You refer that holistic, magic, changing sex started in 2012 in an attic and that you invested in your studies as sex journalist and has been working with a colleague in the podcast https://thedildorks.wordpress.com/about/. For you, how changing has it been and what have you learned and taught through your texts and lectures? In which way was it enriching to have chosen this path of learning about sexuality and teaching the way to an open mind and positive sexuality?
On a broad level, learning about sexuality has taught me a lot about empathy. When you truly and deeply adopt a sex-positive attitude – that is to say, the attitude that any risk-conscious and consensual sex act is acceptable and valid – it opens your mind to the idea that people can be diametrically opposite to you in many ways and still be good people. I think the whole world could use a dose of empathy, even if that comes in the form of thinking, “You know, that person is into a kink that I can’t imagine finding hot, but they’re doing it safely and consensually so I think that’s great!”
The early times of your work as a sex writer and lecturer were dedicated to sex toys. As a sex writer, how do you think this work about sex toys and related openness to masturbation can contribute to a higher level of pleasure?
It’s often said that you can’t fully love someone else until you learn to love yourself, and I think that’s true sexually as well: you won’t reach your full pleasure potential in partnered sex until and unless you figure out your own body through masturbation. That’s not to say everyone has to masturbate or use sex toys – some people genuinely aren’t into that, and that’s fine! – but you’ll have a much better sense of what to ask for from a partner, and how to access pleasure in general, if you masturbate.
I think masturbation is especially powerful for people who have been raised as women, because our culture constantly tells us to put others first and to take care of other people (especially men) before we take care of ourselves. Masturbation is an avenue through which we can reclaim some of our power over our own bodies and our right to pleasure.
Your university entrance essay was abou handjobs and massage-parlour. According to this study and to what you have been developing in your work about sexuality how can we men learn to know our body better so we can masturbate better? (Correction: my studies in university weren’t on massage-parlor handjobs; it was only my university entrance essay that was about that. I studied journalism in university.)
I think men – and, honestly, most people – tend to stumble upon one masturbation method that works really well for them and then stick with it. While it’s great when you find a technique that brings you pleasure, getting locked into patterns can limit your ability to feel pleasure from other things: the touch of a partner, for example, or even just masturbation that isn’t explicitly orgasm-focused.
On the advice of a friend who studied sexological bodywork, I’ve recently been trying to mix up my masturbation routine so I’m not just replicating the same pattern every time. I’ve been experimenting with different techniques, positions, toys, breathing patterns, fantasies, and speeds. While this experimentation can initially feel frustrating, I think it’s starting to open me up to other avenues of pleasure, which is definitely a good thing!
A major part of your work is focused on pornography and you also refer you started writing about eroticism when you were about 9 years old. You wrote a text in which you show how eroticism can be excellent to mental health. How do you think eroticism and mental health are related and how does this relation has contributed for your overview on sexuality?
In living with bipolar disorder and social anxiety disorder, I’ve learned that there are a few things which can reliably affect my mood for better or for worse. These don’t outright cure my mood issues – nothing really can, because my mental health conditions will probably be with me for life – but they can sway them one way or the other. For example, listening to music I love, spending time with friends, working on creative projects, and going to comedy shows can all lift my mood, whereas ruminating on past relationships, staying up too late, skipping meals, and isolating myself all tend to worsen my mood.
I’ve found that eroticism is one thing that can improve my mood, I guess just because I love sex and find it interesting. I don’t know that this would work for everyone, or even for most people, but it works for me. Good sex with a trusted partner can snap me out of negative thought loops and kind of reset my neurotransmitters. If I have good sex in the middle of a depressive or anxious episode, it won’t entirely lift me out of that episode, but it’ll lift my mood enough that maybe I can implement some other self-care behaviors and get back on track toward a steadier mood.
I’ve also written about how spanking, in particular, helps with my mental health. There’s some scientific evidence that this happens for actual neurological reasons: pain releases endorphins, and BDSM can put participants in a psychological state known as “flow,” which is associated with improvements in mood and temperament. There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done on this before we can say definitively that kink is good for your mental health, but for me, it certainly is.
What led you to work about pornography and how can it be gratifying and seen in a positive way?
I find porn interesting for the same reasons I find television, cinema, and literature interesting: it all says something about our culture. It holds a mirror up to our cultural ideals and tropes, and is worth examining for that reason, among others.
I also think porn can hold up a mirror to your own innermost desires and interests. There have been many times when I’ve found a particular porn scene hot and been confused as to why. Maybe it contained a kink I hadn’t yet acknowledged was a kink of mine; maybe it starred a performer whose gender presentation differed from the people I’d typically been attracted to before; maybe it used language I hadn’t realized I found arousing. You can learn a lot about yourself, and the cultural stigmas in which you’ve been steeped, by watching porn critically.
You said in this interview http://coffeeandkink.me/interviews/sex-educator-interviews-1-kate-sloan/ that sometimes you have problems having your work valued. How do you face this lack of appreciation of your research work and writing, where you try to solve and talk about important sexual issues?
Some people think sex is a trivial issue. They see it as being ultimately about pleasure, a diversion from the “real, important issues.” When I encounter people with this viewpoint, I like to explain why they’re wrong. Sexuality influences almost everything we do as humans, whether we like it or not. Our sexual drive – like our drives for social connection, accomplishment, and basic bodily needs – affects many of the choices we make, sometimes consciously, sometimes not.
On a geopolitical scale, a lot of historical and cultural movements (good and bad) have been influenced by humans’ desire to either express or suppress sexuality. In his book O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm, journalist Jonathan Margolis argues that testosterone might be the most influential chemical in human history, owing in part to how our sex drives affect what we do. I think he’s right!
As a writer who focuses on eroticism, pornography, sexual toys, masturbation, …, what more do you consider we can learn about these themes and what doors can be opened through greater openness of minds and attention?
Like I said earlier, I think you can learn a lot about empathy by studying the spectrum of human sexuality. Becoming more empathetic is always, always a worthy goal!
I also think that the more you know about your own sexuality, the less ashamed you become in general. For many of us, our core sexual desires are huge sources of shame, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged – and holding onto shame that intense can really limit your ability to be bold, brave, and self-actualized. When you constantly work on acknowledging and unlearning your shame – sexual and otherwise – you free up resources within yourself, increasing your ability to do great things and help other people do the same. That’s what I think, anyway!
Thanks for your time, and all the best wishes for your work.
Project Let’s Talk About Sexuality
Interview: Pedro Marques
Translation and Correction and: Jú Matias