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The Ties That Bind

 An Exploration of Anchorage’s Kink Community

by K. Jered Mayer

“Here’s a couch you can sit and relax on, or whatever. I like to suck dick while the guy is reading. It’s the sapiosexual side of me.”

Surprised, I glanced at the man guiding me through the rooms to see if the statement was meant for me. It was not. Not all of it, anyway. Everything after introducing me to the furniture had been an aside to a friend of my leather-clad cicerone as they passed by, but it had been said so offhandedly and received so earnestly that I knew right then I had never been in a place quite like this before.

The Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles–mercifully acronymized and more commonly known as ACAL–has been labeled in the past as “Anchorage’s only sex club.” It’s an oversimplification that people are quick to correct, not least of all the Center’s founder, Sarha Shaubach. The website she set up for ACAL is done so in a way as to put focus on the real purpose behind the organization’s inception. Not for scintillation nor sexploitation. Certainly not for orgies, which require “a lot of planning and connection” to arrange. Instead, the focus is on community.

“Your Kink Community Home Base” graces the top of the main page, followed by a description promising “elevated kink education and foundation building,” as well as a “judgement [sic] free, body positive environment,” and protection and equipment for healthy exploration.

The FAQ section on their website goes even further into detail. Here, BDSM is defined as a more complex, overlapping number of ideas, and not just whips and chains and ball gags. There are answers in this area to questions about privacy, membership costs and advantages and various other things to expect regarding dress codes (there isn’t one), alcohol–there isn’t any of that, either; it’s critical there is zero confusion regarding consent–and what else is offered for those not interested in the tying or whipping side of it. And there is plenty offered: card games, movie nights, bootblacking (the polishing of one’s leathers) and regular classes on rope and knot work to promote healthy bondage and prevent serious injuries.

While the club itself had some initial troubles starting up–Sarha notably sent the Press a letter in December 2014 detailing her struggles getting ACAL up and running in the old Kodiak bar building while co-leasing the space with “Fuck It” Charlo Greene–classes, play sessions, recurring memberships and group events have proven strong enough to keep the community thriving.

So much so, in fact, that it was inevitable a larger venue would someday be needed. When that day came this last summer, ACAL didn’t need to look far to find it. Back in June, weekend events began being held in an 8,000-square foot space on 3rd Avenue. By July, they were fully moved in.

When ACAL finally came to my personal attention last month, they had fully settled into the location and I was chomping at the bit to write about it. Sexuality has always fascinated me in its myriad forms, as has people’s reactions to it and how readily some subscribe to an opinion based on what they think something is and not based on what it actually is.

I wanted to know. I wanted to learn.

ACAL offers a text-based subscriptions service to alert people of upcoming events. When I reached out to Sarha for the first time, she asked if she could sign me up for what she called “the same spam stuff” she gave to anyone interested in attending the Center for the first time. I agreed–I wanted to approach this from the ground up.

So it is that I found myself downtown on New Year’s Eve opening a door with a leather pride flag draped over it. I ducked inside and scaled a gray stone staircase, then waited my turn as the woman in the box office window politely explained to a couple men that no, this wasn’t the entrance to the Latin dance party that was also going on, that was the other side of the building, this was something much, much different. They shuffled back past me. It was my turn.

“Yeah, I’m here for the, ah…” At the time, I only knew it as the Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles, which was a rigid mouthful, or as the “fetish club,” which seemed remarkably ill-informed. Which I was. So I stammered.

“Are you here for the dance night or for ACAL,” she asked. I confirmed the latter. When she asked me if it was my first time attending, I confirmed that too and she handed me a five-page pamphlet on the rules to follow, appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and the safe word. Safety, discretion, clear-mindedness, consent and a zero-tolerance policy on hate speech were all heavily emphasized. I signed a consent sheet and returned it to the box office, where I was quizzed on what I had read before being allowed entry.

I passed my quiz with rainbow colors, paid my $25 non-member entry fee and had my license number written down and filed away with my paperwork. Once that was finished, I was assigned a guide to give me a tour of the facility.

“Normally, we’ve got the whole floor,” I was told. “But sometimes, like tonight, we rent out the big room to other events. Only this side is open tonight, but that’s okay. Sometimes I like that more. It’s more intimate.”

The first room I was led into was the social room. Cell phones are allowed here, but strictly for texts. Pictures are prohibited and people are asked to take calls outside, to maximize privacy. There are plenty of seats around the space to relax or recline upon. Snacks or food are customarily set out for guests, as are sodas and water. The night I went, there was a hummus plate. It was delicious.

