Search Results: The Erotic Mind

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Why Embracing Your Sexuality (Fetishes & All) Makes You A More Attractive Partner

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Growing into our sexual selves is a lifelong process, like growing up in general. But because we don’t have a lot of language for our sexual lives, we somehow erroneously expect that sex is something we are born knowing how to do. Like any other physical and emotional skill, our sexual capacity to both give and receive pleasure increases with education and practice.

We begin waking up to our emerging erotic consciousness in our early adolescence. This awakening process is mostly subconscious, as our maturing brain connects the powerful arousal mechanism to historic and unresolved painful events and relationships. Like our fingerprints, or the subtle distinctions in our sense of smell—what turns us on sexually is largely outside of our control and often contradicts the way we view ourselves outside of the bedroom.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the first and often the most persistent issue for most of us on our sexual journey is reconciling our interests with our sense of what is “normal.” Quite often, sexual discovery tests the boundaries of normalcy. Our sexual selves are the unique, wild streak in us that cannot be contained and whose full pleasure potential cannot be achieved if we try to rein it in.

“Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” —Sydney Harris

Instead of healthy dialogue and reliable information about what it means to become and embrace who we are sexually, our curiosity and confusion about emerging sexuality are often met with archaic teachings, generational discomfort from those we trust, misinformation from our peers, and a complex cultural obsession.

The majority of us never have the opportunity to adequately explore the questions that arise from our earliest adolescent erotic awakening. Maturing beyond our initial discomfort requires education, and real sexual education is hard to come by.

For many young people, low-grade anxiety prevents them from engaging in any real conversations, whether with a friend, doctor, or even their partners about their fears and the obstacles they face sexually. Often, even the more progressive will turn their sexual concerns into a joke, laughing at their discomfort and communicating either that sexual concerns are not to be taken seriously or at least not to be discussed seriously.

What we suppress becomes more powerful. Suppressing our sexual nature only exacerbates our preoccupation with it. Asking honest questions about our sexual selves and being able to get reliable information allows us to use sexual privacy in healthy ways. Studies show that the kids who are given the most sexual education are often the last ones to engage sexually. They don’t need to learn about it by doing it—their theoretical learning allows them to make healthy choices about when and with whom they want to do it.

People who have come to terms with this essential aspect of their being are happier and more satisfied in every other aspect of their life as well.

Likewise, adults who move beyond their adolescent sexual anxiety through education gain not only the courage to take ownership of their erotic preferences but also the skills to engage in sexual behavior that is consistently pleasurable. Sexually mature adults are not waiting for someone else to make them feel sexy or give them permission to explore the range of their sexual function.

Taking full responsibility for their own sexual needs allows them to also be truly responsive to the sexual needs of others, which makes them attractive partners that tend to stay partnered. Aspiring to sexual maturity evokes a host of other essential skills for life—sexually mature adults tend to also be emotionally intelligent and capable of dealing with life changes.

Our sexual selves are often perceived as a locked box of bizarre fantasies and out-of-control impulses toward carnal pleasure. While it’s true that a mature sex life employs these tools for pleasure, working at our sexual evolution is more like developing core strength. Because our erotic identity is so central to who we are, people who have come to terms with this essential aspect of their being are happier and more satisfied in every other aspect of their life as well.

Complete Article HERE!

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Dominant Submissive Relationships In The Bedroom – Part 2

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Look for Part 1 HERE!

Why BDSM Couples Like Having Rough Sex

4. BDSM: All About Communication

BDSM is still viewed as an unconventional sensual, erotic, and sexual behavior, yet couples who practice this tend to develop a better sense of self. These couples are more likely to communicate their likes and dislikes with their partner. In the previously mentioned 2013 study, Dutch researchers found BDSM lovers were more extraverted, more open to experience, more conscientious, less neurotic, less sensitive to rejection, more securely attached, and higher in subjective well-being. Specifically, all three BDSM subsets, including dominants, submissives, and switches, outscored controls on “subjective well-being”; the difference was significant for dominants.

So, what’s the connection between BDSM and healthy relationships?

It’s a combination of self-awareness and communication. BDSM helps couples recognize their sexual identity and desire. Communication is a standard in BDSM activities because couples must be able to negotiate boundaries and safe practices. According to O’Reilly, some couples feel their overall levels of communication improve with kink play.

“These benefits spill into other areas of the relationship (e.g. parenting, division of labour, emotional expression) and serve to deepen their existing bond,” she said.

Communication and consent are critical in BDSM, especially when it comes to pain play.

