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Consent and BDSM: What You Should Know

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Because there are no fifty shades of grey, just black and white.

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We can say “Consent is sexy” all we want and wear it on every crop top we own, but with a rising interest in kink and BDSM, and the ever-prevalent rape culture, understanding the intricacies of consent can become more complicated — and are more important than ever.

You know basically the entire plot of Fifty Shades? Like how Ana is an unknowing virgin who’s whisked into a life of BDSM with a handsome, extremely screwed up billionaire? Well, I’d argue that though Ana is presented a contract, she isn’t truly consenting to almost anything that happens to her in Fifty Shades.

Sure, she’s into the white wine kisses and the grey tie bondage part, but Christian Grey essentially coerced an inexperienced novice into a world of kink— she consented, but she didn’t even know what she was consenting to. That is problematic and it is wrong. Others will disagree with me. Critics of this stance say that Ana said ‘yes,’ therefore her consent was given.

How can a clear willingness or unwillingness to participate in a sexual act become so many shades of grey, when it should be black and white?

It is so essential to a teen’s educational understanding, this is the teen’s guide to understanding consent in BDSM.

The blurred lines are confusing AF

When it comes to mainstream representations of BDSM in the media, understanding where bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism aligns with consent can be confusing. It’s not just hazy for teenagers, trust me. The lines appear blurry for pretty much anyone without a deep understanding of kink.

What you may not know is that consent is actually the foundation of BDSM play. Before you can “play,” you need to discuss the boundaries and comforts levels of each person involved in the scene.

“Consent is just as important in vanilla sex, but often, we get so used to the vanilla experience that we forget to ask for or enthusiastically express consent. In BDSM, however, you’re off the established script. Experimenting with bondage or other non-vanilla play is different from the kind of sex we’re used to seeing in the movies or on TV, which makes it essential that you and your partner communicate regularly and clearly to make sure that everything you’re doing is okay and enjoyable.” Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D., author, former dominatrix, tells Teen Vogue.

How can you be a sexual slave to someone, and also be fully willing? How can you want to be spanked, or whipped, or punished and be down for it at the same time? How does the person you’re having this kinky sex with know where the limits lie? How do you say yes or no?

Trying BDSM means having a trusting relationship

First and foremost, BDSM play should only be tried with someone you trust implicitly. Scenes should be discussed thoroughly beforehand, and between partners who know what they are doing — don’t go tying any crazy knots if you don’t know how to tie knots, or dripping regular candle wax that isn’t meant for bodies on someone’s skin.

If you want to use a crop on your partner, you must have a thorough understanding of the boundaries. You have to ask if your partner is fine with it. BDSM is absolutely NOT about causing someone harm or pain who doesn’t want pain inflicted upon them.

BDSM should never be done only to please another person. You should only engage in a sexual act if you feel comfortable doing it. There is nothing OK about coercing someone to try something they have zero interest in trying.

Both parties must give enthusiastic consent for a BDSM scene to work. Meaning, both parties have to be totally feeling this 100%. It does not mean one person feels lukewarm.

‘Yes’ does not mean ‘yes to all’

When it comes to consent, saying ‘yes’ to one thing in the bedroom does not mean you’ve said yes to all things in the bedroom. If you clearly discuss certain things as having “blanket consent,” it means you are fully comfortable with certain things happening without being asked, such as biting or tickling. You can always take away this kind of consent, as with all consent.

“Blanket consent is a different approach to consent—instead of asking if what you’re doing is okay every time you do something different sexually (regular consent), you tell your partner to stop if something they’re doing starts to cross a line.” Says LaMorgese.

When venturing into kink, both partners must stay within the previously discussed scene. For example, if you have agreed to let your partner tie you to the bed and use a feather tickler on your body, that is fine. But, if your partner then brings out a whip and hits you with it, without having asked if you were OK with that, it’s NOT OK.

