Get tied up with these trusted BDSM dating sites

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Long before 50 Shades of Grey was ever published, bondage dating sites have brought people together to indulge in their shared passion for shibari, suspension, and other forms of rope bondage. But since the series highlighted all types of kink, more BDSM dating sites have popped up–which begs the question: how do you know which sites are worth your time (and money)? You can spend countless hours typing websites into Google and sifting through user reviews, or you can just get a head start with one of the sites we’ve reviewed below.

Are bondage dating sites safe?

When used correctly, dating apps like these can be a helpful tool to have. However, as with any online community, if you don’t take the right preventative measures you risk putting yourself in harm’s way. Here are a few tips to prioritize your safety:

  • Remain skeptical and never rush to meet someone–take the time to properly vet their identity.
  • Fully discuss consent, safewords, and boundaries.
  • Establish rules and aftercare rituals.

These details may seem minor, but they’re mega-important for protecting yourself and weeding out those who won’t be a match.

Best bondage dating sites according to reviewers

1) Perversions

Neatly designed, this bondage dating site is easy to use and makes searching for potential matches hassle-free. In fact, it’s so organized that reviewers claim it’s what leads to the site’s high matchmaking rate. Perversions.com also offers users access to private cam rooms, chat rooms, community blogs, and more. The site is also very good at making what each member is looking for very clear. When you sign up, you’ll be prompted to answer questions pertaining to your political beliefs, masturbation practices, even your favorite sex positions. Users can join for free but in order to access all the site has to offer, you’ll need to upgrade your membership to a Silver or Gold plan.

Silver members can view and contact members, show up in searches (after Gold tier members and before free members), contact new members, unlimited access to live and recorded videos and 24/7 phone support.

Gold members will have access to all new content first, appear in search results before Silver and free members, receive full access to the Gold Room (which includes erotic photos, movies, downloadable videos, erotic stories, and live webcam shows).

2) Alt.com

Alt.com (apart of the FriendFinder Network) hosts a platform for masters or mistresses of BDSM and people looking to practice erotic bondage. Members are able to connect with other users in chat rooms, webcam sessions, and through private messaging. Reviewers claim that Alt.com isn’t as reliable as other sites that are a part of the FriendFinder network (like AFF), but that doesn’t mean it’s total garbage either. You’ll just have to be careful about who you connect with in order to avoid scammers, but that can be said for meeting people IRL too! However, one user did offer a pro tip for navigating this site: hang out in the chatrooms and get to know interested parties that way, instead of scouring profiles for countless hours trying to find the perfect person. 

Joining is free, but if you want to access everything the site has to offer you will need to upgrade your membership to a Silver or Gold plan. Silver members can view and contact members, show up in searches (after Gold tier members and before free members), contact new members, access members photos and video introductions, and 24/7 phone support.

Gold members will have access to all new content first, appear in search results before Silver and free members, receive unlimited access to members photos and screen names, movies, downloadable videos, erotic stories, blogs, groups, magazine stories, and live webcam shows.

3) Bondage.com

Founded in 2004, this top bondage dating website is mobile-friendly but has no app (yet). Its matching algorithm is GPS-based and designed to show you profiles of top members in your region. But what sets the site apart from the rest is that when users sign up they can choose to upload a profile video instead of a static photo. Users can also choose to sign up with Facebook. However, reviewers claim that this site is no longer as active as it once was, so unless you’re looking to find matches in a big city, you may want to sign up for one or two other sites as well (or just be patient). 

Joining is free but in order to send gifts and come up as a priority in search results, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid membership.

4) MeetDominatrix.com

Reviewers claim that MeetDominatrix.com is one of the best bondage dating sites available, and we have to agree. The site allows users to create custom profiles that reflect their experience in the scene, so if you’re new to bondage you can find comfort in matching someone more experienced with the patience to show you the ropes (literally). The site design is a bit boring but it does a great job at representing users from all experience levels, backgrounds, ages, and interests–in other words, don’t let the look fool you. 

Joining won’t cost you a thing, but free members will only receive restricted access to features like sending flirts, instant messaging and searching the site. So if you’d like to carry a conversation through the site-based email system or access advanced search filters, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid membership. Luckily, you don’t have to subscribe immediately, since all new members receive a free Premium membership to test out before they sign up. 

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Is There So Little Help For Women With Sexual Dysfunction

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(But Plenty For Men)?

By Natalie Gil

It’s not just that we’re having less sex – problems between the sheets (or wherever you have sex) are common, even among young people, if countless surveys, problem pages and pieces of anecdotal evidence are to be believed. The most recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) quizzed more than 15,000 British people about their sex lives and found that 42% of men and 51% of women had experienced at least one sexual problem for three months or longer in the previous year; and the figures for 16-21-year-olds weren’t much lower (34% of men and 44% of women).

Evidently, women of all ages are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction than men, with symptoms ranging from a lack of interest in sex to painful intercourse and difficulties climaxing – but studies of male sexual dysfunction vastly outnumber those on issues that affect women, whose needs are frequently neglected by the scientific community, many experts believe

Because many of women’s sexual dysfunction symptoms are psychological – such as diminished arousal, a lack of enjoyment during sex, feeling anxious during sex and difficulty reaching orgasm – treatment is often more complex than it is for men, whose issues can often be solved with a single drug: Viagra. This is according to Dr David Goldmeier, consultant in sexual medicine at St Mary’s Hospital and chair of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV’s sexual dysfunction special interest group.

“Up until recently there were no medications for low desire in women,” he explains. “Giving women sildenafil (Viagra) does engorge the genitalia, but this does not translate to increased desire. Desire in women is much more of a primarily cerebral event.” However, hope is on the horizon for women, Dr Goldmeier adds: “There are two candidate medications that may appear in the UK at some time that address this: flibanserin and bremelanotide.”

In the absence of drugs to treat their sexual problems, many women turn to their NHS doctor or sexual health clinics. But government cuts to these services in recent years and a general lack of specialist training among health professionals means that women are left with few places to turn

“There is little money in the NHS [and] treating women’s sexual issues is time consuming. It has been neglected really because of lack of resources,” Dr Goldmeier explains. “Psychological therapies are the mainstay for low desire and other female problems. These are time and personnel expensive and require specialist units. [Whereas] GPs can easily hand out male medications.”

A lack of interest in sex (low libido) (34%), difficulty reaching orgasm (16%), an uncomfortable or dry vagina (13%), and a lack of sexual enjoyment (12%) are the most common issues women experience in the bedroom, according to the most recent Natsal statistics, with over a fifth of women (22.4%) experiencing two or more of these symptoms. Painful sex – which can be caused by conditions such as vaginismus, endometriosis and lichen sclerosus, and hormonal changes – is also an issue for 7.5% of women.

Dr Leila Frodsham, consultant gynaecologist and lead for psychosexual services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, says women who have given birth within six months and those going through the perimenopause, are particularly susceptible to painful sex as a result of reduced oestrogen levels. But these groups can also “feel reluctant to talk about sex with their specialists,” so the issue may be even higher than suspected. “Some say that sexual difficulties are only relevant if they last for six months or longer… In reality, it can take longer than six months for most to access specialist help

Around a fifth of referrals to gynaecology clinics are for sexual pain, Dr Frodsham explains. “Women with sexual difficulties will most commonly be referred to gynaecologists. They are unlikely to have had specialist training in this area.”

Many women with sexual difficulties are learning to adapt their sex lives accordingly – by accepting that they won’t reach orgasm through intercourse because of anorgasmia, or by diverting their focus away from climax as an end goal entirely, for instance. But others are coming up with alternative ways to address the issue and improve understanding on women’s sexual experiences. Twenty-two-year-old Caroline Spiegel, the younger sister of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, last month launched a non-visual porn platform for women after experiencing sexual difficulties during her junior year at Stanford University, which arose from an eating disorder

“I started to do a lot of research into sexual dysfunction cures,” Spiegel told TechCrunch. “There are about 30 FDA-approved drugs for sexual dysfunction for men but zero for women, and that’s a big bummer.” In the absence of adequate medical help for women with problems in the bedroom, Spiegel hopes that Quinn, her platform of erotic stories and sexy audio clips, will inject some fleeting pleasure into their lives.

Others are breaking the taboo with comedy. Fran Bushe’s new musical comedy Ad Libido at London’s Soho Theatre, which runs from 7th-11th May after a sellout Edinburgh run last year, explores Bushe’s own experience of sexual dysfunction through her past and present sexual experiences – including men who offer their ‘magic penis’ to fix her, dubious remarks from medical professionals, dangerous remedies and gadgets, and even a sex camp that the writer attended “after feeling as if there was no help available,” as she told the Guardian recently</a

Some argue that the narrative about women’s sexual health has been hijacked by pharmaceutical companies to sell their products, and that given how common the symptoms of female sexual dysfunction are, the ‘condition’ shouldn’t be classed as a medical issue at all. “In contemporary sexual culture, it seems the line between dissatisfaction and dysfunction is increasingly blurred,” wrote journalist Sarah Hosseini last year.

“Women with any level of sexual decline or discontent have been cleverly convinced they are defective and need treatment. As such, feminists and clinicians have started to question the possibility that [female sexual dysfunction] was constructed by pharmaceutical companies through inflated epidemiology and our culture’s sexual illiteracy.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A Guide to Pegging Your Partner With a Strap On

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Here’s why pegging has a special name, how to do it safely, and all the best toy recommendations to try it out.

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Can pegging make your partner a better lover? Some people, including experts in the sex and relationships field, certainly think so.

“When I have sex with cisgender men, the ones who receive anal penetration are much better lovers than those who haven’t,” says kink-friendly sex therapist Liz Powell. Well, if that’s not enough motivation to explore this misunderstood and even controversial activity, I don’t know what is.

Of course, the decision to try pegging with a strap on is completely up to the individuals involved, and many folks are wonderful sexual partners regardless of whether they’re interested in this form of sexual exploration. But what is pegging, why is it so hot for some of us, and what supplies and knowledge are needed to try it safely? Allure spoke with Powell and a professional dominatrix to learn all you need to know.

First of all, what is pegging?