The social area serves multiple purposes. Members and guests can meet here to discuss activities for the evening, or to shoot the shit, or to take a break from anything that was too exhausting or discomfiting in the play room. I saw an even mix of men and women sprawled out under a number of fantastic art pieces. Variety was the spice of life in the social room when it came to age, body types and dress. T-shirts and jeans here, corsets and leather chaps there. I saw smiling faces. I heard giggles, chuckles and guffaws. It felt safe. Relaxed.

From there, we moved into a second, transitional room. The room with the couch. While my guide took a moment to discuss oral sex preferences and unrelated plans for the weekend, I took in the small area. Some pornography sat on top of a cabinet for anyone needing a primer to get in the mood. On the walls were photos of bound men and women. There was a bookcase packed with books on sexuality and erotica. There was also a healthy collection of close-up, black and white photographs of vaginas with varying grooming situations and piercing statuses. It was fascinating to me, from an artistic perspective, to see such a display of body variance.

The last room, just beyond, was the playroom. Low-lit, blue themed. A long, padded table was positioned near the door for massages or wax play. A mattress was pushed against one corner on the right, covered in a Minions blanket that honestly struck me as the most out-of-place thing in the room. The bed was unoccupied, but the other corner on the right side was not, as a young man practiced different knots while binding his girlfriend. They moved thoughtfully, conscious of each other’s bodies, a sensuous grace about them.

To their left, against the center of the back wall, was a stand meant for kneeling over. A couple was wrapping up their spanking session. It was loud and vigorous and I could feel my cheeks flushing as aggressively as, well, hers.

And still there was more. Directly in front of me was a cushioned bench. A wooden overhang had a metal ring affixed to it. A man walked by me, trailed by a woman, as my tour guide described the layout. He stripped down to his underwear and his companion helped slip a restraint through the ring, binding his wrists above his head. She followed that with some light whipping and tickling. She massaged his bare back. She slapped his ass. The entire time, they communicated clearly.

There was one more room, an off-shoot to the left, that held a cage and two X-shaped structures one could be bound to. Whatever had been going on before I stepped in was over and the women there were busy getting dressed and cleaning the equipment.

My tour ended then, with an, “And there you go! Have fun!”

I did have fun, though I couldn’t help but feel a little like an outsider. I watched these men and women during intimate moments. A woman undressing while her friends bound her with thin rope. A young couple using the open floor space to wrestle, asserting dominance over each other. A lady in a frilly blue skirt being digitally stimulated by a man who looked like a sexy train conductor. I was a voyeur, drinking in the sights, but though I was fascinated, I wasn’t quite prepared for the role. I retreated after a while to the social room. Did I mention the hummus plate was delicious?

I left around midnight. The New Year. The ball had dropped, people were toasting. I left with nothing but positive impressions in mind.

But Sarha and I had agreed that you couldn’t gauge the Center based off one experience. And so a week later I returned. The full floor was open this time for a 12-hour lock-in event. I brought two women with me, neither of whom had ever been, to see how it felt to others.

On my return trip, the playroom I experienced the first time had been rearranged into a general activity room. There were more attendees as well, but fewer sexual activities. Instead, everyone was more focused on games like no-money strip poker and Cards Against Humanity.

My friends and I checked out the other half of the floor eventually, walking into a room I can only describe as cavernous. The floor was bare concrete, which tied up the winter cold and exposed it to us. Heat bars were plugged in, to little effect. A handful of lamps provided gloomy illumination.

There was plenty more room here to put on a show. Tables and mats were set up to lay and play upon. At the back, a silhouette screen and photographer were set up for discrete erotic photo sessions. To one side sat a Sybian. If you’re unfamiliar with those, it’s a sort of vibrating saddle to which you can secure a synthetic dick. A box nearby had an incredible assortment of different lengths, girths and angles.

The room was impressive and filled with orgasmic opportunities, but with so much cold and open space and with so few people occupying it, it felt almost too bare. I recalled my guide’s preference for the more intimate arrangements, and it made sense to me now. This felt less like a shared moment and more like an impersonal display, a sentiment shared by one of the women with me.

All the same, both of my companions–neither identified as particularly fetishistic or kinky–told me they could definitely feel the sense of comfort and community that permeated the walls of ACAL. It was a reminder, again, that this place was meant to be more than just a “sex club.”

My friends and I left and talked about the evening over drinks and in the days that followed I reached out to other members of Anchorage’s fetish and kink community to talk about their experiences in general and to see what their relationship with ACAL–if any–had been like. The majority of responses were positive, but not all of them.

