you to stop.’

They’re going to be your toy, your plaything until you’ve had your fill and they’re going to like it.

And if you don’t know them, they’ll either just say no, and you get a brownie badge for trying, or they might throw their own suggestion into the ring.

If you’re not too sure what each other would enjoy, you can make this part of a kinky game.

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ext them, say ‘Hey, I read an interesting blog in the Metro today (It’s OK, you can blame me) and it suggested I tell you three things I want to do to you tonight and you should say three things you want to do to me…’

Enjoy it at home.

Don’t then launch into a massive sextathon – this isn’t about blowing your load before the fun has begun in person.

Also, fantasy sexting may lead down avenues you can’t necessarily repeat in real life and it might become intimidating for your partner.

Instead, use it to gauge what you think you would both enjoy – and try it.

If you’re too shy to even start that kind of conversation, then just remember a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Enjoy it. That’s what this is really about.

It’s not about sticking to the rules, just following some guidelines.

It’s not about being perfect and faithfully re-enacting half of Porntube, it’s about finding what makes you feel powerful or what makes you feel submissive.

It’s about positive re-enforcement. Did you enjoy that? Say so – thank your partner, tell them how good it was (either as the Dom or the sub).

You have both tried something new, and you’re both dying to know what each other thought of it, so lie back and tell them how much you enjoyed the fruits of their labours.

Remember, this is a small step to a much bigger world so don’t feel like you have to run before you can walk.

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Complete Article HERE!

Kinky Sex For Stress Relief

BDSM Creates Mindful Mental State To Make You Better In Bed And More Relaxed

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your kinks

It’s no secret the Hollywood blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey and the impending release of the Fifty Shades Darker sequel has sparked our interest in the 6-for-4 deal acronym: Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism, also known as BDSM. It has become a gateway for sexual experimentation among couples of all ages, steering them away from the conventional “vanilla sex.” Now, a study published in the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice suggests BDSM not only adds novelty to the bedroom, it can make us more mindful partners in bed.

The intensity and pain associated with BDSM is presumed to do everything but induce stress. However, BDSM is more than just kinky sex; some practices can enhance our psychological well-being, and even have anti-anxiety effects and other mental health benefits. Previous research has found giving or receiving pain can alter blood flow in the brain, and lead to a feeling of living in the here and now, while reducing anxiety.

Now researchers at Northern Illinois University add further evidence that BDSM creates an altered state of mind. Participants in a study who practiced BDSM showed reduced levels of stress, better mood, and a high level of flow, or energized focus.

The transformative effects of bondage are well known within the BDSM community. According to the researchers, people in the BDSM community will often talk about being transported into a state of flow: “the idea that the rest of the world drops away and someone is completely focused on what they’re doing,” said Brad Sagarin, study author, and  professor in the department of psychology at Northern Illinois University, TIME reported.

In the study, Sagarin and his colleagues recruited seven couples who practice BDSM, including: two couples in a long-term relationship; two in polyamorous arrangements; two pairs who are friends; and one pair who met the day of the study. Each person in a pair were assigned to the “top” role (dominant), or the “bottom” role (submissive). The couples were allowed to engage in BDSM for as long as they wanted, with the average encounter lasting roughly an hour.

The researchers observed and marked down the activities that were happening while the couples practiced BDSM. Before and after each session, the researchers measured the participants’ cortisol levels and testosterone, while also measuring their mood, level of stress, sense of closeness, and whether they were experiencing mental flow.

The findings revealed BDSM helped couples become more present in the here and now, or be more mindful of their partner and the situation. Sagarin hypothesizes the intense sensations and the potential restriction of movement could influence someone’s ability to stay in the moment, and really tune in to it. This could potentially help people who otherwise have a hard time getting out of their own head.

