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Inside the Koreatown Dojo Dedicated to the Art of Japanese Rope Bondage

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Mention anything bondage-related and Zetsu Nawa reflexively geeks out.

A participant in a recent Tuesday night class learns the basics of shibari, Japanese rope bondage.

By Lila Seidman

A casual reference to a dotted gag in one of his thousands of drawings and photos of bound women launches him into a mini-lecture about its “humiliation factor” in modern Japan. It’s just a dishtowel, he explains. “It’s like he grabbed the thing you’re using to wash your hands to gag you.” As he talks, he’s caressing a length of Japanese jute rope, which he extols for its “toothiness.”

Zetsu — an American who adopted the pseudonym to protect his identity — is the head of a one-room school in Koreatown dedicated exclusively to shibari, or erotic Japanese rope bondage. His rope work has been featured in Katy Perry’s music video “Bon Appetit” and on the cover of Jhené Aiko’s album Maniac.

Launched in its current space in 2014, L.A. Rope Dojo is tucked away on the second floor of an unassuming office building just off Western Avenue and Second Street. The walls are plastered with images of women in various states of constraint. Wooden beams stretch from wall to wall — not coincidentally, the perfect height and size for binding willing men and women to.

On a recent Tuesday night, mostly fresh-faced, young couples stream into the dojo for its sold-out, bimonthly beginner’s rope play class. They look, well, totally normal.

“Most of the people who come here would never set foot in a BDSM dungeon,” Zetsu says, crediting the historical, philosophical and artistic appeal of the practice.

At most dungeons in L.A., people go by BDSM aliases, “like BadMaster79,” Zetsu explains. “Here, people are ‘Beth’ and ‘Kevin.’” In class, Zetsu goes by his real first name. “Nobody’s thinking about hiding in a way that people tend to do in the broader BDSM scene,” he says.

Zetsu, who could pass for anyone’s affable uncle, begins every intro class by detailing the origin of shibari, which synthesizes elements from Kabuki theater and an ancient samurai policing technique.

Before students start immobilizing one another, he asks the “top” (the one doing the tying) to think of a word before grabing their partner’s wrist. The first word is “sensual.” The second is “mine.”

Subtle acts like this reflect the essence of the teaching style he learned from his longtime instructor, Yukimura Ryuu, a grandmaster of the erotic art, who stressed the Japanese concept of kokoro, or “heart,” over technique.
“If your partner is feeling things that they need to feel, then the rest of it doesn’t matter,” Zetsu says. “The rope is just a conduit to get to those feelings.”

As class progresses, a petite girl with her hands bound becomes flushed and sinks to the floor. Her equally flushed male partner asks her if she’d like to be untied. She breathes “no” and they embrace.

(Class assistant Howard, who also goes by Rope Daddy, describes the feeling as “rope drunk” — a sort of euphoric high some people experience via bondage.)

Baltimore-born Zetsu says his path to enjoying bondage was significantly more fraught than many of his students.’ In the late 1970s, at age 12, he would wait 45 minutes to download a single pixelated photo of a bound Japanese woman. He stored the images on cassette tapes; floppy disks didn’t yet exist.

It wasn’t until 2006 that he found himself in Tokyo for work and decided he had to finally explore “this thing.” He took a class with a German expat, Osada Steve, who in turn connected with him a teacher in L.A. At that time, it was still a rarefied practice in the West. Now, “It’s everywhere!” Zetsu says.

In 2010, he returned to Japan to study rope more explicitly. He is now one of only two people in the United States with a teaching certificate from the late Yukimura.

Zetsu says that in Japan, teaching “is an obligation, and a very sacred one.” He had no choice but to spread the knowledge he acquired.

Significant cultural translation is needed to bring the essence of the art form to Angelenos, he admits. For one, Zetsu says in Japan it is normal to “molest” the models during a lesson. Here, that wouldn’t go over so well.
While Zetsu acknowledges ethical questions inherent to sexual power exchange, he believes it’s a basic question of consent.

“It should ultimately be about love and care for your partner, which sounds kind of ironic as you’re tying them up and hitting them,” Zetsu says. “But that’s the whole point: You only do that to people who need it and crave it and love it.”

Ivy, a 20-something Asian woman who came to the class Tuesday with her boyfriend of 3½ years, looks gleeful in the dingy hall outside the dojo. She says she was happy to act on some of her desires for the first time.

