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Feliz Navidad

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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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Fantastic kinks and where to find them

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“What do you two think about my cock ring?” With a baby blue T-shirt on top and bare as a baby’s bottom below, the stranger nodded down toward his crotch. A bright yellow, adjustable strap was fastened around his pink dick and balls.

“It kind of looks like a watch.” I said abruptly, a bit taken aback by his appearance. I was more modestly dressed in a flowery lingerie set, a UC Berkeley lab coat tied around my waist.

In stark contrast, my close friend and Cal-alumna was wholly unfazed by his sudden, very naked presence. “You should get a figure-eight cock ring!” She advised. “One ring goes around your balls and one around your shaft.” She wore an underbust black dress which showed off her much-complimented heart-tattooed nipples.

“God, I know, right? My boyfriend got this one for me.” His velvety soft dick gently brushed up against my hand like a delicate feather boa. “I wish it was black,” referring to the cock ring.

Last week was the first time I attended Folsom Street Fair, the world’s largest event for BDSM wares and fetish culture. As our Lyft driver pulled up a street away from 8th and Folsom, a man in assless underwear sprinted toward what we could only assume was his kinky oasis. Taking up a sprawling five blocks, I marveled at bondage demonstrations, two public blowjob scenes and the strangest of them all, a plethora of Bud Light stalls.

While others were receiving the blood and body of Christ on Sunday, I received a Bad Dragon grab bag yielding two glow-in-the-dark condoms, a coupon for their high-fantasy sex toys, and their coveted collectable mini silicone dicks, otherwise known as Teenie Weenies. The sex shops and burlesque shows I attended in the past paled in comparison to the absolute spectacle and sexual liberation that embodied Folsom.

Though I have been a longtime patron of the kinky arts, the first time I ever interacted with kink in real life was through a second-hand experience of another Berkeley friend a few years ago. His experience wasn’t the most ideal, as his ex-boyfriend had cheated in order to explore his interests with more seasoned kinksters.

At Folsom, he was asked, as a Filipino man, “how are your people so smooth,” by his ex’s white kink mentor. I was horrified to hear that a seemingly more mature BDSM practitioner unabashedly fetishized Asian bodies. While the sadomasochistic community’s motto is “safe, sane, and consensual,” I realized these words couldn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s easy to forget that existing social stratifications can permeate communities we normally consider to be free of such restrictions.

This is most noticeable in “raceplay” roleplaying in the BDSM community, which frequently focuses on a slave (usually a person of color) servicing their master (usually a white person). While I definitely do not want to be a kink policer, one must note that many kinksters are white and male. Engaging with these scenes uncritically can lead to excusing oppression as simply a “fetish.”

Seeing my friend’s genuine heartbreak and confusion opened my eyes to the potential negativity the BDSM community held within its leather clad jaws. While I still enjoyed consuming kinky content, I was intensely judgemental when my friend’s old flame showed up to a 4th of July barbecue with his “daddy,” who easily looked double his age.

Despite going to Folsom accompanied by a more kink experienced friend, I still had a lot of reservations. Nevertheless, I was determined to challenge my preconceived notions towards kink’s true shades of gray.

When the same cockring man, who also happened to be white, first approached us, I steeled myself for the inevitable harassment and entitlement.

As soon as he said, “women usually don’t tell you what they like, but you two really speak your mind,” I was ready to fall back into the comfortable trap of my preexisting antagonism toward white kinksters.

Feeling defeated, I replied with, “Well, that’s also because many women are still shamed when they talk about sex openly,” and prepared myself for the excuses and false apologies.

After a beat of thinking, he said, “Oh, you’re right! I never thought about it that way.” He ended the exchange with a cheery “Happy Folsom!”

Even my friend, an active participant in kink since her teens, was surprised by the lack of nonconsensual touching and photography, which she had warned me about beforehand due to her previous experiences. Besides that and the masses of entry-level gay boys who wore the same leather chest harness and frayed jorts, the only other discomfort I faced was the oppressively hot sun beating down on all of us — the ultimate dom.

I realized Folsom wasn’t a whirlwind of perceived blasphemy. It was the first time I saw such a variety of racial demographics and age ranges congregate for a specific event. As well as that, snug among all the flogging paraphernalia were free HIV testing stalls courtesy of Trans men 4 men, Queer Asian education booths and gay-friendly doctors. Folsom Street Fair itself is a nonprofit, generating approximately $300,000 annually, and provides a home for other organizations focusing on sex education, AIDS research and kink-friendly psychotherapy, such as Planned Parenthood.

Among the genitalia, latex and leather, Folsom feels like the epitome of debauchery, but it is also inherently tied to education and charity culture. As I watched an older East Asian man lead his White partner around with a chain secured to his balls, I felt like this was the true beginning of my quest to understand the complexities of the BDSM world. Just like Indiana Jones, I will continue to uncover the lost treasures of kink with a crack of my bullwhip.

Complete Article HERE!

