Everybody's doing it. It's one of those things that is so pervasive, it's nearly a given. And yet very few admit to it. Like the act itself, there is a dichotomy in action and attitude that is difficult to fully comprehend. Unless, of course, you are human. What is this secret that is virtually impossible to avoid? Sex on the Internet. Sex in the Internet? Sex with the Internet? Who (or what) is it exactly that people are having sex with? Themselves? Not exactly. But kinda.
Take Alice -- she learned about sex from the Internet, which would not be terribly surprising if she were in high school, or even college. But Alice was 35. She wasn't a virgin and had even been married with what she thought was a good sex life. But it took the anonymity of the World Wide Web, and the risk taking that it permitted, to learn about the kind of sex portrayed in books and movies: sex with reckless abandon.
For Alice, It started as an experiment, as well as a response to loneliness, and also an opportunity to take some control. This was in the early days of the Web and dirty chatting was still in the underground. Alice would speak to men that she hoped were really men (both in gender and age) and ask them questions. The kinds of questions she was afraid to ask without the Internet's invisibility. She would make up stories about herself, creating different personas depending on what she was trying to learn. What did men really like? What did they really want? What did they really do? And most importantly, did they want to have sex with a fat woman? Because regardless of Alice's experiences, good or bad, she was certain they didn't.
Since women are trained that beauty has a certain look, it is often difficult for large women (and large men) to fully internalize it, and believe it, when a partner is attracted. This may translate into insecurity, which is never good for sex. A study published in the May 2011 Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy concluded that obese women and men were significantly less sexually satisfied than the general population. Professor Truls Ostbye at Duke University, author of the study, states, "our findings contribute to a growing body of research that indicates obesity is associated with reduced sexual functioning and sexual quality of life."
Still, Alice progressed with the Internet. They got more explicit together. First there was cybersex: talking dirty in emails or instant messages. This soon led to webcam sex: you know, doing stuff on a webcam. Alice didn't show herself on the webcam. First of all, Alice was lying about what she looked like, and even if she weren't she was sure no one wanted to see her fat body on their computer screen.
The most important and exciting thing Alice learned from her cyber teachers was that everything she knew about what men liked was wrong. Well, not everything, but when it came to bodies and sex appeal, magazines, TV, her girlfriends, were full of crap. Men didn't want sex with skinny women, they wanted sex with women. (Some wanted sex with men, but the size of the body, wasn't a factor there, either).
Slowly, Alice started posing questions more to the point. Have you ever had sex with a large woman? Have you ever had sex with a, um, fat woman? Have you ever had sex with a ... really fat woman? Did you like it? Some did, some didn't, but no matter what their response, the worst that happened was a blank screen. As it turns out, many of them liked fat women, because they have big breasts, and big asses, and places to squeeze, and put things. Men liked to put things places. That was far more important than a slim waist and a flat tummy. Boy, did men like to put things places.
"Do you have any pics?" That's the age-old cybersex question. As old as cybersex, anyway.
"Do you have any pics?"
"Do you have any pics?"
Alice took some carefully cropped pictures of herself. Send.
Some years later Alice decided to take it up a notch. She tested out various words to articulate her body size. Substantial. Plus size. Large. BBW. Fat. She reworked her profile. Kept it simple.
"Are you single, attractive, around my age, and healthy? Do you love extra large women? Can you also hold a decent conversation? Single only, please."
Man after man asked her about her body. They weren't appalled. They also weren't shocked. They were, um, turned on. They had seen fat women before, and, how to put this? Liked them. That was shocking! They asked her all kinds of questions. Not to mock her or shame her, but to woo her. Or at least get her in the sack. Men still liked to put things places, and they wanted her involved. OMFG.
So Alice went on a date. At first she was cautious about who she met and what their expectations would be. After all, these were men from the I-n-t-e-r-n-e-t. Except it turned out these were men from down the block, and across town, and guys she had seen around, and friends' husbands (ugh). These were regular men. Tall, short, handsome, homely, thin, fat. Men with issues and insecurities, lies, truths, and carefully cropped pictures of their own. They were -- humans, just like her.
After a number of dates, Alice started going on "dates." There was no pretense. No dinner before the show. Some Internet "conversation." A bit of investigation to assure she wasn't preparing to meet an axe murderer, someone with a wife, or a really ugly guy. She knew this was dangerous. It was risqué, to say the least. Don't bad things happen to people when they let their guard down -- this much? She rationalized. If I met a guy at a party, I wouldn't even have time to Google him first. It's true.
Here's what she discovered: The notion that women can't have sex without love? Horseshit. The notion that women can't have great sex without love? They didn't know what they were missing. She noticed she started to think more like a guy. Get 'em in, get 'em out. Every time, the sex was fantastic. Fan-f*cking-tastic. This was not your ex-husband's sex. And there was, every time, full nudity, liberating nakedness.