For instance in Fifty Shades, Christian’s contract comes with some heavy baggage: “A ‘yes’ is only meaningful if it can be taken away at any time without consequences. ‘You must sign this BDSM contract or I will break up with you and fly away on my helicopter’ is not actually good consent.” Laura Schroeder, an Account Director at Fun Factory tells Teen Vogue.

Make sense? The ‘yes’ you give has to come with no strings attached. You are not subject to the will of the dom, unless you WANT to be. End of story.

BDSM covers a lot of territory

BDSM is not all about chains, whips, and ball gags, despite what you’ve seen in the movies. It is about the giving and receiving of control over anything else. Both the submissive and dominant consent to the submission and domination.

That’s actually what makes BDSM so erotic to many who enjoy it.

For subs, it is the release of control to someone who lets you escape from your worries; for the dom, having control in the bedroom can often substitute for a perceived lack of control in his or her everyday life.

Just because BDSM covers a lot of different behaviors, doesn’t mean you’re expected to try every single thing. You may be down to try some light spanking, but that doesn’t mean you want hot wax dripped on you; you might want to be in control during one sexual encounter, but want to give it up to your partner in another, “Like the word ‘sex,’ ‘BDSM’ covers a lot of different behaviors and activities, and trying one doesn’t meant that you have to try all of them.” Schroeder says.

It also doesn’t look any particular way

You and your partner are human beings. BDSM does not always look the same for every couple and that is completely fine.

For instance, Schroder tells us that a someone may like to have their lower lip bitten between kisses or perhaps one partner wants to use a sex toy and kneels in front of the other to present it for approval. These actions are about control rather than pain.

At the end of the day, remember that kink is just a game. It’s not something to be afraid of. If you’re with someone you trust, and understand the boundaries, it can be super fun and pleasurable.

Most importantly, remember that the fun starts and stops with your consent. If something is making you feel weird, gross, or just plain sucks, tell your partner to stop. Consent is the most valuable and sacred part of BDSM. It is about exploring boundaries and learning about yourself — it’s about growing, not losing something.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Surprising Conclusion From the Biggest Polyamory Survey Ever

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By Tanya Basu

Historically, polyamory has been seen as a surefire sign of a failing relationship: If your partner is sleeping with others, even with your permission, your relationship is fizzling towards its demise. If you couldn’t satisfy your partner, your relationship was doomed.

But as of late, polyamorous relationships — sometimes referred to among married people as “open relationships” — have gotten a boost of recognition as a viable, healthy way to maintain commitment. And a study published earlier this summer in PLOS One suggests that polyamory actually forms the foundation of stronger primary relationships.

It’s a conclusion that is at once surprising and revolutionary, mostly because polyamory is a practice that’s almost universally stigmatized as “not normal,” and in fact detrimental to the success of a relationship. But modern society is becoming much more accepting of non-monogamous relationships, says co-author Justin J. Lehmiller, director of the social psychology graduate program at Ball State University.

“I don’t think it’s because polyamory is more accepted,” he tells Inverse, saying there continues to be a pervasive bias about the nature of and reasoning behind polyamory. “People are more interested today with consensual non-monogamy

That openness has allowed Lehmiller and his colleagues to collect information from 3,530 self-identifying polyamorists, over half of whom were American.

Lehmiller points out that polyamory has various definitions. The standard definition of consensual non-monogamy — what we call polyamory — is a relationship in which partners agree that they and/or their partners can enter a romantic or sexual relationship with a third party. What complicates this definition is whether the relationship veers from romantic to sexual and whether one or both partners are polyamorous, extending from just one other partner to a “network” of partners.

The team of researchers asked participants online about their relationships and their partners regarding intimacy, communication, companionship, and attraction to both their primary and secondary (the polyamorous) relationship. They found that not only were the partners of polyamorous people accepting of their secondary relationship, but that the primary relationship was supposedly made better because of polyamory.

“People were less likely to keep those relationships secret,” Lehmiller says. “That means the primary relationship got better investment, more acceptance, and more communication.” This, despite the fact that the polyamorous individual was usually reporting more sexual activity with the secondary partner.

