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Coming down from the high:

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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!

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How Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men Explain Their Encounters

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The subject of straight-identifying men who have sex with other men is a fascinating one, in that it shines a light on some extremely potent, personal concepts pertaining to identity and sexuality and one’s place in society. That’s why some sociologists and other researchers have been very eager to seek out such men and hear them explain how they fit same-sex sexual activity into their conception of heterosexuality.

The latest such research comes in the journal Sexualities, from Héctor Carrillo and Amanda Hoffman of Northwestern University. They conducted 100 interviews, with men who identified as straight but sought out casual sex with men online, hoping to better understand this population. A big chunk of the article consists of snippets from those interviews, which were primarily conducted online by three female researchers, and at the end Carillo and Hoffman sum up what they found:

They interpret that they are exclusively or primarily attracted to women, and many also conclude that they have no sexual attraction to men in spite of their desire to have sex with men. They define sexual attraction as a combination of physical and emotional attraction, and they assess that their interest in women includes both, while their interest in men is purely or mainly sexual, not romantic or emotional. Moreover, some perceive that they are not drawn toward male bodies in the same way as they are drawn to female bodies, and some observe that the only physical part of a man that interests them is his penis. Men in the latter group do not find men handsome or attractive, but they do find penises attractive, and they thus see penises as ‘living dildos’ or, in other words, disembodied objects of desire that provide a source of sexual pleasure. Finally, as a management strategy for judging that their sexual interest in women is greater and more intense than their interest in men, they sometimes limit their repertoires of same-sex sexual practices or interpret them as less important than their sexual practices with women. That way, they can tell themselves that their sexual interest in women is unbounded, while their sexual interest in men is not.

All this contributes to their sense that they qualify as being called straight or heterosexual, even when some also recognize that their sexualities do indeed differ from exclusive heterosexuality, which in turn leads them to adopt secondary descriptors of their sexual identities. As indicated by the variety of terms that they used, those descriptors often reinforce a perception that, as a sexual orientation category, heterosexuality is elastic instead of rigid — that some degree of samesex desire and behaviour need not automatically push an individual out of the heterosexual category. And while some men are willing to recognize that their sexual behaviours might qualify their being called bisexual — and they may privately identify with that label — they feel that there is no contradiction between holding a private awareness of being bisexual and a public persona as straight or heterosexual. Again, this conclusion is strengthened by a lack of social incentives to adopt bisexual identities.

It’s interesting to keep that interpretation in mind as you read the interview snippets. Take, for example, the men who sought to make it very clear that while they sometimes got with men, they really liked women:

I know what I like. I like pussy. I like women … the more the merrier … I would kiss a woman. ANYWHERE. I can barely hug a man … I do have a healthy sexual imagination and wonder about other things in the sexual realm I’ve never done … Sometimes I get naughty and explore … That’s how I see it. [Reggie, 28]

Women are hot … I can see a beautiful woman walk down the street and I instantly can become hard and get horny. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy walking by and got a boner. Also, I would not want to kiss or make out with them or love them. They would be more like a sexual experience. [Charlie, 32]

Some of the men did think that their behavior possibly qualified them as bisexual, but didn’t quite want to take the step of identifying as such:

I think everybody is a little bi. Isn’t that what this research is about? There’s the Kinsey scale … It’s not like Bush saying you’re either with us or with the terrorists. I think I’m probably bi but what I present to the world is a heterosexual man. Internally I’m bi, but that’s not something most people know. I’m not ashamed, but the majority of people are ignorant and close-minded. [Simon, 27]

I am not openly bisexual to society except in sexual situations … I don’t have relationships with men; I am in a relationship with my wife and only love her. [I’m bisexual] only with men behind closed doors. [Dustin, 28]

In addition to being perhaps the first instance in recorded history of someone comparing their sexual orientation to George W. Bush’s counterterrorism doctrine, Simon’s statement contains an important point: Carrillo and Hoffman note that many of their respondents simply “see no real personal or social advantages that would stem from publicly adopting an identity as bisexual or gay.” In many cases, it may not be in their interests to do so — hence the compartmentalization of their same-sex encounters.

