MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018
What men can learn from 50 Shades Of Grey
Priya Talwar
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
When Avinash Mehta, a 26-year-old social media manager was browsing through books at a local bookstore to pick up new erotica, he found this passage and showed the excerpt to his friend Karan Seth: "When his hand brushed her nipple it tripped a switch and she came alight. He touched her belly and his hand seemed to burn through her. He lavished on her body indirect touches and bitter-sweet sensations flooded her brain. She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a God with a sense of humour. Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, till she was broken up and began a low rhythmic wail… The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off." Seth was dismissive. "Oh yeah, that's the aim-'the unfolding of the universe.' And don't you underestimate the power of the 'brush', and the 'glide.'" Mehta retorted, "It is almost as if the man has nothing to experience except being the cause of the 'awareness.'"

What turns on men

A nice cleavage and two girls kissing. Is that enough to turn men on? Popular perception may have you believe that a single sexual stimulus is enough to arouse men, but is that all there is to male sexuality? This assumption that the male brain responds to or is aroused by any single sexual stimulus should have made Mehta and Seth feel some twitching in their trousers while reading this passage. But both disagree. "It offers nothing authentic to a man's experience and more so, it portrays a very typical, thus, limited view of what women want from sex (eg, the universe unfolding) and the way a man behaves in bed-the gentleness has to break her open and the man is always on the recieveing end," Mehta says.

The 'neuroscience' behind desire
When Ben Okri wrote the book, The Age of Magic, he probably did not know he was going to get the 'Bad Sex in Fiction Award.' Only if this book had been marketed as a popular romance, the genre many feel women prefer over extreme stimuli intended to cause sexual excitement (read porn), Okri would probably be selling movie rights for his book. Authors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What The World's Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire, in an interview reflected this widely accepted view of what men and women prefer between porn and erotica. While men prefer porn, the most popular erotica for women, they say, is romance novels and then, fan fiction. Women prefer visual porn by a long shot because of the "fundamental difference between the male and female brain. Female desire requires multiple stimuli simultaneously or in quick succession. In the male brain, physical and psychological arousals are united. If a man is physically turned on, he's mentally turned on too," they argue.

What turns you on, isn't easily answerable
But do all men experience the awakening of their genitals by the bam-bamthank-you ma'am stuff, be it in films or literature? Samir Parikh, director, mental health and behavioral sciences, Fortis Healthcare, says typifying sexual behaviour on the basis of gender is outdated and stereotyped. "Women also respond to single sexual stimuli and moreover, arousal is not a pure physical act which involves no mental functioning." In fact, in a study at the Kinsey Institute, researchers found that a group of highly sexually active men did not respond to porn clips that had proven successful in eliciting sexual responses in earlier studies.

Only when the subjects were provided with a wide vareity of porn clips to choose from, clear signs of arousal were obtained. "We know little about why something may turn on one person, but not another. We know little about how people develop preferences for specific kinds of sexual stimuli. Or why is it that the same fantasies or images can arouse some over and over again, while other people need something new every time," wrote Erick Janssen, PhD, associate scientist at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University.

Also, the stereotype that female sexuality is typified by the romance novel and male sexuality approximates pornography does not seem to do justice to the complexity of human sexuality, says Nigel Barber, PhD, Biopsychology in an article questioning the underestimation of women's interest in pornography by evolutionary psychologists. He says that research has proved that physiology of sexual arousal and sexual pleasure is quite similar in men and women. "Based purely on physiology, one would imagine that women are more sexual than men, which raises intriguing questions about why gender differences in sexual behaviour are in the opposite direction," he writes.

Men are not seed containers
One of the most heard arguments in favour of "porn is used predominantly by men" is the evolutionary perspective. Since ancestral men had to spread their seed, the argument goes that men developed a sexual psychology that makes sex with new women exciting, both to imagine and engage in, and this made men especially responsive to visual signals of sex, writes Janssen. But that doesn't mean women do not respond to porn. Studies suggest women show stronger physical sexual responses to porn than to more romantic erotic stimuli, he adds.

More so, percieving men as porn addicts or the sole viewers of porn, seen as a social evil, takes away agency from men but also unjustly portrays them as sex freaks, says Ahmad Faraz, a coordinator for MenEngage Delhi, a network of men and boys for gender justice. And anyway, sex doesn't feel fantastic simply because we're furthering the species. Not only is this argument reductive, it also doesn't explain the why, says Alain de Botton author, How to Think More About Sex, in an interview. "What we find sexy and why we find it sexy can't be explained by the evolutionary perspective as it doesn't explain why it's really exciting to have sex with someone," he says.

Has women's interest in kink been underestimated?
Answers to questions Fifty Shades of Grey has thrown up to men:

How do you know if she wants S&M?
You just will never find out unless you explore. Psychologists at Case Western University, US, found the main appeal of bondage and spanking is, that it allows people to step out of normality.

How do you start?
Dr Mahesh Nawal, an Indore-based sexologist says that the best way is to give her extra positive feedback whenever there's a chance for her to call the shots during sex. For example: "You look so hot when you ride me." That's a good start. "Pleasure works on a feedback loop. If someone expresses delight from any activity, you're likely to get pleasure too and to repeat that act. Otherwise, 'I'd love to worship you,' rarely fails.

How do I know she's sure about doing it?
Make sure you sell your adventure into submission as a mutual experiment. That's of paramount importance. Also, if she thinks it's all about exploring your freaky side, she's less likely to be receptive, adds Dr Nawal. Make sure you agree on prearranged signals that allows one to withdraw consent.

Who sets the limits?
It's the submissive, not the dominant, who sets the limits. Set boundaries, and don't play on the same day as you negotiate, Dr Nawal says.

Can you sign a contract?
Daphne Menezes, a Delhi based advocate says that because BDSM is not legally recognised in India, there are no binding contracts. According to the Journal of Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine, even when there is full agreement, in certain situations like an injured partner seeking medical treatment-it may be filed as a medico legal case. "Indian law does not permit the injuries, grievous in nature or which are likely to cause death, even under consent," writes Sunil M Doshi, a ssistant professor, Smt. B. K. Shah Medical Institute and Research Centre, Vadodara. Making certain rules of the play and defining certain limits can reduce the chances of complications.

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