“It’s just sort of intimidating, taking that first step,” she explains. She’s already plotting her return.

Complete Article HERE!

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What it feels like to have more than one partner

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One woman opens up about the benefits of polyamory

Tired of conventional romances, sex coach Beth Wallace embraced polyamory – being in more than one relationship at a time – and has reaped the emotional rewards

Beth Wallace

By Beth Wallace

I‘ve been in relationships with women and men over my adult life and I guess from my teens onwards, I didn’t have that traditional heterosexual ‘normal’ perspective on relationships.

The idea that you meet someone, marry them, have kids and stay together until the day you die, that works for some people, but I think it’s a relationship choice that’s largely born out of societal norms and expectations. If you throw out that rule book of what a relationship ‘should’ look like, then what goes in its place?

“Polyamory means quite simply having a loving relationship with more than one person at a time, or being open to having a love relationship with more than one person at a time. Imagine a monogamous relationship and then imagine that with several people.

“In previous long-term relationships I’d talked with partners about the idea of having sex or relationships outside the primary relationship but it had never gone beyond the conversation. Then in my 40s I met a man who was already in an open relationship and if I wanted to be in a relationship with him then I had to be okay with how his life was already set up. That took a while to get my head around. We would be out for dinner with 12 or so people including his wife and he and I would leave together to be with each other for the night and she was fine with it. It made me question all the societal norms around relationships and this idea of how we’re supposed to behave. It redefined for me what love is.

“In my experience, polyamory is something like being gay, lesbian or bi, it’s an orientation, it’s who I am, not something that I do. It’s not something I can just switch off. If you’re a polyamorous person who finds it easy to love and be intimate with, and find a connection with, lots of people, you can’t switch that off just because someone isn’t okay with it, because then you’re going to feel like you’re not being true to yourself.

“People make a lot of assumptions. One of the most common reactions I get from women is that they think the men I’m involved with ‘just want to have their cake and eat it’. I find that very insulting because they’re assuming the male in whatever group of people it is the one calling all the shots, which isn’t my experience. Some people also assume I must be very sexually aggressive – I’m aware of some married friends who started holding their husbands a lot closer when I came out of my last relationship! But if someone is in a monogamous relationship then I would never cross that boundary. Polyamorous people are obsessed with talking about boundaries – which is hilarious because monogamous people tend to think we have none!

“In fact there’s so much discussion around boundaries, and time planning that goes on, there’s often more talking than sex. People assume being polyamorous is all about getting as much sex as you can, but it’s not like swinging or open relationships which tend to be more about sex, being polyamorous is about having a full -on relationship.

“It can be a logistical nightmare. Three relationships at once is my max. Recently I was seeing three men, two in Ireland and one outside the country. Each relationship offered me something different. With one of them, we had lots of fun. He was quite a bit younger than me and it was a very fun-based relationship where we laughed a lot and did fun, stupid things. The second guy was quite a bit older and we would have very deep meaningful conversations about life and spirituality, he brought out the philosophical aspect of my personality. The other guy was an artist who brought out the creative side of who I am.

“It can be the most emotionally challenging and difficult relationship to be in, because it really forces you to be vulnerable and deal with insecurities and excruciating jealousies. But, done right, polyamory can teach you to be an excellent communicator, very self-aware and good at listening. It also offers a very deep love for people that transcends what a relationship ‘should’ look like.

“It’s something I would say to somebody early on, because for a lot of people that would be a deal breaker. I’d tend to say ‘this is who I am, if I’m interested in someone else and I feel there’s a connection and something I want to explore, I’ll talk with you about it, but I don’t need your permission to go ahead and do anything’. That doesn’t necessarily go down very well. Most people would think that the majority of men would be super on-board with it but actually my experience is that they’re not. They might be okay with the idea of you having occasional sex outside the relationship but they’re not comfortable with an ongoing relationship. I think societal ideas of relationships are tied up with ownership, this idea that ‘you’re my woman and I don’t want ‘my’ woman having sex or being in a relationship with someone else because that makes me feel less of a man’.

“I’m not saying I would never be in a monogamous relationship, but if someone was to demand it of me, I’d be out the door. A couple of years ago I was with a guy and it got to a point where he said ‘well, you know eventually this has to stop’ and my response was ‘basically you’re saying I have to change who I am and you don’t actually love me for who I really am’ and the relationship ended.

