In addition to the “where,” “with who” and “what do I do,” there’s another important question to ask about sex: when to have it. Sex enthusiasts may immediately weigh in that any time is a good time, and they might not be wrong. But those who find the answer isn’t so simple might want to take a look at some interesting research about sex, and the best time to have it.
It’ll come as no surprise that the mood tends to strike different people at different times. Recent research points to a gender difference in when arousal happens. According to Kinsey Institute, most men reach their peak testosterone levels in the early morning, which helps explain the experience of “morning wood,” or waking up with an erection.
For women, arousal tends to kick in a little later in the morning. Endorphin levels reach their peak between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Because high endorphin levels can help us feel less pain and mediate the negative effects of stress, they are often associated with more pleasurable sex.
There are other cycles to consider, too. Some experts suggest the best day to experience an orgasm is actually the day before you get your period. Sex therapist and couples counselor Laure Watson told Woman’s Day, “When blood accumulation makes your uterus heavy, contractions are more perceptible during orgasm.” She explains that the orgasmic tissue tends to be more sensitive when the body retains fluids.
Of course, it’s not always so precise. While data points can seem compelling, not everyone is slated to fall in sync with that science. Hormone expert Alisa Vitti argues the best time of day to have sex is around 3 p.m. And by “best time” she means the most opportune time to provide both parties with a pleasurable experience. The procreative bit runs on a different clock.
According to Vitti, 3 p.m. is when women experience a spike in cortisol levels. More cortisol means more energy, so if you want your lady amped and ready to go, 3 is a good time to catch her. During the same time, men experience elevated levels of estrogen, which Vitti says help make them more “emotionally present” during sex. She says this collision of conditions creates an environment where men and women can be most in tune with each other’s desires. She calls it the “perfect compromise” between the sexes in the way of heterosexual sex.
“You can see why ‘afternoon delight’ is a thing,” she told the Daily Mail.
Then again, there are other factors to consider. If Vitti’s 3 p.m. theory is correct, a lot of people will be missing out. The typical American work schedule doesn’t exactly permit mid-afternoon sex breaks. Though it might prove opportune for the adulterers out there. An extended lunch break or early-afternoon departure from the office tend to provide convenient cover for infidelities.
If you live with the person you’re having sex with (my grandmother keeps mentioning this thing called “marriage,” though my polyamorous friends tell me it’s something else), having sex in the evening or before bed might make more sense. A lot of people appreciate the somnolent effects sex can have on the body, and there’s no better place to enjoy that rush than in your own bed.
If you’re active in the hookup culture, you might find your sex schedule depends on other things, like what time the bars close.
There’s also age to consider. As people grow older, they may find themselves getting more tired at night, which makes scheduling a sexual rendezvous for earlier in the day all the more appealing.
In short, morning, noon or night all have their benefits.
The other study, which focused on more than 2,500 species of mammals, said males form pairs with females to protect their mates. That situation arose, the study published in the journal Science said, because females lived spread apart from one another, making the risk of leaving a vulnerable female too great.
For researchers tackling the monogamy question, here was the fundamental puzzle: Males, by sticking with one partner, seemed to lose out on the chance to father lots of children; gestation periods, after all, can be long in female mammals. That explains why most mammalian species don’t follow the one-partner rule. But for the roughly 5 percent that do, what caused monogamy to evolve?
Both groups of researchers studied the DNA sequences of animals alive today and traced the evolutionary tree to answer the question. They tracked how species were related and when species branched off.
One long-standing hypothesis — that having a father on hand to help raise and protect the child swayed mammals toward monogamy — was debunked by both groups. A two-parent system is a consequence, not a cause, of staying faithful, they concluded.
“First, you become monogamous, and then you are stuck, so you might as well help raise the child,” said Eduardo Fernandez-Duque, a University of Pennsylvania anthropologist who was not involved in the studies. He called the wealth of new data “very exciting.”
The Science paper said females started living far from one another as they competed for a better diet.
“Females changed their diet to foods of higher quality that were clumped and defended that food more aggressively,” University of Cambridge zoologist Dieter Lukas said. This led to large, exclusive territories, each containing one female, rather than territories that overlapped.
The males had no choice but to follow that distribution. A male mammal could not successfully defend more than one female because of risk of injury or predation, and then he would lose the paternity he had just gained, Lukas said.
However, the researchers found no association between monogamy and infanticide, which the PNAS paper cited as the primary reason monogamy evolved.