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Old people still like sex

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Sex educator Jane Fleishman says intimacy improves life regardless of age

Bodies change, but they don’t necessarily become less beautiful.

Jane Fleishman

Erectile dysfunction is a factor for many men, but it can be dealt with.

Aging doesn’t have to mean the end of intimacy.

Sex is part of living and you don’t have to be young to enjoy it, sex educator Jane Fleishman of Deerfield told a group gathered to hear her talk at the assisted living facility Christopher Heights in Northampton recently.

“I am on a mission to change the way continuing care communities treat end-of -life care,” she said following her talk in mid September. “I don’t want to wait around, I want to see change happen in my lifetime.”

To that end, Fleishman, 63, a fast-talking native New Yorker, has been traveling the country holding workshops to spread her message.

“There is no expiration date on sex,” she told the crowd of about four dozen people, mostly residents, at Christopher Heights. Sharing intimacy is an important contributor to good quality of life, she says. Older adults who are more sexually active have a lower instance of heart disease and dementia, she added. “We know that people’s well-being is affected.”

One study that seems to support that was done by a team of researchers from Coventry University in Britain who found that having an active sex life leads to less mental deterioration as people age.

In 2010 researchers surveyed men in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and found that they continue to live sexually satisfied lives, according to a study in the medical journal the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Sex makes you feel alive – it makes you feel sensually connected to yourself,” said Monica Levine, a clinical social worker who runs a private practice in Northampton and is a certified sex therapist.

Edie Daly, 80, of Northampton, a petite woman with short white hair who was at the talk, says sex continues to be an important part of her life. In fact, she says, the best sex of her life started only after she met her wife at age 60.

“We have a deep abiding love,” she said, adding that she can’t imagine life without sex and other intimate touch. “Sex is another form of communication.”

Getting creative

But sex doesn’t always come easy —  and that’s OK — sometimes it takes a little creativity for older adults to reach satisfaction or to accommodate their changing bodies, Fleishman says.

Joint pain from arthritis, for instance, can make sex uncomfortable. Warm baths or changing positions might make intimacy more comfortable and ease any pain, according to the National Institute on Aging, a federal government organization in Baltimore which researches health in older people.

In cases of erectile dysfunction, massage is one approach that can help, says Fleishman. For vaginal dryness, there are lubricants.

Another woman who came to the talk, Mae Lococo, 93, who lives at Christopher Heights, says her husband was “quite vigorous” in bed up until he passed away two years ago. He was also an excellent ballroom dancer, she adds. She wouldn’t mind meeting another man now, she says, but notes there is a shortage of them at her age.

Consent always a factor

There can be a dark side to sex for those who are residents of nursing homes or other facilities, says Fleishman — the possibility of sexual abuse. She encourages younger people to talk to their parents to make sure they aren’t being victimized in some way. It is important, she says, that they feel free to approach a family member or other advocate for help. Just as younger people need to be aware of the boundaries of consent, older people need to understand them too, she says. Sometimes, as people age, they may experience some cognitive decline or dementia, which can make consenting to sex more difficult. That, she says, makes it particularly important for advocates to look out for them. “Consent is complicated when you get older.”

Aging adults also must continue to be aware of sexually transmitted infections, she says. “Sometimes people say, ‘I’m not going to get pregnant, so why does he need to wear a condom?’ While older adults face the same risks as other populations, sexually transmitted diseases often aren’t on the radar of their doctors, she says.

“They might be thinking the same way their patients’ offspring are: ‘Oh, that’s granddad, he can’t be having sex’ or ‘That’s grandma, she can’t be doing it, she can barely get down the stairs.’

“Well, even if she can’t get down the stairs she still might be able to have some fun upstairs,” Fleishman said.

Get over it

At age 55, Fleishman retired from her 30-year career as director of staff development at Connecticut Valley Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Middletown, Connecticut and went back to school to get a doctorate in human sexuality from Widener University in Pennsylvania.

In addition to holding sessions on sexuality, she is writing a book about LGBT elders. She wants people to get over feeling squeamish about sexuality among the older generation.

“When I talk to young people about what they think old people do in bed and they get all nervous,” she says. “They say, ‘Too many wrinkles’ or ‘eww.’ Well, if you are lucky enough you will get there and you will realize, it isn’t so bad.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How to talk to kids about sex

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“I do know how babies are made,” my then-8-year-old son recently told his 13-year-old sister. She ignored him. “Mom, he really doesn’t,” she said. “You better tell him before he goes to camp and hears it from older kids.” She was right. I had talked to him about love for years, but I must have glossed over the mechanical piece.

According to Deborah Roffman, a teacher and author of “Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ ‘Go-To’ Person About Sex,” I was late to the game. “If we’re not deliberately reaching out to kids by third grade, almost everything they learn after that is going to be remedial,” she says. “Sexual intercourse in the service of reproduction is thoroughly age-appropriate for 6-year-olds.”

