Adventures in Erotic Hypnosis
The new safer sex, or just the ultimate mindf*ck?
By Rachel R. White / New York Observer
Emily, a 24-year-old burlesque dancer with creamy skin and dark curly hair was at a party in Manhattan a few summers back when she lost her vagina. It was a worrisome feeling. She ran around the crowded loft frantically looking under bags and coats yelling, "I've lost my vagina!"
"Where did you see it last?" asked one friend with a laugh. "Do you have insurance on it?" wondered another.
But Emily wasn't kidding. She could feel the tears welling up, at which point her date, a longtime friend, walked by and snapped his fingers. She dropped an armload of coats.
"Never mind, you guys," she said. "I found it!" Disaster averted.
Emily laughed as she retold the story on a chilly day in McCarren Park. But she could still revisit the sense of panic she'd felt, the result of an experiment with erotic hypnosis. Now, she's become a practitioner of hypnosis herself.
My own interest in the subject started where basically everything does, online. I clicked something, and something else, and soon I was knee-deep in YouTube videos of Eastern European models entranced by men in bowling shirts, hypnosis blogs and forums filled with arguments about proper technique.
From what I could gather, erotic hypnosis is a fetish, but if its proponents are right, it is also a new form of sex—safe, certainly, but also dangerous-seeming in its own way.
Under hypnosis, it was claimed, a subject could achieve a climax without being touched at all. It sounded a little like Erica Jong's "zipless fuck," but better. Sex without the muss or fuss, or, for that matter, the pregnancies, STDs or awkward goodbyes. It's also a twist on BDSM, an expression of sexual power and submission at its most extreme.
On Fet-Life (a "kinky" social networking service), there are 12,490 people who are "Into" or "Curious about" erotic hypnosis—a one-click function similar to the Facebook "like" button. The Hypnosis New York group has 324 members and hosts monthly four-hour meetings.
Arriving at the prescribed location, a rehearsal space in Tribeca, I approached the receptionist. She looked like an actress. "I am here for erotic hypnosis," I said, trying to articulate clearly, but not too clearly. She motioned to a cluster of cargo shorts and wiry hair, mostly male. My classmates looked like they might have been to ComicCon, which shouldn't be surprising, since mind control is such a favorite technique of superheroes (and supervillains). They seemed to be staring at me, perhaps surprised to see a young new female student and wondering, since I was flying solo, whether I might be a potential homework partner.
Or maybe they were already trying to make me come? Yikes! If so, it didn't seem to be working … or?
Nope, not yet.
We filed into a small room, and quietly sat in folding chairs.
When the speaker, Lee Harrington, arrived a few minutes later, I felt relieved. He looked not unlike a doll I had as a child called "Earring Magic Ken" (the doll was attacked by family groups for looking homosexual). Later, Mr. Harrington let us know he was transsexual, female to male, and that while living as a woman, he was a well-known porn star. He also indicated he dates men. (Maybe there was more to Ken than met the eye, too.)
Mr. Harrington stood in front of a white-board. "So when we think of erotic hypnosis, what do we want to do with it?" he asked.
"I wanna enhance the experience," replied a man with a handle-bar mustache and a Long Island accent, crossing his arms.
Excitedly, Mr. Harrington explained that with erotic hypnosis you can make your partners believe they are more aroused than they are, you can lower inhibitions — get them to do oral if they don't like it, or try anal if they are scared. Hell, if this caught on, the makers of Viagra and Cialis — not to mention the Internet spam industry — would be out of business.
"What else do people want to do with hypnosis?" Mr. Harrington asked the group. A large, blinking girl beside me cleared her throat. "It is fun to give people body parts that they don't have in real life," she said, pushing at her glasses
"We could have someone who is an innie fully experience what it is like to be an outie," he said, a reference to genitals (though it could almost definitely work with belly buttons, as well). "We could have someone jack-off their astral phallus. We could give someone a tail, or a set of angel wings!" Mr. Harrington went on.
