How can we discover what turns us on?
Does “the erotic” come from taboo, longing, surprise? How can we get more of it to juice our relationships and fantasies? Panelists offer tips to cultivate more eroticism in our lives.
Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
#S2E15 | What Turns You On?
[Wild & Sublime theme music]
Mksthingshappin: It doesn't matter how long you've been engaged in sex, in kink, in connection — or even in your relationship. It's continuously flowing, and changing, and dynamic.
Jera Brown: Surprise can also create a sense of the erotic — when you're surprised that you're turned on by something, you're surprised by some sort of sense of self-discovery. It could even be like, being surprised that you actually like something that is culturally acceptable! [laughs]
Karen Yates: Welcome to Wild & Sublime, a sexy spin on infotainment®, no matter your preferences, orientation, or relationship style, based on the popular live Chicago show. Each week, I'll chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity. You'll hear meaningful conversation, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I'm sex educator Karen Yates. Today, we dive deep into the erotic. What is it, and how do we get more of it? Plus my Sermon on the Pubic Mound®. Keep listening.
I just finished uploading the creator notes for Episode 14, "How to Get Good at Sex," to our monthly members on Patreon. What are the creator notes? They're my weekly unedited thoughts on each podcast episode. And they're the newest benefit for Afterglow members — the Wild & Sublime community on Patreon. For as low as $5 a month, you'll also be able to ask our monthly panelists questions and get a bonus audio of that conversation. And more. If you are a fan of this podcast, and if you want to keep our collective mojo going, I'd love it, if you signed up on Patreon. Don't let the mojo die! If monthly is not your thing, you can also contribute to our PayPal tip jar. The links are in the show notes.
Oh, it has been raining all day here in Chicago, and you will probably hear raindrops as I am recording, because they are hitting the window pretty hard. Great update: I had my arm surgery not too long ago. It went very well, and they are zipping me along. Two weeks later, I am now in physical therapy. And that has been kind of a wild ride. Today, I actually used scissors for the first time to open Sigrún's dog food bag. Progress. Still have another month ahead of me, but everything is looking good. So there's that.
I thought I'd be taking two weeks off of the podcast. But after a week, I thought, you know what, I just want to get back. I want to get back to doing this. So here we are. It'll be another shorter episode, while I still get my sea legs back. But there you have it. So today, eroticism. Erotic is a very interesting word, because it has a certain meaning. It's not just about sexiness or arousal. There's sort of this added component. And so, I thought I would look it up and tell you what the definition of "erotic" is. And it was pretty interesting, because I went online, and the first thing I see is "Relating to or tending to arouse sexual desire or excitement." And then they give similar words, like "titillating," "salacious," "pornographic," "lewd," "smutty," "hard-core." Now, these words I do not even think of when I think of erotic, right? Then all the morality words, like "dirty," "off-color," "indecent," "improper," "filthy," "vulgar," "crude." And then all the way to "naughty," which was actually a word that I banned in the fourth episode, I think. "Bawdy," "earthy," and "spicy."
So finally, in looking around, I see something in Wikipedia — and I rather like this, because it takes a different angle. "Eroticism is a quality that causes sexual feelings, as well as a philosophical contemplation concerning the aesthetics of sexual desire, sensuality, and romantic love." [sighs thoughtfully] You've got the body turn-on thing, but then you've got the lofty thinking part, too.
Well, on that note, I will be giving it over to the panelists now. You'll be hearing more about the erotic from our panelists from the 2019 show at Constellation. Chicago kinkster and coach Mksthingshappin; sex-positive somatic psychotherapist Elmo Painter; and Jera Brown, sex and relationship columnist for Rebellious Magazine.
[onstage with live audience] So let's have our panel join us now. So we're going to be discussing tonight, what is the erotic? And how do we find it? Is it more than porn? What is the erotic? What is erotic? Jera, we were talking on the phone, and you said there's something interesting about the word erotic.
Jera Brown: I did?
Karen Yates: Yes. [audience laughter] That it's like — it's a nebulous word.
