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A graphic history of sex: ‘There is no gene that drives sexuality. All sexuality is learned’

Changes in sexuality over time have made the modern family what it is. What next? Homa Khaleeli asks the authors of a groundbreaking graphic guide, The Story of Sex

The Story of Sex … some images from the book. Illustration: Laetitia Coryn

The Story of Sex … some images from the book. Illustration: Laetitia Coryn

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Philip Larkin famously announced that sexual intercourse began in 1963 (“Between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban / And the Beatles’ first LP”). Being French, and a psychiatrist to boot, Philippe Brenot takes a rather longer view. In his latest book, The Story of Sex, a bestseller in France, he runs an anthropological eye over the sexual mores of human societies from prehistoric times to today. Yet Brenot believes that the sexual revolution did spark a dramatic change, creating the modern couple, which is the basis of our families today. Now, however, he thinks this partnership of equals is under assault from all sides.

The academic, who has the wonderful title of director of sexology at Paris Descartes University, has spent his life studying sexuality. The Story of Sex is an irreverent, graphic novel (in both senses), filled with fascinating – if alarming – history. Cleopatra used a vibrator filled with bees; the word “trousers” was considered to be positively pornographic in Victorian England. Illustrator Laetitia Coryn’s extremely cheeky, but never sordid, pictures liven up the page and keep the narrative zipping along. The book was a real collaboration, says Coryn, who says it was made easier by Brenot’s firm ideas – and the fact he liked her jokes.

The illustrator admits she hesitated slightly over collaborating on the book. “I told my publisher we have to be careful with the drawings and with the jokes – we have to be sensitive,” she says, because she wanted the book to have as wide an audience as possible. “I didn’t put any porn in it!” As a reader, however, the frankness of the pictures still shocked me (you, er, might not want to whip out the book on public transport or in the office).

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Philippe Brenot and Laeticia Cory.

Talking to Brenot over the phone (through charmingly accented English that becomes somewhat eccentric as he struggles with the complexities of his ideas) it’s impossible to escape the psychiatrist’s anxiety about our attitudes to love and intimacy today. We have never been freer to define our own relationships, and follow our own pleasure, he says, but despite this we are far from satisfied; and the modern couple is looking dangerously fragile.

“It’s incredible the difficulties couples have,” Brenot declares, in a tone that makes me imagine he is throwing his hands in the air in despair. Of the couples he sees in therapy, he says, “there is nothing wrong with them psychologically, but still they cannot communicate quietly, live calmly and have sexual fulfilment”.

While we think of lovers as a timeless relationship model, it has been the family that has been paramount in society for most of history, the 68-year-old says. “The couple used to get together for the sake of the family,” he explains. And the idea of equality in long-term pairings is even more recent, with “traditional” marriages putting men firmly in charge of their spouses.

“Love marriages have only been widespread for a century or so, and homosexuality was condemned until very recently,” Brenot notes.

“Since the 1970s, we have begun to invent modern couples with respect for each other and equality between the sexes,” he says. “This only came about after ‘marriage’ as a concept began dying out. Not because people stopped getting married, but because marriage stopped being seen as a sacred union – couples instead started developing on their own terms.”

Yet the rise in divorces since the 1970s and breakups of long-term relationships shows that the modern couple is not surviving, Brenot argues. In part, he says, this is because we are demanding more than ever before.

“It is difficult to live intimately, because we want perfect love and perfect sex and that is very difficult in a long-term relationship. We want a lot more than a reliable person to raise kids with.”

The solution, he says, is for us all to learn more about sex – which is where his book comes in. “It’s not possible to understand our intimate sex lives without looking at centuries of history, and even the origins of human life,” he says. “We understand what we live today if we understand from where we came.”

For instance, he says, if we look at the way relationships were formed in early human societies we can see echoes of our own problems. “We came from primates, but in chimp society there are never couples or families. There are lone males and females with children.” It was only as our brains evolved and emotions developed – including love – that monogamous relationships set in. For the first time (“somewhere between 1 million BC and 100,000BC”), it was possible to know the paternity of a child.