In fairness and full disclosure, I did hear back from a pair of women who had been decidedly turned off by their visits. One lady told me she had been pressured multiple times by men ignoring the No Means No rule–victims of this harassment are encouraged to approach management immediately so the violator can be dealt with. Astoria, who gave me permission to use her name, told me she didn’t have confidence in the level of security or protection the club promised.

I can see how this could be a concern. Aside from having documented signatures and taking down license and ID numbers, there isn’t a way to effectively run background checks on everyone rolling through. Instead, members and guests are expected to be self-reliant and cautious through conversation. When it works–as in the case of convicted sex offender Daniel Eisman who broke his probation by attending last October–the nefarious entity is quickly rousted from the club. But when it doesn’t work? Well, it comes down to observation, communication, crossed fingers and a knock on wood.

That being said, my experiences with ACAL and my research into the community around it left me with the firm belief that these types of incidents are in the minority and that the heart of the organization beats around the desire to provide a sense of normalcy to lifestyles different than what most might be used to. They do this by promoting education, patience, discussion, acceptance and understanding that not everyone is going to get off to the same thing. And that’s okay! The lesson is to be comfortable with yourself.

Wrapping this up, I thought it best to end with something for people who might be on the fence. For that, I went back to the community. I asked Astoria–a 26-year-old local fetishist who says she’s tried just about everything–for one thing she would tell anyone curious about alternate lifestyles.

“SSC,” she said. “Safe, Sane and Consensual. That phrase is a big part of being kinky. People are in the lifestyle because it’s something they enjoy or need to get by with the rest of what life throws at you.”

Being safe, considerate of the comfort of others and treating people rationally. Crazy how key behaviors in an “alternative” lifestyle are the same things everyone should already be doing regularly.

And was there anything else I took home from the experience, I’m going to assume you’re asking. Did I come away with any new interests myself? Well, I’ll just have to get back to you. I’m a little tied up at the moment.

Complete Article HERE!

Nearly Half of U.S. Men Infected With HPV, Study Finds

Although a vaccine is available, too few are getting it when young

 

Many American men are infected with the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV), but unlike women, men are more likely to stay infected throughout their lives, a new study finds.

About 45 percent of U.S. men are infected with the sexually transmitted disease, as are 45 percent of women. Among women, the prevalence of HPV infection drops to about 22 percent as they age, but it remains high among men, said lead researcher Dr. Jasmine Han. She is in the division ofgynecologic oncology at Womack Army Medical Center, in Fort Bragg, N.C.

“We don’t know why it stays high in men while it drops in women,” she said. “Among men it’s higher than expected.”

Han speculates that the virus may remain in men because it lives in the penile glands, while in women, the virus is near the surface of the vagina and is more easily shed.

Although a vaccine against HPV has been available since 2009, coverage remains low. Only about 11 percent of men and 33 percent of women have been vaccinated, Han said.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease among men and women in the United States, according to background information in the study. About 79 million Americans are infected with some type of HPV, with approximately half of new infections occurring before age 24, the study authors said.

Most people infected with HPV don’t know they have it and don’t develop health problems from it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But HPV is not a benign infection. More than 9,000 cases of HPV-related cancers occur in men each year. HPV is the cause of 63 percent of penile, 91 percent of anal, and 72 percent of oral and throat cancers, the researchers noted.

In addition, HPV among men is an indirect cause of cervical cancer in women. The virus is also responsible for 90 percent of genital warts. HPV can also lead to tumors in the respiratory tract, called respiratory papillomatosis.

Han believes that the HPV vaccine should be mandatory for both boys and girls.

The CDC recommends that all boys and girls aged 11 to 12 get two doses of the HPV vaccine.

“We want our children to be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine because it is a cancer vaccine,” Han said. “By getting vaccinated, you can prevent your sons and daughters from getting these HPV-associated cancers in later years,” she explained.

Fred Wyand is a spokesman for the American Sexual Health Association/National Cervical Cancer Coalition. “This study underscores that HPV is common in men, and that’s true throughout most of their lives,” he said.

“We’re doing a better job of getting young males vaccinated against HPV, but uptake is still way below the levels we’d like to see,” Wyand added.

To get parents to accept the vaccine for their children, Wyand suggested that doctors need to give a “clear, strong recommendation for vaccination and treat HPV immunization as a normal, routine part of adolescent vaccinations.”

To gauge the prevalence of HPV infection among men, Han and colleagues used data on nearly 1,900 men who took part in the 2013-2014 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Samples from penile swabs were tested for HPV.