Traditionally, pegging refers to a cisgender, heterosexual male receiving anal penetration from his cishet female partner with a strap-on dildo — and, actually, it’s a word surrounded by a bit of controversy.

As our understanding of gender and orientation expands, some folks ask, why not just call this anal sex, strap-on sex, or just sex? Why do cishet guys need their own word for anal penetration when the rest of us have been enjoying it as is? Powell understands this line of thinking, but they also say that giving an activity its own word, be it fisting, squirting, or pegging, can help us talk and think about what we’re doing.

“Having a term for pegging can, in some ways, be helpful,” Powell explains. “A lot of cis straight men are interested in pegging because when they find out that there’s a term and that it’s common they feel a lot more OK about wanting that.” Talking about pegging specifically can help normalize it and debunk outdated thinking about cishet men and prostate pleasure.

“Could we just call it sex? Sure, but there are lots of things we could just call sex,” says Powell. “Having more terms doesn’t necessarily make it worse; I think that pegging is more stigmatized because it is about a cis straight dude. A lot of people are still really uncomfortable with men receiving penetration.”

Why are so many people turned on by pegging?

Everyone’s butthole is lined with erogenous nerve endings, which is why people of all orientations, genders, and bodies can enjoy anal sex. And having a prostate is a fun bonus.

“A lot of prostate owners don’t get to stimulate their prostate, and that’s a whole other orgasm available to you. You’re opening yourself up to other avenues of pleasure,” says New York City dominatrix Domina Katarina. The prostate, or P-spot, is roughly three to four inches inside the rectum, about an inch in diameter. The person with a prostate can usually let you know when you’ve found it as they’ll start to feel sensations reminiscent of an orgasm.

Outside of the physical pleasure of prostate and anal stimulation, both partners, commonly referred to as the bottom (receptive partner) and the top (penetrating partner), may enjoy the “taboo” of a role reversal, if receiving penetration is new for the partner with a prostate or penetrating someone is new for the top. “The power dynamics are amazing,” Domina Katarina says. “Especially as a woman who is typically seen as submissive, it really does put you in a different position. You get a rush, like, yeah, I have this control.”

While some simply want to be penetrated for the prostate stimulation, for other straight couples, they may get off on the role reversal. Submissive cishet men may enjoy the erotic power exchange that occurs when their partners become the ones with the dicks. “I get why dick owners walk around like they’re the shit,” Domina Katarina says of the place of power she entered through her experience pegging.

Pegging can also (but doesn’t have to) be a part of BDSM dynamics. All BDSM involves consensual power exchange, and for some cishet men — who, in our patriarchal society, still tend to harbor the most power — submitting to a woman or other person of a marginalized gender gets them off.

Pegging also requires immense trust; being penetrated anally with a strap-on dildo by a pro-domme or dominant partner allows cishet men to not only receive anal pleasure but become vulnerable and submissive, which is a common sexual desire.

What products and techniques should I use?

Safe pegging requires taking the same time and care you’d use during any anal penetration. Before you work your way up to a dildo and harness, begin by inserting a finger, and then two, with plenty of lube. Because pegging usually means using a strap-on dildo (which is commonly made with silicone), you want a water-based lube. Silicone lubes can cause silicone toys to deteriorate. Sliquid H20 is an excellent choice, because it’s safe to use with silicone toys and is flavorless and scentless.

After you’ve warmed up with fingers, feel free to add a butt plug to help prepare the area. The Snug Plug from B-Vibe, a weighted, smooth butt plug available in a variety of sizes and shapes, is excellent for anal sex warm up. It has a nice flared base that keeps it in place. For pegging, you can have the partner with a prostate wear a butt plug for a bit while you fool around or tease them.

When you’re ready to peg, you will need a strap-on dildo and harness. If you can, buy your first harness in real life rather than online so you can try it on. Some harnesses are strappy leather and sexy as hell, such as the Minx Harness from Aslan Leather. Others are more practical, such as the TomBoii Boxer Briefs, which are ultra comfy and can hold a dildo in place like no one’s business. Go with whatever works for you and your partner’s desires.

So, what about the actual dildo? “For pegging, the really good dildos are the ones that are narrow in diameter that are fairly long,” Powell tells Allure. It can be helpful to go shopping with your partner so you know what you both want. Some people prefer realistic dildos and others want something bright and colorful. No matter what, start small.

If you’re interested in a vibrating anal dildo, try the Riley Vibrating Dildo. If you’re curious about a curved dildo made like anal beads, try the Your Highness Vibrating Dildo. And if you were wondering, yes, there is a Broad City Strap-On Set.

Other than making sure all partners are aware of how to physically prepare, remember that there is a major emotional component to the sex act, especially if it’s someone’s first time. Make sure to communicate beforehand about both of your desires, expectations, and fears. “When it comes to pegging, even though that dildo is not part of your anatomy, you are still inserting a part of yourself in someone else, and that’s extremely intimate. There’s a great responsibility, because you are entering them,” Domina Katarina says.

Start slow and use plenty of lube, checking in with your partner throughout the experience. “Don’t think you’re going to be like thrusting and whipping a lasso around your head,” she says. “It has to go nice and slow and easy or else you could do physical damage, and you could do emotional damage. It’s a really awesome way to connect differently with your partner.”

As Powell touched upon earlier, for people with prostates, experiencing penetration can be a much better way to understand a partner with a vagina and vice versa. “Especially for cishet guys, receiving anal penetration is a really important thing to do, because it helps you receive what your partner is receiving. Receiving penetration and penetrating are completely different experiences, in terms of vulnerability and in terms of physical risk,” they say. “If you’ve received penetration, you tend to approach receiving penetration very differently.” And apparently become better in bed.

Complete Article HERE!

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Just Learning About The Orgasm Gap Improves Women’s Sex Lives

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By Kelly Gonsalves

You’re probably familiar with the concept of the orgasm gap, which refers to the gendered orgasm disparity between straight men and women. A whopping 95 percent of straight men orgasm almost every time they have sex, compared to just 65 percent of straight women. This isn’t the case in non-straight sexual encounters by the way (89 percent of gay men and 86 percent of lesbians get off basically every time they have sex), and 94 percent of women typically climax while masturbating. So clearly this isn’t a biology problem.

A lot of the orgasm inequality between straight men and women can be explained by a combination of (1) lack of knowledge of female pleasure, namely how the clitoris works and why it’s vital to female orgasms, and (2) the male-oriented sexual scripts most heterosexual sexual encounters follow, in which P-in-V penetration is considered the main sex act, men’s pleasure and orgasms are considered mandatory parts of sex (the sex ends when the guy gets off), and women’s pleasure and orgasms are considered optional or incidental.

Researchers wanted to know if knowledge of the orgasm gap and the unequal gender scripts contributing to it could improve women’s sexual experiences. So they surveyed women before and after taking a Psychology of Human Sexuality course that specifically discussed the orgasm gap and inclusive, sex-positive sexual practices. To compare, they also surveyed women before and after taking a Human Sexuality and Culture class (which discussed sex from an anthropological point of view but didn’t mention the orgasm gap or the gendered social dynamics of particular sexual encounters) and a Psychology of Personality class (which didn’t discuss sex at all).

Their findings? Of the 271 women they surveyed in total, those who’d taken the class that talked about the orgasm gap saw a clear improvement in their sexual functioning. Not only did they have more and better orgasms, but they felt more entitled to sexual pleasure during sex and communicated more with their partner during sex. They were more able to advocate for their own pleasure in bed, more confident about how their genitals looked, and less distracted by performance anxiety or anxiety about how they looked during sex.

Those are some serious benefits from just a little more knowledge about sex!

Published in the journal Sex Education, these findings demonstrate that educating ourselves about how our bodies work, what gender dynamics might be in play during sexual encounters, and the importance of being confident communicating your needs in bed can make an actual difference in a woman’s ability to orgasm with ease during sex. Past research has similarly found taking classes about sex improves people’s body image, willingness to try new things in bed, health precautions during sex, and even sexual pleasure.

And by the way, sex education isn’t just for kids and college students. There are tons of excellent sex classes for adults available online and in person with professional sex educators, sex therapists, and other experts. Here are a few to consider and places to look for more:

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex on the first date is the perfect dating filter

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By Rebecca ReidFriday

Conventional dating wisdom tells us to play hard to get.

You shouldn’t message someone back straight away, you should never say yes to a date if it’s requested less than 48 hours in advance, and of course you can’t have sex on the first date.

All of which, it turns out, is total bollocks.

According to research from IllicitEncounters.com, who surveyed 2,000 people, 58% of men and 56% of women have had sex on the first night that they met their long term partner.

So over half of the times when sex happens on the first date, it turns into a relationship.

Telling people (women, mostly) not to have sex on the first date is a long held way of policing our behaviour.

It uses the prospect of a relationship as a sort of carrot, dangled in front of a woman to bribe her into being chaste until she’s in a serious relationship. This theory seems to rather miss the point that not all women even want to be in relationships.

But for those who do want to settle down, we’re taught to use sex as a bargaining chip rather than something to enjoy.

It’s a bribe to be given in exchange for commitment, a reward to give to a man who allows himself to be trapped into commitment.

The idea that men want sex and women want commitment is outdated and sexist.

Plenty of blokes secretly lust over a house in the countryside and a pack of chubby cheeked children, and plenty of women want to live in a converted warehouse in central London, smoking Galois and taking ten lovers a week.

Which is why it’s so nice to see this research disproving the theory that sex on the first date ensures that you’ll never hear from them again, let alone become their long term partner.

It comprehensively proves that commitment is not a reward for chastity.

But perhaps there’s more to these statistics than just proving that sex on the first date doesn’t prevent a relationship from forming.

Maybe it’s the first date sex that’s the reason for the relationship.

I have always believed that sex on the first date is the perfect way to filter out dickheads.

It’s a bit like asking whether the person you’re on a date with is offended by vegetarian Percy Pigs, or whether they still listen to Gary Glitter. An easy insight into their moral code.

Anyone who respects you less because you have had sex with them is not a person you should be forming a significant attachment to.

