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An Erotic Artist on Censorship and Finding Spirituality in Sex

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By Claire Valentine

You may have come across the work of Alphachanneling on Instagram before — with over half a million followers, the artist’s contribution to the landscape of erotic art has been accomplished in no small part due to the accessible nature of the platform. His “Utopian Erotic” drawings are a delicate expression of explicitly sexual themes; with soft colors, thin lines and psychedelic florals, Alphachanneling captures some of our rawest, most intimate moments as humans through a lens that is overtly and unexpectedly spiritual. PAPER caught up with the artist to talk censorship, divinity in sensuality and the role erotic art plays in our modern lives:

When did you first start drawing nudes?

The human form has always been a compelling subject for me. The works of Egon Schiele, Henry Moore, and Rodin were some of my first inspirations for figurative art, and I was introduced to the practice of life drawing from figure models as a teenager. The human body in art has a timelessness that transcends whatever historical cultural moment we happen to be in. It reminds us of the fundamental human nakedness, stripped from layers of self-conception. It reminds us that through all of time we’ve been the same creature, experiencing joy and suffering, love, sex and death.

Fellow Being Radiated by Babe’s Orgasm

Do you use models now or draw from imagination?

In figure drawing my attention was always on capturing the body, the form, the light. It was a very focused kind of effort, and while I deeply respect it, I found I was not expressing what was truly within me. It wasn’t until I dedicated myself to drawing my figures direct from imagination that things started to open up. Drawing without reference forces me to answer all kinds of questions on a personal level, like “what does the exquisite tension of lips pressed against a nipple look like,” “what does a sumptuous ass look like when it is seducing and inviting a lover towards it?” Without objective reference, the next questions become, “what do I want it to look like?” and “what about it is activating and exciting to me?” This kind of questioning leads me to a much more personal expression of the figure. I love the idea of bending and shaping bodies into forms that capture the sensation and experience of our realities; the physical, the energetic, the emotional, the spiritual.

FUSION

What was the initial inspiration behind them?

The inspiration driving my art is the premise that desire is an expression of the divine, and therefore something to exalt and celebrate in all its forms. In the same way that a plant turns toward the sun, I believe my desire turns me on to that which nourishes me and makes me grow. This outlook is in part a reaction to living in a society which represses, condemns and reduces desire to behaviorism. I’d like to add that I’m speaking only of desire as I’ve experienced it in my life; I’m not speaking for anyone other than myself.

EXPANDING UNIVERSE

Where do you draw your erotic influences from?

The poetry of Rumi has been a big influence on me. It’s shown me that art can simply be praise and an expression of joy and love. This kind of ecstatic art released me from the idea that art had to contribute some kind of innovation on culture in order to be validated. Novelty isn’t the only form of value, one can repeat what’s already been said a thousand times, and the deeper and more sincerely it is expressed, the more its value increases. I draw my influences from a wide range of sources both high and low, from mysticism and the occult to folk art, outsider art and indigenous art, from pornography, kink and BDSM to yoga, tantra, and the healing arts.

Bad Kitty

It seems that for the most part you’ve been able to circumvent Instagram’s notoriously strict censorship rules. Why do you think that is?

I think my work has a kind of double nature that makes it confusing to define. It is as delicate and innocent as it is dirty and confrontational. I believe the intention with which something is said has greater significance than the words themselves. The same applies with visual language. Rather than being modest and subtle, I am overt and explicit with the sexuality in my art, but I like to deliver that provocation in the most gentle, graceful and reverential way, through the colors I use and my craftsmanship. Perhaps this has protected my art from tripping the censorship rules as much as it could given the subject matter. Regardless, my work still exists in a precarious place where it is flagged and taken down from time to time.

Living Temple

What role does erotic art play in our lives?

Erotic art can help normalize the natural sexuality that we experience as humans, but yet struggle to find social and cultural acknowledgment of. Erotic art can allow us to explore sexuality and desire in a way that feels safe and approachable and exposes us to a spectrum that may be new and unknown in our experience of our lives. Erotic art expands the language of love and sexuality and reminds us of the beauty of being alive, the beauty of living as a sexual being.

Love City

Complete Article HERE!

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How to build sexual confidence

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Having sex for the first time is nerve wracking but it isn’t the only time when the thought of sex can feel daunting. Many of us will go through periods of abstinence later in our lives and the thought of engaging in sexual activity again can spark feelings of insecurity.

There are a variety of reasons why someone might have experienced an extended amount of time without having sex (divorce, a breakup, the loss of a loved one, or difficulty meeting the right person) and often by the time we get round to having sex again it feels as if we are back to square one with our sexual confidence.

