The Sex Positive Coach

Inara de Luna, Relationship Coach & Sexuality Educator

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BDSM is to assault as sex is to rape

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com 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.

 


What COULD Work? Insights into Relationship Negotiation from Kink & Polyamory

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com on February 25, 2015 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)



I recently co-presented a mini workshop/demo on how to negotiate a BDSM scene prior to engaging in one. And with the #50Shades movie still garnering a lot of attention, from both within and without the BDSM community, I thought this might make a good blog post, as well.

 

Engaging in negotiation in non-sexual and non-kinky contexts is different from what I presented on at that event, but there are overlaps and things we can learn from how kinksters communicate. What does negotiation mean, anyway? In vanilla (non-BDSM) crowds, “negotiation” often seems to be equated with “compromise.” That word “compromise” often leaves an unpleasant taste in one’s mouth, because it seems to imply that everyone has to give up something that’s important to them in order to get something that’s more important. It suggests that people who are in negotiations are at odds with one another.

 

To complicate matters further, just add people. Polyamorous households that consist of multiple adults in various intimate configurations who need to figure out how to live peacefully together soon become masters at negotiation, or the household soon dissolves.

 

Step one: Remember you’re on the same side

 

One of the first things to do when you realize a negotiation is due or necessary is to change your thinking about it. Instead of dreading the conversation and wondering what you’ll have to offer up in exchange for getting what you want out of it...try imagining you and the person/people you’re negotiating with are ON THE SAME SIDE. Rather than pitted against each other, every person for themselves, remember that you are partners, members of the same team. This is an opportunity to find the Win/Win solution to whatever thorny issue has cropped up.

 

The kinky crowd really gets this concept. When two kinksters are negotiating a scene, they both recognize the fact that they’re working together to create the best possible experience for BOTH of them. These negotiations are not conducted like a high-powered executive business meeting as portrayed in #50Shades. The movie did get one element right - these initial scene negotiations are conducted between equals, so that no one is acting from a place of feeling coerced or pressured due to an unfair power differential. It’s not until the negotiation is over, and satisfactory and agreed to by all parties, that the power exchange begins.

 

In a polyamorous family, the best outcomes are also achieved when all the members feel that they have an equal voice in a negotiation that affects the entire household. Issues between any set of individuals is not subject to group negotiation, but household functioning issues often are hammered out in family meetings. Any good group leader knows that even the quietest person needs to feel safe and empowered to offer their opinions and get their needs met.

 

Try a different position to shift the energy

 

If you’re finding it difficult to step out of the combative positions you and the other parties may have taken in order to protect your interests in a negotiation, try suggesting a change in your physical positioning. If these talks typically happen around a kitchen table, with everyone facing off, an alternative might be to throw some pillows on the living room floor and everyone lay down with their heads in the middle. This change of positioning changes the energy and the context and participants can experience an internal shift in how they show up for the discussion, as well as see a difference in how everyone treats each other.

 

Of course, this isn’t to suggest that kinky folk don’t also fall prey to the same mistakes everyone tends to make in relationships around communication, conflict management, and relationship negotiation..

 

Step two: Engage in active listening

 

Step two in your negotiation discussion is to allow each other the space to be heard, safely and completely. You already know what is most important to you about this issue. So clear your head and truly LISTEN to your partner(s) and engage in active listening, so that they feel heard and understood. Validating another’s words does not mean that you agree with them; instead it conveys understanding and acceptance, of both the message and the speaker.

 

Active listening involves being mindful of your verbal and non-verbal cues to the speaker that you’re paying attention. If you don’t already do this, then in more social situations (where a relationship is not at stake), practice tuning in to how you’re communication during a conversation while you’re not speaking. See what happens when you lean in toward the speaker slightly, widen your eyes, and make small murmurs of encouragement. Experiment with listening so intently to what the other person is saying that you can restate in your own words what you just heard, BEFORE trying to formulate a response. There are many other things involved with active listening, and learning to become adept at this can improve all of your relationships, whether kinky, poly, or vanilla.

 

Step three: Have a creative brainstorming session

 

Back to negotiating...step three is to engage in a creative brainstorming session. After each speaker has had a chance to fully describe what’s important to them about the current issue, pose the question, “What COULD work?”. Often, when we reach the solution-seeking portion of a negotiation, the other parties will engage in “devil’s advocate” games, in which every solution is picked apart and the reasons it WON’T work are highlighted. When the OBSTACLES are given more energy than the effort to find workable solutions, everyone will become frustrated and discouraged by the exchange. However, if you can engage the problem-seeking party in a solution-seeking discussion, the energy of the whole conversation changes and becomes more positive. This can lead to looking through doorways of possibility that may have remain closed before, allowing everyone in the discussion to entertain creative notions of how to get everyone’s needs met.