There is nothing morally wrong with having sex – quickly or after a long courtship. To suggest that you are in some way more or less valuable depending on how much sex you’ve had is completely illogical

So, if you sleep with someone on the first date and they lose interest, or judge you, you’ve done yourself a favour. They’re out of your life and you have no need to deal with their nonsense. Easy peasy.

Plus, first date sex is a valuable research mission.

Sex is an important part of a relationship, so it makes sense to try it out.

Bad sex isn’t a reason to write someone off automatically, but it does give you an insight into their character.

Are they bad in bed because they are over enthusiastic and nervous? Or are they bad in bed because they are selfish, or applying the exact same moves to you that they’ve done on everyone else they’ve slept with?

The former speaks highly of their character. The latter suggests there might be bumps in the road.

People who condemn sex on the first date claim that it takes away any mystery from the future of your relationship. But do you really want to go out with someone who requires you to be mysterious in order to hold their interest?

Does it really make sense to have to play complicated mystery games to convince another human that you’re worthy of their attention?

Shouldn’t the kind of person you want to build a life with value you whether you had sex on the first or the fifteenth date?

If you’ve got a date this weekend and you find each other attractive, why not give first date sex a go? Best case scenario it’s great and you’ve found something special. But if not, you’ve used the first date sex dickhead filter to save yourself a whole lot of time.

Complete Article HERE!

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The orgasm gap…

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Women climax a third less than their male partners, but why?

Women have a third fewer orgasms compared to their male partners.

By Francesca Specter

We often hear about gender inequalities in the workplace or in the domestic sphere, but less about one that happens between the sheets.

Yet, if you are a woman in a heterosexual relationship, it’s likely there’s an orgasm gap at play, with your male partner “coming first” in more ways than one.

In a large-scale study, 95% of heterosexual men in relationships said they usually or always climax during sex, compared to just 65% of women.

Interestingly, this is not the case for women in same sex relationships, with 86% of lesbian women claiming they regularly orgasm.

Based on these results, it would appear most women are at least capable of having regular orgasms – so why aren’t they having them?

Many women do not orgasm from intercourse alone

A lack of understanding around clitoral stimulation is partly responsible for the widespread “orgasm gap” in heterosexual relationships, according to Amanda Major, sex therapist and head of clinical practice at relationships charity Relate.

“As a society, we have a tendency to place too much emphasis on penetrative sex – a lot of women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm and find it difficult to achieve through vaginal intercourse alone,” she explains.

A lack of foreplay

Not just a cliche, couples skipping foreplay before sex is a key reason for the orgasm gap. In fact, in a survey conducted by Illicitencounters.com, 74% of women said men’s biggest mistake in bed was forgoing foreplay for the so-called main event.

“Biologically speaking, women often take longer than men to become aroused, which is why foreplay is so important,” Major explains.

Pain during sex

For many women, intercourse might be associated with pain rather than a mind-blowing orgasm, with three quarters saying they have experienced pain or discomfort during sex, according to research from Durex.

Worryingly, only one in five would actively stop sex as a result. Instead, it looks like women are prioritising their partner (and their partner’s orgasm) over their own pleasure, with one in 10 saying they have faked an orgasm as a result, and a further 15% saying the experience made them rush their partner to climax.

Women aren’t asking for what they want

“Some women find it difficult to ask for what they want or place too much focus on their partner’s pleasure, explains Major.

She recommends women to get to know their body and what works for them through masturbation or sensual exploration, and then showing their partner what they like.

Sarah Berry, a sex and relationship therapist, agrees that orgasms are a two-way street.

“It isn’t just up to a partner to “give” someone an orgasm, is the partner up for working with partner to help them orgasm?, she says.

“Maybe the non orgasming person could show them how they like to be touched.”

The idea sex stops when a man orgasms

Sex doesn’t have to finish when the man “finishes”, says Berry – yet so many men and women alike believe this should be the case.

“Heterosexuals have been somehow conditioned to stop sexual activity when the male comes.

“It’s how we’re used to watching sex play out most of the depictions of sex we see – everything from blockbuster movies to porn.”

How to close the orgasm gap

So, now we know some of the reasons why women aren’t orgasming, but what can we do about it?

Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, provides her top tips.

  • Use sex toys: “Adding toys such as vibrating rings to play could greatly enhance her chances of orgasming as well as him.”
  • Kegel exercises: “Focus on clenching your pubococcygeus (PC) muscle by using a kegel exerciser – this is a great way to extend your orgasms. By undertaking kegel exercises every day you will create a more powerful sensation during arousal, a tighter vaginal canal and bigger, better, longer orgasms for all.”
  • More foreplay: “For many people, foreplay is real sex, so don’t cut it short. The pleasure is in the journey, after all.”
  • Keep it fresh: “Try hot wax play. Invest in a massage candle, use it to set the mood and when the wax has cooled pour it on your partner. The temperature change will awaken your nerve endings making them more responsive to your touch.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Impact Play

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We’re here to answer all your questions about this particular kink and how to practice it safely, spank you very much.

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Impact play, simply put, refers to any form of impact on the body for sexual gratification purposes. Many sexual partners practice impact play the most common way, through spanking, but those who are more experienced will often bring toys into the mix or try a slew of other acts. Impact play is a prevalent kink with a wide umbrella.

Some people prefer various toys, such as whips, floggers, and paddles. Each instrument delivers a different sensation. While it can be tempting to spend money on beautiful black leather BDSM accessories, for those new to the experience, it’s best to start small and use what you have at home. Your hand is the most obvious answer, but even a kitchen spatula can double as a paddle. In addition to saving money, using what you have on you familiarizes you and your partner with where to hit on the body, how hard is comfortable, and what you’re each looking for out of a scene. Are you unsure what a “scene” means? Keep reading. Allure created a glossary of common impact play terms and what they mean. After you brush up on our kinky dictionary, learn how to negotiate with your partner, where it’s safe to hit on the body, and what kink guidelines encourage for post-play etiquette. We spoke to a New York City professional dominatrix and a sex therapist to ensure you have accurate and important information, so you can explore impact play from a place of understanding and confidence.

Common Impact Play Terms and What They Mean

Aftercare: Aftercare is post-play etiquette in which all parties check in on one another to ensure the scene was enjoyable, tend to any bruises as well as emotional needs, and communicate how all parties feel.

BDSM: BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism, and is an umbrella term for any kinky play that involves a consensual power exchange.

Bondage: Bondage is when one partner (typically the submissive) is tied up by the dominant partner. Bondage is frequently part of impact play, because tying up the submissive, who then consensually can’t move, adds to the thrill of the scene.

Dom drop and sub drop: During a BDSM scene, endorphins and adrenaline run high for all partners. As a result, like a comedown from a drug, both the submissive and dominant partner may experience a comedown immediately after or even a few days later. All parties involved have a responsibility to tend to their partner during their drop.

D/S: D/S stands for dominance and submission. Typically one partner takes on the dominant, or top role. In impact play, this is the person inflicting the spanks or other forms of play. The submissive is the bottom, or the person receiving the impact on their body.

Edge play: Edge play refers to BDSM activities that push the limit of what is considered safe, sane, and consensual. This often refers to activities involving bodily fluids and blood. Single-tail whips are considered a form of edge play as they can draw blood and inflict harm if not used correctly.

Hard limits: Your hard limits are activities that are absolutely off-limits and should be communicated to your partner prior to play.

Kink: A kink refers to any sexual interest that is outside the heterosexual vanilla norm.

Pain slut: Pain sluts are people who enjoy erotic pain.

Play: Play is a word used within the kink community to refer to any erotic activity, from penetrative intercourse to impact play.

RACK: RACK stands for risk-aware consensual kink, and is the guideline all kinky play should follow. It means all parties understand the risks they are taking and consent.

Safe word: A safe word is a word agreed upon by all parties that indicates it’s time to immediately stop the play. A safe word is used over “stop” or “no,” as some people enjoy scenes in which they (consensually) “fight back.”

SCC: SCC stands for safe, sane, and consensual. It is another acronym for safety guidelines, although RACK is more commonly used today because what is considered safe and sane varies from person to person.

Scene: A scene refers to the time in which the agreed upon kinky play occurs.

Soft limits: Soft limits are things that you are curious about but hesitant to try. Perhaps in the future, you’ll want to try them, but as of now, it’s a no. Your limits may change with time.

Switch: A switch is someone who can literally switch and enjoy both the dominant and submissive role.

What is impact play?

As stated before, spanking counts as impact play, but toys such as floggers, paddles, whips, and crops may also be used, though most people don’t start there. “At least 50 percent of people have some interest in spanking,” says somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist Holly Richmond. “When we’re talking about anything harder than that, the number drops a bit, for sure.” Whether you want to try some light spanking or learn more about how to practice impact play in BDSM, there are some things you should know to do it safely.

How do I talk to a partner about trying impact play?

First things first: You must negotiate and communicate with your partner about what you both desire from the experience. “For my clients who want to be slapped, or spanked with a paddle, I prefer they start the conversation days before the actual event itself,” Richmond says. She suggests an in-person conversation to discuss what you both want and what is off-limits.

Nervous about sharing your kink? “Always lead with a compliment,” Richmond suggests, “if possible, like, ‘I’m really happy with our sex life, but I saw this scene in a movie,’ or ‘I saw this scene in porn, and it really titillated me. I’m curious to try it. Could I show it to you and see what you think?'”

How do I safely try impact play for the first time?

After you’re on the same page, pick out a safe word. “Safe words are just a really easy way for your bottom [submissive] to communicate when they’ve hit their limit,” says New York City professional and lifestyle dominatrix Goddess Aviva. “I use the words ‘yellow’ and ‘red,’ so yellow is slow down and red is a full stop for whatever activity is taking place.”

Whether you take Aviva’s advice and use “yellow” and “red” or choose a word specific to your relationship, it’s important to have a safe word. Some people who enjoy impact play also role-play as part of a BDSM scene. “They might be into a role-play and say things like ‘no,’ or ‘stop,’ but they really want to keep going. That’s why you’d use safe words rather than ‘oh, no, that’s enough,’” Goddess Aviva explains.

