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Monday, May 30, 2022

Anger as an Emotional Aphrodisiac

I began a discussion about emotional aphrodisiacs based on Dr. Jack Morin's book, The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment, in my last article, What Are Emotional Aphrodisiacs?

Anger as an Emotional Aphrodisiac

The current article is part of a series which you can read as a standalone article, but to get a more in depth understanding of emotional aphrodisiacs, you can read my prior articles in the following order: 

A Brief and Important Note: When I refer to anger, I'm referring to common experiences that everyone has with anger.  I'm not referring to out of control or violent behavior.  Also, consent between two capable adults is essential in all sexual activities.

Anger as a Paradoxical Emotion
To recap from my last article:  Anger is a paradoxical emotion.

Paradoxical means seemingly contradictory.  

The word "seemingly" is important in the context of this discussion because these emotions often have the opposite effect to what is normally expected.

Erotically speaking, anger, as well as guilt and anxiety, are considered paradoxical emotions because these emotions can have an unexpected aphrodisiac effect.

For instance, anger's unexpected aphrodisiac effect can be seen in the heat of the moment when a couple is having an argument and the stress hormone, cortisol, spikes. At that point, people often yearn for a release of the tension as well as the closeness that sex can provide.  

This is one of the reasons why "make up sex" can be so hot after an argument.

Angry Sex and Romance Novels
Angry sex is the kind of sex written about in bodice-ripping romance novels where the hero and heroine can no longer contain their passion.

In these stories, even before the anger, the two main characters have each experienced a build up of eroticism (based on terms coined by Dr. Morin, which are The Erotic Equation and the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism).

Popular romance novels usually include the following elements before the hero and heroine get to live happily ever after:
  • sexual attraction and obstacles: This often occurs when the hero and heroine meet, feel an attraction, but they can't be together due to societal norms, customs or other issues that get in their way.
  • longing and anticipation: Long and anticipation develop because, even though they can't be together (at least not at the beginning of the story), they can't stop thinking about each other obsessively.
  • violating prohibitions by breaking the rules: Their longing and anticipation is often fueled by the prohibitions that keep them apart. When they can no longer contain their longing for each other, they might find a way to have a secret meeting alone.  The secret meeting away from disapproving eyes is also taboo.
  • overcoming ambivalence: Overcoming their ambivalence is usually the stage where they overcome the prohibitions that keep them apart as well the anger they feel about it.  In a fit of passion, they overcome their ambivalence, throw caution to the wind, and consummate their passion for each other.
Whether you love them or hate them, romance novels are a billion dollar industry, and the elements described above is what often makes them so popular.  

Readers get to imagine themselves as part of the story, so they experience the passion vicariously through the characters with a guaranteed happy ending.

Angry Sex in Movies
There are also many examples of angry sex in movies. 

One example is in the classic movie, From Here to Eternity, winner of eight Academy Awards.

Initially, there is a build up of thwarted passion between Sgt. Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) and Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr) before they have that iconic passionate scene on the beach.  

At the beginning of the movie, they try to resist each other because Karen is married to Warden's superior, Captain Dana Holmes.  Warden risks going to jail if they are caught having a love affair and Karen risks getting caught cheating on her husband.

Prior to their involvement, the anger each of them feels is for one another and the sexual attraction they are trying to resist, and towards Captain Holmes for mistreating Karen and being an obstacle to their romance.  Then, there is also the overall tense situation they find themselves in as they are anticipating war.

In the dynamic between Milton and Karen, there are the same elements as in many romance novels, including: attraction, obstacles, longing and anticipation, breaking the rules and, ultimately, overcoming ambivalence with their love scene on the beach.

Angry Sex in Real Life
When it works, angry sex can be passionate, fiery and exciting.  It can also release tension and frustration built up during the course of an argument when cortisol spikes.

An example of angry sex not working is when a couple uses angry sex is avoid having a difficult conversation.  

In addition to serving as a release, angry sex can help a couple to reconnect and repair.