During these activities, whether Alice was substantial, plus size, large, BBW, or fat -- well, if anyone cared, they didn't speak up. It certainly didn't affect the performance.
And Alice learned about sex. She learned that the good sex life in her marriage wasn't all that good. She learned about reckless abandon. She learned that self-consciousness and shame really were antithetical to good sex. She learned that men find it way hotter when a woman is free and open and not plagued by the need to hide her body. She learned that when the woman had a good time, so did the man.
None of this is to say that Alice was living in a fairytale. Not every man she encountered wanted to bed her. And vice versa. She learned that she had the ability, the right, and the available pool to make that choice. She learned that when men made that choice about her, it was alright, because there are always more where that one came from. She learned that no one completely and totally loved themselves and that being a little insecure was not the end of the world.
And then she learned something else. Here's where the story gets romantic. She also learned that there was a man who wanted to be with her in public, laugh at her jokes, spend the afternoon. In other words, a guy who liked her and whom she liked back -- whom she let spend the night.
It remains to be seen if they live happily ever after. But if not for sex on the Internet, Alice would never have met this man. Not because they met on the Internet, but because the Internet was a good teacher and to get to this point, she did a great deal of learning.
By the by, this man is heavy, stout, rotund, corpulent, or like Alice, fat. The sex is great. Full of reckless abandon. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Professors Ostbye and Gadde at Duke University. While 90% of people who lose weight gain it back, 99.9% of people who gain reckless abandon never lose it.
Adapted from "Fat Sex: The Naked Truth" by Rebecca Jane Weinstein.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: Ways To Improve Your Sex Life
Sometimes the best way to get to your loins is through your ears. Getting in the mood is about turning on all of your senses. And for me, the sense that I love to activate first is my hearing. Yes, music turns me on. So create the perfect sex soundtrack. I've been doing this since I was in middle school. (Okay, so it wasn't about sex, per se, it was my soundtrack for making out, but same principle applies.) I like a musical backdrop and chances are, if I'm playing Heart's "Crazy on You" or Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," it is for a very particular reason. It's the same reason that I've already seen Rock of Ages three times (show once, film twice). There's just something about 80s hairbands. But I digress. Soundtracks can really set the stage for great sex. So what's on your playlist?
Okay, so if you know anything about me, you know that I have spent a great deal of time talking (and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-logan-levkoff/fifty-shades-of-grey-bdsm_b_1318169.html" target="_hplink">writing</a>) about <em>Fifty Shades of Grey</em>. While it has been a major pop culture phenomenon, it is certainly not the first piece of erotica ever written. How do I know this? Well, I was tasked by my bunkmates at my all-girls sleepaway camp with buying sex-filled books and magazines two decades ago. On my shopping list: <em>Nancy Friday</em>, <em>The Story of O</em> and, while it's not exactly erotica, <em>Forever</em> (the beautiful Judy Blume teen sex novel). I even bought <em>Playgirl</em> magazines. (Yes, <em>Playgirl</em>.) I loved those stories. Today, I still love them. Reading erotica is a great way to get in the mood and explore your fantasies (or create new ones), and reading it aloud with a partner can be... well, hot. So even though you may not be into <em>Fifty Shades</em>, there's a lot of good erotica out there. Check it out. What are your faves?
Anyway, as it turns out, you don't need a sex shop in order to spice things up in your bedroom. If you watch <em>Mom Ed: In the Bedroom</em>, you'll see that Megan was kind enough to bring me a treasure trove of everyday items that can lead a double life: stockings, bobby pins, spatulas, basting brushes and so on. (You'll have to watch the episode to see how they're used.) But here's a freebie: the base of an electric toothbrush can double a a vibrator, too. So your next trip to a mass retailer can be far more interesting when you know that you're secretly shopping for sex products. What products in your home have led a secret life as a sex-cessory?
Think I'm kidding? I'm not. When was the last time you kissed your partner? No, I'm not talking about those little kisses on the cheek or lips. Ehh. I'm asking when was the last time you really made out with a partner. I'm talking about that tangle of tongues, hands on faces, hands on hair, it-feels-so-good-you-don't-know-what's-going-to-happen-next type of kiss. Yeah, I thought so. Once we start having sex (of any kind), kissing sort of goes out the window. Which is sad, because kissing can cause that rush of blood that flows throughout our bodies and directly into our genitals. Pecks on the cheeks rarely do that. Start acting like a hormonal teenager and make out.
Now I know what some of your are thinking: This is not novel advice. Point taken. For the rest of you reading this, a change of scenery can be great for your sex life. Sex can get pretty routine. Many of us have sex in the same place in the same way, and it gets pretty mundane. When you switch up the setting, you wind up changing a lot more than location. Think about it: if you're the bathroom or the kitchen or your kid's bedroom, you're probably not using a bed. You're probably not lying down. That means a new sex position, a different view of your partner and his or her body and the potential for a different type of pleasure.