In addition to communicating, you need to know where it’s safe to be hit. “You want to hit areas on the body that are fleshier and fattier,” Aviva says. “The ass, thighs, and front of the legs. You want to avoid hitting someone on their spine. You want to avoid hitting someone on the lower back where the kidneys are. You want to avoid basically any area in which you could damage organs.” If you’re into slapping, make sure to avoid the eyes, mouth, and nose, and keep a flat hand on the fleshy cheek. It’s a good idea to practice on a pillow before engaging in impact play. If you are curious about BDSM impact play toys, start small with a hand, and then work your way up to some of our favorites.

What sex toys can be incorporated into impact play?

Different toys feel different on the body. Goddess Aviva suggests starting with a crop because it’s multifunctional. “I personally love using a crop for impact play because you can angle it really well and it can go on lots of parts of the body. You can use the crop in more of a sensual teasing manner, or you can whack it down really hard,” she tells Allure. Try the Kookie Riding Crop from Babeland, $24.

If you want something harder that hits with a “thud,” opt for a paddle. “If someone is really into hard spanking, I tend to like a paddle, because you can deliver a lot of force and impact,” Aviva says. Try the Bondage Boutique Faux Leather Spanking Paddle available at Lovehoney, $20. If you’re curious about floggers, which can be gentle or extremely painful, depending on how hard you use them (do not flog a person without practice), try Lovehoney Beginner’s Flogger, $20.

Whips, despite the frequent use of their name, can actually be the most dangerous toy of them all, because longer whips can wrap around the body and cut through flesh. “Whips are always just so beautiful and I love the way they sound,” Goddess Aviva says. That said, if you’re new to this, stick with a paddle for a while. But if you or your partner absolutely know what you’re doing and are at least an intermediate, try the Bondage Boutique Faux Snakeskin Whip from Lovehoney, $30.

What is aftercare, and how do I practice it properly?

Aftercare is a word used in BDSM circles that refers to checking in with your partner post-sex, or in kink speak, after a scene has ended, to make sure you both feel good and secure with what went down. It’s an essential part of any sex that involves risk of physical harm, including impact play, and may require bringing the submissive partner (or the one who was hit) food, water, a blanket, and ice for any bruises.

Dominants need love, too, so both parties should share how they felt, tend to each other, and discuss how to improve the next time. Aftercare is a term that has grown out of the BDSM community, but all sex should involve checking in with each other afterward to make sure you’re feeling taken care of.

Complete Article HERE!

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Is This Common Hang-Up Messing With Your Sex Life?

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Here are some questions not a lot of people ask each other: How do you feel about your private bits? Do you like the way your vulva, penis, or what-have-you looks? How about the way it feels and functions?

Some people have perhaps never given these questions any thought at all; for many others, however, they’re the source of a lot of deeper anxieties they have around sex. And according to a growing body of research, a person’s so-called “genital self-image” is actually closely linked to their sexual satisfaction, levels of sexual desire, and even their ability to have an orgasm.

A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy surveyed over 6,000 cis men and women between ages 18 and 40 about their general body image, their genital self-image, and their sex lives. People who felt more confident about their genitalia tended to have a more positive body image and reduced stress about “performance” during sex. Women with a higher genital self-image not only enjoyed sex more—they also tended to have higher sexual functioning, which includes getting turned on more easily, having more vaginal lubrication, being able to reach orgasm with more ease, and even having less sexual pain.

Those are some huge gains from a little genitalia confidence.

Feeling self-conscious about how you look down there.

Feeling self-conscious about your genitals is actually quite common. We’ve all heard the jokes, judgments, and jabs about penis size regularly tossed around at men (usually by other men) as some kind of arbitrary barometer of manliness or sexual prowess.

“Satisfaction with penis length and/or circumference is often related to men’s self-confidence and feelings of masculinity,” the researchers note in the paper. “However, many men hold misconceptions about the average penis length and often misjudge their own penis length to be shorter than the average.” (For the record, the average penis size is about 5.5 inches while erect.)

Meanwhile, people generally have far less of an understanding of what vulvas look like, which can lead to women who have them having distorted or unrealistic expectations. “Images of women’s genitals in pornography and other media can contribute to societal biases about the way that women’s genitals ‘should’ look. As well, women’s genitalia are generally less visible and traditionally have been more taboo for discussion, thus they may seem more ‘unknown’ or unfamiliar to women,” the researchers write.

Furthermore, general expectations for vulvas to look “beautiful” and “smell good” (in line with other standards of “femininity”) have given rise to a thriving industry of vagina facials, aesthetically driven labiaplasties, various vagina “perfumes” and cleansing products, and much more, all of which claim to make for a more “attractive” vulva and vagina—usually at the expense of their health.

In addition to worries about the appearance of their pelvic region, women with vaginas also tend to have an additional layer of anxiety about how well they work. Can they get wet enough? Do they get off quickly enough? Can they get off at all? “In a qualitative analysis of women’s attitudes about their genitals, participants tended to focus their anxieties concerning their sexuality and their bodies onto their genitalia,” the researchers write. “Women may feel dissatisfied with their genitals if they feel that they do not meet an internalized ideal for their function and/or appearance.”

Transgender and intersex people may carry a combination of many of these anxieties, in addition to the hurtful messages they may receive from unaccepting outsiders and the generally dissociative experience of having sexual body parts that may not align with your gender identity. 

How genital self-image affects sex.

Dozens of past studies have shown our body image can directly affect our sex lives: People who are self-conscious about their bodies tend to engage in riskier sexual behaviors because they’re less likely to advocate for themselves in bed. Meanwhile, just having a partner who loves and celebrates your body can boost your sexual desire, satisfaction, and orgasms. It follows that how we feel about our private parts in particular might follow these same trends.

A lot of this stems from how distracting body anxiety can be during sex. One 2015 study found men with poor genital self-image tend to have more erectile difficulties because of their anxiety.

“These men may find themselves distracted during sex by sexual anxiety, and thus experience difficulties with sexual functioning,” the researchers of the present study explain. “Poor genital self-image and self-consciousness about their genitalia also affects women’s experiences during sexual encounters. Women who are concerned about their partner’s perceptions of their genitals are more likely to report decreased self-esteem, reduced sexual satisfaction, and reduced enjoyment of sexual activity, as well as increased genital-related self-consciousness during sexual activity.”

It’s hard to enjoy sex when you’re too busy feeling bad about your body and worrying about what your partner thinks of it. Moreover, the idea that loving the look and feel of your genitalia can affect the way your body physically functions and responds during sex is clear proof of the mind-body connection.

“It likely works both ways,” explains Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health who’s researched genital self-image extensively and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction, in an interview with mbg. “On one hand, people who feel better about their genitals may feel more comfortable receiving oral sex, for example, which may then translate into easier orgasms. It’s also possible that the reverse is true—that those who lubricate more easily or orgasm more easily feel better about their sexuality and their bodies, including their genital self-image. We also know that all kinds of mental states translate into physical responses—feeling aroused can translate into lubrication or erections; feeling anxious can decrease both.”

How to increase your confidence in bed.

If you tend to be self-conscious about the way your private bits look, it’s worth spending some time building up that confidence—both because it’ll make for much more enjoyable sex and also because our bodies are where we live, and we should be able to honor them for the marvelous things they are. Our genitalia, in particular, have the opportunity to bring us so much pleasure, intimacy, and fun, so they deserve a whole lot of love.

“Spend conscious, intimate time with your body,” Cyndi Darnell, clinical sexologist and creator of The Atlas of Erotic Anatomy & Arousal, suggests to mbg. “It could be as simple as creating space in your week to lie in bed and run your hands over yourself, either for pleasure or simply for exploration. These rituals allow us to become more familiar, comfortable, and close to our bodies—and thereby remind us that our body is ours and no one else’s.”

You might also consider spending some time with a hand mirror just scoping out your pelvic region. For people with vaginas, The Vulva Gallery and The Beautiful Cervix Project are also wonderful resources for celebrating the beauty and diversity of our bodies.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Better Sex Education Supports LGBTQ Kids’ Mental Health

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By Kelly Gonsalves

We know sex education in America needs a lot of work. Not only do most states lack comprehensive, medically accurate, and pleasure-positive sex ed programs, but they also tend to leave out or outright antagonize LGBTQ kids.

And according to recent research, sex ed that excludes sexual and gender minorities can have a severely damaging effect on these young people’s mental health: A new study published in the American Journal of Sexuality Education found a lack of inclusivity in sex ed was associated with more anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies in LGBTQ people both in high school and later in life.

Current LGBTQ sex education policies.

When it comes to American sex ed, the sorry stats speak for themselves: Just 24 states require sex ed be taught in schools at all, 27 states require abstinence be stressed in any sex ed programs provided, and just 13 states require all school sex ed programs to be medically accurate.

But if that picture looks grim, it’s even worse for LGBTQ kids. According to GLSEN, a national organization that promotes inclusive education, seven states still have laws prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” in classrooms. Three states (Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas) require “only negative information” on sexual orientation be provided in sex ed programs. For example, here’s a snippet of Alabama’s law on the matter: “Classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

There are nine states that require inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly sex education, thankfully. (You can find out more about each individual state’s education policy from the Guttmacher Institute.)

Why LGBTQ sex education is important.

Researchers surveyed 263 people between ages 18 and 26, all of whom identified as sexual minorities (meaning they identified sexually as something other than straight). About 21 percent of them were also trans or nonbinary. They were asked about their experiences in their school sex ed classes, their mental health during high school and after presently, their substance use, and their sexual behaviors.

As expected, the results showed most sexual minority students received “highly heteronormative and exclusive sex education.” The greater the level of exclusion in the program was, the greater their rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide risk were as well. “Many of these associations persisted among the sample even after graduating high school,” the researchers noted. “Although poor mental health outcomes generally lessened over time, those reporting greater levels of exclusion endorsed lingering mental health consequences.” And students who were trans or nonbinary in addition to identifying as a sexual minority reported even worse mental health outcomes compared to cisgender sexual minority students.

But the flip side was also true: LGBTQ people who perceived their sex ed program to have been more inclusive tended to have less anxiety, less depression, and fewer suicidal tendencies.