Overall, a little more than 45 percent of the men were infected with the cancer-causing virus. Among vaccine-eligible men, however, only about 11 percent had been vaccinated.

The lowest prevalence of the virus among men was about 29 percent for those aged 18 to 22, which increased to nearly 47 percent in men aged 23 to 27 and stayed high and constant as men aged, Han said.

It’s possible that the lower rate among younger men may have resulted from young men being vaccinated, the researchers said.

The report was published online Jan. 19 in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Complete Article HERE!

Americans Have Way More Casual Sex and Sexual Partners Than 30 Years Ago

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Today in news that may leave you joyous, exuberant, and otherwise rapt with passion: All the numbers point to Americans having lots and lots more sex than they used to — at least according to this infographic produced by sex psychologist Dr. Justin Lehmiller, based off research reported to the General Social Survey.

Lehmiller’s chart breaks down how American attitudes and sexual behaviors have shifted in the last 30 years, and if you’re a person who enjoys sex, there’s plenty of reason to be hopeful. Here are the highlights from the Lehmiller’s breakdown:

Sexual partners: Up

The average number of sexual partners increased by more than 57% since the 1980s, from 7 partners on average from 1988-89 to 11 from 2010-12.

Casual sex: Up

The number of Americans who report having had casual sex in the last year jumped by 10%. In the ’80s 26.7% of responders copped to no-strings nookie, compared to 37.9% in 2012. Note that the numbers end with 2012; dating apps have only skyrocketed in popularity and cultural acceptance since then.

Friends with benefits: Up

The amount of acquaintances people report having sex with has also jumped almost 10%. In the ’80s 32.1% of respondents said they’d had sex with a friend in the last year. By the 2010s, that number’s grown to 41.2%.

Regular partners: ‘Bout the same

Not a huge discrepancy on this one. The number of folks who say they get the dirty business on the regular from one partner grew from 92.3% to 93.1%. True love is still on top.

Paying for sex: Still not a thing most people do (or admit to)

This one’s gone up from 1.8% of respondents in the ’80s who said they paid for sex in the past year, to 3.2% — not a significant change.

Attitudes have also shifted

Premarital sex and and same sex activity are more widely accepted now than they were before, the chart reports — but teen sex and extramarital sex are still far more likely to be seen as “Always Wrong.”

All this might not exactly be surprising in the age of Tinder and wide-release films with names like Sausage PartyAmerican society’s views on sex have come a long way since the time of the AIDS epidemic, and way further since sexual frustration in women was classified as “hysteria.” Despite how depressing the national dialogue on these topics can be sometimes, we’re lucky to live in a time where sex education and conversations about sexuality aren’t nearly as repressed or reductive.

The next time your (well-meaning) friends in relationships give you a hard time about how many Tinder dates you’ve been on this year, point them to this data and tell them to keep stepping.

See the full chart below.

Complete Article HERE!

Why Sex Is Beneficial To Social And Mental Health; Research Shows

Daily sex is good or bad? Know benefits of kissing and benefits of sex and sex education. Sex is good for health and learns sex benefits.
Sex feels good because it stimulates oxytocin, a brain chemical that produces a calm, safe feeling. Oxytocin flows in apes when they groom each other’s fur. Sheep release oxytocin when they stand with their flock.

By Dante Noe Raquel II

The act of intimate sex has been evolving over millions of years as an apparatus to deliver sperm to eggs and initiate pregnancy. Currently, we look at the social and mental aspects of health benefits that are a importance of consenting sexual relationships, or the pursuit of them.

Sex Brings People Together

Have you ever met big shot who is right for you “on paper”, but when push comes to push their scent seems wrong, or the stimulus isn’t there? Our bodies can tell our minds who we don’t want to be with. Similarly, our bodies can give us strong indications about whether we want to stay close to someone.

Such releases are mostly marked during sexual pleasure and orgasm. The release of these chemicals is thought to promote love and pledge between couples and increase the chance that they stay together. Some research secondary this comes from studies of rodents. For example, female voles have been found to bond to male voles when their copulation with them is paired with an infusion of oxytocin.

In individuals, those couples who have sex less regularly are at greater risk of relationship closure than are friskier couples. But oxytocin is not just good for pair bonding. It is released from the brain into the blood stream in many social conditions, including breastfeeding, singing and most actions that involve being “together” pleasurably. It appears oxytocin plays a role in a lot of group oriented and socially sweet activities, and is implicated in altruism.