Anything is possible under hypnosis, he explained: tentacled alien gang-bangs, orgies with hundreds of men. Still, you had to be careful. Speaking from personal experience as a trans person, he warned, "It can be traumatic to give someone the genitals they wish they had and then take them away."
The group brainstormed other things you could do, like allowing a trans person to experience each birthday in the gender of their choice.
A thin woman with frizzy hair raised her hand. "I am curious about being hypnotized in order to forget … like to erase things from the past?" she asked. It's possible, he said, but it's more in the realm of therapeutic hypnosis.
"How about coming on command!" someone shouted.
Mr. Harrington said he knew a woman who orgasms whenever her secret word is uttered. "This sounds fun," he added, "but it proved troublesome when her friends found out and called her to say it." We laughed. "Which still sounds fun," he continued, "but when she answers at a grocery store standing next to her coworkers it is, shall we say, socially awkward."
After class, I still had questions. For instance: were there really women out there who would fall over, convulsing with pleasure in grocery stores, after hearing the phrase "banana bread"? And how could I become one of them?
I decided to see if Emily would help me. She said she usually hypnotizes only her sex partners but agreed to make an exception in my case. Sitting in the living room of her Sunset Park apartment we went over the details of what was about to happen. I tried to act nonchalant, my voice cheery, as she went over the standard questions.
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"Is it O.K. if I touch you?" she asked. "Yeah," I said.
"What about light spanking?"
"Uhmm. Maybe? Yes?"
She led me into the bedroom and dimmed the lights as I took a seat on the bed, which had purple linens and felt huge beneath me. I closed my eyes and exhaled. I was nervous.
"I am going to count down from 10 with the number one being a state of ultimate relaxation," she said. "Now relax your body down to number nine …" At first we did a few nonsexual guided imagery exercises — she walked me through a forest, and then I floated into the sky. It wasn't much different from a counseling session with a crystal-y, crunchy therapist. Until it was.
"Now you may notice," Emily said, "that although it is cold outside, this room is suddenly very hot. You are starting to feel uncomfortable. Your cheeks turn pink, your clothes feel too warm against your body."
Then Emily told me to imagine how nice and cool the air would feel against my naked skin. "Now, if you want to, take off your shirt," she said. I went ahead and peeled off my top. It washot. "If you want to take off your pants, take off your pants," she said.
Oh, why not? I wriggled out of my jeans.
Earlier, I had asked Emily whether the technique worked equally well with men. "It's easier with women," she said, to my surprise. "With men if you say orgasm they expect to ejaculate, and sometimes they do, but often they don't."
I'd asked her about the dangers they mentioned in class. "No one will do anything they absolutely don't want to do while under hypnosis," she insisted. It is about imagination and stretching the limits of what the mind can do, she added. "If someone tells you to do something you don't want to, you will just open your eyes and say, 'You asshole.'" Even so, she admitted there are gray areas. "You might wake up and say, I am not sure I wanted to do that." One the Hypno-club members I'd spoken to bragged about turning women into cows, getting them to "moo" on all fours — his tone hinting they should have felt embarrassed later.
"Now," Emily said, taking my palm in hers, "as I rub your palm, feel a ball of energy building. It feels like the best feeling you've ever experienced. And the more I rub, the more you feel it building." I arched my back, exhaling.
I understood that she was describing an orgasm, and I started to feel it. Sort of. It was how I've heard people characterize body memories, or phantom-limb syndrome. Emily said the feeling was getting bigger and bigger and I flexed my thigh muscles and curled my toes the way I do when I climax. "Now … release!" she said, and I arched my back, moaning.
It wasn't a real orgasm, but a pretend one, a hallucination of an orgasm, a memory of what an orgasm feels like. Still, it felt pretty good.
When Emily brought me back to the room, everything looked brighter. I felt lighter. I sat up, feeling drunk. "It's the posttrance state," Emily said.
I laughed, shaking my head not sure I really believed it. I did, however, have a distinct craving for banana bread.
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