That paper looked at 230 species of primates, about a quarter of which are monogamous; the analysis included people, classifying them as monogamous and polygynous, a mating system involving one male with two or more females.
“Infanticide is a real problem, particularly for social species,” said University College London anthropologist Christopher Opie, senior author of the PNAS paper.
Living in an advanced social system requires a large brain to deal with the complexities of relationships, Opie said. The downside of a big brain is slower infant development and longer lactation periods to foster brain growth — meaning more opportunities for a rival male to kill the child and impregnate the female.
This gives males an evolutionary advantage for sticking with the child, to ward off intruding males.
Even though the primary incentive for mammals becoming monogamous differed, “quite a number” of the Science and PNAS papers’ conclusions are “similar,” said Tim Clutton-Brock, senior author of the Science paper and a University of Cambridge zoologist. He called it a “chance phenomenon” that both groups were investigating such a similar topic.
Fernandez-Duque said that how species were classified in each study could possibly explain the differences in the results. The Cambridge report focused more on the social behavior of animals by separating species into three groups: solitary, socially monogamous and group-living.
However, the other group used mating system as its classification, tagging each type of primate as monogamous, polygynous or “promiscuous, meaning multiple males and multiple females,” Opie said.
He said he finds an issue with the Cambridge classification because of its focus on social, rather than mating, habits.
“You can’t have a breeding system that is solitary,” he said. “You can’t do that on your own.”
Also, the Science paper included evolutionary trees from a variety of mammals, including wolves, jackals, beavers, meerkats and primates.
Asking your partner to tie you to the bedpost, telling them to slap you hard in the throes of lovemaking, dressing like a woman if you are a man, admitting a fetish for feet: Just a few years ago, any of these acts could be used against you in family court.
This was the case until 2010, when the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would be changing the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism (a variant of cross-dressing) in the next edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 2013. The new definitions marked a distinction between behavior—for example, playing rough—and actual pathology. Consenting adults were no longer deemed mentally ill for choosing sexual behavior outside the mainstream.
The change was the result of a massive effort from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group founded in 1997 “to advance the rights of and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities.” At the time, these types of sexual behavior, by virtue of their inclusion in the DSM, were considered markers of mental illness—and, as a result, were heavily stigmatized, often with legal repercussions. In family court, an interest in BDSM was used as justification to remove people’s children from their custody.
“We were seeing the DSM used as a weapon,” says Race Bannon, an NCSF Board Member and the creator of Kink-Aware Professionals, a roster of safe and non-judgmental healthcare professionals for the BDSM and kink community. (The list is now maintained by the NCSF.) “Fifty Shades [of Grey] had not come along,” says Bannon, an early activist in the campaign to change the DSM. “[Kink] was still this dark and secret thing people did.”
Since its first edition was published in 1952, the DSM has often posed a problem for anyone whose sexual preferences fell outside the mainstream. Homosexuality, for example, was considered a mental illness—a “sociopathic personality disturbance”—until the APA changed the language in 1973. More broadly, the DSM section on paraphilias (a blanket term for any kind of unusual sexual interest), then termed “sexual deviations,” attempted to codify all sexual preferences considered harmful to the self or others—a line that, as one can imagine, is tricky in the BDSM community.
The effort to de-classify kink as a psychiatric disorder began in 1980s Los Angeles with Bannon and his then-partner, Guy Baldwin, a therapist who worked mostly with the gay and alternative sexualities communities. Bannon, a self-described “community organizer, activist, writer, and advocate” moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and soon became close with Baldwin through their mutual involvement as open participants in and advocates for the kink community. “I’m fairly confident that I was the first licensed mental-health practitioner anywhere who was out about being a practicing sadomasochist,” Baldwin says.
The pair was spurred to action after the 1987 edition of the DSM-III-R, which introduced the concept of paraphilias, changed the classifications for BDSM and kink from “sexual deviation” to actual disorders defined by two diagnostic criteria. To be considered a mental illness, the first qualification was: ‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’ The second: ‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’
“1987 was a bad shift,” Wright recalls. “Anyone who was [voluntarily] humiliated, beaten, bound, or any other alternate sexual expression was considered mentally ill.”
With the new language, Baldwin says, he quickly realized that laws regarding alternative sexual behavior would continue to be problematic “as long as the psychiatric community defines these behaviors as pathological.”
“I knew there were therapists around the world diagnosing practicing consensual sadomasochists with mental illness,” he says.