Bonobos (a species of apes) appear to take full benefit of the link between harmony and sex, often resolving conflicts or heartening one another by rubbing genitals, copulating, masturbating or performing oral sex on one another. This isn’t somewhat to try during a tense board meeting, but such findings hint at the potential role lovemaking may play in settlement between couples.

Sex Is A Healthy Activity

Sex is a form of isometrics: a fun online calculator can help you analyze how much energy you burned during your last sex session.

People with poor physical or sensitive health are also more likely to have sexual problems. Here connection is hard to establish – healthier people will tend to be “up” for more sex, but it is also likely that the physical workout and bonding benefits conversed by satisfying sex lead to healthier, happier lives.

It’s also thinkable our long, energetic, and physically demanding style of sex evolved to help us evaluate the health of probable long-term partners.

Sex Can Make Us Creative

Some truth-seekers propose art forms such as poetry, music and painting result from our drive to get people in bed with us.

In a culture in which there’s at least some choice obtainable in whom we mate with, rivalry will be fierce. Therefore, we need to display features that will make us striking to those we are attracted to.

In humans, this is believed to result in modest and creative displays, as well as displays of humor. We certainly see indication of the success of this method: musicians, for example, are stereotyped as never lacking a possible mate. Picasso’s most creative and creative periods usually coincided with the arrival of a new mistress on the scene.

Science Says: Go For It

What then does science tell us? Simply put, non-reproductive sex is an motion that can bring natural rewards. It can bring people together, help drive creative endeavors, and pay to good health.

Complete Article HERE!

Threesome Sex Fantasy: Part 3

Look for Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE!

The Psychology Behind Why A Menage A Trois Is So Alluring

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4. The Trouble With Threesomes

Health Risks

Sex between two people can provide a host of infections and diseases; sex among three people triples those odds. A threesome is riskier than sex in a mutually monogamous, long-term relationship where both people have been tested. For example, if you touch one person, and you get fluids on you, and you touch the other person, fluids have been exchanged.

There’s a risk of exposing the third partner to bodily fluids when two fluid-bonded partners engage in unprotected sexual acts. In the book The Ethical Slut, author Dossle Easton uses the term “fluid bonding” to describe when partners involved do not use condoms or other barriers during sex.

Barriers for all sexual activities can go overlooked in threesomes; all partners should use a new barrier every time they switch sexual acts. If one person goes from intercourse to fellatio, or vice versa, you change condoms. You also need to change condoms if you move from penetrating one partner to penetrating another. You need to pick up a new dental dam when performing oral sex on someone new.

Psychological Impact

As expected, men are more likely to initiate asking women for a ménage à trois . Women are more likely to be aware and concerned about the potential emotional pitfalls and hurts that can be detrimental to all relationships. This is why couples should discuss their physical and emotional limits before the third person becomes involved.

“I have seen some serious fall-out from threesomes gone badly. It can be hard to predict the intensity of jealousy and hurt when it comes to sexual experience and bringing another person in,” Dr. Gail Saltz, a  psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, told Medical Daily .

Finally, remember that the “special guest” is a person, too. They need to be treated with respect. It’s important to ask them about, and listen to, their limits as well. As with any other sexual experience, everyone needs to feel safe and comfortable enough to say no as well as yes.

5. Should Threesomes Fantasies Just Stay Fantasies?

The threesome fantasy is a common one, whether we like to admit it or not, but should we act it out?

“… Not everybody wants to act out their fantasies,” Masini said, and some people have very good reasons for abstaining.

Many people keep their fantasies in their imaginations because they know if they acted on them, they’d lose their primary relationship. If we fantasize about sex with a neighbor or a colleague, acting out the fantasy could lead to rejection from the object of our fantasies, and a break-up with our significant other.

This is not to say threesomes can’t go well. Those who really know themselves and their partners can have successful trios.

Saltz advises: “It needs to be thoroughly talked through with openness to [discuss] concerns, fears; [couples should be willing] to listen to each other, and retreat if one needs to.”

Once we see our partner enjoying sex with someone else, we can’t unsee it. The potential vulnerability it introduces, and the potential desire for the third person could be detrimental to a relationship.

Before we start calling up friends, or putting “Special guest wanted” in classified ads, we should ask ourselves why we want one in the first place. To fulfill a fantasy? To feel more desired or wanted? Are we trying to fix our intimate relationship with our partner?

Threesomes can be a fun, adventurous sexual experiment, but can they replace true intimacy between two people?

The idea of a threesome is hot, but it doesn’t mean you should actually do it.

We’re in control of our bodies, and our sexual escapades, so whether that means a intimate twosome or a frisky threesome, it’s up to us.

Complete Article HERE!