Kinky sex makes for happy people

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      The Brentwood Town Centre food court was, during lunch time on November 6, not an obvious hub of sexuality. Diners hunched over the bolted-down tables, ingesting soft meat burritos and fried rice. Most ate alone in silence. But to sex-positive activist Jennifer Skrukwa, there was nothing flaccid about such an ordinary crowd.

      "I'll bet 40 percent of the people here are kinky," she told the Georgia Straight in an interview at the food fair. "But do they label their kinks? Surely there's a lot of people here who like to have their nipples pinched really hard before they come. Or get scratched. Or feel the full weight of someone lying on top of them. Or have their bums spanked a couple of times a year. I'll bet there's a woman here who likes to dress up in heels and bustiers. And that man over there wearing a Betty Boop jacket, he's probably wearing red silk undies. Someone here has got his wife's panties in his pocket and sniffs them each time he goes to the washroom today.

      "These people are alive with sex. But many of them are denying that they are."

      Skrukwa isn't a denier, inside or out. At the food fair, she wore a turquoise lace tank, push-up bra, and black stilettos. Her lipstick was perfectly applied, her eyes popped under heavy mascara, and her long dark hair was immaculately teased and sprayed. That evening, at the Love Nest sex store across from Metrotown, she taught cock-sucking to a full house.

      Vancouver wants what she is selling. The 35-year-old mom leads 170 workshops per year on subjects ranging from "butt sex and anal pleasure" to "finding and stimulating the G-spot", which features a live demonstration "where you can actually see the G-spot spurt", she said. Skrukwa claims she's hosted about 7,000 people each year since she started her business, Libido Events ( libidoevents.com/ ), eight years ago. On Saturday (November 24), she's throwing a 120-person sex party at 595 Hornby Street that will include: eight queen-sized beds; one bondage suspension rack; a sex room; a dance floor; a flogging station; 4,800 square feet in which to frolic; and a set of house rules.

      This isn't porn or prostitution. It's grownups of diverse sexual preferences consensually and shamelessly getting their freak on. And Vancouver has become one giant sexy experiment, with Generations Y and X leading the way.

      Sin City's fetish nights at Gastown's Club 23 West attract 500 naughty schoolgirls, goths, and others monthly and boast 1,085 Facebook members. Kitsilano's Art of Loving offers classes in sexual massage, kissing, how to "make her moan", and other subjects. The CY Club, Vancouver's oldest swinging club, offers "hump day" once a month. The two-year-old Club Eden, a warehouse-sized club in Delta, charges $50 for a couples membership, $90 per event, and another $100 to stay overnight. This summer, it expanded to Calgary. "Polyamorists" (those who love more than one person) are finding each other on the Web, and UBC PhD candidate Danielle Duplassie believes their numbers may reach the thousands in B.C.

      "There seems to be a trend that one person cannot meet all of another person's needs," she told the Straight . "There's certainly a trend to more openness."

      This is just the tip. Almost every night of the month, there's some easy-to-find kinky event where consenting adults can get off.

      But are you getting any? You, Straight reader, who bought into the monogamous "lifestyle", as sanctioned by society, law, the church, the synagogue, the temple, and the mosque. How much sex are you having?

      In the absence of any recent, local, decently sampled research on sexual frequency, it's impossible to know just what you and your neighbours are up to. In his work, local sex therapist David McKenzie refers to The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States , by Edward O. Laumann, John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels (University of Chicago Press, 1994). They found that about 10 percent of adults are sexually inactive, and about a quarter have sex a few times a year or not at all. In total, they found, 60 percent of adults are having sex a few times a month or less. Not exactly burning up the bedrooms.

      Burnaby counsellor Dawn Schooler sees plenty of Generation Y and Xers who are having no sex. In fact, that's a trend that is going to worsen, she predicted to the Straight in a phone interview.

      "There's a growing isolation," she said. "Leisure time is spent in solitary pursuits, on the Internet, iPods, video games. They don't learn to have social relationships." As for monogamous couples, she said of those she sees in her practice, they're simply too busy to have sex, thanks to work, the high cost of living, and children.

      Skrukwa's answer is kink. Get kinky and get some.

      "For me, it started when a partner asked me to wear high-heeled shoes in bed," she recalled. "Stilettos. So I started wearing shoes for him, and it spiralled." She tried out an S&M club. "It was not my cup of tea, but I was captivated by the idea that you can be in a space where people accept you for what you want."