At the time that the new DSM was published, Baldwin and Bannon were planning to attend the 1987 march on Washington, D.C., in support of gay rights; after the new criteria came out, they decided to host a panel discussion for mental-health professionals in the State Department auditorium, where they announced the launch of what would come to be known as “The DSM Revision Project.”
“We asked how many people in the room were mental-health professionals,” Baldwin says, and “two-thirds of the people in the room raised their hands. And we said, ‘The way this needs to happen is, licensed mental-health practitioners need to write the DSM committee that reviews the language of the DSM concerned with paraphilias.’”
Around 40 or 50 people left the session with the information needed to write the letters. “We did not know exactly what would result,” Bannon recalls. “We did not think we would see dramatic changes suddenly.”
They didn’t—but the changes they did see were positive. The next edition of the DSM, published in 1994, added that to be considered part of a mental illness, “fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors” must “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”
“This was a definite improvement from the DSM-III-R,” says Wright, who later took over leadership of the DSM Revision Project from Bannon and Baldwin.
“These criteria gave [health professionals] wiggle room to say, ‘They have issues, but it is not about their kink. For the vast majority, it is just the way they have sex,’” Bannon explains. “Rather than saying, ‘Because you are into this method of sexuality, you are sick,’ [they could say], ‘Pathologically, if this impacts your life negatively, then you have a problem.’”
But the new language in the 1994 DSM also allowed for wiggle room of a different kind: The threshold of “significant distress” was often loosely interpreted, with the social stigma of kink, rather than kink itself, causing the negative impact on people’s lives. Workplace discrimination and violence were on the rise, according to a 2008 NCSF survey, and people were still being declared unfit parents as a result of their sexual preferences: Eighty of the 100 people who turned to the NCSF for legal assistance in custody battles from 1997-2010 lost their cases.
A few years after the 1994 DSM was published, Wright decided it was time to fight for another revision. When she founded the organization in 1997, the NCSF’s goal was a change to the APA’s diagnostic codes that separated the behavior (e.g., “he likes to restrict his breathing during sex”) from the diagnosis (e.g., “his desire to restrict his breath means that he must be mentally ill”). The next DSM, the group argued, should split the paraphilias from the paraphilic disorders, so that simply enjoying consensual BDSM would not be considered indicative of an illness.
Their efforts were largely ignored by the APA until early 2009, when Wright attended a panel discussion at New York City’s Philosophy Center on why people practice BDSM. Among the panelists was psychiatrist Richard Krueger, whose expertise included the diagnosis and treatment of paraphilias and sexual disorders.
During the meeting, Wright says, “I brought up the point that the DSM manual caused harm to BDSM people because it perpetuated the stigma that we were mentally ill. [Krueger] heard me and said that was not what they intended with the DSM.” Krueger, it turned out, was on the APA’s paraphilias committee, and following the meeting opened up an email dialogue between Wright and the other committee members, in which Wright provided documentation about the violence and discrimination kinky people experienced. “I credited that to the DSM,” she says. “Courts used it. Therapists used it. And it was being misinterpreted.”
Over the next year, “I sent him information, he gave it to the group, they asked questions, and I responded. It was very productive,” Wright recalls. “We [the NCSF] felt we were heard, we were listened to—and they took [our arguments] into account when they changed the wording” of the DSM in 2010.
Another major factor in the NCSF’s favor was a paper, co-written by sexual-medicine physician Charles Moser and sexologist Peggy J. Kleinplatz and published in 2006 in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, titled “DSM IV-TR and the Paraphilias: An Argument for Removal.” According to Wright, the paper, which “summed up opinions of mental-health professionals who thought you shouldn’t include sexual activity in the DSM,” played a significant role in the paraphilia committee’s eventual shift in language.
In February 2010 the proposed change was made public—clarifying, Wright says, that “the mental illness [depends on] how it is expressed, not the behavior itself.” The new guidelines drew a clear difference, in other words, between people expressing a healthy range of human sexuality (for example, a couple that likes to experiment, consensually, with whips, chains, and dungeons) and sadists who wish others genuine harm (for example, tying and whipping someone in a basement without their consent).
The DSM-5 was released in May 2013, its contents marking a victory for the NCSF, Bannon, and Baldwin. The final language states: “A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.”
“Now we are seeing a sharp drop in people having their children removed from their custody,” Wright explains. Since the change, according to the NCSF, less than 10 percent of people who sought the organization’s help in custody cases have had their children removed, and the number of discrimination cases has dropped from more than 600 in 2002 to 500 in 2010 to around 200 over the last year.
