Inside the underground world of erotic hypnotism

‘I’ve made someone get sexual stimulation every time someone rubbed their nose’


The terms “erotic” and “hypnotism” are a chocolate-and-pickle-juice combo – separately, one’s enticing and ones’ a little weird…but together? Sounds like a tough sell, to say the least.

Despite this, the underground world of erotic hypnotism (yes, that’s a thing) has been gaining steam. We spoke to a practitioner who goes by “Sterling” – unassuming pedestrian by day, mind-maestro by night – in order to get the lowdown on this unique subculture.

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How did you get into the “erotic hypnotism” scene? What was your gateway into this whole universe?

I knew some things about hypnotism from my parents. Incidentally my parents are practicing therapists and one of the sorts of treatments my mom would use, especially with patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder, was hypnotherapy. So I knew some of the basic components of hypnosis and hypnotherapy and sort of how it worked, but it was only a little here and there.

It wasn’t until I met a dominatrix, really, and she was the one who taught me a lot more about hypnosis, inductions and how to use it in an erotic sense; I also knew a stage hypnotist who would do shows at colleges and different kinds of parties and events. I’ve always been really fascinated by the different uses of hypnosis – whether it be therapy, entertainment, stage hypnosis or sex – so, after being exposed to all these different facets, I slowly started doing more and more of my own research and working with other professional hypnotists.

For example, I connected with a hypnotist who was in the BDSM scene – he did it professionally – he would do private sessions with individuals who wanted to experience different things in trance. It would range from people who wanted to explore old dreams, past life memories, stuff like that…to people who wanted to feel like they were tied to the back of a hump-back whale – something so over the top you can only experience it through hypnosis.

Demystify us a little about the act of hypnosis.

So basically, hypnosis is a combination of imagination, hyper-focus and relaxation. People go into trance ten times a day – it’s that feeling of when you are driving down a familiar road, you get to your destination, and you go, “wait, I completely forgot everything about the journey” – that’s a hypnotic trance.

When you are walking down the street, absorbed by your phone, ignoring your surroundings – that is also a hypnotic trance, which is why I generally tell people that it’s super easy to get people in a trance and it’s much harder to get them out because most people I know, especially nowadays, spend more time in a trance than out of it.

I always like to refer to hypnosis – and a friend of mine who is a professional hypnotist would always explain hypnosis this way – as “that place you go when someone calls your name out ten times and you don’t hear them.”

Think about the times you’ve been in that state, so engrossed in something, or so focused that you tune out everything around you – that’s when you are using the creative side of your brain the most. And that’s really why hypnosis works and why it’s easier to accept ideas – it’s because you are turning on the creative, imaginative side of your brain and turning off the critical parts of your brain. This is called “suspending the critical factor.”

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Is there a certain kind of person who gets hypnotized more easily?

It depends… whether you’re hypnotizing a group on stage, if you’re hypnotizing someone one on one, hypnotizing someone in a therapy context…all those different contexts are going to change the “best candidate” for hypnosis.

I divide people into different categories when it comes to hypnotizing. I describe them like cars. You have your Ferraris, which go from 0 to 60 just by saying sleep, they’re already down, they can get into that right mindset in an instant. Those are the people you want up on stage. Those are the most fun people to hypnotize, the people who respond best to suggestions. Then you have your Toyota Camrys, still solid, can still get to the 60 miles an hour, just not as quickly, and you need to give them a little coaxing. Then you have your, you know, junker pickup truck. Gonna be the most resistant, the most stubborn, but still, you know, if you take the time and figure out the right conditions to get it going, it can still hit that 60 miles an hour. You can hypnotize all three, it’s just you need to approach each type of person differently.

Being hypnotized in a lot of ways is a greater skill than being a hypnotist. Because all a hypnotist does is help facilitate a mindset where a person can be more relaxed and more open to ideas. But in order to be in that mindset, being in that mindset takes skill, takes a lot of concentration, takes a lot of focus and intelligence.

Tell me about “hypnokink.” What is it and how did you get into it?

Hypnokink has become progressively popular, especially amongst the BDSM community, and I’m sure you can imagine why! People can have very intense experiences under hypnosis that whips and leather in a lot of cases can’t even facilitate.

One of the reasons I got into hypnokink was that a friend requested that I do a show for her sister’s bachelorette party. Before then, I had done maybe two college shows and she said “yeah, do something really kinky and fun! Make one of the bridesmaids think she’s a stripper!” And I was like, OK, this could be interesting… hypnokink is usually done in a way that’s very one-on-one and intimate. Constructing that into a more performative context was a real challenge because, as far as I know, I don’t think anyone has mixed the two before. So I did!

What’s in your repertoire?

I’ve made one woman think she was an exotic dancer. I’ve made a woman think that her breasts had fallen off. I’ve made someone get sexual stimulation every time someone rubbed their nose…It’s funny because I’m always way more hesitant than my audience. They want to jump straight in, but its important to my ethics that I have full consent and that my audience has a full understanding of what I’ll be doing.

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Got a quick message for skeptics?

I started thinking hypnosis was bullshit. I would see stage hypnotist shows and be like, okay, they’re all acting, it’s bullshit, it’s new-age psychobabble. And in a lot of cases, that’s exactly what it is. But the more research I did into the psychology, and the more I’ve seen it genuinely work and the more experience I’ve had, the more I understand how it works. Most skeptics misunderstand what hypnosis actually is. Because it’s not my control, it’s not putting someone into a brainwashed state, that’s not how it works. The hypnosis that we see in the movies where it’s some mysterious mind control just isn’t accurate. And anyone who says it works that way is a fraud.

When you tell someone “I’m an erotic hypnotist”, how do they respond?

One of two ways: they either go, “that’s really creepy and scary” or “can you hypnotize me right now?”

[Illustrations: Jacquelyn Klein]