Clinical Vignette:
The following clinical vignette illustrates how anger adds to eroticism between two consenting adults in a relationship:

Jill and Ted
After dating for a year, Ted moved in with Jill after the lease on his apartment expired.

Before they moved in together, they got along well and they loved spending time together.  Aside from the love they shared, they also shared similar interests and values.

But after Ted moved in, tension gradually mounted as they encountered differences they had not anticipated.

It all started when Ted told Jill that he didn't have enough space for his clothes in their shared closet.  

Jill thought she was generous with the space she allowed Ted, so she felt annoyed.  Even though she tried to hide her anger from Ted, he could tell she was angry.  But neither of them addressed it.

Grudgingly, Jill made more space for Ted's clothes in her closet.  She felt this was a big compromise.  But, from Jill's perspective, no sooner had she made the space than Ted was complaining that it was hard for him to feel like the apartment was also his because it only had Jill's furniture and possessions.  He wanted to put up some of his pictures and add pieces of his furniture.

After a few days of building anger and tension, they had a big argument.  First, Jill accused Ted of trying to take over the space in the apartment, and then Ted countered that Jill was being selfish.  

After hurling angry accusations at each other, at the peak of their argument they both looked at each other and Ted said, "Are you feeling as turned on as I am?" and when Jill nodded, they both fell into bed and had the most passionate sex they had ever had in their relationship.

Afterwards, in the afterglow of their lovemaking, they cuddled in each other's arms.  By then, the anger had subsided to the point where they could repair their differences, talk calmly about their problems and make compromises.

Anger as an emotional aphrodisiac is a common theme that often comes up in novels, movies, TV programs as well as in real life.

Anger is also considered a paradoxical emotion because its seemingly contradictory to what we normally think of as leading to passionate sex. But once you consider familiar examples, it makes sense why anger can lead to passionate sex.

Without realizing it, some couples rely on anger as an aphrodisiac, especially in unstable relationships where there are frequent breakups and makeups (see my article: The On Again, Off Again Relationship).

The uncertainty involved with unstable relationships is what usually makes them so fiery and passionate.  But, in the long run, these relationships are unhealthy and they usually don't last.

Some couples use angry sex to avoid having difficult conversations.  The problem with this is obvious: Problems in the relationship don't get resolved.  So, context is important.

Occasional angry sex in a stable relationship (where there are two capable consenting adults) can be exciting and fun as well as serve as an emotional repair between the two individuals.

In upcoming articles I will discuss the other emotional aphrodisiacs, which are also paradoxical emotions, anxiety and guilt.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have been struggling with unresolved problems, you're not alone.  

Everyone needs help at some point.

Working through unresolved problems with a licensed mental health professional can help you to lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

What Are Emotional Aphrodisiacs?

My last several articles have focused on concepts from Dr. Jack Morin's book,  The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment.  

See my previous articles: 

Emotional Aphrodisiacs

The Historical Search For Aphrodisiacs
Named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, aphrodisiacs are often thought of as foods or substances used to enhance sexual desire. 

Historically, the quest for aphrodisiacs has led seekers to explore the far corners of the world in search of the magical substance or "love potion" that will enhance sexual desire.  

In recent times, scientists have been interested in the biochemistry of love and attraction.  

Although the perfect sex-enhancing substance remains elusive, sex researchers have discovered that emotions can be powerful sexual energizers, which is the focus of this article.

Emotions Associated With Peak Erotic Experiences
According to Dr. Morin, sex therapist and researcher, whereas The Four Cornerstones of Eroticism are the building blocks of eroticism, emotions are the sexual energizers or sexual intensifiers of eroticism because they can have a powerful impact on sexual arousal and fulfillment. 

