Can What You Eat Really Affect Your Sex Life?

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We explore the impact food can have on your libido, stamina, and your overall sense of wellbeing

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It’s an old adage: you are what you eat. But could there be something to it? Ensuring that we each have a healthy, balanced diet, lead an active lifestyle, and look after our mental health are all imperitive steps towards to creating a happier, healthier (sex) life.

While there are plenty of articles out there highlighting the foods that could be ‘killing your sex drive’ and ‘destroying your sex life’ surely there must be foods that can have a positive impact…right?

We share the top foods that can help boost your libido, decrease erectile dysfunction, and increase your overall sense of wellbeing.

Happy hormone food swaps

Keeping our hormones balanced can help lead to a steadier (and more fulfilling) sex life. When our hormones become imbalanced, this can negatively impact our mood, and may even suppress sexual desire.

Nutritionist Nicki Williams explains,

“Hormone imbalances can make us feel exhausted, stressed, anxious, depressed, irritable, forgetful and unable to concentrate. We might have digestive issues, poor skin, hair and nails, or frequent infections.

“Hormones work together so when one gets out of balance, others can be affected. For instance, when our stress hormones are up, it can affect our thyroid gland, our digestive system, our sex hormones and the way we deal with sugar (insulin).

“As we age, our hormones naturally decline, which can give us those ‘ageing’ issues like fatigue, weight gain and memory loss. But what we eat and drink, and how we live our lives has a direct affect on our hormone balance. So a few changes to your diet and lifestyle can really help support your hormones, especially as you get older.”

Making a few healthy food swaps can help balance your hormones and get things back on track. Packed full of Vitamin E, avocados can help improve our production of testosterone, oestrogen, and progesterone. Switching to organic foods can help reduce the number of pesticides you are exposed to, which may have negative impacts on health and wellbeing.

For men, making sure you have enough testosterone isn’t only important for your sexual health, but can also affect your bone, muscle, and hair. As you get older, your testosterone levels can decrease, making it even more important to make sure you are having a nutrient-filled, well-balanced diet.

Eating more tuna (high in vitamin D), low-fat milk, beans and egg yolks can all help boost testosterone production whilst providing great sources of protein and vitamins.

At any age, if you’re worried you may be experiencing a problem with a hormone balance, make sure to speak with your GP to help rule out other symptoms and causes.

Boost your libido with nature’s aphrodisiacs

Libido-boosting foods have been a popular staple throughout history. While there is some debate over whether they really work or not, many foods credited with being natural aphrodisiacs do come with their own benefits.

Oysters – one of the most famous foods for getting in the mood (though the slimy texture should be enough to put anyone off). But why is that? High in zinc, oysters and other zinc-high foods including pine nuts, red meat, lobster, and fortified breakfast cereals, help provide high mineral our bodies need for vital, everyday functions. As well as helping our stamina, zinc regulates testosterone levels while helping to increase sperm quality.

Basil – a good source of magnesium and iron, basil may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking of sexy foods, but it can promote better cardiovascular health, improve blood flow, and increase our desire (and ability) to, ahem, perform.

Dark chocolate – more than just a sweet treat, thanks to its phenylethylamine (PEA) or ‘love chemical’ content, dark chocolate can act as a natural aphrodisiac, while the cocoa content can help get your blood pumping and increase blood flow.

Garlic – stinky breath aside, garlic can help improve blood flow, increase iron absorption, and improve circulatory health. Just make sure you aren’t the only one chowing down on this overpowering herb – or you just might risk your evening ending on a more sour note.

Flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds – helping keep hormone production at its peek, these kinds of seeds are packed full of Omega 3 acids which can increase our dopamine and serotonin hormone production. Happier, healthier, and heightened desire all-round.

Stamina-boosters

If you’re looking for a way to improve your stamina, there are numerous natural ways to keep things heated for longer. Ensuring your circulation is good can not only lead to an improved sexual response for men and women (as well as benefiting erectile responses), but can also help improve your stamina.

Ensuring your diet includes wholegrains, a wide range of fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, seafood, and healthy oils (olive or sunflower) can all help keep your heart healthy and happy.

If you find your energy flagging, it can also be worth taking stock of how much stress you are under, as well as how much sleep you are getting. Poor quality sleep can be linked to low energy levels, lowering your overall performance and concentration. If you are experiencing depression, this can also be linked to fatigue and low energy. Experimenting with relaxation techniques, becoming more active, trying mindfulness and meditation, or exploring counselling can all positively impact your overall sense of wellbeing.

Nutritionist Jo Travers shares her top tips to help boost your energy levels by tweaking what (and when) you eat.

“Eat iron containing foods. Women need a lot of iron. Iron in your blood carries oxygen around your body to every cell and organ, and if you haven’t got enough of it you will feel really tired. Iron deficiency is a relatively common problem among women in the UK, largely because women lose iron-containing blood during menstruation. Try and have some vitamin C (from orange juice for example) alongside vegetable sources as this helps absorption of the iron.

“Ensure you eat five a day. Vitamins and minerals are needed for every single process that happens in your body, including turning food into energy. Fruit and vegetables are full of these micronutrients. They are also high in fibre to help level off the rate that carbohydrates are released into your bloodstream, and to maintain bowel health, which if neglected can lead to a lethargic feeling.”

Nutritionist Severine Menem explains it’s not just what we eat that affects our energy levels, but what we drink, too.

“Are you drinking enough water? It is water, and not liquid. Most people don’t realise that they lack energy simply because they are dehydrated. Water is needed by the body for a number of metabolic reactions. So you need to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day until your urine is a pale yellow. If you are not there yet, start gradually increasing your intake of water while stopping or reducing your consumption of stimulants such as coffees and teas.”

Tackling erectile dysfunction

It’s not a topic often spoken about, but erectile dysfunction affects more men than you may realise. More than one in five (21%) of male smokers have been unable to perform in the bedroom, while some statistics put the numbers as high as one in two men in their 30s experiencing erectile dysfunction.

According to experts, a number of physical and psychological factors can cause impotence. From obesity to high cholesterol, anxiety, stress and depression to alcohol consumption, there can be any number of contributing factors.

Research suggests that eating foods rich in flavonoids may help reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction, with foods such as blueberries and citrus fruits showing particular promise. Increasing your fruit intake can help reduce your risk by up to 14%, while switching towards consuming a more Mediterranean-style diet could both help prevent erectile dysfunction whilst boosting other areas of your sex life.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here Are 6 Lessons I Wish I Could Give My Younger Self About Sex

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After years of study in the field of sexuality, there are countless things I wish I’d known about sex when I was first getting busy.

By Gigi Engle

As is my usual Monday gym ritual, I was on the elliptical with one of my good friends, discussing her love life. She’s in her early 30s and finds herself regularly facing down the barrel of dating peril: Tinder dates and emotionally stunted f*ckboys in the all-too-often depressing single scene in Chicago.

As she told me of yet another lackluster hookup, I found myself waxing poetic about anatomy, the need for egalitarian sexual etiquette, and other basic sexual health advice that I find myself regularly giving to my friends. I find it rather vexing that my close friends—friends who have access to me and the wealth of my sexual health knowledge—are still asking the most rudimentary sex-ed questions.

It got me thinking about the women who don’t have a sexuality educator at their disposal whenever they need a lube recommendation. While it might be slightly annoying to answer questions I consider basic, that doesn’t mean other people think they’re basic. After all, as a society, we’re still pretty backward about sex, and when I was first starting to understand my own sexuality, I was pretty backward too. I’m still learning to this day, no matter how much of an “expert” I think I am. (Related: I Tried a 30-Day Sex Challenge to Revive My Marriage’s Boring Sex Life)

While there isn’t an “end” to learning about sexuality (both my own and in general), there are countless things I wish I’d known about sex when I first started getting busy in my teen years. I sincerely hope that these lessons will help other women looking to own their power and enjoy their sexuality to the fullest—even if they don’t have a sexologist BFF.

1. Your clitoris the key to your pleasure.

Man, if someone had just explained what a clitoris was when I was growing up! Maybe I wouldn’t have spent the vast majority of my teens and early twenties wondering why intercourse isn’t making me scream with pleasure.

The powerhouse of female pleasure is the clitoris. It contains 8,000 nerve endings (!), while the vaginal canal has nearly no touch-sensitive nerve endings at all—and that’s why orgasms don’t happen during intercourse for the vast majority of women. So if you’re one of the many people who wonder why you can’t orgasm during sex (I get that question in my inbox nearly every week), it’s probably because you’re not paying attention to this majorly important area. Get the clitoris involved, girl! That’s how you’ll make that O happen. (Try one of these sex positions for clitoral stimulation or get a partner-friendly vibrator involved.)

2. Experiment with G-spot wands and see what that’s like for you.

With that being said, I didn’t know jack squat about the G-spot until I became a professional sex researcher. I had been told, by porn and other non-scientific sources, that the G-spot was either A) a myth or B) was located inside the vaginal canal and should magically give all women orgasms during (mostly useless) sexual intercourse.

Once again, a thorough understanding of what the G-spot is would have made my sex life a whole lot more interesting. If I could tell my younger self anything, I’d say to experiment with G-spot wands, sister! You’re not going to find it by sticking a penis up there, since your G-spot is curved up behind the pubic bone. Do it yourself, and see if sensation around this area feels good to you. (Here’s a full guide on how to find your G-spot and maybe even have a G-spot orgasm.)

And what’s more, it’s totally OK if you’re not into it—G-spot stimulation isn’t for everyone, (Imagine!!! To be a sexually explorative woman without the shame and guilt of not being able to orgasm like fictional porn characters.)

3. Masturbate ALL the time.

Masturbate. Masturbate yourself to the high heavens, my friends. Masturbation is normal and healthy (and objectively awesome). You need to learn what brings your body pleasure in order to have better sex. Studies have even shown that masturbating makes your libido higher, your vaginal lubrication more plentiful, and even makes you more likely to want to engage in partnered sex. (And there are even more benefits of masturbation for your health!)

Orgasms are amazing and you deserve to have as many as you want, forever and always. No, you can’t get addicted to your vibrator. That is a myth. Go forth, get that self-love action, and have fun with your gorgeous body. Go! Go now!

4. Your orgasm comes first.

There is this wild, pervasive idea that women are supposed to prioritize their partner’s pleasure while ignoring their own. It is damaging and, frankly, super messed up. Dear Younger Gigi (and all women everywhere): Your orgasm is the priority. You are not to expect anything less than sexual pleasure and fulfillment in all sexual experiences. (Related: How to Have an Orgasm Every Time, According to Science)

Yes, this includes casual encounters. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship or non-relationship you’re in; every sexual experience should be positive, wherein your pleasure is considered critical to the success of the hookup. End of story.

5. YOU are responsible for your orgasm.

That said, it is you, not your partner, who is responsible for your orgasm. Ask for what you want. If you’ve been masturbating (like I hope you have), you know how you like to be touched and what brings you pleasure. Don’t fake orgasms to please someone, don’t “take what you get,” and don’t just lie there like a dead fish and wonder why you didn’t see stars in the wake of orgasmic bliss.

Communicate what you need to have an orgasm. Be kind and gentle with your partner. We all feel vulnerable during sex. We all just want to do a good job and have orgasms. If your partner is a jerk to you because you asked for what you need to orgasm, don’t hook up with that person. Ever.

Remember that orgasm doesn’t happen during every single sexual experience, either—and that’s really okay! Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to “finish.” This isn’t a race. It’s sex! And sex should be fun. Focus on enjoying pleasure. If you have an orgasm, great. If your needs were met, you felt safe, and your partner did everything they could to make sure you had a positive experience, that’s great too.

6. Enjoy your sexuality.

Lastly, be a slut if you want to be a slut. This whole idea of “slut” as a negative way to describe a woman who has a lot of sex is just something the Patriarchy made up to keep you down. Enjoy your sexuality. Have as much or as little sex as your heart desires. Go out there and do your thing. Shame is such a waste of time when you’re out here trying to live your best life. (Just don’t forget to do it safely.)

Complete Article HERE!

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Wait, What? A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up.

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Is the Body-Affirming, Gender-Expansive Sex Ed Preteens Need

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“Don’t worry, buddy. You’re right on time!” So says the weird platypus mascot of Wait, What? A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up.

It’s a message preteens need to hear as they navigate puberty, friendships, bodies, attraction, and the sticky mess of being a person. This short graphic novel, written by Scarleteen founder Heather Corinna and illustrated by friend of A-Camp Isabella Rotman, is out now through Limerence Press, the same publisher that gave us A Quick and Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns. It covers the anatomical nuts and bolts of sexuality, sexual health and puberty and also dives into social aspects like consent, how to get support from adults you trust, sexuality and gender identity.

