Think Kink!

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(1/1/16)  It wasn’t really all that long ago that kink was considered uber-taboo.  Fortunately though, the masses appear to be finally waking up and smelling the 21st century.  What was once strictly confined behind tightly sealed doors or within close-knit underground communities has garnered much more sunlight in recent years and even become rather fashionable.

To be sure, kinky lifestyles are nothing new, but there does seem to be a new, more positive trend emerging when it comes to exploring them.  With the advent of the interwebs, access to lifestyle information became much easier.  Additionally, for those trying to keep their exploration under the radar, the anonymity offered on the net afforded reasonably safe access.  The flipside, however, is that it also enabled a lot of misinformation and, in many cases, unnecessary confusion.  That said, the upside is that more and more people feel less alone and isolated in discovering and acknowledging their feelings and sexuality.

While there are way too many factors to list involved with how things got from there to here, suffice it to say that various forms of media played a large role.  In the 80s and 90s, authors such as Anne Rice, John Warren, Jay Wiseman, Jon Jacobs, Will and Gloria Brame, Philip Miller and Molly Devon were instrumental in capturing a wide range of concepts and making them understandable to the masses while pioneering filmmakers such as Bruce Seven, Ernest Greene and Luc Wylder (who directed the widely acclaimed The Master’s Choice series) helped pave the way with kink-lifestyle portrayals on the screen.  As these efforts gained increasing interest, more widespread attention built through such mainstream projects as 9 1/2 weeks, The Story of O, Secretary and Stanley Kubrick’s epic, Eyes Wide Shut among others, culminating with the recent 50 Shades frenzy.  Whether reality or fantasy based, as these works expanded imagination and understanding, they inspired a new generation with willingness and confidence to push their own perceived boundaries in safe and fun ways.

Ironically, with all of the wonderful information out there now, the trick today when you think kink is that there’s no singularly universal way to go about it.  Even the word itself means something different to different people.  Therein lies the beauty–and the challenge.  Pushing yourself to find the unique things that really turn you on beyond the common and mundane is a highly personal and intimate experience–and one that’s unique to each person.  As long as the activities involved are among consenting adults and reasonable precautions are employed to ensure that no harm occurs, just be yourself and resist any temptation to have to justify yourself.  It’s your life and you have every right to seek out experiences that bring you joy and fulfillment in whatever way works best for you.  People, being funny animals, tend to prefer putting things (and occasionally, other people, for that matter) into neat little categorized bins, but that’s counterproductive for both creativity and confidence.  Forget the labels.  They’re generally useful as a common frame of reference in communicating, but beyond that, they belong on jars, not on people.

So, confidently shake off the imagined shackles of Boringville and start heading towards the growing understanding–and acceptance–found on the road to Kinkytown.  The time has never been better to Think Kink.

Erotica Today: It Aint Your Grandma’s Romance Novel

(5/26/14)  Art and publishing trends are really no different than those for style and fashion in the sense that they’re usually ever-moving targets that are often influenced by whatever’s the flavor of the day in the media, among celebrities or the prevailing technology at the moment.  It’s the nature of the beast, fueling entire industries focused on market analysis and data crunching in order to predict–and perhaps even set–whatever wave is coming next.  The irony of it all is that the so-called “trend experts” are usually wrong and most waves are only identified in the crystal optics of hindsight, often influenced by some unforeseen confluence of unrelated aspects.  In a way, it’s good that logical algorithms cannot precisely account for the unpredictability of what a multitude of humans will choose to care about (or not) on any given day.  While it thwarts a foolproof formula for what will cause something to go viral, it at least keeps us one step ahead of becoming one with a hive mind.  Perhaps it’s a small step in the grand scheme, but an important one nonetheless.

In any event, hitting that moving target is not nearly as easy as most would have you believe.  Take trends in published erotica, for example.  While there’s much to be said of general market predictions in the 21st Century’s inaugural decade, few (if any) envisioned that women would be driving the major economic growth areas.  It may have been a reasonable presumption to think otherwise, but ultimately the miss was based on flawed thinking and incomplete information.  For one thing, it seemed a bit unlikely fifteen years ago that extreme elements of the genre would become more accepted in the mainstream so quickly.  Additionally, a key missing ingredient back then was a viable e-reader.  Ubiquitous today and getting better all the time, it really hadn’t hit its stride before Y2K, so it likely didn’t factor at all when many were trying to discern what the erotica market might look like in the years just ahead.

While women have historically outnumbered men in favoring written forms of erotica over image-based, it’s only been a short time where the difficulty (and perhaps, perceived embarrassment) of locating and purchasing intriguing (and increasingly, more risqué) fare has been mitigated by electronic means.  As convenient and generally anonymous personal device technology advanced since the millennial turn, many women have taken full advantage, passing up any potential “risk” of being discovered by local busy-bodies hovering in “that” section of a bookstore and opting to point, click, plug and play instead.  Through virtual systems, supply is significantly increased, access is now much easier and, in many cases, much less expensive; three economic factors leading to exponentially greater consumption–by mostly women.

Since the “50 Shades” phenomenon hit just a couple of years ago, many publishers have not only  reported a steady stream of new erotica titles being submitted, but also a distinct movement towards more explicit content.  Couple that to recent survey data compiled by Pew Research indicating that women outnumber men in recreational reading along with figures showing “Romance and Erotica” currently as the most popular e-reader genre and it’s pretty easy to see where this is all going.