Let's see why:

Based on his research, Dr. Morin identifies the following emotions as the ones most associated with peak erotic experiences (see my article: Discovering Your Peak Sexual Experiences):
  • Exuberance including joy, celebration, surprise, freedom, euphoria and pride
  • Satisfaction including contentment, happiness, relaxation and security
  • Closeness including love, tenderness, affection, connection, unity (oneness) and appreciation
  • Anxiety including fear, vulnerability, weakness, worry and nervousness
  • Guilt including remorse, naughtiness, dirtiness, and shame
  • Anger including hostility, contempt, hatred, resentment and revenge

Exuberance and Satisfaction As Response Emotions
Exuberance and satisfaction are emotions that are commonly thought of as being very important to peak erotic experiences.  

However, according to Dr. Morin's research, these emotions aren't emotional aphrodisiacs because they don't produce or intensify sexual arousal.  

Exuberance and satisfaction are response emotions because, instead being the cause of sexual arousal, they are the rewards of arousal.

Emotional Aphrodisiacs:  Closeness, Anxiety, Guilt and Anger
When most people think of emotions associated with peak sexual experiences, they usually think of ideal emotions such as love, tenderness, closeness and affection.  

They don't usually think of the so-called "negative" emotions like anxiety, guilt and anger (in reality, emotions are not positive or negative but people often think of them in that way).

Anxiety, guilt and anger are usually thought of as being the opposite of emotional aphrodisiacs because they are associated with disrupting sexual enjoyment.  

But under certain circumstances these emotions can enhance sexual pleasure.

When anxiety, anger and guilt act as sexual enhancers, they are considered paradoxical emotions.

What Are Paradoxical Emotions?
Paradoxical means that something is seemingly contradictory.  

The word "seemingly" is important in the context of our discussion about paradoxical emotions because these emotions often have the opposite effect to what is normally expected.

As previously mentioned, contrary to popular opinion, emotions are neither positive nor negative. 

In addition, emotions are also often fluid because they can transform into each other.

Erotically speaking, anger, guilt and anxiety are considered paradoxical emotions because these emotions can have an unexpected aphrodisiac effect.

For instance, anger's unexpected aphrodisiac effect can be seen in the heat of the moment when a couple is having an argument and the stress hormone, cortisol, spikes.  

When cortisol spikes during an argument, people often yearn for the closeness that sex provides.  

This is one of the reasons why "make up sex" can be so hot after an argument.

Since the topic of emotional aphrodisiacs is complex, I'll discuss this further in my upcoming articles:

Getting Help in Therapy
Everyone needs help at some point.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional.

Working through unresolved problems can lead to happier, more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples, and I am a sex positive therapist (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.




Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Overcoming Ambivalence

I'm continuing to focus on the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism in this article, based on the book, The Erotic Mind by Dr. Jack Morin, sex therapist and researcher (see my article: What is Eroticism?).

Also see my articles:

Searching For Power

A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Overcoming Ambivalence

The Four Cornerstones of Eroticism
First, to recap:  As I mentioned in my first article on this topic, Dr. Morin identifies the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism as follows:
Why is Overcoming Ambivalence a Cornerstone of Eroticism?
With regard to eroticism, ambivalence includes: 
  • Wanting and Not Wanting
  • Liking and Not Liking
  • Being Attracted To and Being Repulsed
At first glance, ambivalence probably doesn't come to your mind as being associated with eroticism, but let's take a closer look at how overcoming ambivalence can intensify eroticism.

From Ambivalence to Sexual Passion
According to Dr. Morin, overcoming ambivalence is an internal form of the Erotic Equation because it contains both attraction and obstacles, which lead to sexual excitement, within the same person.

Ambivalence by itself isn't a sexual turn on.  The sexual turn on is the overcoming of ambivalence as ambivalence transforms into sexual desire when reluctance gives way to passion.