Another reason for such compartmentalization is that it allows some men the opportunity to explore parts of their identities they feel they couldn’t safely in heterosexual settings:

For most of my sex life I’m in control of things. I’m not a boss at work anymore but I’ve been in situations where I’ve managed a hundred people at a time. I take care of my family. I take care of my kids. I’m a good father. I’m a good husband in providing material things for my wife … I’m in charge in a lot of places … There’s times when I don’t want to be in charge and I want someone to be in charge of me … that’s what brings me over [to] the bisexuals … it’s kind of submitting to another guy or being used by another guy. [Russell, 54]

“Interestingly,” write Carrillo and Hoffman, “being dominated by a man seemed to them less threatening than being dominated by a steady female partner, perhaps because it could be construed as a temporary fantasy, instead of meaning a permanent change in the gender balance.”

This same dynamic popped up the last study on this subject I covered — the idea that men “get” something about sex that women don’t, and that because there’s a fully mutual understanding that what’s going on is just sex, same-sex experiences can be set off safely away from the rest of one’s (heterosexual) identity. You can be a “good father,” which many men imply to mean being a strong, straight man, while still messing around with men on the side. From these men’s perspective, they can have it both ways — the privileges of identifying as straight and the pleasure and excitement of same-sex relationships on the side — without their identity being threatened.

Complete Article HERE!

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Childhood cancer treatment may hinder later-life sexual relationships

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Neurotoxic treatment for cancer during childhood may influence sexual activity and relationships in adulthood, according to new research.

Study co-author Vicky Lehmann, Ph.D., of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ohio State University – both in Columbus, OH – and colleagues found that adults who received high-intensity neurotoxic treatment for cancer as a child were less likely to meet certain sexual and romantic milestones.

However, the team found that childhood cancer treatment did not affect overall satisfaction for sexual and romantic relationships in adulthood.

Lehmann and team recently reported their findings in the journal Cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that around 10,380 children aged 15 and under were diagnosed with cancer in the United States last year.

Leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer, accounting for around 30 percent of all cases, followed by brain and spinal cord tumors, which make up around 26 percent of all childhood cancer cases.

Childhood cancer treatment and psychosexual development

While cancer was responsible for more than 1,200 childhood deaths last year, over 80 percent of children diagnosed with the disease will survive for at least 5 years. This is due to significant advances in cancer treatment, which include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

However, such treatment is certainly not without risk. For example, studies have shown that cranial radiation – often used to treat brain tumors – may cause harm to the developing brain, leading to long-term neurocognitive impairment.

Previous research has shown that neurocognitive impairment as a result of childhood cancer treatment may impact social interaction in adulthood, but studies investigating the effects of such treatment on psychosexual development are few and far between.

“Psychosexual development entails reaching certain milestones, such as sexual debut, entering committed relationships, or having children.

It is a normative part of becoming an adolescent or young adult, but only comparing such milestones without taking satisfaction into account falls short. These issues are understudied among survivors of childhood cancer.”

Vicky Lehmann, Ph.D.

To address this gap in research, the team enrolled 144 survivors of childhood cancer aged between 20 and 40. A further 144 participants who were not treated for childhood cancer (the controls) were matched by age and sex.

All participants completed questionnaires on psychosexual development, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction.

To determine the brain toxicity of cancer treatments in childhood, the researchers used data from the participants’ medical charts.

Neurotoxic cancer treatment might predict later-life psychosexual issues

Overall, the team found that adults who were treated for cancer in childhood did not differ significantly from the controls in terms of psychosexual development, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction.

However, on analyzing subgroups of childhood cancer survivors, the researchers found that those who previously received treatments high in neurotoxicity were less likely to have had sexual intercourse, be in a relationship, or have had children, compared with controls.

The type of cancer treatment in childhood did not appear to affect sexual satisfaction, the team reports. “This highlights the subjective nature of psychosexual issues, and the importance of addressing any concerns in survivorship care,” notes Lehmann.

The researchers say that their findings indicate that the neurotoxicity of cancer treatment in childhood may predict the likelihood of psychosexual problems in adulthood. They add:

“Additional research is needed to delineate how neurocognitive impairment undermines social outcomes for survivors, as well as other related factors.

Given the findings of the current study, healthcare providers should assess romantic/sexual problems among survivors, especially those who received high-dose neurotoxic treatments. Referrals to psychosocial care could prevent or reduce potential difficulties.”

 
Complete Article HERE!

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Everything about female orgasm and how to touch a woman

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By Zoey Miller

How to Touch a Woman: Everything You Need to Know About the Female Orgasm

Are you wanting to become a better lover? Do you want to make a woman go wild? Is your ultimate goal to please a woman and drive her to the best orgasm she’s ever had?

If you want to learn to please a woman — and please her well over and over again — then you have to practice. With every encounter or relationship you have, you’ll build your skills and get better at knowing what to do. Every woman is different, and so you really won’t know what truly turns her on until you have the opportunity to interact.