 

From here, it’s just a matter of continuing to take everyone’s needs into account as each option is evaluated. For help in learning to have these discussions, for moderation in situations that feel out of control, and for help in developing protocols for family discussions, scene negotiations, and important relationship talks, please contact us at The Sex Positive Coach. We will take your family’s needs and dynamics into account while we help you figure out how to resolve differences without dissolving your relationships.

 

50 Shades of F**ked Up - Analyzing Christian Greys Internalized Kink-Shame

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com on February 24, 2015 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)



Internalized kink-shame is very real

 

One of the criticisms of this movie is how the main characters portray how negatively they feel about kink, even while doing it. Anastasia’s horror at what Christian does only serves to reinforce this traumatized man’s feelings of shame about his desires and his very Self. Christian has a strong dose of internalized kink-shame, stemming from his low sense of self-worth as a result of his birth mother’s treatment of him as a child. He believes that since his sexual arousal is tied so strongly to acts of sexual dominance and sadism that he must be “50 shades of fucked up,” as he says in the movie.

 

Many people who are actually in the kink scene revile this movie, saying that Christian and Ana portray their lifestyle as something to be ashamed of and that it perpetuates stereotypes about BDSM that link kink and abuse. The fact is that many people, when they first discover their inclinations in this direction, feel shame and confusion. This culture teaches us NOT to hit or hurt others, but some of us find ourselves drawn to and turned on by the act of striking another. This can look and sound and feel very wrong to someone. Others of us pride ourselves on being feminist, on working to end the violence toward women, and then feel utterly confused when we discover we like the sensation of being struck with a flogger or a cane or whatever. What is wrong with me?

 

What is wrong with me?

 

I remember going through this stage myself, and I was fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded people who could help me think through it and learn to accept myself and my desires. Poor Christian is so completely isolated, due to his celebrity status and the societal stigma against BDSM, that his lawyer has advised him to have any potential partner sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to engaging in any interactions. He is not part of any social groups related to kink, he doesn’t go out to clubs, dungeons, or play parties, and he has no one to talk to (except his therapist, who we meet in the second book). He also doesn’t get to witness how anyone else might handle this role and responsibility.

 

Ana is forbidden from discussing any of this with anyone either, so she has no other outlet besides her online research. And unfortunately, what you can find online is often the most extreme examples of what we do. It’s not usually the best way to learn about kink, or to find support for your journey, unless you’ve connected to others through a social/educational site, such as Fetlife.

 

Allowing feelings of shame to overtake your enjoyment of your sexuality can stifle your experience. These internal emotional states can actually take a toll on the physiological functioning of your body. In other words, your sense of shame can interfere with your ability to get aroused or to reach climax. Feelings of shame about your sexuality can lead you to hate yourself, to fear your own impulses, to fear and hate others who do express this aspect of their sexuality. There are so many ways you can wound yourself and others by not learning to accept and embrace who you are and what you desire or find pleasurable.

 

The road to sexual self-acceptance

 

The journey to self-acceptance around one’s sexuality is a circuitous one. It requires a lot of soul-searching, personal experimentation, discussion with others, exploring and experimenting with others, more discussion.

 

We all receive numerous messages about sexuality and identity while growing up, and our parents, peers, and popular media all influence the development of our own beliefs and values. Without examination, however, these values that we learned as children and young adults simply exist as “shoulds” in our minds. For example, boys are often taught, “boys shouldn’t hit girls.” Maturity requires self-reflection and a conscious examination of our beliefs and value. Where did we learn these? What do they mean? Do we agree with them or some part of them? Do we wish to keep and reinforce each of these beliefs and values, or would it make more sense, given who we are (or are becoming) to rewrite some of these beliefs and values? How can I bring my beliefs and values into more alignment with who I know myself to be? These are the questions we must ask ourselves in order to grow into the authentic, self-confident, and self-possessed individuals we can be.

 

Self-reflection often needs outside assistance. Another perspective or a different reframe can help us enormously in the process of belief evaluation. We may feel intuitively that a certain thing doesn’t seem right to us, but have trouble putting words to it. Finding someone else with knowledge and acceptance in these areas of inquiry can give us the words and tools we need to continue our self-assessment.