Ambivalent Sexual Attractions
  • Clinical Vignette: JudyOne night when Judy went out with her friends for drinks, she met Lenny, who came onto her with a pickup line that disgusted her.  She hated when men came onto her in this way, and her initial inclination was to turn away from him.  At the same time she felt repulsed by him, she couldn't help noticing his sexual magnetism (being attracted towards and being repulsed) .  A part of her wanted to walk away, but another part of her was sexually attracted to him (liking and not liking).  The more she wanted to resist him, the more she felt sexually drawn to him.  As they continued to talk, she felt her initial reluctance to talk to him giving way as she noticed that, despite his pickup line, he was also a little shy. She found his shyness appealing, so when he asked, she gave him her phone number (the overcoming of ambivalence). 
  • Clinical Vignette: Joe: When Joe met Betty, he was aware that she was in a non-monogamous relationship with Tina and her relationship with Tina was her primary relationship. At first, he didn't mind that he and Betty weren't primary.  But as time went on and his romantic and sexual feelings for Betty developed, he found it increasingly difficult to know that Betty prioritized her relationship with Tina.  Seeing Betty once a week wasn't enough for him--he wanted more.  After he spoke to Betty about it, he was disappointed that she didn't want to change the nature of her relationship with him.  This made him so angry and hurt that when he wasn't with her, he thought about ending the relationship.  But when they saw each other again, they were both so excited and the sex was so passionate that all thoughts of ending the relationship dissolved--until he began missing her again a few days later.  Then, his anger and hurt would resurface (wanting and not wanting).  He remained caught on this emotional roller coaster where he hoped that, eventually, Betty would choose to be with him exclusively--even though, when he could be objective about it, he knew this probably wasn't going to happen.  At times, he would break it off with Betty, but he would soon regret it and beg her to take him back (liking and not liking) Also, see my article: The Heartbreak of the On Again, Off Again Relationship.
    • Overcoming of Ambivalence for Joe: Joe's ambivalence would be temporarily assuaged when he and Betty reconnected after being apart.  At that point, the buildup of anger and hurt actually added to his passion for her (more about how certain emotions, like anger, increase eroticism in a future article). Because he continued to want more from Betty, Joe's ambivalence was only temporarily overcome when they saw each other again.
  • The Character Diane Chambers on the TV program, "Cheers:" Here's another example of ambivalence transforming into sexual desire:  If you watched the TV program, "Cheers," you're probably familiar with the characters, Diane Chambers and Sam Malone. You might remember that Diane had highly ambivalent feelings for Sam, especially in the beginning.  She considered herself to be a feminist and an intellectual so, initially, she looked down on Sam.  But Sam was also very good looking, which drew Diane to him. He was also a womanizer, which she really disliked.  Over time, despite her initial repulsion, she accepted her sexual attraction to him (liking and not liking, wanting and not wanting and being attracted to and being repulsed).  Similar to the first vignette, the more she tried to resist him, the more she was drawn to him.  Over time, she came to see that, despite the aspects of him she found unappealing, she also experienced him as irresistible.  As a result, she eventually got romantically and sexually involved with him (i.e, she overcame her ambivalence).
    • Overcoming Ambivalence for Diane:  Although Diane overcame her initial ambivalence for Sam, they had a stormy relationship. The storminess of their relationship was due, in part, to both of them having ambivalent feelings for each other, which made their relationship both passionate and unstable. 
In the examples above, the ambivalence transforms, even if it's just temporarily, from negative feelings to sexual attraction.  Note how attraction and obstacles, which are part of Dr. Morin's Erotic Equation, are operative in these examples.

How Prevalent Are the Four Cornerstones in Peak Sexual Experiences?
According to Dr. Morin, none of the cornerstones are required for two people to experience sexual arousal for each other.

A strong attraction and sensual feelings are often enough for two people to be sexually turned on to each other (see my articles: Discovering Your Peak Sexual ExperiencesReviving Your Sex Life By Exploring Your Peak Sexual Experiences - Part 1 and Part 2).

However, Dr. Morin indicates he discovered in his research that most participants in his study had at least one cornerstone as part of their memories of peak sexual experiences.  

Forty percent of the participants mentioned they experienced two or more cornerstones as part of their peak sexual experiences.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you find you're struggling with an unresolved problem, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional.

