“Everything in the world is about sex, except sex, which is about power.”
Yes, sex is sometimes about power. But sex can be about many different things. For some people it means “I can still get sex,” or “I can still get sex from a good-looking man/woman, or “I can still get sex from you.” I guess these are about power in a way, especially that last one.
Here are a few more reasons that people want sex: to get attention, to get touching, to feel taken care of, to feel attractive, to challenge taboos, to assert autonomy. For some people, there’s no better way to say “you are not the boss of me” than to have unauthorized or ill-advised sex. It doesn’t matter if the “you” is alive, dead, or knows about the sex.
So why does this matter?
It matters because if what you want is touching, or attention, or validation, there are many other, usually more effective ways to get them than sex. We all need a variety of ways to get our emotional needs met. Then, if one way doesn’t work—like our partner doesn’t want sex at a given time—we still have other ways of asking for what we want.
I’ve had patients who asked their partner for sex when it was obvious their partner was going to say no—but they asked anyway. They were so desperate to feel noticed or wanted that they just couldn’t hold back from asking, even when they knew they’d probably be turned down. Besides, they all say, “there was a one-in-a-million chance that he or she would say yes, and I didn’t want to miss it, no matter how unlikely.”
That kind of “reasoning” makes sense when you’re desperate—not for sex, but to fill an emotional need.
Let’s say that what you really want is to feel connected to your partner. How many ways do you have to create that feeling? Possibilities include giving him or her a small gift (say, watching their favorite show with them); offering to help do one of their chores (say, cleaning out their car—with them, not for them); bringing up a favorite shared memory (“hey honey, remember when we…”?); and simply asking for some connection in a friendly, direct way (hey, could we both stop doing our own thing now and pay a little attention to each other now?).
Sex can be very enjoyable under the right circumstances. That includes being honest with your partner about the kind of experience you want to have, and not using sex to fill one emotional void after another. That makes sex way too complicated, and sets people up for disappointment when sex can’t deliver the goods.
So to help make sex more enjoyable, don’t turn it into your all-purpose go-to for every emotional situation. Find other ways in addition to sex to connect, to express yourself, and to feel validated, so sex can be simpler and easier.
After all, what’s the difference between sex and feeling cared about? People can go for days without sex.
Wyatt Neumann is a photographer and a father. In 2014 he took his two-year-old daughter Stella on a cross-country road trip, photographing their journey along the way. Neumann captured sunsets and cornfields and, of course, Stella, often donning one of most two-year-old girls’ two favorite ensembles: a princess dress and nothing at all.
In the middle of the trip, what the Safari Gallery describes as “a hyper puritanical, neo-conservative group” launched a cyber-attack on Neumann’s images, specifically those of Stella. Calling the images “perverse,” “sick” and “pornographic,” members of the group attempted to remove all traces of them from the web. They successfully prompted Facebook and Instagram to shut down his accounts, and they criticized his artist website as well. While Neumann claims he was open to others expressing their opinions about his work, the “forced censorship” went too far.
“The anonymous public made their opinions about my work,” he explained in an interview with The Huffington Post. “It was the actions they took against me, the reality for me was that these people could actually affect my ability to express myself. They took down my Instagram and Facebook; those are huge digital platforms for a photographer. It had a physical effect on my ability to communicate with people. The fact that they had that ability to control my experience in this life made me want to fight back. I really believe that the work is beautiful and [reveals] the innocence of childhood.”
Wyatt Neumann is a photographer and father who last year took his two-year-old daughter Stella on a road trip across the country, documenting their travels as they went. Along the way he captured beautiful landscapes, pictures of the open road, as well as a handful of adorable images of Stella wearing what two-year-olds very often wear: a fairy dress or nothing at all.
Normally, when put in a family photo album or a personal collection to show off to friends, this sort of subject matter isn’t an issue. But, as Neumann found out the hard way, these nude but non-explicit images engendered an entirely different reaction when he posted them online.