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While the beginning of family life may sound like a wonderful moment, Brenot argues that it was also the start of women’s subjugation, with men taking possession of their female partner and offspring – which traditional marriage legalised. “Paternity is the beginning of male domination,” says Brenot simply. “The day that happened, men took possession of women.”

In the animal kingdom, Brenot argues, there is none of the domination of female partners that has been a hallmark of human societies through history, nor is there domestic violence. Instead, among animals “males fight against other males and females fight with other females,” he says.

“Violence between men and women is only in humans – because of marriage, which puts men above women.”

During antiquity, meanwhile, a woman’s role was to provide a child – and female sexual pleasure was dismissed. But this role was also a dangerous one. “There were so many impediments to female pleasure. In the 18th and 19th centuries, one in six pregnant women died in childbirth. Then there were the infections and sexual violence.”

For men, of course, things were different. “Men have always done what they wanted,” says Brenot.

Even for men, sex for pleasure was something that happened “outside the home – for instance with prostitutes. Women were seen either to provide offspring or pleasure.” In ancient Rome, these rules were so strictly upheld that women could take their husbands to court for ejaculating anywhere but inside her body during intercourse, “because sex within marriage was for procreation, and the wife’s role was to receive sperm”.

Even during periods that today we think of as being golden ages for same-sex relationships, such pleasures were “reserved for the elite” – and the reality was often less accepting than we think. In ancient Greece, for instance, it was only the man who was “receiving” who was not stigmatised in a pairing. Similarly for the libertines in the 18th century, “there was a fluid sexuality, but it was also the top end of society – the intelligentsia and aristocracy. Throughout the centuries and the world’s rural populations, to be gay – or for women to have control of their own sexuality – has always been frowned upon.”

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Today too, Brenot argues, while much has been written about more people exploring fluid sexualities, entering polyamorous relationships and breaking down gender norms, “we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this is trickling down to all sections of society”. And he warns too about a backlash from “new moralists” who oppose gay marriage, and will, no doubt, do the same for trans rights and alternative relationships as they gain more legal rights. Coryn says this is one of the reasons she enjoyed creating the book. “In France, people who don’t want gay people to be married, is a huge phenomenon. It’s awful. We say in the book this is a misunderstanding of sexuality; homosexuality is normal. I hope this is one topic on which people will change their mind in reading the book.”

For heterosexual couples, relationships began to look up about the time of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Up until this period, “men were having fun outside the home – hunting animals or chasing women. While women were always at home,” says Brenot. But the new spirit of education and the pursuit of knowledge changed this. Finally, says Brenot, men and women could be friends and even have platonic love.

Yet it took contraception for men and women to gain a semblance of equality. Previously “women were immobilised by marriage. They can’t get out of it, they don’t have the possibility of working or being free. The story of sex is, first of all, the story of marriage and the difficulties [it creates] for women.”

To start combating the problems that these historical inequalities have left us with, the psychiatrist insists, we need better sexual education, and one that starts at an early age. “People think sexuality is just an instinct,” he says, “that it is natural like eating and drinking. No. There is no gene that drives sexuality. All sexuality is learned.”

Because of this, says Brenot, the models for our sexuality are very important. Today, talking about sex is still taboo, and the dissemination of pornography has filled the void. “People say pornography changes adolescent life. But it changes everyone’s sexuality,” he says. “We have sex differently now; we try to imitate what we see [on our screens]. People feel bad and say, ‘I can’t do what they do.’”

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To displace this dangerous model, “sexual education should teach the rules that should govern relationships; it should teach us about communication, about consent and respect. This is not natural [to us]. We have to learn this.”

Coryn says that while the Story of Sex is not a sexual education manual, “we wanted it to be uninhibited”, to make talking about sex seem as natural as it should be.

