The Sex Positive Coach

Inara de Luna, Relationship Coach & Sexuality Educator


BDSM is to assault as sex is to rape

Posted by [email protected] on April 10, 2015 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)


I recently had a discussion with someone who is relatively new to the Scene, who was trying to figure out if it’s actually okay to be kinky, to enjoy being hit. This is a person who works with domestic violence victims and has been having a hard time wrapping her head around the lifestyle and her own desires.


So I asked her, “When someone puts a penis into a vagina, what is that?”


With a confused look on her face, she answered hesitantly, “That’s sex.”


“Okay,” I said. “What if the person who owns the vagina did not want the penis there?”


She still wore a guarded expression, but answered more firmly this time. “That’s rape.”


“But it’s the same actions, whether it’s sex or rape, so what’s the difference?” A look of comprehension began to cross her face, and she said, “Consent, right?”


“Yes, consent on the part of the receiver and intent/motivation on the part of the doer. That’s the same difference here.”


I went on to share with her my maxim on this topic: BDSM is to assault/abuse, as sex is to rape. The same actions can often be seen in both healthy, consensual BDSM and in dysfunctional, abuse or assault cases. The difference is huge, but involves consent and motivation.


I remember when I realized how much I liked “rough sex” and BDSM play. I was struck with a similar quandary. I have always identified as a feminist, determined to help stop violence against women. So how could I, an anti-violence feminist, enjoy being hit so much? What was wrong with me? After much soul searching and talking through these issues with some trusted friends, what I finally arrived at is that what looks like violence is simply the inflicting of intense sensation. The mind and body determine whether it’s good or bad, pain or pleasure.


The body can take more intensity than most people realize. Those who have been in traumatic situations, war, or childbirth begin to understand that the body can take way more than they ever thought beforehand. My own experience of participating in a mini-bootcamp, as part of my junior ROTC membership in high school, was one of the things that proved this to me. I was not particularly in shape, I didn’t work out much, my primary exercise was yoga. So I was not really prepared for such a physically demanding experience as we went through that week. And yet, I found that under pressure, I could do probably 10 times the number of push ups as I’d ever done before. I stepped up to the challenges and was surprised and delighted with myself. It actually felt good and I discovered a lot about myself and what I could handle as a result of that experience.


The body and the brain have ways of dealing with intense sensations and demands on the system that can even sometimes be experienced as pleasurable. I won’t go into all the science here, but most seasoned members of the kink community know that there’s a complicated mix of chemicals that gets dumped into the system during a scene that results in a complex series of reactions to the intensity experienced during that scene. Some people experience pure pleasure from things they might normally perceive as painful. Other people go deep into trance-like states of mind, and some of those actually experience spiritual moments, including seeing visions and feeling euphoria.


The mind, too, has a lot of power and influence over the way sensations are interpreted. It has been shown that when people who hold the hand of someone with whom they are in a happy relationship, their experience of stressful and painful stimuli are much lower than when they are subjected to the exact same stimuli but do so alone. Our perceptions can change our physical experience.


A BDSM relationship is one in which great amounts of trust, negotiation, and consent have already occurred. So a very strong, deep bond has been formed, such that when these people play out a scene, the bottom already has the advantage of having their loving partner there AND the top often helps the bottom to reach states in which the intensity can be experienced as something other than pain. Because the people involved have communicated far more than most vanilla couples and they have all consented to the activities, what then transpires is NOT assault. However, if the pre-negotiated limits are exceeded or the safeword/safesign is ignored, everything that follows then becomes, at the very least, a consent violation, and at worst, assault. CONSENT is the difference. And different people consent to different things at different times, and that is why so much communication and negotiation occurs.


So, no, #BDSMisNotAbuse. In fact, vanilla couples could learn a thing or two about relationship negotiation and communication skills from the BDSM crowd, who have necessarily had to become masters at such skills.


