I Am A Barista By Day & A BDSM Teacher By Night

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By Kasandra Brabaw

To the people who come through the coffee shop where she works every day, Afrika is simply a barista. But to the BDSM community members who frequent the dungeon where she works every night, she’s Envy Adams, a “dom/sub/switchy sado-masochist” and all-around “kinky girl.”

In her dungeon life, Afrika is able to play with gender identity and power dynamics. She feels masculine and dominant in her everyday life, but is able to be more feminine and shy or submissive when she’s negotiating a BDSM scene with one of her play partners. “In my normal day, I’m wearing joggers and a button up and my backwards hats. And now I’m shopping for latex skirts and nipple tassels,” she says. In a new video for Refinery29, we see Afrika make the transition from masculine barista to hyper-feminine BDSM dungeon worker. As she shops for a wig and outfit for her alter ego, she explains how the BDSM community allows her to explore her sexuality and gender identity, and why consent is so essential for BDSM play.


 
“There is no sex involved, it’s just all play,” Afrika explains about the dungeons. The fact that BDSM doesn’t always involve sex — which Afrika defines as touching genitals — is only the first stereotype she breaks. She also shatters the idea that the BDSM community doesn’t really care about consent, given that the whole point is intentionally inflicting pain. In reality, people who practice BDSM are often way more skilled at asking for consent throughout an intimate experience than are people who don’t have kinky sex. “[BDSM is] a very consensual community. It’s an understanding, non-judgmental community,” Afrika says. “Gender and sexuality is not a big, important issue there. It’s all about how you treat the person, and your consenting and negotiating of the scene that you’re going to partake in.”

Without ongoing consent, Afrika wouldn’t be hitting her play partners, or tying them up, or doing anything else with them. It’s also very important to her that there’s never alcohol involved in any of her BDSM scenes, because alcohol blurs lines of consent. “Being sober during a scene is super critical,” she says. “You don’t want to negotiate anything under the influence.”

So while it may seem to non-kinky folks that BDSM is a free-for-all, do-whatever-you-want kind of sexual experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As Mistress Yin, a BDSM dominatrix, told Refinery29 previously: “Even if you’re saying ‘Yes, I want to be placed into bondage,’ it does not mean that you’re saying yes to all the different things that could happen to you while you’re in bondage. There has to be so much really honest communication with your partner.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Art of Presence: Pleasure Mapping

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by KinkKit Team

Try the Yoni Pleasure Mapping Technique:

(Yoni, pronounced (YO-NEE), or “Vagina”, is derived from Sanskrit.)

The objective is not to achieve orgasm, though that may happen. The objective is to thoroughly learn and discover your partner’s pleasurable spots in a relaxed setting, with no expectations. As you massage your partner, focus all your loving emotion onto them.

1. Get your partner relaxed and comfortable.

Have your partner lie face-up with legs spread apart and knees bent. Optional: place a pillow under your lover’s head and/or hips. 

2. Both partners must remember to breathe.

Mindful breathing is a large part of what separates Tantra from regular sexual experiences. While you give your partner the lingam massage, try something called Ujiayi (ooh-JAH-yee), or “Bliss Breath”, in tandem:

To perform Ujjayi breathing:

  1. Close your mouth
  2. Take a long, deep inhale through your nose, while lightly constricting the back of your throat (your breath will make a whispery kind of noise)
  3. Hold it for a second
  4. Exhale slowly through your nose, while lightly constricting the back of your throat (your breath will make a whispery kind of noise)

3. Encourage your partner to breathe deeply.

Before you begin the yoni massage, tune into your partner by engaging in the “bliss breath” together. Just taking a few breaths at the same time will put you both at ease and match your bio-rhythms. You’ll both get all the good vibes. Ask your partner if you may continue before you begin.

4. Begin with both hands (or tool) well-lubricated.

Massager: If you started with Round 1, your hands may have the other hemp massage oil on them. Wash your hands and switch to the lube (it’s specially formulated to bio-match with the natural pH of the vagina). You may wish to also lube up the Gläs massager as well, if you plan to use this tool for pleasure mapping. Make sure the Yoni stays well lubricated throughout the entire Pleasure Mapping.

5. Massage the vulva first before slipping inside.

Gently rub the lube on the outer lips of the Yoni at least nine times. Using your thumb and index fingers, gently squeeze each lip of the vulva, sliding your fingers up and down the entire length of each lip. Then, carefully repeat this with each inner lip of the Yoni, being careful to vary the pressure and speed of your touch. Next, gently stroke the clitoris in a circular motion, clockwise and counter-clockwise. Then, squeeze the clitoris between your thumb and index finger.

As you do this, continue asking your lover to give their pleasure rating from 0 – 10. When a spot is given a rating of 5 or higher, push, caress, and gently squeeze that area more firmly to see if the pleasure rating changes. 

6. Move into the vagina.

Next, slowly and with great care, insert your middle finger into the vagina. Very gently explore and press the inside of the Yoni with your finger. As you do so, ask your partner how that feels and prompt more pleasure ratings. Varying the speed and depth of your finger, feel inside the Yoni up, down and around. With your palm pointing upward and your finger inside your partner’s Yoni, bend your finger to make contact with the G-spot. 

7. Continue for as long as your lover desires.

Continue massaging with different speeds and pressures. At this point, your lover may wish not to give pleasure ratings anymore — let your lover just relax and keep breathing. If your lover has an orgasm, keep up with the breathing, and continue massaging if your lover desires. More orgasms may occur at this point, though, if they do not, just enjoy the ride! 

Keep massaging until your partner requests that you stop. Slowly, and with respect, remove your hands. Allow your partner to lay there and bask in the afterglow of the Yoni massage, while you experience the joy of being of service. If your lover wishes, at this point you can gently massage the hands or feet using the mushroom massager.

Try the Lingam Pleasure Mapping Technique:

(Lingam, or “Penis”, is derived from Sanskrit.)

1. Get your partner relaxed and comfortable.

Have your partner lie face-up with legs spread apart and knees bent. Optional: place a pillow under your lover’s head and/or hips. 

2. Both partners must remember to breathe.

Mindful breathing is a large part of what separates Tantra from regular sexual experiences. While you give your partner the lingam massage, try something called Ujiayi (ooh-JAH-yee), or “Bliss Breath”, in tandem:

To perform Ujjayi breathing:

  1. Close your mouth
  2. Take a long, deep inhale through your nose, while lightly constricting the back of your throat (your breath will make a whispery kind of noise)
  3. Hold it for a second
  4. Exhale slowly through your nose, while lightly constricting the back of your throat (your breath will make a whispery kind of noise)

3. Encourage your partner to breathe deeply.

Before you begin the lingam massage, tune into your partner by engaging in the “bliss breath” together. Just taking a few breaths at the same time will put you both at ease and match your bio-rhythms. You’ll both get all the good vibes. Ask your partner if you may continue before you begin.

4. Lubricate and massage lightly around the penis with both hands.

Massager: If you started with Round 1, your hands may have the other hemp massage oil on them. Wash your hands and switch to the lube or a food-grade oil (coconut oil is fantastic: not only does it smell delicious, it has a very light, slippery texture without being sticky.). Make sure you oil both the shaft of the penis and the testicles. Start by sliding up and down the thighs before getting to the good stuff. This will also make your partner feel more relaxed. Feel free to compliment your partner, though don’t lose focus on the Ask and Answer. 

Receiver: Give your Pleasure Rating on the sliding scale of 1 – 10. Don’t worry about whether or not you are impressing your lover; only focus your breathing and on the pleasure you are feeling.

Massager: Move onto the testicles. Gently, slowly massage them. You can use your fingernails gently on his testicles, or pull them slightly. You can also cup them in your hands and fondle them in the palm of your hand.

Massage each of the areas around the testicles and penis (i.e., the pubic bone in the front, the inner part of the thighs, and the perineum—or “taint”—which is the area between the testicles and the anus).

5. Massage the shaft.

Once you’ve teased the areas around the lingam, move to the shaft. Vary your grip between harder and lighter. Vary your stroke sequences between straight up and down and a twisting motion.

Vary the action from one hand to two hands. When using just one hand, alternate between using the right and left hands.

Start slowly and build up to a faster pace, then make it slow again. Keep alternating the pressure, speed, rhythm, and methods.

Also, alternate the shaft strokes to start from the root of the shaft all the way up to the head. Once at the head, you can either continue the straight up and down motion, or you can do the twist—going from the root of the shaft and stopping just below the tip of the penis.

Variety is the key here.

When using two hands, you can do it a few different ways:

1. Both hands hold the penis in the same direction with the fingers pointing the same way.

2. One hand holds the penis facing one way and the other hand faces the other way.

3. Both hands move up and down at the same time. Use plenty of lube to keep the texture slippery and smooth.

4. The bottom hand moves up and down while the top hand does a swirling/twisting action at the tip of the penis.

6. Edge your lover – don’t allow climax. Rather, keep your lover at the edge of orgasm.

By now, your lover might be very worked up and might want to come. If you are paying close attention to breathing patterns, how the body moves, and the moaning, you should be able to predict whether your partner is nearing orgasm. At this point, slow it down and remind your partner to breathe and ride the wave of orgasmic feelings. At this point, your lover might go from being rock hard to semi-hard. Don’t worry. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

7. Continue for as long as your lover desires.

Continue massaging with different speeds and pressures. At this point, your lover may wish not to give pleasure ratings anymore — let your lover just relax and keep breathing. If your lover has an orgasm, keep up with the breathing, and continue massaging if your lover desires. More orgasms may occur at this point, though, if they do not, just enjoy the ride! 

Keep massaging until your partner requests that you stop. Slowly, and with respect, remove your hands. Allow your partner to lay there and bask in the afterglow of the Yoni massage, while you experience the joy of being of service. If your lover wishes, at this point you can gently massage the hands or feet using the mushroom massager.

Try the Prostate Pleasure Mapping Technique:

8. Stimulate the p-spot externally.

The prostate, or “male g-spot”, which is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis. When stimulated properly, it is very pleasurable.

You can access the prostate either internally (by inserting your fingers or the Gläs curved massage toy into the booty) or externally (through massaging the outside without penetration).

If your lover isn’t experienced with prostate massage, start externally. Look for an indentation somewhere between the size of a pea and a walnut midway between the testicles and the anus. Push gently inward. As you do so, have your lover continue to give you numbers. Be careful to go slowly and let your lover guide you in terms of pressure.

When you hit the right spot, massage it by pushing in with your fingers or knuckles, then backing off and pushing in again. You can also use a circular massage motion. If he’s especially hairy, use more lube so you can get to the area more easily.

9. If your lover is comfortable, stimulate internally.

If your lover enjoyed the prostate massage, take it to the next level with an internal massage. If the game, you’ll want to loosen up the anus with lube. Start by massaging the outside of the anus with your fingers in a slow, smooth, and gentle circular motion. Don’t insert a finger without express permission. Ask if your lover is ready for more.