“I’m single at the moment and happy with that. It’s hard to meet like-minded people and I find that quite a lot of openly non-monogamous people in Ireland already know each other.

“People might think that being polyamorous means you have to be in relationships, that you can’t be on your own. But I’ve found that polyamory has made me tackle my own insecurities and realise love isn’t about possession or control.

“I’ve learned not to cling on to people. Just because a relationship ends, doesn’t mean it didn’t work out. I think having the idea that there is ‘The One’ can be quite dangerous. It piles a lot of expectation on to one person and one relationship and no one person can give us everything.

“I think Ireland is becoming more open to non-traditional relationships. My family has mixed feelings about me being polyamorous varying from ‘sure whatever, if it works for you, great!’ through to ‘don’t talk to me about it’. Most of my friends are absolutely fine with my choices, although I reckon a few think ‘Oh Beth just hasn’t met the right man yet, she’ll settle down when she does’ – good luck with that!”

Beth runs a relationship course on polyamory see bethwallace.org.

Complete Article HERE!

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Butt Stuff, Part One

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A sexual-health professional reminds us that, however open-minded and experienced we think we are, there’s always something to learn about anuses and rectums.

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As a sexual-health professional, I find that people have many questions about putting things in their butt — and about butts in general. I can’t possibly cover everything ass-related in a single column, so we will break it in two. Speaking in my capacity as the Director of the Safe and Supportive Schools Project at the GSA Network and someone who holds a Ph.D. in health promotion, I give you Butt Stuff, Part One.

Let’s start with some basics. When I refer to the “ass” or “butt,” I’m referring to the whole thing: the gluteus maximus muscle, the anus, and the rectum. Our butts serve a number of purposes, from sitting, standing, and walking to pooping and farting. The rectum and the anus contain a great deal of nerve endings, including ones that generate a pleasurable feeling when stimulated — think about that sensation of feeling full you get when you need to poop, and how good it feels when you take a big dump — making it part of an erogenous zone (an area on the body it feels pleasurable to touch and stimulate).

Many people — those assigned male at birth, typically — also have a prostate gland, which is responsible for producing the white, milky fluid that we associate with semen and which serves as a suspension and protective fluid for sperm. In other words, it helps get sperm out of the body from the testicles and, in procreative sex, into the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg.

The prostate is located approximately between the rectum and the bladder, and it can feel quite pleasurable when stimulated by a finger, sex toy, penis, or anything else inserted into the rectum. Some people really, really like it when the area around the anus or between the anus and genitalia — the taint — the rectum, and/or the prostate are stimulated. Other people don’t really care one way or the other, and some just plain don’t like it. All of that is great! It takes all types of people to make butt-play and butt-sex fun.

Also, the older you get, the easier it is to be ashamed of slang terms you hear but don’t know the meaning of. Don’t just laugh along and hope no one exposes your naivete; let a professional help you out! Sure, you know what tops and bottoms are, but versatile people enjoy getting things inserted in their ass and inserting things in other people’s asses. (If they’re lucky and there are enough people or toys, a versatile person can be a top and bottom at the same time!) Rimming or tossing salad means licking, sucking, and lightly biting the asshole and the area around it. Fingering and fisting are pretty self-explanatory, but pegging is when someone puts a dildo, usually a strap-on, or a dick in another person’s ass.

I was around 12 or 13 when I discovered the joy of sticking things up my rear end. I used to keep a stash of Hustler magazines hidden under the folded towels in the bathroom for jerking off every chance I got. (Hustler was the only one I had access to that had pictures of hard cocks in it!) In that same cabinet under the sink, there was always a jar of Vaseline and a toilet plunger. During one of my multiple-times-a-day jack-off sessions, I decided to rub some Vaseline on the handle of the plunger and stick it up my ass. The world ended, stars collided, and I’m still trying to get other people to put things in my butt to this day.

Just as with most sexual things, there is a great deal of stigma, shame, and guilt about engaging in ass play, mostly around being worried that people will think you are gay — who cares?! — or that it is unsanitary and unhealthy. We will tackle that thoroughly in a future column, but if you want to experiment, here are a few simple pointers: Wash your ass, thoroughly, with soap and water. Use a lot of lube — the more, the better. Relax and don’t force anything. Start small: a finger, a small butt-plug, or a dildo. (Go to a sex-toy store and ask. The staff will be delighted to help out a newbie!) Lastly, if at first you don’t succeed, try again — and if you don’t like it, that’s cool. Maybe try being a top.