 

 

It’s a rare win-win for both polyamorous couples and social scientists like Lehmiller who study non-traditional relationships.

Lehmiller said that studies on polyamory have traditionally suffered from either tiny sample sizes or unreliable answers given the stigmatized nature of polyamorous relationships. But Lehmiller and team contacted participants through polyamory interest groups and sites, explicitly being transparent about study techniques and ensuring the anonymity of participants. Thanks to this approach, Lehmiller says they achieved what might be the largest and most accurate polyamory survey to date.

To Lehmiller, the fact that more partners were satisfied with their secondary relationships, the more partners reported being committed to primary relationships is what’s most interesting. “All these relationships can benefit one another,” he says. “People are tempted to assume that if you have sex with someone else you are less committed. But we have a demonstration here of the Coolidge Effect” — the idea that our sexual arousal and response habituates with the same activity over time, or boredom.

That’s not to say that Lehmiller and his colleagues are suggesting polyamory is the cure to the seven-year itch, or that monogamy is an institution that doesn’t work. In fact, Lehmiller says, his research suggests exactly the opposite: That relationships don’t have a single prescription for success, and that the adage that different couples work differently is true. “There are some people who are perfectly content with monogamy and have satisfying, passionate relationships,” Lehmiller says. “Monogamy works for some people. But I’m hesitant to say that there’s one kind of relationship that is more natural than another.”

The American-focused study — however simple in its construction — also offers fascinating insights about the range of sexual habits. First, it shows that polyamorous people are across the country, in every state and region and across genders. Polyamorous people are your neighbors and friends, and they are found across the political and religious affiliations. What unites them is that they are nonconformists, willing to try something new. “Does that come first, or is that the result of a polyamorous relationship? We don’t know,” Lehmiller says.

If anything, the survey proves that humans weren’t necessarily “designed” to be monogamous, feeding into the debate of whether or not humans are actually a lot more like their animal counterparts in how they mate. That’s a query that will take a long time for us to answer, and before then, Lehmiller says, we have to understand non-traditional relationships more.

The main takeaway of the groundbreaking study, Lehmiller says, is this: “There’s not a model or script for how you navigate your relationships. It’s whatever makes sense to you.”

Abstract: In consensually non-monogamous relationships there is an open agreement that one, both, or all individuals involved in a romantic relationship may also have other sexual and/or romantic partners. Research concerning consensual non-monogamy has grown recently but has just begun to determine how relationships amongst partners in consensually non-monogamous arrangements may vary. The current research examines this issue within one type of consensual non-monogamy, specifically polyamory, using a convenience sample of 1,308 self-identified polyamorous individuals who provided responses to various indices of relationship evaluation (e.g. acceptance, secrecy, investment size, satisfaction level, commitment level, relationship communication, and sexual frequency). Measures were compared between perceptions of two concurrent partners within each polyamorous relationship (i.e., primary and secondary partners). Participants reported less stigma as well as more investment, satisfaction, commitment and greater communication about the relationship with primary compared to secondary relationships, but a greater proportion of time on sexual activity with secondary compared to primary relationships. We discuss how these results inform our understanding of the unique costs and rewards of primary-secondary relationships in polyamory and suggest future directions based on these findings.

Complete Article HERE!

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4 tips for keeping conversations about relationships and sex going during the teen years

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By Shannan Younger

You fulfilled your parental duty of informing your child about the birds and the bees. You’ve used proper terms for your child’s anatomy, you’ve explained exactly how babies are made, you’ve talked to your kids about the importance of protection. Now what?

To answer that question and give advice for how parents can continue the conversations with their teens about relationships and sex, I asked Kim Cook, RN, CEHS for advice. I’m thrilled that she wrote this guest blog, which combines her expertise as a nurse, health teacher and mom of three girls.

Serious conversation with your tweens and teens can be a bit of a roller-coaster sometimes, especially when talking about sex and relationships. Here are four tips to help parents navigate the twists and turns of (sometimes) awkward dialogue.

Take advantage of organic opportunities that inspire quick snippets of conversation.