If he is ready for insertion, make sure his anus and your fingers are oiled up. Make sure your nails don’t have any jagged edges. Start by inserting just the tip of one finger at first. Wiggle it back and forth to loosen him up. Once he’s comfortable with that, you can insert your finger(s) more deeply, as the prostate is about 2 to 3 inches inside the anus, closer to the anterior wall of the rectum.

Once there, you can gently caress it by moving your finger from side to side, up and down, or “milking” it with a come hither motion with your finger(s). Continue asking for Pleasure Ratings.

10. Keep massaging until your partner wishes to stop.

Continue massaging with different speeds and pressures. At this point, your lover may wish not to give pleasure ratings anymore — let your lover just relax and keep breathing. If your lover has an orgasm, keep up with the breathing, and continue massaging if your lover desires. More orgasms may occur at this point, though, if they do not, just enjoy the ride! 

Keep massaging until your partner requests that you stop. Slowly, and with respect, remove your hands. Allow your partner to lay there and bask in the afterglow of the Yoni massage, while you experience the joy of being of service. If your lover wishes, at this point you can gently massage the hands or feet using the mushroom massager.

Complete Article HERE!

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Mindful sex: could it put an end to unhappiness in bed?

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Mindfulness has been used to treat depression and encourage healthy eating. Now, with huge numbers of men and women reporting sexual dissatisfaction, it is being applied to our relationships

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So there you are, in bed with your partner, having perfectly pleasant if serviceable sex, when your mind starts to wander: what was it you meant to put on your shopping list? Why didn’t your boss reply to your email? Don’t forget it’s bin day tomorrow.

Many of us feel disconnected during sex some or most of the time. At the more extreme end, sexual dysfunction – erectile problems, vaginal pain, zero libido – can severely hamper our quality of life and our relationships. In many cases, there could be a relatively simple, if not easily achieved, fix: mindfulness.

In essence, mindfulness involves paying attention to what is happening in the present moment and noticing, without judgment, your thoughts and feelings. It can reconnect us with our bodies – stopping us spending so much time in our heads – and reduce stress. It has been used by the NHS as a treatment for recurrent depression and popular books and apps have made it part of many people’s everyday lives. After mindful eating, drinking, parenting and working, mindful lovemaking is starting to be recognised more widely as a way to improve one’s sex life. (Earlier this year, the couples therapist Diana Richardson gave a TEDx talk on mindfulness in sex, which has been viewed 170,000 times on YouTube.)

A survey published in June by Public Health England found that 49% of 25- to 34-year-old women complained of a lack of sexual enjoyment; across all ages, 42% of women were dissatisfied. The most recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, published in 2013, found that people in Britain were having less sex than they once did, with low sexual function affecting about 15% of men and 30% of women. Difficulty achieving orgasm was reported by 16% of women, while 15% of men suffered premature ejaculation and 13% experienced erectile dysfunction. Problems with sexual response were common, affecting 42% of men and 51% of women who reported one or more problems in the last year.

At the time, the researchers said modern life could be affecting our sex drives.
 
“People are worried about their jobs, worried about money. They are not in the mood for sex,” said Cath Mercer from University College London. “But we also think modern technologies are behind the trend, too. People have tablets and smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and Facebook, answering emails.”

Mindfulness is one of the tools that can help people focus in a world full of distractions. Kate Moyle, a psychosexual and couples therapist, says mindfulness is a recognised part of therapeutic work, even if it has not always been given that name. “When people have sexual problems, a lot of the time it’s anxiety-related and they’re not really in their bodies, or in the moment. Mindfulness brings them back into the moment. When people say they’ve had the best sex and you ask them what they were thinking about, they can’t tell you, because they weren’t thinking about anything, they were just enjoying the moment. That’s mindfulness.” Moyle says the techniques involve “encouraging people to focus on their sensations, explore their senses, hone in on what is happening in their body and how they’re experiencing it”.

A simple exercise Moyle recommends is “getting in touch with the senses in the shower – listen to the noise, the sensation of the water on your skin, notice any smells, see what the water tastes like, look around you. You’re really encouraging people to try to stay in their bodies, rather than be in their heads. It’s about refocusing their attention on what they can feel right now.”

Ammanda Major, the head of clinical practice at the relationship support organisation Relate, says mindful sex “is about focusing in the moment on what’s going on for you and making sure all the extraneous things get left behind. For example, if you’re being touched by your partner, it’s really focusing on those sensations. People may find themselves very distracted during sex, so this is a way of bringing themselves into their body and being totally aware of themselves in that moment.” It is now part of the standard advice and support Relate offers to clients, she says. “It can feel clunky to start with, but with practice people realise they’re able to engage in mindfulness without realising they’re doing it.” In short, it becomes a way of life. Other than focusing on sensations, people can bring into sex an awareness of “how nice your partner feels, or how nice they smell, or the sound of their voice – something that will bring you right back into the moment. When you have thoughts that distract you, one of the key issues is not to blame yourself, but just to acknowledge it and cast them adrift.”

At the Jane Wadsworth sexual function clinic at St Mary’s hospital in London, mindfulness is used in almost all sexual problems, says David Goldmeier, a clinical lead and consultant in sexual medicine. These approaches have been used in sex therapy since the 50s, but they were not known as mindfulness at the time. The American researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson used a technique called “sensate focus”, emphasising the exploration of physical sensations rather than focusing on the goal of orgasm.

A mindful approach can help men with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. “If you have a man who has an erection problem and is stressed by it, a lot of his mind [during sex] will be worrying: ‘Have I got an erection or not?’” says Goldmeier. It is also used to help men and women who find it hard to orgasm or have low desire, as well as in sexual problems relating to abuse. “In our clinic, we see an awful lot of people with historical sexual abuse and [mindfulness is] a foundation for the trauma therapy they have. It is useful in sexual problems that are based in large part on past sexual abuse,” he says.

Lori Brotto, one of the leading researchers in this area, agrees. In her book Better Sex Through Mindfulness, she wrote of a study she published in 2012, which noted that “teaching sexual abuse survivors to mindfully pay attention to the present moment, to notice their genital sensations and to observe ‘thoughts’ simply as events of the mind, led to marked reductions in their levels of distress during sex”.

Brotto is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and the executive director of the Women’s Health Research Institute in Canada. Having started sex research during her graduate degree, she began studying mindfulness in 2002. Mindfulness-based treatments had been used effectively for people with suicidal tendencies – these ancient techniques started to be used widely in western medicine in the 70s – and Brotto realised they could also be helpful for addressing the sexual concerns of women who had survived cancer. “What struck me was … how the patients I was seeing with suicidal tendencies, who would talk about feeling disconnected from themselves and having a real lack of awareness of their internal sensations, were very similar to the women with sexual concerns,” she says. “At that time, I thought: ‘If mindfulness could be an effective way of staying in the present and helping them manage these out-of-control behaviours, I wonder if it could also be a tool to help women reconnect with their sexual selves and improve their sexual functioning.’”

Sexual problems can be caused by a huge range of factors. Depression and stress can be triggers, as can the side-effects of antidepressants. Over time, these side-effects can become a psychological factor, as people worry that they are no longer sexually responsive. Problems can also be caused by physical conditions such as vaginal pain, or inhibitions and shame about sexual desire, particularly for some women and people in same-sex relationships. Survivors of sexual abuse, who learned to dissociate during an assault, can also experience distressing sexual problems in a later consensual and otherwise happy relationship. “Mindfulness is such a simple practice, but it really addresses many of the reasons why people have sexual concerns,” says Brotto.

At its most basic, she explains, mindfulness is defined as “present-moment nonjudgmental awareness. Each of those three components are critical for healthy sexual function. For a lot of women who report low desire, lack of response and low arousal in particular, all three of those domains are problematic.” Being “present” is critical. “Then there is the nonjudgmental part – countless studies have shown that people who have sexual difficulties tend also to have very negative and catastrophic thoughts: ‘If I don’t respond, my partner will leave me,’ or: ‘If I don’t have an adequate level of desire, I’m broken.’ Mindfulness and paying attention nonjudgmentally is about evoking compassion for yourself.”

Body image issues come up consistently, she says. “Women will often say they prefer to have the lights off, or they’ll redirect their partner’s hands away from the areas of their body they’re not happy with, or they may be worrying that a partner is perceiving their body in a negative way. All of those things serve to remove them from the present moment.”

As for awareness, Brotto says, “lots of data shows us that women, more so than men, tend to be somewhat disconnected from what’s happening in their bodies”. Her experiments have shown that women can experience physical arousal, such as increased blood flow to their vagina, but it barely registers mentally. “There may be a strong physiological response, [but] there’s no awareness in their mind of that response. We know that healthy sexual response requires the integration of the brain and body, so when the mind is elsewhere – whether it’s distracted or consumed with catastrophic thoughts – all of that serves to interrupt that really important feedback loop.”

It can be the same for some men, she says, but “there tends to be more concordance between the body’s arousal and the mind’s arousal. When men have a physical response, they’re also much more likely to have a mental sexual arousal response.”

While working with a group or a sex therapist can be helpful for people with sexual concerns, others can teach themselves mindfulness techniques using books or any number of apps. In her book, Brotto says mindfulness practice can be as simple as focusing on your breath. An exercise she uses involves focusing on a raisin (this is a well-established practice and there are many tutorials online). First, scrutinise it – its shape, size, smell, feel, its ridges and valleys – then put it to your lips and notice your anticipation and salivary response; finally, bite into it and observe, in detail, the taste and texture. This can teach us to focus on sensations and the moment, rather than mindlessly eating a handful of raisins. The same sort of attention can be applied to sex.

In Brotto’s eight-week group programme, people practice mindfulness techniques for 30 minutes each day, followed by a maintenance plan of between 10 and 15 minutes a day. For someone doing it on their own, she recommends starting with 10 minutes a day and trying to include a few 30-minute sessions. “The benefit of a longer practice is you get to deal with things such as boredom and frustration, and physical discomfort in the body, all of which you want to be able to work through,” she says. “A body scan is one of our favourites within the sexuality realm – that involves closing your eyes and really tuning in to the different sensations in different parts of your body and not trying to change anything, just observing. If people can start to do that in their life generally, on a regular basis, they strengthen that mindfulness ‘muscle’ and start to become more aware generally and they can take that newfound awareness into their sexuality.”

When we have better sex, we tend to want more of it, so it becomes a satisfying circle. “Desire is not a fixed level that each one of us has, but rather is adaptive and responsive to our situation,” says Brotto. “When sex is not satisfying, it makes sense that the brain adjusts itself and creates less [desire].”