The decision to seek help in therapy can be challenging, but it's often the first step to living a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Searching For Power

In my recent articles I have been writing about The Four Cornerstones of Eroticism based on the book, The Erotic Mind - Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment by sex therapist and researcher Dr. Jack Morin (see my prior articles: A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Longing and Anticipation and Violating Sexual Prohibitions).

A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Searching For Power

The Four Cornerstones of Eroticism
As I mentioned in my first article about this topic, according to Dr. Morin, the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism are:
  • Longing and Anticipation
  • Violating Sexual Prohibitions
  • Searching For Power 
  • Overcoming Ambivalence
Searching For Power
In the current article, I'm focusing on the third cornerstone that Dr. Morin discusses in his book, which is Searching For Power.  

As a normal part of children's development, from the age of about two years old, babies vacillate from being dependent on their parents to wanting some independence.  This is the stage known as "The Terrible Twos," which is an unfortunate name for this stage, because although this stage might be frustrating for the parents at times, it's normal.

Babies don't have the communication skills to ask for what they want (or what they don't want) so during this stage they learn to say "No" by crying, having temper tantrums, flailing about or other ways of expressing their discontent.

The point is they learn through their actions that they can get their parents' attention and have some power over their situation in certain instances to get what they want and reject what they don't want.

Later on, during adolescence, children also rebel in an effort to have some degree of power and autonomy, which is also a normal stage of development.  Beyond adolescence, throughout the life cycle, adults learn to have direct and indirect power in situations.  

Many people, who are in a subordinate role socially or professionally, learn to have power in subtle and not so subtle ways.  For example, employees learn to "manage up" with regard to their boss.  Other people learn to finesse certain situations so they are more empowered in situations where they are, at least on the surface, in a subordinate role.

There are also more dysfunctional examples of people who learn to manipulate by "playing the victim" in certain situations where they get what they want by making others feel guilty.  In those situation, they might act like the victim, but they're using their so-called victim role to get what they want.

Sexual Power Play in Fantasy and Reality
According to Dr. Morin's research, 28% of his respondents indicated they and their partner are (or they were at some point) involved in sexual power play--either in fantasy or in real life (see my articles: What is Power Play? and The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).

With regard to sexual fantasies, the popularity of romance novels, which accounts for over $1 billion in book sales, is due in part to at least some elements of dominance and submission.  

Even if there isn't explicit BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism) in the story, there is usually at least an element of relational power play with a heterosexual "alpha male" character who pursues the more submissive heterosexual woman.  Although the "alpha male" might be in control with regard to the chase, the female character in these stories often obtains power by being adored and cherished by the man.

Part of the appeal of romance novels for many women is that the stories usually have the basic elements of the Erotic Equation as part of the story: There is a sexual attraction and there are often numerous obstacles the two characters must overcome to be together.  Often the obstacles seem insurmountable almost to the end, which adds excitement for the reader. 

In addition, most romance novels also contain various elements of the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism: There is usually longing and anticipation throughout most of the story.  In erotic romance novels, in addition to the breaking of sexual taboos, there are often class and race differences, age differences, and various other violations of societal norms. 

Furthermore, romance novel readers, who are mostly women, get to fantasize about being the heroine as the readers become immersed in the story.  

The other obvious appeal is that, after the hero and heroine overcome the obstacles that keep them apart, they get to live happily ever after, which is different from the more complex problems of real relationships.

Sexual Power Play: Establishing Consent and Safety First
In consensual power play, both people agree beforehand about what they will do and what is off limits.  Some people write up a power and submission agreement where they negotiate what they want so everything is clear to each person and consensual.

They also agree beforehand to a safe word, which is a code word they use when either of them wants to stop the role play--either temporarily or permanently during that scene. 

For example, if the agreed upon safe word is "red," it's understood that if the the person in the submissive role, known as the sub, says any other word, like, "Stop" or "No more," the dominant person, known as the dom, won't stop unless the sub says "red" because it's understood that this is part of the power play and adds to the sexual pleasure. 

