May women erotic beating

Sex: Interview: The Dark Side of Desire

Why it is worth exploring your erotic desires: Sex researcher Aglaja Stirn talks about the variety of erotic ideal images in an interview

Sadistic or masochistic tendencies seem alien to many. In fact, far more people long for the sexual game of dominance and submission than long thought. At least that's how one could interpret the overwhelming success of the novel "Fifty Shades of Gray". Why do people find it appealing, humiliated, controlled, in extreme cases even tormented? What role do our fantasies for passion play in love relationships?

GEOCOMPAKT: Professor Stirn, in the novel "Fifty Shades of Gray" a young student engages in the sadomasochistic games of a successful businessman who makes all possible decisions for her - from the car she drives to the clothes she makes carries, up to the question of which foods she is allowed to eat. The book is one of the most successful bestsellers of the past decades. It is mainly read by women. What is it that women find so attractive about this work?

AGLAJA FOREHEAD: Many readers find the book extremely liberating. In contrast to common pornography, the focus here is clearly on the woman's desire and sexual experience. "Fifty Shades of Gray" is written by a female writer from the perspective of the protagonist. That alone inspires many women.

Is it liberating when an apparently anachronistic role model of female submission is propagated?

I advocate a more differentiated view. Devotion and dominance are sexual varieties that women and men can choose between these days. It can be exciting for both sexes to take or to be taken, to surrender or to lead. The crucial thing is to have this freedom of choice at all. In earlier times women were denied a self-determined sexuality. They had to submit whether they wanted to or not.

"Fifty Shades of Gray" is not a setback for emancipation?

No. Rather, the book shows us that women, precisely because they are emancipated, are now allowed to confidently stand up to their sexuality and thus also to masochistic fantasies. To act out a submissive tendency in sexuality does not mean to be submissive in everyday life. The fact that women can buy the novel in a bookstore and not have to go to a sex shop or a porn website on the Internet - which is still uncomfortable for many - certainly also contributed to the success of the book. Men are less inhibited about this.


»We cannot infer their erotic preferences FROM THE CHARACTER OF A PERSON«

How is it that women are more biased in this regard?

Many still have to learn how to access what they want. Female sexuality has long been taboo. That dates back to the time when a pregnancy outside of marriage could threaten the very existence of a woman. To prevent this, mothers and fathers used to raise their daughters to be celibate. This thought pattern is - at least unconsciously - still partly anchored in people's heads.

"Fifty Shades of Gray" contains a number of explicitly described sex scenes. To what extent are these passages decisive for the success of the novel?

Even more than these scenes, women are touched by the story being told, as it were, by the packaging of sexuality. The protagonist Christian Gray embodies the archetype of the Prince Charming. A man who is rich and beautiful, but first has to be released from the curse of his painful past by the main female character, Anastasia Steele. In the end there is the prospect of more than sex: loyalty, love, partnership. We know the scheme from films like "Pretty Woman". Women like such love stories.

Do women sexually desire submission more than men?

In fact, studies show that masochistic ideas such as those served in "Fifty Shades of Gray" are more prevalent among women. Men can also be predisposed to this, but tend to have dominance fantasies.

How can this be explained?

In part, such gender-specific preferences are based on archaic patterns that have always been deeply anchored in the human psyche. In the days of our ancestors, women were naturally drawn to strong, assertive men because dominance was an indication of good hereditary characteristics. Even today, men who have power and wealth exert an erotic attraction on more than a few women. A woman can hardly escape such age-old patterns, especially not when she is in her fertile days.

What is happening there?

Experiments reveal that when it comes to ovulation, many women prefer masculine, muscular men more than usual, macho types. This preference is completely natural from an evolutionary point of view, no woman should be ashamed of it. In fact, many women who live in long-term, happy and equal partnerships are sometimes irritated when they suddenly - contrary to their other beliefs - long for a dominant sexual partner.

Where does this inner contradiction come from?

Modern society is based on the fact that we have largely cultivated our innate instincts and drives. We no longer hit each other with the club, but stick to generally applicable norms that serve the well-being of all and make rational sense. That is the great achievement of civilization. But our biology does not always play a part. Hardly any other drive is so deeply anchored in our being and is so strongly controlled by unconscious mechanisms as sexuality. And that is noticeable in our fantasies, among other things.

