Category Archives: Sex

Mother F*cker: Grappling with Baby-Making

david-bowie-angela-bowie-baby

 

 

 

 

Perhaps it’s the maniacal ticking of that proverbial biological clock. Maybe it’s the “grownup” version of peer pressure. Or even a primordial urge that’s greater than rational human understanding. Whatever the case, everything around and inside me has forced some serious contemplation about the abstract notion of motherhood. I say abstract because, to me, I am experiencing this strange dichotomy where having a child seems both a far away concept that happens to “more mature,” fully formed people as well as something so innate and inherent in who I am and what I hope to experience as a woman.

It’s literally like I am walking through Times Square and every flashing neon light, animated billboard, and larger-than-life poster is screaming: “HAVE A BABY—NOW!

(((Shudder)))

Around me everyone is pregnant. Or they’re talking about fertility treatments or about the elaborate getaway they’ve planned—its sole purpose for baby-making. Or I am standing in line at the pharmacy and the headlines are filled with baby bump-this and maternity chic-that. My dreams are also inundated with my hypothetical baby-to-be. Sometimes it’s like Rosemary’s Baby, but minus the pixie haircut. Other times, it’s beautiful and profound and what I always imagined. Maybe having a child is somewhere in the middle between the horror of having a devilish little foreign body inside you and the real-life miracle of conception. Obviously, I have no clue, but according to my subconscious, impending motherhood is seen in this hyperbolized black and white.

It’s strange how we spend our promiscuous twenties avoiding pregnancy by any means necessary. As we usher in our thirties the narrative changes to women searching either for the perfect potential mate or to procreate with a previously procured partner.

My decision to finally abandon birth control for once and for all two years ago had nothing to do with pregnancy. In all honesty, I was convinced the extra dose of hormones surging through my body was the cause of some chronic health problems. Once off the pills it was obvious that my initial suspicion was correct. My health improved. Strangely, so did my sex life.

Thinking about it now, maybe there’s something so passionately primal about the possibility of conception that makes sex that much more exciting. While there’s the tangible orgasm—an expected byproduct of sex—a baby is the ultimate corporeal gratification of coupling. It’s the end-all, be-all creation. The extra-added risk and the feeling of sex with Russian roulette-like odds bring a different level of excitement. Or maybe my body is calling.

And how apt this post is. Just in time for Mother’s Day. I think my subconscious is working overtime. Mother fucker.

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Birth of Venus: The Story Behind Venus in Heels

 

I always had a subversive take on love—so why not write about it?

As glamorous as it sounds, back in 2009 when I started Venus in Heels, I was a freelance music and entertainment writer hungrily navigating the supersaturated city of New York, trying to scrap together my next high-paying gig. Yes, I made my living giving good convo to rock n’ roll stars, but for some reason making small talk with famous strangers didn’t fulfill me in the slightest. Sure, I had an enviable job and access to the musical and cultural geniuses of our time, but I was always left wanting more. I desired to help and connect to people through my writing—digging deeper than the surfaced pieces I was churning out about fashion trends and the next “big” thing sonically. There had to be more, right? So, in my quest for fulfillment—bodily, emotionally, and spiritually—I began my Venus in Heels journey. That, and I needed something productive and creative to occupy those never-ending idle hours between my dwindling freelance jobs.

My aim was to put my unconventional views about love, romance, dating, and the major misconceptions about “proper” ways to engage with the opposite sex to paper. I wanted to help expose the fallacy of happy endings, to help women find empowerment through sex, and help to turn the old school rule of romance on its head. Modern women deserve modern rules, and I saw far too many of my contemporaries caught in the dichotomy of dating within the confines of an old system. Those notions of relationships just don’t apply, but up until this point, there was no definitive source for information on contemporary courtships or how to date on your own terms.

