This article was originally published by Vanity Fair.
The term defines those aiming for an unconventional, creative eroticism. We discussed it with Ayzad: writer, sex blogger, alternative sexualities expert and author of a true «Sexual Explorers Manifesto », in which he collected a series of simple and well-tested principles for a positive approach to sexuality
by Alice Politi
Did we really need a Sexual Explorers Manifesto? Absolutely, according to Ayzad, writer, expert and popularizer of alternative sexualities, author of the manual BDSM – A Guide for Explorers of Extreme Eroticism, not to mention award-receiving sex blogger who on his website collects and shares oddities and discoveries about the lesser-known aspect of sex. His idea of clarifying some simple principles about living eroticism started with the will of helping to spread a positive approach to sexuality.
Something that, if correctly applied, can benefit people, couples, society in general. But who sexual explorers are, what do they exactly do, and what do they share with each one of us? We investigated the matter with the expert.
What does it mean, and what elements turn a person into a «sex explorer»?
«Sex explorers are all those people who decide not to limit themselves to a normative vision of sex, and venture into the wide territories of creative eroticism. So they put the WASP family model perpetrated by the advertising industry (monogamic, romantic, heterosexual, publicly asexual, and only interested in reproductive intercourse in private), and they enjoy considering other forms of pleasure and relationship too. Now please don’t think of unspeakable perversions: you can also be an explorer just by keeping your mind open, or rediscovering that cuddling can sometimes be more transgressive than using whips and handcuffs».
Where did the idea (or need) of compiling a “Manifesto” come from?
«Just taking a look around was enough to see how much unhappiness and lots of even serious social issues – think of #metoo and gender-based violence, for example – stem from a difficult relationship with sexuality. We are all part of a culture that lives it more as a burden you must somehow manage than as a source of joy and pleasure, simply because it is so rarely talked about in a serene way, without hypocrisy or senseless morbidity.
The Sexual Explorers Manifesto collects instead a series of simple and well-tested principles defining a positive approach to the subject. Following them makes it easier not only to discuss this important human dimension, but also to respect and be kinder both to ourselves than to our neighbors – with great benefits for society in general too.».
In this view, do you think Italians to be a people of “explorers”?
«Little by little they are realizing they are, especially thanks to the ease you can now find information about a more multifaceted view of sexuality. Often, the problem is we are a bit superficial: we don’t read much, preferring to follow those who shout the loudest instead of taking a moment to think, and lots of people still think pornography is not fiction, but the instruction manual.
Countless people complain about their sex lives, yet they don’t act to make it better even if it wouldn’t take very much to. Often their objection is that «sex must be natural and instinctual», without realizing that many other things like singing or dancing are as well… but unless you study them a bit you are going to just make a fool of yourself!».
Could we say that exploration is more a male or a female attitude?
«When we talk about affection and pleasure, women are usually more particular, and they are the first to work at getting more satisfaction. Many males have juvenile rapper-like ideals and they still tend to follow stereotypes out of the Eighties, made of chiseled abs and bursting wallets… without realizing how better their lives would be if only they aimed a little bit more toward sapiosexuality».
What do you mean when you write that sexuality is “fluid”?
«We often convince ourselves that our erotic preferences are set in stone: «I like blondes!» or «I only get aroused with oral sex», for example. Yet you only have to lucidly think back to your life to realize that it is far from true, and that preferences evolve changing through time along with our needs, knowledge or circumstances.
Truth is, the alchemy of passion is continuously mutating, so much so that getting struck in unchanging sex scripts is actually considered a symptom of some relational problem by many therapists. A serene (I could even dare to say “sane”) person is open to new experiences instead, to question themselves on these matters too, and to acknowledge and satisfy whatever makes them happy».
Why is the language we use with sexuality often inappropriate? Some examples?
«There are two main issues. The first being the unreasonable embarrassment toward sex, which after all is a part of everyone’s life. Growing up in an environment using absurd terms to refer to it – say, ‘peepee’ and ‘pussy’ – or even insulting ones («you are dirty-minded because you like filth») contributes to feeding the mistrust toward a natural activity. However, the same goes for those who insist on using “activist” jargon not everyone is bound to know, such as ‘paraphilia’, ‘intersectionality’, ‘SSC’ and so on.
The second matter is about the sexism implicit in most languages, like Italian where the male form is used whenever we talk in general terms. It seems silly, but when you repeat this a thousand times a day you end up creating a mindset where one gender is worth less than the other. This is also reinforced by so many idioms: a resourceful person “has balls”; a frivolous thing is “gay”, and anyone with a worry “is a sissy”. Sometimes improbable solutions are offered, like using asterisk and new words – but just acknowledging the problem does wonders to reduce discriminations».
Are there overlooked elements that could reveal one’s sexuality to be “unresolved”
«First of all, it is important to remember that eroticism truly is a puzzle, but you don’t have to experience it as an obsession to unravel at all costs: to kindly play with it is more than enough. The basic rule is to be honest with yourself and to ask whether you really are satisfied with the way you are living your sex life. Then – this is paramount! – ask this to your partner too, and talk serenely with them about what you like, what less so, and what you maybe would like to change or explore. Experience says that, if you have a problem, they are usually caused by a lack of communication.
A good trick to recognize any critical point is to pay attention to what most annoys us in others and in their way of living sex: the reason it disturbs us is probably that it is stirring doubts and conflicts inside ourselves».
You have been studying sexual habits and behaviors for years: do you see them changing through time? And how?
«The cool thing in this field of study is precisely how it is forever evolving. In the last centuries the world underwent an important sex revolution more or less every sixty years. The most recent clearly was the Internet, which made it hugely easier to learn about other ways of experiencing sexuality, to discuss and to find likeminded partners. All of this however also hugely accelerated the changing cycles, making them more frequent and more localized: today we have countless erotic niches and subcultures that often ignore one another.
Some time ago I traced emerging trends in an episode of my podcast, and the result looked like a carousel spinning faster and faster. Maybe the most important news is therefore the importance of learning to navigate the chaotic information sea surrounding all of us».
What sort of eroticism is, in your opinion, today’s one?
«Most recently, like unfortunately lots of other things in the COVID era, it is a bit forlorn and scared. Social distancing reinforced the role of fantasies, but to make love well you have to be much happier than a terrorized society like ours is. Like in a remake of the Hundred Days of Sodom, a few irresponsibles are abandoning themselves to desperate and questionable pleasures while the larger population has very different worries to think about.
I find significant and upsetting, for example, observing the rise of self-harming fetishes in pornography, such as that for chastity or gooning, that is porn insulting the users exactly because they are watching porn.
History taught us that loves always comes back in triumph in the end – and if it does not, sex definitely does. Better times will come».
You were recently honored as one of the world’s best sex bloggers. Which elements made the difference compared to countless other bloggers writing about these topics?
«The main difference with them is that I am not very interested in reviewing sex toys or publishing racy pictures – I love them both, mind you, but they are also a limit. On ayzad.com, sex is instead the starting point to discover little-known aspects of society, and from there to learn a bit better about ourselves as well.
Or maybe the merit is of my Museum of Inexplicable Moments in the History of Sexuality, who knows…».