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In 2016, Kinky Sex is the New Norm

In 2016, Kinky Sex is the New Norm: Hannes Hepp / Getty

Hannes Hepp / Getty

Statistically speaking, most people have at least one dark sexual fantasy they dare not tell anyone out of fear others will think there’s something wrong with them. As the Playboy Advisor has noted for decades, the most common question people ask when it comes to sex and sexual desires is, “Am I normal?”

Well, today is a new day. Life is short and NYC-based sex therapist Dr. Michael Aaron has written a new book, Modern Sexuality: The Truth About Sex and Relationships, out this month, to debunk the many myths surrounding human sexuality and kinky sex. In addition to being provocative and funny, the book is backed by the most recent sex science. Below, we run through its five most interesting revelations. Overall, Modern Sexuality encourages us to embrace a more sex-positive (and self-accepting) mindset to overcome social programming. The biggest takeaway? Your kinks are absolutely normal.


SEXUALITY ISN’T “ONE SIZE FITS ALL”

Despite the fact that kinky (or non-normative sexual) fantasies are common in the general population, our culture—and a surprising number of medical professionals—perpetuate the idea that sex that isn’t heterosexual, missionary and within the context of a committed relationship is somehow deviant or pathological. Aaron points out that from a scientific perspective, there’s no connection between sexual kinks and psychopathology. “Healthy sexuality encompasses so much beyond traditional notions of intimacy,” he writes. “A fixation on traditional notions of intimacy leads to far ‘unhealthier’ sex than just going with the flow and surrendering to whatever the moment lends itself to.” Sexual intimacy can also mean different things to different people and still be healthy. For example, polyamorous couples will often say they find intimacy in sharing their sexual partners with other people.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SEXUAL ADDICTION

We’ve all seen celebrities like Tiger Woods and Ozzy Osbourne go into treatment for so-called “sex addiction.” Aaron doesn’t mince words on this perpetuated misconception, highlighting that there is no scientific evidence proving that problematic sexual behavior is similar to drug or alcohol addiction. “It’s not that sexually out-of-control people don’t exist,” he writes. “But most people caught up as patients in the sex addiction industry are normal. There is nothing wrong with them, and that’s the problem.”

Based on what Aaron has observed with his clients, most of these guys either have emotional issues, using sex as a way of soothing themselves, or are secretly afraid of sex and label themselves as addicts out of self-imposed guilt and shame. As someone who has done research with hypersexual men, I wholeheartedly agree on both points.

SEX-NEGATIVITY IS A FORM OF CULTURAL CONTROL

The popularity of “sex addiction” as a pathological condition is just another way sex has been used to control us. Aaron details this trend, which dates back to the beginning of agrarian societies. As our population grew, social rules became stricter to ensure group cohesion so that it wouldn’t die; leisurely sex without the goal of procreation became a threat to survival. Needless to say, taking part in non-normative sexual practices also fell into this category.

Our society has obviously evolved in sophisticated ways since then, but sex-negativity, social conformity and sexual repression remain pervasive, causing stigma and suffering in many people. “Sex addiction is just the latest incarnation of a cultural hysteria centered on controlling and limiting sexual expression,” Aaron writes.

SEXUAL KINKS ARE LIKE SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Research suggests that paraphilias (or unusual sexual interests) are like a sexual orientation in that they are with you early in life and can’t be changed, no matter how hard you try. Aaron points out that the majority of people with paraphilias are men; if paraphilias were learned—say through the process of adverse life experiences, as some believe—they should be equally present in women. “If both males and females are as likely to have a negative experience with a bad clown or a creepy crawly insect or some other thing that could be linked in the heat of the moment to sexual arousal, why is it that almost universally, it is men who experience fetishes? A purely environmental, trauma-based explanation simply does not hold up. And scientific evidence confirms this.”

Functional MRI studies, including research I have worked on, has also shown that the brains of people with kinky interests activate differently from those of vanilla folk when looking at kink-themed pictures, like hot wax or bondage. This speaks to the idea that these preferences are hard-wired in the brain.

STARTING SLOW IS THE BEST APPROACH

By this point, you might be feeling newly inspired to rid yourself of society’s shackles and dive in headfirst. A word to the wise: jumping in too quickly can backfire and have the opposite effect. Instead of feeling overjoyed, you’re likely to feel anxious and overwhelmed. “Going in person to an educational event or socialization gathering, such as a munch (a dining social where individuals interested in kink get together in 'vanilla’ settings such as a diner to discuss common interests), although helpful, may feel overly anxiety producing or overstimulating to folks who are just beginning the process of self-discovery.” He recommends starting out slowly and setting bite-size goals, such as joining an educational site like KinkAcademy.com or discussion groups on FetLife.com, to ease yourself in.


Debra W. Soh is a sex writer and sexual neuroscientist, specializing in the fMRI of paraphilias (or unusual sexual interests) at York University in Toronto. She has written for Harper’s, The Wall Street Journal, The Globe and Mail, New York Magazine and many other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter: @debra_soh.


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