Jera Brown: Yeah.
Karen Yates: It's a nebulous word, that we don't know what it really means.
Jera Brown: Right. That is what I said. But also, I was thinking about the roots of the word erotic, which I should have looked up, and didn't. But it comes from the Greek "eros," one of the — what, like five types of love? Like, there's different types of love — like agape, and philia. There's others in there. Some are more, like, familial. And agape is more selfless. And eros, the way the Greeks describe it, was the type of love that runs off of desire. So bring up your thing about the obstacle...
Karen Yates: Oh, right. I've been reading this book, which I really love, by this guy named Jack Morin. And it's called "The Erotic Mind." And first, he talks about how attraction plus obstacle equals desire. But he talks about the four cornerstones of eroticism. And the first one is longing. The second is violating prohibitions — like taboos, appropriateness. Third is power, or the lack of it. And the last one is overcoming our own ambivalence for wanting it. [laughs] So, I think one of the things he talked about that was so interesting to me is, he talked about like, it's a surprise, sometimes, when we stumble on our own eroticism, right?
Elmo Painter: Yeah, I love the surprise part. Because sometimes when we find something erotic, and it's a surprise, and it's a new thing, people, like probably a lot of us in the room, would be like, "Oh, okay! There's that!" Some people would find something, and it could be something that could trigger some shame, or some anger or, you know, a lot of confusion, and things like that. But I think that there can be a lot of excitement to the surprise. An excitement to like, "I've never tried this before, this is really exciting, and I can't believe it's turned me on this much!" I think that's the end of my thought.
Mksthingshappin: Just to continue, it's really not stagnant. I've been officially kinky in my own head for seven years. And, you know, three years into it, I was thinking, I've done everything I can. And I quickly found out that's not true. And even more recently, when I first got into kink, I was thinking, well, pet play — which, you know, your partner wants to be a dog or a cat or something. And I discovered I was really into — I liked my partner being a pet pig. And, you know, some people think that's a humiliation thing. And the way I enjoy it is more about taking care of the pig, and being affectionate. And I had no idea that that would turn me on so much. And, you know, one of my key takeaways is that it doesn't matter how long you've been engaged in sex and kink and connection, or even in a relationship. It's continuously flowing and changing, and just dynamic.
Karen Yates: Yeah. Do we need to break taboos to have the erotic feeling? Do there have to be taboos?
Mksthingshappin: It does help. [laughter]
Jera Brown: Thinking about surprise, and obstacles on like, sort of opposite sides of something, something imaginary. I figured this out in school — we were reading a book that I really loved about eros, by Anne Carson. And she explained that for there to be desire, there always has to be something in the way of you achieving your goal. And as soon as desire gets met, then it stops being desire. Which is crazy. And I had this moment of crisis where I'm like, "I'm never going to find the satisfying thing!" And then eventually it just got over and was like, "But desire is pretty cool, so maybe it's okay to always be in the state of longing, and occasionally find a climax." So you have desire, and for some of us, desire runs on these different taboos. And that's what creates that obstacle, is cultural conditioning, or whatever it is. But then I think, surprise can also create a sense of the erotic, when you're surprised that you're turned on by something. You're surprised by some sort of sense of self discovery. It could even be like, being surprised that you actually like something that is culturally acceptable!
Karen Yates: Right. Yeah. I mean, I've had situations where my own surprise kind of spurs me on to like, let's dig a little deeper here. Right? Something you said reminded me, you know, we've talked on the show about long term relationships. And it's like, [dramatically] when desire dies!! Sorry I say it like that. But I think about, like, these ideas of prohibition or creating obstacles can be a great way for, say, couples to reignite the relationship. Like, if you create an artificial — like, Morin in his book talks about a time issue. Like you have to be somewhere in 15 minutes, and that's when you decide to do it! Or I think you were talking about role plays.
