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April 11, 2011

Cosmo Gets Kinky... Lite

After years and years of boring repetetive sex tips and describing the "tie your man's wrists with a silk scarf" trick as the most outrageous, naughtiest sex act ever, Cosmopolitan magazine has decided to endorse bondage... sort of. Yes, the April 2011 issue of Cosmo actually has the words "KINKY SEX" on its cover!

We have to admit this is a huge step for Cosmo but it seems a little bit late for the rest of the universe, no? Surely the fun, fearless females who read Cosmo have already been exposed to this kind of kinkiness before now... since 'kink' is apparently the new (not-so-new) 'trend'...

The term 'kink' has often come to refer to a range of sexual practices that may include spanking, bondage, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, sexual fetishism, etc. But as mainstream (or so-called "normal", meh) sexual boundaries keep expanding, the definition of what is and is not considered kink is changing. In the same way that Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described his 'threshold test for pornography' back in 1964 - "I know it when I see it" - the word 'kinky' might mean totally different things to totally different people. You could even say that the term is losing some of its actual meaning...

The dictionary describes 'kink' as "(slang) bizarre or unconventional sexual preferences or behavior". But what does it mean when the 'unconventional' is now conventional? Fetlife, the free social network for the BDSM/fetish community, currently has 796,705 members! Now that the so-called 'bizarre' is not really that bizarre at all, is it even still 'kink'?

Recently, on salon.com, Tracy Clark-Flory asked the question "Is kink the new girl-on-girl kiss?"
Rihanna is the latest in a line of pop stars using S/M as an edgy symbol of empowerment. Too bad it doesn't shock

Have you heard? Rihanna likes rough sex. Just in case you didn't get the message from her recent single "S&M" -- which contains the subtle lyrics, "chains and whips excite me" -- she clarifies her position, so to speak, in the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone: "Being submissive in the bedroom is really fun." She adds, "I like to be spanked. Being tied up is fun."

Oops, sorry, still there? I dozed off for a second. Signaling an interest in mildly kinky sex has become pretty banal. Madonna and Janet Jackson have been there, done that -- and now we have a whole new generation of starlets who are acting like they invented the riding crop. Like the women before them, the latest set of kink-loving pop stars are using it as shorthand for female sexual empowerment -- the kind that, importantly, is still commercial and alluring to straight men. S/M is like the new girl-on-girl makeout. Forget "I Kissed a Girl" -- I fully expect the next breezy summer hit to be something along the lines of "I Was Spanked (And I Liked It)." As with most mainstream depictions of women's erotic power, I find it sad and totally exhilarating, all at the same time.
Just like the girl-on-girl kiss has become a widely accepted 'taboo' thanks to pop culture exploitation, "pop kink" is now the hot new thing for stars to show off with. (The author goes on to list other stars who have recently embraced pop kink -- Christina Aguilera's "Not Myself Tonight" and Lady Gaga's "I Like It Rough" or the "Alejandro" video.) And like the article said, it's hardly a new thing.

But you know something has totally been watered down for mainstream mass-consumption when Cosmo starts endorsing it. Cosmo has been a strong proponent of getting naughty-but-not-too-naughty for years. You know what we mean - that particular brand of Kinky Lite™ that the editors love - when they take something relatively tame and repackage it for their readers as the naughtiest thing ever. Like the silk scarf 'tip' we mentioned before... that's an old Cosmo staple:
Using a silky tie, gently bind his hands behind his back. Then torture him with a slow striptease. [February 2010]

Have your guy at your mercy by binding his wrists. ... Use something soft but substantial, like a thin scarf, a necktie, or the belt from a trench coat. [November 2009]

Have him tie your hands with a scarf and hang them on a hook on his door (the kind you would hang your coat or towel on) before he tantalizes you with oral. [September 2009]

Tie your guys hands together with a scarf, and ever so slowly strip off your clothes in front of him, giving him a show he will never forget.[August 2009]
For the first time ever, Cosmo is acknowledging that you don't need silk to get tied up!