Next time, I’ll go a little deeper — wink, wink — laying down the real shit about shit for you about whether or not you should douche, and why straight guys have to call it pegging. Until then, go play with yourself, or help out a friend.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Get Your Partner to Dominate You During Sex

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By Gigi Engle

Trying some light BDSM role play is often the go-to for lighting the fire under long-term relationships, often because it’s the simplest fantasy to play out. Over 50% of Americans have reported trying BDSM, and domination play fits perfectly into that BDSM box.

For some women, the idea of being dominated is a huge turn-on. Having your partner pin you down and ravish you is hot (little forbidden fruit, anybody?).

The issue arises when a woman wants to give her partner permission to dominate her in the bedroom without compromising who she is as a person—sometimes it can be hard to remember that who we are in bed is not always who we are in life. You may have a high-paying job, be a badass boss, and take no prisoners; this doesn’t mean you are excluded from sexual domination.

And your partner may be the sweetest, most nurturing person you know—but that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a little secret Dominant under the surface. Just remember to be empathetic to possible nerves. It’s a scary thing to explore the taboo.

Want to give it a go? Here is how to get your partner to dominate you during sex.

Have a light conversation outside of the bedroom.

If you want your partner to get into some domination, don’t expect him or her to be into choking you out sporadically during sex. These types of fantasies need to be talked about beforehand, outside of the bedroom.

Obviously, this can get a little awkward, but if you’re in a trusting and healthy relationship, there’s no reason why you can’t have these types of talks. Allow your partner to voice his or her concerns, especially if this is an out-of-character way for them to behave, as they may be a bit apprehensive.

Tell your partner about a fantasy you’ve had. Is he or she a Christian Grey-type billionaire with a Red Room of Pain? Do you picture a robber breaking into your house? Do you simply like the idea of your partner throwing you onto the bed and spanking you?

Talk about what you’d like to try. Ask your partner for some input about his or her own fantasies. You don’t have go to a dungeon or do anything crazy—always do what makes you comfortable. It’s an avenue of sexual adventure you can explore together!

Explore some BDSM porn together.

If your partner is down to explore, but you don’t really know where to begin, watch some BDSM porn together to get some ideas. Obviously, porn is not a representation of real life sex, but it can certainly act as a turn on. You can also explore a full range of erotica and pornographic books together. Because anything you use to get the steam rising is a good start.

Talk about your fantasies, get some inspiration, and enjoy yourselves. Sometimes all it takes is permission from someone, whether it be you or the porn you’re watching, to unlock someone’s inner Dominant.

Start slowly and use simple gear.

Remember, even if your partner is super into this idea, he or she may not be great right off the bat. Likewise, you may not know how you feel about this type of play once you take it from inside your head out into real life.

Go slowly. Start with your partner pinning your hands above your head. Perhaps you can utilize a tie to create handcuffs or a sleep mask to act as a blindfold. As you feel more comfortable, you’ll feel more at ease with pushing the boundaries.

Always remember to check in and see how both you and your partner are feeling before, during, and after sex.

Boost your partner’s ego.

One thing that will really get your partner going and into this new, dominant role is by boosting his or her ego. Make it a point to tell him or her how hot it is when he or she chokes you, spanks you, or pins you down.

This too can feel a bit awkward, but if you want to live out this sexy fantasy, you’ve got to be willing to get your partner into the right headspace.

Ask your partner to say the things you need to hear as well. If you want him or her to call you a dirty slut, ask for it! There is nothing wrong with sexual degradation between two consenting adults (as long as it’s something you want).

Sexual adventure should be fun and exciting—because exploration is what keeps things sexy.

Complete Article HERE!

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What to Do When You Want More—or Less—Sex Than Your Partner

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By Justin Lehmiller

Anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship knows that, when it comes to sex, we aren’t always on the same wavelength as our partners. Sometimes we’re in the mood, but our partner isn’t. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, it’s usually not a big deal—unless it starts happening over and over again. If your desire for sex gets completely out of sync with your partner and this lasts for months—maybe even years—you have developed what’s known as a sexual desire discrepancy.