After an agreement has been reached about what they will and won't do, the sub "submits" to the dom within the limits of the agreement they made beforehand.  This could include spanking, being tied up or whatever is in their agreement.

According to Dr. Morin, his research has revealed that, with regard to safety, heterosexual women. who take on the sub role, feel safest when the men they are with are "strong yet gentle."  This preference is indicative of their awareness that there is a potential for unwanted male aggression in power play situations. 

Most people only engage in these roles during the power play scene they create, but there are also couples who continue in relational power play (even when they're not being sexual) unless one or both of them want to de-role temporarily for a particular reason. 

Among individuals who have power-related fantasies, many of them, who explore the origins of their fantasies, discover that they are related to situations they either saw or experienced in childhood that have become eroticized for them.

The Paradox of Sexual Power Play
It is important to note the paradox of sexual power play: When two people enact consensual power play, although it appears on the surface as if the sub is in a powerless position, in reality the sub has a lot of control with regard to the original agreement, the safe word and when to stop, and the dom must adhere to the sub's wishes.

Either person can stop the power play scene at any time.  But since it's often the sub who is being acted upon, the sub is usually the one who is more likely to pause, modify or stop the scene and the dom is the one who will acquiesce.

Switching Roles in Power Play
People often have an affinity for either being a sub or a dom. But there are also people who like to switch roles at various times.

For instance, a heterosexual man, who considers himself to be an "alpha male" in real life, might enjoy occasionally being the sub with his partner as the dom.  

This is often true for people who are in powerful positions in real life who want to experience, for a change, giving over control to someone else.  

According to Dr. Morin, some heterosexual "alpha males" who fantasize about being dominated, have problems giving over control to a dominant woman in reality.

Similarly, a heterosexual woman, who tends to be more submissive in real life, might like to feel what it's like to be in the dominant role for a change.  If she has a receptive partner, she can play with being in the power position either in fantasy or in an actual BDSM scene.

Searching for Power is an important part of the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism.

Power play is a big topic, so I have really only scratched the surface in this blog article, but I hope I have given you an idea of what's involved.

Whether two people engage in fantasy or they engage in an actual BDSM scene, sexual power play is a big turn on for many people.

Getting Help in Therapy
Everyone needs help at some point in their life.

If you have unresolved problems that are getting in the way of your sense of well-being, you owe it to yourself to get help from a licensed mental health professional who has an expertise in the area causing you a problem.

Once you have overcome your problem, you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Violating Prohibitions By Breaking the Rules

I've been focusing in recent articles on the work of sex therapist Dr. Jack Morin and his groundbreaking book, The Erotic Mind (see my articles: The Erotic Equation: Attraction + Obstacles = Excitement, What Are the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism? and A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Longing and Anticipation). I'm continuing the discussion about the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism in this article by focusing on Violating Prohibitions.  

A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Violating Prohibitions

The Four Cornerstones of Eroticism
As I mentioned in my first article about this topic, according to Dr. Morin, the Four Cornerstones of Eroticism are:
  • Longing and Anticipation
  • Violating Prohibitions
  • Searching For Power 
  • Overcoming Ambivalence
Violating Sexual Prohibitions
Violating sexual prohibitions include violating cultural and religious norms, ideals, mores and rules that are meant to restrict and enforce sexual behavior.  

The unintended consequences of these prohibitions often make them sexually arousing.  For some people, the fantasy of violating these prohibitions is enough of a turn on without engaging in the behavior in real life. 

Some examples of sexually arousing prohibitions include:
  • Having sex in a car parked on the street, in a park or in a public place where there is a risk of getting caught
  • A sexual attraction to someone who is from another race or ethnic background when your family or culture prohibits it or where the behavior would include "forbidden fruit"
  • Pushing sexual boundaries 
  • Having a secret sexual affair 
As a clarification: The sexual prohibitions that I'm referring to are all consensual and do not take advantage of anyone.