As the trip progressed, Neumann shared the images from his travels with his daughter through Facebook and Instagram. Until, that is, about halfway through the road trip when the images began drawing criticism from people the world over.
The public backlash of the images brought a hailstorm of critics who called them “perverse,” “sick” and “pornographic.” Specifically, a group from the website Get Off My Internets began verbally attacking Neumann for publishing these images after a forum thread drew more attention to the photos than he had ever anticipated.
Before long, members of the site sent out a plethora of complaints to both Facebook and Instagram and managed to get Neumann’s profiles suspended. Eventually reinstated, it was the broad criticism of both him and his daughter and the suspension of his accounts that lead Neumann to realize this was a matter of freedom of expression and the freedom of speech.
It was then that he came up with the idea to turn these images into a gallery and accompanying book. Aptly titled I FEEL SORRY FOR YOUR CHILDREN: The Sexualization of Innocence in America, The Safari Gallery exhibition and book take what Neumann hopes is an honest look at what childhood is and what it’s been turned into. As he explains in his artist statement:
What’s troubling is the abject reviling of the human body, the intense and overt sexualization of the natural form, especially the naked bodies of carefree young children, who have yet to feel the burden of institutionalized body image awareness and the embarrassment that comes with adolescence. My children are free, they live without shame.
As part of the series, the gallery and book featured images from their entire road trip, not just of Stella. And along with each image comes a comment, one of the comments left on the nude or semi-nude photos of Stella by the people who were so offended by those images.
Neumann says he is committed to “showcas[ing] the lives [his children] get to live, express myself, and catalog the reality of my children’s experience.” As for the online critics who had more than a handful of words to share with Neumann in regards to the images of his naked child, his closing statement seems to sum it up fairly well:
So the choice seems clear: do we live in fear and condemnation? Or do we celebrate one another, and ourselves, in this life? I choose to believe in our ability to fight fear with love, ignorance with understanding, and to unite rather than divide. But you be the judge… is this pornography, art, expression, or exploitation. It’s up to us to either cower in fear, or liberate ourselves and live.
Below are a number of images Neumann was kind enough to share with us, presented as they were in the exhibition: alongside the critical, hateful and often vulgar words of anonymous strangers who commented on the images of Stella:
“This man is a sick f**k. Why in the world would you do this to your child? Great job, Wyatt Neumann. That poor little girl…” -Ships Go Overboard aka It Burns, April 26, 2014 6:23pm
“He’s an attention seeking f**k. Wake up, Wyatt, you f**king piece of s**t.” -SelenaKyle, April 26, 2014 8:59am
“He seems like a d**k. I want to puke. The nude photos are gross and disturbing.” -tunawhiskers, April 25, 2014 4:09pm
“Every good thing you are and every good thing you do is cancelled out by the fact that you exploit your children. You truly have no right to do this to them.” -skeptical girl is skeptical, April 26, 2014 1:55pm
“Way to serve your daughter up on a plate, sicko. I will be sure to email you directly when I find this image being traded on the deep web, Wyatt, you sick f**k.” -your mirror lied to you, April 26, 2014 10:27am
“I doubt she’ll ever be in a real school, have any real friends, or develop any real attachments to anything because that would be counterproductive to the isolation her parents probably want to keep her and her brother in. I’ll bet the only people they’re around are their parents ‘like-minded’ adult friends, a healthy portion of which are probably pedophiles that they’re too blind to see are right there waiting to get their children alone for 5 minutes.” -NamelyThis, April 26, 2014 12:47pm
“I am a licensed clinical social worker and I work with abused children and adults every day. I have listened to children tell me about their parents selling them for sex to buy drugs, about parents who locked them away in closets for hours at a time without food or water because they wouldn’t stop crying, about parents who beat their children to within an inch of their life, just for being a child. Wyatt, you clearly hold yourself to a higher esteem than those people, but I don’t. You are no better than they are.”