Before we dive in to the actual article, let it be clear that we have to give Cosmo a little bit of credit for even broaching this subject at all. Even though it feels like they are way behind the curve, the truth of the matter is that for a lot of people, what we jokingly call Kinky Lite is totally outrageous and taboo and intimidating. And that's okay. If Cosmo can help you expand your horizons and have better sex, then that's a good thing. There's a huge, vast range of activities that you can do in the bedroom (or outside the bedroom...) and it's okay to like what you like, but it's also totally okay to not like what you don't like. As long as you don't judge other people who do like it, then there's nothing wrong with you if you like things kind of... vanilla.

I'm sure that if all of my friends knew what I was into in bed - many of them already do - at least some of them would be shocked and offended. But at the same time, I know plenty of other friends who would be shocked at how boring my sex life can be. (We were just at the MOMENTUM Conference last weekend and at times I felt like the most boring, vanilla person there. And maybe I was... but that's okay.)

Now that we've gotten that 'disclaimer' out of the way, while we're proud of Cosmo for addressing this topic at all, we still think they're kind of fucking it up a bit (because, well, they're Cosmo)...

Time To Play Dirty!

According to a Cosmo poll, there are two slightly taboo sex props you are intrigued by - yet still haven't tried. Well, that's about to change...

If there's one thing we know and love about Cosmo readers, it's that you're the first to try something new and naughty. That's why we were surprised when we did a sex poll and found that more than 60 percent of you are into the idea of playing with handcuffs and blindfolds but have never brought them to bed with your guy.
Yes, if there's one thing we know about Cosmo readers, it's that they're the first to try something new and naughty. But wait... according to a Cosmo sex poll? Hm. Let's take a moment to remember how awesome Cosmo's scientific research skills are... remember the 'guys only' Cosmo Sex Poll? It was multiple choice...and they only gave two choices!

So when they say that 60% of Cosmo readers are into the idea of playing with handcuffs and blindfolds... what does that really mean? It probably means that 60% of the people who somehow found and then actually got all the way through Cosmo's stupid 'poll' chose "handcuffs and blindfolds" over probably one other choice. Just putting these 'stats' into perspective.
Granted, the S&M thing has a skanky rep, and it isn't easy to go from dinner and a movie to "Hey, babe, why don't we take turns cuffing each other?" [emphasis ours]
Ah, well it wouldn't be Cosmo without some good old slut-shaming. Apparently S&M has a 'skanky' rep... But the real issue is why isn't it easy to bring up the topic? If you can't have a conversation about sex with your partner, then how can you have decent sex with them? Maybe right after dinner and a movie isn't the exact right time for you... (or maybe you'd use slightly more eloquent phrasing then "hey babe, let's cuff each other") but if you're having sex with someone that you trust you should be able to have a mature, open discussion about what you like and what you want and what you're curious about. And if you don't trust them, why are you having sex with them?
The last thing you want is for your significant other to think you're actually sadistic. "Many fearless women want to try these fun props but are afraid their guy will judge them. And even if they're completely at ease with their partner, they have no idea how to broach the subject," says Ian Kerner, PhD, author of She Comes First. [emphasis ours]
Well, what if you are a little sadistic? If it gets you hot to inflict pain on someone, that's okay (as long as the person you're 'hurting' is okay with it too). Now, a little light spanking or blindfolding doesn't automatically mean you're a sadomasochist, but it's okay if you are. Yes, it's true that some people actually might judge you if you wanted to try 'these fun props' but isn't Cosmo contributing to that by saying it has a skanky rep? The truth is, if someone's going to judge you for something like that, then fuck 'em. (No, not fuck them, that is, tell them to fuck off.)
There's no reason, however, not to suggest it - because introducing handcuffs and blindfolds into a loving, trusting sex life can be incredibly hot. "The key to getting over your hesitation is to understand the perfectly normal and healthy reasons you're turned on by these props, so you can express those reasons to your partner," says Kerner. Once you do that, you'll be more comfortable with the entire scenario and psyched to try it out.
Way to go Cosmo. Really. No sarcasm here. Loving trusting sex life ... perfectly normal and healthy ... that's some good shit right there. But it's Cosmo, so every positive tip has to be quickly followed by something not so great...
Repeat After Us: It's Totally Normal

First of all, wanting to play with cuffs and blindfolds does not make you a sex freak nor will it scare him off. "In fact, a majority of guys are interested in trying this stuff too and don't see it as a bizarro desire," says Kerner. "Guys tend to be more relaxed about this sort of sex play because they don't worry about being judged. As long as you're not talking about heavy bondage or dungeons and whips, they see cuffs and blindfolds as light-hearted fun and will be game for incorporating them into sex. [emphasis ours]
Ah, there it is. "As long as you're not talking bout heavy bondage or dungeons and whips"... Well, what if you are? Sure it might not be as mainstream as blindfolds and handcuffs (or you know, silk scarves) and sure, it's not for everyone, but there's nothing wrong with it. It doesn't mean you are a "sex freak" or that your desires are "bizarro". If you're a beginner who is just getting curious about dipping your toes into the waters of BDSM, then yeah, don't start off with heavy bondage obviously... but if that's what turns you on in the long run, it's okay!

