Laughter, ruff, verbal, shadow, juicy… Many words have been used to prefix yoga. When I saw Deviant Yoga advertised in Seattle I decided to give it a go. My travel-weary body needed a good stretch, plus a friend and I were curious to check out the venue, the Center for a Sex Positive Culture 

There is a great deal of negativity in our culture around sex, the most natural of activities, and this can have some ugly consequences. I saw the sad-but-true slogan the other day: “Abstinence makes the church grow fondlers”. A study back in 1975 found that punitive-repressive attitudes toward extramarital sex are linked with physical violence, personal crime, and the practice of slavery, and that “societies which value monogamy emphasize military glory and worship aggressive gods”. Looking to our fellow mammal species, it is estimated that only three to five percent of them are monogamous.

I’m not suggesting monogamy is necessarily a bad thing, it has its advantages, but as a culturally enforced norm it leads to stress that can come out in negative ways. Christopher Ryan, in his talk “If You Want Fidelity, Get a Dog”, discusses how our closest extant relatives, Bonobo chimpanzees, use regular promiscuous sex to diffuse tension. Sex myth-buster Brooke Magnanti has debunked links between pornography and violence, noting for example that rape rates in Britain have fallen steeply in areas that introduced lap-dancing clubs.

Despite being sympathetic to the sex-positive cause, there was a degree of apprehension as we approached the non-descript block of a building on the edge of one of Seattle’s industrial areas. The entrance was a door at the back, with a small business card slot next to the buzzer the only confirmation we were at the right spot. It is understandable they don’t want the hassle of too much unwanted attention.

Once inside though, we were made at home by a friendly and educated bunch of people sitting around playing cards, knitting, drinking tea etc. It was the Center’s weekly drop-in social where they encourage non-members to check out the place and ask questions. The venue plays host to a variety of groups from polyamory discussion circles to bondage sex parties, and they appear to have good rules for ensuring people can clearly communicate boundaries, including the obvious “No means No”, and for keeping the place clean!

The Center also has a decent-sized library of books on all aspects of sexuality. The lady at the front desk, with a helpful badge saying “Librarian”, told me how I might be able to get an invite to the next party, but I was only brave enough to participate in the yoga class, which was great by the way. It was similar to most classes I have been to, with the exception of the contents of the room: bondage beds and chairs located in the corners and hooks hanging from the ceiling. I left feeling rejuvenated and was reminded of wise words from a friend: “Yoga classes are like the beach. I have never regretted going”.

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