      Now, with a female partner of six years, a male partner of one year, and a growing business helping folks sort out their freaks, Skrukwa is at the helm of the mainstreaming of kink in Vancouver, for the sake of keeping everyone's sex life alive.

      Lulu West was 29 the first time she strapped on an oversized, sparkly, clear-jelly dildo, paired it with stockings, garters, and a corset, and braved a fetish night with some girlfriends. With a one-year-old at home, she hadn't been out for a couple of years. She panicked before going.

      "But after about five minutes, I loved the titillation, the dancing, the eye candy, the outfits," she told the Straight in an Oak Street coffee shop. "There was a really beautiful bleached-blond lady who was bending all these guys over a pool table, and they were begging her to spank them. She had a huge hickory switch, and she was laughing and having a good time, swatting them with it. At the end, she pulled out her boob and squeezed breast milk all over their bums and rubbed it in all over."

      West paused and her eyes opened wide.

      "And I thought, 'Wow! I'm not bored! Check this out!'"

      Avoiding boredom is a big motivator for West. Now married, she still goes to fetish nights and adult play parties with permission from her husband. She's allowed to do anything except have sex with men–though she frequently has "dildo sex" with women. For her, she said, it keeps her primary relationship fresh and her work as a federal civil servant more tolerable.

      "I love my husband, but everybody gets bored," she said. "Sometimes you just want to colour outside the lines. It makes you energized. You feel sexier [after a party], and you get a mood boost for days.”¦When you go out, you bring back something new, something you saw or did. And you can play with that for a while. Play with your thoughts, the things you saw. Have a fantasy."

      West looked to the existing scene to freshen her sex life, but SFU student Scott Barnes simply introspected. Nine years ago, Barnes was 17 and travelling across Canada with his girlfriend. In Montreal, he met another woman. He asked his girlfriend, "If I sleep with this other woman, does that mean we have to break up?" She thought that didn't make sense. So Barnes began a two-year "freeing and liberating" sexual era in his life: lots of partners, lots of sex.

      Next, he spent seven years in an almost sex-free monogamous relationship.

      "Her sex drive waned so dramatically," he explained to the Straight in a phone interview. "For four years, we had no sex. It really reinforced to me the reasonableness of being nonmonogamous."

      Recently, he fell "madly and completely in love" with a woman. He explained to her his preference for nonmonogamy. She considered it. Tragically, he said, the same day he realized he didn't need anyone else, she broke up with him over the issue. So now he's buying flowers, trying to lure her back.

      To help himself and others sort through the issues, Barnes started a Facebook group called Poly-Monogamy: An Inquiry Into Open Relationships. After heated on-line debates and private thoughts, his conclusion is, "Except for those who enshrine a coherent set of principles–like Roman Catholic or fundamentalist Muslim marriage, unless it's that strict–I think everyone wants something different out of their relationships."

      That conclusion, and Barnes and West's own histories, are consistent with their demographic, according to sex counsellor McKenzie. Those under 40, he said, are far more willing to try kink and open relationships than their seniors. In the six years since McKenzie started his practice, the biggest change he's seen is the more liberal attitudes of many of his clients toward swinging.

      "Sex is not the big bogeyman for them that it was for us," he told the Straight in a phone interview. "Generation Y saw their parents get divorced, and they don't want to divorce. At the same time, there's a deep need for variety."

      Indeed, if Skrukwa is at the helm of nonmonogamy in Vancouver, Barnes and West are tossed about by the waves.

      A young Barnes saw a marriage close to him disintegrate under the pressure of monogamy. The woman didn't want sex; the man did. And in the long term, their solution looked a lot like his first nonmonogamous relationship–only unhappy, and without her consent. Why, he wonders, shouldn't the man be up-front about his desire for everyone's sake?

      West estimated that about a third of her friends are open to the kink scene. It's a relief after the mainstream dating scene, she said.

      "I wasted a lot of time before," she said. "I used to go to the regular clubs endlessly, trying to be charming. I think people really misrepresent themselves there. Guys can rob you emotionally when they're not honest [about being nonmonogamous]. In the kink scene, you're just out there, asking for exactly what you want."

      In West's experience, though, the other two-thirds of folk are too scared or unmotivated to break out of their low-sex lives. Television sucks the sex drives out of plenty of friends who don't participate in kink, she said. For others, "they're in serious 'no' mode," she relayed. For undefined reasons, West said, some refuse because of amorphous "values" or "judgments".