“From the time children are little girls and boys, we have to teach them that everyone should be respected and to start accepting difference,” says Brenot. But, he says, while men and women are equal, that does not mean that they are the same. Railing against the teaching of “gender studies” departments, he says that a refusal to admit this difference is allowing gender inequality to become entrenched.

“They say, ‘Don’t speak of differences – a man is the same as a woman. Society is guilty of making differences, but underneath we are the same.’”

Unpicking these ideas, he says, is the only way to combat our most pressing problems. For example, “physical strength is different from a very young age. So [children] need to understand boys are stronger and take that into account – because that is the start of domestic violence, which is a real problem.”

If we leave this teaching too late, he says, the battle is already lost: “In children’s fairy stories it is the boy who seduces the girl, so there is power play early on.” Then there is the fact men have always been free to have multiple partners throughout history, because men don’t get pregnant. It is only by introducing the idea early on that “contraception is a joint responsibility” that we can challenge this.

Today’s modern couple, he points out, faces new challenges from the rise in options for dating to “new forms of relationship,” says Brenot. Yet Coryn stresses, as does Brenot, that there has never been a better time for people to live in terms of sexuality. Yet one thing has not changed, says Brenot – everyone still wants to find somebody to love. “People are afraid to be alone at the end of their life. They are afraid not to find the perfect person to live with. It is a difficult problem for everyone today.

“We have to learn how to live together anew.”

Complete Article HERE!

What is really afoot with the foot fetish?

Why are some people attracted to the human foot and why is this particular fetish so misunderstood??

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The origins of the foot fetish

How the adoration of the human foot began is shrouded in mystery because it is so much more than what it seems; namely, an erotic trigger for sexual arousal. Although never traditional, since the dawn of time feet have been a stimulus for arousal. This is evidenced in the mythology, paintings, sculpture and sacred writings of many ancient civilizations including Egypt, Greece and the ancient rites of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.

The modern foot fetish

While the practice remains unchanged, the stimuli for the foot fetish in today’s world are vast and diverse because they include all forms of media; namely, art; movies; television and the Internet.

The Antebellum Art Gallery in Los Angeles recently celebrated foot worship with an exhibit entitled: Fools For Feet, which featured, among other things, a foot worship workshop, stained glass art, paintings, ceramic sculptures and drawings devoted to the human foot. There is even a foot karaoke session in which lovers of feet get a chance to sing about related songs such as These Boots Were Made For Walking and Blue Suede Shoes.

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Psychological Aspects

To Sigmund Freud, the erotic allure of feet was due to a physical resemblance to the penis, but modern psychological theorists have developed more scientific and sophisticated answers, such as early childhood imprinting and conditioning experiences, which occur when a child unconsciously connects a sexual response with a non-sexual object.

Some famous foot fetishists

The world is full of foot fetishists, some of whom are both famous and infamous. The caretakers of were known to screen women’s feet before they could have a romantic encounter Elvis Presley with him.

Pop artist, Andy Warhol, did many shoe portraits (Untitled Feet, 1958) and kept a human mummified foot by his bed. English novelist, Thomas Hardy had a fixation with women’s feet as well as talk show host, Jay Leno.  Foot fetishes affect all kinds of people, even those from the darkest side of human depravity, such as serial killer, Ted Bundy.

Why has the foot fetish survived ancient cultures and adapted to modern tastes and predilections? Well, my friends, the answer is not blowing in the proverbial, Bob-Dylan  wind, but lies rather in the words of an ancient adage that reads:

If the shoe fits…

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Complete Article HERE!

5 Ways To Build Endurance In Bed

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5 Ways To Build Endurance

So, you love having sex. You like the ins-and-outs of the whole process and of course, the grand finale. But when you’re going at it, you find yourself getting exhausted, tired, and ready to throw in the towel (long before you actually get to a point of ecstasy). Your ability to maintain energy during sex is a lot like your strength to push through a tough boot camp class: it’s all about endurance.