Mindful sex does not have to be an intense, time-consuming session. “It can be very everyday; it doesn’t have to be a different type of sex,” says Moyle. “You might have sex the same way, in the same position, but you’re in a different headspace, so you’re experiencing it differently. People can think: ‘I’m not into mindfulness,’ or: ‘It’s a bit spiritual and I’m not,’ but it doesn’t have to be that. It can just be really straightforward – focusing your attention and fully experiencing sensations.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Your grandparents are probably having oral sex

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A new study from Michigan State University suggests that older adults may be having more oral sex than you think.

by Korin Miller

It’s easy to assume that once people reach a certain age, their sex lives dwindle to nothing. But the findings of a new study might help turn that belief on its head.

The researchers analyzed data, specifically regarding oral sex, from 884 heterosexual couples between the ages of 62 and 90 who had previously participated in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. And they had some pretty interesting takeaways — including that 37 percent of the people reported having had oral sex in the past year.

The analysis, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Series B, also found that oral sex was linked to relationship quality. Specifically, older adults who reported having better relationship quality gave oral sex to their partner more often than those who rated their relationship quality as less positive. That link was stronger for men than for women.

Receiving oral sex seemed to influence how positively men and women felt about their relationships. Further, the more often a person gave oral sex to his or her partner, the more often the partner reciprocated.

“Stereotypes exist that most older people are sexually inactive or asexual, and that sex is not important for older people,” lead study author Hui Liu, a professor of sociology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “However, emerging evidence has shown that sexuality remains an important part of life and is key to the quality of life and well-being for many older adults.” Liu explains that she wanted to research the topic because “sexuality in later life is an underexplored research area

Sex in general may bring couples closer together, she adds, but “oral sex may play a special role for older couples because many older adults suffer sexual dysfunction problems (which makes penile-vaginal sex challenging for them), but they still want to be sexually intimate and remain close to their partners in old age. And, as the findings suggest, she says, oral sex may be “an alternate way to maintain an active sexual life, a high-quality relationship, and psychological vibrancy

The study also found that men seemed to get more relationship satisfaction from giving, rather than receiving, oral sex. And that’s not surprising to David Ley, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sexuality issues. “A consistent finding in sexual research is that men gain a sense of masculinity, satisfaction, and pride from being able to give their female partner an orgasm and sexual pleasure,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I suspect this foundation may underlie these results, as a man who cares more about his partner, their relationship, and her pleasure is more likely to be willing to perform oral sex, focusing on her own needs. In other words, it’s easier to be sexually selfless when you feel good about your relationship and partner.”

Still, Ley assures, older couples who don’t practice oral sex shouldn’t worry that it will affect their relationship satisfaction. “Remember that 63 percent of these elderly couples aren’t having oral sex,” he says. “Couples with higher levels of sexual dysfunction, including erectile issues or problems with vaginal lubrication, were more likely to practice oral sex. So not having oral sex might just mean that intercourse is working just fine.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships

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By Samantha Cooney

Polyamory — having more than one consensual sexual or emotional relationship at once — has in recent years emerged on television, mainstream dating sites like OkCupid and even in research. And experts who have studied these kinds of consensual non-monogomous relationships, say they have unique strengths that anyone can learn from.

Consensual non-monogamy can include polyamory, swinging and other forms of open relationships, according to Terri Conley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied consensual non-monogamy. While there aren’t comprehensive statistics about how many people in America have polyamorous relationships, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five people in the U.S. engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy throughout their lives.

But these relationships can still be shrouded in stigma. And people in polyamorous relationships often keep them a secret from friends and family.

“Often they’re scared of losing their jobs, not getting a job, losing family or friends who won’t respect them anymore or scared that their children will be taken away,” says Carrie Jenkins, a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia and the author of What Love Is: And What It Could Be.

But Jenkins, who participates in polyamorous relationships herself, cautions that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to relationships. “One impression that I don’t want to give is that I think polyamorous relationships are better for everyone,” she says. “We’re all very different from one another.”

Still, experts who study relationships say polyamorous relationships can provide useful lessons for monogamous couples. Here are a few areas where, researchers say, polyamorous couples are particularly successful:

Communication

Successful monogamous relationships require communication about desires, needs and problems, says Joanne Davila, a professor of clinical psychology at Stony Brook University who studies monogamous relationships. And this is one area where polyamorous couples excel.

A May 2017 study published in PLOS One noted that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships communicate to “negotiate agreements, schedules, and boundaries, and to work through the kinds of problems that emerge when negotiating polyamory, amongst the typical relational problems that can emerge in any relationship.” The study found that polyamorous individuals tend to communicate better with their primary partner than secondary partners — because “greater communication may be necessary for primary relationships to endure while other relationships are pursued.”

This is one area particularly relevant to monogamous couples, according to Benjamin Karney, a professor of social psychology at UCLA who researches monogamous relationships. “I don’t see studying non-monogamous couples as studying a totally separate country with no relevance to monogamy at all,” he says. “Consensually non-monogamous couples might have a lot to teach everybody about negotiating desire and competing interests.”

Defining the relationship

Polyamorous partners often define boundaries and form agreements about what each relationship should look like, and Conley says these agreements can be beneficial to monogamous relationships, where partners might assume they’re on the same page about what monogamy means.

When deciding to enter a relationship, “there might be a conversation beyond that about what that means: does it mean we’re monogamous? What does it mean to be monogamous?” Conley says. “For some people, even mere thoughts of attraction to someone else can be defined as cheating. For other people, anything but intercourse is OK.”

Polyamorous relationships can take many different forms. Sometimes, partners will know each other and form a family-like network sometimes called “kitchen table polyamory“, according to Kate Kincaid, a psychologist at Tucson Counseling Associates who works with polyamorous couples. Another style, known as “parallel polyamory,” means that all of the partners are aware of each other, but have little to no contact, Kincaid explains.

Kincaid says that she works with couples to figure out which model is best for them — though she often recommends kitchen table polyamory because it’s often more efficient for all parties to communicate directly. She says that one of the biggest challenges she encounters with polyamorous couples is time management.

“Everyone jokes that love is not a finite resource, but time is,” Kincaid says. “You can have multiple partners you want to see a lot — you have to negotiate time and space to do that.”

Practicing safe sex

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that individuals in polyamorous relationships were more likely to practice safe sex than those who cheat in monogamous relationships. The study showed that monogamous individuals often consider monogamy a safe sex practice in and of itself, so “sexually unfaithful individuals may reject safer sex strategies because of the presence of a stable relationship.”

Kincaid says that she works with clients to fill out a questionnaire about what sexual acts they’d be comfortable with them doing with other partners to make sure they’re on the same page. Amy Moors, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University who conducted the 2012 study with Conley, says consensually non-monogamous couples often make explicit agreements with partners to use condoms and get information about STI history with each new partner.

“They have to navigate the sexual health of a bunch of people,” Moors says. “Implicit in that is that there’s very clear conversations about sexual health that are happening in consensual non-monogamous relationships that may not be happening in monogamous relationships.”

But in monogamous relationships, couples often “stop using condoms as a covert message of intimacy: now, we’re really dating,” Moors says. But if a monogamous individual decides to cheat on their partner, there’s no guarantee he or she will practice safe sex.

Managing jealousy

You might think that having multiple romantic partners would elicit more jealousy than being in a monogamous relationship. But according to a a 2017 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, that’s not necessarily the case.

The study, which surveyed 1,507 people in monogamous relationships and 617 people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, found that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, including those who engaged in polyamory and swinging, scored lower on jealousy and higher on trust than those in monogamous relationships.

“People in monogamous relationships were really off the charts high on jealousy. They were more likely to check their partners’ phones, go through their emails, their handbags,” Moors says. “But people in consensual non-monogamous relationships were really low on this.”

Davila, who also works as a couples therapist, says that she’s observed monogamous couples avoid addressing jealousy altogether, whereas consensual non-monogamous couples might be more vocal with their feelings. “In consensual non-monogamous relationships, jealousy is expected,” Davila says. “But they see what feelings arise and actively work to navigate them in a proactive way.”

Maintaining a sense of independence

Another area where polyamorous couples tend to excel, according to Kincaid, is allowing their partners to maintain a sense of independence outside of their relationship. Conley and Moors found in their 2017 study that monogamous couples are more likely to sacrifice their own needs for the sake of their relationship, while polyamorous couples put their own personal fulfillment first.

“The biggest thing that I appreciate about poly people is that they focus on knowing what their needs are and get their needs met in creative ways — relying more on friends or multiple partners instead of putting it all on one person,” Kincaid says. “Once [monogamists] get into a relationship, they tend to value their romantic partner above everyone else.”

She suggests that doing the former allows your relationships to be deeper and can enable you to get a lot more support from your loved ones.

Karney says that he could also see how having your needs met by others might strengthen consensual non-monogamous relationships.

“If we’re a married monogamous couple, we have to figure out what to do about our problems. We’re either going to avoid them, resolve them or break up,” Karney says. “But if I’m in a non-monogamous relationship and I have the same problem, I might not have to resolve it if I’m not getting all my needs met from you.”

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Amazing Women Who Made It Easier For You To Have Sex

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By Kasandra Brabaw

Sunday, August 26, marked the 98th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which officially granted women the right to vote. And as we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, which August 26th is known as now, we think about those incredible women who fought for our right to vote and won. Often, we also think of women who fought (and are continuing to fight) for women’s equality in the workplace. But, there’s another kind of equality that we can thank brave women for: sexual equality.

Without the tireless work of some badass women in history, single women would still be expected to be celibate. We wouldn’t have access to the birth control that makes it safe for us to have sex without fear of pregnancy. And we’d probably still think women can only orgasm when someone sticks a penis inside of them (although, some people really do still think that). So, let’s raise a glass to the women who made it okay for us to have as much (or as little) sex as we want.

Ahead, we celebrate 7 of the women who pioneered conversations about sexuality and sexual health.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940)

Emma Goldman

In 1917 a U.S. Attorney General wrote, “Emma Goldman is a woman of great ability and of personal magnetism, and her persuasive powers make her an exceedingly dangerous woman.” Goldman gained a reputation for being “exceedingly dangerous” partly for spreading the idea that women should have access to birth control. She was also a hardcore anarchist who spoke with such firey passion that the man who assassinated President William McKinley in 1901 credited one of Goldman’s lectures as the inspiration. So, you know, that could also be part of it.

Perhaps because her lectures were so “inspirational,” Goldman was frequently harassed and arrested while speaking about radical reform. So, she worked with the first Free Speech League to insist that all Americans have a right to speech, no matter how radical or controversial.

Although she was active during the time of first-wave feminism, Goldman shunned the suffrage movement and instead called herself an anarchist. She held lectures on politically unpopular ideas like free love, atheism, capitalism, and homosexuality. After Margaret Sanger, who coined the term “birth control,” printed information about contraceptives in a pamphlet called Family Limitation, Goldman took it upon herself to make sure people had access to the information. She distributed the pamphlet and in 1915 went on a nationwide speaking tour to raise awareness about birth control options. In 1916, she was arrested outside of one of her lectures under the Comstock Law, which prohibited the dissemination of “obscene, lewd, or lascivious articles.” She spent two weeks in prison.

