As a non-traditional therapist, I work with subjects a lot of others tend to shy away from – sex, power, control, jealousy, multiple partners, same-sex partners, infidelity, and other traumas.
Kink and Polyamory
What I have come to find highly interesting though, is that so often, what my kink and poly clients naturally seem to assume is a given about the in’s and out’s of love and self-esteem (even if they still struggle with it), my “vanilla” clients whom society has told are the “healthy/ normal” ones are, in my clinical experience, statistically at higher risk for presenting with issues related to low self-worth, co-dependency, and mood swings caused by other’s perception of them.
While I could talk for days about all the reasons this could be happening, let me break down some of my top observations about what the heteronormative population could stand to learn from the so-called freaks out there:
1. Fantasy does NOT equal pathology.
Just because you had a random thought about getting it on with your yoga instructor does not mean you should quit his/her class or run straight to your pastor to confess a lust issue.
And just because when you’re all alone, you like to imagine yourself being taken by force does not mean you have childhood sexual trauma.
Furthermore, what we like to think about and what we actually want to play with may not always be the same thing.
Would you be surprised to learn that straight women watch way more lesbian porn than they do heterosexual porn? According to a 2014 report, women were 445% more likely than men to search for “girl on girl.” And yet, we also know that the majority are not engaging in same-sex or bisexual encounters on any given day. So what gives?
Your brain on fantasy
The human brain is a complex system and as far as we know, humans are the only animals capable of having a thought about a thought. It can be both incredibly empowering and frustrating at the same time, right?
Part of this equation is the role operant and classical conditioning play in the development of sexual scripts (e.g., what we like and don’t like in bed).
Whatever the brain is focused on in a state of arousal is much more likely to become a conditioned stimulus for us in the future.
For example, you get turned on by your girlfriend wearing sexy red heels to bed. The next day you see a woman walking down the street in similar come-f$%-me heels and your member twinges a little. You’ve just experienced a conditioned reflex my friend.
If paired over and over under the right conditions, a fetish can actually develop, which according to the world of psychology, would mean that sexy footwear would ALWAYS have to be present in order for you to get your rocks off AND you’d have to be distressed about it. If not, you just have a preference. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!
For the vast majority of the kink community, fantasy and role playing etc. are very healthy outlets for certain sides of them that aren’t able to be expressed elsewhere. We could all stand to learn a thing or two about nourishing all sides of self in safe and soul affirming ways.
2. Comparisons aren’t just unhealthy; they’re total BULLSH%$.
While the idea of sharing their partner with someone else freaks most people out, polyamory offers clues about how to beat the green eyed monster and its cousin, insecurity. For naturally poly individuals, it’s like asking:
- If you’re a parent of more than one child, do you like both/all of them?
- How about fruit? Do you like more than one kind?
I’d be willing to bet my license you do!
Then where the hell does this clarity go when we think about ourselves?
Speaking from experience, I know damn well that I am not everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to therapy. I am bold and sometimes say things that shock others, and I prefer to be barefoot in session.
So for those looking for a more buttoned-up counselor, I have many fantastic colleagues to refer to. And yet, even I can fall victim to imposter syndrome or worrying that I am supposed to come across like ______ from time to time.
And what good does that do anyone?!
Not only could it make me less effective in therapy, it makes me anxious about what I would normally love about myself. And even better, what my clients love about me!
There is only ONE of you. And as long as you are the absolute best version of you that you can be, you are doing it right!
I encourage you to sit quietly for a moment and think about what feels most authentic about who you are.
What is it that you bring or hope to bring to the table in your relationships, on the job, or even in the bedroom?
- Maybe it’s a sense of warmth or caring
- Maybe it’s attention to detail
- Or how about the freedom for others to be exactly as they are without judgement?
Once you figure out whatever that is, focus on THAT. Not what someone else may be.
Not only will this help your own anxiety to calm down, it makes you a bajillion times more attractive to everyone else around you.
3. You should know your menu and own it proudly.
Picture this – You’re out at a restaurant with a new friend or even love interest. He or she talks about how good the steak and potatoes sound. You’re more of a crab cake and gouda cheese grits kind of person.
Do you judge them? Is this a deal breaker? Probably not unless your religion prescribes otherwise, right? I mean together, you might make one helluva surf and turf!
Same is true for sex (and anything else you’re engaging with another human being for…business, friendship…).
Kink clients inherently grasp this. It’s assumed that before we play, there will be in depth convos about what each of us want, don’t want, and maybe could want to try if the conditions were right (i.e., hard and soft limits…back to that whole sexual script thing again). Now why the rest of us aren’t doing this kind of conversating is likely an easy discourse on societal taboos and gender norms and pathetic sexual education systems, at least in the U.S. anyway.
But can you imagine the incredible positive effects this could have on a munchkin’s self-esteem and interpersonal skills if on the playground he or she learned to feel comfortable about their personality and preferences?!
“Hi, I’m Suzy. Wanna be my friend? I feel shy sometimes and I like to read books but sometimes I like playing Barbies or pretending I’m a ballerina.”
And then her potential playmate might say, “I’m Jill. I get shy too sometimes. I hate reading but I love dancing! Maybe you can come over sometime and we can have a dance party?”
Now bringing it back to us grownups, what is it you like in bed?
Whether you love to be seductively persuaded into shedding your clothing, or you’re more the kind who will greet your lover at the door nude, be confident in it!
And if you don’t know what’s on your menu yet or are afraid to talk about it, there are helpful books and videos and even great counselors who can give you a few pointers. 😉
4. A little competition can be great for the libido.
It’s been my experience that when a couple moves from monogamy to some form of non-monogamous arrangement, there’s a huge spike in sexual attraction and both frequency and intensity of sex between the couple.
Because suddenly they’re reminded that their partner is attractive to others as well.
That he or she possesses characteristics that may have come to be taken for granted over the years, but now seeing someone else light up like an f’ing Christmas tree because of those very things can be the jarring dose of reality the relationship needed.
Psychotherapist and researcher Esther Perel talks about how the conditions that are perfect for LOVE can be also be top mojo killers as well.
Does this mean we should give up on monogamy? Hell no. But we can tweak our play books.
You might try thinking back to what first attracted to your current partner.
- When wass he or she hottest to you?
- What were they doing?
- What were YOU like?
It is highly likely you were both more intentional about setting time for one another, taking an interest in what he or she had to say or liked to do for fun. You may have felt sexier in your own skin prepping to see him or her. These are all clues to help rekindle your sex life or even take it to a whole new level!
If you would like more information about these topics or would like to speak with someone about your own personal situation, please feel free to send me a confidential email or give us me call. I’d love to help.
About the Author:
Specializing in love, sex, and identity issues, she works with clients across the globe to achieve the highest satisfaction in life.
As a self-proclaimed purple sheep, rebel, and visionary, she loves working outside the box so to speak.
If you’d like to work with her online or in person, you may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.