The story features five friends: Rico, Malia, Max, Sam and Alexis. This group of middle schoolers are having a range of experiences with and feelings about sex and their bodies. They talk to each other about some of the tricky topics they’re facing, challenge each other’s biases and shame, and help pump each other up as they face different challenges.

Rotman and Corinna hope the book will help fill gaps in sex-ed curricula and be a resource for parents and other trusted adults to help walk pre-teens through these essential conversations that neither adults or kids are always comfortable having. The book models language around how to have these conversations by, for example, letting the kids talk about gender and sexuality on their own terms. 

“I do think the majority of the education around gender at this point is being done by sex educators and I want to give them credit for that!” Rotman said. “But when you go and try to look for a sex ed guide you’re going to find a lot of really binary language and it was really important for this to be an exception to that. We have trans and nonbinary characters that talk about that in language that is accessible to the age group.”

In fact, Corinna said they believe Wait, What? is the first sex ed guide that does not use any gendered language to talk about menstruation, especially targeted at the preadolescent age group.

The book deftly acknowledges that each of its five main characters is different in their experience of their bodies, sexualities, genders, romantic interests, and overall development. It allows each kid to define their experience on their own terms and shows a little of their process of becoming comfortable with their unique selves, while promoting kind and thoughtful behavior toward all peers.

“I came up a punk kid, a queer kid, [in] the 70s and 80s, so normal was never my god that I worshipped,” Corinna said. “It’s tricky because when people ask us if something is normal, you want to reassure them because you don’t want them to feel fearful or shameful or embarrassed. But as the platypus represents, a lot of stuff is weird! It’s weird by any standard! There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘of course it’s normal,’ to help reassure someone, but we should also make room for people to get more comfortable with things that aren’t normal! When you talk about people with… quite uncommon gender identities or orientations, there don’t have to be a billion people like that for someone to not have something wrong with them.”

Of course, this book is aimed at young people themselves, but it’s also a perfect conversation opener for any adult that works with, or frankly knows, any young people. It is non-judgmental and at times truly profound. As a 28-year-old queer, trans adult, I found phrasings and ideas that felt new and resonated, like when the kids talked about how genitals are kind of weird, but so are ears! and toes! As a person who cares deeply about the queer and trans kids coming after me, it feels valuable to have new, age-relevant language to help empower them with information and give them tools for exploration and discovery. Wait, What? is a quick read that packs a lot in, using dialogue, narration and images to share information for all types of learners.

Corinna and Rotman hope the book will make its way into homes and libraries as well as be a helpful supplement for classrooms and sex educators. It’s available online wherever books are sold and making its way into real live bookstores too. So far the reception has been very positive, although Corinna acknowledged some nervousness around putting out a sex-positive, gender-affirming book about sex for middle schoolers, because “this age group isn’t buying their own books. If the adults aren’t ok with it the kids aren’t going to see it!” So it’s up to all of us adults to get Wait, What? into the hands of kids who need it.

As Rotman put it, “this is very much the book a queer aunt buys you.” Hear that, queer aunts?

Complete Article HERE!

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Ways of Being

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Three new books explore the variety of transgender experiences.

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Assigned one gender at birth, we’d felt like the other since childhood. That feeling—which had nothing to do with sexual desire—grew until life in the wrong gender seemed not worth living. So we came out as trans women or trans men to loved ones and health-care providers, who gave us the courage, the hormones, and maybe the surgery to live as who we always were, and then we were fine.

That story describes many transgender lives; parts of it describe mine. It’s also a relatively easy narrative for cisgender (non-transgender) people to follow, and it’s the only one that popular culture supplied until recently. Many health-care providers required an even narrower story. Until 2011, widely accepted medical standards mandated that we prove we were really trans by living in our genuine gender for three months or more without hormones. They also stipulated that we try to look conventionally masculine or feminine, and that we not identify as gay.

Such stories exclude people whose experience of being trans has shifted over their lives. (Some regret or reverse their transitions; many more do not.) They exclude people with more complicated experiences of gender and sexuality. And they exclude nonbinary people, who live as both genders, or neither, often taking the pronouns they/them. We can hear more stories now—not only life stories, but fiction, poems, comics, films, essays, both about trans people and by us. Some of those stories may reassure trans readers, or help cis readers accept us. Other stories aim to disrupt and unsettle the narratives we already know.

Andrea Long Chu is one of the disrupters. A doctoral candidate in comparative literature at NYU, she’s a writer and critic whose work has appeared in n+1, Bookforum, and The New York Times. In early 2018, she published an essay called “On Liking Women” that lit up trans Twitter: The piece championed the 1960s playwright and provocateur Valerie Solanas, the author of the SCUM Manifesto (SCUM = Society for Cutting Up Men) and the would-be assassin of Andy Warhol (she shot him in 1968). Chu hit back hard against the unitary, easy-to-understand trans story I sketched at the start of this article. She also took aim at a subset of radical feminist activists who regard trans women as interloping men.

“I have never been able to differentiate liking women from wanting to be like them,” Chu confessed. She described her young self not as a child who was already a girl, but as “the scared, straight boy whose life I will never not have lived.” As for the SCUM Manifesto, it implies—according to Chu—that trans women transition “not to ‘confirm’ some kind of innate gender identity, but because being a man is stupid and boring.”

Coming out, announcing her womanhood, was—for her and for trans women like her (and, to be honest, like me)—an exhilarating, empowering choice, not an act of simple survival. That perspective wasn’t a breath of fresh air so much as a mountaintop’s worth. “Some of us … might opt to transition,” she concluded, to climb out of the cage that radical feminists take “heterosexuality to be.”

How did Chu come to such views? What is it like for her to live with them? You won’t find clear answers in her first book, Females, a short, exasperating volume that is nothing like a memoir and not much like a manifesto. It’s more like a provocation, thick with what Chu herself labels “indefensible claims.” “Everyone is female,” Chu writes, “and everyone hates it”: We are all female in this special, philosophical sense because we all “make room for the desires of another.” You, too, let “someone else do your desiring for you.”

Males, in Chu’s terms—that is, men who behave “like men”; men who fit archetypes of masculinity—know what they want and how to get it for themselves. But expanding on what she takes to be Solanas’s view, Chu argues that no one is totally independent, totally dominant, totally satisfied—which means that anyone trying to be “male” has signed up for continual failure. If femaleness means vulnerability and dependence, then we are all female, and “the patriarchal system of sexual oppression” works “to conceal” that universal truth. Men feel they have to be male, but they cannot be. They find relief from this double bind in porn, where passive, humiliated, masturbating viewers may find permission “not to have power, but to give it up.”

The logical question, if you see maleness this way, is not “What makes some people trans?” but “Why would anyone want, or try, to be male?” One answer is that guys have no choice. Another answer is that masculinity feels that painful and that limiting only if you don’t want it—if, like me, you’d rather be a girl. (“I hated being a man,” Chu remembers, “but I thought that was just how feminism felt.”) A third is to say that we might try to redefine maleness, to tell other stories about it. Trans guys might lead the way.

Cyrus Grace Dunham—the younger sibling of Lena—has written a coming-out memoir, and a celebrity memoir, and a well-off young writer’s memoir of a quarter-life crisis. It’s also an anti-memoir, set against the idea that Cyrus, or you, or I, must believe one consistent story about our life. After months of flailing and drinking and fighting depression, Dunham has come out as nonbinary and as transmasculine. They take they/them pronouns in professional contexts, and do not exactly feel like a man but take he/him pronouns among friends: “I am appalled by how much I love it.” They have also had top surgery (a double mastectomy).

A Year Without a Name can come off as recovery literature, addressing the tough row they feel they had to hoe—their sister’s fame (“a toxic substance”), as well as their adventures with “alcohol, ketamine, cocaine.” But we have other memoirs that work that terrain. This one’s much better read as an account of generational and intellectual good fortune. Dunham can build on terms they have inherited from earlier trans people, and can also talk and write about the vicissitudes of erotic desire, about how desire affects what gender means.

For Dunham, exploring gender and sex means exploring embodiment and uncertainty. They live in—and have sexual feelings within—a body that won’t settle down, that does not seem to want to take clear form. It’s a body, Dunham discovers, that needs to be valued as a kind of chrysalis, ready “to turn into goo, and then re-form.” In bed, before transition, Dunham was “always more in tune with my partner’s desires than my own.” Crushing on a magnetic party girl, Dunham once “felt like a little girl, too self-conscious to get anything right.” Their current lover, by contrast, sees and accepts Dunham as a kind man, a real man, a hot man. Dunham found that experimenting with bondage and domination helped clarify how it felt to wield power, and to give it away—paving the way to seeing themselves as a man.

Maybe you, too, have had to embrace uncertainty before you could grow and change. I’m told many people, even cis people, do. Trans people like Dunham, or like me, have to work our way out of false certainties that insist we are now and forever the body our genes assigned us, the gender we were handed at birth. Some of us have to work our way out more than once. “My value,” Dunham concludes, “is not in my permanence, but in the resilience with which I recover, and re-recover, and re-form after the deluge.”

How do you know you’re trans and need to re-form? Can you be trans (the way you can be diabetic, or have perfect pitch) before you know it? Opponents of trans acceptance maintain that trans identities are new and trendy, that trans teens today are jumping on a bandwagon. The claim is in one sense obviously false—many cultures, from Samoa to South Asia, have gender-boundary-crossing identities—and in another sense irrelevant: Our right to acceptance shouldn’t depend on how long ago we showed up. We are here now.

Yet this question of origin has inspired useful history. Anne Lister (1791–1840) loved and had sex with women, and dressed and acted very much like a man. Her Yorkshire neighbors called her “Gentleman Jack,” though someone who behaved like her today could be an aristocratic butch lesbian, rather than a trans man. Dr. James Barry (1789–1865), by contrast, consistently presented himself as a man throughout his adult life, from his student days in Edinburgh to his decades as a military medical officer, improving sanitation in outposts of the British empire.

Closer to home, Lou Sullivan (1951–91) knew he was trans before he had words for it. But he didn’t simply prefigure modern identities. He helped make them visible and livable, publishing Information for the Female-to-Male Crossdresser and Transsexual in 1980; writing the biography of an earlier San Francisco trans man, Jack Bee Garland; and working with health-care providers to, in Sullivan’s words, make it “officially okay to be a female–to–gay male.”

Like Lister, Sullivan kept extensive diaries. To read through them now—in the abridged edition We Both Laughed in Pleasure, prepared by Ellis Martin and Zach Ozma—is to find sentiments that trans readers might recognize. “I wanna look like what I am,” he muses early on, “but don’t know what someone like me looks like.” “I’ve spent my whole life dreaming I was someone else, but no one else would believe me.” Sullivan had the sense—as I did, for decades—that coming out as trans was both inevitable and impossible, right up until he decided to take the step. “It’s too good to be true,” he reflected. “It’s so nice to allow myself to say I am a man.” First he had to move to San Francisco, and leave his tender, difficult, long-term lover: “Had J not been around,” he mused, “I would definitely go towards being male.”

Once Sullivan chose the story he wanted to tell about himself, he could help others find their own. In California, he saw the well-known trans man Steve Dain “counseling an 18-yr-old female who says she feels like a gay man … so we do exist!” Not everybody agreed. “A reputable clinic” in the late 1970s “wouldn’t touch [Sullivan] with a 10-foot pole … Because I don’t have the typical transsexual story they want to hear.” Yet Sullivan was undeterred in his quest to “just ‘be there’ for new F➞M’s,” telling them they’re “NOT the only one.” As his death from HIV/AIDS approached, he wrote: “They told me … that I could not live as a gay man, but it looks like I will die as one.”

You could paint Sullivan’s life as a tragedy, but the diary feels full of joy, in part because it’s also full of sex—a manual of sorts from a time when trans people had to educate ourselves. “I made myself a good strap-on cock out of socks & wore it to sleep. Good masturbation.” “I want to have sex with a man as a man.” With the power of imagination, of socks stuffed in pants, of testosterone, and later of top surgery, he did. His most evocative writing conveys the desire at the core of his being. “In my search for the perfect male companion, I find myself. In my need for a man in my bed, I detach myself from my body and my body becomes his.”

Trans acceptance should not depend on our having to hide or lie about our sex lives. (Chu describes a trans woman whose therapist rejected her on the basis of her sexual tastes: “Real MTFs don’t do that.”) Nor should acceptance depend on whether we pass, whether we feel the same way every day, whether we match strict binary definitions of male or female. Our stories can change, and they interact with the stories that others tell us about ourselves.

In that sense Chu is right: Almost all of us in various ways try “to become what someone else wants.” We seek both the other people who can accept us (as Sullivan did in San Francisco, as Dunham does now) and the imagined future self that we want to, and try to, become. If that search feels like a problem, it’s also a solution, the one that Dunham’s quarter-life memoir, and Sullivan’s voluminous journals, record. “Is wanting enough?” Dunham asks. Can they be “a real man,” or will they always and only be “a girl obsessed with men”?