Here, we speak to Valeria Chuba, PhD, MS, ACS, a board certified clinical sexologist and a certified intimacy coach. She helps her clients overcome sexual shame and anxiety, achieve sexual confidence, and create pleasure-filled intimate relationships. She is the creator and host of the Get Sex-Smart podcast, which offers expert information and guidance to listeners around the world.

“Finding that special spark with a new partner can often take a long time,” she explains. “Regardless of the reasons why we may find ourselves without a lover, when the time comes to get back into the groove, most of us experience feelings of fear, anxiety and low self-confidence.”

So to help anyone who is feeling less than empowered about the idea of a new sexual encounter, we asked Valeria to give us some practical advice on how to feel less nervous and more confident when starting a new sexual relationship…

1. Learn from the past

Each new relationship offers a promising beginning, which means an opportunity to do things differently and better than before. “Now is the perfect time to look back at your past sexual experiences,” Valeria advises.

“What were some of the things that worked well (or didn’t work) in your intimate relationships? What partners were the most memorable, and why? What would you like to do differently this time around? For example, would you speak up more about your need for sensual foreplay, or share more of your sexual imagination with your partner? Getting clarity around your needs and boundaries will help you start a new sexual relationship in a more proactive way, which in turn will help you feel more safe and grounded.”

2. Know what gives you pleasure

“As a sexologist, I often tell my clients that masturbation is the foundation for partner sex,” says Valeria.

“The more you know about what turns you on and helps you experience pleasure and orgasm, the better you’ll be able to share these things with your partner, leading to a more positive intimate experience.”

Reacquainting yourself with your body in this way will help you to first accept and then to gain confidence when it comes to being with someone else. It’s easy to forget the positive things about our body when we are feeling insecure and focusing on the parts we don’t like as much.

“If you are new to self pleasure or just want to broaden your sexual repertoire, sex-positive books like Come As You Are or fun and instructional sex ed DVDs will both inform you and spark your sensuality. It’s important to note that you should always consider seeking professional help for specific sexual concerns, like trouble experiencing orgasm with a partner, early ejaculation, erectile difficulties, or performance anxiety. Working with a sex-positive, compassionate professional can be a huge boost to your sexual confidence.”

3. Communication is key

“I often tell my clients that they should begin a new relationship as they mean to go on; and good communication is a big part of any successful sexual relationship,” says Valeria.

“There are few things more attractive in a lover than the confidence to speak up about his or her needs and desires, and the ability to listen to his or her partner. Speaking up improves your chances of getting what you want from your sexual relationship; and being accepting of your partner will make him or her feel special and appreciated. Either way, you will come across as a generous and thoughtful lover, which is sure to boost your self-confidence.”

4. Focus on pleasure and not performance

Whenever we begin a new relationship, especially after a long time without partner sex, we tend to feel anxious about things like our attractiveness; our size, shape and weight; and how well we will ‘perform’ during sex.

“This mindset keeps us caught up in our heads and disconnected both from our bodies and pleasure, and from our lovers and the process of lovemaking. Whenever you feel yourself getting caught up in performance pressure, focus instead on your body sensations. Breathe deeply and if need be, slow down. Pay attention to how things feel as opposed to how perfect you appear to be. As a bonus, a lover who is focused on pleasure and sensuality comes off as a lot more empowered and confident than someone who is insecure about their ‘performance’.”

5. Have a sense of humour

Sex can be complicated and intimidating at the best of times, let alone when we’ve been celibate for an extended period. Because of this, we tend to forget that at its core, sex is about connection, pleasure and fun. And since partner sex happens between bodies, it can also be a messy, embarrassing and unintentionally hilarious experience. Using this as a point of connection with your lover, rather than something to be ashamed of, can help you lighten things up. Chances are your partner is also feeling nervous, so bonding lightheartedly over your shared anxiety and the absurdity of it all can be both relaxing and very, very sexy.

Complete Article HERE!

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8 sexual questions to ask your boyfriend or girlfriend before you get it on

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It is important to ask a few questions before getting jiggy with someone new.

Couple laying back to back in bed

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No, you don’t need to treat it like a job interview unless of course that’s your thing.

But there are a few things you should find out about the person you are about to get intimate with.

Perhaps it is checking they are happy to partake in certain kinks or all important questions about sexual health and protecting yourself against unwanted pregnancy.

Lianne Young, qualified nutritionist and sex and relationship therapist, is on hand to help you work out what needs to be asked before you get it on.