You may be asking yourself why I am qualified to write about romance. I might not have fancy degrees hanging from the walls of my office (nope, instead I have photographs of Iggy Pop and Rod Stewart), but I have notches on my bedpost, keen insight derived from years of playing the field, guiding my friends on their romantic journeys, and a solid understanding of both the male and female psyche. Venus in Heels isn’t a clinical look at love and romance, a debauched tale of my bedroom conquests, or a self-help blog. Instead, I want to position Venus in Heels as a forum for curious men and women to be thoughtfully provoked to look deeper into the realms of love and dating, and to question the old school conception of romance so many people still seem to live by.

Venus in Heels is a Subversive Guide to Romance because we must challenge the norm to achieve our own truth and understanding about what makes us happy—and what makes us feel truly empowered when it comes to love, courtship, and sexual exploration. I never played by the rules. I openly pursued men when all my friends accused me of being brash, I made the first move when others warned me I was too forward or would be viewed as a slut, and I always tried to follow my heart wherever it took me. I made mistakes, which I have learned from. My quest for love was fearless.  It is an endless pursuit.

Emotional Eating: Is Food the New Sex?

Crystal Renn photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case you couldn’t tell from my recent barrage of disgruntled tweets about Points Values, calories, and my lack of Pinot Noir, I am on a diet. This is the first diet of my entire life—except for the impromptu wine diet of summer 2010, which was fueled by relationship hardships and provided the increased calorie count that paved the way for this new, real diet.

I recently came to realize that I lost the script—and like lost it big time.

Through all the dramatic highs and woes of the past year-and-a-half, I unknowingly fell victim to the dangerous cycle of emotional eating. Between the almost-breakups and make-ups with my boyfriend—um, now fiancé—to job stress, financial ups and downs, and the shaky freelance world, it’s been a tough uphill battle. The more and more things went haywire, the more I resorted to my social life that revolved around pleasure and comfort. That meant going out for dinner and drinking as much red wine as I could get away with before it was hangover territory.

The scariest part: With my culinary pleasure-seeking came the major reduction of quality time spent between the sheets. I shudder as I wonder how this even happened. How did food come to replace sex, which has been such an important aspect of my life and an integral part of my quest for self-exploration? And, most importantly, how did I not notice this happening? How did I get so trapped in this vicious cycle that I didn’t even see the effect it was having on my life?

Crystal Renn, photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My boyfriend and I were both guilty of putting a pizza party above sex on our priority list, especially when things got tough. And in the process, my body went from a well-proportioned vixen physique to a super-sized version—and all in a matter of two years. My boyfriend and I become coconspirators in our need to find warmth in a carb overload, our sex life taking a backseat as our daily stresses and pent up emotions became too much to bear—and too hard to ignore for the length of a sexy encounter.

I had never recognized the correlation between sex and food before. I mean, sure, they both provide satisfaction, help to spike serotonin, and they both can be described using many of the same terms. But, being an inherently sexual creature, it was hard to wrap my mind around how one act could easily replace the other in times of stress and unhappiness. Much like my relationship to sex, my friendliness towards food was never unhealthy. Sure, I ate and enjoyed going out for dinner, but it wasn’t the driving force that it, up-until-recently, had become.

Strangely enough, the scale initially began to tip towards an unhealthy relationship with all-things edible once my boyfriend and I moved in together and began to settle comfortably into our personal iteration of domestic bliss. Part of our bonding ritual was enjoying food together post- or pre-coitus—whether that meant visiting our favorite foodie haunts or me slaving over the stove—eating became a kind of foreplay. It also didn’t help that watching me cook is a major turn-on for my man, but that’s a whole other story…

Crystal Renn, photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.

The more settled we became, the more I got lost in the bliss of indulgence and the act of satiation—whether that was sexual or food-wise, I was finding comfort and safety in both forms of fulfillment. But as time went on, and as life happened, the sex slowed down but the eating didn’t. Soon it almost began to replace sensual pleasures during our hardest times.