Goldman was deported back to her native Russia in 1919.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

Margaret Sanger

In addition to creating the birth control pamphlet that got Emma Goldman arrested, Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood, along with her sister Ethel Byrne and fellow-activist Fania Mindell.

Sanger’s mother died at 50-years-old, partly due to complications from delivering 11 babies and having 7 miscarriages. Inspired by her mother’s pregnancy struggles, Sanger went to Europe to study contraceptive methods, even though educating people about birth control was illegal in the U.S. at the time.

When she came back to the U.S., Sanger was frequently arrested under the Comstock Law for distributing “obscene, lewd, or lascivious articles.” In 1912, she wrote What Every Girl Should Know, in which she argues that both mothers and teachers should clearly explain sexual anatomy in order to rid children of shame about sex. She wrote: “Every girl should first understand herself: she should know her anatomy, including sex anatomy.” (Preach.)

Two years later, Sanger wrote Family Limitations, an instructional pamphlet in which she coined the term “birth control.” And two years after that, Sanger, Byrne, and Mindell opened the country’s first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which the police shut down only nine days later. Sanger spent 30 days in jail after the Brownsville clinic was raided (where she instructed the inmates about birth control).

In 1923, Sanger opened the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau to distribute birth control to women and to study the long-term effectiveness and side effects of contraceptives. She also incorporated the American Birth Control League, an organization that studied global impacts of population growth, disarmament, and famine. Eventually, the two groups merged to become what we now know as Planned Parenthood. Sanger continued to fight for contraceptive rights and sexual freedom along with other birth control activists, and in 1936 their efforts led to a court ruling that using and talking about birth control would no longer be considered obscene. Legally, birth control information could be distributed in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. It took another 30 years for those rights to be extended to the rest of the country (but birth control was still only legal for married couples until the 1970s).

Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012)

Helen Gurley Brown

In 1962, when birth control was still illegal in most states for anyone who wasn’t married, Helen Gurley Brown wrote Sex And The Single Girl, a book that argued for single women’s right to have as much sex as they wanted. (The book later inspired a 1964 movie.) At the time, many publishers rejected the book for being too provocative, because it did such scandalous things as encouraging women to pursue men, and suggesting that women actually enjoyed sex (gasp!). When the book eventually was picked up, the publishers omitted a chapter dedicated to birth control. So unmarried women at the time could have sex, they just couldn’t know how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies.

Three years after her book published, Gurley Brown became Editor-In-Chief of Cosmopolitan. But the magazine many now associate with brazen sex advice wasn’t so risque back then. And although the staff at the time was not thrilled with her message, it was Gurley Brown’s influence that turned Cosmo into the go-to mag for learning how to please your man.

Virginia E. Johnson (1925-2013)

If you’ve watched Masters Of Sex, then you’re already familiar with Virginia Johnson’s story. Johnson was first the research assistant for and later wife to William H. Masters, a gynecologist and sex researcher. Together, the two studied sexual responses in hundreds of men and women and published groundbreaking studies that transformed how people understood sexuality.

Many of their participants credited Johnson’s warm and encouraging nature as the reason they felt comfortable enough to participate in Master’s studies (which often required them to masturbate or have sex while hooked up to machines that registered heart rate and other bodily functions). Although Johnson never finished her degree, she’s considered a sexologist for her help in Master’s work. Often, it was her who collected patients’ sexual histories and recorded data as they became sexually aroused.

Masters and Johnson made several important discoveries in their work, many of which broke negative assumptions about how women experience sex. In their 1966 book Human Sexual Response, they established that the clitoris is essential for women to have orgasms and that women can have multiple orgasms during a single sexual experience. After their book was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, it became a bestseller, making it common for people to say words like “clitoris,” “orgasm,” and “masturbation,” for the first time.

In 1964, Masters and Johnson founded the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (later the Masters and Johnson Institute), where they treated sexual dysfunction until the institute closed in 1994.

Joani Blank (1937-2016)

Anytime you pass a sex toy shop with large glass windows that proudly displays dildos, vibrators, and butt plugs instead of hiding them under seedy lighting, you can thank Joani Blank. In 1977, she founded the first Good Vibrations store, a feminist-leaning sex toy shop and one of the first to be run by a woman.

Blank had noticed that all of the sex toy shops she’d encountered reeked of men. The windows were covered, as if you should be ashamed of the products inside, and often, there would be men watching porn at quarter-operated booths once you got inside. It was a hostile space for women. “Over and over, women would say they were afraid to go into one of those places,” Carol Queen, the staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, said in Blank’s obituary.

Prior to opening Good Vibrations, Blank was working at UCSF’s medical school with women who struggled to have orgasms. She encouraged them to try vibrators. And her experiences with these women also informed her plans for the sex toy shop. In addition to having a place that felt safe for women, she wanted to train her staff to be able to answer questions about sex and sexual health. She wanted her customers and her staff to be able to have frank conversations about sex. It was all in an effort to take some of the shame and stigma out of having sex, especially for women.

Loretta Ross (1953-present)

Anytime you’ve ever used the term “reproductive justice,” that was because of Loretta Ross. Ross coined the phrase in 1994 following the International Conference on Population and Development.

Ross is co-founder of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, which organizes women of color in the reproductive rights movement. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of social justice and on building a human rights movement that includes everyone. She was co-director of the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, the largest protest march at the time, which saw 1.15 million people gather to advocate for abortion rights, birth control access, and reproductive healthcare.

Ross also started the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s, where she brought delegations of women of color to international conferences on women’s issues and human rights. In the 1970s, she became one of the first African American women to direct a rape crises center.

Complete Article HERE!

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So You Want More Sex but Don’t Want to Hurt Your Partner’s Feelings…

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By Courtney Kocak

If you’ve been in a sexually intimate relationship for longer than a year, chances are you’ve experienced being in the mood when your partner isn’t—or vice versa. Having unequal libidos, at least occasionally, is a super-common long-term relationship issue.

My boyfriend and I just celebrated our two-year anniversary. It’s the best relationship I’ve ever been in by far, and I love him to pieces, but there’s no doubt about it: Sex columns (and columnists) imitate life. Just ask Carrie Bradshaw.

So I reached out to a few of my favorite sexperts for their advice on how to solve this common quandary. How do you ask for more sex… without hurting your partner’s feelings?

1. Talk about it.

“First of all, stop worrying about hurting your lover’s feelings when asking for more sex,” says certified sexologist and couples’ counselor Anka Radakovich. While it’s important to be kind to your partner while discussing any sensitive topic (more on this in a minute), mismatched sexual desire is a common problem with couples, especially in long-term relationships where needs and desires can change over time. Radakovich stresses that the important thing is to talk about it. “Never be afraid or ashamed of discussing sex with the person you’re having sex with!”

Emily Morse, sexologist and host of the Sex With Emily podcast, agrees that communicating your desires and preferences is key. “Relationships are full of compromises, and your sex life is no different,” she points out. “In fact, many couples aren’t on the same sex schedule, but there’s no reason you can’t let it be known that it’s important to you.”

Radakovich warns that failing to address it will only breed resentment, which happens to be one of the biggest relationship killers out there. Who knows, your partner might tell you that they are completely stressed by a work situation or confess that they’ve been dealing with another issue that you didn’t even know about—the only way to find out is to talk about it.

2. Have the convo IRL, if possible.

“As uncomfortable as it may be, having a face-to-face conversation with your partner is the best way to go,” says sex researcher and neuroscientist Debra W. Soh, Ph.D. “Delivery is everything,” she says, noting that it’s a good idea to introduce the subject when neither of you is feeling rushed.

Radakovich agrees “Bring up the subject when both of you are relaxed and happy,” she says. “Or take a tip from the swinger crowd: Give them a nice back massage. Swingers know how to relax people… including other people’s wives,” she jokes. But it’s a seriously good tip! “A massage will relax anyone, creates intimacy, and the next thing you know, they might be down—or up!—for some long-awaited sex.”

3. Give the good news first.

This one’s extra important: You don’t want to put your partner on the defensive. To this end, Soh suggests starting off on a positive note by talking about what you like about your sex life. Besides, conjuring up some erotic memories might be just what the doctor ordered to help get your partner in the mood.

4. Speak for yourself.

Soh also recommends using “I” statements as another anti-defensive measure and all-around good relationship practice to get into so that your partner doesn’t feel like you are placing blame on them.

“My No. 1 tip when it comes to talking about sex in general without hurting your partner’s feelings is to make sure you’re not putting them on the defensive by blaming them,” Morse says. “Rather than saying, ‘You never want to have sex,’ or ‘We never have sex,’ lead with why you feel like having more sex would be beneficial for both of you.”

When your interests are aligned, you’re definitely more likely to get an outcome that both of you are psyched about—and then you can build a habit or routine based on that positive feedback loop.

5. Ask about your partner’s preferences.

Finding that alignment can come from discovering what would enhance your partner’s experience, Morse says.

“If your partner never seems in the mood, ask them what makes them feel sexy, what times of day they prefer to have sex, or which ways they would like you to initiate,” she says. “Even if it comes down to setting the alarm a few minutes earlier in the morning or setting up sex dates, at least you’re working toward a more satisfying, sexier solution.”

6. Be specific about your wants.

Because clarity is crucial when you’re trying to suss out relationship discrepancies, Soh encourages you to be as specific as possible about exactly what kind of sex you want to be having—and how often.

“Sex is such a huge part of our lives, and it’s important to feel fulfilled,” she reminds us. “If it isn’t a topic you usually talk about, doing so will hopefully open up the dialogue so that your partner will feel comfortable telling you about any concerns they have too.”

7. Find a win-win solution.

Ultimately, Morse advises sex-thirsting partners to proceed with a spirit of empathy and cooperation. “Tell them how much you love feeling close and intimate with them and how you could work together to make sure you’re both getting your needs met.”

This advice reminded me of the wisdom How to Keep Your Marriage From Sucking author Amiira Ruotola dropped on a recent episode of my podcast, “At the end of the day, it’s not like one of you gets to win. You either both win or you both lose.”

So use these tips to talk to your partner about how to achieve a sex life that works for you both… I know I will.

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A Professional Dominatrix’s Advice For Powering Up Your Sex Life

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A professional Dominatrix explains how a trip to the dungeon can help average couples enhance their sex lives.

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It’s been said that every hopeful needs a mentor, and it may be so. But when it comes to sex, there’s not a lot of hierarchy around to guide you. Unless, of course, you look to the professionals. Mistress Justine Cross has been a professional BDSM consultant and lifestyle Dominatrix for more than a decade. In that span, she’s helped a lot of individuals bring their deep-seated fantasies to life. More recently, however, she expanded her practice to include a new demographic of potential clients: married couples. She brings couples down to her dungeon and offers them tips, tricks, and a little bit of rough treatment. Considering how one of the most popular sexual fantasies in America is BDSM, it’s a smart business move. We spoke to Cross about what the dungeon can teach these duos about intimacy, communication, and good sex.

