Love, Loving, Lovers!
By Krissy Brady
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and the latest installment in the Fifty Shades movies series, Fifty Shades Darker, hitting theaters today, chances are you could have some sexy thoughts on the brain—so maybe you’re looking to kink things up a bit. Fantasies and experimentation are what keep sex exciting, so if you want to tear a page out of Anastasia’s steamy sex logs but aren’t sure where to start, we got you. (And if you’re interested in spicing up your solo sex life, we’ve got you covered there too: 12 Steps to Better Masturbation.)
BDSM is often referred to as power play or dominant/submissive play, and can involve bondage and discipline (B&D), and sado-masochism (S/M), in which partners explore sensations, including pain, while testing the power dynamics of their relationship, explains certified sex therapist Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D. “Because it’s considered a ‘power exchange,’ this means that play should be consensual, safe, and sane,” she says.
No type of power play is considered “abnormal” so long as those involved in the action are willing participants and it doesn’t interfere with other aspects of life. You can make the experience whatever you want—some people may dabble in a specific behavior or two, while others prefer to act out entire scenes. (BTW, apparently kinky sex can make you more mindful, so that’s another bonus.)
“A little power playing can be just what the doctor ordered for a stagnating sexual relationship because it can shift the dynamic, create a healthy sense of sexual drama, and improve emotional intimacy,” says Van Kirk.
Ready to get down to business? Here’s everything you need to know about adding a little spice (and spank) to your sex life:
“BDSM is about intense sensations, role play, and physical challenges endured for the sake of pleasure,” says sexologist Gloria Brame, Ph.D., author of Different Loving Too. “Whatever BDSM games may look like on the outside to frightened prudes, the inside reality is that it’s insanely exciting, unbelievably intimate, and so fun that you lose all track of time.” However, rushing into BDSM before you’ve accepted and embraced your needs and given yourself permission to ask for what you really want is, in short, a bad idea. “The number-one mistake women make is expecting their partner to give them permission to enjoy their own fantasies,” she says. So, read a lot, surf a lot, and make sure you feel empowered to go after what you want, instead of just dumping fantasies in your partner’s lap and expecting someone to act on them.
“Before you deep dive into your fantasies and go naughty before nice, it’s actually useful to make a list of what you want and check it twice—once by yourself, and once with your partner,” says Los Angeles–based sexologist Christine Milrod, Ph.D. Planning in advance helps you gauge what each other’s boundaries are—breath play might be kosher, but blood play not so much—while building anticipation for the big event. (And if you’re not sure what your fantasies even are, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedoms provides a thorough list of practices that fall under the BDSM category.)
Approaching this particular sex talk in an upbeat, frisky way will make your partner more curious and willing to explore your fantasies. “We’re all wired to be curious about sexual variety,” says Brame. “We all instinctively want to try things that could make us more turned on too.” Need a super-easy way to broach the subject? Read him your favorite passage from a sexy book—you know, the one you read when it’s just you and your vibrator. “If nothing else, it’s a great place to start the conversation and let him know what turns you on,” says Brame.
“Many people are vastly unprepared and end up going overboard, with less than optimal results,” says Milrod. If you want to explore spanking, for example, focus on that activity specifically, thinking about the location of your session (think: bed, or kitchen), laying out the props (hair brush, paddle, riding crop) and then engaging with each other in a way that feels comfortable for both of you, she says. Savor each move, and the effect, whether you’re the giver or the receiver.
“Creating and adhering to the safe word is paramount,” says Milrod. “Activities can always be up for negotiation, but not usually while you’re engaged in play. This is why it’s so important to write the prescription beforehand—nasty surprises aren’t always what you bargained for.” Always remember that the second it stops being pleasurable to you, it means your relationship has gone to an unhealthy place. “Use safe words, negotiate boundaries, keep it safe, and expect pleasure,” says Brame.
If you’re just starting your journey, don’t limit yourself with labels or assume you’ll always play only one role. You may find that you enjoy switching roles or that your own definition of yourself needs to be stretched in new ways. “Let your turn-ons guide you to explore new fantasies and roles, and don’t feel like you must pick one and stick with it,” says Brame. (Next up: How to Have a One-Night Stand with Your Partner.)