Although it has taken a while to fully understand and recognize these recent destructive patterns and my unhealthy coping mechanisms, it’s not all that surprising. I spent a large portion of my life relying on external things to quell my own personal demons and the daily stress of a basic mundane existence. Whether it was drugs, alcohol, shopping, or inappropriate romantic choices, there was always a diversion, something else I had to focus on that drew the attention away from me and my problems. Facing things head-on has never been easy for me, and now, trying to embrace my life as an adult, it has gotten even harder.

Food is plain and simply drugs for grownups. We fuss over new hard-to-get-into restaurants, coo about freshly-picked peaches at the overpriced farmers market, or brag about a decadent whole-pig roast we attended over the weekend the way we would about 20-something sexual conquests and debauched nights that used to define us. While I am easing into my thirties with grace—and a new diet—I don’t want to replace one compulsion for another. It’s time for a detox from all the distractions. It’s time to face life without the armor of excess.

The Ex-Files: The Dating Site Disaster

Andreas Kock's stalker fashion editorial.

Photo by Andreas Kock

At this point in our collective dating lives, I imagine we’ve all accumulated enough horror stories about ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends to fill a two-volume novel. Whether it’s the psycho stalker, the asshole who locks you—and your stuff—out of the apartment, or the blackmailer who posts naked photos of you on all of their social networking channels, there’s nothing worse than a butt-hurt former lover with an axe to grind. Luckily, I have had the pleasure of keeping most of my exes as friends. Some of which I still email with, joke with about old times over the phone, or share the occasional happy hour libation. I’ve only had one ex who really lost the script after our breakup and behaved so badly I had to change my phone number—twice.

Back in 2005, I was a full-time student and struggling freelancer who had no time to socialize and even less time to date. I was tired of using the same circle of friends as a conduit for romance, so in a bold attempt to rekindle my love mojo, I signed up for an online dating site. And not one with the “measure your long-term compatibility” bullshit. No, this was the era of Nerve.com, the notorious online dating destination known for its hot hipster singles, most of them looking for no-strings romps. Perfect. After I created my profile, added a coquettish picture, and filled out the requisite information with as much humor as I could muster while writing back-to-back papers on Spenser and eight record reviews for the music mag, I sat back and waited for the eligible man-dolescents to start lining up. And virtually line up they did! I was literally going out four nights a week on dates thanks to my Nerve profile.

Max was a seemingly normal guy—at least for my standards. I had gone out with about everyone in San Francisco, most of them were way out of my age range (Electra complex, anyone?) had major issues, and only wanted me because I was 25 and a not-so reformed party girl-cum-student. Max and I liked the same obscure indie bands, he had a deep voice, and an adventurous nature that was refreshing after all of the aloof and “over it” scenesters I used to roll around on unmade beds with. And just like that, it went from a casual phone call to pint-sized margaritas at Casanova to a marathon make out session in the dark corner of the bar while the DJ played obscure ’70s rock and Northern Soul. Coincidentally, I had a date scheduled with the DJ the very next night. It’s safe to say that date never happened.

I never wanted a boyfriend. Or, I guess I should rephrase that. I never wanted him as my boyfriend. But our chemistry was right on—well, that’s an understatement. I realize that I was completely hornswaggled into a relationship because of our incredible sex life. That coupled with the fact that summer was drawing to a foggy close with the fall semester looming like a dark cloud in the distance. So there I was, suckered into a union with a guy who looked like a deranged monkey when he smiled and used improper grammar. But he knew how to satisfy me physically, and that was my weakness.

 

So I quickly went from fun, flirty, and single to attached and confused about how I got there in the first place. But I was blinded by lust, and he kept me content by buying me pretty things, like naughty Wolford stockings, Led Zeppelin records, and expensive bottles of Pinot Noir. I was hooked on being worshipped, but this was far from the basis of a stable relationship. Looking at this time retrospectively, I also recognize that I spent very little of this period sober (I said not-so reformed party girl, remember?), and what we had in common was our consumption of top-shelf spirits, premium cocaine, and the mother of all drugs—sex. The more time that went on, the more I began to realize that our relationship was founded upon our sexual chemistry—it was a temporary fix, a moment in time, and somehow it managed to last three years. By the beginning of our second year, I started to have serious doubts. I slept with two men behind his back and fantasized about breaking up with him every single day as I rode the train to my cushy magazine job. Between his lack of ambition and his hopeless devotion towards me, I lost respect for him and with that my sex-drive. Without the lusty haze keeping us glued together, I knew that the end was imminent. I also knew that, because Max was so addicted to me, this breakup wouldn’t be an easy one. So I put it off eight long months.