“Endurance is important in bed because it gives us a sense of control and feeling of empowerment. We are able to meet our partner’s sexual needs, and feel sexually and erotically fulfilled ourselves,” Dr. Holly Richmond, psychologist and sex therapist tells Bustle. “It lets us know for certain that we are a good lover. If two people’s sexual endurance is equally matched, there will be no reason to ask, ‘Was that good for you?’ Having sexual endurance gives each person a sense of sexual self-efficacy and know-how.”

If you’re struggling with getting up your stamina, don’t worry. There are easy ways — both mentally and physically — to get your head and your body into the bedroom:

1. First, Define What Endurance Is

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When experts speak about endurance, it’s not just about how long you can stay on top of your partner or hold a position. As Richmond notes, it’s actually about all aspects of love making that require a strong will. As Dr. Richmond explains, physical endurance might be what you first think of: “The physical aspect, giving and receiving pleasure, is one of the most important pieces of sexual health that I help my clients explore. In a nutshell, it’s asking, ‘What feels good to you? How do you enjoy being sexual with others? How well do you know yourself and your sexual needs? How willing are you to ask your partner about their needs, and meet them if possible?’” she explains.

But then there’s emotional strength while having sex which she explains: “The act of staying present and attuned to your partner, is also an essential element of great sex. I might ask, ‘Do you want sex to be just about your genitals, or are you open to mind/body eroticism, an embodied experience that can make good sex great sex?’”

2. Make Sure You Invest In Foreplay

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Part of what will get everything flowing in the right direction is ensuring your body turned on. A big way to do this is with foreplay — from using your hands to your mouth on one another. This helps build your endurance because you spend less time in actual intercourse trying to turn one another one and more time warming up everything. As Richmond advises — foreplay can actually start long before you get naked, too: “Explore what gets you in the mood. Is it sexting with your partner, putting an explicit sticky note on their car seat, whispering in their ear that morning about what you want to do to them or want them to do to you? Build endurance that lasts all day,” she says.

3. Get Out Of Your Head

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It’s easier said than done, but the more you can stay present during sex, the better your endurance will be. You waste mental energy that could be focused on intimacy when you start rattling off to-do lists in your head while trying to also have sex. When you let go of everyday stresses for just an hour, you won’t wear yourself out as quickly.

One way to do that is to prioritize your daily choices, Richmond says. “Stress is not sexy. If you are constantly running from one engagement to the next, always in work mode or mom mode, your sexual endurance will be nil. It sounds cliché, but taking time for yourself (not necessarily by yourself) — time where your needs come first — is essential. Exercise, quiet time alone, and social time with friends and family are all necessary qualities that enhance your overall health and sexual health, of which endurance is feel-good byproduct.”

4. Masturbate

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It’s no secret that masturbation can seriously make your sex life better. From when you do it all by yourself to using it as a sexy addition for your partner to watch, knowing your own pleasure zones and what gets you off helps you have a fun experience. It can also help build your endurance because you don’t spend time doing things that don’t work and instead, focus on the ones that do.

“If you don’t know your body and mind, and what keeps your aroused, how do you expect your partner to? Be willing to explore your fantasies when you masturbate, and then if it feels safe, share them with your partner,” Richmond tells Bustle. “Also, practice with your hand or a vibrator by bringing yourself close to orgasm, and then bringing yourself back down…and then bringing yourself back up again. Being able to control your orgasm with your technique can extend a quickie to hours of pleasure.”

5. Lastly, Breathe

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If you’ve ever ran a race or tried to make it through a grueling workout, you likely heard your instructor (or your internal coach) reminding you to inhale and exhale. Breath is so important in anything physical, sex included. It helps you structure your pace, slow down and then dive right back in.

“The pacing of your breath is as important as the pacing of your body. Things may go too quickly if your breathing is shallow and rapid. Think long, slow deep breaths, and let your body follow,” Richmond says. “You can learn to easily regulate your excitement with your breath for an extra erotic mind/body charge.”