      Monogamy is not working, according to Duplassie, the founder and director of Burnaby's Shanti Counselling Centre. Divorce is almost at 50 percent; affairs are epidemic; and those who claim to be monogamous often simply go from one partner to the next–hardly the definition of the word.

      Her PhD thesis in counselling psychology addresses polyamory. She hopes that a better clinical understanding of the subject will aid counsellors in helping those with more than one partner.

      Duplassie started her research when, two years ago, she found herself to be in love with two people. At a conference she attended in Ottawa, she talked about the idea of polyamory.

      "My questions were shut down," she told the Straight during an interview at a Commercial Drive coffee shop. "They said, 'I wonder what polyamorists are running away from?' and I thought, 'Wow. That's ignorant.' I wanted to research women who can speak to that experience, without the pathological viewpoint."

      What she's found so far is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Vancouverites who identify as polyamorous, and probably many more who consensually have more than one partner, without self-labelling. And–apart from the December 2006 issue of the U.K.–based Sexualities on-line journal, which was devoted to polyamory–there's very little recent academic research on nonmonogamy, Duplassie has found. Canadian laws governing marriage and benefits don't support it; universities don't study it; the pharmaceutical companies would rather medicate low sex drives than promote alternative sexual expression; and society does not yet embrace it, she said. Yet lots and lots of people are doing it, in spite of all that.

      The growth of kink is good news to John Ince, the leader of the Vancouver-based Sex Party ( sexparty.ca/ ). Those in their 20s and 30s, he echoed, are the most sexually liberal generation. But they fall apart politically. To have a true sex-positive culture, he said, the laws must change. Censorship must be restricted; sex education should teach positive, gradual skills; public nudity should be allowed; sex work must be legalized–among many other provincial and federal changes listed in the party's on-line platform.

      "It disturbs me that the most sex-positive component of the culture is the least likely to vote," he told the Straight on the phone. "It's a problem for the entire progressive community."

      Youth in Vancouver enjoy a comparatively free sexual stage, he said, including: Wreck Beach; a thriving destination gay scene; a diverse indoor sex industry largely unhampered by police; a fetish community; and "Porn North", the emerging sex-entertainment industry.

      Still, Ince said, there's a long way to go. He pointed to Surrey's recent stir over the nudists who wanted to use the Newton Wave Pool as a prime example.

      For Skrukwa, though, it's not about politics. It's about the small, personal barriers holding people back from embracing sex positivity. Breaching the subject with your partner. Going to a first event. Even Vancouver's casual fashion scene is a cold shower on sexuality.

      "I always have heels on," Skrukwa explained. "If you want to feel sexy, you have to do something about it. If you feel like the same old craptacular image wearing your washed-out whatevers, you're not eye candy. Sexy is as sexy does. And most men like a pair of heels."

      If, as Ince says, youth are apolitical, the redefinition of what mainstream sexuality is for the 21st century depends on the personal decisions of folk like Skrukwa, West, Barnes, and Duplassie. They're voting with their feet–and minds and sexy bits–for nonmonogamy.

      Comments

      8 Comments

      penetrode

      Nov 24, 2007 at 12:30pm

      You couldn't find anything about sex habits in Canada? You didn't look very hard. What about Michael Adams' "Sex In The Snow"? It's even in a second edition. Tsk tsk.

      0 0Rating: 0

      nagg

      Dec 4, 2007 at 11:10am

      well, quiet a nice article that holds lots of truth.

      kranky

      Oct 25, 2010 at 11:00pm

      in america and canada,Asia some europa sex is a crime,,,prostitutes are treated like criminals,,Those poor people do not have any rights,,gey ,,lesbians got right but not prostiytutese..this is against human rights,,

      Sam (vanilla with a swirl)!!!

      Mar 23, 2011 at 11:00pm

      I have been trying to reach Jennifer for year... Miss her dearly...
      Sholmes.07@hotmail.com
      I miss my friend.. I hope you see this post :)

      Sam and family xxoo

      intenso

      Mar 16, 2012 at 11:18pm

      Jennifer I would love to meet you please get back

      One thing for certain

      Mar 18, 2012 at 2:23pm

      It makes for kinky people.

      0 0Rating: 0

      Jason00

      Apr 15, 2012 at 4:38pm

      Anyone know where i can get laid bye a cupple must be fit.
      I have always done the monogamas thing. But my girl is sooo busy. She said i have have other partners when shes not around.

      buzz

      Apr 15, 2012 at 5:15pm

      Straight sex makes for happy people too. It's ok if you are kinky, but it's not a requirement to have a great sex life.

      0 0Rating: 0