The bottom line is that figuring out what makes her go wild is a journey and it will take time — but it can be a fun journey that is informed by research and practice. And if we’re talking about sexual encounters, then there’s nothing more fun than that.

If you’re ready to take your sexual encounters and your ability to please a woman to a new level, then read on to get our full guide that will lead you through everything you need to know — and everything you need to do to get better with every interaction. There are few things that are more of a turn on to a woman than to know her lover want to make her scream.

Let your woman know this, and she’ll feel a comfort level with you that will allow her to reach the place where she can let go and experience a real orgasm.

Are you ready to get started? Here’s everything you need to know about how to touch a woman right now:

Everything About the Female Orgasm

What is an orgasm?

The female orgasm — much like the male orgasm — at its very base is a physical, pleasurable reflex when the woman’s genitals relax during sex. During intercourse, the muscles in the body are tightened, and when the female orgasm occurs, they release and return to what is known as the pre-arousal stage.

Depending on a woman’s anatomy and unique being, she may be able to have multiple orgasms in a row. Following an orgasm, a woman is going to be sensitive because of the overpowering sensation of her muscle’s reflexes. That’s because the blood rushes to the vessels in her muscles to create that sensation.

What does the female orgasm feel like?

Every woman’s experience in feeling an orgasm will be different but some very common occurrences are a feeling of intense warmth or sweating, heavy or increased breathing, vibrations of various body parts and the urge to scream out in pleasure.

An orgasm will feel differently and will be unique to each woman, so that’s why it’s so important that a woman really know her body and be able to articulate what turns her on. If a woman says she has never experienced an orgasm, then that’s an opportunity for you to show her that she can.

This is addressed in more detail in the next section.

What if my female partner can’t have an orgasm?

If you’ve ever had a woman tell you she cannot have an orgasm, then it’s time to stop in your tracks and do a little pressing. What you may find is that some women may feel embarrassed or ashamed to let go and be turned on — or they may think they are taking too long to achieve an orgasm and believe that they are being a burden to you.

Still others may find it challenging to have an orgasm because anatomically, their clitoris is too far away from their vagina. Researchers have discovered that typically, if your clitoris is more than 2.5 centimeters away from your vagina, or roughly the tip of your thumb to your knuckle, that you may not be able to achieve an orgasm by penile penetration alone. That doesn’t mean they can’t achieve orgasm through intercourse. It just means you need to work a little harder and be little more creative to find what really turns on your partner.

A very low percentage of women — less than 10 percent — claim that they can achieve an orgasm by penile penetration alone. It’s more likely that your partner prefers and needs more than one method of stimulation. So from oral sex to masturbation to using a vibrator — there are many different ways you can get your female partner to reach climax. It’s just a matter of knowing her anatomy and what she prefers in bed.

Overall, however, it’s really important that you create a safe and welcoming environment for your woman to relax and really let go. In that trusted space, she will be able to open up to you and tell you what she wants — what she wants you to say, how she wants you to touch her and what her fantasies are. Those are critical clues that will help you achieve her orgasm together.

At first it takes a little work, but it’s all in love and fun — and once you get there, the two of you will have a renewed and special trust that will take you into the next bedroom encounter.

How to Touch a Woman

Create an Environment for Intimacy

You’ll want to start out the night by creating a safe, trusted and intimate environment that will make your woman feel comfortable and loved. Women like many different environments for sex, and again, no one woman is alike.

So you need to know your woman well. Does she respond to flowers, candles and romance? Does she want sex quick and dirty? Does she need a chance to unwind with a glass of wine or a hot bath? Whatever her triggers are for relaxation and comfort, you’ll want to deploy those for her.

What this does is let her know you are watching, listening and responding to what will make her feel most wanted and loved. So pay attention — or ask her — and that will go a long way in creating a better environment for being vulnerable when it comes time to making that climb toward the female orgasm.

Kissing is Key

If you want to give a woman an orgasm, kissing is going to be key. Lower yourself to her vagina and use your tongue to massage her clitoris with slow licks. Pay attention to her breathing as you are doing this, as you may want to speed up or slow down depending on how she is responding.

Some patterns think that if they do everything quickly, then that is a turn on. But that’s likely going to make her feel like she needs to perform and fake an orgasm because she knows it’s not going to come quickly.

Instead, ask her what is feeling good as you are doing it. Ask her if she wants more kissing, more tongue licking or flicking, or the speed to be faster or slower. If she feels comfortable with you, she will tell you what is feeling especially good.

