Kinky Sex Could Be the Secret to Your Success


Original link: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a12231118/how-kinky-sex-leads-to-career-success/

 

Claudia wasn’t sure if it was nerves or the night before that had given her the confidence to ask her boss for the raise. Either way, negotiating her salary was easier than expected. She’d been practicing, after all … just on something a little less G-Rated.

The 36-year-old mother of two, who asked me to use her first name, had spent the past few days negotiating with her husband about how she could flex her longtime fantasy of dominating him in a way they’d both enjoy. Afterward they realized their mutual desire, she tells us, the experience had made her feel confident, valued, secure and pleased at their ability to compromise; feelings which she was surprised to find lasted into the the following day. When she arrived at work, still swimming in the satisfaction of a fantasy realized, she decided this was it: raise day.

The way Claudia was able to benefit from her erotic encounter is a common theme among people with knacks for kink. In fact, many successful visionaries throughout history, from artists to scientists to politicians, have had well-documented kinks and fetishes that affected how they operated in their daily lives, relationships and careers. Could it be that whips and blindfolds are the unseen force behind their artistry, leadership and innovation?

“A healthy relationship to kink can absolutely be the underlying cause of some people’s success,” says Jamila Dawson, LMFT, a Los Angeles-based sex therapist who specializes in kink and polyamory. “I see this all the time in my practice.”

A wave of recent research has confirmed this — if it’s something you desire in the first place, kinky sex can benefit you not just in the bedroom, but outside of it as well. “Unconventional” sexual practices and fantasies such as BDSM, group sex or roleplay have been shown to enhance creative thought, improve mental and physical health, and lead to more satisfying and communicative relationships. Kinky people have also been shown to have higher self-worth and be more secure than those who are too afraid or ashamed to pursue their fantasies; all positive effects which Dawson says people can use to optimize their goals, mood and overall well-being even after kinky play ends.

No wonder Claudia felt so motivated.

So, how is it that kink is able to give the people who practice it such an edge? Why would getting lost in the fantasy of floggers, blindfolds and safe-words matter in everyday moments like asking for a raise?

The answer is multifaceted, but the primary way kinky sex gives people a life boost is the fascinating way in which it can affect the brain.

Recent findings by Dr. Brad Sagarin of the Science of BDSM research team have revealed that activities like BDSM can actually alter the pattern of blood flow within the brain, creating a number of favorable mental states with positive effects similar to that of mindfulness and meditation. These mental states, explains Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a faculty affiliate of The Kinsey Institute and author of the blog Sex and Psychology, are highly distinctive, altered states of consciousness which can improve mood, enhance cognition and heighten our capacity to form original ideas and novel connections. In the context of kinky sex, these distinct headspaces are called “flow.”

Flow is most often described as a transcendent state of heightened sensory awareness, focus, presence and euphoria. It can be intense — it’s not uncommon for people to feel high, floaty, melty, tingly or detached from both time and their body. Most commonly, it’s brought on by the endorphins released during a physically intensive experience — flogging or spanking, for example; similar to a runner’s high — but the same feeling can be brought on by passionate mental or emotional stimulation.

Interestingly, the quality of these altered states can differ according to the type of kinky play someone’s involved in. In particular, Sagarin’s research found that the dominance and submission which takes place within BDSM scenes or relationships activates two unique types of flow that enhanced their subject’s creative and emotional conditions.

More specifically, Sagarin found that the participants who played the submissive role in their experiment achieved greater transient hypofrontality, which refers to a feeling of peacefulness, happy detachment and that time has slowed down. Runner’s high, meditation and even some drug highs produce a similar effect. Meanwhile, dominant participants experienced slightly different altered state. As opposed to a dreamlike detachment, those in the dominant role felt a greater sense of control, a loss of self-consciousness, clearer goals and heightened concentration — less of a “high” in their case; more of a laser focus.

When you’re in one of these flow states, Lehmiller continues, you’re operating with much lower levels of self-awareness. You’re focused; you’re in the zone. It’s like playing an instrument — when you think too hard about what you’re doing with your hands and how each note is supposed to sound, you psych yourself out and make mistakes as your body tries to catch up to your brain’s overanalysis. But, when you detach from that hyper-awareness of yourself and let things, well, flow, they come out naturally. They sound better.