Complete Article HERE!

What does is all mean?

Name: Jane
Gender: Female
Age: 23
Location: Vancouver. BC
When my boyfriend and I have sex, there’s a 50/50 chance that he will put his penis between my butt cheeks and hump me that way until he cums. (It’s just intense rubbing, no anal penetration). Even though I don’t feel like I’m getting any pleasure from it, my vagina gets wet, and if he touches me down there and feels that I’m wet, it turns him on even more. What’s going on here?
He’s very affectionate and he tells me he loves by my body. He says he’s totally straight, but this whole anal thing confuses me. If he’s not gay or bi-sexual, why is it that it takes him 20+ minutes to cum during vaginal sex, but only 5 – 7 minutes to cum during anal?

Ok, Jane, to start with, your BF isn’t doing anal. Believe me, darling, you’d know if he were. Anal sex, by definition, means anal penetration. There’s a name for what your freaky boyfriend is doing — rubbing his cock in your crack, but not penetrating you. It’s a form of frottage, or sexual stimulation by rubbing. This is the sexual practice of choice for most lesbians, most commonly referred to as pussy-bumpin’. Hey, maybe your BF is a lesbian!analsex joke

Second, your pussy may be getting wet because your boyfriend’s pre-cum and spooge is dripping down your crack, past your “taint” and all over your fine cooch. It ain’t you producing the wetness, which explains why you’re not aroused. I hope that clears up the mystery juice for ya.

Third, loads of exclusively straight men are into anal. Most are into butt fucking their women, but some are into being fucked BY their women. We call this practice pegging — a woman straps on a mighty fine dildo and drives her man insane with a buggering he’ll not soon forget. So you see, fucking is not just for cunts anymore!

Forth, perhaps, just maybe, your vagina isn’t as tight as your what your man is experiencing between your ass cheeks. Maybe, just perhaps, that’s why it takes him less time to bust a nut that-a-way than in a more traditional form of fucking. Also maybe, he’s more turned on with the allure of the forbidden, taboo backdoor action. I guess the only way you’ll know is to ask your BF straight-up, as it were, so to speak.

So let’s review then, shall we? Now that we know for certain that an interest in cornholing a sweet ass is not just a gay thing. You can relax about your BF bein’ queer for wanting to hump your bum. For some guys this is their favorite kind of sex. They love to bust a nut by rubbing their dicks between a chick’s tits, thighs, buns, or feet. It’s anyone’s guess why these dudes prefer this to getting off in, on or around a pussy, but whatever it is, it’s completely harmless.Anal sex

Here’s a tip, Jane. Relax into this with the ‘ol BF, why don’t ya? Once you stop worrying about his sexual orientation because of his fascination with your be-hind, you may actually enjoy the special attention he’s paying your boot-ty.

And hey, if your BF’s freak with your ass crack isn’t gettin’ you off, you don’t have to just lie there and take it, ya know. While he’s grinding away back there, you could be spending some quality time with little miss clit with say a swell vibrator. Soon you’ll be enjoying things as much as he.

Good luck

Review: The Killer Wore Leather

With the advent of the 50 Shades of Grey movie looming, the interwebs are abuzz; once again calling attention to this deplorable trilogy. (Apparently, the movie isn’t any better than the books. Ya don’t say?) To counteract this virus real alt-culture folks are trying to direct our attention to books and authors that better represent life on the sexual fringe. Why, there’s even a ‘which book should you read instead’ meme springing up amongst those of us who care about good erotica and authentic power play. Here is my contribution.

Just so you know, I wrote this review for a print magazine awhile back, and I thought now would be an excellent time for me to share an updated version with you here.

The Killer Wore Leather is Laura Antoniou’s new murder mystery with a fictitious international leather competition, Mr. and Ms. Global Leather and Bootblack, as its backdrop. Think IML (International Mr. Leather)… no, don’t think IML. Oh forget it; go ahead and think that if you want, because this fictional competition is clearly a very thinly veiled replica of that alt-culture institution.

