Illustrati – Interview with Ayzad (2013)

Illustrati, the cool bilingual Logos Edizioni magazine distributed in many bookstores throughout Europe, thought the ideal person to interview for its Valentine 2013 issue to be… me! To celebrate such journalistic insight let me point you to the integral online edition of the magazine, which you can read here or download in Pdf form. However, if it is only the interview you are interested in, here it is in full:

Cover of Illustrati, feb 2013

AT THE EDGE OF SEX

Sex doesn’t exist in nature. It’s pure imagination, therefore insatiable – ineducable. (Ennio Flaiano)

In the “Mysterious sex” section of our blog we have often dealt with the most extreme, fanciful or frenzied expressions of sexuality: paraphilias such as zoophilia, phenomena such as furries or adult babies, the most extreme kinds of fetishism such as octopus fetish or the aberrant crush fetish. For this issue of ILLUSTRATI focused on love we have therefore decided to interview one of the main Italian authorities in the field of borderline eroticism, a leading figure in the Italian BDSM scene. In spite of who would have preferred the umpteenth interview of Federico Moccia.

Born in 1969, Ayzad is the author of BDSM. Guida per esploratori dell’erotismo estremo (2004-2009, Castelvecchi, BDSM. A guide for explorers of extreme eroticism), and of XXX – Il dizionario del sesso insolito (2009, Castelvecchi, The dictionary of unusual sex), both recommended by the Italian Association of Sexology and Applied Psychology and the Institute of Sexual Evolution. Besides being a successful writer – BDSM is a best-seller and brought him to work with sexologists and psychologists – Ayzad lectures and holds workshops and seminars at prestigious universities, organizes performances dedicated to extreme eroticism, and offers a service of personal coaching to people keen to learn the techniques and nuances of BDSM.

(Remark for anybody who may feel lost: BDSM is an acronym for “bondage, sadism and masochism, dominance and submission”. Further on you will find the terms vanilla and 24/7: the first referring to all those people who know nothing about extreme sex; the latter describing a couple relationship in which one partner is dominant, not only on a sexual level but in many ways somehow connected with eroticism, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

The author’s official website, ayzad.com, is full of hilarious news, in-depth articles and countless delicacies also suitable for those who do not practice extreme sex but are not going to repress their voyeuristic curiosity.

During your ten-year researches about weird sexual behaviours, which is the most unbelievable practice you came across?

We’re off to a fine start … It’s impossible to give a definite answer because, after all, each of us has their own standards of sexual “incredibility”. As far as I’m concerned, however, I believe I won’t ever be able to understand objectophiles (people – especially women – that literally fall in love with monuments, even to the point of marrying them) and dendrophiles, i.e. those who have sex with plants. But I have to admit that the recent news about an erotic hacker who invented a hi-tech device for having radishes moan in pleasure when he harasses them was objectively funny. And the bad thing is that I’m not even joking: you can find the video on my website.

What is that drives somebody to pursue extreme sexual practices? May extreme sex become an abyss from which there is no return?

The causes are many. In some cases it is for sure a way of escaping and sublimating the stress and uneasiness otherwise impossible to manage, but fortunately a lot of people have a healthier approach: I call them “the explorers of extreme eroticism”. These people simply choose not to be caged inside a preconceived idea of what sexuality “should be” and give themselves the chance to serenely explore the pleasures of life. It is the same principle that drives good cooking: at first when they tell you “chew this piece of raw fish on cold rice” it sounds like an appalling idea … but those who are open-minded enough as to try sushi are likely to discover that it isn’t that bad, isn’t it?

I don’t think that extreme sex is the perfect choice for everybody – but I am sure that, generally speaking, we should better try something and then decide that it is not good for us, instead of surrendering to convention and suffering because of unfulfilled dreams. Of course, like anything else, these explorations require a responsible and intelligent behaviour… “The abyss” you are talking about is born when something – sex or anything else – turns into a compulsive obsession, but such rare cases are symptoms, and not causes, of other kinds of problems.

A possible difference between pornography and eroticism lies in the fact that the first is eminently physical and the latter metaphysical. Fetish has in general a strong symbolic value, which you call “the aesthetic of sensuality taken to the extreme”. Do you think sex is more rooted in the senses or is it more a mental thing?

In my opinion, good sex is the combination of physicalness and imagination: neither of them should be underrated. Nevertheless the good thing about many “alternative” games lies precisely in the fact that they give you the possibility of prolonging pleasure and excitement for a long time after the sexual intercourse, permeating with sensuality each moment of the day – even when you are far from our partner.

BDSM relationships can be particularly intense. Can love exist in a situation of 24/7 domination? And how is it different from the “classical” idea we all share?