Processing the experience after-the-fact is just as important as planning for it. “Practicing BDSM requires communication—so don’t walk away with assumptions in mind,” says Milrod. Being honest and asking questions won’t just help you create future mind-blowing experiences, but will boost your intimacy and closeness in a big way. (P.S. Here are the conversations to have with your partner for a better O.) “Remember, this is your (and your partner’s) very own world,” adds Milrod. Treat it with respect.
Complete Article HERE!
In her new book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, the psychologist Barbara Fredrickson offers a radically new conception of love.
Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents scientific evidence to argue that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting, continually present emotion that sustains a marriage; it is not the yearning and passion that characterizes young love; and it is not the blood-tie of kinship.
Rather, it is what she calls a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day. You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with less likely candidates, like a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store. Louis Armstrong put it best in “It’s a Wonderful World” when he sang, “I see friends shaking hands, sayin ‘how do you do?’ / They’re really sayin’, ‘I love you.'”
According to the University of Chicago’s John Cacioppo, an expert on loneliness, and his co-author William Patrick, “at any given time, roughly 20 percent of individuals—that would be 60 million people in the U.S. alone—feel sufficiently isolated for it to be a major source of unhappiness in their lives.” For older Americans, that number is closer to 35 percent. At the same time, rates of depression have been on the rise. In his 2011 book Flourish, the psychologist Martin Seligman notes that according to some estimates, depression is 10 times more prevalent now than it was five decades ago. Depression affects about 10 percent of the American population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
A global poll taken last Valentine’s Day showed that most married people—or those with a significant other—list their romantic partner as the greatest source of happiness in their lives. According to the same poll, nearly half of all single people are looking for a romantic partner, saying that finding a special person to love would contribute greatly to their happiness.
But to Fredrickson, these numbers reveal a “worldwide collapse of imagination,” as she writes in her book. “Thinking of love purely as romance or commitment that you share with one special person—as it appears most on earth do—surely limits the health and happiness you derive” from love.
“My conception of love,” she tells me, “gives hope to people who are single or divorced or widowed this Valentine’s Day to find smaller ways to experience love.”
You have to physically be with the person to experience the micro-moment. For example, if you and your significant other are not physically together—if you are reading this at work alone in your office—then you two are not in love. You may feel connected or bonded to your partner—you may long to be in his company—but your body is completely loveless.
To understand why, it’s important to see how love works biologically. Like all emotions, love has a biochemical and physiological component. But unlike some of the other positive emotions, like joy or happiness, love cannot be kindled individually—it only exists in the physical connection between two people. Specifically, there are three players in the biological love system—mirror neurons, oxytocin, and vagal tone. Each involves connection and each contributes to those micro-moment of positivity resonance that Fredrickson calls love.
When you experience love, your brain mirrors the person’s you are connecting with in a special way. Pioneering research by Princeton University’s Uri Hasson shows what happens inside the brains of two people who connect in conversation. Because brains are scanned inside of noisy fMRI machines, where carrying on a conversation is nearly impossible, Hasson’s team had his subjects mimic a natural conversation in an ingenious way. They recorded a young woman telling a lively, long, and circuitous story about her high school prom. Then, they played the recording for the participants in the study, who were listening to it as their brains were being scanned. Next, the researchers asked each participant to recreate the story so they, the researchers, could determine who was listening well and who was not. Good listeners, the logic goes, would probably be the ones who clicked in a natural conversation with the story-teller.
What they found was remarkable. In some cases, the brain patterns of the listener mirrored those of the storyteller after a short time gap. The listener needed time to process the story after all. In other cases, the brain activity was almost perfectly synchronized; there was no time lag at all between the speaker and the listener. But in some rare cases, if the listener was particularly tuned in to the story—if he was hanging on to every word of the story and really got it—his brain activity actually anticipated the story-teller’s in some cortical areas.
The mutual understanding and shared emotions, especially in that third category of listener, generated a micro-moment of love, which “is a single act, performed by two brains,” as Fredrickson writes in her book.
Oxytocin, the so-called love and cuddle hormone, facilitates these moments of shared intimacy and is part of the mammalian “calm-and-connect” system (as opposed to the more stressful “fight-or-flight” system that closes us off to others). The hormone, which is released in huge quantities during sex, and in lesser amounts during other moments of intimate connection, works by making people feel more trusting and open to connection. This is the hormone of attachment and bonding that spikes during micro-moments of love. Researchers have found, for instance, that when a parent acts affectionately with his or her infant—through micro-moments of love like making eye contact, smiling, hugging, and playing—oxytocin levels in both the parent and the child rise in sync.