“The APA basically came out and said, ‘These people are mentally healthy,’” Wright says. “‘It’s had a direct impact on society.”
Name: Jim & Elaine
Age: 42 & 38
We have been happily married for 15 years. We have a good, but pretty vanilla sex life together. We want to spice things up and are talking about maybe looking for other couples online. We’re both in good shape and have very outgoing personalities. Both of us have had one short affair in the past, now we think we want to play together. Thoughts?
You guys want to look for other couples online…for ummm sex? I mean you imply that but you don’t really come right out and say it, do you? I know you are new to this and you are just feeling your way through this unfamiliar territory, but unless you want to look like rank amateurs by other consensual non-monogamous couples, like swingers and polyamorous folks…and that’s what we’re talking about, right? You’d better get comfortable articulating precisely what it is you want, how you want it, and with whom.
If you’ve already begun your online search, you’ve probably already discovered that there are several different avenues for you to pursue. There are, of course, dating and profile sites. There are also sites that feature ads from other non-monogamous couples. If swinging is what you are after, there are exclusive swing parties and more inclusive swinger clubs. And each of these outlets may offer special groupings for the fetish-oriented swinger.
Since you don’t actually say what kind of consensual non-monogamy you’re looking for, let’s talk swinging for now. Like I said, this isn’t the only kind of consensual non-monogamy, but it’s probably the oldest most established variety.
Before you swing, you guys need to decide what type of swing-set you want. If the vocabulary that follows is unfamiliar to you, you have some remedial homework to do before you launch your swing-capade. There is “soft” swinging and “hard” swinging. And bisexually may or may not be an option for you.
If you assume that all swingers are open-minded about sex, consider this; lots of swing outlets prohibit male-on-male sex. Personally, I find this extremely bizarre and off-putting, but I suppose it only reflects the prejudices of the popular culture. There are some swing-sets that allow novice swingers to simply to be voyeurs. I can’t fuckin’ figure this out either. Maybe it’s a heterosexual thing.
If you gravitate toward the club-set there are 3 types to consider:
SEX clubs — these clubs allow full-on sex, but only in designated areas.
NO-SEX clubs — allow for lots of exhibitionism and voyeurism, including nudity, but no full-on sex. These clubs are great for meeting other swingers and to set up your own sex dates.
Swinger parties are NO-SEX events, and are usually held in a nightclub or restaurant. Again, you can meet like-minded folks there and set up your own sex dates.
Whichever outlet you choose; make sure you understand the rules and regulations of the get together before you attend.
Like I said, it’s of the utmost importance that you guys decide, in advance, what your limits are. A good number of otherwise healthy marriages flounder at this point. Have a clear and frank exchange with each other on the ground rules of your swinging and then stick to them. Trying to negotiate a change to the rules of engagement during a swing is a very bad idea. That’s not to say that your ground rules won’t change and evolve over time; just don’t attempt to adjust them while they are in play.
Never push your partner into doing something he/she is not ready to do. Be open with each other before, during and especially after a swing. Effective communication is essential. This goes for communicating with your fellow swingers. Be sure to let everyone know that you are newbees to the scene. (Don’t worry, everyone will have figured that out already.) Novices stick out like a sore…hard-on.
Most clubs and groupings don’t allow single men. Most swing-sets are women oriented, to the degree that women set the tone for the swing. That being said, it’s still a man’s world. Men generally dictate the type of sexual expression that will be tolerated — thus the prohibition, stated or unstated, against male on male sex. Female on female sex is, of course, encouraged for obvious reasons. How’s that for a screwed-up double standard?
Most clubs expect full or partial nudity. My swinger friends advise that if you just want to attend so you can ogle others, stay the fuck home! Novice swingers, like you guys, ought to stay together until you feel comfortable being apart. But for Christ sake, don’t glom on to one another like the other swingers have the cooties.
Most of all, take responsibility for your eroticism and your sexuality. Be friendly and good-natured. And don’t try to pretend you’re a more accomplished sexual athlete than you are.
Be advised, you are about to embark on a sexual journey that will take you to the edges of what society regards as appropriate sexual behavior. Don’t be surprised if some of your more traditional friends discriminate against you when they find out about your new activities. Finally, swinging is far less about what you do (sex) and way more about who you are (a lifestyle). To that end, I’d like to turn you on to a fantastic resource. Check out my friends, John and Allie, at SwingerCast. And be sure to listen to my two-part interview with them right here on my site. You’ll find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE!
