What I learned about mental health from BDSM
By Jen Chan
Not too long ago, I took my first step into the world of kink. I was a baby gay coming to terms with my borderline personality disorder (BDP) diagnosis, looking for any and every label that could help alleviate the lack of self-identity that comprises my BPD.
I knew I was queer. I knew I identified as femme. But I didn’t know if I was a dominant (top), a submissive (bottom), or a pillow princess; I didn’t even know if I was kinky.
So I tried to find out.
I began to notice a pattern. The sheer rush of euphoria and affection created a high I felt each time I “topped” my partner, and it would sharply drop the minute I got home. I was drained of energy and in a foul mood for days, often skipping work or class. I felt stuck on something because I wanted to feel that intensely blissful sex all over again, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it back.
If you’re familiar with the after-effects of taking MDMA—the crash, the lack of endorphins, the dip in mood for up to a week later—then you’ve got a pretty good idea of how a “drop” felt for me. Just add in an unhealthy serving of guilt and self-doubt, a pinch of worthlessness and a dash of contempt for both myself and my partner, and voila! Top drop: the less talked about counterpart to sub drop where the dominant feels a sense of hopelessness following BDSM—bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism—if after care is neglected.
In the BDSM community, it’s common to talk about the submissive (sub) experience: To communicate the expectations and needs of the submissive partner before engaging in consensual kinky play, to make sure the safety of the sub during intense physical and/or psychological activities is tantamount, to tend and care for the sub after the scene ends and they’re brought back down to earth.
Outside of this, the rush of sadness and anxiety that hits after sex is known as post-coital tristesse, or post-coital dysphoria (PCD). It is potentially linked to the fact that during sex, the amygdala—a part of the brain that processes fearful thoughts—decreases in activity. Researchers have theorized that the rebound of the amygdala after sex is what triggers fear and depression.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 46 per cent of the 230 female participants reported experiencing PCD at least once after sex.
Aftercare is crucial and varies for subs, depending on their needs. Some subs appreciate being held or cuddled gently after a scene. Others need to hydrate, need their own space away from their partner or a detailed analysis of everything that happened for future knowledge. But no matter what the specific aftercare is, the goal is still the same: for a top to accommodate a sub and guide them out of “subspace”—a state of mind experienced by a submissive in a BDSM scenario—as directly as they were guided in.
I asked one of my exes, who’s identified as a straight-edge sub for several years, what subspace is like. As someone who doesn’t drink or do drugs, I was curious about what it was like for them to reach that same ephemeral zone of pleasure.
“It gets me to forget pain or worries, it gets me to focus only on what I’m feeling right then,” they told me. “It’s better than drugs.”
My ex gave up all substances in favour of getting fucked by kink, instead. I’m a little impressed by how powerful the bottom high must be for them.
“The high for bottoms is from letting go of all control,” they added. If we’re following that logic, then the top high is all about taking control.
We ended the call on a mildly uncomfortable note, both trying not to remember the dynamics of control that ended our relationship. Those dynamics were created, in part, by my BPD, and, as I would later discover, top drop.
In the days to follow, I avoided thinking about what being a top had felt like for me and scheduled a lunch date with another friend to hear his perspective.
“Being a dom gives you the freedom to act on repressed desires,” he told me over a plate of chili cheese fries. This is what his ex said to cajole him into being a top—the implied “whatever you want” dangled in front of a young gay man still figuring himself out.
He was new to kink, new to identifying and acting on his desires, and most of all, new to the expectations that were placed on him by his partner. He was expected to be a tough, macho top to his ex’s tender, needy bottom. His after-care, however, didn’t fit into that fantasy. If that had been different, maybe he wouldn’t have spiraled into a place where his mental health was deteriorating, along with his relationship.
The doubt and guilt that he would often feel for days after a kinky session mirrored my own. We both struggled with the idea that the things our partners wanted us to do to them—the things that we enjoyed doing to them—were fucked up. It was hard to reconcile the good people that we thought we were, the ones who follow societal expectations and have a moral compass and know right from wrong, with the people who are capable of hurting other people, and enjoying it.
For my friend, there was always a creeping fear at the back of his mind that the violence or cruelty he was letting loose during sex could rear up in his normal life, outside of a scene.
For me, there was a deep instinct to disengage, to distance myself emotionally from my partner, because I thought that if I didn’t care about them as much, then maybe I wouldn’t hate them for egging me on to do things I was scared of.
My friend has since recognized how unhealthy his relationship with his ex was. These days, he identifies as a switch (someone who alternates between dominant and submissive roles). The deep-seated sense of feeling silenced that was so prevalent in his first kinky relationship, is nowhere to be seen. He communicates his sexual needs and desires and any accompanying emotional fragility with his current partner. He’s happy.
