Erotic hypnosis?

Dear Alice,

I keep seeing this fetish all over the internet. What is sexual/erotic hypnosis? Is there somewhere my partner and I can learn how to do it to each other, or online?

Dear Reader,

Erotic hypnosis, a type of recreational hypnosis, is the use of hypnosis practices for sensual or sexual purposes. For those of you unfamiliar with the practice, hypnosis is a technique used to induce a trance-like state where someone is more relaxed, focused, and open to suggestion than usual. Hypnosis may be utilized for a variety of reasons: to gain control over certain behaviors (e.g., to quit smoking), alter perception (e.g., pain control), or modify emotions or states of being (e.g., reducing stress). Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis doesn’t affect free will, meaning that a hypnotist can’t force someone to do something they really don’t want to do. However, hypnosis may help alter the emotional context of decision-making, such as reducing feelings of anxiety, resulting in the hypnotized person being more willing to engage in an activity that they wanted to try but were nervous about.

Erotic hypnosis—and recreational therapy in general—is different from hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy specifically utilizes hypnosis in a clinical or therapeutic environment to provide treatment to a patient for a variety of different issues, such as stress management, pain control, improving sleep hygiene, and easing the side effects of surgeries or cancer treatments. If a trained therapist uses hypnosis to treat sexual issues such as sexual dysfunction, it's still considered a clinical application of hypnosis and is almost always used in combination with other psychotherapeutic approaches or treatments. During the process of hypnotherapy, a therapist will use verbal repetition and mental images to help a patient enter a calm mental state in which they are more receptive to hypnotic suggestion.

However, because you mentioned the “fetish” of “sexual/erotic hypnosis” in those terms, you seem to be specifically referring to recreational hypnosis used for erotic purposes with sexual pleasure as the ultimate goal. Recreational hypnosis most often refers to erotic hypnosis, hence why the two terms are most often used interchangeably. However, some people enjoy the hypnotic process of going in and out of trance even without an apparent therapeutic goal or any association with sex play, which would still be considered recreational hypnosis.

Erotic hypnosis involves the use of imagination and guided imagery in order to persuade, appeal to, and shape one’s thoughts, fantasies, and sensitivity and responsiveness. The ultimate goal or outcome of an erotic hypnosis session may vary depending on the goals and desires of the individual people involved, for example:

  • Reduced inhibitions related to sexual activities
  • Increased arousal or sensuality
  • Hypnotic fantasy, such as crafting role-play scenarios or imagining the feeling of restraints
  • Feelings of being centered and in tune with bodily sensations during sex
  • Supporting elements of power exchange within a dominant/submissive scene or relationship

Hypnotherapy is considered a safe complementary and alternative medical treatment when performed by a trained therapist, particularly when used for pain and stress management. However, hypnosis may not be appropriate for use with patients with severe mental illness or patients seeking support for traumatic events earlier in life. The most common risk to hypnotherapy is that it simply doesn’t work; however, rare adverse side effects may occur, including headache, dizziness, drowsiness, anxiety or distress, and the creation of false memories.

Like most things, hypnosis requires consent in order to be ethical, whether that’s in a therapeutic context or with a sexual or romantic partner. In some people or some situations, hypnosis may have a powerful effect on perception and may influence behavior (for example, urging someone to act uncharacteristically by highlighting the potential benefits of an action while decreasing anxiety about potential consequences). Because of this, some people sometimes regret or are troubled by the actions they performed while under hypnosis. Having conversations about the goals of a hypnosis session before it occurs may help mitigate this risk by ensuring all participants are on the same page. It may also be wise to discuss the actions or situations the participants want to avoid, particularly if the hypnosis scene will also involve forms of sexual contact—for example, setting agreements about where someone may be touched, whether condoms should be used, and what should happen if someone’s roommate unexpectedly comes home while the hypnosis session is still occurring.

Based on your question, it sounds like you’ve already come across some of the loads of information available on the internet about hypnosis—but you may be having difficulty finding the needle in the haystack! It may be beneficial to reach out to a sex therapist or trained hypnotherapist for more information and guidance about performing erotic hypnosis on your partner or yourself. As you're researching therapists, you may also wish to dig into their credentials: while there are many hypnosis courses and certificates out there, not all are created equal. To ensure high-quality instruction backed by research and best practices, you may wish to prioritize courses that are approved by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. There are also fetish social networking sites where you might find others who have an interest in erotic hypnosis and may be able to direct you to additional resources. With some searching and a bit of luck, you’ll be well on your way to exploring this new hypnotic hobby!

Last updated Dec 30, 2022
Originally published Nov 30, 2012

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