“More inclusive sex education may fulfill a protective role, providing normalization and visibility of sexual minority orientations in the curriculum,” the researchers write. “These results highlight the potential power of sex education policies and laws at the national, state, and local level on sexual minority youth.”

The study found LGBTQ kids were not more likely to practice safer sex just because a program was inclusive, suggesting comprehensive, medically accurate sex ed is still paramount to protecting young people of all stripes in addition to increasing inclusivity. But in general, research shows inclusive classrooms benefit sexual and gender minority students in many tangible ways, including making them feel safer, encounter less bullying in middle and high schools, be less likely to engage in risky sexual or substance-related behaviors, and have better academic outcomes.

Inclusive sex ed as a mental health issue.

Why would sex ed have such a powerful effect on mental health, in particular?

“The immediacy of sex education during the process of sexual identity formation may help to explain these associations,” the researchers explain. Indeed, the major milestones of sexual identity formation tend to happen during middle and high school, around the same time kids are learning about sex in general and experiencing school sexual education programs. Gay kids, for example, tend to have their first experience with being attracted to someone of the same gender around age 11; by age 18, they’ve usually told at least one non-family member about their sexual orientation.

A large body of research shows denying or invalidating a person’s sexual and gender identity can harm their physical and mental health. These effects might be especially devastating during these vulnerable and formative adolescent years: “Minority stress and internalized homophobia appear to be powerful negative influences on sexual minority youth, and exclusion in education and particularly sex education may contribute to these forces,” the researchers write. “As students develop a sense of social and sexual identity, they receive messaging from their education about the acceptability and normality of their experiences. The connection between perceived inclusivity of sex education and mental health outcomes is unsurprising given these dynamic and powerful influences.”

The effects of an inclusive program were associated with better mental health even after graduation and into their adult years. Considering LGBTQ youth are much more likely to struggle with mental health than their cis and straight peers, often due to the discrimination they experience, the fact that a school sex ed program can have such a lasting impact on their mental health matters a lot.

Clearly, providing quality sex education for kids is a matter of health and wellness, which is why it’s vital that we push our schools to institutionalize better sex ed programs. If you’re a parent, call up your kid’s school and ask about how they do sex ed. Go to school board meetings, rally other parents, and make your voice heard. Parental buy-in can dramatically influence what kinds of sex ed curricula school administrators feel comfortable using.

Sex education classrooms have the potential to become sites of empowerment, both for LGBTQ kids and for everyone, as long as we’re willing to invest in them.

Complete Article HERE!

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Taking back control…

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You don’t owe anyone sex or a relationship

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Movie after movie, scene after scene, we see men and boys refuse to give up on the girl. Had a big fight? Give her a big speech about how she’s the only one! She told you to leave her alone? Go to her house with a bunch of flowers! She broke up with you? Never take no for an answer!

Once you put some music behind it and get Richard Curtis in to direct, of course it all seems unassuming – romantic, even. But real human emotions are much more complex, and coupled with a fundamental misunderstanding of what people want out of relationships, it can all lead to some seriously unwanted advances, or worse.

The fact remains that a man’s behaviour towards women doesn’t have to be violent to be aggressive. If you’ve ever met a boy who thinks he’s the star in a rom-com, you’ll understand the fear and dread that comes with having to confront him when he shows up at your door with a heartfelt poem yet again, after you’ve said ‘no’ more times than you can count on your fingers.

“God, I’m just being nice,” he’ll say – the words that boil my blood. I’ll say it loud for the people in the back: if you do something nice for someone, they don’t owe you anything, and they certainly don’t owe you sex or a relationship.

But well-meaning young men who just won’t get the message aren’t the whole story.

There are real women – and let’s be frank, there are also men as well – out there who face real, physical violence for rejecting unwanted advances. Actress Jameela Jamil has opened up about her personal, harrowing experiences with this, but those of us who don’t have an adoring fanbase and a huge online platform go through it too.

Furthermore, in a society where women still get asked to hide our skin at school and work, for those of us who aren’t in the public eye it’s easy to just shrink away and accept that there’s nothing we can do but cover ourselves up and hope for the best.

But there’s so much we can do! We don’t just have to wait for the world to change around us. You can shout that boys and men need to learn “not to rape” but let’s be honest – most of them bloody well know that already, and the ones who don’t are the ones who never will. So protect each other, stand up for your fellow woman, believe that you deserve better than someone who doesn’t respect you. And most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t have been wearing.

So, to the woman who puts up with leery co-workers; to the teenage girl who doesn’t know she’s allowed to tell her boyfriend “no!”; to any and all of us who’ve had a #MeToo moment – know that you are in control of your destiny.

Regardless of what gender and sexuality you identify as, it is never too much to ask to not face violence for not being interested in someone romantically.

Learn to say no, and learn to protect yourself. Because with a US President who brags about “grabbing women by the pussy,” it doesn’t look like the world is going to change in the forseeable future. It’s time to take control.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Impact of Early Sexual Initiation on Boys

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A survey finds that most boys who had sex before age 13 had not yet had comprehensive sex education in school.

By Perri Klass, M.D.

Every couple of years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks middle and high school students to fill out surveys in class for the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. If students are sexually active, it asks for the age of first sexual intercourse, which is an important milestone.

From a public health point of view, sexual intercourse initiates young people into certain kinds of risk, notably pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. In those terms, what is called early sexual initiation — that is, intercourse before the age of 13 — is well-known as a marker for other kinds of risk, in both girls and boys, including binge drinking and having multiple sexual partners.

These are associations, not cause-and-effect explanations. There are many factors that go into individual trajectories, including the individual child’s physical and emotional development; the home environment and parental supervision practices and the local culture and standards in the child’s community, school and circle of friends.

But kids who start having sex early are kids we should be worrying about, kids at risk.

In April, the journal JAMA Pediatrics published a study of early sexual initiation among males in the United States. The researchers combined data from three different survey years of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, giving them information from 19,916 male students.

The article also reports data from another very large and reputable survey, the National Survey of Family Growth, which gave them information on 7,739 males who had been 15 to 24 years old when they were interviewed.

Of the high school boys in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 8 percent reported sexual initiation before they were 13, and so did 4 percent of the 15- to 24-year-olds in the National Survey of Family Growth. That survey specifically asks about the age of first heterosexual intercourse, while the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System doesn’t specify the gender of the partner.

The researchers found striking geographical variations in the percent of young men reporting early sexual initiation, with some cities, such as Memphis, Milwaukee and Chicago, reporting much higher percentages. Of the males from Memphis, 25 percent reported early initiation, while in San Francisco, only 5 percent did.

They also found higher rates among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic males, and lower rates among those whose mothers had college degrees.

Any survey about sexual behavior raises the question of whether the respondents are answering accurately; Dr. Lee M. Sanders, the chief of the division of general pediatrics at Stanford, suggested that in some communities and neighborhoods, reporting early initiation may be a social expectation, while in others it may be loaded with stigma.

The majority of boys in the United States don’t get comprehensive sex education before they are sexually active, said Dr. Arik V. Marcell, an associate professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, who was one of the authors of the study. If that is true for boys who start sexual activity in high school, he said, the gap is even more significant for those who become sexually active at these young ages.

“I don’t want to perpetuate the double standard that it’s O.K. for boys to start having sex,” Dr. Marcell said. “How can we think about addressing potential vulnerabilities, especially if those experiences were not wanted?”

In fact, of those who were 18 to 24 at the time of the survey who reported having initiated sexual activity before the age of 13, 8.5 percent characterized it as unwanted, choosing the response: “I really didn’t want it to happen at the time,” and 54.6 percent as wanted, responding, “I really wanted it to happen at the time,” while 37 percent “had mixed feelings” about it. Interestingly, those percentages were similar for those who began having intercourse when they were 13 or older.

The study was accompanied by a commentary which pointed out that only 13.9 percent of the adolescents in the latest National Survey of Family Growth cohort reported having had any education about saying no to sex by sixth grade, and called for “medically accurate, developmentally appropriate sex education starting in elementary school,” as is also recommended by the Future of Sex Education Initiative.

Dr. David L. Bell, an associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and the first author on the commentary, said, “Parents and pediatricians need to help our young men navigate their sexual lives by communicating with them, having open dialogues with them about many different aspects of having sexual relationships.” That includes conversations about consent.

In talking about sexual activity with his patients, Dr. Sanders said, “I’ve gotten really careful about using exactly the same language with boys and girls.” He starts with the question, are you dating. And then, whether they say yes or no, “I will ask if they’ve had sex, and whether they were pressured to have sex, and if they’ve had sex I will ask, was it consensual.”

Boys as young as 12 may not have the opportunity to have confidential conversations without their parents in the room, or be asked routinely by their pediatricians about any of this. Dr. Bell’s editorial called on clinicians to start these conversations earlier, not just in asking about activity, but in opening up conversations about “relationships and sexual decision making.”

In his own clinic for young men, many of the youngest come in with their parents, and he starts by asking them what they’ve heard about puberty, and who it is they go to when they have questions, he said, “letting them know that as their pediatrician, I’m also available to have conversations about how to think about their future in that space.”

The average age of first intercourse also gives public health experts (and educators and politicians and pundits) a way to track changes in social norms, and perhaps to look at the effects of sex education and guidance, which tends to recommend waiting and making good decisions, and the countereffects of media and a highly sexualized environment.

And overall, the public health news has been good: for both males and females, that age has actually been moving older in the United States, and is now at about 17, just as teenage pregnancy rates have declined steeply in recent decades.

It’s very hard not to slip into double standards where adolescents and sex are concerned. It’s easy to look at girls as victims and boys as perpetrators.

“We don’t really have a lot of information about what’s the context of these early sexual experiences for young people in general at ages 12 or younger,” Dr. Marcell said. “The next steps involve understanding a bit more about that.” Because some of this is reported by adults reflecting back, he said, research closer in time to the event might help in understanding young people’s feelings and the longer term consequences of early sexual experience.

