Jan 042013
 

CC BY 2.0 - Maegan Tintari

What is a “paraphilia”? I think Wikipedia’s definition is the clearest, stating that the term “describes sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative stimulation.” The American Psychiatric Association whittles that down to: “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors generally involving a) non-human objects, b) the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, c) children, d) non-consenting persons”.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, when a paraphilia causes distress to self or others, they are considered mental disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV-TR lists eight specific paraphilias, not including the all-inclusive category of “Not Otherwise Specified”:

  • Fetishism: arousal in response to inanimate objects
  • Transvestic fetishism: erotic cross-dressing
  • Sexual masochism/sadism: arousal when receiving/giving pain or humiliation (respectively). The pain or humiliation has to be real, not simulated.
  • Exhibitionism: arousal when exposing one’s genitals to non-consenting people
  • Voyeurism: arousal when watching non-consenting people doing intimate or sexual acts
  • Frotteurism: arousal when rubbing one’s genitals against a non-consenting person
  • Pedophilia: sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children

The whole concept of paraphilias is under considerable debate in the scientific community. If paraphilias are essentially “abnormal sexuality” then where is the boundary? For example, if being aroused by knee-high black leather high-heeled boots is a fetish (paraphilia), what about nylon stockings? Frilly lacy women’s underwear? What if the clothing is on a person? And so on… the lines are very blurry. Another problematic aspect for paraphilias is that homosexuality was once considered a paraphilia.  There’s a lot more to the debate, but I’m going to have to save it for a post or two of its own.

This study looked at a sample of middle aged, mostly straight adult men in Berlin, Germany; paraphilias are more commonly diagnosed in men, except for sexual masochism. Participants were evaluated via questionnaire for whether they would meet criteria for a paraphilia. Their results are illuminating. 62.4% of their participants reported sexual arousal in response to a paraphilic stimulus. Here’s some of the breakdown:

Fantasy (%) Reality (%) Distress? (%)
Fetishism 30.0 24.5 0
Transvestic Fetishism 4.9 2.7 3.7
Masochism 15.8 2.3 1.5
Sadism 21.8 15.5 0
Voyeurism 34.9 18.0 0.7
Exhibitionism 3.5 2.2 0
Frotteurism 13.4 6.5 1.8
Pedophilia 9.5 3.8 5.3
Not Otherwise Specified 6.3 4.6 6.9
More than 1 58.6 44.4 1.7

 

Where “Fantasy” refers to a sexual fantasy which did not involve masturbation, “Reality” refers to actual sexual experiences, and “Distress” reflects the percentage of participants who reported being upset by their arousal.

There’s a lot of analyzing you can do on just those numbers alone. I want to call attention to the numbers for fetishism (~25%), voyeurism (18%) and sadism (15.5%). I don’t know about you, but I think about things a lot better this way…

  • Roughly 1 in 4 men in this sample had fetishistic experiences, where they were aroused by a non-sexual object.
  • Roughly 1 in 6 men in this sample had sadistic experiences, where they were aroused by the pain or humiliation of their partner(s).
  • Roughly 1 in 6 men in this sample had voyeuristic experiences, where they were aroused by watching others doing intimate things.
  • Further, nearly half of the men had more than one paraphilic sexual experience.
That’s really pretty common for a “mental illness.”

Now, it’s not known how well these participants actually fit the diagnostic criteria for a paraphilia. For example, it’s not known whether the men who participated in sadistic experiences actually had the consent of their partners or not. It’s not known whether the participants were distressing others. But it IS worth noting that very few men were actually distressed by their arousal. Hmm…

The other point of focus I find interesting is the difference between fantasy and reality, and in how much that difference differs between paraphilias. What influenced these participants to not act on their fantasies? Or, from my perspective, what can be done to help some of them express themselves safely with no harm to others, and what can be done to help others (e.g., pedophiles) refrain? What’s going on here? Sadly, I don’t have answers here.

In conclusion, the authors state: “The findings suggest that paraphilia-related experience can not be regarded as unusual from a normative perspective.” I whole-heartedly agree.

The abstract is publicly available on PubMed.

Edit (2/24/2013):

There has been some confusion over the percentages I quoted. Let me clarify:

There were 367 participants total. As an example, of those, 27 reported having either fantasy, masturbation fantasy, or real experience with transvestic fetishism. And that breaks down to 18 having fantasy, 21 having masturbation fantasy, and 10 having reality. The researchers divided those breakdown numbers by the total number of participants (367) to get the percentages (i.e., 4.9% of the sample having transvestic fetishism fantasies, 2.7% of the sample having transvestic fetishim real experiences). Of those 27 people, only 1 was distressed by it. Thus, 3.7% were distressed by their arousal.

 

Jun 252011
 

Bondage(noun): the state or practice of being physically restrained, as by being tied up, chained, or put in handcuffs, for sexual gratification. Bondage can be done with many materials, including: rope, chains, body wraps, and cuffs (whether metal, leather, hand- or thumb-). Today we’re focusing on rope bondage.

A few notes before we begin: First, remember BDSM should never be done without consent. Also, consider using a safeword. Second, some acts may be illegal in your jurisdiction. Please check your laws and choose your actions accordingly. Third, I won’t be talking about suspension, or self-bondage. Those are topics for another time. And lastly, for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use the term “top” for the person doing the tying, and “bottom” for the person being tied.