The Good, the Bad, and the Not-So-Grey: Inara de Luna Reviews the Movie, 50 Shades of Grey

Posted by [email protected] on February 16, 2015 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (4)

Yep, I went to see the movie. I know many people who are boycotting it for several reasons, on both sides of the controversial divide. The books have been torn to shreds by both feminists who do not understand or accept BDSM, and by kinksters who feel that the story misrepresents them and what they do. Both sides have some good points, but both twist and exaggerate other things in ways that are ultimately misleading. I wanted to see it, primarily for professional reasons, since I offer coaching to kinky folk and consultation to other professionals who may also be working with those in the BDSM community or vanilla people who become intrigued and want to dive in without enough information. But I had also read the books and was curious on a personal level.


So there I was, sitting in the theater with my husband and with five of our kinky friends, waiting to see the movie most in the kink community have been dreading. Most of our crowd hadn’t even read the books because they’d heard they were so bad. One of the friends with us was also attending for professional reasons, because she is a student therapist. The rest of the audience that had shown up for the 9pm Friday night (opening night) showing only filled half the theater, at most. Throughout the flick, I was surprised by how much chatter and derisive laughter floated up from the entire audience. Some people seemed to genuinely want to see it, though, as they hollered for others to be quiet. And I was a bit surprised to see camera flashes go off during some of the more provocative scenes. It almost felt like I was sitting in the theater with a crowd that’s accustomed to the interactive nature of Rocky Horror showings.


So now I must delve into reviewing the nature of the flick itself, not just the audience who showed up with me, curious enough to stand in line for 15 minutes before the theater would allow us to file in and find seats. I find myself somewhat reluctant to do so. My reticence comes from the fact that in order to keep integrity with myself, I must admit to all of you that I think BOTH sides of the controversy around this movie have exaggerated their points. Let me be clear about something here, though - this review is strictly about the movie, NOT the book. The movie deliberately cut out a lot of Anastasia’s internal chatter, which means that much of what the feminist critics were decrying and labeling domestic abuse is not present in the movie itself.




The movie, on the other hand, did a pretty good job of showing how important consent is in the BDSM lifestyle. Ana was repeatedly asked by Christian if she agreed to something, and he did reveal his playroom and let her fondle many of the implements there before engaging in a scene with her. He did ask her to review a very detailed contract which included seeking her consent on a number of specific behaviors and actions. The movie producers made a point of showing that Christian struck from the contract the things that Ana refused to agree to. The movie showed him asking her to do some research on some aspects of the contract, and it demonstrated them having a negotiation about the contract and the relationship they were developing.


Emotional Manipulation...Bad


Unfortunately, the movie also showed Christian engaging in some passive-aggressive and emotionally manipulative behaviors, which influenced Ana’s decisions regarding the relationship and what she was consenting to. The characters in this story are both very human and both made mistakes. Codependence is a two-way street that many, MANY people fall prey to in their relationships. It’s prevalent enough in the BDSM community that I give a class called, “Kinky & Codependent,” in which I help participants learn to differentiate between healthy Dominance/submission and unhealthy codependence. But so many people suffer from this, both in and out of the kink community.


The final scene in the movie, in which [SPOILER ALERT] Ana demands that Christian show her “just how bad it can really be,” and Christian delivers six very hard strikes with a belt to her backside -- this is also an example of two people making egregious mistakes. Both deserve some of the blame for how badly that went. Christian, as the top/dom, should have known better than to allow himself to be baited into doing something like this, while Ana was clearly setting him up and further damaged the trust between them by not calling her safe word when it became apparent that this was indeed over her line.


Lack of Experience or Education...Bad


It’s important to remember that these two characters are incredibly inexperienced in interpersonal relationships. Ana is a complete virgin who has apparently never even touched herself, let alone allow anyone else to touch her erotically. She has never been in a romantic relationship and her parents are not very good role models. Christian was made the submissive of an older woman when he was only 15 years old and stayed in that relationship for six years. He only ever had D/s relationships in which he was the dominant for the next six years before meeting Ana, and he told her he’d never been romantic with anyone. So here are two people who are absolutely clueless about how to communicate, how to self-reflect, how to express boundaries in clear and healthy and respectful ways, and they’re trying to make a D/s relationship work, which requires so many more interpersonal skills than either of them possess. No wonder they hurt each other!