5. Pain Is Pleasure: Why It Feels So Good

Several couples will admit they get pleasure from experiencing pain, or inflicting (consensual) pain on others. Yet, some of us will yell in pain when we twist our ankle or break a bone, and even a papercut can produce misery. There’s actually a difference between good pain and bad pain.

“Interestingly, our brain processes social rejection in the same place where it processes physical pain. When we experience pain in a sexual act, we’re going to enjoy that pain differently, because we have a different interpretation to it than an accident where we don’t have control,” Wanis said.

When we experience bad pain, this indicates something is not right, and needs immediate attention. However, when we feel good pain during sadomasochism — giving or receiving pleasure from the infliction or reception of pain and humiliation — it is enjoyable. A 2014 study found sadomasochism alters blood flow in the brain, which can lead to an altered state of consciousness similar to a “runner’s high” or yoga. Brain changes were seen in the prefrontal and limbic/paralimbic pain regions when participants either received pain or gave pain.

Here, the pain led the central nervous system to release endorphins, which are proteins that act to block pain, and promote feelings of euphoria.

It seems pain and pleasure have always been intertwined.

There’s one other reason pain may sometimes feel good: The range of interests in BDSM could possibly possess an evolutionary advantage.

6. Evolutionary Advantage: Is BDSM A Reproductive Strategy?

BDSM involves role playing, with aspects like dominance and submission, which can be roughly translated into lower and/or higher-ranking partners. In mammals, high hierarchical status is linked with increased reproductive success, and Czech researchers believe BDSM-induced arousal could be a manifestation of a mating strategy.

In a 2009 study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found sexual arousal through overemphasized hierarchy, like dominant-slave play, can represent a reproductive strategy. Role play allows someone who has a need to be dominant to feel dominant, and someone who is submissive to be able to reproduce. It joins two people who have varied, but complementary, sexual preferences to reap benefits from each other.

People who engage in BDSM also show adaptability and knowledge of various sexual behaviors. They’re able to relate in socially and sexually unconventional ways that can give them an evolutionary edge. In other words, BDSM can make someone become more open-minded, self-aware, and more expressive in communicating their needs and desires, which is advantageous in any relationship — not just those that are intimate.

7. BDSM: The ‘New’ Way To Have Sex

BDSM has been a thing for a very, very long time, so it’s hardly “new”, but Fifty Shades expanded the conversation around it. The movie inspired people to explore their own sexual preferences, and embrace their naughtiest desires. However, it’s important to note its representation of BDSM is problematic; it is indeed shades of grey.

Couples seem to be enticed by BDSM because it steers away from the conventional, and encourages the exploration of the unknown, or taboo. It’s against society’s norms, and solicits more intrigue.

“We want to break the taboo, and that becomes sexually exciting,” Wanis said.

If we’re willing to hand over our physical, mental, emotional, and psychological safety to our partner — that’s more than just kinky sex, that’s trust. Hopefully, that trust has been earned.

Complete Article HERE!

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Dominant Submissive Relationships In The Bedroom – Part 1

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Why BDSM Couples Like Having Rough Sex

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Many couples will admit sex can become predictable over the course of a relationship. We all know the routine: we go to the bedroom, turn off the lights, and have sex (almost) always in the missionary position until we’re done. Although there’s nothing wrong with “vanilla” sex, some couples choose to spice things up in the bedroom a la Fifty Shades of Grey.

The novel and namesake movie sparked our curiosity surrounding the taboo 6-for-4 deal acronym: Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism, also known as BDSM, or S&M. Some couples receive pleasure from the physical or psychological pain and suffering of biting, grabbing, spanking, or hair pulling. This type of consensual forceful play is a thrill many of us desire, and the reasons are natural.

Heather Claus, owner of DatingKinky.com, who has been in the BDSM scene for about 24 years, believes people who seek out kink of any kind tend to be looking for something “more.”

“More creative, more passionate, more sexy, more intimate than what they’ve found so far in traditional or ‘vanilla’ relationships,” she told Medical Daily.

Yet, BDSM critics believe it’s an unhealthy, unnatural behavior sought by those who are troubled, or with compromised mental health.

So, does our urge for naughty, uninhibited sex reflect an underlying psychological disorder, or is it just a part of a healthy sexual lifestyle?

1. Shades Of Grey: DSM-5

In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele have a budding “romance” that revolves around partially consensual BDSM where Grey inflicts pain or dominance over his partner. Grey admits to being neglected by his mother who was a drug addict and controlled by a pimp, who would beat and abuse him. It has long been believed those in BDSM relationships often show signs of the mental disorder sexual sadism.

Currently, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), used by mental health professionals, individuals are diagnosed with “sexual sadism” if they experience sexual excitement from the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim. They must meet the following criteria:

1) “Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving acts (real, not simulated) in which the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim is sexually exciting to the person.”