Well, that is, unless the target moves in yet another unpredictable way again.

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Sex Smart Films: Sex Ed’s Essential Resource

(5/5/14)  Sex education in America these days is full of challenges.  While it’s improved a bit over the past few years for both students and adults, it still a hot potato that’s often held hostage to conflicting attitudes and political posturing, ultimately resulting in an ongoing vacuum for those who could benefit most.  Indeed, technology advances have somewhat helped to bridge that gap in recent times, but even that has its own issues, particularly when it comes to overwhelming information overload and content accuracy.

Recognizing that cacophony, Dr. Mark Schoen founded Sex Smart Films as a platform for archiving, producing and distributing sex-health films, but it has evolved into a one-stop locale for a myriad of useful and pertinent educational materials that’s suitable for all ages and audiences.  With a PhD in human sexuality and AASECT certification as a sexuality educator, Dr. Schoen’s credentials as an educator are impressive enough (having served as the Sinclair Institute’s Director of Sex Education as well as on the National Advisory Council on Sexual Health, as examples) but it’s his talents as a film maker that positioned him to solve a serious issue in a unique way.

His knack for producing engaging films to promote sexual health took root during his graduate school years in the mid-1970s, a time where the tide hadn’t yet turned in favor of more open and candid approaches to sex education.  Sticking with that maverick approach, however, he went on to produce over 50 films that have not only been used in a variety of educational and clinical environments, but also received wide acclaim from the general public while garnering numerous awards from some of the country’s top sexuality organizations.  With the coming of the internet, it was just a natural next step to expand his efforts into the virtual world in order to offer greater access globally, but in a focused and user-friendly manner.  Sex Smart Films accomplishes that brilliantly.

On the site, which has free, subscription-based and pay-per-view content, users will find almost 400 thought provoking and educational films including historical pieces, documentary profiles (such as Dr. Schoen’s masterful look at the life of Betty Dodson, recently profiled on Sex Across America), public health videos from over 35 countries and the latest in sex therapy and education.  With 24 hour-a-day accessibility, the resources are not only conveniently available for individual visitors, but also to classrooms and therapists as needed.

In short, Dr. Schoen has crafted a true masterpiece.  Sex Smart Films is a unique resource that’s elegant in both its usefulness and the quality of its content.  It’s perfect for educators, therapists and individuals looking for insight into a wide range of sexuality concerns, accomplishing its goals efficiently and discretely in an engaging manner.  We strongly recommend that you make it a point to visit and judge for yourself.

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Belle Knox Reenergizes Empowerment Debate

(3/17/14)  The recent furor surrounding Duke University sociology major turned part-time porn star, Belle Knox, is now morphing into an old and familiar polarization.  What started out simply as a sensational headline over being betrayed and outted by a college classmate has quickly segued into a much broader discussion that is reminiscent of one that has raged on for years and basically focuses on a single question: Is a woman who chooses to work in adult entertainment empowered or is she just setting herself up to be exploited?

Before continuing–and in the interest of full disclosure–we’ve had the pleasure of working with Belle recently during an upcoming Fallen Angel production in association with Adam & Eve Pictures.  Our impression is that she is a confident, self-assured and intelligent young woman who is positively embracing her sexuality while simultaneously using it for productive gain.  Equally impressive is that she is standing by her choices very publicly in the face of relentless judgment and harassment, and her courageous, out front stance will no doubt have a tremendous impact on a much broader scale when it comes to combating bullying in general.  All of that said, while her story is at the core of what has recently reignited the empowerment debate, we believe this should be less about her personally and more about objectively tackling the overall subject as it applies across the board.

With that in mind, much of the history in this particular debate stems from the fact that control of the adult entertainment industry has traditionally been patriarchal in nature.  Even among women who genuinely enjoy productive careers in it, there is significant difference in opinion over whether they have true empowerment in a situation that is, at its core, controlled by men.  Over and over and over ad nauseum, we hear one position claiming that the basic choice is the most empowering one–that women who choose to act in adult films are simply using their sexuality as an asset to support themselves and improve their overall quality of life–while the opposition opines that the basic choice leads to degrading subjugation by men.  It’s an old argument that has raged on for many years with plenty of valid opinions on all sides but no real resolution.

Here’s the thing:  The differentiating premise is now outdated.  While it used to be true that men unanimously had a firm grip on the industry, the rapid progress of the internet has democratized the model much in the same way it has for a multitude of other businesses.  Today, women from just about every background and culture are filming themselves living out their own fantasies and broadcasting them globally.  For some, it’s a powerful means to avoid poverty while for others it’s simply a way to freely express their sexuality and pleasure.  Many don’t even draw the distinction and simply see it at something with tremendous potential that they can control on their own terms.  No matter the motive–and as is the case with many other legitimate endeavors–previously existing glass ceilings didn’t even need to be shattered.  They were simply made irrelevant through–you guessed it–empowerment.

So, forget the outright hypocrisy of those feigning to champion women’s choice while vilifying women for their choices.  Forget the archaic posturing rooted in premises that are no longer valid.  Sure, deeply ingrained values and solidly entrenched positions are tough to give up, but for all intents and purposes, the empowerment question is sufficiently answered.  Don’t you agree?

(We welcome all rational points of view on the issue, both for or against.  All civil responses will be published in their entirely, so join the conversation and let us know your thoughts.)

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