Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
My friend Doreen was sexually abused as a child. I think she’s come to terms with it, but we discuss very private aspects of our lives and I know that before therapy, she went through some rather dark stuff while she was “acting out” on subconscious impulses she didn’t understand. She used to seek out men who wanted to physically control her and for a while she was into B&D (bondage and dominance). I didn’t like any of the men she went with during this time. They all seemed very messed up and a bit abusive.
She has a much healthier attitude now and her current boyfriend is her equal and they seem to respect each other. I liked him when I met him. But she tells me that she still likes to get a little slap on her butt to “get her going” when they have sex. She used to feel controlled and dominated by such needs. She says that now she just accepts it as part of how she’s put together and it’s a small part of a more reciprocal intimacy.
First of all, it amazes me how complex people and their sexuality can be. But the question I have is this- how do we define what is “normal” and what is “aberrant when it comes to sex? When is sexual behavior damaging and when is it just a matter of personal preference?
Harriet the Spy
The general rules are: as long as sex is consensual, non-demeaning, and no one gets hurt, anything goes. However, I would add some further recommendations and dissuade people from S&M practices that involve using power to substitute for intimacy. A slap, as your friend states, to heighten the sexual experience is quite different from one that is intended to demean one’s partner, or inflate the ego of the slapper.
In my opinion, any practice that doesn’t increase the couple’s awareness and intimacy with each other might be filling a less healthy agenda.
There are ways to heighten awareness and experience of each other that have no aggressive undertones. Tantric sex is an example- this practice helps each partner to attune to each other as equals. Kabalistic sexual practices are quite similar and help the couple elevate each other spiritually.
Adult sexuality is just adult play but playing nicely is important- what goes on in the bedroom has an influence on everything that a couple experiences together.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: what is acceptable varies so greatly from culture to culture as well as on an individual level that I doubt if any standard norm can ever be established.
My own definition of healthy sex is any practice that enhances the well-being of both parties and doesn’t cause physical damage or result in a 911 call by some annoyed third party. It is also preferable if farm animals aren’t involved, since the animals just tend to get confused.
This leaves a lot of room for variety, so I’d say that the most important thing is to find a partner who’s interests run along similar lines. You’re in for better scores if you are both playing the same game.