1. What kind of relationship is this?

Lianne explains why this should be your first question: ‘Firstly, the most important questions to ask will help you work out if your chosen partner is looking for an emotional or physical relationship.

Make sure you are both on the same page because if one of you is looking for more or less from the relationship then it may be wiser not to jump into bed together and make things more complicated.

Sex therapist Lianne also suggests asking what they see as a relationship, for example, is it exclusive dating or can you date others?

And, if this is an emotional relationship, she suggests making sure your life goals match up before you get too involved.

Do they want children? What do they want out of life? What are their life plans?

While you wouldn’t ask the ‘kids question’ to someone you were just engaged with physically, going too far down the path with someone who wants something entirely different to you can end up hurting.

‘After all,’ says Lianne, ‘would you invest in something if you knew it was only temporary? Probably not.’

2. What protection shall we use?

‘Got a condom?’ might not be the sexiest of questions but it is the most important question to ask.

Whether it is just purely a sexual relationship or long-term commitment, once you have established where you stand it is important to both decide what protection you are going to use.

Strawberry condom in handbag

At all times use precautions and, particularly if this is a casual relationship, never believe them if they say they have regular health checks so have no STIs.

‘Remember condoms can break, so you will also need a back up plan.

‘Also, maybe one of you is allergic to latex or silicon-based condoms so you need to make sure you have the necessary protection ahead of time.’

3. Do you want to try…?

Sex is best when everyone is on the same page.

While you may want to do x, y or z in the bedroom, it is important to check that your partner is comfortable too.

Consent is incredibly important, so make sure you both agree on what you expect will happen and what you’re both happy to do or have done.

‘Remember, when it comes to sex, no one has a road map to get you to your final destination – the orgasm,’ says Lianne.

‘Talk openly about what you like so your partner can satisfy you and vice versa.

Do you like doggy style?’

‘The most important one is to remember sex is about fun not just about reproduction and it’s ok to enjoy yourself.’

If you’re a bit too shy to say these things face to face, sexting might be an easier what to start the conversation.

But always remember that what they might say to you over a text message, may not be something they would be happy to do in reality.

Start a conversation about it: ‘You said in messages you would like to [xxx], shall we try it?’

4. Does that feel good?

There’s no good you getting cramp in your tongue, thighs or whatever body part you’re straining to pleasure your partner if they are lying there wishing it would be over.

Check what you’re doing feels good for them and get them to instruct you if it could be better.

Same goes for you, if you’re not feeling a certain move let your partner know.

Be kind though ‘That feels awful’ will probably kill the mood where as ‘move your [xxx] left/right/wherever’ will help you and them out.

5. Is there anything you don’t like?

Lianne says it is important to ask because: ‘You need to know each others’ boundaries and have respect for one another.’

6. Do you play safe?

Photo Taken In Sofia, Bulgaria

If you are in a long term relationship, Lianne does not advise asking about someone’s sexual history – including their ‘magic number’.

‘It’s history plain and simple. It’s the future you should be concerned about.

‘However, if it is just a physical one then these questions are important to ask.

‘How many other partners do they sleep with, and do they play safe each time?’

Complete Article HERE!

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Seven ways … to boost your libido

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Exhaustion, stress, drugs and poor technique can all cause your sex drive to stall. How can you get it back on track?

Low libido? Try reading something erotic

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Is it a problem?

A lack or loss of sex drive is only a problem if the person experiencing it believes it is. Medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease can undermine desire, as can prescription drugs or difficult life events. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) reported in September that 34% of sexually active women and 15% of sexually active men in Britain had lost interest in sex for three months or more during the previous year.

It’s good to talk

Relationship problems are a leading cause of waning libido: Natsal concluded that finding it hard to talk about sex with a partner doubled the chances of a diminished sex drive among women and increased them by 50% in men. “A lot of couples don’t communicate and end up avoiding sex,” says Cynthia Graham, professor of sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton, and the study’s lead author. “Open communication increases the chances of your libido bouncing back.” For women, having a partner with a different level of sexual interest increased the chances of loss of sexual interest more than fourfold, and having one with sexual likes and dislikes they did not share did so by almost threefold.These issues increased the chances of loss of desire by just 17% and 16% respectively among men.

Sleep on it

Burning the candle at both ends is a passion killer. Testosterone’s role in male libido is overstated, but it is true that men with the lowest levels of the hormone report low sexual desire and one US study found that sleeping fewer than five hours a night reduced testosterone levels in young men by 10-15%. A lack of sleep also kills female libido: a 2015 study concluded women who had an extra hour’s sleep were 14% more likely to have sex the next day.