Am I a real woman? Was Sullivan a real man? Why do I care how other people answer that question? But I do care. So does Dunham, and so—I think—does Chu, and so did Sullivan, who made himself, even while dying, into the Bay Area’s proud transmasculine historian. “I can never be a man,” he wrote, “until my body is whole and I can use it freely and without shame.” Such a goal might be the kind you never quite reach. Still, so many of us try to get there, whether the effort looks like one great change or a string of smaller moments. We share our stories, and we make new ones if those we find don’t fit; and then we send the new stories out into the world to see whether what resonates for us, what might save us, could help others too.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Make Any Man Better in Bed

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We got real women to share their strategies for turning so-so lovers around. He can rock your world. All he needs are these hints!

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Everyone’s been there: You meet a guy, you’re totally into him, things go well and later (a month, a week, an hour) you find yourself in bed with him. The music’s right, but something’s wrong. Very wrong. His technique is, let’s just say, lacking, and as he’s doing that annoying thing with his tongue/hand/leg, you think, *How did he get this far knowing so little? Why didn’t anyone tell him how bad that feels? I wonder if I can wear my new Club Monaco skirt with a white shirt and boots?It’s never a good sign when your mind has left the bed and gone into the closet. But what’s a girl to do? Well, you can throw him back into the dating pool, you can suffer quietly, or you can take the bull by the tongue/hand/leg/etc. and teach him a thing or two. Let’s get something straight: Making a guy better in bed is actually about making sex better for you. Everyone wins! Of course, some women are better at asking for what they want than others. When I first started inquiring among my virtually Victorian circle about how to go about this, my friend Patty said, “I feel funny giving directions; it’s like telling the cab driver what route to take…and I’m not really sure how to get there anyway.” Fortunately there are bolder, more assertive women out there—women who don’t plan their outfits during sex—and they were willing to tell me exactly how they got their men to be much, much better in bed. Here, their advice on how to make over…

…the speed demon

You know those movies where the young couple is having sex for the first time and it’s pretty much the guy lifting the girl’s skirt, neither of them looking at each other, and then he sticks his thing in and…it’s over? Well, that happens in real life, too. I once practically had a guy tell me he was done while I was unlocking my front door for us to go into my apartment. I guess the anticipation was more than he could manage. Sherrie, 36, found that she was getting a little further than that with her guy, but not by a whole lot. “Sex was lasting five minutes, sometimes less,” she says. “He was embarrassed and we were both getting frustrated.” Then one day they stumbled upon a solution: “I was dancing around the bedroom in my underwear and he started to get turned on. I told him to go ahead and finish by himself.” This was a win-win for the now satisfied couple: “While he waited to get geared up for another go, he focused on me for some serious foreplay. By the time we got to round two, he was ready to go the distance.”

The flip side of this coin can be just as troubling. Anytime I hear about Sting’s tantric stamina, I think, Poor Trudie Styler! Frankly, I’m surprised she doesn’t walk like John Wayne. Allana, 25, was dating someone who took forever to finish. “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, considering most guys think of stamina as a good thing, so I just told him how wonderful it would be if we could finish together. Then I coached him: Just as I was about to come I’d whisper, Can you finish with me, baby?’ Guess what? My narration was apparently exciting enough for him that more than half of the time, our trains pulled into the station at the same time!” All aboard!

…the bad kisser

Many of the women I interviewed saw this flaw as a complete deal breaker. They believe it’s not something you can teach or get past. Then I used this scenario: If you’re dating Leo DiCaprio and he starts slobbering all over your face, you’re going to say forget it? Take your movie-star ass outta my sight? I don’t think so. I think you’d work with him—and you should. Eleanor, 39, gets that: “I was recently dating a guy who could not kiss. I love to kiss, so it was a huge turnoff.” The first few dates she avoided any lip action, but as they started to spend more time together, she couldn’t ignore it. “I began to give him what I call secret lessons,'” she says. “I would kiss him a certain way and then whisper in his ear in a really sexy and sensual tone, Kiss me like this.’ It was sort of like follow-the-leader. And it worked! He began to automatically do it exactly the way I like.”

My friend Janet, 27, said she dated a guy who kissed “very drooly, like a teething baby.” (I’m dry-heaving now.) The way she dealt with it wasn’t so secret: Very obviously, in the midst of a make-out session, she got a towel and wiped her mouth. “He said, Too wet?’ and I said, Yes.’ It worked. If it hadn’t, I was going to come back with a mop.”

…the too-dirty talker

Back in my dating-a-million-guys period—postcollege, pre-having to get up in the morning—I was seeing a guy who did the dirty-talk thing, and I loathed it. But it wasn’t his potty mouth that bothered me, it was the things he asked me to say. Once he wanted me to tell him to you-know-what me and I said, “Are you nuts? I’d never say that!” If anything I’d write the scene like this—it’s 1945 and you’ve just returned from Versailles…. I’m wearing a satin nightgown, white. No, dusty rose. No, yellow. Wait. I’m wearing a WAC uniform à la The Andrews Sisters, my hair is like Veronica Lake’s…. By then the guy would either have drifted off to sleep or gone out for a hooker. My friend Alice, 31, had a slightly more useful method with a guy she dated a few years back: “He loved to say dirty stuff while we were making out and he would ask all kinds of ridiculous questions and expect answers.” Her replay of one of their typical conversations:

Him: You know when we were on the ferry last week?

Her: Yeah.

Him: You wanted to f**k me in the bathroom, right?

Her: Um, gross!

Alice would try to play along, but her heart just wasn’t in it. “I talked with my girlfriends endlessly about how to bring it up to him, but I really didn’t want to ruin his fun. Finally one night after a lot to drink I blurted out, Shut up! I don’t want to talk anymore!’ I know it wasn’t the most sensitive way to handle it, but it worked. And it improved our sex life incredibly.” Actually, it improved their sex life enough for Alice to realize that losing the dirty talk didn’t fix the relationship. They broke up but remained friends. She said he now asks his girlfriends if they like dirty talk before imposing it on them. A+, Alice!

…the orally challenged guy

When I was 11, my mom’s sister was getting divorced, and they wanted to see a movie and brought me along. The movie was Coming Home, the emotional story of a Vietnam vet (a young Jon Voight) who falls in love with the wife (a young Jane Fonda) of an officer at war. Voight is paralyzed from the waist down, and after a lot of plot, the two of them end up in bed. All you see is the top of his head going up and down under the covers and she’s saying things like “Softly, slowly.” Totally puzzled, I wondered, What is he eating? When I saw the movie again as an adult, I told my mother she was lucky that child welfare didn’t cart her away. But I also thought, Jeez, Jane’s giving him some pretty serious instructions—good for her. If only the rest of us were so bold!

Felicia, 24, says, “I was once in a relationship with a man who left a lot to be desired when he went down on me. First I let go of the feeling that there shouldn’t’ have been a problem to begin with, that the emotional connection we shared had to automatically translate into perfect-10 sex. Then one night I asked him to show me how he liked to be touched. He was open and frank—and eager to reciprocate. Since we had an open line of communication going, I was comfortable telling him what I liked, and from then on, a whole new dynamic of unbelievably sexy fun became the basis of our physical relationship.” Smart, smart woman.

…the pain inflicter

You know the euphemism “nailing”? Like “Oh, yeah, dude, I nailed her”? Well, some guys seem to take it literally. Catherine, 25, had that jackhammer experience with an otherwise perfect man. “It made me feel like a piece of meat,” she says. Her tutoring technique: “It’s all about mixing the directions in with compliments. You can’t make a guy feel like he’s doing something wrong or he’ll go on the defensive. So you say, Wow, that feels so good when you’re gentle’ and then quickly follow it with a Keep that up.’ It’s all in the way that you approach it.

There are slightly more direct tactics, too. “I dated a guy who didn’t realize how sensitive nipples are,” says Joyce, 31. “Apparently someone had told him that it felt good to chew and suck on them as hard as you can.” (Who told him this? A Rottweiler puppy?) “I didn’t want to say anything, so I simply tried doing it to him. One time I did it the right way and he loved it, the next time I did it his way, and he did not love it. He got the message—and I got to keep my nipples.”

…the UTTERLY clueless guy

I never like to generalize, but many of the smartest guys I’ve dated have been the dumbest at sex. I remember lying in bed with a guy who tried to impress me by naming all the chief justices of the Supreme Court and which president had nominated them. This was by far his greatest bedroom talent. We didn’t last long. Marisol, who’s 43 and involved with a 27-year-old (“I’m a bit of a cougar,” she offers freely), didn’t give up that easily. “He was just so inexperienced, and I wanted him to get better!” she says. Her strategy: phone sex. “It was a great way to verbalize our desires without the awkwardness of being face-to-face. And it allowed me to say exactly what I wanted, so the next time we were together, he delivered.”

Trish, 38, taught her boyfriend what worked and what did not. “I was dating a guy who, in his mind, was an ace in bed. He didn’t have a clue. He actually thought thrusting my head into him while I was going down on him was good…not!” I have to raise my hand here. This is a pretty common move from some guys, and no one likes it. Fortunately Trish had a surefire way to get this guy to keep his hands to himself. “I grabbed a couple of scarves and tied his arms behind his back, blindfolded him and whispered in his ear, I run this show…you just relax and enjoy the ride.’ And he did.”

These tactics may work for you, or they may not. The trick is to try…something. You owe it to yourself. And if you wind up going your separate ways after you’ve molded your man into a brilliant lover, well, chalk it up to making the world a better place—his next girlfriend will thank you.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Non-Intimidating Guide to Kinks and Fetishes

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By Gigi Engle

There is still a strange, judge-y haze that falls over any kind of kinky sex. Even the very idea of asking “What is a fetish?” is taboo. People tend to think that people into kinky sex are sexual deviants—nothing like “normal” people having perfectly “normal” sex.

This, I must say, is a whole lotta B.S. Kinks are actually quite commonaccording to a 2014 study, 50% of Americans enjoy some kind of kink or rough sex fantasy, while 36 percent have used blindfolds and bondage gear during sex—totally normal, and totally available to everyone. (No sex dungeon or BDSM club required.)

What Is a Fetish?

Kinky sex is all sex that falls outside of the boundaries of “vanilla” or traditional sex. (Think: Missionary style sex with the lights off.) It’s the catchall umbrella term that captures the wide spectrum of sexual behaviors that you might be into. It’s somewhat subjective—what one person considers “kinky” could be another person’s “vanilla.” You might think doggy style with some light spanking is super kinky, whereas another person may need to be blindfolded and ball-gagged in order to think the sex is kinky. In other words, exploring your kinky side can be as adventurous as you want it to be.

Fetishes are a specific type of kink. A fetish is a fixation on something largely nonsexual (feet, bubbles, tickling, leather, latex, cotton panties, etc.). For people with a fetish, that normally nonsexual thing is actually a huge turn-on—they’re sexually attracted to it. Most people with fetishes require that item or sex act to become sexually aroused. For instance, someone with a foot fetish may need to lick, kiss, or nibble on their lover’s feet in order to get turned on. Kink, on the other hand, can be a part of sexual intimacy, but isn’t necessarily required for the sex to happen.

Exploring Kinks and Fetishes 101

Here is what you should know about the most common fetishes and kinks, how to try them, and what gear you can buy to make the experience more memorable (and fun).

BDSM

What is BDSM? BDSM stands for bondage, discipline, submission, sadism, and masochism. It sounds scary—like getting blindfolded, tied to the bed and whipped mercilessly—but that’s rarely the case. BDSM is not about the need to hurt someone or to be hurt by someone. It’s about exploring your boundaries and levels of control, not torture and misery.

How to try it: BDSM is actually the most common kink there is. It can be as quotidian as a little light spanking or biting; blindfolding your partner or asking them to bind you with fuzzy handcuffs; or various levels of sensation play (such as using blindfolds, feather ticklers, or ball gags), pain play (such as spanking, electro-stimulation, or whipping), and breath play (choking).

The one thing all safe BDSM has in common? It’s consensual and explicitly negotiated between partners, wherein one person willingly (and enthusiastically) gives up control to the other.

Role playing

What is role playing? Role play is one of the simplest ways to explore kink—who hasn’t had some kind of sexual fantasy in their lifetime? Whether your particular turn-on is a well choreographed scene straight out of Outlander or a slightly more vague scenario like two strangers meeting at a bar, role play is a good opportunity to explore some of those fantasies. It’s like creating your own script-based porn together—it gives you both a chance to be someone else and get out of your own head.

How to try it: Role playing can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. In its most basic form, it’s just about you and your partner taking on new characters and acting out a scene. For instance, you could be the sexy repairperson who has come to fix your lover’s sink. If a doctor and patient situation is more your jam, you could always get your partner a white lab coat and have them give you a full “checkup.”