 

This is where The Sex Positive Coach can help. We are familiar with and accepting of all types of sexuality. No one is shamed for how they feel here and we can give you a safe space in which to explore your own internalized shame regarding kink or sex in general. We will help you work through your angst so that you can get your needs and desires met in ways that are safe, healthy, and fully consensual for all involved. Let us know how we can help you on your own journey toward sexual self-acceptance!

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

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com 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.

 

Consent...Good

 

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 behaviors...in 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!

What Makes a Healthy Relationship, Whether Kinky or Vanilla?

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com on February 13, 2015 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Emotional manipulation, threats and threatening gestures, social isolation, unreasonable restrictions, undealt-with emotional baggage, evidence of similar patterns in past relationships, abuse of power or privilege - these are things that define a negative, unhealthy, dysfunctional relationship, much like the one that Ana and Christian have in the movie, “50 Shades of Grey.” That’s what many who dislike this story are talking about these days. So, I want to explore the opposite.

 

What makes for a healthy relationship, whether kinky or vanilla? Love, trust, and respect in both directions. Relationship agreements that are negotiated by all parties involved. Boundaries that can be expressed and are adhered to. Care and concern are present. The motivation to start and continue a relationship is not fear based. No one is coerced or manipulated into doing or feeling anything.

 

Healthy relationships are not defined by the gender or number of partners involved. A healthy relationship is not defined by the type of sexual interactions or power dynamics the parties choose to engage in together. Engaging in a mutually consensual D/s relationship or participating in mutually consensual BDSM scenes do NOT qualify, in and of themselves, as abuse or dysfunction. The DSM V (the psychological field’s manual of mental disorders, released in 2014) has finally recognized that simply being interested in or participating in BDSM activities is not automatically pathological. That is not to say that there is never any abuse in BDSM relationships, there is - but it’s not directly caused by the kinkiness of either partner.

 

A healthy relationship is defined, in part, by a secure connection, defined by all partners being able to confidently trust the other(s) will be there when it counts. A healthy relationship is one in which the partners are interested in helping each other, not just concerned with their own needs. A healthy relationship is reflected in the caring words used toward and about each other. A healthy relationship is deemed so when the partners are genuinely interested in each other and turn toward one another for love and support, trusting the other will usually be able to give it.

 

Most relationships have trouble in one or more areas, especially when the challenges of everyday life weigh on the partners and create stess. Most people are not trained in emotional intelligence, conflict resolution or management, communication and listening skills, etc. That’s where someone like me comes in. As a relationship coach, I can help individuals and partners in relationship learn and practice these skills. I can help identify the obstacles that throw partners off-course and give them the tools to navigate those muddy, rocky waters. If you’d like to schedule an initial session to see if we might be a good fit, please check out my availability and reserve your spot today. Let me know if you have any questions by sending me an email to info@sex-positive-coach.com.

50 Shades of Grey - Not the Best Portrayal of Consenting BDSM

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com on February 9, 2015 at 8:20 AM Comments comments (0)



The “50 Shades of Grey” movie is generating all kinds of discussion. A particularly well-written and balanced article appeared recently on Yahoo Health, called “‘Fifty Shades of Grey”: Sexual Exploitation Or A Sexual Revolution?” The author made several interesting points that are important to clear up.

 

BDSM is Not Torture or Abuse

 

In quoting the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) - which is the new incarnation of the old Morality in the Media organization that was (and is still) so sex-negative - the article included their belief that this movie portrays “torture as sexually gratifying and normalize domestic violence.” This reveals that the NCSE folks don’t know what they’re talking about. On the very top surface layer, someone watching a BDSM scene at a club might become alarmed and assume they’re watching violent torture. But for anyone willing to suspend their judgments for just a few moments and really watch, what they would see would be tenderness between the players, and moments of checking in, during which the “bottom” would again give consent, this time to continue, and elements of care and concern and trust and intimacy that go far beyond what is often portrayed in the typical vanilla porn movie, or experienced in many actual vanilla relationships.


BDSM is also not abuse. Consent is a primary aspect of "the Scene" and the people who play with sensations or power exchange are not doing so as a form of abuse. Everyone who is involved WANTS to be there and everything that goes on during a scene or relationship has been negotiated and AGREED to. Watching partners enact a scene, that same vanilla observer might witness delight, arousal, joy, and pleasure on the faces of everyone involved.