Fly solo

Research shows far fewer women masturbate than men. Some research suggests doing so can help boost self-awareness, social competence, body esteem and improve intimacy in long-term relationships. “One reason women lack interest in sex is that sex isn’t always very good with a partner,” says Prof Graham. “Masturbation can help women learn things they can then teach their partners about how to pleasure them.”

Fantasise

Recently, researchers have emphasised that, especially for women, desire can occur largely in response to arousal. If that’s news to you, you could do worse than read Come As You Are by the sex educator Emily Nagoski. Therapists often tell women they can increase flagging interest in sex by fantasising, reading erotica or watching pornography, and research suggests they are right.

Relax

The “fight or flight” system boosts levels of hormones that help us perform better in dangerous situations. It can also undermine nonessential function,s such as digestion, immunity and reproductive drive. Little wonder, then, that if you’re frequently stressed out, you’re rarely in the mood. Yoga, working out or meditation might help.

The drugs don’t (always) work

Research suggests that taking the contraceptive pill can reduce the frequency of sexual thoughts and sex in some women. Alternative methods might be worth considering. Flibanserin became the first drug to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for low sexual desire in women in 2015. Trials suggest it has minimal effects: an extra 0.5-1 satisfying sex sessions a month compared with placebo. Side effects include low blood pressure, fainting and nausea. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra do not increase libido, but help men get erections. This may increase desire by boosting confidence.

Complete Article HERE!

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Finding power through play: How BDSM can fuel confidence

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By Emerald Bensadoun

Marianne LeBreton is suspended in mid-air, tied in an upside-down futumomo, legs bound together. The ropes cascade in intricate patterns, beginning at her ankles and working their way all the way around her wrists. The ropes arch her body backward. Her breathing steadies. Serenity washes through her. The slight discomfort of certain positions causes slow burns to spread across her body—but the pain is secondary to the relief. LeBreton becomes entrenched in a state of flow. Her mind is quiet. She’s enjoying the intensity, both emotionally and physically.

For LeBreton, bondage has become a meditative experience. When it comes to receiving pain, which she enjoys, it takes a certain focus and determination. LeBreton finds rope— especially Japanese rope bondage—to be particularly meditative. She equates BDSM to an empowering “sense of calm,” but it didn’t start out that way.

“What colour should it be?” thought LeBreton. She wanted her boyfriend to like it. As an 18-year-old student on a budget, it couldn’t be too expensive. For almost a week she scrolled through the internet until she finally came across what she was looking for. It was even in her price range. This was the one. Satisfied, she clicked “purchase.” LeBreton had just bought her first flogger—a whip with long tendrils coming out the end. “It felt like the beginning of something for me,” said LeBreton.

When asked about her first experience with BDSM, she grins from ear to ear, trying to visualize the details. “There wasn’t Fifty Shades of Grey but there was hentai,” she says. At the age of 13, LeBreton became fascinated with Bondage Fairies, an erotic manga about highly sexual, human-shaped female forest fairies with wings who work as hunters and police protecting the forest.

Now 30, LeBreton has an MA in sexology from Université du Québec à Montréal and owns KINK Toronto, an up-and-coming BDSM boutique in Toronto’s Annex. BDSM, she says, is about much more than pain—it’s about empowerment. LeBreton says we could use a little more playfulness in our lives. More sensuality. More discovery. “That’s usually what I hear from customers who are curious; they are excited and thrilled to be daring and to be doing this for themselves or their partners,” says LeBreton. “It’s definitely a journey of self-discovery and acceptance.” In her workshops, being naked and engaging in play publicly, she says, has helped with her confidence and body image.

In 2015, Christian Joyal, who has a PhD in psychology from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, and his colleagues published a paper on fantasies; ranging from sex in a public places, to tying up a sexual partner, to watching same-gender sex and pornography. But there were also fantasies about being dominated sexually. These were present in 65 per cent of women and 53 per cent of men; dominating someone sexually, present in 47 per cent of women and 60 per cent of men; being tied up for sexual pleasure which appealed to 52 per cent of women and 46 per cent of men.

“From what we’ve seen, most people have a very strict image of what [BDSM] should look like, which is very restricting,” she says. BDSM, she notes, doesn’t have to involve leather. It doesn’t have to involve pain. Another mistake is attributing masculine or feminine traits to erotic behaviour. For many people, BDSM is a healthy way to express their sexuality and grain a sense of control in their lives and of their bodies.

