Was Rihanna and Britney’s “S&M” show at the Billboard Music Awards last night really that freaky, or did it simply reflect what’s going on behind closed doors across the USA?

After all, art imitates life, and this primetime ABC performance—featuring wrist restraints, pole dancing and the lyrics “sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me”—was actually pretty much in line with the findings of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire, a book published earlier this month that revealed the online proclivities of more than a hundred million men and women around the world. ‘Alternate lifestyles’ are becoming dominant—no pun intended—and the freak next door just might be…you.


A Nation of Pervs

If it isn’t, well, you might be the odd man out. “Kinky sex is extremely common,” says Dr. Ogi Jonathan Ogas, a Boston University cognitive neuroscientist and co-author of the new book. “Most likely, our interests haven’t changed; we’re just now finally seeing what our true interests are.” What kinda stuff are we talking? According to the web searches explored in the book, guys (100 million North American men) spend more time than you might expect Googling transsexuals, large penises and cheating wives. Bonus fun fact: a third of Today’s Christian Women subscribers search for online erotica.

As you might guess, this has a lot to do with the accessibility of adult material. According to a 2006 study, ninety percent of boys aged 8 to 16 have already viewed web porn. When exposure starts at such young ages, it leaves men bored with idea of vanilla sex. They’ve seen men and women contorted into seemingly impossible positions and are looking for something new.

Of course, the songs and behavior of the aforementioned singers—along with everyone from Adam Lambert and Katy Perry to Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga—help, too. “You see it being a lot more out in the open in pop culture and mainstream media, which generates interest,” says Colin Rowntree, founder and CEO of Wasteland.com, the Internet’s oldest and most popular alternative sexual community. “People then go looking for that and discover something that resonates with them, be it BDSM or the fetish scene. It’s a whole world that once people discover is out there, they can dive in on the Internet and in their cities and communities.”


Dirty Demographics

Just in the last decade, the type of people who pursue kinky content and lifestyles has blown up, notes Rowntree. “Ten years ago it was primarily men over 40, high income, high education,” he says. “There’s a whole level of fairly powerful and successful people, a lot of academia and medicine. Those were the people who were closeted kinky and relied on the site. What we’ve seen in the last six or seven years is that it has expanded into a younger demographic, into the twentysomethings.” That’s led to competition for Rowntree’s site in the form of dating sites like Collarme.com and Fetlife.com.

More and more seemingly normal people are taking their freaky feelings offline too, says Dr. Natasha Valdez, whom we talked to last week about Arnold Schwarzenegger. A licensed sexologist and author of two books including A Little Bit Kinky: A Couples’ Guide to Rediscovering the Thrill of Sex, Valdez also owned a sex shop in Austin, Texas. “There was this jock that looked so plain vanilla and conservative,” she recalls. “Every week he’d come in and get kinkier and kinkier with what he bought as far as toys. Doctors, lawyers, and cops came in, too. You couldn’t put a face on kink. It could be any face.”

Like, say, Kat Smith. If you met her in the gym, you’d probably think she was simply an exceptionally fit, tall New York City trainer. But her alter ego makes an excellent living off this trend. “I’m not quite a dominatrix, but I do things like ‘lift and carry,’ when the guy just wants me to pick him up and carry him around, height comparisons—I’m six feet tall without heels—and foot/leg worship session,” the 31-year-old says. “Some men want to wrestle and for me to beat them until they’re bloody, and I won’t do any of that. There is such a huge market for guys who want to be put through pain!”

Or, say, Courtney Johnson, a 24-year-old nurse in Chicago. “I just recently expressed my desire to explore the BDSM lifestyle with my boyfriend,” she says. “He seems into it, so we’ll see where it goes!”

 

Your Girl Just Might Be Up For It

Johnson’s words are consistent with the research of Ogas and his colleague, Dr. Sai Gaddam, who’ve learned that dominance and submission are increasingly hot topics with men and women. “Men generally prefer dominance-themed porn, and women submission-themed literary erotica such a romance novels and stories,” Ogas says. “We can now see that dominance and submission is extremely popular and creative. There’s more creativity in erotica that involves dominance and submission than there is any other.”

Ogas makes it clear that the goal is the exchange of power, not inflicting pain. And as it turns out, women are more interested than men are. “Dominance- and submission-themed erotica is among the top ten most popular interests for men, but top five for women,” he reveals. “Our brains are wired so that we’re aroused by dominance and submission, in a variety of forms. It’s a fundamental aspect of human sexuality, and we’re all looking for ways to satisfy those interests. It’s always been there, we just haven’t openly been talking about it.”

The fun part for modern guys is, we can ease into this behavior with our wives and girlfriends without skipping straight to the leather masks and sex swings. “There are different kinds of dominance and submission,” explains Ogas. “There’s tying people up, actual bondage. It looks like the people that are most interested in bondage are older, in the mid-forties. Younger people explore dominance and submission without whips and chains.” Which still leaves plenty of room for dirty talk, role playing and, yes, spanking.

If you’re thinking it’s time to approach your woman about getting kinky, Dr. Valdez, who has worked with many couples seeking solutions for a boring sex life, has a few words of advice. “It’s risky to go in and think they won’t be surprised,” she cautions. “Not everybody has had many sexual experiences. It’s safer to assume that they haven’t had the experience, and if you want it to go the right way, talk about it before you have it. Bring it up in conversation. Just because this girl has slept with 100 guys doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t be freaked out if you pulled out a dildo.”

If she is indeed freaked out, we have three suggestions: Pour a couple glasses of wine, pull out a copy of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, and set your Tivo to the Billboard Music Awards.