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Sex and Relationship Therapist, Sarah Berry Talks Shop, Kink & ‘What’s Normal’

It’s my pleasure to welcome Sarah Berry, good friend, sex and relationship therapist and all around fabulous person, to A Hopeful Romantic to talk about her work with us.

Sarah BerryKD: Sarah, when you and I first met, you were the editor of Forum Magazine, and you were also a very talented writer in your own right. During the time I’ve know you, you founded the Fannying Around Women’s Group and always had an understanding of what was lacking in the area of women’s sexual health and the information and sources of information that are available. Becoming a sex and relationship therapist was the logical next step for you. What was the biggest change for you?

SB: Thanks KD. I think learning to be myself was a challenge. As a journalist at events I had to be larger than life as I was competing with a lot of other journalists to get the column inches. That said, when I was interviewing people on a one to one basis, I was much happier and relaxed.

When I started training some years ago, I thought therapists had to be this blank canvas with no discernable personality. I stopped wearing colourful clothes and tried to be very serious. But I realised that being human was very important to the process and that the way I was in my journalist interviews was more the person I should be as a therapist, things fell into place.

Now I am a professional version of myself, which means I am not trying to be something I am not, so I can concentrate fully on the client. Rather than being stuffy, disconnected and serious, I am warm, empathetic and down to earth. The relationship I build with the client is a huge part of the process in person centred therapy, as is being genuine, congruent and transparent.

KD: Sarah, you recently said to me, and I quote, ‘I actually think while some (people who lead alternative lifestyles) are having the life of Riley others are confused while others assume all therapists wouldn’t understand alt lifestyles (and I hate the word alt like I hate the word vanilla).’ Could you comment on this statement and tell us how that has affected the direction your career as a sex and relationship therapist will take.

SB: The media is quick to sensationalise kinksters, assume they are all survivors of abuse or fear they are all wannabe criminals. So the kinksters defend themselves by pointing out how the BDSM scene is very well policed and their mantra of being safe, sane and consensual. So there is a “them and us” type situation.

The reality is some people have a great time, some are working out what they want, some are new to the scene, some are veterans, some are still learning, some spend their time spouting dogma about the “right way” to do things… You don’t need to label yourself as a kinkster to enjoy a spot of spanking, and you don’t have to relish pain in order to be kinky. Some kinksters have been abused and successfully use kink to work through their pain while others can harm themselves by reliving the trauma. It is complicated; things can go wrong and things can go right. I will be blogging about being kinky on my new website http://www.LondonKinkTherapist.co.uk.

Because of this difficult backdrop I try to listen to my clients and not make assumptions about what they do or how they think. Just because someone is into BDSM (which stands for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission and sadomasochism) it does not mean this is the cause of their problem. Sometimes people do use kink to harm themselves but it doesn’t mean they must eschew all kinky practices in order to have a healthy sex life. Each person, couple or group I see is different and we work out what they want and need together then we work out how to help them get there.

KD: Sarah, I know a little more about the journey that led you down the path to therapist than most people do, and it’s an amazing journey. Would you share some of it with our readers please.

SB: I think you’re meaning that I have overcome my own psychosexual issues. My struggle with vaginismus inspired me to start Fannying Around. But even though I have overcome it, I think sex is a journey for everyone – whether you choose to have it, can’t have it, are alone, have a permanent partner or enjoy a variety of partners at a time. I am always learning and open to new thoughts and ideas. If I wasn’t I think I would be a rather jaded therapist.

KD: Are there future plans for Fannying Around?

SB: I do really want to bring Fannying Around back. It was a wonderful forum and I learned a lot from the members. I will be sure to let you know.

KD: What was most difficult about your transition from editor/journo to sex and relationship therapist?

SB: I think it has actually gone pretty smoothly. I always cared about what I wrote and I had the luxury of writing for the people that I was covering – rather than being sensational. Now I am even more mindful of being inclusive of sexualities, genders and preferences which can be a bit tricky when giving quotes to heteronormative places that want you to fit into their neat way of thinking.

KD: What do you think keeps people from seeking out the help that’s readily available for them, the helpSarahBerry therapists like you provide?

SB: I think people assume you need to be experiencing real tragedy or be really “fucked up” in order to see a therapist. But everyone has stuff, and at different times this can affect our relationships, work and social lives more than others. To be in therapy doesn’t mean you are a victim. In fact I have a great respect for anyone who walks into my office.

Therapy can help you unpick a problem, work out solutions, help you improve communicating – especially if your arguments always follow the same pattern and neither one of you feels heard – or deal with unresolved issues or grief from the past.