Booking an appointment with a professional Dominatrix seems like a pretty extreme move, especially to the pedestrians out there. What could regular couples gain from a trip to the dungeon?

I think heterosexual couples tend to have one idea of what sex is and why it needs to be a certain way. BDSM allows you to explore things that fall outside of the standard penis-in-vagina sex. There are other intimate things to do. I do consultations with people who want me to talk them through different dynamics and role-plays. Other times, I introduce couples to some new moves. I teach them how to tie each other up, or how to hit someone without hurting them. I’m there to spice things up for them. I’m there to make things more fun.

How often do they come back for more?

I get some repeat clients. It’s not usually something they do all the time. It’s kind of a special occasion thing. I get a lot of birthdays and anniversaries. A lot of women come in on their own, too. They want to learn about BDSM and bring home some skills to surprise their husbands with.

Sex is a pretty intimate process. Why would a committed couple want to bring a third person into the mix?

When there are two people, there’s no referee. I kind of act as a mediator. I get to see what the dynamic is between the couple, and then I get to call them on their shit. Sometimes one partner is trying to communicate something but the other isn’t listening. That’s when I get to tell them to shut up and let their partner talk. I can also be nicer than that. But, basically, the goal is to give both people what they want in a way where they can both be seen and heard. I also leave some time towards the end of the session for couples to be alone. It’s important for them to reconnect within the space without me there.

Sexy stuff aside, how can this kind of experience bring couples closer together?

Well, it’s kind of weird coming in here. I mean, a lot of people come in excited, but it is kind of weird, if you think about it. You’re about to go into this dungeon located in a strange part of town, where you’re going to take off your clothes and this tall, mean, and beautiful woman is going to do things to you. I mean it’s exciting, but also scary and weird as hell. It’s definitely different from going to pick up the dry-cleaning together. It’s a different kind of adventure.

Which BDSM staple would you most recommend couples adopt?

Communication. I’m always trying to get couples to really express what they like, and what they don’t. It’s important to have an idea as to what those things might be. Sometimes people spend a long time fantasizing about a certain scene, or a certain kind of sex that they want to have, and then realize it’s not actually for them. It’s important to recognize why they didn’t enjoy it, what they might want to change, and how they might want to experiment in the future. It’s important to give yourself room to make mistakes. You might not know what your limit is until you meet it. Being able to talk about it is what makes people feel safe.

Are there any common requests you get from couples?

With heterosexual couples, the guy is often put in the dominant position. But some guys want to switch it up. If their partner is also submissive, I can top both of them. Or maybe I’ll co-top one of them alongside their partner. There are a lot of different ways it can play out. I just cater to the couple in terms of what they want.

Is there anything else the dungeon can teach us about a healthy approach to sex?

I think it’s important to remember that sex can also be funny. It’s important to be able to laugh. Maybe you have a whole scene mapped out in your head, but you trip and fall in the middle of it all. It’s ok to laugh about it, even if your partner is tied up across the room. You have to give yourself room to make mistakes.

 

Most people become parents as a result of having had sex. At the same time, “parenthood” and “sex” aren’t exactly considered compliments. How do you think BDSM can help bridge the gap?

When people have sex, there’s really no plan. But BDSM scenes are very directed. You can put together a checklist of things you want to happen, or don’t want to happen. It’s like, ‘I have an hour to play with you, and it’s going to run this way.’ It can be very convenient when you’re on a schedule. You know you’re getting your carnal needs met in this specific way, in this specific time window of time. You get to look forward to it. And that’s an approach you can apply to more vanilla scenarios as well. People don’t really schedule sex as much as they maybe should. They think it should always be spontaneous. But that’s just not reality. It’s not a bad idea to have some kind of arrangement in place. Especially after kids.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Have ‘The Talk’ With Your Queer Kid

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By Kate Ryan

I never had The Talk with my parents. We shared the assumption I was having safe, straight sex because I never suggested to them I was doing anything otherwise. So, you can imagine their surprise when I came out as queer at the age of 26. After spending the day in downtown Los Angeles for the Day Without a Woman strike, I’d come home overheated and exhausted. I didn’t expect to open up to my mom when she called and I picked up the phone. When she pressed me for a reason why I was breaking up with my boyfriend of five years, I hadn’t intended to blurt out, “I’m gay.” But that’s exactly what I did.

All she said at first was, “Oh.” A moment passed. Then another. I lay on my bed staring at cracks in the ceiling’s ancient plaster. At last, she said, “That makes sense.”

Even though my mom has been talking about wanting grandchildren since I was old enough to understand reproduction as a concept, as a family, we never talked about the intersection of sex, identity, and relationships—or intimacy at all for that matter. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood how isolating this lack of open communication had been, how my parents’ assumptions—though rarely vocalized and largely invisible—weighed me down with expectations that made me feel strange and alone when I couldn’t conform.

The messages we don’t receive as kids end up being just as important as those we do. I get that talking to kids about sex can sometimes feel like threading needles with your eyes closed, but for me, having any kind of discussion about the sexual spectrum would’ve been enormously helpful. After talking to friends and experts, I’ve gathered some ways that straight parents can connect with their kids in a way that allows for safe sexual exploration and expression, despite their fears and discomfort.

Pay Attention to How You Talk About Gender

When talking to a queer kid—or any kid for that matter—avoid gendering your language. For instance, instead of speaking in terms of future husbands and wives, refer to future partners and gender-neutral spouses. Ask your kids if they’re crushing on any people at school as opposed to boys or girls. Kids are better at picking up on subtext than we give them credit for, making these small shifts in language incredibly important. While it wasn’t her intention, all my mom’s talk about grandchildren made me feel guilty for entertaining any dreams beyond marrying a man and raising children.

React Without Judgment

“Children will open up about their feelings only if they feel safe doing so,” says Dr. Ron Holt, a psychiatrist and author of PRIDE: You Can’t Heal If You’re Hiding from Yourself. “Using open-ended questions and following their lead is the best way to lead to a healthy and honest discussion about their sexuality.” If your kid mentions that they like someone of the same sex, react nonjudgmentally and and accept that your kid’s feelings or attractions are real and valid. It’s all too common for queer kids to try to ignore their sexual preferences because a parent told them their same-sex attractions were just a phase or a normal part of being straight.

Exploring romantic relationships can be stressful at any age, and for queer kids, there can be the added pressure of having to clearly define their sexuality. Parents can lessen this burden by reassuring their kids the door is always open when it comes to matters of sex, sexuality, and identity. In households where this is the case, “children are much more likely to come to their parents when they are ready to discuss,” Dr. Holt says.

Go Beyond Mere Acceptance

It’s also worth going out of your way to let your kids know queerness is not just normal but something to be celebrated. In a discussion with Jason Black, a producer and LGBTQ activist, he stressed this point, telling me it’s about time we take the discussion beyond “If you’re gay, it’s OK” to something more along the lines of, “If you like a guy, or a girl, or both, here’s how to be safe and respectful of both yourself and that other person.” This is another way parents can pivot away from the misconception cisgendered heterosexuality is the default setting rather than one point on a vast spectrum, while also setting up a larger conversation about respect and consent.

Make It an Ongoing Conversation

While puberty is a classic time to open up the discussion about sex, you can softly start to approach the subject earlier depending on your kid and how curious they are about sex and identity. In Dr. Holt’s mind, there isn’t a wrong time to go about it, as long as you’re rising to the occasion when your child needs you for support and honest advice.

As a culture, we tend to think of it as one big discussion in which all questions are brought to the table and answered factory-line style. In reality, ongoing, casual conversations would be more helpful and less intimidating for both kids and parents—no matter where they fall on the sexual spectrum. There are plenty of online resources to help you out along the way. The CDC has tons of information for LGBTQ youth, as does PFLAG, an organization founded specifically for parents, friends, and allies of the LGBTQ community.

Don’t Worry About Getting Everything ‘Right’

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that straight parents can feel reassured knowing their love and willingness to learn mean more than their ability to master queer terminology. That day I came out to my mom, she told me I was like Julia Roberts in the seminal, egg-sampling scene from Runaway Bride. For those who can’t immediately conjure this scene, Roberts makes and eats eggs using every technique you can imagine after realizing she failed to form opinions of her own in a relentless quest to appease the men in her life. “You need to try all the eggs to know which kind you like,” my mom said, and despite the somewhat grotesque imagery, I knew she was listening and I was loved. Ultimately, that’s what counts.

Complete Article HERE!

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This is how you should be cleaning your sex toys

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If you own them, you should know how to clean sex toys. But don’t be so sure that soapy, hot water soak is rinsing away all the nasty bacteria and germs you left behind – especially if your toy(s) have a lot of grooves and crevices. So how do you clean your sex toys, ya know, the right way? Don’t worry, I’m about to spell it out for ya.

But before I get to that, first things first. If you’re looking to not only sanitize your vibes and dildos but keep them in pristine condition as well, then you’ll need to know what they’re made of. Knowledge of the materials used in your favorite toys and whether they’re porous or nonporous is not only imperative for your own health, but for the longevity of your device as well.

Why we need to regularly clean our sex toys

For safety’s sake, here’s a rundown of suggested sex toy materials. Anything else, quite frankly, not only makes for super low-quality toys, but toxic ones too.

  • Silicone
  • Glass
  • ABS hard plastic
  • Metal
  • Wood and stone

So what do you do with your jelly dick(s)? I suggest throwing them out, as not even a condom can provide adequate protection from the harsh chemicals (like phthalates) it’s loaded with. That being said, I’m also not one for policing what people do with their bodies, so if you find yourself too attached to the gadget to toss it, using it won’t kill you.

That said, not everybody knows that sex toys can encourage bacteria growth which leads to infections, and even transmit certain STIs – regardless of whether they’re made of something porous or not.

P.S. if you’re in the habit of sharing porous sex toys (or the squishy toys that are usually designed with an elastomer, TPR/TPE, PVC, jelly, rubber, vinyl or Cyberskin) you should be doing so with a condom. Since they’re porous, they’re nearly impossible to completely disinfect. Which means if your toy has been exposed to harmful bacteria, there’s still a risk that you could become infected even after you scrubbed it down.

How to clean sex toys the right way

Step 1: Sanitizing

Woo-hoo, we made it to the good stuff! As I mentioned earlier in the piece, you can use a mild soap and hot water to clean most silicone, glass, stainless steel and wood accessories. But just dousing it in your choice of mild, fragrance-free soap and running it under water isn’t going to wash away bacteria, dust, lube or any other miscellaneous residues. The trick is to really lather up the soap before rinsing it off with hot water.

Our recommendations: 365 Everyday Value fragrance-free hand soap ($4.99 via Amazon) and Clearly Natural Essentials Unscented ($12.20 via Amazon) 

If your toy is designed with something super durable (like pyrex, silicone, stainless steel, or stone) you can just throw it in a pot with some boiling water and let it do its thing in there for a few minutes. This is probably your best bet at achieving a deep-clean, so if you’re sharing toys with a partner (or a few) this is my top recommended method to disinfect them.