Have I got some marvelous news for you! My friend and colleague, Cooper S. Beckett, has written a new book. It impressed me no end so I thought, rather than keep this all to myself, I’d share it with you.
Ya’ll remember Cooper, right? OK, maybe ya don’t; it’s been a long time since he was last seen skulking around my site. Way back in March of 2011 I had the pleasure of welcoming Cooper and his ever so lovely sidekick, Ginger, to my Sex EDGE-U-cation show for a two-part interview. You can find both parts in the Podcast Archive HERE and HERE!
Cooper and Ginger are the hosts of the Life On The Swingset podcasts, where they discuss a wide range of topics, with a focus on consensual non-monogamy.
You should read this book because it represents my journey. From starry-eyed newbie swinger, through my dealing with jealousy and conflict, through the triumphs of orgies and play parties, through the devastation of breaking up, through exploring polyamory, through divorce, through major life changes, through depression, through success and failure, through the rise and fall of new relationships.
Triumphs of orgies?? How you do go on, sir!
It’s no secret that Cooper is unabashedly biased when it comes to swinging, polyamory, as well as other forms of ethical non-monogamy. And why shouldn’t he be? As he plainly states he has grown in his appreciation of himself and his sexuality in the process. Now, how many of us can make a similar claim? However, in his enthusiasm, he doesn’t gloss over the difficulties. He speaks honestly and earnestly about this particular way to live one’s life. He describes the opportunities that allow for growth in terms of understanding one’s sexuality and one’s loving relationships through experimentation and self-reflection.
To my mind, there is nothing more compelling than a “coming out” story. It’s one thing to quietly self-identify as a fellow big-fat-pervert, as I am apt to say on my podcasts, it’s quite another to tell the whole world. I am pleased to welcome Cooper to the Out-There-Come-What-May club. It’s good to have you here, my friend.
One of my favorite chapters in the book is titled: Bi The Way – Male Bisexuality and Swinging. Cooper, Ginger, and I talked about this very thing, at length, in our podcast together. So it was delightful to find him exploring this concept in print as well.
There is a huge double standard in the swinging lifestyle when it comes to acceptance of bisexual males. We all know this, it’s endemic. As swingers we seem perfectly happy that our women are bisexual. We encourage and expect them to be so often. Some more than others, but by and large, definitely bisexual. Now don’t jump down my throat here, I’m well aware that straight swinging females exist, and probably in a decent sized number, but wouldn’t we all agree that the VAST majority of females in the lifestyle are bi? This fact isn’t really shocking, as even the mainstream vanilla world has embraced girl-on-girl dalliance action in the past ten to fifteen years. So when a lifestyle such as swinging presents itself as an option, affording them the opportunity to play with girls, well, there ya go, that’s where the bi girl inside comes out. Many of the swing couples I’ve met said that this was one of the prominent reasons they got into this lifestyle in the first place. So Mrs. could play with another woman. You raise the call for bisexual males, however, and tumbleweeds blow by. Invisible because it’s been made very clear in club and party rules and pricing that a man who wants to play with another man is an unwelcome addition to the scene. This doesn’t make sense.
See why I like Cooper so much?
Another thing I liked a lot about the book, and I think every reader will echo my feelings about this, is Cooper’s thoughtful addition of a glossary of pertinent lingo. If you don’t know the difference between a Full Swap and a Soft Swap or don’t know PIV and PIA from a hole in your head (someone’s gonna appreciate that pun, don’t cha know), not to worry because Cooper takes great pains to spell it out for you.
On a personal note, I want to say a special thanks to Cooper for his chapter titled: Podcasting Can be Lonely. I thought I was the only person who thought this way.
Podcasting can be a lonely pursuit at times. You predominantly interact with people that don’t have physicality in your world. They’re avatars, they’re ones and zeros. They exist for real somewhere, of course. (Most of them, there are the bots after all.) But few exist beyond text on a screen. Writing for a website is the same way. It’s a lot of work, and a tremendous output of self. We sex bloggers reveal so much to so many people (at least we hope for “so many”) and can often get to wondering if we’re just shouting into the void.
My Life on the Swingset is available exclusively as an Amazon Kindle e-book. A print edition will follow later this month. And be sure to look for the audiobook release in the spring. Check it out, sex fans; you’ll be so glad you did.