Some people fear seeing a therapist will open a can of worms, maybe if they have experienced grief or do not want to disrupt a currently amicable relationship with a family member. But it is possible to deal with any disruption from past events by looking at what is happening in the here and now. If you do not want to relive the past you do not have to. You are in control at all times.

KD: Could you talk a little bit about ‘what’s normal’ from the standpoint of a therapist? I know this is something that is always a hot topic, and more than likely one of the main reasons people seek you out.

SB: I’m always hearing statements like: “I just want to be normal,” “I want a normal relationship,” “Our sex life isn’t normal. But the idea that there is a normal is massive misconception. Everyone is different. We all have different ideas of what good sex is or what we want from a relationship – if we want one at all. And what this idea of normal does is alienate anyone who feels they are normal; it creates freaks out of anyone who feels they don’t want a lot of sex, or who maybe has a fetish or who doesn’t want to be married. A “problem” is only a problem if it impedes your own sense of what you want, disrupts your work, social life or relationships and/or if you are causing harm to others. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to completely change yourself to fit in with the norm. It could be that you can find a new way to express yourself. Life would be boring if we were all the same, fancied the same people or had the same desires.

KD: What does the future hold for Sarah Berry, sex and relationship therapist?

SB: Well I will continue with my private practise and carry on learning about the world of sex and relationships. I would also like to do more group therapy and more writing.

KD: How can people get in touch with you?

SB: You can contact me through my website sarahberrytherapy.co.uk, via email at sarah@sarahberrytherapy.co.uk or call me on 07581 231313.

 

 

 

Cara Sutra Tells How to Enjoy a Taste of Bondage without Any Accessories at All

It’s totally my pleasure to have the fabulously talented Cara Sutra on Hopeful Romantic today talking about how you can enjoy a taste of bondage without any accessories. Welcome Cara! 

Sounds like an odd thing for someone who has just launched her own bondage kit to say, right?

Cara Sutra imagecs_dress_clean_logoThe truth is, I’d hate for those who have never tried bondage before to be afraid of this invasion of ‘shackles’ into their bedroom, into their sex life. To the uninitiated, it can be highly intimidating to feel like your sex life needs anything other than you and your partner, enjoying one another’s embrace and attentions.

What is this ‘bondage’ thing everyone keeps going on about, anyway? Why is it so popular?

When bondage is talked about in a sexual or sensual sense, it refers to the practice of restraining someone’s movements for the physical and psychological pleasure, enjoyment and fulfilment of both the one being bound and the one doing the restraining. Usually, this includes the use of bondage sex toys such as ankle and wrist cuffs, spreader bars, Japanese bondage rope for Shibari and a whole variety of other options.

Bondage has also come to be known as the ‘catch-all’ phrase for all things kinky, ranging from light role play in the bedroom to full-on, hardcore BDSM activities. Strictly, bondage refers only to the practices restraining movement, but words have a habit of evolving or being appropriated as necessary.

Kink and bondage have always been popular with perhaps a more underground area of society. Cara Sutra image 2fantasy_shoot-18Due to the overwhelming taboo attitude from mainstream culture in previous years, BDSM was forced into hiding – being an activity that took place in the secrecy of private clubs and a hidden part of couples’ sex lives, a shameful secret.

Regardless of what you think of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, there’s no denying that the popularity of this trilogy brought bondage and kink into the consciousness of the general public, making these activities palatable and almost acceptable. More people than ever before want to experience this perceived-as-new way of spicing up their foreplay and sex.

If you don’t know how to begin and unwilling to part with your hard-earned cash for accessories before you even know if you’ll like it, there are some ways to experience a taste of kink and bondage without any extras in the bedroom at all. Aside from your partner, of course.

Here are 7 ‘kinky but cuff free’ ideas to try out the next time you’re feeling a little adventurous.

1. Tell them you want to be held down. Even saying the words aloud will feel kinky enough, but if you’re not quite brave enough to reveal the desires out loud, why not put them in a saucy text message, instant message or email? Or maybe you want to do the holding down. Approach it from a gentle and cautious point of view, with sensuality and eroticism at the forefront of your mind. It needs to be for the pleasure of your partner as well as your own satisfaction, remember. Consent, above all things. Being held down during sex is the most natural form of bondage you can experience.

Cara SutraFantasy-red-full+box22. Introduce spanking through role-play. A Dominatrix bullwhip might sound like the sort of thing you’d simply never enjoy, but a firm hand spanking punishment from your partner? A lot more sexy, yet still corporal punishment strictly speaking. Why not lead the way by suggesting some naughty roleplay before sex, perhaps combined with dressing up? It’s easy to move from scenes such as naughty schoolgirl and a Doctor or Nurse’s body inspection session to a sound bottom spanking of a naughty girl or boy.