Gone are the days of “The Talk.” Ongoing discussion about sex and relationships is necessary. Long, drawn-out conversations with your child may be overwhelming and uncomfortable.

As an alternative, observations of life in movies, television, music, friends, and family offer opportunities to engage your child into reflective chats. Use examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships witnessed by both of you to initiate quick 2-minute snippets of conversation.

Try this: 

“How do you feel when you hear a person describe another person as (insert terms)? Is that respectful? How might you react if someone talked to you or a friend using that language?”

Communicate respectfully.

Your child has their own unique perspective, experiences, and knowledge base. They have taken health class in school to learn the basics of sexuality.  They have witnessed their friends navigate puppy love, crushes, and serious relationships and have experienced a variety of relationships themselves.

Their value system has been shaped primarily by what has been taught and modeled at home, with a sprinkling of lessons learned within their school and social communities. Therefore, form your questions that reflect respect for their knowledge base, values, and perspective. This will cultivate a foundation of trust that will encourage more frequent and deeper conversation down the road.

Try this:

“I am not familiar with this topic (insert topic here). What do you know about it? I’m eager to learn.”

When giving the talk, don’t talk.

Young people want to be heard. It is our job to listen.

There is so much to be learned about your child when you take a moment to pay attention without interjecting your opinion or advice.  They already know what you think. Ask thoughtful questions to encourage intrinsic decision-making, rather than telling them what to do.

You may be screaming “what were you thinking” in your head – you are a normal parent – just don’t let them know that!

Try this:

Rather than, “What were you thinking?!” try “When you made that decision, what outcome were you hoping to achieve? Did you achieve that? What might you do differently next time?”

Use humor.

This stuff can be difficult to talk about. It is okay to add some humor and laughter into the conversation. Offer some funny anecdotes of your own teen years – it will allow them to see you through a lens besides “parent.”

Sharing experiences also reassures them that they are “normal” – everyone makes decisions that become “learning opportunities.”

These simple tips will help guide essential conversations with your teen and ‘tween. Building bonds of trust and respect will carry over into the adult years, which is an equally amazing and exciting time to be a parent.

Enjoy the parenting journey; you got this.

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How to Talk to Your Younger Sibling About Sex

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Since older siblings can sometimes be the best sex-ed teachers, here are four important topics to cover and a few links about how to get the conversation started.

Positive sexuality is at the forefront of conversations being had by student activists on college campuses. Dismantling the societal constructs of traditional masculinity and femininity and redefining campus sexual scripts are priorities aiming to decrease sexual assault rates and increase discussion about what perpetuates them.

As a result, college students are in a prime position to be instigators of conversations amongst younger groups, because they are at the core of the rapidly changing dialogue prompting social changes that support young adults in expressing their sexuality and promoting safe sexual climates for everyone.

Being a mentor to the younger kiddos in your life, and more specifically the youngsters in your family, can be a tricky yet invaluable role to fill. If you decide to open up a conversation about sex with younger siblings, some awesome topics to include are consent, gender identities and expressions, contraceptives, birth control and the construct of virginity. There are certainly other categories to include, and questions will likely arise about the many nuances of sex, but starting with broad ideas essential to healthy sexuality will set up the conversation to be productive and meaningful.

1. Consent

It’s never too early to start introducing principles of consent into children’s lives, nor is it ever too late. If your siblings are elementary school-aged, having a conversation with them about consent does not have to centered around sex, because consent is applicable to any and all interactions, whether sexual intentions are present or not.

Teaching young kids to ask for permission to hug someone or to sit close to someone plants the seed for healthy habits of asking for and offering consent to grow. If younger individuals become accustomed to asking for consent in small, everyday ways, they will be more aware and respectful of others’ boundaries. As they grow into adolescents and college students, the concepts of consent will be second nature and clearly understood when they do enter into sexual contexts where consent is required.

