Just when you think you know everything there is to know about human sexuality, along comes a new study that makes you feel like your dad when somebody explained “bukkakke” to him. It’s hard to respond with anything but, “No. Seriously? People do that? Come on! You’re just making this up.”
That’s the feeling I got while reading the new “Kinky Women Research Study,” published earlier this year in the scientific journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. The author, Jennifer Eve Rehor, M.A..—a relationship therapist in San Diego—conducted the study while in the graduate program of Human Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. She surveyed 1,580 women—yes, just women—in the kink community, asking them about their interest and participation in 126 erotic and sexual behaviours.
I’ve read this study a half dozen times this week alone. I’ve brought it to dinner parties, and on vacation to read to friends and family members. It’s absolutely fascinating.
There is a lot of stuff in there that wouldn’t surprise you. 85 percent of participants enjoy a good spanking. 75 percent want to bite their lovers. And 76 percent are into “light” bondage. Sure, sure. You and every other Fifty Shades of Grey fan.
But then it starts to get weird. Almost 54 percent like “fire play”? What in the actual hell is fire play? (Burns are painful enough, but a burn on your balls? The mind boggles.)
And what about “forced masculination” (15 percent are into that) and “forced cross-dressing” (35 percent), both of which seem awfully pushy. Ladies, ladies, relax. What’s wrong with just asking nicely if we’ll wear your panties?
Here’s one of my favourites: “Sex with corpse (fantasy).” Only 6.84 percent enjoy that activity, which seems small. But that’s 6.84 percent of 1,580 women. Which means 108 women surveyed for this study said (I’m paraphrasing), “Oh yeah, I definitely like to pretend he’s dead and then have sex with his corpse. We call that date night.”
You can go down a rabbit hole with some of these numbers. 38 percent like “Knife play,” which I’m going to assume means they like being on the receiving end of a knife. Perhaps not coincidentally, 36 percent also enjoy “Blood play,” which is likely what happens when you get too enthusiastic about your “knife play.”
That, of course, leads to “Could you call me an ambulance” play. And then “Explaining your stab wounds to the ER doctors” play. Good thing you got a babysitter!
Joking aside, I’m genuinely curious about Rehor’s study, especially since it focuses exclusively on women and their spectacularly creative, unique, and sure, occasionally frightening sexual preferences. So I called Rehor to get more details.
Men’s Health: You listed 126 different kinks and sexual activities in this study. How in the world did you come up with so many?
Jennifer Rehor: Well actually, in the beginning I compiled a huge list of nearly a thousand forms of erotic stimuli. But then I realized that nobody is going to fill out a survey with a thousand different options. So I culled it down. I didn’t delete anything, I just grouped similar things together.
One of the erotic activities was grooming. And then I put in parenthesis: shaving, manicure, pedicure, and brushing hair. So those are four things put into one. But anyone who said yes to this wasn’t necessarily into all of it.
They might just have a fetish for giving pedicures, but they’re like “You want to shave me? Don’t be gross!”
That’s right. Shaving is an interesting thing. You can make a whole scene just out of shaving your partner.
How does it work? Are you being shaved, or the one doing the shaving? Is somebody being forced to shave against his or her will?
It could be anything. It can get very specific. Someone might only enjoy doing the shaving but not being shaved themselves.
When I read this, it felt like something my wife would use to trick me into shaving my beard.
[Laughs.] It could be.
“Oh yeah, baby. Shave nice and slow for me. Mommy like.”
You never know. She might be into that. You won’t know unless you ask.
One thing that confused me is that whipping is listed as a separate category from flogging. Why wouldn’t those be combined?
I mean, when you break it down, you’re right, it’s not that different. You’re using a device to strike your partner. But the sensation might be very different. If it’s a single-tail whip, it might be a very sharp sting sensation, while a flogger has different weights, and they have multiple arms or tails. It can feel more like a massage.
Really? A massage?
Depending on how it’s done.
So somebody might reasonably say to their partner, “You look tense. How about a nice, relaxing flogging?”
[Laughs.] Maybe, I don’t know. I think some people can be like, “I really love flogging but I never want to get whipped.” And then other people might put them all in the same category as using an instrument.
And then caning is listed as a separate category. How is caning different from flogging and whipping?
Well, it’s a different instrument. And it can be more intense than flogging and whipping.
Yeah, but shouldn’t they all be grouped together in one big “Having the crap beat out of you” category?
