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  • How To Turn Me On

    February 08, 2012
    How To Turn Me On © By Constance and Eric
    The best way to turn me on is to be yourself, whoever that is. Way too many people posture and try to seem like someone they’re not, and I find that confusing.

    For my last SexIs column, I wanted to share some thoughts about how to turn me on that I've gleaned from reading through old columns and simply exploring sex in my personal and professional life. In truth, the real answer to that equation would be a blank column, because there is no one way, or even one thousand ways. There are infinite ways, as many as there are people in the world and days in a year, and I’m always amused and surprised when something that did nothing for me with one lover turns me on with the next—and I’m not necessarily talking about in bed, although that “rule” applies there too.

    When I like someone, it’s usually some quirky, very possibly dorky, trait or action of theirs that stays with me far beyond the strictly sexual. That will make me notice them, and keep noticing them, will make me pay attention with my brain, my biggest sex organ. Maybe they’re impressed that I know who playwright Sarah Ruhl is, maybe they cook me an amazing meal, maybe they take a book I’ve given them and toss it on the ground in a way that’s so ferocious I can only wish it were me being slammed to the ground. It may be as simple as remembering something I said so long ago that I no longer remember it myself.

    I don’t want to feed into the stereotype that women are more “sensitive” than men, so I’ll speak only for myself and say that how a person acts in bed is, for me, intimately connected to how they act out of the bedroom. I’ll lose interest in even someone who I click with between the sheets if in the rest of their life, I can’t respect them. Similarly, I’ve fallen for people and climbed into bed with them because they utterly charmed me, or made me laugh, or simply made me curious. I’m definitely sensitive, but it’s more than that; I like to get to know someone inside and out. That turns me on more than any specific sexual act, because it informs the erotic side of things.

    The best way to turn me on is to be yourself, whoever that is. Way too many people posture and try to seem like someone they’re not, and I find that confusing. When I’m intimate with someone, I want to be truly intimate, in all ways. I don’t want to mimic intimacy in bed but then feel like I don’t really know them once we’re done fucking. There’s no particular type of person I’m looking for, no physical or age or race or gender ideal; I’ve been attracted and dated and slept with an array of people, and I like that each person's specialness has taught me something new about them, and myself.

    Probably the sexiest thing a lover can do for me is bare part of themselves, and I don’t mean taking off their clothes. It sounds obvious, but it’s actually very easy to keep a large part of yourself locked away while still seeming to give yourself over to ecstasy. Perhaps it’s easiest to appreciate when someone is submitting, when that baring means becoming physically vulnerable, but I think dominants can bare themselves as well—good ones, anyway. It’s something I have to remember when I’m in that position.

    It can take me a while to fall for someone, to get truly turned on, and once I do, it can be hard to turn that off. I see exes sometimes who I haven’t been with for years and there’s a little part of me that wonders, “What if?” The reason for that isn’t because I am dying to rush into bed with them, but because the part of themselves they bared for me, the parts that we shared with one another, is still intact and forms the basis for friendship, with a twist of nostalgia.

    I love being surprised, and after being sexually active for over half my life, I am happy to report that it still happens, all the time. I never want to be so set in my ways that I can’t allow for sex and lust to open me to new ways of looking at both the world and my body. When I’ve found myself needing to recharge and take a break from sex in order to restore myself to a place where I can be fully present, I have done so, because otherwise I’m cheating both myself and the other person, only giving them a small part of me rather than waiting until I can offer my whole self.

    I’m writing this sitting on my new lover's couch under a blanket wearing only a sweater. I can get turned on just by thinking about this person, if I let everything else wash away and focus on how they make me feel. It’s not even something they have to participate or be in the room for; their essence stays with me, which is good because I have a lot of travel coming up that’s going to mean being apart from them.

    So that was a very long-winded, roundabout way of saying that there are an infinite number of ways to turn me on. It could be a kiss, a smile, a spanking. It could be a comment, or a piece of clothing, or a sensation. It could be submission, or dominance, or chocolate. Whatever it is, I want it to make me feel special, unique, wanted. I want it to wash out all the other claims on my attention, my heart, my desire. I want it to make me feel like this could be my last moment on earth, and I’d be okay with that. Even if that lasts just for a second, if it’s the right second, it’s worth it.

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  • Strippers Are Sexy

    January 25, 2012
    Strippers Are Sexy © By Constance and Eric
    Gossips love to speculate that strip club visits equal marital doom, whereas I don't think you can infer anything from a strip club visit other than that a guy likes to look at scantily clad women.

    News broke recently that Dallas Mavericks basketball player Lamar Odom was seen at a strip club, prompting rumors that his marriage to reality TV star Khloé Kardashian is in trouble. I use them as an example not simply because I could call this column "Sex and the Kardashians," since I mention them so much, but because they're the latest celebrity couple to be put to the strip club media scrutiny test, though surely won't be the last.