“Our culture is always afraid that by talking about something, it encourages something,” Dr. Bell said. “It’s not true about sex. It doesn’t encourage them to have sex, it encourages them to be thoughtful.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Educate yourself in the sexiest way

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By Gabrielle Kassel

Finding answers to questions relating to sex and sexuality is easier than ever before. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s likely a sexpert or a podcast or another source to point you in the right direction. There’s even a whole Netflix show, Sex Education, devoted to the filling in the gaps of our knowledge. Still, there’s a (tech-free) resource you’re probably not utilizing to the max that can seriously boost your sex IQ: books.

Below, Well+Good’s go-to sex experts and educators share their favorite sex-education books—including buzzy newer releases and tried and true faves alike—that’ll rock your mind.

Add the following 12 sexpert-approved reads to your TBR pile and boost your sex IQ in the process.

1. The Ethical Slut, Third Edition: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love, by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton

“This was one of the most transformative books for me. I grew up in a community where having many sexual partners, engaging in kinky activities, or having relationships outside of strict monogamy was seen as abnormal, even immoral. The Ethical Slut changed my entire concept about what sex and relationships can be. It validated my sexual desires, encouraged exploration, and valued sex with consent and respect. Its explanation and understanding of jealousy also reframed my perception of the feeling. I would highly recommend this read for anyone who feels outside the sexual norm (whatever that is), who is looking to explore (whether they’re single or partnered), and/or who wants to transform how they think about relationships and sex.”

—Amy Boyajian, co-founder and CEO of Wild Flower, a sexual-wellness and adult-product online store

2. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

“This book played a significant role in my journey of sexual self-discovery. The authors target and explain where many staunchly held oppressive beliefs about sexuality originate. They unravel the ways even scientists are affected by personal bias, social norms, and heteronormativity. The truth of the matter is that we all have to figure out what we think about sex, gender, and love for ourselves…through experience!”

MacKenzie Peck, founder of Math Magazine, a modern pornographic magazine celebrating sex and sexuality

3. Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It, by Laurie Mintz, PhD

“This is is a must-, must-, must- read for all vulva owners, and their sexual partners. Mainstream media has taught us that sex = penis + vagina, and that everything else is “foreplay,” or appetizers to the main course that is penetrative sex. The author explains how we’ve been thinking about sex all wrong, all this time, and how as a result, we’ve created a very real pleasure gap between women and men. The key to closing this pleasure gap? The clitoris.”

—Michelle Shnaidman, founder and CEO of Bellesa, a sex-toy company run by women

4. On Chesil Beach: A Novel, by Ian McEwan

“This isn’t a traditional sex-ed book, but On Chesil Beach is a beautiful depiction of how sexual shame can negatively impact your relationships. The young newlyweds think sex is supposed to be easy and come naturally, but it doesn’t. Even though the story takes place prior to the sexual revolution, I believe many couples still suffer from the inability to talk openly to each other about sex.”

Brianna Rader, founder and CEO of Juicebox, a sex and relationship coaching app

5. The Pursuit of Pleasure, by Lionel Tiger

“This book is my all-time favorite, as it’s really about discovering why pleasure is important and what all the fuss is about. Tiger details our evolutionary entitlement and what we want our pleasure legacy to look like. Sex aside, this book will make you think twice before placing pain as your pathway to gratitude when pleasure is an option (and a far more rewarding one, at that). It’s witty and poignant in explaining that pleasure is impressively normal.”

—Dominique Karetsos, resident sexpert with MysteryVibe

6. Tabú, Kinkly, and O.school

“I wish there were more books that talk about sex education. But since anal sex has always been so taboo, I’ve found that for anal sex and butt-play information, blogs are best. Some of my favorite sex-forward blogs are Tabú (which is super visual) Kinkly (because it’s not afraid to go there and it takes a, well, kinkier approach), and O.school (which uses a more traditional approach, but has a lot of video content).”

Evan Goldstein, MD, CEO and founder of Bespoke Surgical, a health-care provider that specializes in helping patients engage in anal sex acts

7. Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski, PhD

“For those who are more into empirical evidence than abstract theories, Come As You Are offers an excellent exploration of sexuality. This book is a great companion for women who benefit from reassurance that they are perfectly complex and perfectly normal. Dr. Emily Nagoski uses scientific research to prove to women everywhere that they are not defective; there are just some central factors involved for women in creating and maintaining a fulfilling sex life.”

Marissa LaRocca, author of Everyone Is a Freak: Intimate Confessions About Sexuality, Gender, and Desire

8. The Guide to Getting it On, by Paul Joannides and Daerick Gross

“My go-to sex book to recommend is The Guide to Getting it On. It’s on its 9th edition, because our understanding and research on human sexuality is ever-growing and evolving. I bought the 3rd edition when I was 17, and the 7th edition when I was 27. It’s thorough (1200 pages, and literally looks like a phone book) and is just so honest, so insightful, and cleverly written in modern language and helpful illustrations.”

Jill McDevitt, PhD, sexologist and author of Fighting the Crusade Against Sex: Being Sex-Positive in a Sex-Negative World

9. The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment, by Jack Morin

“In this book, the author unfurls the rationality underlying seemingly illogical desires within most human beings. He presents his readers with what he called the Erotic Equation: attraction + obstacles = excitement. Basically, that means that what we may hold as taboo, naughty or frightening is what becomes the engine driving our erotic curiosity and passion. This is a book for folks curious to understand or embarrassed by what they or their partner(s) find erotically compelling.”

—Sari Cooper, sex therapist and founder of Center for Love and Sex

10.Our Bodies Ourselves, by the Boston Women’s Health Collective

“A think a good one for anyone is Our Bodies Ourselves for anatomy lessons and open conversation about sex. It’s a literal bible.”

Remy Kassimir, host of the How Cum podcast

11. Mating in Captivity Reconciling the Erotic + the Domestic, by Esther Perel

“This book challenges the concept of maintaining the sense of security in a love relationship and delves into the psychological implications behind sexual desire, eroticism, fantasies, and certainty and uncertainty. Where certain subjects or ideas might be too taboo, insulting, or uncomfortable for partners or individuals to bring up, Esther pitches the importance of erotic intelligence, the space that creates, and bringing that space to life within even a monogamous relationship. Whether single or in a long-term partnership, anyone who experiences points of insecurity in sex and love, dirty secretive fantasies, or simply desires to grasp a different perspective on the “taboo” boundaries established by society in general should read this book.”

—Grace Ho, leading pleasure expert with Sweet Vibrations, an online adult boutique

12. Jewel in the Lotus: The Sexual Path to Higher Consciousness, by Bodhi Avinasha and Sunyata Saraswati

Recently I’ve been immersed in the book, Jewel in the Lotus: The Sexual Path to Higher Consciousness, which is one of the best books I’ve read about tantric sex. It has excellent breath work instructions and meditations that help relax and free the mind.”

Alexandra Fine, CEO and co-founder sex-toy company Dame

For more sex wisdom, check out what Esther Perel has to say about why sex gets better as you age, and how to bounce back when your sex life becomes “blah”. Oh, and BTW, scheduling sex is actually great for your relationship.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ways To Handle Jealousy In Open & Polyamorous Relationships

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The idea of an open or polyamorous relationship can be exciting for some people — it’s the giddy freedom of sleeping with whomever you want with the warm, fuzzy stability of your boo by your side. Still, while this is attractive, a little green-eyed monster might creep in at the thought of your SO going to the bone zone with other people, too. Ultimately, the question of realistic and healthy ways to handle jealousy in open and polyamorous relationships seems to be the only thing stopping folks from taking that first step — from open/poly daydream to open/poly reality.

A quick aside: There’s a difference between “open” relationships and “polyamorous” relationships. As sex educator Aida Manduley put it, polyamory is when, with the consent of all people involved, you and your partner have multiple romantic relationships. An open relationship is when, with the consent of everyone involved, you and your partner get to sleep with other people — and it’s purely sexual.

While poly and open relationships may be seen as “non-traditional” partnerships, the real tea is that jealousy is a big problem in monogamous relationships, too. Either way, whether you’re monogamous (and curious about your potential jealous twinges) or are open/poly now (and want to nip jealousy in the bud), you definitely want to keep some jealousy coping methods in your back-pocket. Here are five that will help your open or poly relationship be as successful and healthy as possible.

1. Talk it through

Communication is the foundation of any relationship and it’s even more important when there’s more than two people in a relationship. So if there’s an issue — particularly jealousy — you need to talk it out. Courtney Watson, a poly-inclusive sex therapist, breaks the process down to Elite Daily in four steps:

  1. Clarify your feelings of jealousy and explore where they are coming from.
  2. Arrange a time to sit down with your partner. (Pick a neutral setting, especially outside the bedroom, where you have enough time and privacy to discuss your feelings. )
  3. Tell your partner and negotiate a solution that addresses your feelings, and takes into consideration their feelings and their needs.
  4. See if the solution works and reconvene as needed.

Learning where you jealousy stems from is easier said than done, but there’s a reason why it’s the first step. “Your feelings are valid and deserve to be met with compassion and curiosity. Doing so will create more space for you to examine the story behind the feeling,” says Dr. Heath Schechinger, a University of California Berkeley counseling psychologist and a co-chair for the American Psychological Association’s Consensual Non-Monogamy Taskforce. “Be present and non-judgmental about whatever comes up and seek to identify the need behind the feeling.”

A good reminder from Schechinger is that jealousy shares many of its traits with anxiety: Both can be prompted by fear or insecurities, and how and when they pop up are influenced by genetics, environment and mood. “Like anxiety, jealousy tends to be heightened when we feel unsafe, unheard, or confused,” they explain. “And lessens when we feel safe, secure, and supported.”

So when you’re struck with that frenzy of emotion imagining what your primary SO is doing out on their date, recognize: Your jealousy could be a symptom of a greater underlying issue between you and your main partner. A supportive and non-judgmental chat about the root of your feelings will only make your partnership stronger.

2. Re-write your jealousy narrative

Another way to get to the bottom of this is to outline your jealousy — literally. With your partner(s) or alone, make a little guidebook to your jealous feelings. And then re-write it.