Latex (and other materials)

What is a latex fetish? Sexualizing materials—latex, lace, silk, leather, nylon, you get the picture—can be both a kink and a fetish. If latex is a kink, it means you enjoy latex (think: wearing a smoking hot latex bodysuit) as a part of your sexual play. A latex fetish means that latex needs to be involved in your play in order for you to get turned on. With a fetish, you’re genuinely attracted to the material: The sound it makes on a person’s skin, the smell, and the feel of it. Again, this is totally normal.

How to try it: If you’re into latex (or other such materials), it’s likely that you’ve known for a while. Maybe you came across a lovely pair of thick latex gloves in your kitchen or a pair of nylon stockings growing up and felt all the things. To get material-based fetish into your IRL sex life, simply start by bringing a latex (or leather, spandex, etc.) object or piece of clothing into the bedroom. Start with something simple like latex gloves. If this works for you sexually, you can try a latex bodysuit, wearing it or having your partner wear it (consensually, of course). If leather is more your thing, try wearing that vintage biker jacket you love to bed. Perhaps you and your partner could even go to a sex shop and invest in a leather riding crop if you’re feeling a bit adventurous.

Foot fetish

What is a foot fetish? Foot fetishes are very common—there are entire YouTube channels devoted to the worship of all things feet. Having a foot fetish means that you are sexually attracted to feet—clean, manicured feet, normal feet, or even dirty feet. This can also include being attracted to shoes such as high heels or sneakers.

How to try it: This can play out in different ways during sex. You may want to lick or kiss your partner’s feet, you could be into them stepping on you, or even rubbing a shoe over your body. Everyone is different and no one thing is stranger than any other (assuming your partner is down).

Voyeurism and exhibitionism

What is voyeurism? Voyeurism is when you enjoy watching people have sex—it’s the thrill of seeing something “you’re not supposed to.” In the traditional definition, the people you’re watching don’t know you’re watching, but this obviously violates their consent, which is a big no-no. If you want to engage in consensual voyeurism, you can watch people engaging in sex acts with their knowledge of your being there. Voyeurism can also include enjoying other people watching you engage in sexual activity—commonly referred to as “exhibitionism.” They are two sides of the same coin. The excitement of exhibitionism comes from “getting caught” doing something “bad” or naughty.

How to try it: There’s already a bit of a voyeur in all of us. Getting turned on watching your partner touch themselves, watching porn, even heating up for a steamy scene on Netflix has the erotic element of peeking into someone else’s sex life. Try watching porn together and masturbating side-by-side. You get to watch the people in the video having sex, while enjoying intimacy with your partner. It’s a win-win for everyone. Exploring exhibitionism may also include things like having sex outside or in public (provided you do it very carefully). Here is a good guide to outdoor sex, should you be interested.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Trying Kinks and Fetishes

Curious but still a little intimidated? We’ve got you covered.

1. Involve your partner.

If you’d like to incorporate a kink or fetish into your sex life, talk about it. Have a solid conversation with your partner to decide what you’re both willing to explore before whipping out a riding crop in the bedroom.

It can be daunting, but having a conversation is critical if this is important to you. Start by talking about your mutual fantasies and go from there. You want to keep it light before moving into the more “intense” stuff. For example, if you’re interested in nylon, would you partner be okay with nylon stockings in bed? Would they be okay having their wrists tied with some nylon stockings? This way, you can both be involved in the execution, trying a bunch of different things that turn you on.

Think it through and be open and honest. It’s crucial that these conversations come with a big ol’ dose of empathy.

2. Do your research.

If a kink is new to you, do your research. Some of this play—bondage or choking, for instance—can be dangerous. Take a class or watch some YouTube videos. The best places for in-person classes are feminist sex toy shops such as Pleasure Chest or Babeland. If you don’t live in a major city, check out O.School. This online resource is an amazing place to take free online workshops from everything to blow jobs to kink to latex. Know what you’re doing before you try anything at all. You want to be solid in your skills before trying them on another human person.

3. Establish a safeword.

Safewords are nonsexual words that indicate when one partner would like to stop or pause the play. Choose a word that has nothing to do with that you’re doing in the bedroom. I suggest something nonthreatening such as banana, strawberry, sailboat, or hockey puck. You can also use a simple traffic light system: Green means go, and red means stop.

If you’re engaging in play that could disrupt a person’s ability to speak, such as breath play or wearing a ball gag, use a “three tap” approach: If you or your partner wants to stop, you tap them three times on the shoulder.

Why do you need a safeword? Because in some scenes “no” may be interpreted as part of the play. For example, in a ravishment role play fantasy or a super-submissive scene, if you say “no” or “stop” your partner may think you’re simply in character. A safeword also helps keep the erotic energy of the scene alive so that in event you want to keep going, you’re not completely deflated.

4. Do some shopping.

When it comes to gear, you don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of expensive stuff to make a fantasy or fetish happen. BDSM is definitely mostly gear-focused kink, but even so, it’s easy to utilize things from around your house. Try placing a T-shirt over your partner’s eyes as a makeshift blindfold, grabbing a wooden mixing spoon for spanking, or try running an (unused!) feather duster over your lover’s body.

For most fetishes, you’ll just need the specific item on which your fetish in focused. This could be anything from feet, to a leather crop, to a pair of nylon stockings. If you’re interested in leather specifically, we love these harnesses from Bijoux Indescretes. The company makes a whole line of fetish and BDSM gear that is inexpensive and easy for beginners to use. If latex is more your style, check out these amazing suits from The Latex Store.

I also love everything kink-related from Unbound. They make a super-adorable feather tickler, paddle, pinwheel, handcuffs, bondage tape, and blindfold that are perfect for BDSM neophytes. Plus they double as jewelry, a turn-on all its own. Check out the line here.

4. Check in.

Be sure to always have aftercare following sexual experiences. This is when the two of you take time to touch, kiss, caress, and reconnect emotionally.

In the following day or two, have an open and honest conversation about what you did correctly, what was working for you, and what wasn’t. Be willing to compromise to cocreate a sexual experience that is pleasurable, unique, and special for both of you.

When it comes to exploring kink and fetish, there is no “bad” or “abnormal” as long as everyone involved is an enthusiastically consenting adult. Don’t be afraid to broaden your sexual horizons. Learn all you can, be open-minded, and who knows? You might discover something you’re into that you’d never thought possible.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Chronic Pain Sufferers Are Turning to BDSM

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For some folks, pain is the default setting. BDSM offers them a way to control the volume.

By

“No pain, no gain” is a rallying slogan employed at both the beauty parlor and at the gym. Sometimes after a workout, you might even get a massage, which is quite literally the act of inflicting pain to the point of relaxation.

It’s why those who go looking for pain are often labeled perverts. It’s why those who live with it near-constantly (chronic pain) are often considered abject. Oftentimes, the two are interlinked. Kink and BDSM scenes are no stranger to the disabled and those living with chronic pain (some living with chronic pain self-identify as disabled, others do not). Which might beg the question: why do those living in pain seek out more pain?

According to Emma Sheppard, perhaps the leading (and one of the only) academics whose research centers on kink and chronic pain, there isn’t a causal link between the two, so much as there is a common understanding. After interviewing several people who lived with chronic pain and engaged with kink play over the course of 18 months, Sheppard found that BDSM was a useful tool—and perhaps a more common one than previously thought—for the disabled to communicate and control their pain. While the participants were primarily sexually submissive, Sheppard also interviewed doms (someone who takes on the role of the sexually superior and controlling), as well as switches (someone who veers between the two). What seemed to draw each of these participants to kink was the element of control.

“Controlling pain is important. Whether that be resting to decrease some pain, using painkillers if they work, moving position at the simplest level. Kink is taking this to its natural conclusion by making pain to control,” one participant from Sheppard’s study explains. Other participants used kink as a distraction from their pain, while another viewed pain as merely a practical consideration, Sheppard tells me. “A couple of participants (who were switches) felt they were less able to do painful things to others during play, but that willingness and ability shifted as they became more accepting of their pain.”

Having lived with chronic pain for the better part of a decade herself, Sheppard’s research into the link between kink and her condition exposes uncomfortable truths in terms of society’s norms around sex and pain. “We don’t like acknowledging times when pain is the point,” she writes over email, “and there’s this expectation that we always want that pain to stop—that stopping pain is a big concern (or should be) for people in pain, especially chronic pain.” The focus on pain’s end and its cure is an “ableist norm” which shape the unpained person’s understanding of those living with chronic pain.

We believe that their pain can be ended, mostly because seeing someone you love in pain is, well, painful. It’s why we might be inclined to say things like ”have you tried CBD?” But this is unfortunately, quite a bit less productive than we’d hope—sort of like offering a glass of water to a stranger with acne.

“It’s really difficult to just live with pain, because in addition to managing pain—which takes up energy and mental space—and managing other aspects of disability, chronically pained people also have to manage everyone else’s response to their pain,” Sheppard writes. As a result, those living with chronic pain often lose friends and lovers, as they’re actively discouraged from expressing their pain. However, a kink environment has the potential to give pain a new vocabulary—which benefits both the chronically pained—and those trying to understand pain outside of its limited medical and socially constructed definition.

This has been the case for Kate Sloan, a writer who regularly blogs about her experiences with chronic pain and kink. “I’ve been living with chronic joint pain for about 4 years now—so, roughly as long as I’ve identified as kinky. I wonder often if there’s a correlation there,” she wrote on a blog post from April. When I ask her what that link could be, she tells me that since BDSM often gives its participants the skill to re-contextualize pain, so that it becomes pleasurable or even spiritually transcendent in some cases.

While some kinksters are neurologically wired to experience pain as pleasure (they’re known as algolagniacs), others, like Sloan, have used the practice of kink to give more positive associations to their pain—since it’ll please their dominant partner—all while giving more more “meaningful justifications than chronic pain typically offers on its own,” Sloan says.

While neither Sloan nor Sheppard recommend BDSM for everyone suffering from chronic pain—it shouldn’t be treated as just another wellness trend like CBD—for those who are kink curious, BDSM’s provided a way for many to reconfigure their pain. For Sloan, she finds that intense sensation play (wax, electrostimulation), dirty talk, and being nurtured by a dominant partner, have provided rewarding distractions from her pain.

“This understanding has given me an almost Zen view of my chronic pain in general: I can notice it and be kind to myself when I’m in pain without necessarily hating my body for being in pain or thinking I’m doomed to perpetual unhappiness because my body hurts,” Sloan says. “Chronic pain for anyone can cause anxiety and depression. Living in severe chronic pain can drive suicide,” Sloan says. While BDSM doesn’t exactly alleviate any of these pains, at least for Sloan, it’s helped her to keep going through the process of trying to get help.

“I’ve also seen conversations about chronic pain and BDSM practices increase as people age,” Rebecca Blanton, who’s known by online kink communities as ‘AuntieVice’, tells me. “Now that there are large groups of BDSM practitioners over 50, a lot of us have developed various physical conditions which necessitate changing our play.” While Blanton describes herself as once “healthy and active”—someone who maintained a herculean five-sessions-a-week gym schedule—fatigue soon crept in, and in a matter of three weeks, she went from devoting the majority of her week to running and lifting to spending it keeled over in pain and bed-bound. The transition was disorienting, to say the least.

However, once she became immersed in her local kink scene, Blanton realized she was able to taxonomize her pain. She’s able to differentiate between sensations: “stingy, thuddy, cutting, burning” and can effectively identify and communicate the location and intensity of her pain to others with a breadth of vocabulary which she compares to the proverbial Eskimos’ 50 words for snow. As a result, Blanton has a better understanding of her body overall, making it easier for her to talk to a healthcare team about her condition—something that’s notoriously difficult for those living with chronic pain, especially women.

The BDSM scene has the potential to provide those living with chronic pain with what their friends, partners, doctors often cannot. A space to conceptualize pain, to explore it, to find words for it, and to control it. It’s a necessary outlet in which pain—and the people living with it—isn’t immediately bypassed, but embraced.

Complete Article HERE!

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“My full-time job is telling men they’re worthless pigs”

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Inside the murky world of findomming

By Dayna McAlpine

Financial domination or findomming, in which men pay women to insult them and then drain their bank accounts, is reportedly on the rise. But who are the cash cows and pay pigs, and why is the dangerous practise of findomming so appealing? Stylist investigates.

“I can make up to £2,000 a week by calling clients fucking pigs and telling them to transfer me their money or buy me gifts. I know it sounds obscene but it’s a full-time job telling people that they’re worthless.”

Gemma*, 23, is a full-time financial dominant working in Manchester. She is one of a number of British women making cash from telling men that they’re worthless.

Financial domination (otherwise known as findom, or findomming) is a fetish built on power – a mostly non-physical, zero-intimacy interaction where the power play is all about financial transactions. When it comes to findomming, there are a number of female doms with a male submissive client base, looking to serve.