Not really. I mean, to use any of these instruments, it’s best to get some level of training. So you know what you’re doing.
For the flogger or the floggee?
Both. When you’re exploring these intense sensations, it’s important to learn where it’s okay to hit on the body. And how to avoid hurting your own body. Whether you’re on the giving or the receiving end.
How could someone on the giving end of a flogging hurt themselves?
I don’t know. Carpal tunnel or whatever. You need to learn the proper ergonomic way to hold a cane or a flogger.
Once you get deeper into the list, there’s some really . . . I don’t want to say crazy.
No, we shouldn’t put a value judgment on any of this.
But “knife play/ razors”? That’s kind of crazy, right?
Knife play can be gentle and playful.
Gentle? How do you use a knife gently?
It’s interesting that people tend to go to the extreme when thinking about this. Their first reaction is usually, “Well, they must be stabbing each other.”
That seems like a reasonable reaction.
If my wife walked into our bedroom with a knife, my first thought wouldn’t be, “Oh look, she wants to have a tickle fight.” I’d be more like, “Holy shit, she’s going to stab me.”
That’s what people think. But it can be done in a very playful and gentle way.
Help me out here. I’m having a hard time imagining how a knife can be used gently.
A way to set something up would be, you show your partner a really sharp, scary knife. And then you blindfold them.
You lay them down. You put that really sharp, scary knife aside, and you get like a pie server. Something that’s got like a rounded edge. But it’s made out of metal, so it’s going to feel cold.
Ah, I get it. The old switcheroo.
You come up to them, and put it on a place on their body that might be terrifying. They’re going to think you have this sharp, scary knife. But instead you’ve got something that couldn’t hurt anything.
So it’s not about cutting them, it’s about making them think you’re going to cut them.
That’s, um . . . romantic?
It’s a way of being fun and exciting, with absolutely no intent to cause any harm.
Speaking of causing harm, is “blood play” what it sounds like? And if it is, that’s causing a little bit of harm, right?
It could. Do you have any tattoos?
I don’t, no.
When you get a tattoo, there’s a little bit of bleeding that’s involved. It’s similar to that. You’re taking a really sharp razor and cutting, but just enough to get a couple drops of blood.
That’s got to be a tough thing to bring up on a first date.
It doesn’t always have to be blood from a wound. It could be menstrual blood.
Ah, I didn’t even think about that.
Most men don’t.
I tease, I tease.
No, no, I set myself up for that. Well played.
There are extremes. Some people are going to want the instrument to break the skin, and have blood. But nobody’s stabbing each other in the heart. You know what I mean?
So let’s talk about the semen drinking.
Was I a little too abrupt with that segue?
No, no, that’s fine.
Of the women you surveyed, 65 percent like to ingest semen. And a little under 4 percent like to, and I’m quoting here, “Use semen in mixed drinks or cooking/baking recipes.”
Okay, um . . . I get the felching, and the snowballing, and the foot jobs, and vaginal fisting, and rimming and what have you. But this . . . this I don’t get.
It’s pretty simple, really.
Actually, no, it seems entirely complicated. Baking with sperm? That’s like a whole process. You need measuring cups and mixing bowls and whisks and you have to preheat the oven. It’s really involved.
Well, you can make it complicated. But if you’re doing the cocktail, you can also have the drink pre-made and next to the bed. On your nightstand, so it’s ready to go.
Okay, that makes a little more sense. I read “cooking/baking recipes,” and the first thing I thought was, ‘Do they mean like a banana bread recipe?’
[Laughs.] Well, it could be.
But instead of mashed bananas, you use semen.
Yes, yes, I got that.
I’m looking at a recipe online right now, and it calls for 1 and ¼ cups of mashed bananas. That’s a freaking lot of semen!
I think the drink option could be a better way to go. Maybe you’re just mixing it with some Baileys, and stirring it up.
Ah, I get you. So you’re basically putting the “cream” back in Baileys Irish Cream.
[Laughs.] If that works for you. The point is, this doesn’t have to be complicated.
What if a guy is interested in trying something new, maybe testing the waters, seeing if his wife or girlfriend is into any of the kinks mentioned in your study. How do they broach the subject?
I think it depends on the partner. But if you come at it from a playful way, and out of curiosity, that’s a pretty good way to approach it.
So don’t be too serious about it? Make it feel spontaneous and fun?