    I obviously have no clue about the state of their marriage, but the idea that just because a man visits a strip club, he's not interested in his wife, is ludicrous. I've been on dates to strip clubs, and enjoyed the dual acts of voyeurism and exhibitionism — watching the dancers, and being watched when I got a lap dance. Plenty of couples go to strip clubs together, and I'd think we've moved on from the idea that strip club patrons are only men. Yes, I'm bisexual, so that makes me more inclined to be into the idea of visiting a strip club than a straight woman, but there are plenty of straight women who enjoy strip clubs as well (I'm only addressing female dancers in this column, though there are male dancers as well).

    One of my very first erotica stories was called "Lap Dance Lust," and it was a true account of the first lap dance I ever received, at Cheetah's in Los Angeles. I was giddy with excitement and nerves; what does one do when getting a lap dance? How do you ask for one? The women were so glamorous that I was intimidated, but that added to my excitement. I wound up getting an incredibly sexy dance, and what I like about the story is that there's absolutely no sex in it, not even a kiss, but there are all the elements that make a lap dance so exciting: the tension, the touching, the eye contact, the breathing, the music. I was floating on air the rest of my trip because of it.

    There are many reasons someone might go to a strip club — for dinner (or lunch, which I find amusing), for entertainment, to ogle, to socialize, to flirt, for a bachelor party, to get a lap dance — or more. Yes, there is the possibility that your spouse or partner is doing something at a strip club that might make you uncomfortable, but there's also the very real possibility that Kardashian and Odom, or any other couple, have an agreement about what's acceptable and what's not.

    Personally, I'd think it was hot if I was dating someone and they went to a strip club, then told me all about it, down to every last sexy detail. I'd consider it an opportunity to hear about a lover's interactions with another woman he (or she) is attracted to in a way that's abstract enough so as not to make me jealous. I would be more uncomfortable if they said, "Let me tell you about my drop-dead gorgeous coworker" and proceeded to describe a woman who I felt outclassed by. But if he described a stripper, I wouldn't feel "in competition" with her because her job and mine are different. She is providing a fantasy, for money, and if she's good at her job, she'll earn every cent. If I had plans one night and a partner went to a strip club, got all hot and bothered, then returned to me to put that arousal to good use, I'd be overjoyed. It would only get awkward if it became compulsive, and, say, he wanted to go there every night, or could only get off thinking about a given stripper. Otherwise I would welcome a partner with an interest in strip clubs, partly because I'm somewhat of a mental voyeur — I get off on hearing about people's fantasies — but also because it would be an outlet for them separate from me. I don't expect to be able to fulfill my partner's every sexual urge or impulse, and if visiting strip clubs is one way to incorporate their erotic desires into a larger set of activities, I'm all for it.

    According to The Plunge, because lap dances don't involve sexual contact they're "frustrating-as-hell" for their male patrons. "It's a tease, nothing more. With your industry-standard lap dance, even if you're single, there's zero chance of kissing the stripper, fooling around with the stripper, or sleeping with the stripper. ZERO. Yes, guys whoop and holler and fist-bump and act like asses, but the actual experience, more often that not, fails to satisfy." I don't know if this will assuage the concerns of women who worry about their husband or boyfriend leaving them for a stripper, but it is something to consider.

    I've found that strip clubs are still popping up in my fiction these days, even though it's been years since I've been to one. In my new book Irresistible: Erotic Romance for Couples, my story "Exposing Calvin" is about a woman who gets her husband to go to a strip club while they're on vacation, even though he's hesitant about the prospect. She pays for a lap dance for him and watches. "The look on his face when I turn to him reminds me of when he wakes up from a wet dream, like he can’t quite believe what’s just happened and wishes, at least a little, it were still happening." And in my story "My Own Private Champagne Room" in Best Erotic Romance edited by Kristina Wright, a woman's jealous of her husband's past strip club visits and treats him to what she thinks happens in the champagne room, but in the privacy of their own bedroom. She's jealous because it's something she's been left out of, not simply because it involves gyrating naked — or almost naked — ladies, and she takes matters into her own hands, and directly onto her breasts.

    I'm not arguing that every woman — or man, for that matter — should love strip clubs, nor that strip clubs are some monolithic entity. It's as useful to talk about "strip clubs" en masse as it is about "porn," meaning not at all. I'm aware that many women feel threatened by strippers and porn performers, thinking that if their man is turned on by either one, it's some sort of judgment against them, rather than a complement to their relationship. There are good ones and bad ones, and different clubs cater to different clientele. Spencer Lund described getting a lap dance from a woman with implants as "like feeling up a rock."

