May 242013
Madison Young as a pony girl on the set of Rough Sex 2

Madison Young as a pony girl on the set of Rough Sex 2

Last month, I gave a talk as part of an evening called
The Truth Behind Fifty Shades of Grey at University of Maryland in College Park. There was a lively audience discussion, and we gave students the opportunity to ask questions anonymously. I asked several of my colleagues to chime in and answer a few of those questions.

Can it be hard to enjoy “vanilla” sex once you’ve escalated [to BDSM]? I’ve heard porn indulgence can desensitize people until they keep needing to escalate–is this the case with BDSM?

I asked my friend and colleague Felice Shays, a sex and BDSM educator, to take this one on. Listen to my fantastic interview with her on Sex Out Loud here. Felice says:

So, you are afraid to try things other than missionary positions, kissing, and other sexy acts because pot always leads to crack? And spanking always leads to bestiality? No, friend, don’t worry about escalation, as you call it. When you try out different things you’re figuring out what you like. Keep experimenting—add to what you and your partner enjoy; keep what works and don’t keep what doesn’t feel so good. But don’t be afraid to try something again down the road—what may feel eh today might feel off the charts next week. Watching lots of porn isn’t a bad thing unless it interferes in the healthy functioning of someone’s life (see Hernando Chaves’ discussion of sex addiction). People don’t get desensitized when watching lots of porn, hopefully they keep getting turned on. Their interests might shift over time, so what may have been a fantasy last month, may not be as hot this month. And yet other people love to watch the same kind of images throughout their lives. The good news is that sex is not like a runaway car, careening down a side of a mountain into the tiny town about to destroy the innocent townsfolk who live there. No. Instead, you get to make decisions about what you want, and when you want it. That includes if you want to gently kiss someone on their neck or press your teeth in a firm way against that flesh. Or if you want to be on top or you want to give or get it from behind. The other good news, is that no one gets to hold the truth to what vanilla or kink actually is. I can hear you say, “You know what I mean. Like spanking and dirty talk and like that.” And I say, what is someone’s “vanilla” may be someone else’s ‘you’ve gone a bit too far, pal’.  And vice versa. My friend says she and her husband are vanilla, yet he holds the back of her head as she’s sucking him off. He’s not forcing her or choking her, just getting off on how pretty she is, how good he feels, his hand in her hair, his cock in her mouth. And she loves it too; feeling just the right amount of pressure on the back of her head that makes her feel high and hot.

That’s playing with power right there. And they consider themselves vanilla—not kinky.

So I can’t tell you what vanilla is. And frankly, I don’t really give’s a rat’s ass. I want you happy and turned on, not bored.

It’s about what turns you on and what your desires are.

Desire, like other tastes, change and morph as we gain experience in the world.  And just because you love pizza, doesn’t mean you want to eat it every night.

Worry less and EXPLORE and EXPERIMENT more.

So when you add new ways of being sexy and sexual to getting it on, you might want to keep those new ways—plus any of the other ways you used to—whatever make you happy. And you probably won’t want to make love or fuck exactly the same way every time either. Mood, partner, time of day, if you’re high or drunk, all these things will affect what you want.

So if you try slapping someone’s face and realize you both really like it, the doors to vanilla are still yours to walk through. Cuddling, sex without an edge or ferocity, are still yours whenever you want it.

Keep open and curious—and don’t let fear run your sex, or your life, for that matter.

You are allowed to experiment explore and discover what you like.

ADD to your sexual vocabulary, don’t limit it.

Just think of the stories you will tell with all that new language.

It’s worth repeating: Worry less and EXPLORE more.

Felice Shays, Sex and BDSM Educator. Follow Felice on Twitter @FeliceShays

May 242013

Sinnamon Love and Orpheus Black from Rough Sex 2

Last month, I gave a talk as part of an evening called
The Truth Behind Fifty Shades of Grey at University of Maryland in College Park. There was a lively audience discussion, and we gave students the opportunity to ask questions anonymously. I asked several of my colleagues to chime in and answer a few of those questions.

Can BDSM be addictive?

