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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.