In Part I on conquering sexual shame & fear, we looked at where they stem from, their pervasiveness and how to recognize & start overcoming them. In Part II, we’ll hear from community members about their personal experience with facing sexual shame and fear, and how they sought a fantasy-fulfilling life post-shame by connecting with like-minded people.
When asked how he’s put sexual shame and fear behind him, Playlove co-founder Sante Suffoletta admitted that it’s been an evolution over time and that he’s still not 100% there. “I’m very confident in most areas, and there are some areas where I still hesitate at times,” he says. It took years for him to get comfortable with his kinks, let alone articulate them and ask someone to play without worrying about their reaction or coming off as creepy. It was important for him to remember that sexual expression is a learning process that unfolds and changes over time.
“It’s no different than learning to communicate about any complex issue,” he says. “Expect to practice and mess it up a lot before you get it right. It’s all part of the journey.”
Angie “Puddles” says she used to have a lot of fear and shame around vulnerability when she was younger and she spent a lot of her sexual energy proving that she was capable, rather than weak. “I thought it was a sign of strength for a long time to be able to keep myself from getting hurt while everyone around me suffered heartache. I’d rather be a slut than a fool.” It wasn’t until much later when she realized that she was behaving more cowardly than the fool who risks rejection. “Part of the change that overcame me was incorporating BDSM and power exchange dynamics in my life,” she says. “I learned a lot and while my body was bruised, my heart was healing.”
Kathy “Kiki” Sloan grew up in a conservative Christian church—an upbringing steeped in sexual shame. It wasn’t until her 30s when her worldview shifted. After studying the history of Christianity, she came to an understanding that there’s more than one right way to live and believe, and that faith is largely influenced by which region and culture you’re born into. This realization, paired with the ending of a monogamous marriage, led her to freely explore for the first time who she was as a highly sexual person. “I was fortunate to meet a person on Tinder who very gingerly introduced me to the kink world,” she says. Once that door was cracked open, she consumed all the information she could find on FetLife about the world of kinksters, fetishists, and lifestylers. She discovered that there was a whole community of like-minded people out there, and she embraced the community’s inclusive mindset of “Your kink is not my kink, and that’s ok,” and the principle of “Do no harm.”
“I think we believe the community is best served by being completely open to any and all sexual desires and fantasies that are carried out with full consent of everyone involved,” she says.
Once we’re able to put sexual shame and fear behind us, there’s still the matter of finding effective ways to fulfill our fantasies. At a time when Sante had been hosting swinger events for years but was still afraid to talk openly about his interest in non-monogamy and kink with strangers, he went on a date that ended up teaching him an essential lesson in getting his desires met. “I didn’t put my interests out there right away for fear of turning her off,” he says of the date. “After we spent the night together and were intimate, I told her my interests. She was very hurt and felt like I’d abused her trust. After that, I chose to always be up front right away about my desires.” Since then, he’s prioritized honesty and tries to not have any expectations from potential partners other than complete honesty.
Sante acknowledges that our interests and how we communicate will change a lot over time. “So try to surround yourself with positive people and groups that encourage you to be your true self,” he says. “As long as you aren’t breaking the law or violating consent, don’t let people’s opinions deter you from being who you really are. If someone gets triggered by how you express your desires, it just means you aren’t aligned with them. It’s no different than not being attracted to someone. It’s important to remember that there are an infinite number of ways to do sex and relationships, and all are valid.
Learn to be at peace with others’ opinions. Your positive attitude and acceptance of their different views will set an example for tolerance and attract more positive and accepting people.”
Angie “Puddles” admits that finding effective ways to fulfill her sexual fantasies can still be difficult at times. Before her current monogamous relationship, she was involved in several online communities of ready-to-mingle singles where she could find like-minded people to turn into live connections. Since then, she’s cut down on her time spent on social media platforms and is more focused on fostering a healthy relationship with her long-term partner. Though her life is very different now than before, she acknowledges that her desires and fantasies remain the same, and she’s still hoping to find effective and compassionate ways to get all her needs met. “I met my partner in a sex positive community and we have open discussions, but it’s not always easy,” she says. “When there are two or more egos involved, satisfying one person’s desires often creates a vacuum for the other person, who can then feel unsatisfied.” She’s learned through trial and error that words can sting and that there are some things that don’t need to be said or shared.
Kiki was almost 40 years old when she took charge of getting her fantasies and desires fulfilled. Because of her age, she knew she wanted a primary partner with whom she could explore anything and everything, and she decided she had no interest in screwing around with anything that didn’t make her happy. This attitude inspired her to be very upfront with her dates about what she was into and what she wanted to try. “By being completely honest from the beginning, and finding a partner who I am able to communicate with in a completely honest and upfront way, we have been and are on a journey of sexual exploration,” she says. “I believe the level of communication needed in a relationship to navigate these sexual waters is the level of communication all couples should have.”
So, once you know you’re ready to express and find ways to fulfill your fantasies, how do you go about finding those like-minded people to explore, communicate, and express yourself with?
Sante first found his people after a public viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in college. “The cast members looked like they were having so much fun being completely sexual and weird,” he says. “Everyone was so accepting and I knew I wanted more of this in my life.” As a DJ, this led him to start looking for gigs in more alternative sexual communities. In 2004, he inadvertently booked a swinger lifestyle party, which introduced him and his then-wife to that community. At first, he expected the people there to be creepy, but quickly discovered that they were a group of kind, confident, and sexy individuals. After that party, he started hosting his own events at clubs around Denver and joined several online communities where he could share and learn more. He started volunteering for Denver Pridefest which helped him better understand his bisexuality and start to break down internal barriers and become an activist for sex positivity. Since then, he’s met thousands of people who’ve become part of his core community.
As a single woman right out of college, Puddles immersed herself in the then-new world of dating apps and sites. From there she met someone who introduced her to heavy BDSM play and after that she was hooked.
In search of more explicit communities, she met most of her people through FetLife and Kasidie, and at events like Thunder in the Rockies and Sin City. “I’ve found relationships, roommates, friends, subs, doms, one-night stands and life partners within the sex positive community,” she says. “I feel that without having my ‘starter dom’ I would’ve found the community eventually, but being introduced through hands-on play and interactions really pushed me to find the people behind the online profiles.”
Kiki found her people in conjunction with her entrepreneurial pursuits. For almost a year, she was dividing her business marketing strategies between two different Facebook profiles—one for her “vanilla” clients and one for those in the kink community. After realizing that more than 50% of her clients were coming from the kink community, she decided to go all in with her more provocative branding. Once she consolidated her efforts, she was able to put 100% of her effort into making her Property Dominator brand reflect her passions, and has seen success as a result. Though she risked making her parents uncomfortable by being “out,” she says that it was worth it.
“With the support of our amazing community,” says Kiki, “I’ve completely overcome the fears I had about being ‘out’ publicly as a member of the sex positive communities.
When I first decided to drop my vanilla brand, I was terrified that something would go viral and I would be called upon to be a spokesperson for the community in the media. While that hasn’t happened yet, I am now looking forward to the opportunity to educate the general public about how and why our culture should move past our Puritan roots where sex, the human body, and sexuality are taboo and shameful. People should be able to embrace and explore their sexuality in safe and consensual ways without social stigmas, such as slut shaming, and without fears, such as fear of job loss. I am so grateful that I have stepped into a world where I can truly be my authentic self without constant worry about proper decorum and whether or not something I’m saying is inappropriate.”