 

Consent is Not Coercion

 

Unfortunately, the NCSE group is also trying to cast the concept of “consent” into doubt, saying that “Even among “consenting” participants, this is still sexual violence where many are often coerced to continue against their will and comfort level due to the pressure to appear “into it,” to avoid alienating their intimate partner, or for other reasons.” Again, the problem here is that their spokesperson is speaking in a tone of authority, even though they have no freaking clue what they’re talking about. Acquiescence, which is what they’re describing here, is NOT consent. True consent cannot be given if there’s no option for a revocation of that consent. If a person does not feel free or safe enough to say “no,” then their “yes” is not truly consent. Coercion is the exact opposite of consent.

 

50 Shades is Fiction, Written by a Vanilla Author

 

In the story, “50 Shades of Grey,” there are some issues with consent and with stalking behavior. As a feminist BDSM adherent myself, I disliked how Mr. Grey tracked down where Anastasia worked, and some of his tactics were akin to coercion, or at the very least manipulation. He also insisted she sign a contract without full understanding of what it was referring to. This is not true consent. So there are some issues with how kink and consent are portrayed in the movie, but that does not mean that ALL BDSM is like what is portrayed in this fantastical fictional tale. Remember, this is not a documentary. This is fiction, written by someone who is not even in the lifestyle. It’s important to remember that. E.L. James was simply wondering what it would be like to start a relationship with someone who was, and she and her husband explored choreographing scenes in their backyard, fully clothed!

 

The Positive Consequence of 50 Shades

 

This article makes another point about feminism, which I’ll explore in another post. For now, it’s important to remember that what is portrayed in the book is not about pathological abuse, BDSM is not “violence,” and the book itself is total fantasy, written by someone who has never actually lived what she’s writing about. There are so many resources available for anyone who becomes truly curious about the lifestyle after seeing the movie. The best thing to have come out of this whole “50 Shades” fad is that it has opened the door for more conversation, shedding light on how wonderfully diverse our sex lives can be, and allowing men and women to begin to ask for what they want, to experiment with their fantasies, and to revel in what they enjoy without shame. Let's make this a conversation about sexual freedom for all. Let's talk about what the difference is between BDSM and abuse. And let's talk about consent and what that really means in the context of a relationship or a scene. 

 

If you’re finding yourself intrigued by the scenes portrayed in the novels or the movie, or if you suddenly found validation for your secret fantasy life, I’d be happy to talk with you during a coaching session to help you explore. I can suggest books, articles, websites, and other resources for reading up on various aspects of the BDSM lifestyle. I can help you find events, clubs, and places for newbies to be accepted in a safe and non-judgmental environment (often called “munches”;). And if you’re struggling with any aspect of these fantasies, I can help you think through the difficulty and eventually come to accept yourself. Book a session today and let’s explore together!

A teen's request to see "50 Shades of Grey" could be a teachable moment

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com on February 6, 2015 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Forbid Your Child or Discuss with Them?


I stumbled across the Savvy Mom website today, while doing some writing research and discovered this article: “Should You Let Your Kids Watch ‘50 Shades of Grey’?” The author is a couples, childrens and family therapist and she offers a fairly well-balanced assessment of this question. For her, while she’d love to just outright forbid her 15 year old daughter from seeing the movie, she’s savvy enough to realize that teenagers often have access to adult material from sources their parents cannot control, and making fruit forbidden makes it all the more tantalizing. I appreciated her rational idea to instead talk frankly to her daughter about why she doesn’t want her to see the film, as well as her fears that it could skew her perception of what sex should be like and possibly how men and women are supposed to act in relationship.


Are You Condoning Behavior by Discussing It?


So many of the issues that carry emotional weight from the “What about the children?” fear-mongering argument could be used as springboard discussions to help educate children, to convey your values to this next generation. Shielding them from things you don’t approve of won’t actually help them in the long run. Eventually you won’t be able to hide things from them any longer and they won’t be prepared to deal with these difficult, challenging, controversial issues. Sex of course is one of the primary issues that get parents up in arms.


You Can Give Them The Tools & Ability to Decide


Let’s take a moment and breathe and see if we can conceive of bearing the discomfort of talking to our children about topics that make us queasy long enough to help them learn to navigate these difficult waters. Teaching your child about condoms does not have to mean that you’re condoning having sex too early. In fact, according to WebMD, there is evidence that teens who feel comfortable talking with their parents about sexuality actually delay first intercourse. You can convey your values and expectations at the same time that you’re giving them the tools to protect themselves when they do eventually start having sex. Even better, this is an opportunity to help them think about the issues and reason through rational decisions around whether or not, when, and how to engage in sexual activity.