3. Try some masturbation and orgasm control. Again, there’s no need to dive into the deep end by throwing them under lock and key with a chastity device. Being controlled or having control of your partner’s orgasm and masturbation schedule is undeniably erotic. Depending on their usual masturbation frequency, you can decide between you whether you ban them (or give up your self-pleasure control) for a couple of days or a week. When you’re finally ‘allowed’ to masturbate or orgasm, ideally with your partner present, the result will be so much more intense and dramatic.

4. Call them names. Nice, dirty names, of course. If you’re used to dirty talk before and during sex, it can become a natural progression to include some terms of respect or submission, as well as the usual depraved names such as ‘slut’, ‘whore’, ‘bitch’ and the like. The effects of calling a dominant partner Miss, Mistress or Ma’am, or Sir, Master or Lord depending on their gender is Cara Sutrafantasy_shoot-7quite profound. Recognising the Dominant and submissive dynamic by using these titles adds an extra hot factor to proceedings.

5. Layer pain amongst the pleasure. If you enjoy exploring one another’s bodies during foreplay and erotic massage, why not include slight tidbits of pain mingled in? Watch for their responses. During the rush of endorphins which happens at high states of arousal, lightly tapping into pain reflexes can add to the pleasure. This might be a slight nip of their skin between licks and kisses, or turning strokes of the skin into light grazes and even a passionate scratch or two with fingernails. This can progress into hair pulling during sex, and from there you can incorporate other ways to deliver the pleasure of pain.

6. Strive for obedience. As your partner what they’d do to please you, then teasingly call their bluff. Suggest that you go for a date night, but request that they wear no underwear. Alternatively you could tell them that you want them to go remove their underwear, then return and hand it to you, while you’re out. Getting naughty in public while no-one else knows what you’re doing is such a turn on, and submitting to your partner and agreeing to be obedient to their whims is an extremely kinky way of discovering new highs.

Cara Sutra postbox-mockup7. Restrain yourself. We’ve talked about enjoying a natural form of bondage where you’re held down by your partner, but what about having to remain motionless while they do what they will? Not being allowed to move while they perform oral sex on you, or even during the act of penetrative sex, is an incredibly erotic experience for both lovers. Stopping yourself from crying out as you’re being pleasured is another way to give a kinky aspect to sex.

It’s clear that you can enjoy a kinky sex life which includes bondage even without the use of any sex toys or BDSM accessories. Once you discover a little more about what turns you and your partner on, you can then make some informed choices about whether you’d like to add any helpful extras in the bedroom. This might be in the form of comfortable leather wrist cuffs, a slave type collar or a spanking paddle. You can find out more about bondage sex toys over at my site.

Enjoy discovering the many facets of pleasure than a broad spectrum of sexuality and kink can bring to your sex life. It’s a fantastic journey.

– Cara Sutra

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Find Cara Here:

 

 

 

 

Sex as Ritual

Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500I’m very excited to be on a panel about Sexuality and Spirituality with Victoria Blisse at Eroticon this year. Those of you who follow my blog and read my books know that I’m fascinated by the connection between sex and spirituality. I’m not a mystic. I’m a bit of a skeptic these days, but I’d be the first to say that there’s definitely something spiritual, something magical about sex, and not the least of it is the ritual involved.

I think about the ritual of sex a lot lately as I revisit the Elemental Coven from the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy in my serialisation of Demon Interrupted on my blog. I’ve always loved ritual. I made rituals up when I was a child. Later, I was involved in everything from conservative Christianity to practicing in a Wiccan coven — drawn in by the ritual. I spent three years training to be a spiritual director. I did it for the ritual. Contemplative prayer, meditating upon passages of scripture, the use of movement, dance, chant, are all tools of ritual. During my time spent in the Wiccan coven, the year itself was lived out in ritual — full moon, new moon, the changing of the seasons, the celebration of spring and harvest. During that time my husband and I even underwent the ritual of hand fasting in the stone circle at Avebury.

Ritual is a set of actions performed mainly for their symbolic value. But that’s only the beginning. The real power of ritual is that it’s the gateway to something beyond itself, it’s the gateway to a deeper understanding of what it represents.

