Category Archives: sex — kinds of

Collaborative, egalitarian, erotic community-building

I rarely write to promote web sites, and I even less frequently write specifically about erotic work, but I just came across what I think is a really interesting, unique effort at creating erotic community in a collaborative and equality-minded way.

Playful-Bent is a free site where people can create profiles and then collaborate on erotic stories and participate in photo strip shows. Remember those “pick the ending” stories you used to read as a kid? These stories are like those, except you get to write the story adding pages to what others have written, or changing the direction of the story if you don’t especially like where someone else has taken it. The photo strip shows are by invitation, and you don’t get to see another person’s show unless you reveal yourself as well, and you only reveal as much as you want (or as much as you want to see of the other person!).

The site is created by and seems to attract mostly polyamorous pansexual people, which is another reason I think it’s interesting and worth looking at. It offers a space where multiple sexualities are welcomed, where participants interact as equals and where community is built as participants share in the production of the material.

The treating of written erotic material as equal in value to visual images is refreshing, and the emphasis on real people interacting with each other is really wonderful. I imagine since Violet Blue’s review the site will grow a good deal, and it will be interesting to see how that changes the interactions.

If you’re looking for a different take on online communities, and if you’re interested in sexuality and erotica, you might really enjoy spending a few moments over at Playful-Bent.com.

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Filed under community-building, public discourse, sex, sex -- kinds of, sexuality

Sex and compassion

Sex can be many things. It can be an expression of love or of desire. Of devotion and commitment. It can be a way of knowing and a way of communicating. It can be a selfish act or a sacrifice. It can be given, taken, bought or sold. It can be an act of violence. And it can be a source of healing.

An old friend has been suffering. He’s not from New York but once in a while we get to sit down together, face to face, and have time to catch up on our lives. His health is fine, but much of the rest of his life is very difficult. The suffering has been long-standing. The difficulties are complex and solving some leads to others. I listen, and sometimes I have something helpful to offer by way of insight. More often I just listen.

And quite often, while I’m listening, a part of me is thinking, “let me take you to bed.” I want to have sex with him. Not out of lust, and not out of pity. Not because suffering is a turn-on. Not out of a need to “fix” something. Not apologetically. Not to take advantage. The desire to take this man somewhere quiet and slowly undress him and lay hands on his body is intrinsically linked to the outpouring of compassion that I feel when we are sitting across from one another. This is not a “poor thing” kind of compassion, but a “let me show you how good you can feel” compassion thing. A “relax and enjoy this” kind of compassion thing.

I think sometimes people can become so used to feeling bad that the bad feelings come to seem neutral and they forget how good they can feel. Sex can be a way of healing, of remembering how to feel good and being reminded that people care about us. This is not a new idea. Sex is a way of connecting back to the pleasure of the body, the pleasure of touch, the excitement of eye contact and deep communication of desire. The indulgence of warm smooth hands on cool skin. The opening of the self. The feeling of being engulfed, consumed, penetrated, filled. The becoming. The release of orgasm and the feeling of being fully seen – recognized – acknowledged – known – cared for by another human being.

This is not a self-sacrifice kind of healing. There is real pleasure – physical and emotional pleasure – in bringing compassion and connection and restoration to another person. There is a sense of power, perhaps, but not “power over.” There is pleasure in being trusted. There is a sense of self-indulgence as well. A taking of pleasure in one’s one body while bringing pleasure to someone else. There are the simple pleasures of sex.

If only it could be left at that. And I suppose it can, but so often it isn’t. Often sex often becomes complicated. Linked to anxiety. Fraught with unintended meanings. The having of it can threaten our pre-existing relationships. Somehow something irrevocably changes and those changes are unpredictable and not always pleasant.

And then there are all of the cultural prohibitions against promiscuity and the messages about what it means to be “faithful.” And these things can keep us from getting close to one another, or even feeling safe with one another. They can make us afraid of admitting the depth or the reality of our caring for other people. It doesn’t need to be so, but it is difficult to challenge so directly the dominant cultural attachment of sex to romance and then to marriage, or to longtime commitment to something “more” than simple compassion and human connection.

If I were braver, I would do what I have not done – I would reach out to this man. I would say “I want to take you away, just for a few hours.” I would say, “Trust me. Relax. Enjoy.”

But I have not done this. I am not brave enough in the face of my fears.

And it is not just the fear that our relationship would change that needs facing. It is not just the fear of disapproval that might come from others if they knew. It is partly a fear of entanglement. A fear that what I want to offer might not be enough. A fear that sometimes there can never be enough.

And these fears keep many of us from acting compassionately in non-sexual ways as well. They keep us from offering money, from offering time, from caring too deeply or too consciously.

There are so many barriers keep us from compassionate action. What does it take to make us feel safe really connecting with one another and caring for one another? What kind of trust? What kind of faith in ourselves and in each other?

And how should we decide when it is right to compassionately offer sexual connection?

I would like an answer to that question before the next time I see my friend.

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Filed under public discourse, sex, sex -- kinds of, sex and health

Sex is a way of knowing

I think that is one reason that sex is so fascinating to me. It is a way to really get to know people. And a way for me to deepen my knowledge of myself.

Sex is a way that I continue to learn and test my physical capacity for pleasure, for pain, for blending the two. I learn my limits. I learn what my body can do. I am thrilled by those discoveries. Some of my favorite sexual moments have not been orgasm-centered but rather have focused on extending some capacity of my body. The excitement of discovering some new capacity, the, “wow, I didn’t know I could do that!” moment precedes the physical pleasure of the “oh yes that feels good” moment.

Sex is a way that I learn about my mind. My fantasies, my desires, my hesitations, my fears, all these are exposed through sex.

Sex with other people, sexual interaction, is thrilling because it is thrilling to discover what turns people on, how they communicate what they want, how they express pleasure, what they’re afraid of, how they fantasize and how they feel about their desires.

When I have sex with someone for the first time I am often very forward but I don’t want to “run the show.” I want to know how people will interact with my passion, my energy, with whatever I put out there. It’s like dance. I want to know if I move this way how will you move? If I say this what will you do? Then how will I respond? I want to know what you want and how you can make me feel. I want to know how you will react to the exposure and vulnerability and power of sex and how I will react to your power and vulnerability.
And the people I most want to have sex with are people who somehow stimulate my curiosity or who are just so good at something that I can’t help but be turned on. In that way, too, sex is a way of knowing, of learning. Or rather, knowing and learning is, to me, often very sexual. Some examples:

A few days ago I was watching someone enter data on a DOS machine. I’d never seen anyone do this before. There was a series of numbers and letters on the screen that looked like gibberish to me and yet this person pointed out some lines of numbers and read it as if it written in English. I was instantly turned on. I know he can’t teach me how to write DOS statistical programs by having sex with me, but now I am curious about him in a new way. It’s as if the part of my mind that is stimulated by new curiosities is the same part of my mind that sexually stimulates the rest of me.

Another example: Connversations with people who are clearly passionate and expert in a field will often turn me on, if they capture my curiosity. I can remember this happening with a brilliant lawyer when talking about constitutional rights, with a historian when talking about medieval Europe, with a labor organizer when talking about arbitration rules, with an engineer when talking about machine vision. The criteria seem to be that the conversation center on something about which I know little about, that I become curious about it through the conversation, and that the person to whom I’m talking is both expert and passionate about the subject.

Knowledge is a turn-on. Skill is a turn-on. People doing what they’re good at are sexy. This is why long-term monogamy seems so potentially limiting to me.

There is always more to know.

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