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BDSM: Playing with erotic power

We gay men Tend to take our sex seriously. While everyone talks about sex, we do something about it! A book published years ago bore the title “Male Fantasies/Gay Realities.” More than our straight brothers, I think, gay men often take an experimental, playful approach to sexuality, and consider good sex both a necessity and their birthright.

As men explore their sexuality, some find their interests gravitating towards more intense erotic experiences. These interests are called power sex by some, leather sex or s/m by others, or simply “kinky” by others. It may be a desire to surrender control to another person, or to be in control, or to explore some fantasy. Other men find that they like the intense stimulation that comes from firmer, rougher touch.

Perhaps you’ve had interests like these, or you’ve found that what I’ll call “power sex” has an attraction for you. You are not alone. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, more men (and women, for that matter) are interested in rougher sex than many of us would imagine. As long as what’s being done isn’t dangerous and is mutually agreed upon — “safe, sane and consensual,” in the language of the leather world — power sex is simply one other variation or preference among the countless options available to us sexually.

People have many reasons for enjoying power sex. Some men find they just need more stimulation — grabbing, twisting, biting or spanking feels good along with more gentle contact. There is a lot of individual variation in the kind of touch people find erotic. A light caress might be the ultimate turn on for one person, yet feel ticklish and unpleasant to another — or just not as stimulating as more intense touch. Similarly, a squeeze or swat that would annoy or irritate one man might send another into shivers of ecstasy. (As with any sort of erotic encounter, it’s a good idea to ask about what excites your partner, and to let him know about your own particular turn-ons.)

Some men are strongly attracted to the mental and emotional — some would add spiritual — sides of power sex. For instance, the man whose job requires spending the workday making decisions may find that in the bedroom he wants someone else to be in charge. Other men are nurturers by instinct — but like letting their aggressive sides out in erotic play. Many of us who grew up as “good boys” like the idea of having another side which we let out in the privacy of our bedrooms. To surrender control to another person can be deeply intimate, as can being the one who receives that surrender.

In our society, taking charge is seen as masculine behavior. Aggressiveness is something many of us seen as masculine and sexy. We like to see ourselves that way, or we find ourselves attracted to men who have an aggressive streak. There is a distinction to be made between aggressive and abusive. Rape fantasies are not uncommon. That doesn’t mean that someone with these fantasies actually wants to be sexually assaulted.

If you find yourself interested in exploring the exchange of power with a partner, the first step may be to take your time. What do you know about your desires? What sorts of fantasies seem to come up when you pleasure yourself erotically? Can you talk about your fantasies with your partner or playmate? Be aware that talking about our desires is an important form of intimacy. You are making yourself vulnerable, in a way, when you tell someone what you want. If the person with whom you are sharing has anxiety or judgments about sex, he may react in a way other than how you might like. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling wounded or injured by such a response, which probably reflects more on his sexuality than your own. Similarly, if your partner or friend expresses an erotic interest in an activity that has no allure for you, tell him that you are not interested, but not in a way that wounds or judges him. It’s a valuable thing to have someone share their innermost desires with you. Be respectful.

On the other hand, you might tell your partner and find him responding with eagerness and excitement.  Great! But remember — take your time. Talk about things first: your experience and his, what you want and what you don’t want. Start slowly. Keep it safe. You may want to set up some “safe words” to help with communication. Saying “Red!” for instance, could mean “stop.” “Yellow” could mean watch it — that’s pretty intense. “Green” might mean you want more.

Many men find that being restrained or blindfolded increases the intensity of an erotic experience. Just as a blind person may compensate for loss of vision by developing greater sensitivity to touch or sound, temporarily surrendering sight or movement can make even light touch to the nipples much more focused and deeply felt.

A word of caution and common sense: being tied up by someone you met for the first time just an hour ago is not very smart. Just as it takes time and feeling safe in order to open up to a partner spiritually, it takes time to develop a sense that it is safe to surrender control to another. Be careful; err on the side of caution.

If you are interested in talking about your sexual interests with a professional, you may want to make certain that your psychotherapist is informed about human sexuality and is able to be nonjudgmental. One good source of information is Kink Aware Professionals, a listing of psychotherapists from throughout North America with a degree of familiarity with alternative sexuality. The referral list is available through the KAP website: https://www.ncsfreedom.org/kap-directory-homepage.html .

The almost limitless variety of our sexual interests is one of the things that makes life interesting. It would be boring if we all had exactly the same preferences. Exploring your desires in a safe and thoughtful way can open up all sorts of possibilities. And if you find that your desires are basically “vanilla,” heed the advice of a friend of mine, who likes to remind me that vanilla is also a flavor!

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.