The final player is the vagus nerve, which connects your brain to your heart and subtly but sophisticatedly allows you to meaningfully experience love. As Fredrickson explains in her book, “Your vagus nerve stimulates tiny facial muscles that better enable you to make eye contact and synchronize your facial expressions with another person. It even adjusts the miniscule muscles of your middle ear so you can better track her voice against any background noise.”
The vagus nerve’s potential for love can actually be measured by examining a person’s heart rate in association with his breathing rate, what’s called “vagal tone.” Having a high vagal tone is good: People who have a high “vagal tone” can regulate their biological processes like their glucose levels better; they have more control over their emotions, behavior, and attention; they are socially adept and can kindle more positive connections with others; and, most importantly, they are more loving. In research from her lab, Fredrickson found that people with high vagal tone report more experiences of love in their days than those with a lower vagal tone.
Historically, vagal tone was considered stable from person to person. You either had a high one or you didn’t; you either had a high potential for love or you didn’t. Fredrickson’s recent research has debunked that notion.
In a 2010 study from her lab, Fredrickson randomly assigned half of her participants to a “love” condition and half to a control condition. In the love condition, participants devoted about one hour of their weeks for several months to the ancient Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation. In loving-kindness meditation, you sit in silence for a period of time and cultivate feelings of tenderness, warmth, and compassion for another person by repeating a series of phrases to yourself wishing them love, peace, strength, and general well-being. Ultimately, the practice helps people step outside of themselves and become more aware of other people and their needs, desires, and struggles—something that can be difficult to do in our hyper individualistic culture.
Fredrickson measured the participants’ vagal tone before and after the intervention. The results were so powerful that she was invited to present them before the Dalai Lama himself in 2010. Fredrickson and her team found that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, people could significantly increase their vagal tone by self-generating love through loving-kindness meditation. Since vagal tone mediates social connections and bonds, people whose vagal tones increased were suddenly capable of experiencing more micro-moments of love in their days. Beyond that, their growing capacity to love more will translate into health benefits given that high vagal tone is associated with lowered risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Fredrickson likes to call love a nutrient. If you are getting enough of the nutrient, then the health benefits of love can dramatically alter your biochemistry in ways that perpetuate more micro-moments of love in your life, and which ultimately contribute to your health, well-being, and longevity.
Fredrickson’s ideas about love are not exactly the stuff of romantic comedies. Describing love as a “micro-moment of positivity resonance” seems like a buzz-kill. But if love now seems less glamorous and mysterious then you thought it was, then good. Part of Fredrickson’s project is to lower cultural expectations about love—expectations that are so misguidedly high today that they have inflated love into something that it isn’t, and into something that no sane person could actually experience.
Jonathan Haidt, another psychologist, calls these unrealistic expectations “the love myth” in his 2006 book The Happiness Hypothesis:
True love is passionate love that never fades; if you are in true love, you should marry that person; if love ends, you should leave that person because it was not true love; and if you can find the right person, you will have true love forever. You might not believe this myth yourself, particularly if you are older than thirty; but many young people in Western nations are raised on it, and it acts as an ideal that they unconsciously carry with them even if they scoff at it… But if true love is defined as eternal passion, it is biologically impossible.
Love 2.0 is, by contrast, far humbler. Fredrickson tells me, “I love the idea that it lowers the bar of love. If you don’t have a Valentine, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have love. It puts love much more in our reach everyday regardless of our relationship status.”
Lonely people who are looking for love are making a mistake if they are sitting around and waiting for love in the form of the “love myth” to take hold of them. If they instead sought out love in little moments of connection that we all experience many times a day, perhaps their loneliness would begin to subside.
Complete Article HERE!
First up are the infamous nipple clips or clamps. They are a favorite in sensation play. Whether it’s sucking, pinching, prodding, or pulling the nipples, clamps are meant to flirt with the painful side of pleasure. Don’t let the discomfort angle scare you off . Nipple clips can be perfectly harmless, especially for beginners, when used correctly.
Also, remember, both genders have nipples, so this needn’t be for women only. When picking out a tit torture product, you can test the strength on your finger or even better, the flesh of your arm, which is fairly sensitive. A good rule of thumb is that if it hurts your finger, your nipple is not going to be happy. Definitely work up to a stronger clamp if that’s your goal.