With the realization that it was time to break it off with Max, I also recognized that I had gotten too comfortable in my current life and surroundings. It was time to shake things up. I did the most extreme thing I could think of. I decided to move from San Francisco to New York City with no plan in mind and no place to live. So with idealized visions of city life dancing in my head, I broke the news to Max. I told him that breaking up was the best thing I could do for him, and that it would light the fire under his ass to make him figure out what he wanted out of life. Because worshipping me had become a full-time gig. He sat in my room and cried and cried, wondering why I wasn’t upset about losing him. I walked him out, as he staggered to his car he looked at me like a puppy through the cage at the pound and I knew I was doing the right thing. As my astrologer so aptly put it, “Pity is not love. Let him go.” And so off he went into the damp Bay Area night.

But of course that wasn’t the last I’d see of him. He wrote me numerous love letters, painted me things that were symbolic of our relationship, and he broke into my house in an attempt to talk to me. That was the first time I changed my phone number. Frightened as I was, I knew he was just maddened by love and needed some time and space to heal. Or so I thought. As my plane touched down at JFK there was now a whole country between us. I began my life on the East Coast, and quickly forged a new relationship with a man I had been pining over for three years. Who would have thought that Max was living mere blocks away from my sublet in Brooklyn? Not heeding the wise words of my sage astrologer, I felt bad for the guy and emailed him back on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. That’s how I quickly learned that he too was living in Clinton Hill and fled California shortly after I broke up with him. “It was mere coincidence, right?” I wondered as I met him for lunch at the small café around the corner.

 

 

 

 

 

One lunch date seemed to rekindle a tentative friendship, which gave way to the dysfunctional dynamic of our recently terminated union. He took me out to dinners in the West Village when I had no money, or bought me glasses of wine when I had a hard day scouring the job boards. Soon I realized that it was like we were dating again—but without any of the lust to cloud my judgment. It became obvious to me that I really didn’t like him enough to be friends. And not to mention I had a new boyfriend that I was quickly falling in love with. The whole thing was flawed from the get-go. Again, my sympathy for him overruled my rational thought. The whole ambiguous friendship thing came to a head one night when he came over to my West Village apartment to use my Internet before I went off to meet my beau. As I emerged from the steamy bathroom I could tell the energy had shifted. Something was different. I asked Max what was wrong and he admitted to reading my emails while I was in the shower and came to the conclusion that I had no interest in ever getting back with him. I screamed at him, shocked by his idiocy and his disrespectful snooping and told him I never wanted him to contact me ever again. That was the second time I changed my number. That was also the second time he tried to break into my apartment.

That’s when the emails started. According to Max, I owed him money for the time he generously took me out to dinner when I was unemployed. I knew he was fishing for drama, finding some way to be able to write me off and call me a bitch. Fortunately, my boyfriend wasn’t having it. He emailed Max and told him that if he really wanted his money back, he would come and meet up with him in place of me. That settled the issue, and my boyfriend and I were back to domestic bliss while Max silently fumed in a dark apartment in Williamsburg. That was the end of the saga. Until two-years—and two awkward serendipitous street run-ins later—I got an email from my friend Kate.