Like other submissive/dominant fetishes, the submissive person in the dynamic (otherwise known as a pay pig, or finsub) will give gifts and money to a financial dominant (a cash cow, findom, or goddess). This can be a one-off transaction, or a series of transactions.

From transferring three-figure sums and purchasing Amazon wish lists, to sending their dom life-size cutouts of Danny DeVito (yes, really), financial subs operate solely to please… and to pay. Like many other forms of sex work in the UK, findomming is allowing women to make money from men in return for sexual services. Instead of traditional sexual acts, though, these men mainly ask for humiliation and to have their wallets ‘drained’ in return. It is a distinction which makes little difference: many in the industry still consider findomming to be a form of sex work.

Financial domination if often a non-intimate form of sex work, in which the dom and the sub never meet

Scrolling through the #findom hashtag on Twitter, you’ll find request after request from financial dominatrixes, for ‘tributes’ and ‘reimbursements’ for purchases that they’ve made previously, to links to wish lists that their worshippers can buy for them.

Examples of such messages include: “I don’t give a fuck about u [sic] if you ain’t sending and worshipping the ground I walk on”, “I love money & you love giving it to me”, “It’s payday losers. All of my #paypigs know the drill”. 

In a video pinned to her Twitter feed, one dom, Miss U Louisa, looks into the camera before blowing a kiss and flicking her middle finger up.

“This is just a verification video for all you non-believers out there who cannot believe that my perfection is actually real,” she says. “You now have no excuse. I now own ALL of your money, ALL of your wages and am ready for you to submit to me entirely.”

The tweet, which was followed by another listing her PayPal account details, racked up 110 likes with 44 retweets (at the time of writing). The replies rolled in from her loyal followers (writing comments such as, “yes, you are right, goddess”), and within an hour of posting it she shared on her feed that she had made £300.

Findomming is a relatively new form of sex work and, due to the nature of it taking place online, it’s hard to find exact figures for how many women are out there working as doms. However, with new calls for subs regularly appearing on #findom, it’s clear that there’s no shortage of ‘goddesses’ looking for tributes.

According to the women I spoke to, the biggest appeal of findomming (aside from the potential to make a lot of money) is the nature of the work involved. Unlike other forms of sex work, there is no physical interaction required.

As Urska, the woman behind Miss U Louisa, explains: “Nudity is a common misconception of findomming. Of course, it’s natural to associate sex work with, well, sex, but this fetish is all about sexual gratification fuelled by power.

“I never send nudes – although findomming is a form of sex work, I keep nudity and sexual acts away from it, reserved for my partner exclusively. My real subs, however, will never expect anything from me in return, as they enjoy the sacrifice that they are offering me, as well as the fact I regularly speak to them to build friendships.”

“It’s all about power”, agrees Gemma, a 23-year-old graduate in Manchester who has been working as a findom for a year – having quit her previous job to pursue financial domination full time.

“Findomming is just another type of psychological sex play – the men who give me money are the men who experience sexual gratification by submitting to me. What bigger loss of control is there than handing over your money to me for effectively nothing?”

But what are the subs really getting out of this role play, if not anything that appears sexual on the surface?

Dr Lori Bisbey, a sex psychologist from London, explains that financial domination is just another way of giving up power. “All relationships have an element of power dynamic,” she explains. “People who engage in dom/sub sexual play are simply making that power dynamic explicit. Why do they do this? Because power is intoxicating. It is sexy.

“In financial domination, money represents power. Gaining money is the simplest form of gaining power – the more money you have, the more freedom you have and the more power you can wield in many spheres.

“Turning over your finances to another is certainly a relinquishment of power – and in this type of fetish, it is made explicit rather than having this be unspoken.”

It’s clear that a true financial submissive will never ask for anything more than the transaction itself, but why do these men hand over their money so willingly?

‘Sub Zero’ is a 58-year-old business owner from Surrey who has spoken openly on his Twitter account about the respect financial submissives deserve. For him and many other subs, sending money is more than just a sexual act. “You want their lives to be made easier and more enjoyable when you are serving them,” he says.

“A financial aspect seems to be a natural part of that. The arousal for me doesn’t happen in my trousers, it happens in my brain. The act of giving a dom money to buy herself nice things, money that I have had to work for, triggers my basic desire to please and cements the fact that in that moment, everything I do, I do for her.”

It’s not just men with endless cash to spend who are using findoms – Jason* is a 21-year-old retail worker from Glasgow who partakes in financial domination play on a budget.

“I’m lucky because I’ve found a good dom who understands my restrictions – she respects me for paying £10 as much as one of her clients who drops £100,” he explains.

“Imagine that feeling you get when you give someone you love a present, and it makes you feel good to see them so happy. Times that by 1,000 and that’s how I feel giving money to my dom – and people wonder why I love it so much?”

But how can giving money be sexual? Dr Bisbey explains that it’s all about eroticisation.

“People feel sexual gratification from all sorts of experiences that are not explicitly sexual,” she says. “That is often the basis of a true fetish – a person is aroused by an object that doesn’t have any inherent sexual basis and cannot achieve gratification without the object being present.

“For these men, handing over money to a dominant woman has become eroticised. There are many ways that things become eroticised – almost any stimulus can become eroticised if paired with sexual arousal.

“For example, if someone was strongly sexually aroused and was lying on a leather couch, the leather could become eroticised.”

As a form of sex work taking place primarily across social media, it’s easy to see how more and more people have become aware of findomming and how it could easily be perceived as a get-rich-quick scheme.

After all, the concept appears straightforward enough: create your new identity, start a Twitter account, film yourself spurting insults to your new followers, ask for money and start receiving it. For the sake of a few Skype calls to men asking you to call them everything from a “pathetic pig” to a “little bitch”, without having to take any of your clothes off, it sounds a simple way to earn money – at first glance. With the findoms I spoke to claiming that their numbers are rising, why is financial domination becoming so attractive now?

Many doms are young women, and Urska attributes the difficulty of earning money while at university to the increase. “Many students try their hand at the findom world, as it is expensive being a student these days, and generally finding employment is difficult,” she says.

She’s not wrong – in Save the Student’s most recent student spending survey this year it was revealed that the average cost of being a student is £807 per month, while maintenance loans are just £540 per month.

As for being a graduate, it doesn’t get any easier. In a 2019 report, the government claimed that just 30% of current full-time undergraduates who take out loans will make enough to repay them in full.

On the surface, findomming seems like a win-win scenario, in which you ask for money and you receive it. You can even buy how-to guides on Amazon on launching your career as a findom. So why wouldn’t you?

“It’s not a quick [money] fix,” warns Laura*, a 20-year-old full-time findom living in Leeds. “Doms have to put up with discrimination, threats and legal issues.”

Due to findomming being a profession that is dependent upon opening yourself up to thousands of anonymous entities, a day at work for a findom isn’t as straightforward as connecting to wifi and watching their bank account fill up.

Violence in sex work is not uncommon by any stretch. Since 1990, the UK is reported to have had 182 sex workers killed by violence. And speaking to the BBC, Niki Adams, from campaign group The English Collective of Prostitutes, said: “Women know that by going into sex work you’re taking a risk because there is a lot of violence“.

“Since starting out I’ve been threatened with rape, murder and kidnap,” adds Laura. “I’ve also almost been emotionally blackmailed, so you’ve got to be careful and you definitely have to make sure you know the law when you get into it.”

It’s also worth noting that, despite its image, being a financial dominatrix doesn’t come without hard work. Managing clients’ budgets and needs through clear agreements and conversation prior to any play is crucial – how much money can a sub really afford to spend, and can they be trusted to know personal details about the dom, such as a postal address or bank details?

Alongside all of the actual financial logistics, findomming is also a full-time digital marketing job. In the same way influencers try and grow their personal brands, doms have to grow their own financial submissive following against stiff competition.

In order to bring in new subs and keep their current client bases returning, a dominatrix has to constantly create content, from filming videos of demands to tweeting back to potentially hundreds of people who have shown interest in submitting.

There’s also the element of actually being ‘good’ at your job – the idea of respect and understanding for subs comes up again and again from both dominatrixes and submissives that I speak to – in a relationship where money is willingly handed over in exchange for the ‘high’ achieved by fulfilling a fetish, it’s easy to get addicted and it’s a dom’s responsibility to set limits.

“Subs who go into debt have lost control of their fetish. They have blurred the line between what’s fantasy and reality, which would rarely happen in a genuine dom/sub relationship”, says Sub Zero. “An experienced dom who practises safety and care wouldn’t let debt occur.”

And it works both ways, according to Gemma. “A sub cannot serve properly if they are in serious debt or are putting their home life outside of the fantasy at risk,” she explains. “This is why I don’t necessarily ‘drain’ subs. I prefer subs who know and communicate their financial limits and send what they can when they can.”

In among all of this – the work itself, the marketing, the liaising – there’s also the pressure for some doms to keep their work unknown to their friends and family.

“I’m not ashamed of my job but I don’t want people finding me and seeing the videos I post because this bratty persona I put on is so unnatural for me,” Gemma says. “I’m playing a role like an actress and I just don’t want my friends or family judging me for that.

“I tweet stuff like, ‘good morning you scum losers – send money for my breakfast’, when in reality I wouldn’t dare speak to anyone like that in real life.”

As the Twitter accounts advertising #findom services continue to rise it’s important to remember the real cost of free money – financial domination isn’t a social media run fetish, it’s sex work that comes with its own discrimination and danger.

As Laura says: “No matter what anyone chooses to do with their body, it is their own… Sex work has been around for a long time and if anything, it’s time to speak out and help sex workers as well as the subs who come to us, because everyone deserves a fun and safe environment to work or play in.

“At its most basic level, financial domination is about enjoyment, fantasy and consent.”

*Names have been changed

Complete Article HERE!

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10 Ways to Overcome Sexual Insecurity

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by Katie Lambert

Few things make us feel more vulnerable than being naked in front of someone else. There’s nothing to distract, nowhere to hide. Everything you are is out in the open for everyone to see, whether they be friends or enemies.

When it comes to sex, there’s often a component of emotional vulnerability as well. For people who are insecure when it comes to their bodies and their relationships, this can make the bedroom a minefield. An innocuous-seeming comment from a partner can result in a psychological detonation and a devastated evening (not to mention a lot of confusion).

If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s time to make peace with yourself. Here are 10 tips to overcoming the internal battle in the bedroom.

10 Walk Around Naked More Often

For some people, sexual insecurity comes from the way they feel about their bodies. If you’re one of them, feeling comfortable in bed with someone else has to start with you feeling comfortable with yourself.

Easier said than done, right?

Start with something concrete: Take it all off. And by “it,” we mean your clothes. Walk around naked. Look at your body in the mirror (not under fluorescent lighting!) through the eyes of someone much more compassionate than you usually are with yourself. Yes, you might have cellulite, or one breast or testicle that’s lower than the other, or weird hair on your back. But so what?

Despite what you may have absorbed through the media, people like different things. Fat, pubic hair, paleness — those all get someone going. You don’t have to have Ryan Reynolds’ abs or Scarlett Johansson’s cleavage to be sexually desirable. If someone is smiling at you in a bedroom and inviting you under the covers, it’s because they want to sleep with you. Just as you are.

No more turning off the light. Remember that confidence is sexy, too.

9 Get in Touch with Yourself

Self-pleasure is normal. Some of us have been doing it since toddlerhood, while others didn’t discover it until much later. While it’s great in and of itself, masturbation also serves another purpose — teaching you what makes you feel good.

Know thyself– in the carnal sense. Some women prefer clitoral stimulation, for example, while others like vaginal or anal penetration, and still others desire some sort of combination. Some men like attention paid to their nipples, scrotum or perineum, while others would like you to put your mouth and hands elsewhere.

If you know what gets you all hot and bothered, you can better guide someone who wants to please you. That’s a win-win.

8 Make a Doctor’s Appointment

Some insecurities can be resolved by talking to a health care professional. If your worries stem from the fact that sex is painful for you, for instance, it might be a medical issue. Someone can talk you through it, give you advice and might be able to fix it.

Lest you worry that your concern is utterly bizarre, rest assured that any health care professional has pretty much heard it all.

If you’ve noticed an unusual discharge or smell, or if you’re having trouble getting erect, having an orgasm or staying lubricated, give your doctor a call. Either it’s something he or she can help you with, or you’ll get the reassurance that everything is just fine.

7 Reprioritize

It isn’t true that all men want sex all the time, or that what all women truly desire is a man or woman who lasts for hours.

A common insecurity is about “performance.” Women worry that they’ll take too long to orgasm, or that they won’t be able to. Men are concerned that they’ll ejaculate too quickly or not get hard enough.

Orgasms are awesome — no one’s denying it. But making that the only focus of a sexual experience is missing a lot of other things. Plus, the pressure of making it the be-all and end-all of your tryst just makes it more nerve-wracking.