Full disclosure: Laura was a guest on The Erotic Mind Show. (Look to the Podcast Archive, right here on my site, to find these great shows. You’ll find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE!

These interviews were a great way to get to know Laura and hear the delicious back-story dish on the novel. Laura is wickedly funny and astonishingly subversive. Interestingly enough, these are the very same characteristics that I liked most about her novel.

In Part 2 of our conversation we chat about:

  • James Lear’s quip on the back cover: “A murder mystery with a fresh, funny take on the fetish underground.”
  • I ask if The Killer Wore Leather is her first murder mystery.
  • I ask how she happened upon this genre?
  • We talk about her main character, a lesbian homicide detective, and two of her delightful supporting characters, the boys Jack. They’re adorable.
  • I ask if these characters are based on real people she knows.
  • We discuss the very unique slice of society that is the gay leather/kink subculture and her insider connection to it.
  • I ask if how she was able to add the refreshing comedic aspect to the otherwise hardboiled murder mystery.
  • And how she got away with making light of it all?

The Killer Wore Leather opens at the Grand Sterling Hotel, NYC. Thousands of people are arriving for the annual leather killer wore leather covercompetition and fetish ball. Anyone who has ever attended one of these fêtes in real life will feel right at home. Most of the main characters and all of the supporting characters are right out of (fetish) central casting. There is even an Antoniou-esque, rabblerousing gadfly who makes regular appearances throughout the novel just to stir the shit. So unlike Ms. Antoniou, don’t cha know.

Don’t think this will spoil the plot, but the reigning Mr. Global Leather, Mack Steel, who is also one of the contest judges, is soon-to-be deceased. He is—how shall I put this—a real dick, and not in a good way. Just about everyone hates him, which makes for loads and loads of suspects once he is found dead in his hotel room. Mr. Steel is stabbed to death with a trident-shaped weapon and left wearing only a pair of frilly knickers. Oh, the delicious scandal!

Enter Detective Rebecca Feldblum and her new partner, Dominick DeCosta. Rebecca is a lipstick lesbian, and Dominick is a hot, straight, black guy. Both detectives are way out of their comfort zone surrounded by all the freaks and perverts. The convention/contest promoters decide the show must go on, so despite the murder, Feldblum and DeCosta have to do their sleuthing amidst the fetish circus.

The Killer Wore Leather is a good, old-fashioned whodunit. And Antoniou lays on the detail; we are treated to a baffling array of characters from the sexual fringe and a barrage of alt-culture jargon. But don’t let this deter you. The two detectives and another surprising character, a savvy newspaper reporter, act as a Greek chorus of sorts. Through them we are treated to a delightful exposé of some of the more fascinating nooks and crannies of the fetish and kink underground. It’s all great fun.

Antoniou’s writing style is sharp, witty, and smart. She lovingly skewers everyone and everything. I hasten to emphasize the word “lovingly,” because there are no cheap shots here. There’s never any doubt that Laura loves this slice of life and those who inhabit it. Her portrayals are hilarious, but respectful. However, she makes no bones about the fact that some of the minorities within this minority are being marginalized, and sometimes that gets ugly. Discrimination is rife, even here.

The thing that struck me most about the book is, as I mentioned earlier, Laura’s brilliantly seditious streak. She’s well known for her biting essays on alt-culture, sexual roles, and gender politics. And I am delighted to say that her keen observations bleed—you should pardon the pun—into her narrative. I loved it! And I know that you will too.

Buy The Killer Wore Leather for the mystery story; stay with it for the subversion.

I want to say another special thanks to Cleis Press, the publisher of Laura Antoniou’s The Killer Wore Leather, who sent me a copy of this book to review.

PS: This book would make a fantastic Valentine’s Day gift for any adventurous reader.