Here’s a feature of Neumann by Vocativ (warning: contains strong language):
The Erotic Literary Salon will be held Tuesday, September 16.. Cris Anson will be both featured presenter and lead The Talk: For Adults. She will discuss how her career morphed from writing erotic romance to stories centered on BDSM, and offer some personal experiences while doing hands-on research.
Cris will then read excerpts showing how these experiences were translated into scenes from her books. Anson’s career began when Ellora’s Cave published her first book, Dance of the Seven Veils, in January 2005. Her upcoming novella, Adam’s Jewel, to be released September 26, is her 15th work with the same publisher.
Approximately twenty attendees will also entertain with their 5-minute sex memoirs, rants, short stories and poetry.
PHILADELPHIA: The Erotic Literary Salon, unique in the English-speaking world has launched a growing movement mainstreaming erotica. Salons attract a supportive audience of 65 or more individuals. Approximately 20 participate as writers, readers, storytellers, spoken word performers of original works/words of others, the rest just come to listen, enjoy and applaud. Frances, our resident nonagenarian (97 years young) occasionally recites her original erotica.
Salons gather the 3rd Tuesday of every month at TIME (The Bohemian Absinthe Lounge), 1315 Sansom Street, Center City, Philadelphia. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. (limited seating), for cocktails, food and conversation. Talk and Q&A between 7:00-7:30, readings begin at 8:00. Admission is $10, discounted for students and seniors to $8. Salon attendees must be 21.
Creator of this event, Dr. Susana, is Philadelphia’s best-known sexologist. She lends her voice to the Salon by offering relevant information to support the discussions that arise in the Salon and blog.
“…surprisingly comfortable….Salon devotees praise her for the space she has created….”
“I think Susana is doing a very brave thing.”
Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 2010
“There are laughter and tears along with the hot rush of blood – to the face.
Daily News, March 15, 2010
“I never knew such a life of honesty could exist. I finally found a home I can be comfortable in…this event changed my life.
“Can you remember your first orgasm?” “Can you remember your strongest orgasm?”
These questions are not often asked of each other. They are especially not asked too often of women. Female pleasure remains a widely muffled topic in many public spheres of conversation, even more so — unfortunately — when experienced without the presence of a man.
Photographer Linda Troeller and scholar Marion Schneider decided to put an end to the gender biased trend. Together, they photographed and interviewed women of all different ages, nationalities and cultural backgrounds, thus crafting a raw, sensual and multifarious view of what a female orgasm is and, importantly, what it can be. The two compiled their findings into a stunning book published by Daylight, aptly called “Orgasm,” bringing private matters into the public eye, further eliminating the stigma and shame too often associated with the topic.
Troeller and Schneider snapped their subjects in a variety of sexually charged scenarios; one woman touches herself in the swimming pool while another sticks a cucumber in her mouth and raises her arms triumphantly. The majority of circulating images depicting female pleasure are made with men in mind, yet these photos, captured what Schneider calls a “creative female gaze.” They’re at once vulnerable and empowering, personal and political.
Although sex is clearly at the core of the series, its importance extends beyond the physical realm. “Orgasm” aligns a certain bodily peak with an energetic way of being in the world, of loving yourself and loving others all at once. “Eroticism is no longer associated solely with ‘sex,’ but it is a vital ‘turn on to life,’” Troeller said. “Even my 70-year-old mother saw how to increase it on a TV talk show and ordered the recommended vibrator for orgasmic stimulation. She used it to satisfy and uplift her mood even after she lived in a nursing home.”
Do you feel comfortable sharing, or even learning, the details of your personal pleasure? See all the wonderful ways women climax below and let their bold sensuality serve as inspiration. And ladies, can you remember your strongest orgasm?
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4 Videos Below
Monica Day performance/reading two poems: The Fifth Year and This is My Body for January 2013 Erotic Literary Salon
M. Dante reading from Rochelle Lewis' compiled "Exquisite Corpse" for July 2013 Erotic Literary Salon
Frances' reading,“Go the Fok to Sleep”
Susana Mayer’s NBC10 interview of “50 Shades of Grey”