"Should you try to make all your SEXUAL WISHES come true?"

“It is not advisable to put every imagination into practice. It is important to deal with the erotic ideas IN OUR HEADS «

Is sadomasochistic sex also an archaic, instinctual form of sexuality?

The desire for dominance and submission definitely has archaic roots. SM sex, however, does not take place wildly and impetuously, but is highly ritualized. The partners must be able to trust each other absolutely, and the losing part must have the opportunity to break off at any time. He doesn't really want to put himself in danger, the whole thing is ultimately just a game. The dominant partner must therefore never lose control, he has to be able to precisely dose his actions and bears full responsibility.

Seen in this way, SM practices are a highly civilized form of sex.

Exactly. Last but not least, this is also the reason why the two characters from the novel, Steele and Gray, write down in a contract what is allowed and what is not. Everything is strictly regulated. In return, the losing partner can give himself up completely, which many find extremely satisfying. After all, being able to trust limitlessly is something we all long for. In this respect, these practices convey closeness, security and exclusivity in a playful way. There are even couples who take turns in roles.

For some, it's not just about surrendering to a trusted person, they also want to be physically tortured. How can someone enjoy pain?

In fact, some people perceive blows, bites, scratches or lashes in the context of arousal as an intense increase in their pleasure. Sexologists speak of "pleasure pain". This is a completely different category of pain than when the dentist drills the jaw. Because during sex there is a massive shift in perception in the brain, which can even be measured with a magnetic resonance tomograph.

Likewise, most people probably find sweat and saliva rather repulsive. During sex, however, the partner's humors can sometimes develop an irresistible stimulus.

Is it possible to tell if a person has extreme sexual inclinations? Does the cliché of the control-addicted manager who let himself be whipped by a dominatrix in the evening apply?

No, we cannot infer their erotic preferences from a person's character. There is also no connection whatsoever between sexual preferences and intelligence or social class. The often rumored image of the manager going to the dominatrix may well be true - because quite a few men find it relieving when they are allowed to give up control during sex. Just as often, powerful men continue to live out their dominance in bed.

How do the fantasies arise that give pleasure to a person?

In the case of most erotic ideas it is still completely unclear where they originate from. Much happens unconsciously. We still decide for ourselves whether we give in to our sexual desires and realize them. Because not every imagination has to become reality, and most people accept that. It is precisely the attraction of the fantasy that we can safely do everything in our head experience what might be disappointing, painful or even destructive in real life. Someone watching an action movie doesn't want to go gun in hand and shoot someone afterwards. I often experience with my patients that longing itself can be much more fulfilling than its realization. The most unhappy person is the one who no longer has any unanswered wishes.

How do we decide which fantasies to put into practice?

What we achieve mostly depends on what is socially accepted and morally justifiable. And that has changed a lot recently. Someone who was homosexual 100 years ago has likely been ashamed of their sexual preference all their life. Today, however, lesbians and gays can live out their sexuality without difficulty, at least in our culture. The limits of what is acceptable are shifting more and more. And "Fifty Shades of Gray" also contributes to this.

What do you mean?

Sadomasochistic practices have, to a certain extent, become socially acceptable through the book. Even women who would not have dared to do something like this before now have the courage to suggest bondage games to their partner or to incorporate erotic accessories into the love game. The whole topic has gotten out of the dirty corner since the book's success.

It is possible that some women will discover a new sexual variety as a result, and others are only now living out what was already slumbering in them. Nowadays everything is allowed that those involved agree to and that no one is harmed. On the other hand, animals, children and those under protection are inviolable; in a sense they are beyond the limit of what is acceptable.

Are fantasies morbid that are beyond this limit?

As long as they remain just an imagination: no. Everything is allowed in fantasy, there is no limit. I once had a patient who found it very exciting to imagine how children are being abused. That sounds terrible. But this woman never intended to make her fantasies come true. And that's the bottom line. Because nobody can be prosecuted for the images in their head, only for their actions.

Experience even shows that those who explore and accept their dark side can control their actions much better. That's why I would advise everyone to deal with their erotic ideas. Sex therapy can help with this.

Read the whole interview in the new one

GEOkompakt No. 43 "Sex".

more on the subject

Back to the magazine page