“Hey, long time no see,” it read. “I wanted to ask you about your friend that’s on OKCupid. You’re in his photo. My friend is supposed to go out on a date with him and I figured I’d ask you about him. Is he a nice guy?” As I read the email I had a sinking suspicion that it was an old photo of Max and I. Probably the uber-flattering photo taken at my 27th birthday party. I emailed Kate, and she confirmed my suspicions. It was him—and me—in that profile photo. Not only that, the photo was at least four years old. I don’t even have that haircut anymore! It dawned on me how incredibly creepy this was on a multitude of levels—to use your ex-girlfriend as a “look I’m not crazy” device on a dating site, or even worse, to feature an out-of-date photo that neither reflects your current post-20s physique or your post-20s hairline. But as they say, how you find them is how you keep them. I met Max online, so in a strange way it’s pretty fitting that I would end up on his profile as a way to lure in a new wave of dates, our fate strangely entwined in the ether of the Internet.

Oversexed: Is the Modern Woman’s Amped Up Sex Drive Emasculating Men?

Rebecca Chandler shot by Robert Harper for ThePop.com

I attended a stylish rooftop soiree this past Saturday in the East Village. The Champagne was flowing—or overflowing I should say—and attractive singles danced and mingled with the monolithic Manhattan skyline in the background. It was my good friend’s birthday party, but I didn’t know any of the attendees. Instead of being a silent wallflower I poured myself a big glass of Pinot Noir and began striking up conversations with the partygoers. As usual, I subconsciously shifted the talk to relationships and sex. I was struck by how many women on this one Manhattan rooftop were bragging about their insatiable sexual appetites and how most men—both young and old—couldn’t keep up with them. Many complained about men frequently not being able to perform, or just not being in the mood and I was left wondering whether this generation of women are turning men off because of their empowered sense of sexuality.

For us women, is knowing what you want—and how to get it—emasculating our men and, as a result, diminishing their sex drives? Are we shifting the power so much that the men no longer know how to harness their power in the bedroom? I pondered over these questions on my breezy cab ride home over the Manhattan Bridge, praying that my red wine buzz wouldn’t manifest as a hangover the next morning.

With the increasing amount of power women have in the workplace, in contemporary politics, and many other facets of society and culture, it appears as though the influence of the strong female is wiping out the virility and potency of the male psyche—libido and all. There have been plenty of occasions that my boyfriend has complained about me being aggressive and “too independent,” insisting that I should respect the delicate balance of the masculine and feminine energies in our household and relationship. Being the neo-feminist that I am, at first I was pissed he broke things down like that, but I realized without the distinct gender roles that have been carved out for us by the media, our upbringing, and societal influence, many men don’t know how to operate or function correctly, especially when it comes to love and sex. Plainly stated: with the shift in the gender dynamic men don’t understand their new role and where they fit in—or how to fuck you.

Rebecca Chandler shot by Robert Harper for ThePop.com.

It’s a sad fact, but so much of who we are is a product of our upbringing and a reaction to our parent’s values. Unless your boyfriend grew up in a progressive household with parents that deemphasized the traditional roles of men and women, it’s likely that he was reinforced to see his role as the provider, the family figurehead, and the sexual aggressor. That’s not to say that he won’t appreciate you initiating sexually and feel thankful for having a partner that is as equally engaged in bringing the fire into the boudoir. But, he probably believes that there is a clear-cut male and female role within the lines of your relationship. Although these are archaic notions that are painfully outdated, once these definitions become hazy, his sexual role comes into question along with his sense of power.

Intoxicated by feeling free, beautiful, and successful, many women are looking to translate this energy into time spent between the sheets, only to be greeted by a less-than-interested man. As frustrating as this may be, we can’t expect our guys to just drop everything and update their operating systems to accommodate our amped up sex drives. This would require reprogramming many years of societal conditioning, and a complete ego overhaul. Instead, use your newfound power for good. Rather than pleading for him to have sex with you constantly, spend time pleasing your partner, indulging him in his fantasies, and trying out some steamy moves geared towards his climax. Also, take your pleasure into your own hands—literally. There’s no harm in channeling your monumental sex drive through self-love. Not only do you know how to get yourself going better than any lover, there is an array of affordable and exciting toys on the market to help you get to your sensual destination.