That’s precisely the mental state in which both creativity and productivity flourish best — when we’re not concerned with moment-to-moment survival or the stressful mundanities of everyday life, it’s much easier for enlightened thought to occur. In that way, the flow states brought on by kinky sex aren’t terribly different from the ones inspired by mindfulness, a highly effective practice which involves focusing on the present in order to relax and improve one’s mood and brain functioning. Many studies have found that concentrating on what’s in front of you and being in the moment, as opposed to getting distracted by negative or extraneous thoughts, can do you a world of good — in fact, it’s one of the most effect ways to decrease depression, anxiety and physical pain. Whether you choose to get there by sitting peacefully or languishing in the crack of a whip on a latex-clad bum is up to you, but either way, the effect seems to be the same.

Outside of the bedroom (or dungeon, or … wherever), feelings of flow can stay with a person anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, during which time Dawson says many of her clients and kinky acquaintances harness their power for a variety of uses. One acquaintance in particular, she tells us, was able to overcome a severe case of writer’s block the morning after her partner finally obliged her rope bondage fantasy. The catharsis of a fantasy realized and the freedom to inhabit her desires in a safe and trusting space put her in quite a creative mood.

World-famous composer George Haas is a more famous example of this. In 2016, The New York Times published an article about Haas and his wife, writer and sex educator named Mollena Williams. It told the story of their unusual union — a 24/7 kinky relationship in which Haas, now a 64-year-old music professor at Columbia University, played the role of Master; Williams, his ever-doting submissive. Reportedly, the two fell in love after Haas told Williams he wanted to “tame” her on OkCupid. (“I find intense fulfillment in being able to serve in this way,” she told NYT, describing the situation as feminist because it’s her choice.)

In the article, Haas directly attributes his success as an artist to his kinky — and sexually vibrant — marriage, which he told NYT had “dramatically improved his productivity and reshaped his artistic outlook.” After three divorces and a lifetime of repressing what he’d once considered “devilish desires,” he explained that the freedom to not only explore, but live in his dominant fantasies had “roughly doubled” his artistic productivity.

This delights, but does not surprise Dawson.

“In general, I’ve found that people who engage in forms of expansive sexuality such as kink are more creative or imaginative in their jobs or recreational life,” she says. “The culture of kink supports their creative drives. It gives them a space to play with the limits and boundaries of their bodies and minds, and with mental states such as surrender, fear, playfulness, and surprise. In that sense, kink’s not so different from art, design or any creative venture. It’s a totally valid form of self-expression.”

Of course, not every kinky thing immediately leads to a revelation, artistic inspiration or a sudden solution to a long-suffering problem, but, as Dawson points out, getting into a headspace where it’s more likely to happen definitely doesn’t hurt.

Kinky sex also gives people a leg up in life through the way it can facilitate the exploration and fulfilment of fantasy.

In fact, while many people still hold the belief that fantasizing in a relationship means you’re unhappy with your partner — a faulty theory devised by Freud in 1908 which has since been debunked — data show that people who incorporate fantasy into their sex lives reap a surprising number of benefits. Frequent fantasizers have sex more often, engage in a wider variety of erotic activities, have more partners, masturbate more, and orgasm more reliably than people who fantasize infrequently, or don’t fantasize at all.

Why, exactly, would you want to have more sex, and more types of it? Beyond the standard answer — regular sex makes you healthier and happier — it can also make you more productive at work. A 2017 study from Oregon State University found that having sex before work — either the night before or the morning of — made people more engaged and efficient on the job.

Fantasy-based sex can also decrease stress and anxiety much like meditation and exercise, only rather than through silence or sweat, the reward comes through say, the satisfying swish of a paddle or the worshipping of a lovely foot. Kinky sex is a total anxiety-killer — it’s even been linked to the sorts of changes in cortisol levels which can reduce psychological and physical stress. Everything good happens when you’re less stressed — a relaxed mindframe is correlated with better physical and mental health, stronger memory, greater intuition, more energy, better sleep, improved mood and a happier sex life. Show us a job, relationship, creative project or personal goal that can’t be helped by those things.

According to Suzie Boss and Wendy Maltz’ much-acclaimed book Private Thoughts: Exposing the Power of Women’s Sexual Fantasies, picturing ourselves in erotic situations in which we feel pleasured, valued and self-actualized can even help us cope with shame, pain and past trauma because when we fantasize, we’re in control of the action and outcome. And, as Haas’ case demonstrates, actually making the fantasy happen provides a healthy outlet for more stigmatized desires, thereby relieving the burdens of stress and guilt people can grapple with from repressing their deepest needs. As long as said fantasy is being enacted by informed and consenting adults, Dawson says, making it happen can be a positive — and entertaining — release.

Fantasy can even increase intimacy and connectedness in relationships. Boss and Maltz also write that fantasies bring us closer to our partners — after all, expressing a fantasy is a particularly intimate form of connection. One 2009 study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found people who practice sadomasochism (consensually exploring the pleasure of pain) show an increase in relationship closeness. This, researchers theorized, is because safely executing that kind of play takes a great deal of trust, acceptance and communication.