Ask her to guide your head as you are giving her oral sex so that you know the exact position that feels the best.

A bonus move that works really well: Ask her to masturbate if she feels comfortable while you are kissing or licking her, as you can watch her do this and pay attention to where her fingers are going. She is going to know her body the best, and you can know the exact location of where your tongue or fingers should be next.

Start Out Slowly When Penetrating

Another urban myth about penetrating a woman with your fingers, also called “fingering.” You can’t do it quickly at first. If you’ll remember from the first section, a woman’s muscles are usually tight during sex. When she orgasm’s they contract.

Leading up to the Big O, her muscles will begin to relax and it will be easier to penetrate her and arouse her as you lead her to an orgasm. But at the beginning, start out slowly.

Use your mouth to apply a good amount of saliva to her vagina so that your fingers can slip in fairly easily. Start with one finger and move it very slowly back and forth. If you find that there is more room and that she is getting more aroused with one finger, try to insert two fingers.

Move those two fingers back and forth very slowly, while asking your partner if she is enjoying it along the way. If she is showing signs of discomfort or pain, stop. Communication is really key as you are participating in fingering because your woman will give you clues that she is ready for penetration with your penis.

If she prefers fingering over your penis, then continue in the method of moving your fingers in and out slowly. When she is just out of breath and close to having an orgasm pull out your fingers and begin using your tongue to rapidly flick her clitoris. Continue massaging the area around the clitoris as you are flicking it until she reaches orgasm and screams or sighs in delight.

You may not get verbal affirmation as not every woman is not a screamer. But, ask her if she is reaching orgasm and pay attention to her body. Usually a woman will become very sensitive and she won’t be able to handle you touching her in her vaginal region any longer. She’ll need some time to reset. Some women can have an other orgasm a few minutes later. Keep that communication open so you know what to expect and exactly what you need to do to get her to that place of absolute pleasure.

Should I Be Ashamed of Using a Vibrator?

We get this question a lot — and the answer is you absolutely should be willing to use a vibrator. It says nothing about you that your female partner is not achieving orgasm with your penis alone. It’s actually quite common that this happens because sex takes a lot of practice to get both partners to achieve that pleasurable moment.

So if this is the challenge that you are experiencing — or even if you’re not — try a vibrator! They are fun and safe to use. They come in a wide variety of sizes and textures so that you can experience different sensations. This is especially a great way for a woman who hasn’t been extremely communicative about what she likes sexually to experiment with and decide what she truly loves — and wants you to try to replicate!

Remember to Engage Your Brain

The ability to reach an orgasm is more than half of your brain. You have to exert mental energy to reach that level of being able to let go. If you’ve been able to do it, then it’s good to encourage your partner that it can happen for her as well.

Before you engage in any kind of sexual activity, sit down with your partner and talk to her about expectations and what she should expect out of you. Let her know that you are there for her — to pleasure her and to make her feel good. That’s going to put her at immediate ease and let her know that you are there for her. You’re not there to get the first orgasm. You want her to be happy first.

That’s a great first step along the way to working together to achieve the female orgasm — and your partner will thank you again and again for all of your effort along the way in your bedroom journey.

In conclusion, with this guide, you can get to the skill level you want and learn to please a woman in a way that will make her happy and confident in you. Remember that it does take practice — but don’t let that discourage you.

Learning to give a woman an orgasm is an enjoyable experience and you’ll feel more confident knowing that you have pleased her and that she is impressed with you and your abilities. That should empower you and make you feel good in the process of learning to be a better lover.

If you’re ready to experience that confidence, happiness, health and true skill — then continue implementing our guide in your practice sessions. Every moment you are with the woman you care about is an opportunity to learn what she likes, to better understand her body and to build trust with her so that she truly can let go and experience a real orgasm.

So many women end of faking orgasms because they don’t feel they can be honest with their partners. But if you take the initiative to truly understand what turns them on and to study their body’s response — in time, you’ll know exactly how to touch the woman you love to get her to that moment of pure ecstasy.

Complete Article HERE!