Become Your Child's Trusted Resource

 

The blog, L.A. Parent, published a piece on how to use images in media and advertising as teachable moment opportunities. In addition to echoing a lot of what I’ve said in this article, she also mentions the excellent point that having these conversations with your kids helps to build trust between you. You situate yourself in your child’s mind as an expert and as someone they can come to when they have questions or problems around this delicate topic. Wouldn’t you rather they come to you, instead of hiding a problem from you and seeking help from their peers instead?


Let's Talk About How To Have These Talks

 

I have led workshops for and conducted private sessions with parents to help them learn how to talk to their children about sex and sexuality. If you’d like some guidance on how to do this, please contact me to schedule a session and we’ll map out a strategy or an approach that works with who you are and keeps YOUR values in the forefront of your discussions.

Curious about how to treat Kinky or Poly clients?

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com on February 5, 2015 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)


Are You Curious?

 

That’s how some of the ads for the upcoming movie, “50 Shades of Grey” begin. That series of books, which came out in 2011 and 2012, has led to a huge swell of interest in all things related to BDSM. And now the movie is about to hit the big screen (release date of Feb 13), which will introduce this lifestyle to even more people...many of whom may wind up in your office. Many longtime adherents of BDSM may already be your clients and you don’t know it.

 

Diversity is now the norm

 

We live in an age in which diversity has become the norm. In the U.S. today, you can find people who identify all over the sexuality spectrum. No longer is the question just “straight or gay or bi;” now people can identify as “pansexual,” or “kinky,” or “polyamorous,” or “gender fluid.” And these are just a few of the varieties that we are now beginning to see in our offices everyday. Popular media such as the bestselling 50 Shades of Gray book series (and upcoming movie), and cable network shows like “Big Love” and “Polyamory: Married and Dating” are bringing to light many diverse sexual and relationship practices. These books and shows are also making it more possible for the thousands of closeted individuals who identify in these ways to start coming out and seeking services.

 

Unfortunately for most of us, our training did not prepare us to work with such individuals. Most mental health and counseling training programs are barely adequate at preparing providers to discuss any aspect of sexuality.

 

Many of our codes of ethics require us to refrain from imposing our values on our clients, but often we don’t realize we’re imposing because until recently it was believed that “everyone” held the same values in some areas (i.e. monogamy). Ignorance breeds fear and hatred, which can be communicated subliminally to our clients, especially if we’re not even aware of or clear about our feelings on a subject.

 

BDSM only marginally accepted by the profession

 

As the recently revised DSM reveals, the professional thinking on the topic of “sadomasochism” (one aspect of BDSM or kinkiness) is shifting to a less pathological one. Many people today can accept that light bondage and playful slapping are not signs of a mental disorder or abuse. However, it is also possible that a 24/7 dominance/submission relationship can be a healthy alternative for some people. A lot of mental health professionals stumble when confronted with such a client and they either struggle to understand or they simply dismiss this behavior outright as too outrageous to be healthy.

 

Ethically non-monogamous folk face prejudice & discrimination

 

Polyamory and other forms of ethical non-monogamy are also concepts that are struggling against ignorance, misunderstanding, and value-based assumptions. People who practice these lifestyles are not necessarily “bigamists or philanderers or cheaters.” Throughout history, many different relationship and family configurations have existed, been accepted, and have worked. The cultural norm of monogamy and nuclear households is just that - a cultural norm, which of course does not mean “normal,” by any means.

 

Many polyamorous families struggle with the same issues as any other family, simply magnified several fold. However, people living in non-monogamous relationships also struggle against societal and legal prejudices against them, and have to cope with the reality that their rights cannot currently be recognized. They face job and housing discrimination, they can have their children removed from their custody, they struggle with hospital visitation and inheritance laws. These families are completely vulnerable and enjoy no protections under the law, which opens the door to all sorts of problems.

 

Healthy alternative or pathological issue?

 

In both cases, however, it’s important to learn how to determine if the non-conventional relationship is to blame for the problems with which the client is presenting. At times, there IS pathology, but many mentally stable and otherwise “normal” polyamorous and BDSM folk have left therapy due to a provider’s insistence that all their problems were due to their nonconforming behaviors.

 

Other poly folk and kinksters get frustrated when their paid session time is used up educating their therapist. Rather than doing the homework themselves, these providers turn their sessions with these clients into their own personal educational workshop. I’ve even encountered people who wondered if the therapist they were seeing might have been unnecessarily drawing out stories of their clients’ sex lives for their own prurient curiosity.

