Sex Education Spawns New BDSM Coaching Service
NEW YORK — Sexual health and well being is on its way to becoming adult’s hottest new market what with a number of sexpert books hitting the shelves, new conferences devoted to the field like the aptly named Sexual Health Expo (SHE), and porn stars augmenting their performing careers with instructional DVDs and university speaking engagements.
And as sexuality and adult products become more mainstream accessible and accepted, consumers today are hungry for information about topics ranging from simple how-to’s on sexual positions and performance to dysfunction, and even body awareness and acceptance.
It’s no surprise then that the next step that’s evolving is more niche oriented. And nowhere is that more evident than the continuing long tail of the “Fifty Shades” fervor that’s fueling product sales and media content devoted to BDSM and associated fetishes.
More adventurous folks who are looking for something beyond what the typical sexpert or coach has to offer have given rise to a niche that helps them explore their fantasies. One such company is Limits Unleashed LLC (LU), a New York-based alternative lifestyle coaching service that caters to those seeking kinkier sex with the goal of helping clients identify their own needs and limits, provide steps to developing more fulfilling relationships, and gives them practical advice on exploring BDSM safely and responsibly while helping them gain confidence.
Owner Eric, aka Sir Vice tells XBIZ he himself has been an active member of the lifestyle community for more than a decade and has acted as a munch [casual social gathering] coordinator/host and a dungeon monitor at a variety of events.
“Certain behaviors and attitudes were becoming increasingly apparent to me and these signaled the need for someone to provide education and guidance for people looking to explore alternative lifestyles in a responsible way,” Eric says. He adds that many events and local fetish/kink groups feature guest speakers that often offer advice to attendees, but more often than not, these are often technical demonstrations or “how to” oriented, such as using rope/shibari or working a single tail whip. “The idea for Limits Unleashed LLC came about as an opportunity for me to provide something of high value to individuals by helping clients improve their lives and relationships while developing a deeper understanding of their inner most selves.”
Along with Sir Vice, who describes himself a professional alternative lifestyle coach — a merging of life and sex coaching — LU over the years has developed close professional and personal relationships with other senior members of the BDSM community, counselors, certified sex therapists, and other experts that have been closely vetted and maintained.
His work with therapists can include referrals to help with specific elements of BDSM, kink, polyamory, and other lifestyles, of which typical therapists may not have direct knowledge.
Eric says this is common when a client is looking to become active in the local community, or when they are trying to decide what kind of activity or relationship is right for them. An everyday therapist or coach may not know where to turn.
The kink coach also advises therapists about the fetish world, and offers a “co-therapy” setting, which may involve an individual, a couple (or unit, in the case of poly), or small group sessions. Typical scenarios could include questions about BDSM, kink, and poly, while their therapist is present to facilitate discussion. This is particularly useful when managing anxiety or challenging fetishes, he says.
Sessions can also help in correcting misunderstandings about the reality of certain alternative relationship dynamics. There are also group meeting sessions at a welcoming venue to help clients acclimate to socializing with others, adjust to the anxiety some may experience when considering attending a munch with a “rehearsal” or practice session, or to hold open discussion on a topic that others would benefit from.
Eric says this is all part of clients’ solution-focused brief therapy, and counseling. “The field of life and sex coaching is still maturing and thus lacks certain standards in credentialing or evaluation which other practices may have (e.g. LCSW, LPC, CST). As a result, programs for certification still have a long way to go in order to reach the same measures of consistent quality of training and accreditation.”
Despite the lack of diplomas on the wall, Eric’s curriculum educates, informs, suggests, and assists clients in mapping their goals, identifying obstacles, and developing a plan to reach their objectives from a relationship and kink activity perspective. He notes that much of the work initially focuses on helping clients get a better understanding of their own needs, desires, and limits, and make them able to articulate these things clearly. “I act as a guide, helping the individual to map the steps they need to follow to get involved responsibly in the lifestyle, such as attending munches, play parties, and kink events.”
“My approach as an alternative lifestyle coach is more about uncovering the honest and authentic individual, helping them adjust to that person locked inside, and then allow that inner-self the room and confidence to explore and experience in a safe, healthy, and responsible manner,” he says.
Although it doesn’t offer hands-on surrogacy services, LU advises clients on how to evaluate prospective partners, recognize the difference between safe and unsafe practices, and teach them ways to mitigate risk. Thus clients become more accustomed to the newness and find some relief from anxiety by addressing the gap in competence that leads to greater confidence.
A typical clients’ session consists of a program built around their needs, level of commitment, and resources. Individual sessions are approximately $100 per hour, which may change depending on the depth and breadth of the client’s interests. Other services, such as workshops or partnering with a counseling professional or group varies widely as per scope, duration, and number of participants.
Although it may be pricey for some, Eric maintains that many counselors simply don’t understand an attraction to certain fetishes or kink activities, and therefore are reluctant to assist their clients in exploring those areas. In cases where their concentration of study is fairly broad, they may miss the depth or nuance of particular BDSM, kink, or fetish activity. He says that for example, if a therapist is struggling themselves with the ideas behind power exchange relationships, such as D/s or M/s [dominant/submissive, master/slave] and instead focuses on the sexual activity or identity without exploring the dynamic, he asks if they serving their client to the best of their abilities? “I merely try to address the gap in need and provide my clients with some assistance in moving forward responsibly.
“Because I have a strong focus area and active discipline, clients tend to feel more comfortable expressing awakening feelings towards BDSM, kink, poly, and alternative relationships than to a general counselor. In addition, the counselors and sex therapists, with which I align strongly, often have professional boundaries that may preclude them from participating within the fetish community. As such, I coach and mentor with in-depth knowledge, real world experience, and genuine insight into specific activities and relationship dynamics that help to clarify misunderstandings and present a corrective perspective — often in conjunction with other psychotherapy practitioners.
And it appears as though Eric and LU has hit upon a much-needed service. The demand for his services has spawned self-help books aimed at individual readers, methodology and practice materials targeted to counseling professionals, and “premium membership content” such as audio/video workshops.
“Unfortunately, what many have read has skewed the perception of what BDSM is made of and how people should behave. This has led to bolstering some very negative stereotypes that need to be addressed with good education and guidance so that people can explore safely and responsibly — for both the well being of themselves and others," Eric says.