“Draw a picture or describe in detail a personified version of jealousy, to clarify how you experience and relate to the feeling,” they say. “What does your depiction of jealousy look and sound like? Is jealousy bigger or smaller than you? Do you get along well or hate each other? Are they angry, mean, scared? What do they tend to say to you? What are your physical cues that jealousy is present?”

Once you have a good sketch of “your jealousy narrative,” as Schechinger calls it, work on reframing it in a less threatening way. Confront what you’ve laid out and re-evaluate what about these attributes or behaviors makes you feel jealous. “When met with support and non-judgment, the discomfort generated by envy/jealousy can increase self-awareness and highlight a need that that may not be being met,” they say.

3. Re-establish boundaries

Sometimes, your jealousy in an open or poly relationship isn’t just a matter of personal insecurities that should be addressed. It might be a matter of unclear boundaries. Maybe your partner is doing something in regard to their secondary relationship(s) that is bothering the hell out of you. Talk to them about it and re-examine your current set of rules.

“There needs to be a clear establishing of what is OK and not, and the conversation needs to be revisited as one or more relationships develop and change,” Watson says. “If what feels good for both partners is unclear or what is hurtful for someone is unclear, jealousy and a whole host of other feelings can quickly emerge.”

It can be helpful to come up with a “Yes/No/Maybe” list for you and your main SO when it comes to your extradyadic relationships. (DJ Khaled voice: new word alert! A “dyad” refers to two people in a relationship. Extradyadic refers to any person or activity outside of those core two people.) You and your main partner can go through each sexual act or behavior on the yes/no/maybe list, and label them with a resounding “yes,” a hard “no,” or a “maybe.”

You don’t necessarily have to be active or even committed to the idea of an open or poly relationship to do this. A yes/no/maybe list can be the foundation of simply seeing if a non-monogamy would be a good fit for you and your partner.

For example, maybe you’re OK with your partner sleeping with other people in your open sexual relationship. But your SO cuddling their hookups or staying the night rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it blurs the lines between sexual and romantic relationship for you. Or maybe you get jealous or irritated when your partner posts about their other partner(s) on social media, or introduces them to family. Making and re-making a yes/no/maybe list with your partner might be super useful in helping you pinpoint the exact behaviors that make you feel some type of way.

4. Make a back-up plan

While you’re having the “re-establishing boundaries” talk, you can also revisit or come up with a backup plan. For example, what if you’re just in an open sexual relationship, and you or your partner catch feels for a hookup? What if one of your or your partner’s secondary partners or hookups catch feelings? If you or your partner are prone to jealousy, this shift in relationship dynamic — that’s out of your control — can stir up some less-than-desirable feelings.

Talk through all of the worst-case scenarios that could come from an open or poly relationship. Put it all on the table.

“It is a common pitfall to create agreements that prioritize protecting the primary partnership, without considering the impact on secondary partners or how secondary partnerships may evolve and deepen over time,” Schechinger explains. “Communicating about this upfront can avoid heartache later on.”

5. Know that it takes time

Schechinger mentions research that shows people in non-monogamous relationships typically experience less jealousy and more trust than people in monogamous ones. (One of them is 2017 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, which surveyed 1,507 monogamous people and 617 non-monogamous people.) They say researchers have yet to discover exactly why that difference exists. Their first thought is that maybe people with less jealous dispositions are drawn to open or poly relationships. And their second thought is that maybe it’s because non-monogamy helps lessen jealousy over time (a.k.a. through exposure).

Non-monogamous relationships also commonly experience the opposite of jealousy, which called compersion, Watson says. “One partner experiences joy and fulfillment by seeing their partner happy with someone else. There is less opportunity for compersion in monogamous relationships because of the exclusivity.”

If you’re currently in an open or poly relationship and are working to tackle jealousy, it may just take some time. And if you’re worried about jealousy in a future open or poly relationship, who knows? The relationship switch-up might just give you a chance to experience a new kind of happiness and support for your SO.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex Figures from History

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By Kat Armstrong

A legacy of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination has meant that queer identities are often left out of the history books. But with a modern perspective, we’re able to pick up on hints that flesh out a more inclusive portrayal of gender and sexuality over the ages.

From the ancient world through modern times, gender non-conforming, non-binary, intersex, and transgender folks have existed, but new understandings are helping the rest of us to better comprehend their stories. In recent decades, as we’ve come to develop a more nuanced grasp of the difference between sex and gender, historians have begun recognizing the possibility that certain major figures may have existed outside the gender binary. Here are seven of those people:

1. Casimir Pulaski: Charismatic Polish-American Revolutionary War hero Count Casimir Pulaski fled his homeland as a young adult after being part of a conspiracy to remove a puppet king from the Polish throne. While in exile in Paris, he met American Benjamin Franklin, and a friendship was born.

Pulaski ended up stateside, fighting for revolutionary forces, and is considered by many historians to be one of the key reasons why America was able to free itself from British imperial rule. He remains celebrated for his daring, strong military mind, and, frankly, lack of fear (he was always on the front lines, and eventually formed his own militia after George Washington suggested he stay off the battlefield).

Now, new scientific evidence suggests that Pulaski was either transgender or intersex (displaying both male and female sexual organ characteristics).

“One of the ways that male and female skeletons are different is the pelvis,” Virginia Hutton Estabrook, an assistant professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University, told NBC News about her discovery. “In females, the pelvic cavity has a more oval shape. It’s less heart-shaped than in the male pelvis. Pulaski’s looked very female.”

Pulaski’s skull also had telltale signs that he may have been born chromosomally female: a delicate facial bone structure, and a height of no more than 5’4”.

“What we do know about Pulaski is that there were enough androgens (male hormones) happening in the body, so that he had facial hair and male pattern baldness,” Esterbrook explains. “Obviously, there was some genital development because we have his baptismal records and he was baptized as a son.”

2. Michael Dillon: Laurence Michael Dillon may not be a name many are familiar with, but the English mechanic and wartime fireman was actually the first transgender man to undergo phalloplasty, a procedure that creates a penis for those who want to surgically change their genitals to match their gender.

Born in 1915, Dillon studied at all-girls schools and was an award-winning rower. In 1939, while working at a research laboratory, he sought out Dr. George Foss, an English doctor who was experimenting with testosterone to help stop women from having their periods. The testosterone treatment caused Dillon’s outward appearance to change, and by the mid-1940s, he had a chance encounter with a plastic surgeon who would change his life.

Being hypoglycemic, Dillon often suffered from fainting spells. While in the Royal Infirmary, he met with Dr. Harold Gillies, a plastic surgeon who had experience reconstructing the genitals of wounded soldiers. Between 1946 and 1949, Dillon underwent 13 surgeries under the guise of a condition called hypospadias; in fact, the procedure was sought to anatomically confirm Dillon’s male gender.

Dillon eventually became a doctor, but his story became tabloid fodder while he was working as a ship doctor. He fled to India to study Buddhism, changing his name to Jivaka after a doctor that tended to the Buddha. Through the publication of his 1946 book, Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics, Dillon became one of the first Western medical professionals to explain that being transgender was not a mental illness.

3. Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax: Born in Houston in 1913, gospel singer Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax got his nickname due to his small stature in comparison to his brother, gospel singer William Broadnax.

The brothers sang in some of the most popular gospel groups and quartets in the 1940s and 1950s. Little did the public know that, years earlier, Little Axe had come out as transgender to a family who simply accepted his gender identity, although he’d been assigned female at birth.

By the time he was a teen, the Broadnax family’s report to the US Census showed two sons instead of a son and a daughter.

In the late 1930s, William and Willmer moved to California, forming their first gospel group, The Golden Echos. Little Axe performed with many leading gospel groups, eventually joining The Spirit of Memphis.

By the mid-1960s, as gospel’s popularity waned, Broadnax retired, although he did show up on recordings with the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi in the 1970s and 1980s. By the early 1990s, the once-renowned gospel singer had faded to relative obscurity, and was tragically stabbed to death by his girlfriend in 1992.

It was only during Broadnax’s autopsy that people learned that the diminutive gospel star was assigned female at birth.

4. Elagabalus: Although there are nearly no reliable accounts on the life of Roman Emperor Elagabalus, much historical writing suggests that the violent emperor was both bisexual and transgender, and became the Roman ruler after much maneuvering by their mother, grandmother, and others at the tender age of 14.

In the ancient Roman world, 14-year-old boys were highly prized and sexualized, and Elagabalus — who by all accounts, was born anatomically male — was able to harness that adoration into power. But while historical texts uniformly refer to the emperor with male pronounce, records indicate that Elagabalus frequently wore women’s clothing and took on female affectations. A document from Cassius Dio recalls Elagabalus returning a greeting from Aurelius: “Call me not Lord, for I am a Lady.”

Although some historians point to statues of Elagabalus dressed in traditionally male fashions, and claim the ruler’s transness was used to smear them after their reign ended, an alternate reading is that those male-gendered depictions could also have been made to legitimize their rule. At any rate, Elagabalus made their grandmother a senator (the first woman ever in the ancient world to hold such a title), and created an entire women’s Senate — which made them seem depraved to many of the men running the Roman Empire at the time.

But beyond their gender non-conformity, Elagabalus’s rule was marred by a series of cultural shifts that caused great discomfort amongst the men of Rome — and Elagabalus’ own reputation for hedonism. After being stabbed to death by some of the schemers who’d gotten Elgabalus into power in the first place, the Empress was dumped into the Tiber River in order to cleanse Rome of their wild rule.

5. Albert D.J. Cashier: Five-foot-tall US Civil War veteran Albert D.J. Cashier told different versions of his life story to different people, possibly to help explain his life’s open secret: that he was assigned female at birth.

At 19, he enlisted in the army to fight with the Union, and accounts state his bravery (and recklessness). In his later years, Cashier worked for Illinois State Senator Ira Lish, who reportedly knew of Cashier’s transness and protected his identity. Lish eventually helped the war veteran secure residency in a home for injured soldiers and sailors after accidentally hurting Cashier with his car. Those who cared for him kept his secret, but eventually, he began suffering from dementia and the home could no longer care for him.