    I'm glad my first lap dance experience was so wonderful because even though I've had worse dances, whether because the stripper just wasn't into it or, once, because she was, but so were a whole bunch of loud, annoying strangers who wanted a free show by checking me out while I tried to ignore them, I know the potential is there for a wonderful dance. For me, strip clubs are a chance to purposefully engage in a very elaborate fantasy. I don't need to dissect every nuance of why I'm into a given dancer, but just go with it, and let myself get swept away. It's fine if lap dances and strip clubs aren't your thing, but don't knock it until you've tried it, ladies, and news media.

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  • I Can't Predict My 2012 Sex Life — and I Don't Want To (Most of the Time)

    January 11, 2012
    I Can't Predict My 2012 Sex Life — and I Don't Want To (Most of the Time) © Anya Garrett
    The biggest thing I learned about sex in 2011 is that, like life, it's unpredictable. Every time I thought I had a handle on my desire(s), on what I'm looking for, and not looking for, the universe threw me a curve, a challenge, a dare. I was engaged in a power play scene with the universe and it was my master, big time.

    My takeaway is that even for someone who's a control freak with a submissive streak, I have to surrender, to wait and see, because all attempts to micromanage my sex life simply lead to disaster.

    That doesn't mean that I can't have a say, or think hard about what my dream situation would be, or learn from my mistakes. All of those things are on my 2012 agenda. It's more that I know that if I were to declare I'm not dating for all of 2012, I'd immediately find myself caught in a dilemma that I don't want to deal with. Last February, I was sure that taking the bulk of the year off from sex and dating were a way out, an escape route from all the drama that had led up to that point, and maybe they would've been, but then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of experiencing a wonderful, if brief, relationship.

    I was on to something then, something I knew deep down: I was too overscheduled, too busy, too overwhelmed. The past few months, as I’ve slowed my life way down, focused on work , planning events and travel and learned about things like monitoring blog traffic statistics, I’ve found that I have a new calmness and awareness. I don’t feel that frantic needy edge I’ve experienced as synonymous with “dating.”

    It’s possible I might have zero lovers or twenty in 2012; I have no way of knowing. Part of me wishes it could be zero, not because I don’t experience times when I’m horny or that I don’t ultimately want to be in a relationship, but I’m pretty gun shy. I find that it’s hard enough to juggle daily life and work and all my responsibilities and when I do start dating someone, or even just crushing out on someone, I can easily fixate on them rather than whatever I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve rarely learned how to balance anything, let alone that aspect of my life, and I literally can’t afford to not be working as hard as possible right now. It makes it hard to contemplate making plans if I fear being stressed out and distracted on a date.

    It’s more than that, though; in two weeks, I’m taking a solo vacation to Hawaii, and I am thrilled at the prospect of having whole days of sunshine and freedom. The idea of having someone by my side sounds less like a vacation and more like a burden. I don’t think it will always be that way, but I’m starting to realize that I enjoy spending time alone. Not all the time, but I’m giving myself 2012 off from worrying about relationships and kids and tackling the things I’ve ignored for so long, like debt and novels and housecleaning. I know that with those burdens literally dragging me down, I would be a horrible partner, and I wouldn’t want to inflict that on anyone.

    I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a friend after we saw the documentary about New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham and it was revealed that he'd never been in a romantic relationship. My friend said he found that sad, but I didn't, because Cunningham was so utterly himself and happy as he whizzed all over New York City and took photos. He seemed totally at one with himself and his job, with every day an adventure. That is the kind of creative life I strive for, and I'm pretty sure that if I could make peace with all the dangling loose ends in my life, I would be opening a door to a potential relationship, but would also find myself so fulfilled that I wouldn't really care one way or the other.

    There are people I miss, and sometimes, the physical abandon of sex, the escapism of it, but I've indulged in more than my fair share of escapism in my 36 years. I don't deserve any more, and when I start to crave it, I am trying to train myself out of it. That's not to say that I don't have weak moments or that it would be a tragedy if I had engaged in some no strings attached sex, but I am trying to be less of a live-in-the-moment type of person and more of a planner. Ultimately, I'm pretty sure the rewards, sexual and otherwise, will be far greater than any momentary selfishness on my part. Obviously, the year has just started, though, and I may write that today and wind up at an orgy tomorrow. I'm not foolish enough to try to predict what might happen, but am working on figuring out how, if and when I do wind up dipping back into the world of sex and dating, how to do so in a healthy, not harmful, way.

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  • Is Casual Sex Good for You?