Sagarin and his colleagues compared the BDSM-induced altered state of mind to that of pro athletes, prolific novelists, musicians, or anyone who loses themselves in an activity they’re skilled in. For example, scoring a touchdown requires intense focus to make sure it’s done effectively and safely; cracking a whip requires a similar focus. The athlete and the bed partner both transcend to a flow state of energized focus and full enjoyment of what they’re doing — it’s about letting go of the clutter in the mind.

Sandra LaMorgese, a professional dominatrix, refers to the meditative or mindful form of BDSM as “subspace.”

“My submissive clients describe it as an altered state of consciousness in which they feel completely liberated from stress. It’s a practice that allows you to completely let go of internal and external stress so that you can fully immerse yourself in the present moment,” she told The Huffington Post.

While the recent study only looked at BDSM-style sexual encounters, this could also have implications for those with less adventurous sex lives. If people are really focused on each other, and making the experience enjoyable for their partner, similar benefits may be reaped. Sex could be a new way to bring mindfulness into our lives, and even make us better partners in bed.

Next time you decide to get freaky in the sheets, think of your bed as your yoga mat, and meditate your way to better sex.

Complete Article HERE!

Let’s Talk About Sex (for Trans Men)

By Buck Angel

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Here is a simple fact that not a lot of people realize: Many trans men choose not to have what we call “bottom surgery.” That is to say they chose not to have any surgery on the genitals they were born with. This means that the world has a significant number of men with vaginas. I have spoken with a lot of trans men through my life and work, and I would estimate that around 90 percent of trans men around the world — I have interviewed men from Sweden, the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, and other countries — have not opted for bottom surgery.

For some this decision comes for financial reasons, for some a fear of complications, and for some it’s more of a “one step at a time” kind of vibe: “Let’s see how this first stage (chest surgery, hormones) feels, and I will take it from there.” Regardless of the reason, the newly transitioned trans man’s body is a new landscape for him, and perhaps one that isn’t very well understood or accommodated, even by the man himself.

When I first transitioned, I was worried that I might not be able to find a partner or even love. I was worried that people would simply be turned off by the idea of a man with a vagina. I’ve since interviewed and spoken with hundreds of trans guys who echo the same anxieties. Kevin, 30, who lives in Brooklyn, said, “Deciding not to go with bottom surgery was something I went back and forth on for many years. It wasn’t until I saw videos online of your work (a docu-series that I make called Sexing the Transman) that I realized I didn’t need a penis to become a man. I was worried about sex, but surprisingly, most of my sexual partners have been very open to me and my body, even if it’s unfamiliar territory for them.”

I personally will always remember the exact moment I realized that my genitals were OK — that my vagina was a part of me and that is was OK to be a man without a penis — and it was through masturbation and orgasm. It was one of the first times that I penetrated myself, and I felt a bit guilty that I actually climaxed. It was a weird feeling to enjoy my vagina for the first time — it had always been something that I was not connected to and even hated. But that orgasm changed everything for me. It was really a turning point in my identity and my self-love.

Masturbation became a daily ritual for me, which is true for many other trans men I have spoken with. Because of this we are always looking for new ways to get off. There was nothing in the sex toy world that was designed for our bodies. What makes trans male vaginas and vulvas unusual is that they become enlarged, specifically the clitoris, because of the testosterone usage, and with that our vaginas also become a little bit more sensitive. Guys talk about a newly heightened sexual awareness and desire for sex. When that is combined with a detachment from your body or a lack of information or resources, trans men are at risk of not experiencing their best sex lives.

Because there was nothing made for trans men in the sex toy (or “pleasure product”) world, I had to be very inventive!  I would cut up products made for the cisgender man and women to fit my anatomy, like dildos that had a suction cup backing, rip that out, and use the hole in the end to masturbate with. I would find things like snakebite kits, which are used to suck out the poison from the bite of a snake, or toys like nipple play suction cups, and adapt them to fit me. Some trans guys showed me how they used the ends of water bottles filled with water to create suction. One guy would even use a small hand towel filled with lube to rub on. Its pretty amazing how you can engineer things just to masturbate.