Dr. Morin's Erotic Equation states that Attraction + Obstacles = Excitement. So, violating sexual prohibitions (breaking the rules) is exciting for many people because it includes sexual attraction and obstacles, including the risk of getting caught.

Childhood curiosity often includes "playing doctor," looking up sexual terms and discovering pictures in magazines or online of semi-nude or nude people.  

At times, these activities can elicit feeling "naughty," guilty, or fear of punishment if discovered by a parent.  At the same time, these children can feel excited and aroused by these new discoveries.

According to Dr. Morin, the fusion of arousal and rule-breaking during childhood increases the likelihood that adult eroticism will include a tendency to get excited by breaking the rules.  It's often most exciting in restrictive cultures or religions that attempt to block expressions of sexuality.  

Adolescence is a time when breaking the rules, including sexual prohibitions, is exciting for many curious teens. The fascination involved with sexual self discovery, teenage rebellion, and the risk of getting caught by a parent adds to the excitement for many teens. 

Clinical Vignette
The following clinical vignette, which is a composite of many different cases with all identifying information eliminated, illustrates how violating sexual prohibitions can enhance sexual excitement:

Growing up in a conservative home, as a child, Jane was aware that sex was a taboo subject.

By the time she started elementary school, Jane was having crushes on boys at school. But she knew her parents wouldn't approve of her liking boys, especially at such a young age, so she kept her crushes to herself. 

When she was in third grade, she had a big crush on a boy in her class, Billy. Every day just the thought of seeing Billy was enough to make Jane feel excited with anticipation (see my article about Longing and Anticipation).

When she got to school, she felt too shy to say anything to Billy, but she watched him from a distance, and she was acutely aware of where he was and the things he did and said.

She also knew her parents would be upset if they knew she was so focused on him.  So, she tried to ignore him to focus on what the teacher was saying, but her attention kept getting diverted back to Billy.

Being an intensely curious child, Jane often wondered what it would be like to kiss Billy.  Just the thought of kissing Billy was so exciting, but it also left her feeling guilty.  She was afraid that, even if her parents didn't find out about her thoughts, maybe these thoughts were a "sin."

Having no one to talk to about this, Jane vacillated back and forth in her mind from imagining herself kissing Billy to silently reprimanding herself for even thinking about this.  

When she was at home, she often daydreamed about Billy while she was writing his name over and over again in the back of her notebook--before she forced herself to think about her schoolwork.

By the time Jane turned 13, she was having doubts about her religious upbringing.  She was bored during the church sermons and her thoughts drifted to her latest crush.  

By then, she was allowed to have a few close friends who were outside her church group, and she was fascinated by the way they talked about their crushes.  It was such a relief for her to have friends she could talk to about her crush on Billy--although she was careful to make sure her parents weren't within earshot.

Jane was aware her parents didn't want her to date until she was 16, but her girl friends were already going out in groups with boys they liked, so she would join them.  She knew if her parents found out, they would be angry, but her curiosity and excitement outweighed her fear of getting caught by her parents.

On one of these outings to the park, Jane was delighted to discover that her latest crush, Joey, was there.  She knew her parents wanted her home immediately after school, but they were at work and there was no one else monitoring her behavior when they weren't home.  So, instead of going home after school, Jane went to the park to be with her friends and, especially, to see Joey.  

When she got there, Jane felt so excited about seeing Joey that she felt "butterflies" in her stomach and tingly all over her body.  

Joey was talking and laughing with his friends, so he didn't notice her at first.  But when he turned around and saw her, he gave her a big smile--and she almost felt faint.

Then Joey came over to where Jane was standing to greet her.  At first, she felt so shy, she didn't know what to say.  But he was so easy to talk to that she soon found the courage to talk to him about their school activities.

When he suggested they go for a walk on their own, Jane was thrilled.  Within a short distance from their friends, in a more secluded part of the park, Joey suggested they sit on an unoccupied bench.  They continued to talk about school for a while, but then Jane noticed that Joey was leaning closer to her and she realized he was about to kiss her.