And, finally, try and communicate your feelings—and your urges—to your dude instead of pressuring him to pleasure you in an aggressive way. If you’re just trying to “put the pussy on him” every chance you can—like those unsatisfied rooftop partiers who found their partners unable to handle their advances—it’s a sure bet that your assertive tactics are a turnoff simply because they force him out of the dominant or “masculine” role. Because it’s this kind of gender shape shifting that is creating tension in the first place, try to make your point in a way that won’t be threatening and make him feel further emasculated. A male ego is a delicate thing, so instead of mentioning his sexual inadequacy, try to build him up by explaining how much he turns you on—because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a little flattery. Transport him back into a position of feigned power by hinting at your growing need for more sex, but by giving him the “authority” to decide when it can happen. Just let him know you need it more. By not forcefully making your point and carefully treading on this difficult subject matter—and hornswaggling him into thinking this was all his idea—the gender dynamic will shift on its own and, as a result, you will find that you will get what you want.

Betony Vernon and the Slow Sex Movement

Photo Courtesy of Ali Mahdavi.

As modern men and women, juggling careers, relationships, the fall-out from the recent financial crisis, and a bustling social life, it’s sometimes hard to devote time to nurturing yourself sexually. Sure, we’re all familiar with the quick bang, or the sex-laden morning shower, but how much time do we really spend pleasing ourselves, and our partners, without the distractions of our tech-obsessed existence?

It is this type of “fast sex” that sex educator and erotic jewelry designer Betony Vernon abhors. On a balmy Wednesday night, myself and thirty other lovely ladies (and two brave men) attended Vernon’s much-hyped sexual salon “The Art of Sexual Ceremony” at the exclusive venue Mister H, housed in the new Mondrian Hotel in SoHo. As we sipped on high-end cocktails, the beautifully statuesque Vernon enlightened us on the importance of taking back and owning our pleasure. By breaking down what she calls the “pleasure taboo,” Vernon believes that we can enrich our sex lives and as a result be happier people.

“Have you ever noticed how people walk down the street?” Vernon explained while fingering a leather crop. “We live in a stiff-hipped society. People walk around life with their sexual energies blocked.” Her solution? Treat the art of lovemaking as a sacred act, and embrace a slow, sensuous road to pleasure.

A former high-end jewelry designer, Betony Vernon was ousted from the fashion world after taking her erotic accessories to the mainstream market place. She now lives, breathes, and explores ways to enhance and educate people about the inherent joy of coupling, and encourages people to abolish categories in an effort to broaden sexual horizons. Employing philosophies of transcendentalism, tantra, and early Greco-Roman views on sensuality, Vernon pontificates on ways to prolong pleasure in a practical and user-friendly way.

In an effort to move away from the contemporary notion of what she calls “masculinized pleasure,” or the idea that the end of the sexual act is signified by ejaculation or orgasm, Vernon stressed the need to enliven the other parts of the body and to not place so much emphasis solely on the genital region.  To “masculinize” your sex, is to only work a small fraction of your potential, and according to Vernon the average sexual act in America last a mere three to fifteen minutes.

Photo courtesy of Michael James O'Brien.

While our overworked and undersexed society is a full of frustration and a general lack of sexual fulfillment, the Sexual Ceremony is a way to extend the time that we spend with our partner prolonging the pursuit of pleasure. Vernon insists that we must reprioritize our lives to leave more room for sensuality and satisfaction, and to move away from the type of “fast sex” that most of us are currently engaging in. And how can we make this transition? Accouterments that help to heighten and extend the lovemaking process—something that Vernon goes into great about in her upcoming debut book The Boudoir Bible due for release in 2012.

Another point, which Vernon stresses adamantly between delicate sips of Champagne, is the importance of breaking down the myths and misconceptions that affect our pleasure. One major example of this is pornography, with she says is the “worst teacher” when it comes to honing your sexual skill set and learning to please your partner. Vernon went on to explain what is called the “hysterical arch,” a term coined by the legendary sexologist Wilhelm Reich used to describe that iconic image of a woman arching her back in ecstasy commonly depicted in porn. This position may be aesthetically pleasing to men, but it actually cuts off blood from the pleasure center, hinders correct breathing, and inhibits sexual response. Instead of playing into some sexual role perpetuated by the male-dominated adult industry, Vernon advises that women should make sure to be comfortable, receptive, and ready to explore your pleasure and your lover’s pleasure openly.