I’m a little envious of him. My second-favourite hobby is rambling about all of the things I’m feeling, and it’s a close second to my favourite, which is crying. I credit my Cancer sun sign for my ability to embrace my insecurities, but there’s still something that makes me feel like I’m not equipped to deal with top drop.
There’s an interesting contrast between how a top is expected to behave—strong, tough, in control—and the realities of the human experience. When a top revels in the high of taking control, but starts to feel some of that control fading afterwards, how do they pinpoint the cause? How do they talk about that insecurity? How do they develop aftercare for themselves?
One of the hallowed tenets of BDSM and kink is the necessity of good communication; to be able to recognize a desire, then comfortably communicate that to a partner. Healthy, consensual, safe kink is predicated on this.
Complete Article HERE!
Being more present with each other can lead to better sex, therapists say
By Olivia Blair
People have turned to mindfulness to make them happier, less stressed and even more able to deal with their mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression – but could it improve your sex life too?
Being mindful essentially means being present and aware of both yourself and your surroundings. The brain is trained to deal with negative and anxious or depressive thoughts through breathing and meditation exercises all stemming in part from ancient Buddhist philosophy.
While therapists are increasingly using it as part of their individual counselling, sex and relationship therapists have also adopted the advice.
“In its broad terms, mindfulness means focusing on the present moment so with couples, because they are often so distracted, stressed and over-committed, it can lead to lots of couples’ mind being elsewhere. A classic complaint is that a partner is distracted,” Krystal Woodbridge, a psychosexual therapist and a trustee of the college of relationship and sexual therapists says. “Mindfulness can mean you are really present with your partner and actually experiencing them in the moment and really paying attention to them.”
This in turn can then lead to better sex – because when partners really feel like they are being listened to, focused on and paid attention to is when better trust is going to be built so they are more likely to be intimate with someone.
“Really being in the moment, noticing their partners body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and what is actually being said is hard to do but it is being present,” Woodbridge says. “… It builds rapport. It you don’t have rapport, you don’t have trust. If you don’t have trust you are not going to be intimate with that person as you are not going to allow yourself tp be vulnerable with them.”
When clients put mindfulness into practice with each other, even if it is a struggle because they are so used to being distracted, it often has a “massive impact on their relationship and sex lives”, Woodbridge says.
Additionally, if someone is struggling with an issue in their sex life such as a performance issue like impotence or the inability to orgasm, mindfulness can also help in this aspect.
“In a sexual scenario what can happen is ‘spectatoring’, which is when a person is not paying attention to arousal or enjoyment and are instead observing and over-analysing themselves fearing the worst. If it is an erectile problem they will be hoping it does not fail or will feel anxious about whether their partner is enjoying it,” Woodbridge explains. “Spectatoring is often quite self-fulfilling so the person might not be able to maintain their erection, will experience sexual pain or they will just feel completely unconfident so they get into a horrible cycle.”
Sex therapists will therefore instruct the client to be mindful and to notice how they are feeling, even if that feeling is anxiety. Once they are aware they feel anxious or nervous they can focus on bringing the mind back to the physical feelings, such as arousal, and divert their focus to this instead.
“Mindfulness gets the person to notice when they are ‘spectatoring’, notice that they are distracted and not focusing on their arousal and physical sensations. It is hard in that moment as the person is anxious but if you don’t the mind will wander and go elsewhere,” Ms Woodbridge explains.
Ammanda Major, a trained sex therapist and head of service quality and clinical practice at Relate told The Independent they regularly introduce mindfulness to their sex therapy sessions for couples.
“We use mindfulness in sex therapy to help people experience more pleasure by being able to relax and stay focused and present in the moment. Mindfulness can also benefit our relationships as a whole by relieving stress, building intimacy and enhancing inner peace. This in turn allows us to have more positive interactions with our partners,” she said.
She says couples can try mindfulness exercises at home, such as the following:
“Set some time aside every day to focus on your breathing. It doesn’t have to be long to begin with – maybe start with just five minutes a day and work your way up to 20.
A good way to start is on your own with no distractions. Close your eyes, relax and start to become aware of how you’re breathing. Breathe in slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this and gradually become aware of sensations in your body. Recognise and welcome them and then allow those thoughts to drift away to be replaced with other feelings as they arise. Notice what you’re experiencing and feeling. The aim is to let go: rather than reject intrusive thoughts, just let them drift away.”
With a partner:
“Once you’ve practised the breathing exercise a few times on your own, why not with your partner? Sit facing and look into each other’s eyes. Breathe slowly in through your nose and exhale through your mouth as before but this time synchronise your breathing. Do this for several minutes – it may feel a little strange at first but stick with it and it can have powerful results, increasing feelings of relaxation and intimacy.”
Complete Article HERE!
If the release of Fifty Shades Darker has you feeling inspired, here’s everything you need to know about adding a little spice (and spank) to your sex life.