And which is the classical idea? Two fiancées at the seaside holding hands and watching the sunset, a showgirl and a soccer player, a married couple (incidentally: the average duration of a marriage in Italy is only 15 years, with a 65% incidence of extramarital affairs since the second year), a passionate intercourse in a motel room, old people who don’t have sex but have been loving and respecting each other for their whole life…? There are so many kinds of love that I don’t feel like choosing the “right” one. Full-time BDSM relationships are very rare and of course they don’t mean bondage and lashing 24 hours a day. I think that two people who trust each other so completely are most likely to love each other deeply. Do you think you should be more in love to buy a diamond ring or to let your partner amuse him/herself by doing to you all the bad things you see on the Internet?

In a movie by Woody Allen, a sexologist had written a book entitled “Advanced Sexual Positions: How to Achieve Them Without Laughing.” Seen from the outside, it seems that all the people who practice BDSM take themselves seriously and leave no room for humour. Is it really like that? And when sex has to do with cosplay, don’t you run the risk of being ridiculous?

My impression is that, in any context, “to take oneself seriously” involves playing a role instead of being oneself. There is nothing wrong about it, but maybe we should better experience eroticism in a spontaneous way – and this is exactly what happens most of the time, including healthy, liberating laughs. Reality is rather different from Helmut Newton’s photography… some even think that in these years people are going too far exactly because of an excess of laxity, and a little atmosphere would not be bad. When it comes to fetish, which has indeed much in common with cosplay, we should go beyond outward appearances. Clothes and accessories are not erotic in themselves – unless you are a fetishist in a clinical sense – as long as you don’t wear them with the precise intent of being seductive. This art is not within everybody’s reach, but no, there is nothing ridiculous in it.

In any field, “experts” have sometimes a jealous and suspicious attitude towards trends. What is your opinion about those mass media phenomena that all of a sudden draw hundreds of vanillas towards BDSM (let’s take, for example, the recent best-sellers that have made sadomasochism accessible to every housekeeper)?

Ah, the Fifty Shades… As far as I could see, those books (as well as other books in the past years, or movies that deal with BDSM) are perceived as a terrible outrage especially by the various online theme communities – which, nevertheless, and especially in Italy, are joined almost exclusively by people that would not even dream of putting their fancies into practice. They usually invent a fake identity that make them feel unique and sublimate their fancies online. Of course when these people realized they share the same fancies of a thousands ordinary people they really got disappointed. I have expressed my opinion in the reviews published on ayzad.com: it’s good that so much money has been invested in advertising books that encourage a more open-minded approach to alternative sexualities. But the sad thing about it is that these novels are really bad and furthermore they convey an idea about BDSM which is very far from the truth. It is no coincidence that so many improvised “Anastasias” and “Christians” venture to try certain games because they are trendy and have really bad experiences – in the worst cases they end up in the news.

Imagine for a second to be an angel or an alien. You see our small quarrelsome lively species for the very first time. Do we attach too much importance to sex?

I’d rather answer from the point of view of a very human observer of society and history. The problem with sex is that we waste a huge amount of energy in desiring and dreaming of it, but we don’t make almost any effort to have it – I think this is a very serious fault, because there is endless evidence that an intense and serene sexual activity allows people to live a better life in all respects. Furthermore, a conscious approach to alternative sexualities is a mental exercise that helps to achieve independence and develop one’s critical faculties. Just imagine how different the world – and Italy in particular – would be if there was more of it around.

Brassens used to sing: “Good people don’t like it when somebody chooses a way different from theirs”. Is this still true in your opinion, or has society’s attitude towards non-aligned sexualities changed in some respect?

In my opinion, to blame sexual behaviours – except for the criminal ones, of course – is always a purely political action. On a daily basis I see that, apart from a bit of voyeuristic curiosity, nobody cares about what happens in other people’s bedrooms. The uproar about gay marriages, for example, is just a means to strengthen the power of certain groups that are lacking in reasonable arguments to justify their existence: a trick to keep busy the minus habens, all those people slave to certain TV programmes that unfortunately can make the difference at election time. During the history of humanity, the moments of greater sexual freedom have coincided with a more vehement criticism of the established power – this means something. Nevertheless, on a non-institutional level, I see that people are remarkably tolerant.

You have become an authority in the research field about sexuality. I would like to know if there is something in this field that still catches you unprepared, surprise or that upsets you.

Yes, sure! Top of my list is always the extraordinary ability of people to be dishonest to themselves instead of acknowledging their own curiosity. Second comes the claim to fulfil it without getting involved and then the amazing creativity of those who are always able to find new ways to enjoy the pleasures of life.

When I cease to be surprised, however, it will be time devote myself to something else.

Translation by Francesca Del Moro

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