2)  “The person has acted on these sexual urges with a nonconsenting person, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.”

BDSM Sadist Vs. Diagnosed Sadist

There are two clear distinctions between a BDSM sadist and a sadist according to the manual. In BDSM, a sadist revels in the consensual pain that is desired by the bottom, or receiver. They enjoy the fact that the bottom enjoys the pain. However, a diagnosed sadist enjoys when they hurt another truly and deeply without consent.

“In a BDSM ‘scene,’ pain creates a connection and depth, an intimacy if you will,” said Claus. The key here is consent.

Someone who identifies as a kinky sadist is often looking for this, or even more than just the pain experience.

Fifty Shades has received a lot of criticism because it’s not an accurate portrayal of BDSM. Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert, believes there are many misconceptions about the practice due to how it’s shown in the movie. For example, in Grey and Steele’s day-to-day relationship, she’s afraid of him. He takes her old Volkswagen and sells it without her consent, and then hands her the keys to a new, luxurious car.

Wanis stresses Grey made the choice for her, without considering whether she had an opinion, or whether that opinion means anything or not.

Fifty Shades of Grey opened conversations around rough sex, kinky sex, and BDSM, although it’s not an example of BDSM, it’s rather an example of psychological abuse, as well as physical, verbal, and maybe even sexual abuse,” Wanis told Medical Daily.

A healthy, functional BDSM relationship thrives on communication.

“When we are practicing things that have the potential to harm—and I’m using the word harm to mean lasting damage versus hurt to mean current pain—communication and consent are critical,” Claus said.

Moreover, those who practice BDSM may be just as mentally healthy as non-practitioners. Many other factors determine one’s mental health besides sexuality.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality found BDSM is not a pathological symptom, but rather, a wide range of normal human erotic interests. Researchers administered a questionnaire and 7 psychometric tests to 32 participants who self-identified as BDSM practitioners. The findings revealed the group was generally mentally healthy, and just a select few experienced early abuse, while only two participants met the criteria for pathological narcissism, hinting no borderline pathology. No evidence was found that clinical disorders, including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsion, are more prevalent in the BDSM community.

2. Initial Attraction To BDSM

BDSM is not as unconventional as we’d like to think. According to Wanis, a majority of the population has fantasies about dominance and submission. Many women have fantasies about submission, while many men have fantasies about dominance.

“We all have a fantasy that involves some form of rough sex, because one of us wants to dominate, and one of us wants to submit,” said Wanis.

However, fantasy is not to be confused with reality. Some things look pleasurable in our minds, but wouldn’t turn out well in reality. Our initial attraction to BDSM can originate in two ways; either as an intrinsic part of the self, or via external influences, according to a 2011 study in Psychology & Sexuality.

The researchers noted there were few differences in gender or BDSM role when it came to someone’s initial interest. The only gender differences found were among submissive participants: a greater proportion of men than women cited their interest came from their “intrinsic self,” whereas a greater proportion of women than men cited “external influences.”

In other words, men were more likely to cite their BDSM interest as coming from inside of  themselves compared to women. They were naturally, inherently driven to seek out this type of sexual behavior, whereas women were more influenced by external forces, like a friend or a lover.

Although we know what can trigger our curiosity, why do some of us enjoy it more?

3. Dominant And Submissive Relationship

BDSM involves a wide range of practices that include role-playing games where one partner assumes the dominant role (“dom”), and the other partner assumes a submissive role (“sub”). The dom controls the action, while the sub gives up control, but does set limits on what the dom can do.

“Dominants and submissives come from all walks of life,” Claus said.

For example, in Fifty Shades, Grey is a high-powered leader of a company, which may seem obvious for a dominant man. However, a man or woman who might be in charge in their professional life may want to give up that power in the bedroom.

“Power is the greatest aphrodisiac,” Wanis said. “… giving oneself over to a dominant person represents becoming consumed by the power, which in turn creates sexual arousal.”

A popular misconception is if you’re submissive in the bedroom, you’re weak and have low self-esteem. A partner who chooses to submit to a lover in a consensual, healthy relationship shows a lot of power.

Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, has found many submissives are actually quite powerful people who manage great responsibilities in their professional and personal lives.

“Being submissive in bed allows them an opportunity to play an alternative role and alleviates some of the regular pressure associated with their everyday lives,” she told Medical Daily.

Top, Bottom, And Switching

It’s often mistaken doms are always on top, and submissive are on bottom. A person can simultaneously adopt the role of bottom and dom, known as topping from the bottom. Meanwhile, a bottom can be a submissive partner; someone who receives stimulation, but is not submissive; and someone who enjoys submission on a temporary basis.