Up until then, Jane had never experienced anything like the pleasure she felt when she had her first kiss with Joey.  Her face was flush, her heart was pounding, and her hands were sweaty.  

When they walked back to be with their friends, she felt like her feet weren't touching the ground.  Later on, she and her friends were talking and giggling about it.  Then she realized the time and she rushed home to get there before her parents returned from work.

Soon after that, she and Joey were secretly meeting regularly for extended make out sessions.  They also talked about how crazy they felt for each other.  Afterwards, she would call her friends in a state of euphoria and they would talk about the boys they liked.

Sometimes Jane's friends would meet at Jane's house and they would secretly use Jane's parents' computer to look up advice on kissing and dating.  When they left, Jane was always careful to erase the browser history so her parents didn't discover what they were looking up.

There were times when Jane wondered if secretly getting together with Joey was wrong and she felt guilty about it.  She knew her parents would be disappointed and angry with her, but then whenever she saw Joey, she mostly forgot about her parents' disapproval.

As time went on, Jane's curiosity about sex grew.  By the time she was 17, she had a boyfriend, who was her age, Nick, her parents didn't know about.  She would tell her parents she was going to a friend's house, but she would secretly meet Nick to have sex with him in the backseat of his car.  

One night when Jane and Nick were parked on a deserted block having sex in the backseat, they were startled when a police officer tapped on the window.  Even though they were shocked, they rushed to get dressed and Nick jumped into the front seat of the car to talk to the police officer. 

The officer checked to make sure that Jane was alright.  After he checked Nick's license and registration, he gave them a warning about having sex in the car.  Then, he drove off. 

When the police officer was out of sight, Jane and Nick burst out laughing.  They were still feeling scared, but they were even more excited about getting caught.  For the next few days, they stopped having sex in Nick's car, but after a week, their temptation outweighed their fear and they found new deserted places to park and have sex.

By the time Jane went to college, she left the church and she never looked back.  Her parents were upset about this, but they also knew she was old enough to make her own decisions.  

Throughout college, Jane continued to be fascinated with "breaking the rules" sexually.  Even though there was no one monitoring her sexual behavior at college, just knowing that her parents and former church community would disapprove of her "transgressive" sexual behavior filled her with excitement and also a tinge of guilt.

Even after college, when Jane was in a committed relationship with Tom, she felt the push-pull of inhibition versus sexual excitement when she and her partner engaged in sexual role play in the privacy of their apartment, including role playing with power and submission to spice things up from time to time.

Although Jane's guilt about her sexual activities decreased significantly by that time, she had internalized the sexual prohibitions that were once imposed externally by her parents and religious community.  

By the time she was an adult, she had formed her own values and boundaries with regard to sex. But she continued to feel excited by playing with the idea of being the "bad girl" whenever she and Tom explored their peak sexual experiences in fantasy and in behavior.  

Violating sexual prohibitions, including breaking the rules imposed externally by parents or cultural/religious groups, often includes a so-called "naughtiness factor" for many people.  In order to experience the thrill of forbidden behavior, there are usually overt or perceived boundaries to come up against.

For many people the risk of punishment or social condemnation in sexual rule breaking gives these prohibitions their excitement throughout a person's life cycle.

Aside from the sexual excitement it provides, sexual prohibitions (where there is consent and no one is being taken advantage of) can help to provide a sense of autonomy as well as enhanced self esteem where adults define themselves and their own right to make decisions about their behavior.

Rule breaking often remains exclusively on the fantasy level, as opposed to actual behavior.  Whether rule breaking is fantasized or performed in real life, aside from enhancing sexual excitement, it can enhance sexual self discovery (see my articles: What is Your Erotic Blueprint - Part 1 and Part 2).

Getting Help in Therapy
Overcoming sexual guilt and shame can be challenging, especially if you were raised in a restrictive environment.  

If you're struggling with unresolved sexual issues, you owe it to yourself to get help from a sex positive licensed mental health professional who has an expertise in this area.

Once you're free from your history, you can live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.