Cashier was moved to an asylum, where his secret was revealed. Nurses forced him to wear dresses and live as a woman, but even though his dementia was worsening, he would gather his skirts and wear them as pants, demanding to be treated as the man he was.

Unfortunately, his attempts to fashion pants out of the skirts the hospital forced on him would lead to his death: He tripped over the skirt he was wearing and broke his hip, eventually dying from a septic infection caused by the fracture.

6. Dr. James Barry: Born Margaret Bulky in around 1789 County Cork, Ireland, James Barry moved with his mother to England to live with her brother, an academic called James Barry, after the Bulky family fell on hard times. The first James died in 1806, but not before he set up his sister and niece with money and educational means.

Margaret eventually took James Barry’s name and headed off to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. But the university worried that young Barry was lying about his age because he was so small, with a high voice. The school was reportedly so convinced he was underage, that the university almost didn’t let Barry sit his exams. But a friend of the late James Barry — David Steuart Erskine, the Earl of Buchan — insisted his young ward be allowed to take his exams.

Once Barry completed school, he enlisted in the military, becoming a renowned military surgeon who ruffled the feathers of some of his colleagues — including, legend goes, Florence Nightingale, after the two argued that she was inappropriately dressed for work in the sun. He was one of the first modern doctors to perform a successful C-section and demanded equal treatment for the rich and the poor, the free and the enslaved.

Very few knew about Barry’s secret while he was alive, and it was only at his death that people found out the truth about the military doctor and public health reformer: Not only was Barry assigned female at birth, but he had, at one point, given birth to a daughter — likely conceived, heartbreakingly, in rape — who his mother would raise as his sister.

7. Anne “Gentleman Jack” Lister: Born in 1791 England to a landed family,Anne “Gentleman Jack” Lister has been called “the first modern lesbian” and is remembered by history as a gender non-conforming powerhouse. Her nickname was one given to her by locals who wanted to mock her masculine outward appearance and her preference for the company of other women, but it did little to obscure that she was way ahead of her time.

In 1826, Lister inherited her family’s properties at Shibden Hall from her uncle after he passed away. Although property management was very much considered a man’s purview in Regency England, Lister didn’t balk. She had long term plans to restore the property, increase its income, and leave the estate in better shape than she received it.

Lister managed rents and income from the property’s various revenue streams, and used some of the profit for her own industrious business ventures. Eventually, Lister and her lover, Ann Walker, were able to obtain a church blessing and lived together at Shibden, while traveling widely. It was with Walker on a trip to Russia where Lister died after an insect bite in 1840.

In extensive diaries written in a secret code of her own making, Lister wrote over four million words through the course of her life. In those volumes, she wrote at length about her women lovers, and her life as the landlord of her family’s properties.

It was years later that a relative found the Lister diaries and had them decoded. They show Lister as a free-willed, proud woman who challenged gender norms not only to be able to openly love who she wanted, but to live as she chose.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Owning My Sexuality Transformed My Career

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The connection has been undeniable.

Andrea Barrica

By Andrea Barrica

My career in the tech world started to take off a few years after I began building my first company, an accounting software for growing businesses called inDinero. I was closing more sales deals, nailing my speaking engagements, and getting feedback that I was positively impacting others on my team. When people asked me what I was doing differently, I would lie, saying something like, “Oh, I started meditating. Totally life-changing.”

The truth was that I was finally having the sex I wanted. My career transformation was the bonus cherry on top.

Taking control of my sex life was a long process. Although I was an early bloomer in some ways—I went to college at 16 and started building inDinero at 20—I was raised in a conservative environment that left me in the dark when it came to my own body and sexuality. I was 24 before I felt comfortable enough to look at my own genitals.

Around that time, I committed to learning about my body, leaning into my identity as a sexual being, and making time for pleasure. The results were powerful. Exploring my sexuality helped me unlearn a lot of harmful thought patterns about bodies and desire, and it helped give me both the sex life and career I’d dreamed about.

Now, I’m the founder and CEO of O.school, a welcoming online resource aiming to educate people on all things sex and sexuality. So, these days my career is obviously influenced by the subject of sex and sexuality—it’s what we do at O.school! But aside from that—and even well before that—I found that tapping into my sexual energy led to enormous growth in my career. Here are a few ways that getting in touch with my sexuality spilled over into my professional calling.

1. I learned to listen to my intuition.

I used to be really uncomfortable even trying to think about my own pleasure. In bed, I was often completely focused on the other person. I would shut down when a partner would say, “Let’s make you feel good. What do you like?” I didn’t know because I didn’t have much sexual intuition, which I view as a connection to what makes me feel good.

Making time for pleasure helped me strengthen this sexual intuition. One thing that really got me there was orgasmic meditation. “OM,” as it’s often called, is primarily focused on exploring where you like to be touched on your clitoris. OM is about being present in how you’re feeling in one precise moment: One day you might like one kind of touch, and another day it could be something different. The key is being willing to listen to your own body, which helped me flex that mental muscle of knowing what feels good and right. This kind of gut instinct became a guiding compass for me at work, too.

In the span of a week, 20 smart investors can recommend I take my business in 20 different directions. I listen to everyone’s advice, but then I listen most to what feels right in my body. I know something is right for me—in sex or at work—when I feel curious, connected, and attentive. I feel calm and can see the pros and cons. When something is a bad fit, I notice that I feel fearful, anxious, and have a lot of spiraling thoughts. Listening to my intuition, no matter the situation, has rarely steered me wrong.

2. I practiced asking for what I want.

I know it seems obvious, but it’s so true that I have to emphasize it: People can only meet your needs if you make what you want clear. Sex has become a safe space for me to practice asking for what I want in a relatively low-stakes situation.

Once, right after taking a shower, a partner asked me to sit down and spontaneously started to blow dry my hair. It was one of the sweetest and, surprisingly, most pleasurable gestures I had ever experienced. I could have kept this quirky delight a secret from other partners, but I’ve chosen to talk about it with various people since then. While a few have declined to engage in this hair-focused foreplay, pretty much all of them have made a beeline for the blow dryer. This has reinforced that being open about what makes me feel good usually leads to me feeling, well, really good.

Experimenting with clear communication in bed built up my confidence to do the same in a professional environment. I’ve learned to be incredibly specific when it comes to asking for what I want at work. In the past, when I’ve expected people to decide on their own to give me what I “deserve,” I’ve been constantly disappointed.

For example, when I worked as a venture partner at a venture capital fund, I learned that a male coworker who joined the exact same week as I did was given a raise. I didn’t wait around hoping to have a commensurate raise land in my lap. Instead, I went to my boss and asked not just for a raise, but also for more travel opportunities to our global offices, introductions to people who could provide me with paid speaking appearances, and the ability to start making investments in international markets. I got all of it. That probably won’t happen every time, but it definitely wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t asked.

3. I realized that connecting with my body clears my mind.

When I’m feeling too uptight, that usually means I haven’t made time for self-care. My sexuality plays a big role in renewing my energy. When I’m more connected to my body, I think more clearly, get more done, and make better decisions. I’m funnier, more powerful, and more relaxed on stage at speaking events. I can tell people read me as more confident and interact with me differently.

Feeling connected to my body is not limited to sex. Sometimes it’s a massage. Sometimes it’s hanging out with my friends and holding their hands while we drink wine, kiss, hug, and flirt.

Restoring myself in this way has become so important that I actually put self-care time on my color-coded calendar. (It gets the honor of being purple.) Self-care is in the mix with my meetings and appointments because it’s just as—if not more—important. If I look at my week ahead and see no purple blocks, I make it a point to change that.

4. I learned to establish firm boundaries.

From a young age, I was taught that my body didn’t fully belong to me. (As are many of us.) Sometimes I had to kiss and hug relatives when I didn’t want to. On the playground, little boys would grab at me, and adults would say, “That’s how you know they like you.” I felt resigned to the fact that others could do what they wanted to my body, and I should stay quiet to avoid “making a fuss.”

This thinking persisted for years. One day in college, a guy in class with me started rubbing my leg under the table. I couldn’t move or say anything because I still didn’t feel in charge of my own body.

I started to unlearn these lessons through kink and role playing. A Kink 101 class taught me that nothing sexual should happen without discussing boundaries and consent. I also realized that “bottoms” (submissive people) are often viewed as the ones actually “in charge” because they can slow down or completely stop a situation with a safeword.

Meditating on these concepts helped me see how much of my sex life was spent going along with other people’s desires, following scripts I saw in movies and porn, and how little I was focusing on what I wanted. It took years of practice and overcoming occasional discomfort, but now I only have the sex that I want to have, and I stop sex that doesn’t feel good.

This sense of control transferred to my career. I’ve realized that, ultimately, I get to choose how I spend my time. (Granted, this is a privilege that I have due to my being an entrepreneur.) I swiftly decline opportunities that aren’t aligned with my goals, often leave draining events or meetings to take care of myself, and generally feel more empowered and less complacent about how I spend my time and energy.

5. I stopped caring about looking stupid.

Sex is a great chance to practice getting out of your head and seeing what happens when you do something “silly” without judging yourself. When I first tried to explore dirty talk and role play, I struggled with this big time. I wasn’t naturally excited about trying to say sexy things or pretend to be someone else, so I felt dumb when I tried. Then I decided to view it as a game of improv. That got me out of my “this is dumb” thought patterns, and I found myself surprisingly turned on.

That same fear of appearing stupid used to block the creativity my career needs in order to thrive. I’d get an idea in a meeting and hesitate to speak up, only to kick myself when someone else said the exact same thing. Sex helped me realize how freeing it can be to leave that fear of judgment behind, so I started to let go of it at work, too.

To experiment with bringing that mindset into my work life even more, I once hired an amazing business coach who was an ex-clown. She made me mime my talks with really exaggerated gestures. It felt horribly uncomfortable. But the next time I was on stage, I was more aware of my body and felt so much more dynamic. It’s all because I was no longer holding back due to fear.

It might sound unconventional, but for me, sex and work are intimately connected in a way that’s made my life so much better. Having good sex is worth celebrating all on its own. Being able to apply lessons I’ve learned through my sexual experiences to my career is even better.

Complete Article HERE!

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