That ritual infuses my erotica is not surprising. Sex is steeped in ritual, and often the rituals we psyche_et_lamour_327x567practice before sex are strikingly similar to religious rituals. We often wear special clothing for the occasion, just as priests and acolytes do. We may share a romantic dinner together before hand, with special foods, just as the priest serves the Eucharist. Flowers and gifts may be offered. And all this we do in hopes of experiencing and celebrating le petit mort, the sexual version of death and resurrection.

When life was a lot more tenuous than it is now, fucking the world into existence was an act of high magic, sympathetic magic. One hoped that by having sex in a field or a cave or possibly a stone circle, the birds and the bees would see what was happening, and take a hint. Pollination would take place in the plant kingdom, plants would grow. Procreation would take place in the animal kingdom, animals would give birth. There would be food to eat, and the next generation would be guaranteed. Our ancestors got it — that there was something in the act, something in the lust driving the mating rituals of all living creatures that brought about new life. New life was in itself magic.

Today sex is more about recreation than procreation. The urgency is no longer there, nor is the belief that our efforts will encourage the cattle in farmer Jones’s field to breed. The urgency may be gone, but the ritual is still there. Strangely and wonderfully, so is the magic, albeit a different kind of magic.

220px-Grus_canadensisThe beauty of sex as ritual is that we don’t have to be members of a religious group; we don’t have to undergo years of training to practice the rituals of sex. Whether it’s BDSM, kink, vanilla or masturbation, sex contains the built-in default rituals of all humanity, just like it does for our animal cousins. Yes, I get that it’s biology. But when cranes dance and grebes do synchronised swimming and apes groom each other, it certainly seems like more is happening than just the old in and out.

Giving and receiving pleasure is the ultimate ritual of human connection, even if it’s just some much-needed connecting with ourselves. There are as many versions of the ritual as there are people to practice it. No organised religion can offer a ritual that is more personal nor more universally compelling. Perhaps that’s why so much effort has been made through the centuries to regulate it, to control it, to limit it.

Back in the dawn of humanity when sex was both ritual and religion, our ancestors got it right. Though the science wasn’t yet available to back up that intuitive connection, that visceral urgency of fucking the world into existence, even back then, our ancestors already knew that the ultimate ritual, the ultimate magic takes place in the arms another.

If you’re in the Bristol area next Saturday the 7th, I hope you’ll get your ticket and come join us at Eroticon.

 

 

 

Top Tips for a Sexy Valentine’s Day (and Night!) from Renee at Sh!

Every year on Valentine’s Day my readers and I get a special treat, and that’s a visit from one of my very favourite people on the planet, Renee, from Sh! Women’s Store in London. Renee always has hot and sassy tips to make Valentine’s Day fun for everyone, so welcome back, Renee! And happy Valentine’s Day!

Renee on masturbationSh!_logo_300dpiThis time of year shops are full of cheesy cards and teddy bears, and many regard Valentine’s Day as far too commercial with its notion of forced romance. You have probably seen the disappointed faces of women whose partners didn’t hand-deliver 12 long-stemmed roses and tickets to Paris? Yes, me too: a close friend dumped her partner after he presented her with white lilies rather than red roses on Valentine’s Day. to be fair, he’d forgotten to put them in water so they were rather dead. Much like their relationship, later that evening.

The truth is, a Valentine’s Day celebration worth remembering doesn’t need to cost a bomb, and certainly doesn’t require weeks of planning. Sometimes the little things are those that count the most: when asked what she received for Valentine’s Day, another friend replied: “My partner shows me love every single day of the year, so Valentine’s Day is his day off” and this is by far my favourite Valentine’s Day-quote ever.

Working at Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium, the UK’s best sex shop for women, every day is like Sh! Valentines postTwinkly ValentinesDayValentine’s Day – romance, love and hot sex in equal measures.  We meet singles and couples of all ages, backgrounds & sexualities, and what they all have in common is that they all like to keep the sexy fires burning. Sex is great for your health – it’s puts a twinkle in your eye, colour on your cheeks and a saucy wiggle in your step!

When my good friend KD asked if I’d like to share my top tips for a lovely Valentines Day, I was, of course, all over it like a hot rash!  So, Ladies, Gents & Others – here are my five steps to a fun-filled, laid-back and pressure-free Valentine’s evening:

1. Atmosphere

First, you need to create atmosphere; crumpled sheets and clutter does not a sexy evening make!  A quick tidy, freshly laundered sheets and scented candles strategically placed around the room will create an inviting and enticing space.