I asked my colleague Dr. Hernando Chaves to respond to this one. He says:

I’m not in favor of the addiction term being used with any sexual expression for a number of reasons. It can promote the use of pejorative sex negative terminology, the creation and/or reinforcement of negative sexual identity, alleviate responsibility of choices and actions, and the inability of professionals to agree on an accurate definition of sexual addiction or testing measures as well as limited, controversial data and evidence supporting sexual addiction makes this a difficult concept to support. With so much uncertainty, it’s more harmful than helpful to attribute addiction to unique sexual expression.

That being said, I understand some people use their sexual expression in a manner that is out of control, compulsive, or as a way to cope with difficulties and unresolved issues in their lives. For most, sexual expression is an enhancer to pleasure and happiness. For some, their sexual expression is linked to pain and suffering, but not the good kind of pain and suffering that many in the BDSM community understand can be central to arousal, pleasure, and enjoyment. The untrained outside observer may see pain and suffering, even label it as abusive, and deem these sexual behaviors as problematic, symptomatic, and related to a disorder. They may miss the importance of consent and may not be able to differentiate the intent as coming from a place of empowerment, intimacy, satisfaction, or mutual pleasure.

Can BDSM, like food, gambling, Facebook, and video games, be misused to where it can become a problem? I would argue that BDSM cannot be addictive, but anything can become problematic if misused. It’s possible that a person can become reliant on what BDSM may bring to them; the dopamine, adrenaline, and endorphin rush, the attention from partners and peers, the way it makes them feel and the impact on their self-esteem and self-worth, and the avoidance of stressors or problems. But can this be addictive? Who decides if this is addiction, mental health professionals or doctors?

I believe it’s more important to focus on what the impact may be on the individual and the subjective distress they identify that is problematic rather than focusing on the behaviors a person engages in or how often. Each person is different and so is their response and reactions to play. So when someone comes along and says that BDSM play is addictive, ask them to accurately define kink addiction, ask for empirical evidence to support their perspective, and be skeptical.

Hernando Chaves, M.F.T., D.H.S., Licensed CA Marriage and Family Therapist, Doctor of Human Sexuality, and Human Sexuality Professor. Follow Dr. Chaves on Twitter @Hernando_Chaves

Dec 112012

This Friday, December 14th on Sex Out Loud, I’ll be talking live with David Ley, a psychologist whose specialty is treating sexuality issues, about healthy sexuality and sex addiction. His latest book, The Myth of Sex Addiction, triggered a firestorm of debate amongst the media and behavioral health communities. It confronts the junk science and morality-based arguments that lie behind the concept of sex addiction and exposes the strong skepticism of sex addiction that is dominant in the scientific field. Ley will discuss how society and the media has blindly accepted this term, why its dangerous, and what can be done to challenge the concept.

David J. Ley, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who earned his Master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of New Mexico. He has been licensed as a psychologist since 2002, and practices primarily in New Mexico. Since 2002, Dr. Ley has provided clinical, administrative and consultative services, with expertise in adolescent issues, sexual offending, sexuality, as well as suicide assessment, intervention and prevention. He is currently the Executive Director of New Mexico Solutions, a large outpatient behavioral health program in Albuquerque, providing integrated addictions and mental health treatment to 1800 clients a year. Dr. Ley first began working with issues of sexuality as he treated adolescent and males with history of sexual offending and other problem sexual behaviors. Over time, he expanded his focus to include the promotion of healthy sexuality. Insatiable Wives, Women Who Stray and The Men Who Love Them is his first book and won a Silver Medal in the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year contest for 2009. His controversial second book, The Myth of Sex Addiction was released in March 2012, challenging the concept of sexual addiction and exploring a different model of male sexuality. The Myth of Sex Addiction has triggered a firestorm of debate, allowing people to finally challenge the media hype of this pseudo-disorder. Dr. Ley is a popular speaker and writer, with published articles in newspapers such as the New York Post and the London Telegraph. He has appeared on numerous television talk shows, as well as radio shows around the world. Magazines and news sources from the Huffington Post to Playboy Magazine have covered his work.