Elmo Painter: Yeah. Well, that was during the taboo part. We were talking about taboos, and do we need taboos. And I was like, I mean, I'm not mad about taboos and playing with them. And if there is something that's taboo, maybe that stirs something in you that can be played with. Like, there's humiliation play, there's, age play. There's something about these fantasies that wide culture says, that's wrong, you shouldn't even think about that stuff. And to actually play with it and be like, "I'm getting away with this!" It just feels really good.
Karen Yates: Yeah, right. Did you have something to say?
Mksthingshappin: Yeah, I was gonna actually kind of touch on both points, where there needs to be an obstacle. I was just having this conversation the other day, about every great Hollywood love story, there is an obstacle. In fact, you can go as far back as Shakespeare, with Romeo and Juliet, when the families are fighting .You can go to "When Harry Met Sally," you can talk to The Little Mermaid. You know, there has to be some type of obstacle that needs to be overcome for the desire to be — "supercharged" was the term that we used earlier. And after a while, when you've been in a relationship for a long time, those obstacles, or those natural obstacles, kind of go away. That's when you kind of go into the kink, and you kind of do maybe the taboo type play, or pet play, and age play, and just spanking, for that matter, to kind of create additional obstacles as a team, to overcome.
Karen Yates: Right. But part of it too, and we were talking about the senses earlier, Elmo, and then we talked about a little bit on this call, that like, part of it is just seeing that you have way more sensory choice than perhaps you thought you had. There's like, way more to experience, just in the body as is. I mean, you might not be a particularly kinky person, but like, there might be like, "Wow, I've never even thought about temperature, or types of touch, like scratching versus thuddy, versus whatever." I mean, that can just be an exploration, right?
Elmo Painter: Yeah. And I know people who can either orgasm or get really close to orgasm by things like rubbing their feet in the grass. Or like, just really using sensory experiences and translating that pleasure to erotic pleasure.
Mksthingshappin: Or just rubbing their feet.
Elmo Painter: Totally.
Karen Yates: Of course — just rubbing the feet. So what are some tips you would give folks? I think one of you mentioned like fanfiction and erotica is great to read. Just to like, start thinking of ideas, right?
Elmo Painter: Yeah, yeah, reading things. There's so much fanfiction out there about your favorite, you know, stories. There's like Harry Potter fanfiction, there's Marvel fanfiction, and there are all these, like, erotic stories. And then there are books, like "Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns," and "The Leather Daddy and the Femme" by Carol Queen. And just these mountains and mountains of really beautiful erotic fiction, where you can — if you're feeling curious about something, or if you've heard something, and you're like, "Huh..." Follow that curiosity. Just follow your curiosity and find the specific places where you can read about it and explore it.
Karen Yates: Cool.
Jera Brown: When I was studying creative writing, I learned that story runs on conflict. You don't have an interesting story if there's not a conflict, which is why I think we get these kinks in all these things, because it creates a sense of conflict. But if you're living your best erotic life, it also means that you get to be in the middle of your own story. And you get to decide what that is. And we were talking on the phone about being given permission. Give yourself permission to be your own hero in the story, and follow your erotic journey. And I think that what a lot of us have to keep learning is that it doesn't have to be anybody else's erotic journey, or anybody else's sense of sexuality or sensuality. And that's what's fun about the nebulousness of erotic. Like, if it's flip flops, or sticking your feet in the sand or something, sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to just like, fully embrace it.
Karen Yates: Yeah.
[in studio] For more info on Jera, Elmo, and Mksthingshappin, go to our show notes. The rest of this live show was featured on the episode "Anything That Moves," which we will also link to in the notes. For more thoughts on the erotic, you can also take a listen to our "Erotic Creativity" episode from a few months ago. It is quite an in-depth conversation, and very good. The books mentioned here — "Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns," "Eros: The Bittersweet" by Anne Carson, and Jack Morin's "The Erotic Mind" — are all at our affiliate store on Bookshop. Purchase there and help independent booksellers and Wild & Sublime. That link is in the show notes as well.