In her workshops, being naked and engaging in play publicly, she says, has helped with her confidence and body image

When it comes to dominance and submission, negotiations, and boundaries, safety and consent are crucial. While the words “dominant” or “top” may conjure up images of complete control, those in the BDSM world know that the submissive, or “bottom” hold true power. “The bottom is the one who gets to decide what they would like, what they do not want, what their limits are,” says LeBreton, “It’s the top’s responsibility to follow that through. Of course some people have very specific kinks where it’s kind of like ‘I want you to take control.’ But that’s negotiated and within limits set by the bottom.”

Feeling in control can also be about letting go. Relinquishing that sense of control they exert in every other part of their lives can be therapeutic. For this reason, LeBreton says that men, especially those in positions of higher power, will often identify as submissives in the bedroom.

Alex Zalewski says he’s always been a little rough. But in a seven-year “vanilla” relationship, it was difficult to break routine. Months later, for the first time in Zalewski’s life, he felt horribly unsure of himself. He’d been flirting with a new girl for some time whose friends invited him to their apartment. But he was confused. “Spit in my mouth,” she demanded. “Slap me.” Zalewski was torn between arousal and inner turmoil. If there was one thing he’d ever been taught from a young age, it’s that good boys don’t hit women.

For Zalewski, empowerment is a quiet confidence, and feeling a level of control that builds pleasure from the knowledge that he is fulfilling his partners’ desires. Zalewski, who lives in Toronto’s downtown core, offers relationship and personal coaching for various clients in his spare time, but he doesn’t charge money for it. The women in his life kept asking him for advice on BDSM. He decided he would try his best. In 2016 he created Authentic Connections, to help people overcome their barriers in exchange for a relationship they’ve always wanted. His goal was to have someone open up to him enough about the types of barriers that were preventing his clients and their partners from having the sex life they wanted to have.

“What are your fantasies? What are your desires? What do you want out of your partner or partners?” He would ask them. Once he could get them to admit what they actually wanted, they would work out a plan. Develop themselves, develop their skills to be able to do the things that would help them achieve their goals. Zalewski says a lot of the time, this is the most difficult step for the people he’s met with. It’s hard for people to step outside their comfort zones sometimes, he says, because they’ve been conditioned into associating kink and BDSM with abuse and mental instability.

A person becomes curious in BDSM. They don’t tell their friends. Maybe they’re afraid of being ridiculed or judged. Maybe rejection. But maybe it’s none of those things. Maybe they just want to keep their personal life, personal.

In 2006, the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality published an article that compared BDSM practitioners to published norms on 10 psychological disorders. Compared to the normative samples, those who actively engage in BDSM had lower levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological sadism, psychological masochism, borderline pathology and paranoia.

But just because a person likes to be controlled in the bedroom doesn’t necessarily mean those needs translate into the real world and can have dangerous implications for parties involved.

Jen Chan was 16. Her boyfriend was 24. He was her dominant and she was his submissive. “That was generally the dynamic of how our relationship went,” she says. But chipping away at her self-esteem, her boyfriend would pressure her into doing things she wasn’t sure if she was comfortable with, and she would go along with them, afraid of appearing inexperienced and childish to her older boyfriend. While BDSM allows you to play out different scenarios from that of everyday life, she says her first experience with dominance and submission was just an extension of the life she already had.

It’s hard for people to step outside their comfort zones sometimes, he says, because they’ve been conditioned into associating kink and BDSM with abuse and mental instability.

After their relationship ended, Chan says it took her several years until she felt confident enough to engage in BDSM again. Coming out as queer, she says, has also made all the difference. Chan now identifies as a switch, which is someone who enjoys partaking in both dominant and submissive roles, or both topping and bottoming.

“There is something very staged, controlled and intentional about BDSM, at least that’s the way I interact with it,” says Chan, who adds that her empowerment with BDSM lies in feeling like she’s doing something adventurous in an environment of her choice. Feeling satisfied sexually, she says, has made her feel more confident in the real world.

Is what you’re doing safe? Is what you’re doing consensual? Zalewski says risk awareness, the amount of risk a person is comfortable taking in order to attain the pleasure plays a large role in BDSM. From flesh hook suspension to unprotected sex, it’s important to understand the personal level of risk you are comfortable with when it comes to the acts you want to perform.

Chan says that while engaging in BDSM gave her the opportunity to try new things and step into new roles, most importantly, it allowed her to reclaim control, sexually. As a person begins to immerse themselves in BDSM, Chan says, they start to learn more about what makes them comfortable, where their boundaries lie, all while pushing themselves to continually learn new things—and to her, that’s all empowerment really is.

Complete Article HERE!

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