I already know what you’re thinking: “Does this mean I can wash my sex toys in the dishwasher?” The quick answer: some yes, others no. Remember that scene from Broad City when Abby put her neighbor’s strap-on in the dishwasher and destroyed it? Well, that idea isn’t as far-fetched as you’d like it to be. Refer to the care instructions that came with your toy regarding heat and water temperature. But if you do choose to use the dishwasher, don’t load it with dish soap!

Additionally, it’s really important to note that not all sex gizmos can be immersed in water. Motorized devices (like ones with batteries or an attached cord) and other non-waterproof toys can never be submerged, ever. So save yourself the heartbreak of unintentionally slaying a cherished friend, and keep these toys out of the water while you clean them. You can do this by grabbing a clean, damp washcloth, soaping it up and wiping down the toy. Or you could just invest in one of the many sprays or cleaning wipes designed for this very situation.

Our recommendations:  HoneyDew’s Antibacterial toy cleaner ($8.95 via Amazon) LELO Antibacterial Cleaning Spray ($9.90 via LELO).

Looking to clean just acc-sexories like leather whips, leashes, and paddles? Easy! Just wipe ’em down with a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution and they’ll be as clean as the day you got them.

Step 2: Drying

Exactly like after you bathe yourself, your butt plugs and disembodied coochies need a clean towel to dry off with. And we emphasize the clean part because damp, used towels are a breeding ground for gross bacteria. And while leaving your toys out to air dry is ok for some, it’s detrimental for others. Why? Well, when left damp, hard to reach spaces, nooks, and crannies all serve as a welcome mat for rather unwelcome bacteria. Meaning all the cleaning you just did will be overcome with mold and mildew if not dried completely.

Our recommendations: BONDRE Microfiber face towels ($9.99, Amazon) 

Step 3: Storing

This step may surprise you – hell, you’re probably surprised it’s even a step. But as it turns out, storing your vibrator loose in your bedside drawer isn’t the greatest idea. Think about it: how often do you get in there and scrub that drawer? Probably never. So instead of just letting that bad boy freestyle in your nightstand, you can either keep it in its original packaging or get it its own robe.

Our recommendations: Blush Novelties Antibacterial Toy Bag ($8.99+, Amazon) and the lockable toy box by BMS ($26, Amazon) 

How often you should be washing your sex toys

And finally, the question we should all know the answer to: “How often do my dildos need to be sanitized?” Ideally, before AND after each use. But we know just how spur of the moment passion can be, so if you only wash your toys after you use them, you’ll probably live to see another orgasm.

Complete Article HERE!

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America’s Sexual Fantasies Laid Bare in New Book

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Author Justin Lehmiller calls it the most comprehensive survey of America’s sexual fantasies.

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Ever fantasized about a politician naked? How about a threesome involving a coworker and your partner? Ever considered what it would be like to take a robot to bed?

There’s at least one man in America who wouldn’t bat an eye if you answered yes to every single question. His name is Dr. Justin Lehmiller.

A social psychologist with credentials from Villanova and Purdue University, Lehmiller spent time as a lecturer at some of the best universities in the country, including Harvard, before publishing his brand new book, Tell Me What You Want.

The tome delves into a comprehensive study he conducted several years ago into what exactly Americans are fantasizing about — and the results don’t just give insight into the secret desires of a person’s neighbors, friends and coworkers. They also reveal something about the individual.

“I think the book is important for a couple of reasons,” Lehmiller told RealClearLife in a recent phone interview. “One is from a research perspective, because the last major review paper on sexual fantasies in scientific literature was published in 1995, and a lot has changed in our sex lives since then. I wanted to look at sexual fantasies today, how pornography use is connected to our sexual fantasies — given the increasingly availability of porn in our every day lives — [and I] also wanted to look at questions that had never been answered before, such as how we see ourselves in our sexual fantasies, and what that means.”

What does it mean?

For one, if you fantasize about something — no matter how seemingly obscure or “out there” it is — you likely aren’t alone, even if there aren’t a huge number of people who share your taste.

“A lot of people feel a lot of shame and guilt about their sexual fantasies, and I wanted people to better understand just how common most of their sexual fantasies are,” Lehmiller said. “So this was in some ways an attempt to normalize people’s fantasies, which would allow them to have an easier time talking about those fantasies with a partner, and maybe even acting on some of those fantasies.”

So what exact fantasies are we talking about here?

“I [asked] people whether they had ever fantasized about politicians, and what I found was that political fantasies were not very common,” Lehmiller said. “I don’t remember the exact number, but it was a relatively small number of people. People were much more likely to have fantasized about a celebrity or porn star. I don’t know exactly why that is, but one of the things that I thought was interesting was that heterosexual men — their biggest political fantasy was about Sarah Palin. For women, their biggest sexual fantasies about politicians were about Barack Obama and JFK, and Bill Clinton.”

Here’s another thing we learned from Lehmiller’s work: A person’s personality can have an impact on what they fantasize about. For example, if you’re generally an agreeable person — meaning you’re kind, considerate, and want to make other people happy — you’re less likely to fantasize about infidelity or emotionless sex, according to Lehmiller. You also care about the satisfaction your partner is receiving in bed — so messing around with, say, a robot, is less likely to rank high on your “to-do” list. On the other hand, if you have a high degree of intellectual curiosity and an active imagination, you might be more likely to seek out a machine with benefits.

“Fourteen percent of my participants said they’d fantasized about having sex with a robot before — that suggests that a fair number of people are probably open to that idea,” Lehmiller said. “The real question I think is whether, when they start creating these sex robots, what budget they’ll be made for — so whether that’s actually an attainable fantasy for people, that they could actually act on, I don’t know.”

So does all this normalization mean, one should immediately go and blab about all their fantasies to their partner?

“While there are potential benefits, there are ways that acting and sharing these fantasies can potentially harm us or our relationships, so we need to be very careful when approaching this subject,” Lehmiller said. “I try to lay out in the book a lot of suggestions and guidelines that people might want to take into account for sharing and acting on their fantasies in a safe, healthy and consensual way.

“The more comfortable we can all get communicating about sex, the more we all stand to benefit.”

Excerpts from Lehmiller’s book below, in which he reveals some of the most common sexual fantasies he came across in his research, shows that many people’s imaginations overlap:

“By far, the most common taboo activity Americans fantasize about is voyeurism. What we’re talking about here is the desire to watch other people undress or have sex without their knowledge or consent. Believe it or not, most of my participants (60 percent) reported having fantasized about this before! The point of voyeurism fantasies is to observe others without being seen. For example, one straight man in his fifties described his voyeurism fantasy as “being unnoticed and anonymously watching beautiful naked women masturbating.” “Spying” would therefore be another way to think about this.”

But there are also other impulses that are common:

“Fetishes are another popular taboo that appears in many Americans’ sexual fantasies. In fact, nearly half of the Americans I surveyed (45 percent) reported that they fantasize about fetish objects— objects that one relies on for feelings of sexual arousal. When this object is present during sex or masturbation, one typically has an easier time becoming and staying aroused and reaching orgasm. Some fetishes are very mild, meaning that the object isn’t absolutely necessary for one to enjoy sex. However, other fetishes are more intense, in the sense that one’s ability to become aroused and enjoy sex just isn’t the same in the absence of that fetish object. People can have fetishes for virtually anything. Among the more unusual ones I’ve read about are cars, dirt, and medical devices.”

“Following closely on the heels of fetishism in popularity was exhibitionism, which involves exposing one’s genitals or engaging in a sex act while others look on. There are really two types of exhibitionism that differ based on the desired reaction of others to what you’re, um, “exhibiting”: Do they want to see it, in which case they’ll enjoy the show? Or are you planning to take them by surprise, in which case they’ll likely be shocked or offended? The former—consensual exhibitionism—was about four times more common among my survey participants than the latter, nonconsensual type (42 percent and 10 percent, respectively).”

“This suggests that, in most exhibitionism fantasies, the goal is not to violate or offend onlookers—rather, the hope is that others will like what they see.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The secret gay history of Islam

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In Muslim cultures, homosexuality was once considered the most normal thing in the world – so what changed?

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Islam once considered homosexuality to be one of the most normal things in the world.

The Ottoman Empire, the seat of power in the Muslim world, didn’t view lesbian or gay sex as taboo for centuries. They formally ruled gay sex wasn’t a crime in 1858.

But as Christians came over from the west to colonize, they infected Islam with homophobia.

The truth is many Muslims alive today believe the prophet Muhammad supported and protected sexual and gender minorities.

But go back to the beginning, and you’ll see there is far more homosexuality in Islam than you might have ever thought before.

1 Ancient Muslim borrowed culture from the boy-loving Ancient Greeks

The Islamic empires, (Ottoman, Safavid/Qajar, Mughals), shared a common culture. And it shared a lot of similarities with the Ancient Greeks.

Persianate cultures, all of them Muslim, dominated modern day India and Arab world. And it was very common for older men to have sex with younger, beardless men. These younger men were called ‘amrad’.

Once these men had grown his beard (or ‘khatt’), he then became the pursuer of his own younger male desires.

And in this time, once you had fulfilled your reproductive responsibilities as a man you could do what you like with younger men, prostitutes and other women.

Society completely accepted this, at least in elite circles. Iranian historian Afsaneh Najmabadi writes how official Safavid chroniclers would describe the sexual lives of various Shahs, the ruling class, without judgment.

There was some judgment over ‘mukhannas’. These were men (some researchers consider them to be transgender or third gender people) who would shave their beards as adults to show they wished to continue being the object of desire for men. But even they had their place in society. They would often be used as servants for prophets.

‘It wasn’t exactly how we would define homosexuality as we would today, it was about patriarchy,’ Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, a gay imam who lives in Marseilles, France, told GSN.

‘It was saying, “I’m a man, I’m a patriarch, I earn money so I can rape anyone including boys, other slaves and women.” We shouldn’t idealize antique culture.’

2 Paradise included male virgins, not just female ones

There is nowhere in the Qu’ran that states the ‘virgins’ in paradise are only female.

The ‘hur’, or ‘houris’, are female. They have a male counterpart, the ‘ghilman’, who are immortal young men who wait and serve people in paradise.

‘Immortal [male] youths shall surround them, waiting upon them,’ it is written in the Qu’ran. ‘When you see them, you would think they are scattered pearls.’

Zahed says you should look at Ancient Muslim culture with the same eyes as Ancient Greek culture.

‘These amrads are not having sex in a perfectly consenting way because of power relationships and pressures and so on.

‘However, it’s not as heteronormative as it might seem at first. There’s far more sexual diversity.’

3 Sodom and Gomorrah is not an excuse for homophobia in Islam

Like the Bible, the Qu’ran tells the story of how Allah punished the ancient inhabitants of the city of Sodom.

Two angels arrive at Sodom, and they meet Lot who insists they stay the night in his house. Then other men learn about the strangers, and insist on raping them.