Jim, a 23-year-old trans man from Philadelphia told me, “Masturbation is something I do daily. It was not easy at first for me to find the space to feel comfortable touching myself; it felt weird because I never did it before I transitioned. Though through that I realized that I love sex and that I needed to feel myself and let that be a good thing.”

Buck-OFF - Buck Angel FTM Stroker

Buck-OFF – Buck Angel FTM Stroker

When I was finally able to love my body and be comfortable with it, I was more comfortable on so many levels that went far beyond sexuality. For this reason I’ve been on a mission to teach trans guys to love their bodies and through that to love themselves. These conversations are so important to our well-being, and it’s why it’s been a years-long dream to actually create a toy that is just for us. It’s validating; it says, “Your body is real, it deserves to have pleasure, and you are not alone.” I’m really hoping to use the Buck-Off to start conversations outside of the trans male community as well to create larger awareness of trans male bodies and their specific needs. This is important not only for us, but for our potential partners, teachers, health care providers, and legislators.

Complete Article HERE!

Should we teach teens about BDSM in sex ed?

By Leigh Cuen

Could talking to students about BDSM culture help combat rape on college campuses? Psychology researcher Kathryn Klement thinks so.

Klement is the co-author of a newly published study out of Northern Illinois University, which showed that BDSM practitioners are less likely to believe victim-blaming myths or sexist stereotypes than the general population.

That’s why she believes that teaching college students about BDSM and kink practices can be hugely beneficial.

“A sex education program [with information about BDSM] would help people understand what’s consensual and what’s not,” Klement said in a phone interview.

Woman shops for whips, paddles and other kink gear.

Woman shops for whips, paddles and other kink gear.

Klement’s study analyzed surveys filled out by 60 college students, 68 random online respondents recruited through Amazon’s MTurk site and 57 self-identified BDSM practitioners.

The groups, which included a robust mix of ages and genders, answered whether they agreed with such sexist and victim-blaming statements as “when girls go to parties wearing slutty clothes, they are asking for trouble,” and “many women have a quality of purity that few men possess.”

Across the board, Klement said, kinky participants had a healthier understanding of sex and consent than the other groups. A whopping 84% of BDSM respondents said wearing “slutty clothes” isn’t asking for trouble, compared to only 45% of the MTurk adults.

Kinky participants were also less likely than college students to support benevolent sexism, or stereotypes that misrepresent women as weak creatures in need of male protection. “It’s not assumed [in the BDSM community] that just because she’s a woman that she wants to be submissive,” Klement said.

“These results fly in the face of stereotypes about BDSM,” Klement added, citing the misconception that BDSM is all about violence, or that kink communities celebrate unhealthy” sexual desires.

Woman at an Israeli Slut Walk with the words "still not asking for it" scrawled across her exposed chest.

Woman at an Israeli Slut Walk with the words “still not asking for it” scrawled across her exposed chest.

Although there’s much to be gained from the mainstream community borrowing BDSM mainstays like safe words during sex, Klement thinks the most important thing the kink community can teach us is the concept of affirmative consent.

Many BDSM practitioners follow a “yes means yes” mentality, where partners explicitly ask about specific sex acts rather than assuming it’s kosher until somebody says no.

According to Klement, most BDSM practitioners believe consent can be withdrawn any time. That’s the bottom line.

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Because BDSM often involves physical danger and role-play, many practitioners advocate constant communication throughout every stage of seduction and sex.

Klement said some people worry all that talking will kill the mood, but in reality it can often have the opposite effect. “It’s actually quite sexy to talk about what we want to do beforehand,” she said. “People might be more informed [if they learned from BDSM] and have a better idea of how to handle sexual situations.”It looks like a lesson in consensual humiliation and kinky foreplay might be the ticket to fighting rape culture.

more-informed

Complete Article HERE!