    December 28, 2011
    Is Casual Sex Good for You? © Dave Naz
    As I look back on 2011, I realize one thing I’ve come to understand more this year is that our society is a lot more prudish than we like to think it is. First let me say that I think everyone should have a clear idea of what's right for them when it comes to sex. Navigating how and when and why you're getting it on is important; telling other people what to do, however, is offensive.

    Whether it's people squicked out by pornography (like the author who didn't want a review of his book to run in Penthouse) or the umpteen kinds of slut-shaming that happen in big and small ways, we haven't quite moved past thinking we know what's best for others when it comes to sex.

    Recently, a debate sprang up after Dr. Stanley Siegel wrote a piece called “In Defense of Casual Sex” with a follow-up called “Why I Advocate for Casual Sex”. He brought up lots of good points about exactly how “casual” that kind of sex is and why there’s important lessons to be learned from it: “Upon turning sixty-five, I recognize that casual sex has often been as intimate for me as were the two long-term relationships I have had. Unencumbered by a complex commitment, the freedom found in casual sex allowed me to move beyond self-consciousness and achieve a level of honesty and authenticity for myself, and my partner, in a way previously unknown to me.”

    I’ve had my share of commitment-free sex that was just as powerful for me as sex within a relationship, but I don’t think that one is better than the other or right for everyone. We live in a culture that tells us that sex within a heterosexual, monogamous relationship is the best (and for some, the only acceptable) form of sex, so even contemplating the enjoyment of casual sex dares to go against that way of thinking. However, that doesn’t mean that casual sex is necessarily “good” for you.

    I think part of the reason casual sex continues to be controversial, to the extent that it is, is that we don’t always know what the other person we’re engaging in casual sex wants from it. A one-night stand? An ongoing fuck-buddy relationship? Something almost like a relationship but not calling someone boyfriend or girlfriend? Once we know what we want, the next question is how we communicate that.

    At The Good Men Project, Julie Gillis wrote about our lack of true dialogue with our sex partners. “If we start with a presumption that sex is high stakes, it’s important, it’s a connection of some sort between two people, then how is it that the conversations around sex are so limited and clumsy? Why not have those high-stakes moments more prepared for, more thought through, more discussed?”

    This situation — where you’re going to or are having sex with a someone but haven’t discussed the boundaries and parameters — is one I’ve been in more times than I can count. I’d like to think that I’m open-minded when it comes to talking about sex, but one of the reasons I usually don’t have those conversations is because a form of wishful thinking sets in. I know the vision I have for the other person and our relationship, and it’s much easier to assume they share that vision than tackle the nitty-gritty discussions over whether we are on the same page, not just about sex, but about our lives and values. I’m at a stage in my life where those are things I want to know before I sleep with someone; it’s part of why I recently removed myself from an online dating site I was using; trying to discern all those things in that form was too daunting.

    One friend suggested to me that I not sleep with anyone until we’re in a committed relationship. Certainly, it’s extremely retro-sounding advice, and trust me, she is not a retro or sexually conservative person. But that idea has stuck with me, because I’ve had more than my share of sex that, no matter how good it was in the moment, left me feeling more alone at the end of it. It’s hard to figure out how compatible you might be with someone until you’ve actually spent enough time with them to base that decision on more than what you want to see, not to mention that when you’re just getting to know someone, they are likely selectively sharing who they are, not out of malice, but self-preservation. I certainly do the same thing, because I don’t want to share my deepest, darkest secrets on a second date, which makes it all the more ironic that I might share my body with someone.

    In her book Become Your Own Matchmaker, reality TV star Patti Stanger advocates not sleeping with guys because, she claims, the bond of oxytocin will pull a woman toward a man, even if he’s bad news. She tweeted, “One good orgasm & you could be bonded to a loser” (and was retweeted by over 100 people!). I don’t agree that oxytocin is the culprit, but I think we need to, firstly, make room for everyone’s sexual behavior patterns. We also need to look at our own sexual histories and figure out what, truly, we want, and then pursue it. I’ve gotten myself in trouble because while I do have a vision for what I want, I’m often so needy and malleable that I go along with someone else’s vision; because I either don’t think I can get what I want, don’t think I deserve it, or figure that whatever someone is offering is the next best thing.

    So my title here is a bit of a misnomer, because I don’t think any form of sex is necessarily “good” or “bad.” It might be right at a given time in your life, and wrong in another. It’s also important to learn and grow from sexual experiences we wouldn’t want to repeat, rather than simply lament that they happened. I’ve done way too much lamenting and wondering, Why didn’t I know how this was going to play out? That’s never going to help in the present. It might always work for some people, and never work for others. For me, so much of my life is in flux, and my sexuality is right there along with it. Adjusting to changes in my career has made me less focused on my personal life, though I hope that getting my affairs, so to speak, in order will ultimately be beneficial to me forming the kind of relationship I do ultimately want.

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