While many may use this as an excuse to hate gay people, it’s not. It’s about Allah punishing rape, violence and refusing hospitality.

Historians often rely on literary representations for evidence of history. And many of the poems from ancient Muslim culture celebrate reciprocal love between two men. There are also factual reports saying it was illegal to force your way onto a young man.

The punishment for a rape of a young man was caning the feet of the perpetrator, or cutting off an ear, Najmabadi writes. Authorities are documented as carrying these punishments out in Qajar Iran.

4 Lesbian sex used as a ‘cure’

Fitting a patriarchal society, we know very little about the sex lives of women in ancient Muslim culture.

But ‘Sihaq’, translated literally as ‘rubbing’, is referenced as lesbian sex.

Sex between two women was decriminalized in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, probably because it was deemed to have very little importance.

Physicians believed lesbianism developed from a hot itch on a woman’s vulva that could only be soothed by another woman’s sexual fluid. This derived from Greek medicine.

Much later, the 16th century Italian scientist Prosper Alpini claimed the hot climate caused ‘excessive sexual desire and overeating’ in women. This caused a humor imbalance that caused illnesses, like ‘lesbianism’. He recommended bathing to ‘remedy’ this. However, because men feared women were having sex with other women at private baths, many husbands tried to restrict women from going.

5 Lesbian ‘marriage’ and legendary couples

In Arabic folklore, al-Zarqa al-Yamama (‘the blue-eyed woman of Yamama’) fell in love with Christian princess Hind of the Lakhmids. When al-Zarqa, who had the ability to see events in the future, was crucified, it was said the princess cut her hair and mourned until she died.

Many books, especially in the 10th century, celebrated lesbian couples. Sapphic love features in the Book of Salma and Suvad; the Book of Sawab and Surur (of Justice and Happiness); the Book of al-Dahma’ and Nisma (of the Dark One and the Gift from God).

‘In palaces, there is evidence hundreds of women established some kind of contract. Two women would sign a contract swearing to protect and care for one another. Almost like a civil partnership or a marriage,’ Zahed said.

‘Outside of these palaces, this was also very common. There was a lot of Sapphic poetry showing same-sex love.’

As Europeans colonized these countries, depictions of lesbian love changed.

Samar Habib, who studied Arabo-Islamic texts, says the Arab epic One Thousand and One Nights proves this. He claims some stories in this classic show non-Muslim women preferred other women as sexual partners. But the ‘hero’ of the tale converts these women to Islam, and to heterosexuality.

6 Muhammad protected trans people

‘Muhammad housed and protected transgender or third gender people,’ Zahed said. ‘The leader of the Arab-Muslim world welcomed trans and queer people into his home.

‘If you look at the traditions some use to justify gay killings, you find much more evidence – clear evidence – that Muhammad was very inclusive.

‘He was protecting these people from those who wanted to beat them and kill them.’

7 How patriarchy transformed Islam

Europeans forced their way into the Muslim world, either through full on colonialism, like in India or Egypt, or economically and socially, like in the Ottoman Empire.

They pushed their cultural practices and attitudes on to Muslims: modern Islamic fundamentalism flourished.

While the Ottoman Empire resisted European culture at first, hence gay sex being allowed in 1858, nationalization soon won out. Two years later, in 1870, India’s Penal Code declared gay sex a crime. LGBTI Indians are still fighting this law and living with its consequences today.

But what is it like to be colonized? And why did homophobia get so much more extreme?

‘With the west coming in and colonizing, they think we are lazy and passive and weak,’ Zahed said.

‘As Arab men, we have to be more powerful and virile and manly. Modern German history is like that, showing how German nationalization rose after [defeat in] the First World War.

‘It’s tribalism, it’s the same problem. It’s about killing everyone against my tribe. I’m going to kill the weak. I’m going to kill anyone who doesn’t fulfill this aggressive nationalistic stereotype.’

Considering the male-dominant society already existed, it was easy for the ‘modern’ patriarchy to end up suppressing women and criminalizing LGBTI lives.

‘In the early 20th century, Arabs were ashamed of their ancient history,’ Zahed added. ‘They tried to purify it, censor it, to make it more masculine. There had to be nothing about femininity, homosexuality or anything. That’s how we got to how are today.’

8 What would Muhammad think about LGBTI rights?

Muhammad protected sexual and gender minorities, supporting those at the fringes of society.

And if Muslims are to follow in the steps of early Islamic culture and the prophet’s life, there is no reason Islam should oppose LGBTI people.

For Zahed, an imam, this is what he considers a true Muslim.

‘What should we do if we call ourselves Muslims now? Defend human rights, diversity and respect identity. If we trust the tradition, he was proactively defending sexual and gender minorities, and human rights.’

Complete Article HERE!

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Marriage and #MeToo

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Behind the millions-loud movement, there’s a quiet fringe of women not comfortable posting the hashtag—because to out their perpetrator would be to out their husband.

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After the half-hearted foreplay, but before the lousy sex—that’s when the argument happened. It was nearly midnight on a Tuesday and Jess T. was just getting home from work. “I was going for a promotion and putting in really long hours at the office,” says the 33-year-old from San Francisco, California. “I felt so exhausted, I crawled into bed without even washing off my makeup. As I laid down next to my husband, who I thought was asleep, he started rubbing my thighs, pulling up my shirt—I knew.” For the next minute she debated two things: Should she take off her mascara after all? Should she have sex? No. No.

At first, her husband of four years tried to sway her by softly whispering in her ear (“I’ll make you feel so good”), but when she reaffirmed she wasn’t in the mood, his tone hardened. “He told me that he has needs as a man and that if I didn’t fulfill them he wasn’t going to be able to concentrate at work the next day,” Jess says. “As a woman, I’ve been socialized to put other people’s happiness before my own. I guess I feel responsible for their emotional wellbeing, and so I ended up consenting. Not because I wanted to or found it enjoyable, but because I felt I had to. It’s a very unsexy threesome—me, my husband, and the guilt.”

Been there, done that, says Marni Z., 35, from Phoenix, Arizona. “If I’m tired or just not into it, my husband will sigh with disgust, grab his pillow, and sleep on the couch,” says Marni, who has been married for eight years. “Or he’ll expect things from me—like coming to bed naked—and get irritated when I don’t comply. Sometimes I just numb myself into having sex so I don’t have his cloud of anger hanging over me.”

If domestic labor is a woman’s second shift, the gray-zone, on-demand sex sessions that they feel obligated to have with their partners is the third. After interviewing couples across the country, one study published in The Journal of Marriage and Family found that many husbands expect their wives to perform sexually, and cited additional research that this causes women “to become disconnected from their own sexual desires” and experience feelings of resentment. Many participants in the study were only compliant to “reduce marital conflict…and to help a spouse feel better about himself.”

It’s something that Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a psychotherapist who specializes in sex therapy, has certainly seen play out. “When people get married, their views on sex tend to shift a bit,” he says. “Some men feel that they now have constant access to sex, while women take on an obligation that they have to be sexual even when they don’t want to be.”

It’s not that married women are docile damsels of the domestic kingdom. They’re strong enough to set boundaries—and often do—but that doesn’t prevent men from plying, prodding, and pushing them. One study out of the University of Nebraska in 2005 found that men used comments like “you would have sex if you loved me” to gain sexual access to women. While separate research found that men relied on verbal tactics of repeated requests until women gave in to sex. The pushy, supposed primal instincts of men are deeply threaded into our sheets—and our scummy sexual culture.

mAnd that, perhaps, is the more dispiriting reason why wedded sex has such an antique flavor: Marriage may be the last frontier where the belief that sex is mandatory still somewhat rings true, and where consent has been flattened and pushed to the edge. While a single woman’s right to say no to sex is championed and society-approved (damn, right!), once you’re married, it becomes all about saying yes. In fact, in order to decline sex, women in long-term relationships have been socialized to believe that they need an excuse: I have a headache. I’m not feeling well. I’m on my period. They aren’t allowed to opt out of sex because, you know, they just don’t feel like it (damn, wrong!). “I’m lusty, I like sex,” Jess says. “I just don’t like that I always have to like sex.”

In fact, when Jess went searching online for advice on how to deal with the bang-it-out sex sessions her husband sometimes pressured her into, she found “a blog post from a psychologist that told me I should have sex anyway because I would eventually get turned on—not true, by the way, I just got mad. And then a first-person article from a woman who never said no to her husband when he asked for sex for an entire year. The author painted herself like a goddess with an 24/7 vagina. Everything I read just made me feel that, as a married woman, I was no longer the sole boss of my body.”

Muddying the situation more: Unlike when you’re just dating, when you’re married there’s no ghosting, submarining, or sending screenshots of your shitty date to your friends. There are bills to pay and a dog that needs walking. “I was in a long-term relationship where, even when I wasn’t physically responsive, my partner would continue with sex and make sure his needs were met,” says Sarah W., 38, from New York City. “I was confused about what rights I had to sexual boundaries. We lived together, were engaged, shared finances.”

Sweet sex. Hot sex. Sucky sex. It all seemed like part of the marital knot.

But then came the shift. The ‘Cat Person’ story in The New Yorker went viral, and shortly after, a piece that detailed one woman’s account of a bad date with Aziz Ansari did, too. Suddenly the #MeToo movement had ballooned beyond sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, floating the idea that women should have the right to good sex and shouldn’t feel pressured to suffer through a sexual encounter they don’t want or find pleasurable. Suddenly, there was a term for bad sex: bad sex. But this time, with context.

“Women started to have these soul-searching conversations that were really important,” says Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist in Los Angeles, California, and creator of The Passion Project, an online course for couples with mismatched sex drives. “I think it’s a woman’s obligation to be respectful of her partner’s desires and to take them into consideration. It’s her obligation to have conversations about her partner’s intimate needs. But it is absolutely not a woman’s obligation to have sex with her partner when she does not want to. Every woman gets to decide what she wants to do with her own body. Any advice to the contrary is really outdated.”

And out of the good-sex revolution has come better advice. For starters, the notion that sometimes rejection is involved in the sexual process, even when you’re married. “Initiating sex does take a lot of vulnerability,” Marin says. “That’s why in addition to sexual desires and needs, couples need to talk to each other about how to turn each other down gracefully. If you aren’t in the mood for sex, explain why, making it clear it doesn’t have anything to do with your partner—it helps show that you aren’t rejecting them. Also, while it’s normal to feel sad if your partner isn’t interested in being intimate with you, it’s each partner’s responsibility to soothe their own hurt feelings.”

Kerner agrees. “Men feel rejected, women feel bullied, but what we’re missing is this emotional vulnerability that both partners feel,” he says. “Talking through those emotions and connecting to that underneath space can be really intimate and can help you get back on the same page sexually.”

In the post-Weinstein world, so much changed. And yet, so much hasn’t.