Can’t get it up? It happens. If it happens often, you might want to get checked out for any medical issues, but if it happens when you’re nervous, you certainly aren’t the only one. Can’t have an orgasm? Again, not the end of the world. Maybe you aren’t comfortable with the person, or maybe you have other stuff going on in your mind. Maybe you’re both drunk. The point is that there’s more to sex than those few seconds. Make the most of it.

6 Accept That You Like What You Like

Let’s say that what you need to feel fully aroused is dirty talk. You want your sexual partner to tell you, in detail, exactly what he or she fantasizes about doing to your naked body. (Or, hey, your clothed body — whatever works.)

But you don’t want to ask, because you’re afraid that he or she will think it’s weird. And, instead of having an incredibly satisfying experience, you leave wishing for something more.

The heart wants what the heart wants. Same goes for the genitalia. Unless your particular sexual predilections are illegal or dangerous, they’re fine — and we promise that there are other people who share the same longings.

You have a choice: You can try to plant thought beams in your partner’s head about what you want, or you can talk about it and possibly elevate mediocre sex to something fantastic. And who knows — he or she might’ve been hoping the entire time that you’d say it.

5 Get Your Head Straight

Is your goal to be the best at sex? You might want to find a new goal. One, because that award does not exist outside the porn industry, and two, because there is no right or best way to do it — different people like different things.

It’s like a dirty nursery rhyme — some like it fast, some like it slow, some like it hard and some like it not so.

Regardless of what magazines may try to sell you, there is no one trick that will drive him or her wild. Well, there might be, but you’re going to have to find that one out from the one you’re with.

The best sex happens when you lose yourself in the moment. So instead of striving for first place in a competition that’s only in your head, work toward finding someone who makes you tingly.

4 Practice, Practice, Practice!

Before you ever kissed someone, you probably worried that you’d be bad at it. This is why so many people have stories about making out with their own hands.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people have the same worries about sex. Here, we can take a lesson from sports. (No, it’s not about bases.) Practice, practice, practice.

You don’t know much about sex at the beginning. That’s OK. There’s no sex bible. That’s because it’s totally subjective. Good sex is what feels good to you.

If you’ve left the bed feeling let down, try, try again! Figure out what it was that made you disappointed. Never quite gotten the hang of being on top? Experiment the next dozen times you do it. Have no idea what you’re doing when it comes to oral sex? Take the time to explore. Most people appreciate lovers who take their time and think creatively. You’re in no hurry (unless you’re in an elevator). There’s plenty of time to learn and grow.

3 Use Your Mouth — to Talk

Like so many other situations in life, communication is key when it comes to sex. You should be talking about contraception and STDs, of course, but there’s more to it than that.

It’s OK to admit that you’re inexperienced or need cuddling or compliments, or that you’re a little shy. If he or she isn’t the kind of person you feel comfortable talking to, you might want to rethink the whole “exchanging bodily fluids” thing. You don’t have to discuss the time your dog got hit by a car, but you should be able to share with a sexual partner your feelings about sex.

If you’re insecure about your abilities, few people will mind having a willing pupil — some will enjoy it, in fact.

So instead of letting your inner monologue distract you, try putting some of it into words. After that, you might not need too many words at all.

2 Talk to a Therapist

Some sexual insecurities require a little outside help to overcome. Any kind of past sexual trauma or emotional or psychological problem could use some professional expertise.

Therapy is still generally looked at as something you do in response to a traumatic life event, but really, it’s just a tool to help you work through things — even issues that seem small.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a good option for dealing with sexual insecurities because it focuses on changing the way you think, helping you squelch negative thoughts in favor of a more constructive way of looking at things.

1 Have Fun

Sex is fun. That’s why humans have been doing it for centuries. So if you’re not enjoying yourself, take a step back and investigate why.

If your insecurities are being reinforced by the person you’re with — a partner who criticizes you or makes you feel inadequate — hit the road, Jack. Find someone who makes you feel amazing.

Life is too short to spend it worried about whether your O-face looks weird or how visible your cellulite is from behind. Don’t miss out. Address your insecurities and enter the boudoir excited — pun completely intended.

Complete Article HERE!

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A queer user’s guide to the wild and terrifying world of LGBTQ dating apps

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By Jon Shadel

What’s the best queer dating app today? Many people, tired of swiping through profiles with discriminatory language and frustrated with safety and privacy concerns, say it isn’t a dating app at all. It’s Instagram.

This is hardly a queer seal of approval for the social media platform. Instead, it’s a sign that, in the eyes of many LGBTQ people, big dating apps are failing us. I know that sentiment well, from both reporting on dating technology and my experience as a gender non-binary single swiping through app after app. In true early-21st-century style, I met my current partner after we matched on multiple apps before agreeing to a first date.

Sure, the present state of dating looks fine if you’re a white, young, cisgender gay man searching for an easy hookup. Even if Grindr’s many troubles have turned you off, there are several competing options, including, Scruff, Jack’d, and Hornet and relative newcomers such as Chappy, Bumble’s gay sibling.

But if you’re not a white, young, cisgender man on a male-centric app, you may get a nagging sense that the queer dating platforms simply were not designed for you.

Mainstream dating apps “aren’t built to meet queer needs,” journalist Mary Emily O’Hara tells me. O’Hara returned to Tinder in February when her last relationship ended. In an experience other lesbians have noted, she encountered a lot of straight men and couples slipping into her results, so she investigated what many queer women say is an issue that’s pushing them away from the most widely used dating app in America. It’s one of many reasons keeping O’Hara from logging on, too.

“I’m basically not using mobile dating apps anymore,” she says, preferring instead to meet potential matches on Instagram, where a growing number of people, regardless of gender identity or sexuality, turn to find and interact with potential partners.

An Instagram account can serve as a photo gallery for admirers, a way to appeal to romantic interests with “thirst pics” and a low-stakes venue to interact with crushes by repeatedly responding to their “story” posts with heart-eye emoji. Some see it as a tool to supplement dating apps, many of which enable users to connect their social media accounts to their profiles. Others keenly search accounts such as @_personals_, which have turned a corner of Instagram into a matchmaking service centering on queer women and transgender and non-binary people. “Everyone I know obsessively reads Personals on Instagram,” O’Hara says. “I’ve dated a couple of people that I met after they posted ads there, and the experience has felt more intimate

This trend is partially prompted by a widespread sense of dating app fatigue, something Instagram’s parent company has sought to capitalize on by rolling out a new service called Facebook Dating, which — surprise, surprise — integrates with Instagram. But for many queer people, Instagram merely seems like the least terrible option when compared with dating apps where they report experiencing harassment, racism and, for trans users, the possibility of getting automatically banned for no reason other than who they are. Even with the small steps Tinder has taken to make its app more gender-inclusive, trans users still report getting banned arbitrarily.

“Dating apps aren’t even capable of properly accommodating non-binary genders, let alone capturing all the nuance and negotiation that goes into trans attraction/sex/relationships,” says “Gender Reveal” podcast host Molly Woodstock, who uses singular “they” pronouns.

It’s unfortunate given that the queer community helped pioneer online dating out of necessity, from the analog days of personal ads to the first geosocial chat apps that enabled easy hookups. Only in the past few years has online dating emerged as the No. 1 way heterosexual couples meet. Since the advent of dating apps, same-sex couples have overwhelmingly met in the virtual world.

“That’s why we tend to migrate to personal ads or social media apps like Instagram,” Woodstock says. “There are no filters by gender or orientation or literally any filters at all, so there’s no chance that said filters will misgender us or limit our ability to see people we might be attracted to.”

The future of queer dating may look something like Personals, which raised nearly $50,000 in a crowdfunding campaign last summer and plans to launch a “lo-fi, text-based” app of its own this fall. Founder Kelly Rakowski drew inspiration for the throwback approach to dating from personal ads in On Our Backs, a lesbian erotica magazine that printed from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

That doesn’t mean all the existing matchmaking services are worthless, though; some cater to LGBTQ needs more than others. Here are the better queer dating apps, depending on what you’re looking for.

For a (slightly) more trans-inclusive space, try OkCupid. Far from a glowing endorsement, OkCupid sometimes seems like the only palatable option.The few trans-centric apps that have launched in recent years have either failed to earn the community’s trust or been described as a “hot mess.” Of mainstream platforms, OkCupid has gone further than many of its competitors in giving users options for gender identities and sexualities as well as creating a designated profile area for defining pronouns, the first app of its caliber to do so. “The worlds of trans (and queer) dating and sex are more complicated than their straight, cisgender counterparts,” Woodstock says. “We don’t sort our partners into one or two easy categories (man or woman), but describe them in a variety of terms that touch on gender (non-binary), presentation (femme) and sexual preferences.” Clearly, a void still exists in this category.

For the largest LGBTQ women-centric app, try Her. Until Personals launches its own app, queer women have few options other than Her, what one reviewer on the iOS App Store describes as “the only decent dating app.” Launched in 2013 as Dattch, the app was renamed Her in 2015 and rebranded in 2018 to appear more welcoming to trans and non-binary people. It now claims more than 4 million users. Its core functionality resembles Tinder’s, with a “stack” of potential matches you can swipe through. But Her also aims to create a sense of community, with a range of niche message boards — a new feature added last year — as well as branded events in a few major cities. One drawback: Reviewers on the Apple App and Google Play stores repeatedly complain that Her’s functionality is limited … unless you hand over around $15 a month for a premium subscription.

For casual chats with queer men, try Scruff. An early pioneer of geosocial dating, Grindr is well known as a facilitator of hookups, but a string of recent controversies has soured its reputation. Grindr “has taken a cavalier approach to our privacy,” says Ari Ezra Waldman, director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School. Waldman, who has studied the design of queer-centric dating apps, suggests alternatives such as Scruff or Hinge, which do not have histories of sharing user information with third parties. Recently, Scruff has taken a clearer stance against racism by making its “ethnicity” field optional, a move that follows eight years of defending its filters or declining to comment on the issue. It’s a commendable, if largely symbolic, acknowledgment of what trans and queer people of color continue to endure on dating apps.

For queer men and zero unsolicited nudes, try Chappy. Receiving unsolicited nudes is so widespread on gay male-focused dating apps that Grindr even has a profile field to let users indicate if they wish to receive NSFW pics. Chappy, on the other hand, restricts messaging to matches only, so it’s a good bet if you want to avoid unwanted intimate photos. Chappy was launched in 2017 and became one of the fastest-growing apps in its native Britain before its acquisition by Bumble. Chappy offers a few refreshing features, including a user code of conduct everyone must agree to and the ability to easily toggle between guys looking for “casual,” “commitment” and “friends.” Earlier this year, the app moved its headquarters to join Bumble in Austin, with its eyes set on growth in the United States. Current user reviews suggest it works best in the nation’s largest metro areas.

For friends without benefits, try Bumble or Chappy. Need a break on your search for Ms., Mx. or Mr. Right? In hopes of keeping you swiping forever, some apps have created designated friend modes, notably Bumble and Chappy. But maybe try skipping the apps first — join an LGBTQ book club or a hiking Meetup group, or grab a drink at your local queer bar (if you have one left). Or, if you’re in Los Angeles, hang out at Cuties, the city’s only queer coffee shop. This reporter has done all these things and enjoyed all of them — except the hiking.

Complete Article HERE!

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Cannabis vs. Alcohol

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Which Is Better for Sex?

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As legalization brings cannabis out into the open, sex is becoming a major area of interest for brands as well as smokers. It may even make some consider turning to cannabis instead of the most well-known sex-enhancing drug, alcohol. How exactly, then, do the two substances compare?

According to a new survey by the vibrator startup Lioness, the answer is unequivocal: Cannabis wins. Of 432 people surveyed, 66% said cannabis makes orgasms more intense, compared with only 2% who said the same of alcohol. Similarly, 55% said cannabis led to more satisfying foreplay, compared with 3% saying the same of alcohol, and cannabis gave 57% of people longer sessions (though it decreased the time it took to reach an orgasm), while alcohol did the same for just 6%.

While this study was sponsored by a cannabis company and is not the most objective, there’s other research supporting this point. A 2007 study in the Journal of Pharmacology compared people’s reports of sex with alcohol and sex with illicit drugs, including cannabis and ecstasy. While cannabis wasn’t studied individually, the researchers found that people reported greater willingness to experiment and more satisfying experience overall with illicit drugs compared to alcohol.

Dr. Becky Lynn, Director of the Center for Sexual Health and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Saint Louis University, who studies how cannabis affects women’s sex lives, says her own patients are more likely to report enhanced libido and orgasm with cannabis than alcohol. Some women with severe pain during sex find alcohol more useful, she says, but this comes at the cost of being less present during the encounter.