Couples tend to have a preferred role they mostly play, but some enjoy alternating roles, known as “switches.”

A 2013 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine asked BDSM aficionados to complete a survey about their sex habits through a website devoted to personal secrets. In the sample, men were primarily tops as 48 percent identified as dominant and 33 percent as submissive. Women were primarily bottoms with 76 percent as submissive, and 8 percent as dominant.

The Submissive Feminist

Now, some critics of BDSM will argue women who want to be submissive in the bedroom are promoting female oppression. These submissive women may be gaining control because they are choosing what they want to do sexually. This includes being bossed around, ordered to perform sex acts, or being spanked, restrained, or verbally talked down to.

Claus asserts, “Feminism is first and foremost about equal rights to choose. So, BDSM, being 100 percent consensual, is a feminist’s paradise.”

Dominant and submissive relationships are not limited to gender; there are men who want to be dominated, and women who want to dominate. This implies our sexual desires don’t always coincide with our personal and political identity. In BDSM, we’re playing a role where a kinky scene can serve as a form of escapism.

“You can have a highly egalitarian relationship and still engage in kinky sex in the presence of ongoing informed consent,” said O’Reilly.

Complete Article HERE!

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Lust, sex and the middle-aged woman

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Women’s sexuality doesn’t die with age, but the level of their desire is diverse.

By Margaret Jennings

She seemed to have it all: a loving family, successful career and beautiful home.

Then Yvonne Carmichael jeopardised everything by having a torrid affair with a random stranger, ripping apart the cosy trajectory of her life.

Yvonne is the lead character in a BBC1 mini-series currently steaming up our TV screens, called Apple Tree Yard.

And while the storyline takes us from the joys of lust to the darkness of rape, it’s rare to see a 50-something female take centre stage in such scenes.

Midlife affairs are usually the reserve of testosterone-driven, crisis-ridden males — as if females have no such needs — or so the media world would have us believe.

Apple Tree Yard, a dramatised version of a novel by Amanda Coe, challenges pre-conceived ideas about middle-age sex.

It not only affirms that it’s OK for older women to be sexually expressive, it annihilates the myth that we become “invisible” and asexual just because we are ageing.

The four-part psychological thriller has prompted a lively debate on this issue and 50-year — old actress Emily Watson, who plays Yvonne, has commented: “Your sexuality doesn’t die with your age. You don’t have to apologise for it.”

The idea that our sexuality can be compartmentalised as non-existent, especially as we are living longer more vital lives, seems absurd.

While Yvonne’s torrid affair illustrates this explicitly, it also raises the issue of how our latent sexual urges are perfectly ripe to be reignited at this stage of life, depending on our circumstances and responses.

“Many women of 50 and beyond succumb to a flagging libido, more difficult arousal and maybe a stale, longtime relationship, by retreating from sex.

“Then they meet someone new and — bam — they feel the excitement that they thought they had left far behind,” says Joan Price, a US author and blogger on senior sexuality.

“They feel on fire. Their sex drive — which they thought was dormant — goes into overdrive. It can be quite an amazing and delicious experience. It can also be bewildering and guilt-filled, if a woman has an affair when she’s in a committed, monogamous relationship.”

Price, now 72, has first- hand experience of this herself: “I was 57 when I met the man who would become my husband and great love. I had been single for decades, with occasional relationships that didn’t go anywhere — and long dry spells.

“It was distressing, because I knew I was a vibrant, sexual being, but after menopause I seemed invisible to the men I met. Many women report that they feel the same. How glorious it is then, when we meet the right person and that person is as electrified as we are!”

The on-screen electricity between research scientist and grandmother-to-be Yvonne, and her handsome lover, Mark Costley (played by Ben Chaplin), is an endorsement of this passionate potential, but is there something missing in our relationship if we yearn to seek those sparks elsewhere?

Sex in relationships is not just about sex, but about the connect between a woman and her partner, says Lisa O’Hara, a couple counsellor with Dublin-based clinic Mind and Body Works.

“If lack of libido is an issue for a couple attending for counselling, it can be part of a wider discontent than just the sexual connection. There may be a loss of closeness in general and resentments by the woman towards the partner that have built up over years, which have gone unaddressed.

“If these are addressed in therapy and things improve, sex may be back once again.”

However, some of her midlife female clients do develop a stronger curiosity about their own desires and fantasies, once free of fear of pregnancy or of other lifestyle issues that had got in the way, says O’Hara.

“Some say ‘I’m out of here’. It totally depends on their unique circumstances and how they feel about themselves.”