 Blurring Lines...Not-So-Grey


The biggest problem with “50 Shades of Grey” is that it blurs so many lines. Instead of distinct gradations of a non-descript color, this movie instead depicts many things as the same shade. For instance, there is a difference between a top, a master, a dominant, and a sadist - but Christian doesn’t explain these differences and may not even understand them himself. Another example - BDSM is not domestic abuse and those in the lifestyle do not condone stalking, but in this movie, Christian engages in both of these, but since he is also ostensibly a kinkster, vanilla audiences may interpret ALL of his behavior to be acceptable by the BDSM community. This leads vanilla people (especially feminists) to feel revulsion for kinky folk, and outrage toward the men or toward the dominants in the lifestyle for taking advantage of naive, gullible girls/women/submissives.

 Let’s Get Real, Abuse is Possible and Present in ALL Communities


Yes, there IS abuse in the BDSM community and in some D/s relationships. Just as there is abuse in many vanilla, heteronormative relationships. Yes, there are people in the BDSM community who have suffered abuse in their past. Just as there are many, many survivors of abuse and trauma in the vanilla, heteronormative population. Yes, people make bad decisions and engage in questionable consent-seeking ALL populations. These things are true, no matter what subculture you hail from. The greater society in which we live (in the U.S.) is very tolerant of violence, rape, and codependence. Most people do not receive adequate (or any) training in interpersonal relationship establishment or maintenance. Most people are not well versed in how to negotiate consent, how to ask for what they want, how to enjoy pleasure, how to draw their boundaries (or even know where those boundaries should be). Most don’t understand that the absence of a “no” is NOT a “yes.”

 Let’s Use the Movie as a Starting Point


This movie doesn’t necessarily condone any of the negative relationship behaviors that Christian (and Ana) engage in, but it does reflect the negative society in which they have been raised. Other than the barely believable facts that he is a self-made 20-something billionaire and she is a complete virgin at 20-something, these characters represent aspects of ourselves that we recognize and can identify with, though some don’t wish to acknowledge these mirror images for what they are and so rail against them. But we can use this movie as a starting point for so many conversations, not only about BDSM, but about desire, about pleasure, about consent, about negotiation, about communication, about codependence, about fantasy, about romance, about intimacy, about what’s healthy, about experimentation, about abuse, and about what we can do to teach our children so that they can be more healthy, functional adults who are empowered to negotiate their own sex lives and relationships with honor, grace, integrity, and passion!

Teens Promoting Consent Culture, Petitioning School for More Comprehensive Sex Ed

Posted by [email protected] on February 4, 2015 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I was surprised this morning to stumble across this article in Yahoo Health news, “" target="_blank">13-Year-Olds Push to Change Rape Culture-Starting in Sex Ed Class.”


“In their petition, the two teens write: “Our society is scared to teach teens and young people about safe sex, and most importantly, consent. Young people will have sex, despite teaching abstinence in the classroom, so the most important thing is to educate us and other young people about consent. When young people don’t learn about the importance of consent in a sexual relationship, it can lead to unhealthy relationships and ultimately perpetuates rape culture.”


I am so in love with these young women! They’re really working on changing the culture of their school environment, and ultimately on the culture of the larger society in which they live. They’re well-versed in what kind of education they want, and the standards, and the organization that has put those sex-positive standards together. They are well spoken and articulate in their writing. I wholeheartedly support them in their mission.


Resolve to be Less "Nice" & Set Better Boundaries for the New Year

Posted by [email protected] on January 10, 2015 at 12:40 PM Comments comments (0)

anuary is the month for setting goals and intentions for the new year. It can also be about learning to set new boundaries. Some people think of boundaries as negative things, ways of keeping people out of something…but really, boundaries are for protecting yourself, they’re there to keep you and yours safe and sacred, even from your own “good intentions.” For those of us who fall into the trap of being people pleasers, boundaries are essential, because we will tend to overstep our own limits in order to take care of others at the expense of ourselves. So one goal for the coming year could be about learning to set and enforce one’s personal boundaries.

Read more of my latest article posted to the LGBT Relationship Network site!