Also, there are a lot of other 'toys' that might fall under the umbrella of 'kink' or 'BDSM' besides just handcuffs and blindfolds... There's so much more that goes beyond handcuffs and blindfolds. But not according to Cosmo. Anything beyond that and you're "bizarro".
So why is the idea of playing with these toys such a turn-on? "Women think it's about being at a guy's mercy, which makes them feel weird about wanting it. But what's really arousing about being tied up or blindfolded is being able to completely submit to pleasure," says Carole Altman, PhD, author of Don't Have Sex Again Until You Read This Book. "When you can't move much or see what's coming, it forces you to think about only the sensations you're experiencing. You don't have to worry about satisfying him; you can literally lie back and enjoy."
As for giving him the same sexy treatment, it's appealing for the exact opposite reason. "You get to control his pleasure, and in those scenarios, guys will usually be more vocal because their voice is the only thing they have since they can't move or see," says sex therapist Sadie Allison, author of Ride 'Em Cowgirl!. "And having him under your power and hearing his enjoyment make you feel like a sex goddess." [emphasis ours]
Apparently submission is for the lazy. Of course, the lie-back-and-enjoy move is just one possible aspect of BDSM. A sub isn't always just a 'receiver' of pleasure... it might be more about obedience than passivity for some. For some couples it might be more about the withholding of pleasure than the giving of it; in other pairings the submissive might be 'forced' (consensually!) to please the dominant partner.

Yes, the scenario described by Dr. Altman can definitely be a turn-on, but that's not the only reason why handcuffs and/or blindfolds might be a turn-on. Cosmo is - and always has been - about broad generalizations (or, you know, generalizations about broads) so it's no surprise that they would try to take something as vast and full of possibilities and pigeonhole it into one single scenario that you just swap the genders for. (Also, as always in Cosmo-universe, there are only heterosexual couples.)

Kick Off a Kinky-Lite Night
Now, just bite the bullet and go for it. The perfect way to bring it up: "There are so many music videos out right now that show someone being tied up or blindfolded, and mentioning them to your guy is a great way to test the waters," says Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, author of Sultry Sex Talk to Seduce Any Lover. "Tell him that you think the video for Christina Aguilera's 'Not Myself Tonight' or Lady Gaga's 'Alejandro' is really hot, and ask him if he thinks it is too." Once you see that he's thrilled by the idea, you'll have an easier time suggesting that you want to try those things together.
Or you could not say anything and leave a pair of handcuffs by the bed. "Pick up a pair that are furry or a bright color," says Kerner. "Those are obviously more playful and will signal that you're just looking to have fun. When your guy catches sight of them, trust us, one or both of you will be naked in no time." [emphasis ours]
No. No no no no no. You cannot just leave a pair of handcuffs by the bed and not say anything! That might be a good way to bring up the subject, but you can't just leave them on the bed and then get naked when he finds them without talking about it. This requires a conversation! You need to lay out some groundrules (and possibly come up with a safeword). You should be talking to your partner/s about what you want, what you like, what you want to try, what your boundaries are, etc. We actually think that pointing out bondage in a music video - or movie or TV show or whatever - is a good, low-key way to bring up the subject. (Of course, if we were gonna take this route, we'd probably try renting Secretary instead of watching Lady Gaga, but whatever works.)

At least Cosmo acknowledges that it's Kinky Lite. If only they'd admit that it's okay if you like Actual Kink too.

2 comments:

Denise said...

My fella surprused me with a love swing that he saw in a magazine. It took me right out my comfort zone and I loved every minute. Highly recommeded

Cat said...

Great article! Found via Glossed Over. Can those poor deluded Cosmo editors just admit we're living in the twenty-first century already??