Rope? Yep, rope. What kind? Many kinds! Multifilament, nylon, and hemp are common materials for rope. Natural materials usually need some conditioning before use. Make sure the rope doesn’t have the potential to splinter, stretch or shrink.

A warning: Do Not use things like ribbons, scarves, or ties instead of rope. They narrow as they tighten and can end up cutting through skin. Ow!! Essentially: don’t use ribbons/scarves/etc any place you wouldn’t be willing to use dental floss.

Safety concerns:

  • Falling: Restrained arms and legs limit how well the bottom can balance. This increases the chance of a fall. If the bottom’s arms or hands are tied, they may not be able to catch themselves. Falls can be avoided by: a) having the bottom sitting, lying down, or leaning, b) watching the bottom carefully, c) making sure they don’t get lightheaded, d) tying certain areas but not others (e.g., the ankles, but not the hands).
  • Fainting. Yes, bottoms can and do faint. Some people are more prone to fainting than others. Bondage can create a light-headed sensation. Be careful when doing bondage with those at higher risk.
  • Joint issues. The positions involved in some bondage can make some joint problems worse. Choose positions accordingly, and change positions as needed. Discomfort should be taken seriously, since it can signal an imminent problem, like torn ligaments or dislocated joints. Ow!
  • Restricted blood flow. Without fresh oxygen, provided by blood flow, tissue can die. Dead tissue cannot magically recover. Check bound extremities (hands and feet) frequently. If they are cool to the touch or pale in color, loosen the binding. Also watch out for tingling and burning sensations.
  • Rope burn. Rope can burn skin when it’s dragged across it, just like a carpet burn. Synthetic fibers are particularly prone to this. Slow down.
  • Nerve damage. Tingling and/or numbness in a limb? Loosen the rope immediately! The best way to help prevent this is to communicate frequently.
  • Breathing constrictions. Some positions can make breathing difficult – avoid these or limit the bottom’s time in them and communicate frequently.
  • Emotional. Bondage can be a very emotional experience. Aftercare is highly recommended. If you think you might need professional help, there are bondage-friendly professionals you can turn to.

Special precautions may need to be taken with people with certain medical conditions, like diabetes (which affects circulation), fibromyalgia, or joint problems.

So… how can you improve the safety of rope bondage?

  • Frequent, open, and clear communication before, during and after the experience. Don’t just rely on a safeword!
  • Be careful about who you do bondage with. This goes for both tops and bottoms – both are vulnerable here.
  • Be very careful about mind-altering substances, like alcohol and marijuana. Many people avoid them altogether when doing BDSM. The ability to think and judge clearly is very important for safety.
  • Never tie certain areas of the body, like the neck and joints. I really do mean Never on this. Neck restriction can choke, and joint restriction can do a lot of damage. Just don’t do it.
  • Make sure the rope isn’t too tight. One way to tell is the “one finger” rule: Can you slide one finger between skin and rope?
  • Keep EMT (bandage) scissors nearby, just in case. They’re designed to cut fabric off skin without hurting the skin.

Curious? Want more information? Check out these resources (recommendations are always appreciated!):

  • SM 101 by Jay Wiseman. Has a good beginner’s section on bondage, including technique and rope selection.
  • Bondage safety on Wipi
  • Wikipedia’s article
  • TwistedMonk.com has tutorials
  • Graydancer’s Ropecast (a podcast)
  • And, as always, your local BDSM community and its workshops. Can’t find your local group? Try your adult shops, or FetLife.
Feb 252011
 

(UPDATED 3/30/11 – take a look at the bottom of the post)

A case report showed up in my feed recently. A woman and her partner were using a glue container in her urethra and it got lodged in her urinary bladder. They couldn’t remove it, so they went to the emergency department, where it was removed. She was discharged after a few hours of observation.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about urethral sounding. Urethral sounding (usually just called “sounding” in the kink community) is when a cylindrical object is inserted into the urethra. Most of the resources I found were aimed at men, but women can do this also (Note: the urethra in men and women are different lengths and shapes! Knowing anatomy is helpful here).

Sounds should be made out of stainless steel, hardened rubber, or a similar material. They should not have ANY cracks or deformities. Glass, although traditional, is a bad idea because it can break within the urethra. Sounds need to be sterilized before and after use! Lubrication should be water-based and glycerin-free (Source). Glycerin (aka glycerol) is a sugar, and thus can serve as food for bacteria. Yickes! I’ve seen at least one guide recommend using individual lube packets to prevent contamination.

Risks include urinary tract infections (UTIs), from poor sanitation or scratching the urethra. UTIs can lead to bladder infections and kidney infections if not treated. Cranberry juice or pills can be taken to help prevent UTIs, but should NOT replace proper hygiene.

Please talk with your doctor regarding sounding and your own health history if you plan to play with it.

Other resources (may be seriously NSFW):

Medicaltoys.com Library

Sin Central Forums

 

UPDATE 3/30/11:

Hey folks! Thanks for all the interest in this post. If you want to know more about urethral sounding (especially female sounding), check out Mistress160’s excellent informational page on her blog (warning: site contains very graphic images). If you have further questions, feel free to ask here, on Fetlife, or contact your local BDSM organization(s) and/or dungeons.