Regardless of the age of your siblings, consent is applicable to everyone and should be a frequent, continuing conversation. For siblings that are old enough to dive deeper, unpacking the mechanics of genuine and enthusiastic consent can include information about how things such as power dynamics, substances, coercion and intimidation can all influence the improper acquisition of consent. This is also a great time to emphasize that despite the common tactics used to unfairly obtain someone’s consent, the right to enthusiastically consent to sexual activity without the influence of outside factors is omnipresent, powerful and absolute.

Consent is a quintessential component of healthy sexual encounters! For more info on consent, and the “Yes Means Yes” campaign advocating for enthusiastic consent, check out https://www.yesmeansyes.com and have your siblings take a look, too for the scoop on all things consent and respect. As quoted in an article on everydayfeminism.com “conversations about consent—especially if those conversations are with children—are not always easy to have. They are, however, necessary if we’re trying to create a society in which consent is understood and respected by adults and children alike.”

2. Gender Identities

Another frequently skipped-over chapter in the sparse book of sex education in America is the section on gender identity. Thanks to celebrity stories in recent years such as Caitlin Jenner, Jazz Jennings and many other Hollywood young adults openly identifying as gender fluid, bisexual and indicating other identities along the gender-nonconforming spectrum, gender identity and gender rights have become popular topics. While many school sex education programs are a bit behind the times and have yet to add conversations about various gender identities into their curriculum, older siblings can try to fill some of the gaps.

The biggest point to emphasize to a younger sibling is the difference between sex and gender, and that gender is a social construct that is governed by expectations and norms that align with the gender binary system. To expand on that, include notes about how gender is made up of multiple components that fall along a spectrum; there are new models, like the gender unicorn, being developed to illustrate this idea; the colorful and simple designs are engaging for young learners and a great visual representation of the spectrums in general.

Most of all, encourage youngsters to explore and contemplate their own gender identity by questioning the norms they’re conditioned to live in accordance with, and support them unconditionally in their discoveries. Your unwavering love may serve as an example for when they find themselves being a support for a friend or peer one day.

3. Contraceptives

For siblings that are approaching the age of dating and having sex, a little brush up on contraceptive options is a helpful addition to sibling sex-education sessions. This goes for all gender identities, not just the ladies! Everyone should be aware of how to protect themselves and their partner of choice, so that everyone can feel safe and focus on other matters at hand. A quick browse through the “Birth Control” tab on teenshealth.org gives an extensive explanation of the various methods of birth control and contraceptives, the intended uses of each, the effectiveness rates and some FAQs.

While talking with a healthcare provider is the best idea for beginning a birth control plan, providing kiddos with information about their options allows them to reflect on what they’re comfortable with and choose an option that suits them if and when they need it.

4. Virginity

When younger siblings are thinking about becoming sexually active, a chat about the virginity construct can help them reflect on what sex means to them. There is heavy emphasis placed on the “losing of” one’s “virginity” and how the experience is meant to be transformative, pivotal and special. For some, the giving of virginity to another person signifies an act of deep trust, intimacy and comfort. For others, the concept of virginity is merely an ancient phrase sometimes used to label the beginning of their sexual adventures.

There is no right or wrong way to think about a first sexual experience, nor is there a universal definition of what composes the official loss of virginity, which some sex beginners don’t get the chance to contemplate before diving in. The concept of virginity loss is associated with impurity and places the person taking someone’s virginity in a position of power, while the person who “lost” it is seen as sacrificing something valuable.

Contemplating the idea that virginity is not a physical state or thing, but instead a construct that can be accepted or disregarded, allows young people to decide for themselves how they want to think of sex and define it in their own terms. First times are a lot of things, ranging from spontaneous, meaningful, messy, calculated or a combination of everything. Restructuring the way young adults think about their first sexual experiences gives them the power to conceptualize their sexual debuts as they choose to.

Beyond everything, the most important thing about having a conversation with siblings about sex is just to have it (the conversation). In the era of change kids are growing up in, the taboo topic of sex is not yet a conversation of full disclosure, even as it gains traction. Being an advocate for positive sexuality development by starting dialogue can help change this, one awkward chat at a time.