The myth that we become less sexual as we age was recently explored in research among women aged 55 to 81, titled Sex, Desire and Pleasure: Considering the experiences of older Australian Women.

Research author Bianca Fileborn, a lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, tells Feelgood: “One of the key findings from our research was that women are really diverse — there’s certainly not one way that older women are ‘doing’ sexuality and sexual desire in mid to later life.

Emily Watson’s as character Yvonne Carmichael in the BBC production of ‘Apple Tree Yard’.

“In fact quantitative research carried out in western countries pretty consistently shows that a significant number of older people remain sexually active — usually a majority — at least until they reach ‘deep’ old age, in their 80s and 90s. But even then, a large minority still have sex.

“Another key finding for us was that women’s desire for sex didn’t depend necessarily on how older they were, but what else was going on their lives that influenced them.”

Irish sexologist Emily Power Smith says she knows women of all ages who, although they’re living with chronic illness and pain, are “determined to find ways to feel sexual”.

“Women who enjoy sex will have sexual desire right to the end of their lives and will find creative ways to keep that spark. But I also work with a number of women in their 50s and above, who want to know what all the fuss is about, because they could quite easily never have sex again.

“Inevitably it transpires that they have never really enjoyed sex. As they begin to discover their ability to feel sexual pleasure and arousal, their drives tend to increase.”

ONCE we are leading healthy lives low libido seems more related to the kind of sex we are having, rather than our age, she says.

“I know many young fertile women who hate sex and many older women, post menopause, who love it. Increasingly, there is research to show that older women embarking on new relationships report no reduction whatsoever in their sexual desire.”

Whatever about the complex rich reality of older women’s everyday sex lives, the screening of Apple Tree Yard may nudge the film and media world towards a more rounded representation of the mature female in all her sensual glory.

And perhaps even encourage women to explore their own sexuality more.

There is a growing posse of sexy women in their 50s and older decades, gracing the fashion and beauty world, in recent times, apart from the fact that some of the original supermodels of the ’90s, such as Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson and Linda Evangelista are already past the half century mark.

This year’s Pirelli calendar also sees photographer Peter Lindbergh tap into the zeitgeist, describing the make-up free portraits of his subjects as a “cry against perfection and youth”.

Some of the high-achieving women he chose to feature were actresses Julianne Moore, 56, Charlotte Rampling, 70, and Helen Mirren, 71.

However, despite this celebration of our vitality as we age, we still may have some catching up to do as individuals, says Power Smith.

“Women do a lot of self-policing when it comes to behaviour, dress and dating over a certain age. I think we are so conditioned to believe our lives are over once we’re 50 — though this is changing slowly — we get very troubled at the thought of our peers wearing short skirts, or dating younger people. But the rules don’t serve us. They never did.

“Only now some of us have the financial freedom, confidence and ability to create new norms. So come on! Let’s break some rules!”

Apple Tree Yard, BBC One, Sunday February 5, 9pm

10 ways to feel sexy

Senior sexpert, author and blogger, Joan Price, gives us these 10 tips for hot sex after 50:

1. Slo-o- o-w- w down. It takes longer for us to warm up, and this intensifies as we get older. Make the warm-up phase of sex play last hours… or days.

2. Appreciate, decorate, and celebrate your body. Jewellery, lingerie, feathers, fringe, silk, velvet, massage oil, candlelight — whatever looks good and feels good. If you know you look sexy, you’ll feel sexy.

3. Learn what you like. Explore, experiment. If you’re partnered, communicate what you like.

4. Do sexy things on your own to get in the mood long before you get naked. Work out. Swim. Dance. Fantasise a sexy scene. Spend some time humming with a vibrator, reading erotica, or watching porn — or all of these.

5. Have sex during high energy times, when your arousal is strongest, whether solo or partnered.

6. If you’re partnered, kiss and kiss. Kiss sweetly, passionately, quickly, slowly, contentedly, hungrily, lightly. All kinds of kisses help you bond with your partner, warm up, and enjoy the moment.

7. Explore sex toys and other erotic helpers, alone and/or with a partner. Lucky for us that sex toys are easy to find, fun to try, and wow, do they work!

8. Use a silky lubricant. There are many different lubricants made specifically for sex that feel great and enhance (or bring back) the joy of friction. Make applying lubricant an erotic part of sex play.

9. Enjoy the afterglow. If you’re partnered, indulge in quality snuggle time.

Solo, don’t get back to your daily life right away — bask in your feelings of wellbeing.

10. Laugh a lot. Laughter is joyful, ageless — and sexy.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Ties That Bind

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 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!

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