Sex coach and CannaSexual creator Ashley Manta says her clients also much prefer cannabis as a sexual aid. “The phrases I hear most often from clients with regard to alcohol and sex are ‘disconnected,’ ‘sloppy,’ and ‘numb,’ ” she said. “With cannabis, I hear ’embodied,’ ‘heightened sensation,’ and ‘euphoric.’”

Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, family physician and medical adviser for loudcloudhealth.co, agreed with Manta.

“Alcohol tends to numb us,” Djordjevic said, while “sex on marijuana makes us more aware and enhances our sensations.” Issues such as erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and falling asleep during sex are also more likely to happen with alcohol, he said. However, cannabis is more likely to cause anxiety and paranoia, which can certainly hinder one’s sexual enjoyment.

One advantage to cannabis is that there are more ways to use it, Manta points out. There are even cannabis sex products that won’t intoxicate you at all, such as topicals and cannabidiol (CBD) products. Lynn cautions, however, that there isn’t solid evidence to support the effectiveness of cannabis lube.

Stoned Sex is the Best Sex

Many people agree based on personal experience that stoned sex is superior.

“On booze, sex is sloppy, graceless, incoherent, and too often incomplete,” said Russel Barth, a 50-year-old author and cannabis advocate in Ottawa. “On cannabis, sex is like a ballet with full-orchestra crescendo. On booze, you are not completely present in the moment. With cannabis, you are deeply in tune with the moment and with the person you are interacting with. The climax can be transcendental.”

“Getting high [on cannabis] makes me ridiculously horny because every sensation is amplified,” said Suzannah, a 23-year-old student in South Africa. “I enjoy having sex while I’m tipsy, but the drunker I get, the more numb everything is, and I also just generally don’t enjoy not remembering a lot of it.”

Some sexual advantages of cannabis for sex are indirect. It makes Michele Parrotta, a 55-year-old entrepreneur in Ontario, Canada, “way less nervous” during sex. Ryan, a 33-year-old who works in sales in Washington, D.C., says cannabis actually makes him shier, but that has the benefit of making him more gentle and giving, while alcohol can make him overly bold, selfish, and rough.

Not everyone feels that way, though. Shad, a 26-year-old marketing professional in San Diego and Los Angeles, actually prefers tipsy sex (though not full-on drunk sex) to stoned sex. With weed, “neither person has as much energy and is more likely to chill out vs. get creative and have a great orgasm,” he said.

Joe, a 31-year-old writer in Southern California, sees pros and cons to both. While drunk sex is “more adventurous,” stoned sex is “deliciously slow and contemplative,” he said.

Emma Biddulph, a 25-year-old graduate student in Portland, Oregon, says sober sex is the best of all, but stoned sex can occasionally be fun because it makes partners “giggly” and more comfortable expressing what they want.

Risky Business

Another perhaps surprising difference is, research shows that cannabis actually decreases sexual risk-taking, while alcohol increases it, said Matthew Johnson, associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. A study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that alcohol is more likely to make someone sleep with a stranger, but cannabis is more likely to make them sleep with someone they already know.

“A very likely reason is that alcohol has major effects on GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and drugs that work on this system tend to have strong disinhibiting effects,” Johnson said. “People don’t put their mental brakes on, so to speak. But cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system, which plays much more of a modulatory role.”

There also might be an upside to cannabis’s potential to induce paranoia, he said: People may be more likely to worry about things like pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Whichever substance you are using, doing it in excess can hinder your sex life more than it helps. One study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, for example, found that men who used cannabis daily were at higher risk for sexual dysfunction such as inability to orgasm, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation.

So, while many people have long been singing the praises of stoned sex and will likely continue to do so, it’s still not a cure-all, and there can be too much of a good thing.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Evolution of a Bisexual

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My Road to Embracing Sexual Fluidity

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“Now, I’m far more attracted to men than women, but who’s to say my sexual preference won’t sway again?”

I’ve identified as straight, I’ve identified as gay, and I’ve identified—and still identify—as bi. My sexual identity is something of a shapeshifting mass that I can never quite firmly grasp. In the minds of many, I’m confused. But I don’t see it that way. I’ve always been confident in my sexual orientation; it’s just changed over time. For the majority of my life, I was solely romantically and sexually linked to women. But in my late 20s, I started to experiment with men (something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time) and really liked it. Now, I’m far more attracted to men than women, but who’s to say my sexual preference won’t sway again?

“It’s not uncommon for people’s sexual identities to change,” sex educator Erica Smith, M.Ed, tells NewNowNext. “I know this as a sexuality educator and because I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve identified as bisexual, lesbian, queer, and straight (when I was very young). It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s that I relaxed into the knowledge that my sexual attractions are probably going to keep changing and shifting my whole life.”

According to Alisa Swindell, Ph.D. candidate and bisexual activist, it is not always our sexuality that changes. Usually, it’s our understanding of our sexuality that evolves when we explore what feels right to us. “Our understanding of gender and how it is expressed has been evolving at a rate that has not previously been known (or studied) and that is changing how we understand our own desires and responses to others,” she says.

Many outside factors can influence our sexuality. For instance, Swindell thinks many bisexuals are playing against a numbers game. “There are more people with other gender attractions than same-gender, so more often bisexual people end up in relationships with people of another gender and find it easier to pursue those relationships,” she says.

In her opinion, this sentiment is especially true for women, as there is still a lot of stigma toward bi women within lesbian communities. Men, however, experience a different set of challenges.

“Once [men] start dating [other] men, they often find themselves in social situations that are almost exclusively male and so meeting women becomes harder,” she adds, effectively summarizing my lived experience as a sexually active bisexual man. “Also, those men, like all of us, were socialized to respond to heterosexual norms. So many men who enjoy the queerness of the male spaces are still often attracted to heteronormative women who do not always respond to male bisexuality due to continuing stigma.”

The continuing stigma often pressures bisexuals to adopt a monosexual identity. Take Leslie, a “not super out” bisexual, as an example. Leslie dated a woman from her late teens to early 20s, keeping her sexual orientation a secret because her parents were conservative and she didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. As she revisits her past same-sex relationship with me, she has a realization: “In reflecting on all of that, I think deep down I thought that being with a man would just be easier.”

The bisexual Pride flag

Now married to a man, Leslie feels like she’s lost her bi identity, though she’s still attracted to different genders. “When I see people I follow online and find out they are bisexual I usually reach out and say, ‘I am, too!’ so I can collect sisters and brothers where I can,” she adds. “Otherwise, as I am cisgender-presenting I often feel like I don’t really have a say but I offer my support.”

This loss of identity is all too common. “Maintaining a recognized bisexual identity can be difficult as monosexuality is still the assumed norm,” Swindell says, noting that showing support—whether that looks like keeping up with issues that affect bisexuals, correcting people who mistakenly call bisexuals gay or straight, or encouraging our partners to not let that slide when it comes up with friends and family are all important for maintaining an identity—as Leslie has, is important to maintaining a bi identity. Smith adds this loss of identity may be attributed to a person’s own internalized biphobia, too.

“When it comes to sexuality in particular, there is rightfully a lot of autonomy given to people to self-identify. If someone self-identifies as queer or bisexual, none of their sexual or relational behavior, in of itself, alters that,” psychotherapist Daniel Olavarria, LCSW, tells NewNowNext. “Of course, there is also a recognition that by marrying someone of the opposite sex, for example, that this queer person is exercising a level of privilege that may alter their external experience in the world. As a result, this may have implications for how that person is perceived among queer and non-queer communities.”

Jodi’s experience as a bisexual person is more reflective of my own: She shares that she’s gone through stages where she only dates men, and others where she only dates women. Available studies suggest that only a minority of bisexuals maintain simultaneous relationships with both genders. In one report, self-identified bisexuals were asked if they had been sexually involved with both men and women in the past 12 months. Two-thirds said yes, and only one-third has been simultaneously involved with both genders.

As for a possible explanation? “It can be really difficult for us to find partners who are comfortable with us dating other genders at the same time,” Smith offers up as a theory.

“If I’m in a situation where I have to be exhibiting a lot of ‘masculine’ energy (running projects, being very in charge of things at work, etc.), then I tend to want to be able to be in more ‘feminine’ energy at home,” Jodi adds, clarifying that people of any gender identity can boast masculine and feminine energy. “Likewise, if my work life looks quieter and focused on more ‘feminine’ aspects such as nurturing and caregiving, I tend to want to exhibit a stronger more masculine presence while at home.”

Bisexuality is, in many ways, a label that can accommodate one’s experience on a sexuality spectrum. This allows for shifts based on a person’s needs or interests at any given point in their life. Perhaps “The Bisexual Manifesto,” published in 1990 from the Bay Area Bisexual Network, says it best:

Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders.

Sexuality is complicated, and how we experience it throughout our lives is informed by a multitude of different factors—the exploration of power dynamics, craving certain types of sexual experiences, and social expectations can all influence our gender preferences at any given time, to name just a few. Much like our own bodies, our understanding of our sexual orientation will continue to grow.

I’ve come to accept this ongoing evolution as a wonderful and inevitable thing. Imagine having a completely static sexual orientation your entire life? Boring! Being able to explore your sexuality with wonderful people of all genders is intensely satisfying and uniquely insightful, no matter how many others try to denounce what you feel in your heart or your loins.

I didn’t choose the bi life; the bi life chose me. And I am grateful.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Propose an Open Relationship

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By Malia Wollan

“Don’t bring it up during an argument,” says Terri D. Conley, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who studies sexuality. If you’re in a monogamous relationship and want to explore making it nonmonogamous, raise the topic gradually. Conley doesn’t drink, but she thinks these exploratory conversations might benefit from the loosening effects of alcohol. Start hypothetically. For example, ask your partner to name the most attractive famous people. “You could then say, ‘Oh, that person is so hot, if they propositioned you, I’d be fine if you had sex with them,’ ” Conley says. If your partner looks horrified at the suggestion, it doesn’t bode well.

Once you decide to make your case outright, be explicit about what you want, and say it clearly. Listen carefully to what your partner wants. To make what sex researchers call consensual “extradyadic involvement” work, you need to be willing to communicate often and with empathy. Monogamous couples move into nonmonogamy for all kinds of reasons — unmet sexual desire, boredom, illness, curiosity. Open arrangements tend to work best for couples with lower inclinations toward jealousy and, in the case of heterosexual pairs, less rigid gender norms. Just the suggestion of romantic permutation can be stimulating. The psychotherapist Esther Perel has found that when monogamous couples discuss the possibility of nonmonogamy, it often increases sexual desire between them. “You’re asking yourselves, ‘What would our relationship look like if it changed?’ ” Conley says.

If you can afford it, take this negotiation to couples’ therapy. Be sure to choose a provider who is amenable to the notion of open relationships; Conley’s research suggests many are not and that some core psychology theories of attachment, commitment and psychosocial development presume monogamy as the ideal. Since Conley first began publishing academic papers on nonmonogamy more than a decade ago, she has been attacked by other researchers in the field. Their anger confused her. “It was like I shot their dog,” she says. Her methodology wasn’t the problem, she says; it was that she’d dared to suggest that nonmonogamous relationships could be healthy and satisfying.

If both parties appear willing to try an open relationship, give yourselves a trial period. “If your partner is still miserable after two months, it’s probably not going to work,” Conley says. “In which case you need to decide if you’re going to stay with that person and be monogamous or leave.”

Complete Article HERE!

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“The onset of artificial lovers will make us question what it means to love, and to be loved in return.”

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Sex tech, teledildonics, and above all, sex robots are getting more and more public attention. Therefore, it’s not really surprising that the scientific community has also sunk its teeth into these topics. On July 1-2, scientists from various fields will meet for the fourth “International Congress On Love And Sex With Robots” in Brussels. Eleanor Hancock from the University of Liverpool is in charge of the press work for the conference. In our EAN interview, she grants us insights into the main topics that will be discussed at the event, and we talk about the research that is being done in these fields right now.

This (past) summer, the fourth International Congress On Love And Sex With Robots will take (took) place in Brussels. Who will participate(d) in this congress and what will (did) they discuss?
Eleanor Hancock: There will be a range of academics presenting this year, including myself. We are incredibly multi-disciplinary, with paper topics ranging from ethics to engineering. This is something we are incredibly proud of, as both sex robots and sex-technology must be considered from a range of academic perspectives. As Noel Sharkey, roboticist and chair of Foundation for Responsible Robotics suggests, the discussion of technology calls for STEAM. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, especially since the implications of sex-tech and sex robots may encompass millions of humans!

In terms of specific speakers and paper submissions for this year at LSR, I cannot give too much away about the papers and the speakers – you will have to catch us at the event!

Why are these interesting and fruitful topics for scientific consideration?
Love, sex and technology are all very interesting talking points, so it’s no surprise that a combination of these concepts arouse considerable scientific consideration. Many of the concepts that are apparent in sex robots, such as emotion, intimacy and desire – may raise some interesting questions not just about technology but also about humanity. The onset of artificial lovers will make us question what it means to love, and to be loved in return. It will also broaden our scope of intimate partners, and even our sexual desires! These are all obviously fantastic talking points.