Wild & Sublime is also sponsored in part by our Sublime Supporter, Chicago-based Full Color Life Therapy, therapy for all of you, at fullcolorlifetherapy.com. If you would like to be a Sublime Supporter, showcasing you and your business and supporting us at the same time, contact us at . And now it's time for my Sermon on the Pubic Mound. This sermon was presented at the same show we just heard, July 2019, at Constellation in Chicago. Enjoy.
So, what is sex positivity? I have been thinking about it lately. For many folks, it's the idea that all consensual sexual activities are fundamentally healthy, and that sexual pleasure and experimentation are positive things. So basically, it's about honoring my own sexuality, honoring your sexuality — but I don't think it stops there. As I've been thinking about it recently, sex positivity for me is a lived experience. And for me, that is really an important idea to think about. As we grow, as we accumulate experience, with partners with ourselves sexually, our body of wisdom continues to grow — in our minds, in our bodies. And this wisdom just keeps getting bigger. So tonight, we talked about eroticism. Now, for some of you, I'm sure for many of you, a lot of new ideas popped into your head, or memories. Memories might — "Oh my God, I remember that. I remember that really hot experience, I totally forgot about that..." And perhaps you're going to feel empowered to tell someone, maybe a partner or a friend, and have a good chat about it. And it's funny, because I actually did that this week. You know, we were all talking about this, and I knew it was coming up. I started really thinking about how does the erotic play out in my life? And a memory burbled up. And I shared it with someone, and we had this great talk about it. And I felt a lot freer afterwards, because I was seen, and I was heard, and that person shared some stuff with me.
And so, when we give voice to our desires, something shifts inside of us. When we take actions, going beyond even the voicing and taking action, we take action to be more fully who we are, that is hugely powerful, and our whole world can shift. You know, if you told me that, you know, like five years ago, that I was going to be hosting a sex show, I wouldn't have laughed in your face, because I could have seen that. But the fact that I would be talking about sex, and talking about my sex life, or your sex, I mean, it just was beyond the realm of possibility. But what got me from there to here was, I took very small actions. Well, some actions were much bigger. And with each of these actions, especially the big ones, my worldview shifted, and sometimes like, cataclysmically. Sometimes it was like, who I was in the morning was not who I was when I went to bed that night, because of something — an action I took. But then some actions, really tiny actions, shifted me very subtly over time. So that after like a year, I look back and I'm like, wow, I used to think that was really weird. Or, I used to think that person was really weird. Or I used to feel a little bit shameful talking about this, or I felt like, kind of icky with this idea in my head, and I'm not feeling that way anymore. And that was an amazing experience, and I think I'm better for it. So I charge you to take a small action. Maybe it's showing up for someone, being an ally, to someone who you think is sexually marginalized. Just being there for them. Really there. Maybe it is picking up some fanfiction, some erotica. You know, maybe it's going to a different website than you normally go to. Support who you are sexually. We've been talking about being your authentic sexual self. It's important. It's your vital self. No one else is gonna do it for you. So... Are you game? Yes! [applause, cheers] All right! Thank you so much!
[WIld & Sublime theme music]
Thank you for listening. If you know someone who might be interested in this episode, send it to them. You like what you heard? Then give us a nice review on your podcast app. You can follow us on social media @wildandsublime and sign up for newsletters at wildandsublime.com. I'd like to thank associate producer Julia Williams and design guru Jean-Francois Gervais. Theme Music by David Ben-Porat. This episode was edited by The Creative Imposter studios. Our media sponsor is Rebellious Magazine, feminist media, at rebelliousmagazine.com.
- INTRO (1:14)
- PANEL: What is “The Erotic” (5:13)
- SERMON ON THE PUBIC MOUND® (16:33)
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- Jera Brown – sex writer for Rebellious Magazine
- Elmo Painter – sex-positive psychotherapist
- Erotic Creativity podcast episode
- Anything That Moves podcast episode
- July 2019 live show
Books in This Episode
- Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns – Philip Miller
- Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay – Anne Carson
- The Erotic Mind – Jack Morin
- Find them all on our affiliate Bookshop page. Help independent booksellers and W&S!
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