Speaking of communication, kinky people seem to be particularly good at it. Because it’s necessary to be honest about desires and boundaries in discussions about kink and fantasy in order to keep all parties safe and satisfied, people who engage in less-than-vanilla sex often find it easier to be as transparent and direct in their everyday communication as well. This is especially true when it comes to asserting their needs or speaking up when something doesn’t feel right, says Dawson. Meanwhile, in vanilla territory, it’s possible to have sex without any communication, negotiation, trust or consent. This, she explains, is an unfortunate side effect of the perception that so-called vanilla sex doesn’t require the same level of communication and mutual investment in comfort and consent kinkier things do.

“Most people in mainstream relationships tend to reserve the most transparent and direct communication for challenging situations like a fight or some obstacle that requires they finally ‘break down’ into total honesty,” Dawson continues. “By contrast, when responsible people engage in kinky acts, there is almost always clear, intimate communication and respect for boundaries, two things that build trust like nothing else. Even if you identify as vanilla — more power to you — you can still benefit from communicating like kinky people do: with limits, safety, comfort and compromise in mind.”

Translating that to other areas of your life — either at work or in relationships — isn’t that big a jump. Midori, a renowned fetish and sexuality writer and educator who teaches a three-day domination intensive for women called ForteFemme, tells us her students utilize the kinky negotiation tactics she trains them on in a number of practical ways. One, an IT manager, uses her negotiation training to “discover what motivates potential employees and their compatibility with the scope of the project and team environment.” Another has a special needs child in school. When school administrators tried to shirk their responsibilities and blame her parenting, she used the physical postures of dominance and negotiation skills Midori taught her to advocate for her daughter’s well-being. From business to parenting and beyond, there’s really no limit to when and where you can apply these kinky tactics.

“We learn so much about our bodies and our minds when we engage in kinky sex,” explains Dawson. “It absolutely makes sense that we’d transfer that knowledge to other endeavors.”

Perhaps this transference is why people who engage in BDSM and kink have been found to be happier, more secure, and more well-adjusted than people who resist or repress their desires for so-called “deviant” sex.

More open and less neurotic, too. It’s not surprising, then, that the conclusion of Sagarin’s research on flow was this: “BDSM may be thought of as a recreational leisure, rather than the expression of psychopathological processes.” Any consensual kink, be it BDSM or otherwise, can be thought of in the same light.

The question that remains then, is not whether kink is safe, healthy and beneficial, but how you can apply it to your life. If you’ve been harboring kinkier desires and feel empowered to communicate them, one way to cash in is pure honesty — you can certainly turn to your partner after reading this and have a discussion about how you’d like him or her to spank you, armed with the knowledge that them doing so can benefit you in ways beyond the thrill of the sensation. Ideally, that knowledge can help mitigate any shame or embarrassment the prospect of sharing and negotiating your kinky fantasies may bring, but, if it doesn’t, rest easy. If you’re not ready to communicate your kinky interests — or simply don’t harbor them at all — there are other ways to go about reaping the rewards.

“Let’s be clear, it’s not kinky sex itself that makes life better,” Midori cautions. “It’s the conversational skills and self-knowledge needed to engage in it that makes life better.”

A small, but significant tool she recommends to do this is to start noticing and logging each occasion you don’t speak what you really want, or you minimize your wants in comparison to another’s. These are areas to apply the communication, negotiation, self-awareness and creative thought kink affords. Changing these habits isn’t easy, she says, but they address a lifetime of putting your own needs aside. In kink, when there’s consent, it’s okay to put yourself first.

Dawson offers some of her own advice inspired by safe BDSM practices to help you reach flow during any kind of sex, be it vanilla or covered in more leather than an industrial tannery.

“Setting the scene, taking the time to breathe and slowing sex down to a pace that’s much slower than you’re accustomed to are all things kinky people do to get the most out of their scenes and interactions,” she says. “You can take the same tactics into your own life, be it kinky, vanilla or something in between.” Enhanced pleasure and erotic creativity, Dawson reminds us, can be achieved when you’re not focused on a particular outcome — rather, simply immerse yourself in the experience, concentrate fully, and remain open to what arises in the moment and you can get into the same sort of flow states that latex-clad dominatrixes can, sans the latex and craving for control.

The experience of living one’s fantasy in a safe, consensual space that’s free of judgment and expectation, it seems, far outweighs the perceived benefits of keeping kinky desires under wraps. If you have them, try bringing them to light. At the very least, you might get a raise out of it.