“I’m so glad that we’re having these conversations and that women feel empowered to demand good sex,” Jess says. “But I do wish the conversations around the movement didn’t just include coworkers, bosses, bad dates, and strangers on the street. Sometimes, for change to happen, these conversations need to include the people who we are most intimate with—even if those honest conversations start just with ourselves.”

So better sex for everyone? Yes to that—every time.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Orgasms Actually Happen

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The complicated ways we experience sexuality.

By Gigi Engle

What leads us to orgasm? What if we haven’t experienced an orgasm? What happens to the body during orgasm? Have you had an orgasm? Is orgasm important?

These questions have been asked for many, many years. We’re constantly trying to break down orgasm. We want to know how to have one, how we get there, and how we get our partners there.

There is so much variance in the way women experience desire, pleasure, arousal, and orgasm. There are no true black and white answers. “Most of us tend to think of sex as linear and it doesn’t have to be. It’s great to use it as a guideline, but everyone’s experience is subjective,” Dr. Emily Morse, a sexologist and host of the Sex With Emily podcast tells Brides.

While we can suss out facts based on scientific research, it is important to recognize that there are vast personal differences. We each fall on a kind of spectrum. In no way is this information meant to incite feelings of “lacking” or “abnormality.”

The only normal that exists is the abnormal. We are all complex, unique, and different.

That being said, here is everything we know on the stages of sexual response and, yes, orgasm.

A wee bit of history

Not to bore you with a bunch of facts and history, but it’s actually quite important when discussing the ways we’ve come to understand (and not understand) female sexuality. If we don’t have the facts, what do we even have? It’s not like the information we receive on sex from school or family is highly reliable. (If you hate history and facts, just skip to section three).

When we talk about human sexual response, orgasm, etc. we usually jump to the original model created by pioneering sex researchers, Masters and Johnson, in the 1960s. These groundbreaking researchers broke the human sexual response cycle into excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. While a huge contribution to sexual science, Rena McDaniel, a certified sex therapist, tells Brides that this isn’t where the story ends.

In the 70s, this original model of human sexual response was further developed by Helen Singer Kaplan, adding in desire as the beginning of the sexual response cycle. This made way for a new framework which broke sexual response into a Triphasic Model: desire, arousal, orgasm.

“I’m most concerned with women knowing the difference between desire and arousal. Desire is our sex drive, our pilot light, or mental stimulation – whereas arousal is what happens when we’re physically turned on,” says Morse. Desire is in your mind, arousal is in the body. Including desire in the overall sexual cycle is crucial.

This three-part model may seem a little simpler than the Masters and Johnson’s, but it actually accounts for the overlapping, broad way we experience desire and arousal. Each of these three phases is complex and are experienced differently from woman to woman.

But, there’s more!

Sexual response was even further developed by researchers Janssen and Bancroft’s Dual Control Model and Basson’s Sexual Response Cycle.

These models map out sexual response as a super complex, overlapping, nonlinear system. McDaniel tells us that for female sexual experiences, desire may not be the first thing you feel; it might develop as you brain recognizes and codifies sexually relevant contexts. For example, your partner has lit candles and you start making out. Your vagina may lubricate before you think, “This is hot. I’m into it.”

“The Dual Control Model speaks to a similar system of ‘accelerators’ and ‘brakes’ that govern sexual response in a non-linear way,” McDaniel says. Accelerators move you forward in the sexual response cycle, while breaks slow you down. (To learn more, read on here.)

It’s complicated to say the least!

So, why does this matter?

It’s, like, why are we talking about this history stuff when there are juicy sex things to discuss? Because if you’re a woman, or a man, or a genderqueer person, or a non-binary person, or ANY person, you know that sexuality is complex AF.

It’s important to know how far science has come in order to get a better grasp on how your body works. If anything, all of this history and research can show you how we’re still figuring stuff out. You are not broken or lacking. Bodies are not a one-size-fits-all model.

Orgasm is not some ‘big finish” or “goal”

If the history lesson above should teach you anything it’s that sexual response and experience is anything but simple. Orgasm is defined as the involuntary release of sexual tension. That’s it. The word pleasure ain’t present in there, y’all.

We put a bunch of pressure on “orgasm” as this exciting big finish. If we don’t “get there” or if our orgasm is anything other than earth-shattering, we’ve failed. This is the wrong way to think about it. And frankly, it just makes women feeling like crap about themselves.

Orgasm isn’t the goal—sexual pleasure is the goal. If orgasm happens to take place, great. If not, your sexual experience is not invalidated. “When we reframe orgasm as the ‘cherry on top’ of a pleasurable and intimate sexual experience, it takes the pressure off and gives us more space to be present and enjoy the pleasurable sensations for their own sake instead of a means to an end,” McDaniels explains.

What this all means

Stop forcing an orgasm! It’s not doing anything for you. Putting pressure and stress on yourself will not result in the framework needed to relax into an orgasm.

If your partner is constantly asking you, “Did you come?” Have a conversation with them about how orgasm works. Pressure = breaks.

“It’s most important for women to figure out what turns them on and explore their body rather than worrying about whether or not they’re experiencing the ‘correct’ model of sexual arousal,” Morse says.

If we stopped freaking ourselves out so much, we’d probably all have more orgasms. Ah, a lovely sexual catch-22. Take time for yourself and figure out what works for you. Whatever works is right. That’s all there is to it. “Self-exploration is the key to understanding what it takes to orgasm during sex,” Mose says.

Masturbate, masturbate, masturbate. Consider this your call to action.

Complete Article HERE!

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Meet the Swedish feminist bringing ethical porn to Spain and the world

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Swedish porn director Erika Lust, based in Barcelona.

By Ellie Day

Erika Lust has spent the last 14 years creating feminist, ethical porn. In 2004, discouraged by the mainstream porn she found on offer, the Barcelona-based Swedish filmmaker set out to put forward an alternative to adult content.

“The men who control the porn industry seemed to have the emotional intelligence of a teenage boy,” Lust tells The Local. “I wanted to make an alternative to the degrading mainstream porn gaze; something that would express my ideas and my values. Something that I would like myself and that I thought other women and men looking for something more sensual and ethical would also like.”

It was clear from the outset that there was an audience for her films – her first pornographic short, titled The Good Girl, was downloaded by millions of people in the first few weeks after she put it online. From there, her career grew. She set up her own adult film company, LustCinema, and in 2013 launched XConfessions, a collection of erotic videos with storylines created by submissions from members of the public, to reflect the broad tastes of those watching them.

It was in Lust’s native Sweden, while a student at Lund University, that the first seeds of her unconventional career in the adult industry were sown. “I studied Political Science and Gender Studies and was reading Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the Frenzy of the Visible by Linda Williams when I had my ‘lightbulb moment’. It was the first book to treat pornography as a genre with its own history and as a specific cinematic trend.” This sparked her lifelong interest: promoting sex-positive feminism.

Though the definition of feminism has been widely debated, Lust sees it as simple: “For me feminism is the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities in all aspects of life. It is sisterhood. Supporting another woman’s right to do whatever she wants – however different another woman’s expression may be from yours. That includes sexual freedom, which is a basic human right.”

The focus for Lust on ethical porn is at the heart of her work – ensuring the environment for all of her teams emphasizes safety, mutual respect, and the culture of consent.

It’s a particularly sensitive topic at the moment, with the #MeToo campaign continuing to dominate headlines across the world following widespread accusations of sexual assault, but Lust is reluctant to consider pornography as having a negative impact in and of itself.

“Porn is a discourse but I don’t think we can say that porn alone has mainstreamed sexual assault. Across the world, the film and TV industry continues to foist outdated gender roles upon viewers. The adult industry definitely mirrors our society which blatantly neglects female autonomy and pleasure but the media sexism also demeans women and fuels abuse by men.

“Movements such as #MeToo show what we all knew before: that there is a gender dysfunction and a power imbalance in society that is visible in every single field but this is not a new phenomenon. Power abuse is not a male trait; it’s a human trait, and we have always lived in a culture of toxic masculinity that allows and encourages men to perpetrate acts of violence and disrespect towards women. This is the story of humans,” she adds.

However, the director is hopeful that taking porn away from a more traditional ‘male gaze’ offers a chance to change society’s accepted vision of sexuality as a whole: “By making porn which represents individuals having sex, not men ‘doing’ sex to women, we can squash the belief that women are not aroused by representation of sex or sex on screen as much as men. We can help society to overcome sexist gendered stereotypes and show a more realistic and relatable version of sex and human sexuality.”

“With more female pornographers making films, we can offer diversity and represent all the different parts of society and the people in it, people will be able to see themselves in those films, to see the sex they have, to be inspired, become educated, and receptive to the huge range of different sexualities out there. And most importantly they won’t be exposed to one version of sex, sexuality and gender representation.”

Having experience of living both in Sweden and Spain, Lust has observed noticeable differences in attitudes to sex between the two countries: “Sweden is one of the more progressive parts of the EU in terms of attitudes towards sex education. Swedish people are definitely more willing than Spaniards to speak about sex and sexuality since sex education is treated with ease and it has been compulsory in schools since the 1950s; something that is hard to understand here in Spain.”

She is quick to note that Sweden should not yet be held up as a prize example of a flawless approach to gender and sexuality, claiming that Sweden’s approach to sex work is “completely off. The ‘Nordic Model’ [in which the act of selling sex is decriminalized, but buying sex is punishable by the law] does not understand, nor care for, the well-being of sex workers.”

“Sex workers have repeatedly stressed that the legislation is not beneficial for them at all. In fact Amnesty International conducted research with sex workers living under these laws and found that criminalization laws of sex work lead to human rights abuses against their community. I firmly believe decriminalization is absolutely essential to improve working conditions in the sex trade and I feel Sweden is very far from this point and shows no willingness to speak about it.”

Erika Lust and her crew on set.

Lust sees attitudes towards sex and consent in Spain progressing much more quickly:

“Spain has typically been behind Sweden in this area, but things are definitely starting to change. I truly believe that this is the year feminism will take centre stage in Spain. This International Women’s Day in Spain was overwhelming; there were hundreds of protests across the country, a general 24-hour strike, walkouts by five million workers, and huge demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people. There was a lot of media coverage and its success placed Spain at the cusp of a global movement. And especially in the wake of the awful La Manada (‘Wolf pack’) case, the discourse is starting to evolve.”

Lust’s community is growing and evolving, too. In 2016, Lust invited aspiring adult filmmakers to pitch their own story ideas via her website, with successful applicants offered the chance to see their concepts made reality. So far, she has financed more than 25 guest-directed films, with an investment of more than 250,000 euros.

In looking to the future, Lust is hopeful. “As porn becomes less of a taboo in society and women are able to speak more openly about their own sexual desires, more people are exploring different types of adult cinema. They’re starting to look for something outside of what the mainstream offers. Different types of porn are being made and we are starting to see that sex, sexuality and gender roles aren’t limited to a narrow idea. There is a huge female audience for porn, it is bigger than has been assumed so far, and it is continuing to increase as our society overcomes gendered stereotypes in general.”

Complete Article HERE!

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