By Krissy Brady
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and the latest installment in the Fifty Shades movies series, Fifty Shades Darker, hitting theaters today, chances are you could have some sexy thoughts on the brain—so maybe you’re looking to kink things up a bit. Fantasies and experimentation are what keep sex exciting, so if you want to tear a page out of Anastasia’s steamy sex logs but aren’t sure where to start, we got you. (And if you’re interested in spicing up your solo sex life, we’ve got you covered there too: 12 Steps to Better Masturbation.)
BDSM is often referred to as power play or dominant/submissive play, and can involve bondage and discipline (B&D), and sado-masochism (S/M), in which partners explore sensations, including pain, while testing the power dynamics of their relationship, explains certified sex therapist Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D. “Because it’s considered a ‘power exchange,’ this means that play should be consensual, safe, and sane,” she says.
No type of power play is considered “abnormal” so long as those involved in the action are willing participants and it doesn’t interfere with other aspects of life. You can make the experience whatever you want—some people may dabble in a specific behavior or two, while others prefer to act out entire scenes. (BTW, apparently kinky sex can make you more mindful, so that’s another bonus.)
“A little power playing can be just what the doctor ordered for a stagnating sexual relationship because it can shift the dynamic, create a healthy sense of sexual drama, and improve emotional intimacy,” says Van Kirk.
Ready to get down to business? Here’s everything you need to know about adding a little spice (and spank) to your sex life:
1. Ditch the shame—and do your homework.
“BDSM is about intense sensations, role play, and physical challenges endured for the sake of pleasure,” says sexologist Gloria Brame, Ph.D., author of Different Loving Too. “Whatever BDSM games may look like on the outside to frightened prudes, the inside reality is that it’s insanely exciting, unbelievably intimate, and so fun that you lose all track of time.” However, rushing into BDSM before you’ve accepted and embraced your needs and given yourself permission to ask for what you really want is, in short, a bad idea. “The number-one mistake women make is expecting their partner to give them permission to enjoy their own fantasies,” she says. So, read a lot, surf a lot, and make sure you feel empowered to go after what you want, instead of just dumping fantasies in your partner’s lap and expecting someone to act on them.
2. Make a list of what you want to experience in the boudoir.
“Before you deep dive into your fantasies and go naughty before nice, it’s actually useful to make a list of what you want and check it twice—once by yourself, and once with your partner,” says Los Angeles–based sexologist Christine Milrod, Ph.D. Planning in advance helps you gauge what each other’s boundaries are—breath play might be kosher, but blood play not so much—while building anticipation for the big event. (And if you’re not sure what your fantasies even are, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedoms provides a thorough list of practices that fall under the BDSM category.)
3. Approach your partner with a BDSM-positive attitude.
Approaching this particular sex talk in an upbeat, frisky way will make your partner more curious and willing to explore your fantasies. “We’re all wired to be curious about sexual variety,” says Brame. “We all instinctively want to try things that could make us more turned on too.” Need a super-easy way to broach the subject? Read him your favorite passage from a sexy book—you know, the one you read when it’s just you and your vibrator. “If nothing else, it’s a great place to start the conversation and let him know what turns you on,” says Brame.
4. Try each activity one at a time.
“Many people are vastly unprepared and end up going overboard, with less than optimal results,” says Milrod. If you want to explore spanking, for example, focus on that activity specifically, thinking about the location of your session (think: bed, or kitchen), laying out the props (hair brush, paddle, riding crop) and then engaging with each other in a way that feels comfortable for both of you, she says. Savor each move, and the effect, whether you’re the giver or the receiver.
5. Respect each other’s boundaries.
“Creating and adhering to the safe word is paramount,” says Milrod. “Activities can always be up for negotiation, but not usually while you’re engaged in play. This is why it’s so important to write the prescription beforehand—nasty surprises aren’t always what you bargained for.” Always remember that the second it stops being pleasurable to you, it means your relationship has gone to an unhealthy place. “Use safe words, negotiate boundaries, keep it safe, and expect pleasure,” says Brame.
6. Don’t be afraid to switch things up.
If you’re just starting your journey, don’t limit yourself with labels or assume you’ll always play only one role. You may find that you enjoy switching roles or that your own definition of yourself needs to be stretched in new ways. “Let your turn-ons guide you to explore new fantasies and roles, and don’t feel like you must pick one and stick with it,” says Brame. (Next up: How to Have a One-Night Stand with Your Partner.)
7. Check in with each other afterward.
Processing the experience after-the-fact is just as important as planning for it. “Practicing BDSM requires communication—so don’t walk away with assumptions in mind,” says Milrod. Being honest and asking questions won’t just help you create future mind-blowing experiences, but will boost your intimacy and closeness in a big way. (P.S. Here are the conversations to have with your partner for a better O.) “Remember, this is your (and your partner’s) very own world,” adds Milrod. Treat it with respect.
Complete Article HERE!