 

What can you do to increase your knowledge & acceptance in these areas?

 

YOU don’t have to be one of these uneducated, unethical, insensitive therapists. You could take advantage of a special opportunity and resource right here in your area. I am Inara de Luna and I am a therapy-trained relationship consultant and sexuality educator who specializes in working with the kinky and non-monogamous populations. I have also lived these lifestyles myself, so I bring both a personal and a professional understanding of these practices. I have been working with this type of client for almost 10 years and have been a member of these communities for almost 20.

 

There are several ways I can be of service:

 

Referrals. If someone comes to you with a problem that relates to their being polyamorous or kinky and you don’t feel qualified to help them with that problem, you can refer them to me, provided their issues could be adequately addressed in a non-therapy setting. We could be a sort of collaborative treatment team, sharing our notes and insights (with the client’s permission).

Consultation. If you are already working with someone and they reveal that they are polyamorous or kinky, and you wonder if that could impact or be related to the work you’re doing with them, or you simply want to understand that aspect of them better without asking them to use up valuable session time to educate you, we can get together for a series of consultation sessions.

Teamwork. If you’ve got a client or potential client that identifies as poly or kinky, and you’d like to learn how to better help them, we could always work conjointly with them. This way, you could retain the lead in their ongoing treatment and the client could continue getting insurance reimbursement.

Workshop or training. You could bring me in to speak to your practice, your students, or your organization about the best ways to work with either poly or kinky people (or people who identify as both, as there is considerable overlap).

Teleseminar or pre-recorded MP3 training. I periodically offer a one to two hour teleseminar training for counseling professionals. You could register for the next live session (which gives you the opportunity to have your questions answered live) or you could order a pre-recorded version of the class to listen to at your leisure.


If any of these approaches appeal to you, please get in touch and let's figure out how we can best work together so that you can show up for your kinky or poly clients with knowledge and acceptance of their lifestyle and expression! Call me at 678-825-5020, email me at info@sex-positive-coach.com, or send a message through this site's contact form.

 

Promoting a Sex Positive Culture by Challenging Rape Jokes

Posted by inaradeluna@gmail.com on October 18, 2014 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I have felt disturbed lately at a couple of the topics people are joking about these days, in the supposedly sex positive and consent-driven kink community of which I am a part. I went to a social event in which I heard one woman say to a male friend, “I have to run to the restroom, would you watch my drink? And remember, no more than four roofies!” Then she giggled and rushed off, only to return to her companion who jokingly reported he’d only “put two roofies” in her drink. They laughed and went on. A bit later, at the same event, I witnessed another young woman say to her partner, “Can I take you home and rape you now?” He grinned.

 

It’s interesting to note that both of these interactions were initiated by women, and so perhaps the impact of their statements is somehow lessened. If men were to say the same things as these women, they’d likely be regarded as dangerous or at least insensitive. But it’s become okay for women to joke like this for some reason.

 

I just read an article on sex positivity, in which it was defined by Carol Queen as,

 

“It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.”

 

I’m guessing that one of the reasons that joking about rape and consent violation by women has become acceptable is that it’s a misguided attempt to remove its power in some way, to allow the women themselves to feel more empowered somehow. I’m totally guessing, because I honestly don’t understand this.

 

What I do understand is that these kinds of jokes can have a detrimental effect on the way society takes seriously these very important issues, and the legitimate victims and their claims can lose credibility and be dismissed more easily. I feel the same way about horror films. As Americans, we watch, for pleasure and recreation, so much violence and blood that we have become gradually more tolerant of it. It is no longer as disturbing as it once was, and so the very real violence that occurs every day doesn’t receive the attention it should.

 

Building a sex positive culture requires us all to take action, to reverse the effects of the sex negative culture in which we live. I love what Maximilian Tabet said in his article:

 

“Removing the stigmas surrounding these topics, changing the way advertising overly sexualizes women and taking a strong stance against sex-negative values will hopefully create a world where young people feel free to discuss their sexuality openly, without having to search aimlessly for more accepting fringe communities.”

 

So this is the beginning of my efforts to do so. To work toward a more sex positive culture, with more sex positive laws and politics. I am standing up, right now, and proclaiming that I am uncomfortable with jokes about rape and abuse and consent violation. I believe these sorts of jokes are harmful to us all and I’d be happy to engage in conversation about this, but I will not tolerate that kind of joking in my presence any longer. I will either ask the people involved to stop or I will walk away, letting those around me know why I’m walking away.


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