Not long after I got my son up to speed, I taught middle school health and wellness for the first time. No amount of parenting readies you for a roomful of curious 13-year-olds. To prepare me, my principal showed me questions kids had asked in the past. “How many times can you ask a girl out before it becomes sexual harassment?” “Is it possible for a boy to put his privates in the wrong hole?” “What are all the different sex positions?”

Well, okay then. I could do this. As Roffman notes, these conversations are simply part of the nurturing process, and we miss the big picture when we focus on “the talk.” “That’s where I start with parents. It’s about how we can raise sexually healthy young people from birth,” she says.

Kids have five core needs when it comes to sexuality, Roffman explains. They need affirmation and unconditional love; information about healthy and unhealthy behaviors; clarity about values such as respect and integrity; appropriate boundaries and limits; and guidance about making responsible, safe choices. Within that framework, here are seven tips to help parents raise kids who know how to make well-considered decisions.

Fill in gaps and debunk myths

Karen Rayne, a sex educator in Texas and author of “GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance and Being You,” says that parents shouldn’t make assumptions about what their kids know. She recalls a student who avoided trampolines because she believed that every time a girl is jostled, an egg dies. Another girl sobbed in a bathroom at a water park when she got her period for the first time. “She was being raised by a single dad who never talked to her about it, and she thought she was dying,” she says.

Yuri Ohlrichs, an author and sex educator at Rutgers Netherlands, says that kids are picking up information from peers and the Internet and that parents need to debunk myths. One boy told him that if you clean your genitals with a medical disinfectant after sex, you can’t get a sexually transmitted disease. “Some of the misconceptions are disturbing, and as responsible adults we can take away the tension they create,” he says.

Admit discomfort and stay calm

For parents, acknowledging discomfort is a good first step. “You can begin the conversation with, ‘This is going to be awkward, but we’re going to talk about it anyway because it’s important,’ ” Rayne says. Even if parents are fine, it doesn’t mean their kids are. “Parents need to normalize the dialogue and provide a space where kids can ask anything,” she says. “If young people say something shocking, it’s okay to say, ‘That’s surprising to me.’ ” Still, she recommends parents stay calm and delay their gut reaction. “Process with a friend, partner or religious figure, and then respond in your best emotional state,” she says.

Talk about your family’s values

When Roffman talks to parents, she asks them to list at least five values they want their children to bring to all sexual situations they encounter in their lives. She then urges them to name those values to their kids as young as possible.

By taking this approach, parents can teach the importance of compassion, honesty and respect long before they broach them in a sexual context. “Parents can say, ‘You’re standing too close to me. You’re not respecting my boundaries,’ and talk to children about how no one is allowed to touch them without their permission,” Roffman says.

Last year, her eighth-graders wanted to teach fifth-
graders about consent. They showed an image of the prince kissing Sleeping Beauty along with nonsexual examples of consent. By the end of the presentation, the students understood why Sleeping Beauty was incapable of agreeing to the kiss.

Share personal stories with caution

Before sharing personal information, parents need to think deeply about why they’re sharing it, Roffman says. “There should be a point to the story. What do they hope their child will learn?” She notes that trying to steer a kid’s behavior is not a good motive. “The goal should be to help your child think through decisions they’re going to make,” she says.

Parents also can draw a line when kids ask intrusive questions. “The act of drawing boundaries is powerful, and parents can say, ‘That’s a personal question, and maybe I’ll answer it when you’re older,’ ” Rayne says.

Address stereotypes and gender differences

Ohlrichs encourages adults to take a positive approach to both male and female sexuality. “Not all boys or men are going out there to have sex as much as they can,” he says, noting that boys have insecurities but may struggle to express them. “We have to make sure that boys understand that you’re just as much a man if you’re not experienced sexually as if you are.”

He also urges parents to explain that although there are no hard-and-fast distinctions, males and females might approach sexual scenarios differently. “Boys don’t always understand that a girl might stop kissing because she’s focused on what’s going on around them,” he says. “Boys might be all green lights, but if a girl hears someone in the house or the boy says something that reminds her of a negative experience, it’s over.” Parents can explain that it’s not necessarily a rejection and that the couple needs to work together to make it comfortable. He also suggests that parents tell teens that if someone is giggling or nervous, “it might not be a positive situation for them.”

Ohlrichs urges parents to address stereotypes about female sexuality, noting that girls throughout the world internalize the idea that they need to protect their reputation. “They’re getting the message that they need to conceal excitement and avoid taking initiative, and it’s still one-sided,” he says.

Use media and other sources to start a conversation

“Everything in life can be connected to human sexuality,” Roffman says, and parents can find natural segues in a variety of topics, such as music and sports. Sexetc.org, a website that is run by teens and affiliated with Rutgers University, features polls that parents can use to start a dialogue. Scarleteen.com also has a parenting section and an adult-moderated dialogue board for teens.

Rayne has used the movie “Wonder Woman” and the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” to talk about gender issues with her own children. She also talks to her kids about sexting and shares other Internet cautionary tales when they unfold publicly. Books about sex, gender and reproduction are readily available in her home.

Complete Article HERE!

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