The following websites are excellent resources with information on the topics above and many more! They’ve got tips for curious teens and lots of advice for how to start a conversation.

Complete Article HERE!

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Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down

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Rope play is a great way to be a bondage top when you’re five-foot-five.

By Jorge Vieto

Consensual rope bondage, specifically as a top, is one of the most intimate types of play I’ve engaged in with other human beings in the realm of kink and BDSM.

The instant shift in power is a turn-on like no other for me. (Thankfully, it’s not hard to find folks willing to be tied up in this town.) However, when the person I’m interested in getting naked with has never been tied up, has limited experience, or is hesitant to be bound in my rope, things become a bit more intriguing. It’s my job to make being tied up with rope sound approachable, safe, sexy, and fun — and generally, that’s not hard to do. The art of negotiating a bondage scene with a “rope virgin” is what I call the chase.

Rope bondage binds me to another individual. If I am “showing my ropes” to someone I’ve never tied up before and who I just met for the first time, it instantly connects us. If I am tying up someone I have played with before, it brings us even closer. The amount of trust all my willing “victims” place in me shows their confidence in my skill is immense. They trust me so deeply as to let me take some, if not most, of their mobility away. They are left in a very vulnerable state — and to me, vulnerability is sexy as fuck.

Combining the power dynamic and vulnerability that’s inherently a part of consensual rope bondage together with the contrast of different body sizes together is extremely hot to me, especially if the person that I am tying up is much larger and taller than myself. The beauty of using rope, and often blindfolds, is that — once placed on my bound prize — I become any size their imaginations make me in their blind, immobilized state. Or, if they like, they can also relish the difference in size as well.

As a rope-bondage top, it doesn’t matter to me that I’m only five-foot-five and 120 pounds — nor does it matter that most of the folks I tie up in my encounters are men who are twice my size (and sometimes more). With enough rope and know-how, I can tie them down like the six-inch-tall Lilliputians tied down Gulliver during his travels. And as a bear and a chubby-chaser who happens to be shorter and smaller than most people I know, having rope skills make it easier to have sex with men who tower over me. These skills come in handy in so many ways, especially if you want to tie them down and use them as your personal dildo or mount them without having to bring out your stepstool. I’m sure you get the picture.

Chasing down such beautifully massive “prey” is hard work. So having the ability to tie them down easily and quickly for inspection, exposing their naughty bits for me to enjoy and explore, is important. I can engineer an instant “portable fuck sling” with rope. Making their whole ride a lot more comfortable and enjoyable is key. Comfort increases the chances they’ll spend at least a few hours in captivity, being teased, tortured with pleasure, and forced to blow multiple loads. Over the years, I’ve adapted to tying up bigger bodies, learned to use thicker and longer pieces of rope, and memorized a few quick ways to extend rope and work with different levels of flexibility or lack thereof. These are all important things if you enjoy tying not only bigger folks, but also folks with different mobility and flexibility concerns. Once my prized catch is secured in whatever rope contraption I’ve decided to put him in, the real fun begins.

One quarter of the fun comes from the chase, another quarter from tying down my catch, and another from figuring out what makes them moan with pleasure the loudest. The last quarter comes from deciphering how to get them close to coming, so that I can bring them to the cusp and stop! Then, I start the process of bringing them close to climax over and over again until they have no choice to blow their load. For many, simply having my crotch buried in their face while I jack them off is good enough. For others, stimulation with an electric butt plug and conductive pads on their cock does the trick. For others, a good old-fashioned ass pounding by yours truly is just what they need. I get off on helping someone else get off, so if none of the above activities is going to get the job done, chances are, I will be able find something that will. That’s if they want to get off; if bondage snuggles or 100 gentle kisses strategically placed on their body is all they need, then I can do that, too.

As long as they’re tied up.

Once I’m done with them, I can release them unharmed. They can then go back to their natural habitats, tired, sweaty, and weak, sporting big smiles on their faces.

Complete Article HERE!

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