For beginners, I suggest a sucking type of clamp like Gripper Nipple Suckers by Atomic Jock to stimulate your nipples to full attention. They are easy to use (simply squeeze and let go on the nipple). If you are up for something a bit more edgy, try the 3-Speed Vibrating Nipple Clamps.
They vibrate wirelessly (which can help intensify the pressure in a good way), are waterproof, and, best of all, fully adjustable for whichever kind of level you are at. Pairing some trusty nipple clamps with restraints (and heck, throw in a blindfold!) will work superbly as torture play. Tease, tease, and tease your partner some more with the exquisite pressure of nipple clamps. They will definitely bring out your naughtier side.
Next, is the realm of sensory deprivation.
It may sound like an insignificant and simple item, but a blindfold can make a world of difference. Covering your or your lover’s eyes creates a vulnerability that can be quite thrilling.
If you don’t know when or where the next caress, pat, or lick will go you can be sure that this will create a whole new level of sensual tension. Plus, with a good quality blind fold impeding your sight, other sensations will take charge with a vengeance.
Try covering your lovers eyes while whispering something suggestive into his/her ear. Or, even better, both strip to the buff, make sure the blind is secure, and surprise them by ravishing different parts of their body, or rubbing parts of yours all over them. Especially paired with your favorite restraint, blindfolds can be a surprisingly new way to spice up your sex life.
Most any cloth material will work as a makeshift blindfold, but I suggest something like the Institutional Fleece Lined Blindfold as a starter product. It’s soft, dark, and molds to your face making each wear comfy with all the sexy benefits of sensory deprivation.
Restraints also heighten sexual tension. Whether it’s the cool metal of handcuffs (please, make sure you have the key!), the flexibility of rope, or the simplicity of scarves and ties, whatever you use to restrain your lover will provide a whole new dimension to sex play.
But first things first, some safety tips.
Have an exit: Make sure you both are comfortable with untying the knot or unlocking the cuff. Have a pair of scissors near to hand just in case.
Too tight is not right: This is a biggie: watch how tightly you knot the material or cuff. Cutting off circulation will get unsexy in a hurry. So if you or your partner feels any numbness, pain, or strain in their tied limb, speak up so the restraint can be adjusted. Having a mutual safe word as well as trying a few practice knots on yourself so you can be up to par and ready for the real session.
Once you’re a-OK with ropes, cuffs, or whatever you’re using, get ready to tease your partner until they beg for more! For beginners, I would suggest using either Cotton Bondage Rope or the KinkLab BedSpread Under Bed Bondage Straps. Both are very user friendly (the bed bindings doesn’t even need a post or headboard!) and will ease you into your bondage fantasies.
Once you or your partner is successfully restrained, tease your way up and down their body, varying the pressure and consistency of your touch, pats or (even better) licks. Incorporate other sensations (cold or hot, silky or rough, etc.) or other toys. Even your most steadfast vibrator can turn into a whole new experience once you’re no longer in control.
Though there is very real potential for drool with this torture device, I say go for it! You will also be depriving your partner of speech. When they can’t tell you what they want, you must rely on moans, groans, and body language. The gag can be a major prop in role playing too.
Try some rougher play, with restraints and even a blindfold. The gag is meant to be power play, so maybe a game of sex slave for the afternoon with your lover on hands and knees with the ball gag and nothing else. Or the classic break-in situation, with a burglar restraining and gagging the unsuspecting victim before ravaging their body. It’s completely up to you.
As for products, try the Silicone Ball Gag w/ Garment Leather Strap to see if you like the feel. Those looking for more might consider stepping up to the Tantus Beginner Ball Gag. Just make sure you maintain proper hygiene in safely washing these toys, since they are going in your mouth. Many are silicone, rubber, latex, or metal, so easily washable, or even bleachable.
Simply insert the gag into your/your partner’s mouth, adjust the strap, and there you go. Some more complicated gags have different parts, metal bits, or can be adjusted in multiple fashions. Also, since a safe word will be harder understand, be sensitive to each others body language, as it will indicate what they’re feeling. Overall, make sure you’re comfortable with the gag and then unleash your wilder fantasies.
My final tip is to keep your experimentation playful. Have a sense of humor about the whole blasted thing. If this play becomes a chore or a bore, shut it down and go back to your former alleged life.