2. Lingerie

renee val day 4For Valentine’s Day you are absolutely allowed to splash out and wear whatever floats your partner’s boat – you are the treat, after all!  French knickers, sporty cotton shorts or trashy rip-em-off thongs – anything goes.

http://www.sh-womenstore.com/Playtime/Dressing+Up/Bracli_Classic_Pearl_Thong.html

I love these delicate Pearl Panties – a strand of real pearls sit against your clit and create amazing friction as you move.  Whether you’re a fan of the Brazilian wax or like to keep a full bush, your lover will adore seeing you in these!

3. Starter

renee val day 3I’m a huge fan of massage candles and think they’re the perfect way to start off a sexy evening. Treat your lover to a luxurious massage or perhaps take it in turns to discover each others sensitive spots; soft breasts, taut hip bones and curved buttocks love strong hands.  This 100% natural & vegan candle come in a heart-shaped pot and melts into a warm oil, perfect for slow, sensual strokes.

http://www.sh-womenstore.com/Sensual+Pleasures/Taste/Edible_Heart-Shaped_Candle.html

 

4. Main Course

Valentine’s Day sex can be as romantic or as raunchy as you like – favourite positions, multiple orgasms Renee Val Day 1or hours of oral sex. This year, why not surprise your partner with a copy of the Oral Sex Position Guide by Emily Dubberly – 69 oral sex positions ranging from mild to wild, you are sure to find positions to drive each other crazy!

http://www.sh-womenstore.com/Erotica/Sex+Guides/The-Oral-Sex-Position-Guide.html

5. Dessert

Homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries will go down a treat – effortless and decadent, washed down with your favourite fizz – after a lust-soaked session in the sheets.  Nibble on the strawberries, nibble on each other…

renee val day 5And for all you sassy singletons out there… Being single doesn’t have to mean no sex on Valentine’s Day – you can still have a wicked time!  Meet up with equally single friends for a cocktail or three, then head home for some quality *me-time*. This pleasure set has been designed with you in mind and comes with our bestselling Sh! Rabbit vibe, sensitivity- enhancing clit gel, Lush lube and FREE batteries – and at only £40, it’s a bargain!

http://www.sh-womenstore.com/Sex+Toys/Vibrators/G+Spot+Vibrators/Womens-Pleasure-Date-Night.html

So there you have it, lovers – my best tips for a sexy night in! Renee Val Day 2Whatever you get up to, I hope you have an amazing time…  Happy Valentine’s Day, y‘all!

Renee xx

Renee is the Senior Store Manager at female-focused erotic boutique Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium in Hoxton Square. She has her fingers in many pies and spends her days talking about G-spots, P-spots and any other spots you may have found in your nether regions. When she is not selling sex toys to the women & couples of London, she can be found at home with a thrilling book and a glass of pink wine, surrounded by her beloved bunnies (of the furry variety).

Follow the Sh! Girlz for all the latest fun & frolics:

Twitter: @ShWomenstore

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sh-Womens-Erotic-Emporium-Hoxton/162138937134932?fref=ts

Sh! Hoxton Website: http://www.sh-womenstore.com/

 

 

From the Daily Grind to Bump ‘n’ Grind

If you’re in the London area and want a unique experience to share with your special someone, an experience that will linger long after Valentine’s Day has come and gone, then be sure to check out “From The Daily Grind to Bump ‘n’ Grind”

One of my favourite people, the lovely Sarah Berry, is teaming up with one of my favourite places, Sh! Women’s Emporium to offer a fabulous new class for couples. “From The Daily Grind to Bump ‘n’ Grind” is a Sh! Valentines Special for couples. Sarah assures me, however, that the word ‘couples’ is used very loosely. The class is open to f*ck buddies, poly people, first dates, longterms, and … well you get the picture. As the lovely folks at Sh! say, the couples that play together stay together, so this very timely class is designed to help ‘couples’ turn off the daily grind and be more mindful during intimate times –  whether they like it quick, kinky, romantic…

Sarah Berry is qualified sex and relationship therapist and now runs a private practice (seeSarah Berry postunnamed
www.sarahberrytherapy.co.uk). So the class will be combining tricks from the therapist’s couch with saucy tips and exercises gleaned from Sarah’s 10 years of sex & relationship journalism.

The class is aimed at all sexualities and sexual preferences. Poly groups are also welcome. It will be held at Sh! Women’s Store Hoxton on Feb 11. Tickets are £50 per couple.

Venue: Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium, 57 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6PB
Tel: 020 7613 5458

For more info and tickets visit:
http://www.sh-womenstore.com/Erotic+Classes/From-the-Daily-Grind-to-Bump-n-Grind.html

Please note: Tickets are not physically issued for this event. Instead, upon purchase, your name will be added to our guest list and you will receive confirmation by email.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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