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The right to say yes, no, maybe

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Lessons from the BDSM community on why consent is not a one-time thing

By Jaya Sharma

She asked for it,” they say. Really? To be groped on the street by strangers when all one is trying to do is have a good time on New Year’s eve? Some years ago, at a sexuality workshop with teachers in Rajasthan that I was conducting while working with a feminist non-governmental organization, one of the men said, “Uski naa mein toh haan hai (When she says no, she actually means yes).” The men sat on one side, and women on the other (not by design), of the big hall at an ashram in Pushkar where the workshop was taking place. One of the women turned around and asked this man, “If a man makes a move on a woman, and if, instead of an initial no, she says yes, what happens? She is instantly labelled a slut.” The discussion concluded with what to me, in my 30 years in the women’s movement, seemed to be a pearl of wisdom: Women have the right to say no only when they have the right to say yes. It makes perfect sense, therefore, to discuss consent in the context of our ability to say yes, precisely at a time when the country around us is rife with conversations, online and offline, on gender-based sexual violence.

There is clearly an urgent need for a fundamental shift in our thinking about consent; about adding “yes” to the existing focus on “no”. We need to recognize that our ability to say “no” and our ability to say “yes” are inextricably linked. And, if I may move full steam ahead, there is also a need to recognize that there is a range of possibilities beyond “yes” and “no” in sexual encounters, which we may not talk about or bring into our struggle against sexual violence, but which exist nonetheless. And only a discussion on consent which acknowledges a woman’s freedom to say yes opens up the space for this.

I’m talking of the space for “maybe”, which allows us to explore, change our minds halfway through, surrender control completely—ways of “doing” consent that are in sync with the nature of our desires. I say “do consent” rather than “give” it, because consent is not a one-time-only thing to be given and never sought again. The most widespread and insidious assumption about consent is that it already exists—it is presumed. Another assumption is that negotiations around consent will kill the intense, spontaneous passion that we feel. If talked about at all, it is considered to be a thing that people are meant to do only before they have sex. “Are you okay with this?” In any case, what is “this”? I suspect it might be the ultimate peno-vaginal penetrative act (one act among thousands, but more often than not, considered a synonym for sex). None of this is necessarily any individual’s fault. In the midst of all these assumptions is the truth that societies, globally, don’t have a culture of talking, teaching, or learning about consent. Let’s move to a better scenario.

I am part of a community that has great expertise on consent—the Bondage Domination Sado-Masochism (BDSM) community. In BDSM, consent is sacrosanct. There are a range of mechanisms to ensure that consent is given and taken proactively and enthusiastically. Although not everyone uses the same mechanisms, these include “hard limits”, which are acts identified beforehand that can never be attempted. “Soft limits” refers to those acts which don’t fall within one’s comfort level, but which one is not entirely averse to trying or experiencing. Then there is of course the safe word, which is a predetermined, typically easy-to-recall word (many friends and I choose “red”) which would instantly and unconditionally end whatever is transpiring. The limits are negotiated beforehand. The process of negotiation can be hot.

Although I always ensure that I have a safe word, I have very rarely used it. Having a safe word gives me tremendous confidence to explore my desires and allow my boundaries to be pushed. The safe word also gives the other person the confidence to push my limits. I am not referring only to pain when I talk of pushing limits, but also to giving up control. In my experience, dominants often stop short of providing the extent of control that submissives desire, because they fear that they might push them too far. In this context, the safe word gives each person the confidence to continue going much further than they otherwise might have. I hope that others would like to try to use the safe word in their sex lives, however kinky it may or may not be.

Other than soft limits, hard limits and safe words, the other useful consent mechanism in my experience is the conversation that happens after the session, talking about how one felt about what happened. Such conversations have really helped me to connect in a deeper way with what turns me on or off, about my triggers and resistances. The honesty, directness and trust that has typified these conversations, even with virtual strangers whom I have played with (we call these BDSM sessions “play”), is precious.

The significance of these mechanisms goes well beyond BDSM. In the Kinky Collective, the group that seeks to raise awareness about BDSM and of which I am part, we share a lot about consent because we believe that everyone can learn and benefit from the ways in which consent is understood and practised in our community. It shows us ways of “doing” consent which are sexy, which help move us out of the embarrassment associated with negotiating consent, which don’t interrupt the flow of desire but, in fact, enable and enhance it. Most importantly, these ways of understanding and giving consent are in sync with the nature of human desire and with our need to explore, give up or take control, and importantly, our need to pursue pleasure, and not only protect ourselves from harm. BDSM shows us that making consent sacrosanct is not only the responsibility of the individual, but of the community. A lesson worth learning from the BDSM community is also that “slut”, whether used for a woman, man or transgender person, can be a word of praise and not a slur. It is not surprising perhaps that a community which enables this space for agency and desire, beyond the constraints of shame, to say “yes”, is also a community which has at its core consent.

Complete Article HERE!

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