As the evening comes to a close, Vernon leaves her salon attendees with one last point about the all-important Sexual Ceremony. “To gradually build tension, you have the body turned on so much that it becomes something that expands,” she explains about the importance of stretching out the pleasure process. “The arousal now will not be localized to the genitals and will move beyond to the whole body, which will leave you trembling.” I think we could all use a little bit of that.

For more information about Betony Vernon, check out her website.

Modern Aphrodisiacs: Four Easy (And Tasty) Ways to Turn Up the Heat

While we may be inundated with modern medical solutions promising libido-stimulating miracles and sometimes erections freakishly lasting four hours—the little blue pill, anyone?—aphrodisiacs have been widely used for centuries to enhance sexual performance and to stir the senses. Sexual aids may be scoffed upon because of what their use might suggest about your sensual function and prowess, but there are many modern herbs, potions, and mood-setters that can help rev up your initial arousal, and sometimes even prolong your lovemaking. Indulging in aphrodisiacs can be stimulating, fun, and tasty—and if they help to get you in the mood all the better, right?

Perfume: Scent Appeal

Kilian Back to Black Aphrodisiac Eau de Parfum ($225)

With a deep, rich tobacco backdrop and notes of amber, honey, and a woodsy finish, Kilian’s Back to Black Aphrodisiac perfume is sex in scent form. We all know that smell is a powerful sense—especially when it comes to the act of seduction. Help enhance the experience with a perfume that contains musk, or some layered darker notes for a unisex aroma that metaphorically mimics the sexual fusion of man and woman. Ladies, put a dab on your wrist and the nape of your neck—and forget the clothes. Men, put a drop of this sensual solution on your partner and notice how the scent changes once you turn up the heat in the bedroom. While this perfume may be on the pricier side, think of it as an investment in your own pleasure.

Chocolate: The Smooth Operator

Quite possibly the most popular and ubiquitous aphrodisiac, chocolate has a reputation of inciting heat in the right places—and in some circles, is seen as better than actual sex. While that last statement seems hyperbolized—what really is better than sex?—there is something to be said about the power of chocolate. Whether you prefer the creaminess of milk or the bitter complexity of the darker varieties, it’s a scientific fact that chocolate produces both serotonin and anandamide, which are powerful neurotransmitters that promote happiness and are essential when it comes to getting turned on. Why not try noshing on some cocoa-heavy treats before the clothes come off, or even incorporating some chocolate in your play?

Oysters: Sensuality From the Sea

Oysters have been linked with sexuality for ages, primarily because the shape of these luxurious shellfish resemble female genitalia—and the act of eating them viscerally brings to mind the slurp-and-seduction of oral sex. While scientists debate the legitimacy of whether or not they are the libido-boosting miracle food many claim them to be, oysters do in fact contain high levels of zinc, a mineral that promotes testosterone production and sperm health. Whatever the case, there’s nothing like the slinky, slippery process of eating oysters to help you get thinking about the dirty deed.

Red Wine: The Love Elixir

A glass of wine might not be the secret antidote to longevity, or the cure for instant arousal—it’s quite the opposite on some extreme occasions—but it might be just what you need to help you reawaken your dormant desire. Alcohol does wonders for lowering your inhibitions about sex, and is guaranteed to make you more adventurous in the realm of the bedroom. While the last thing I want to do is advocate heavy drinking, I do understand the ease in which a glass of Pinot Noir can make people more interested in the pursuit of pleasure. A scientific study performed by the University of Florence determined that not only do women who drink one to two glasses of wine have a higher libido, but that the consumption of wine helps to flow of blood to the erogenous zones.