Desire discrepancies are common. For example, a nationally representative British sex survey found that approximately one in four adults reported being in a relationship in which they didn’t see eye to eye with their partner regarding the amount of sex they’d like to be having.

There’s a popular stereotype that desire discrepancies are a gendered issue, such that men are always the ones who want more sex while women want less. However, this isn’t the case at all. In heterosexual relationships, it can be either the male or female partner who would prefer having more sex. Desire discrepancies can affect same-sex couples, too.

Discrepant sexual desires can happen in any relationship, but they usually don’t emerge until after a couple has been together for quite some time. Perhaps not surprisingly, when they occur, these discrepancies tend to be highly distressing and often cause serious damage to the relationship. Indeed, studies have found that they’re linked to more conflict, less satisfaction and greater odds of breaking up.

In light of how common desire discrepancies are and the harm they can potentially inflict, we’d all do well to better understand them so that we can be prepared to respond in productive and healthy ways should we ever wind up in that situation.

So where do desire discrepancies come from? It’s complicated . Numerous factors—biological and psychosocial—can affect sexual desire in one partner, but not necessarily the other. Everything from our medication use to our sleep habits to the amount of stress we’re under to the way we feel about our relationship has the potential to impact sexual desire. Given the broad range of factors that influence desire, identifying the underlying cause(s) is important when choosing the best course of treatment.

This means that, unfortunately, there are no quick and simple fixes, like pills that magically adjust the partners’ libidos to match one another. Drug companies have been hard at work trying to create pills like this, but they’ve found that sexual desire just isn’t easily changed this way. The good news is that there are a number of steps you and your partner can take that have the potential to help.

For insight into handling desire discrepancies, I spoke wih Dr. Lori Brotto, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who researches sexual desire. As a starting point, Brotto suggests that we step back and look at desire discrepancies as a couple’s issue—not a problem specific to the low-desire or high-desire partner. Blaming each another for wanting “too much” or “not enough” sex is counterproductive. This is a relationship issue that you both need to work on together rather than something one of you addresses alone.

Next, identify whether there are any health issues or stressors that might be impeding sexual desire, like chronic fatigue or adjusting to parenthood. According to Brotto, “Usually, addressing those other issues is necessary before addressing sexual difficulties.” In other words, there might be value in consulting a doctor and/or re-evaluating your work-life balance before anything else.

From here, it’s all about touch and communication. Part of the issue is that our partners don’t always know what we like sexually—and if your partner is doing things that you’re not really into, that can put a damper on desire. So you might need to step back and spend some time teaching each other what feels good and what doesn’t. Indeed, Brotto says that “couple touching exercises such as ‘sensate focus,’ which are designed to inform a partner where and how one likes to be touched, can be very effective.”

Touch isn’t just a valuable teaching technique but also a great lead-in to sex. For example, giving each other massages can help with relaxation and stress relief—and, in the process, it just might put both of you in the mood. This is probably why research has found that couples who give each other mini-massages and backrubs are more sexually satisfied than those who don’t.

Beyond this, we need to be mindful of how we deal with sexual frustration and try to approach sexual disagreements in productive ways. For example, if you feel like your sexual needs aren’t being met, being confrontational with your partner in the heat of the moment might make things worse in the long run. According to Brotto, such behavior “can further push [your] partner away sexually and widen the discrepant desire divide.” Therefore, consider ways of coping with bouts of sexual frustration, like masturbation, that aren’t going to escalate conflict.

Finally, as unsexy as it sounds, scheduling sex or having regular date nights can help, too. As Brotto notes, “by planning sex, it can help to promote healthy and sexy anticipation of it.” For example, one advantage of having sex on a schedule is that it allows time to prepare. For example, if you agree to shut off your phones for a few hours beforehand, this can help to clear your heads of distractions that might otherwise interfere with interest in—and enjoyment of—sex. Also, by planning sex, you can build up to it, such as by sexting your partner to let them know how attractive they are to you. “Foreplay need not be a few minutes, but can extend over several days,” says Brotto.

Though many couples facing sexual desire discrepancies feel hopeless, the truth of the matter is that there’s actually a lot you can to do manage these situations in healthy and mutually satisfying ways.

Complete Article HERE!

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