I also think that people are becoming more aware of how we are utilising technology in the bedroom and with our sexual partners, and sex is an interesting area within technology because it has historically been confounded to private, physical spaces. Sex has also been a particularly ‘taboo’ subject and continues to be so in many, many societies around the world. Topics around sex-tech and sex-robots have the power to push through societal norms and/or taboos, allowing us to consider concepts that we have previously not given much thought.

This topic can be looked at from different angles: philosophical, technical, economic, etc. What will the conference in Brussels focus on?
As I said earlier, the conference will focus on a multitude of academic disciplines, as the -tech and sex-robots incorporates a range of both scientific, ethical and philosophical concepts.

Eleanor Hancock recently graduated from the University of Liverpool with a Masters of Research in the Communication & Philosophy department

The media’s interest in this topic is quite clear. Hardly any product in sex toy market has ever caused such a stir … how do you explain that?
Sex-technology has been widely reported on. However, it does not cause a much of a stir within the media as sex robots. I partly believe this is due to media sensationalism about sex robots. I also believe it is because people are unaware of the technology currently being used to advance sex toys, and the sex industry. I think if we compare sex-tech to sex robots, the current teledildonic devices available far outstrip the technological capacity of sex robots, as well as being more accessible and affordable for all.

If more people were actively aware of sex-technology, I think there would be a much stronger focus on sex-tech in the media and the potential for positive outcome derived from sex-tech. Unfortunately, some webcam broadcasting sites who have adopted sex-tech tend to publicise ‘gimmicky,’ ‘click-bait’ news articles about sex-tech, which is not the concise and clear media-focus I believe sex-tech deserves. For example, Camsoda has commented multiple times on their efforts to offer “Download a BJ” on their website. Whilst it is obvious that the focus on such a technology impedes publicity more so than it does technological development, there are still some exciting concepts that are being explored through virtual BJ’s and remote sex.

The virtual BJ in question is facilitated and reciprocated through haptic technology used in sex-tech. Haptic technology is the term used for any technology that accentuates and creates the feeling of touch, by applying forces, vibrations and movement to the user. Haptic technology allows sex-tech to deliver ‘remote’ touching and stimulation, as well as being able to mimic the vibrations of music and be paired up with visual stimuli, like VR pornography. Of course, when Chatubrate speak about ‘downloading BJ’s’ the technology that facilitates such gimmicks is often overlooked in favour of ‘clicktivism.’

We rarely hear about the technology itself, how it is being developed and how it can have both positive and negative impacts. The reason for this is I think that the sex-tech market is still heavily saturated because it often colludes with the sex industry, where the potential for marketing a product/concept to boost sales through adult industry revenue is considered before the promotion of the technology itself.
If you want to check out more about ‘downloadable’ blowjobs, here are some articles that I found helpful in my own research: inverse.com/article/24080-camsoda-blowcast-blowjobs-teledildonics.

How would you describe the status quo in the development of sex robots? How far along are we in the development of a lifelike sex robot?
It depends what you mean by ‘life-like.’ Some of Matthew Mullen’s sex dolls look erringly familiar to our human-selves. Of course, they cannot move and are technological incapable of reciprocating any kind of human personality that could be considered even close to life-like. We are still far away from the development of a convincing sex robot that can mimic the persona of a human and be considered lifelike enough to evade the uncanny valley.

The creation of artificial lovers can also be seen as a philosophical problem. What effects can this development have on society and human relations?
There have been many discussions about technology and human relations. With respect to artificial lovers, the narratives of Sherry Turkle, Noel Sharkey and Maria Ashande are useful in viewing the range of issues surrounding sex robot lovers. Whilst academics like Sherry Turkle have discussed the loss of emotion surrounding technological communication and the isolating effects of technology, there has been no empirical research on the effects of loneliness and sex robots to date, so I am cautious about making sweeping statements against them. It is clear why many people feel that sex robots could isolate certain individuals in society and increase the likelihood of people rejecting conventional, human relationships in favour of an intimate relationship with an artificial lover.

Marina Ashande has offered a very valuable insight into the future of marriage alongside artificial lovers. She highlights how there are many cultural and historical values could be changed with the adoption of artificial lovers in society. It shows that the philosophical debate around artificial lovers expands far beyond the concepts of love, intimacy and emotion.

In 2017, the FRR [Foundation for Responsible Robotics] released a report about the future of sex robots and artificial lovers, of which I was a co-author. It highlights some of the issues that may arise from having relationships with robots.

One could argue that a robot or doll is just an object, like any other sex toy. What makes technologies like robotics or artificial intelligence different?
This is a very interesting question. I believe the difference between, let’s say, a vibrator and a sex robot, is that we are more likely to project our feelings onto artifice that resembles humans, or animals. Furthermore, a sex robot offers some form of ‘presence’ in the room, as opposed to a sex toy. We are more likely to anthropomorphise them, which harks reason for caution amongst some academics, for example, Kathleen Richardson believes the increase in our likelihood to anthropomorphise sex robots means we can project negative feelings onto sex robots.

This also raises the question: Should people have sex with robots at all?
I don’t see why not! Any technology can have a negative impact on wider society, but I firmly believe they have potential for positive uses.

The scientific and technical developments in this field are not only progressing rapidly, they are also becoming increasingly complex. Is there a particular development we should keep an eye on – a development which will be of great interest to us in the future?
As much as sexbots take the headlines, I think there are some great examples of sex-tech that have applications for wider society. For example, at a 2018 hackathon in Australia, the winning concept was an application that linked disabled people with the sex industry.

Whilst helping those with physical and mental disabilities access the sex industry may be a small step, the applications for sex-tech provide opportunities for people to reinvent and reengage with their sexuality.

My own research in sex-tech and the sex industry has highlighted that sex workers are utilising sex-technology. This is interesting for me, as not only does it provide evidence that shuns radical feminist narratives about the ‘victimisation’ of women in the sex industry, it also shows that women are manipulating technology for financial gain at very minimum risk to themselves. The narratives surrounding the sex industry have long perpetuated the notion that women put themselves at serious risk in order to profit from their bodies. The webcam and sex-tech industry have the power to silence such arguments.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Raise Boys Without All The Stereotypes About Gender & Masculinity

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By Kelly Gonsalves

These days in countries like the U.S., it’s a lot easier than it has been in the past for girls to pursue hobbies, careers, and preferences once thought exclusive to boys. There’s, of course, still much work to do in creating truly equal opportunities and access, but the good news is that there’s much less of a push to shove all girls into traditional caretaking and homemaking roles. Some parents may even be eager to support and celebrate their daughters’ interest in sports, science, adventure, and the like.

How about our sons?

Ask yourself this: How would you feel about your son wearing skirts and makeup, joining the cheerleading squad or ballet, and spending a lot of time giggling on the phone talking with his friends about schoolyard crushes?

Why many parents struggle to let their boys be “feminine.”

A 2018 study in the Journal of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity found parents tend to be more uncomfortable with their child having gender-nonconforming behaviors when their child is a boy than when their child is a girl. Parents were also more likely to try to change boys’ gender-nonconforming behaviors than to try to change girls. In other words, parents are way more OK with girls doing “boy stuff” than with boys doing “girl stuff.” (Those words don’t actually mean much, of course, but we’ll get to that.)

That discomfort from seeing boys display traits we associate with femininity stems from a combination of sexism and homophobia, explains Jesse Kahn, LCSW, CST, director and sex therapist at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in New York.

“Sexism is rooted in the belief that men are superior to women and masculinity is superior to femininity,” they tell mbg. “As such, ‘male qualities,’ or masculinity, is inherently more acceptable and desirable. Boys deviating from masculinity are then viewed as offensive and inferior.”

The above study also found that parents who showed more “warmth” toward their son were more likely to try to change his gender-nonconforming behaviors. The researchers posited that this finding suggests parents who intervene to guide their sons back toward traditional “boy” behaviors might be doing it because they think it’s good for him. For example, perhaps these parents feel like their son will get bullied or shamed for their “girly” behaviors, and so they believe steering him away from those behaviors is the right thing to do for his well-being.

But in truth, denying a child’s authentic self can create major physical and mental health problems for them down the line: everything from social alienation to lack of proper health care access to increased suicide risk.

“Protective instincts are rote and innate, and they tell us that when something feels dangerous, we should take the easiest and quickest route to restore safety,” sex educator and crisis counselor Cavanaugh Quick, LMSW, tells mbg. “The problem is that restoring safety isn’t inherently the same as eliminating the threat. Confronting the negative behaviors from others, reinforcing positive reception and love with our young people who experience them, and encouraging an expanded possibility for this kind of expression in our boys both restores safety and targets the threat directly.”

Kahn adds, “A lot of research has shown us the power of acceptance from one’s parents. The strongest protection a parent can offer is supporting their child, which begins with examining their own judgments.”

How to raise sons without pigeonholing them into gender stereotypes.

1. Remember that “boy” doesn’t really tell us anything specific about someone’s interests or habits.

Don’t assume you know what your son will like or how he’ll act just because he’s a boy. “Boy” doesn’t really mean anything in particular, after all—we have associations about what being a “boy” and a “man” mean, associations that we’re taught growing up and that get reinforced by our culture and by the media. Then we start teaching them to our children. Research has shown us time and time again that parents treat girls and boys differently, affecting everything from their color preferences to their emotional intelligence to their STEM skills and much more.

“Listen to and stay curious about your child’s interests; if they deviate from your gendered expectations, challenge yourself to both allow your child to engage in that activity as well as be supportive (as supportive as you would be of something you deem more acceptable),” Kahn says. “If a parent is nonresponsive, appears uncomfortable, less interested, or less excited about something their child is doing that is considered nonconforming, the parent is reinforcing their beliefs regarding gendered expectations. Kids pick up on that information.”

Do your best to avoid making assumptions—or being outwardly surprised if your son does something outside of your assumptions. Just remember this: There’s nothing innate about boys liking blue, trucks, sports, girls, or action movies, nor is there anything innate about boys being unemotional or bad at cooking and cleaning. If most boys are like that, it’s because we’ve collectively taught them to be like that. There’s nothing wrong with them developing those traits, of course, but there’s no reason to actively push your child into any of them just because he’s a “boy.”

2. Actively offer your son the “feminine” options.

Just like with the word “boy,” the word “girl” doesn’t really mean anything unless you make it mean something. Whatever it is you typically associate with girlhood, make sure your son has a real opportunity to choose that if it appeals to him.

“That means not just saying ‘I’m OK with it if you want to do this’ but actually making stuff available and actively participating in offering expanded options to your young people,” Quick explains. “Take them down every aisle in the clothing/toy/school supply/etc. store when you’re shopping and just ask them what they like. Make space for them to make decisions when possible, instead of being directive. Support and encourage them when and if they pick stuff that you think isn’t masculine.”

3. Watch your gendered language.

Watch out for things like “man up,” “be a man,” “tough guy,” and “boys will be boys.” And when boys and men around your son do something that conforms to your familiar definition of masculinity, try to avoid making comments about that behavior that imply it’s inherently masculine. (Some examples: “Boys always play so rough!” or “Of course all the dads stayed home to watch the game tonight!”)

“When speaking to children, parents unconsciously use feminine adjectives to describe their daughters and masculine adjectives with their sons,” Kahn adds. “Don’t use language that boosts gendered expectations about how people of specific binary genders are ‘supposed’ to act.”

4. Introduce your sons to people who are gender-nonconforming.

Kahn also recommends introducing your kids to gender-nonconforming and trans people, whether in their lives, in history, or in the media or TV shows. That exposure can help kids start to understand gender for what it really is—not something set in stone based on body parts but rather something that’s just about what behaviors and traits feel comfortable and authentic to any individual.

“Teach [your] children that gendered constructs are not facts, and successfully communicate that their interests, identities, [and] presentations don’t have to be confined to an assigned gender or role,” Kahn explains.

5. Keep educating yourself.

“You can’t teach what you don’t know,” Quick points out. “Talk with yourself about what your gender (nonconforming or not) means to you and why it’s important. Why do you make the choices you make? How do you feel when someone forces you into something different? … Asking and exploring these things for yourself gives you more insight and helps you model that exploration for your young ones.”

If you have no idea where to start, pick up a book about gender to read in your downtime. Kahn adds that seeing a gender-affirmative therapist can also be a really helpful way for parents to educate themselves and figure out how to best support their child, especially if their child is queer or trans.

6. Be an advocate in your community.

Your son might have the most traditionally “boyish” gender expression ever (whatever that means); that’s totally cool. Just remember it still doesn’t give you a pass to go back to passively or actively supporting stereotypes. No matter your kids’ gender identities, raise them so they know how to actively question the gender norms they’ll inevitably encounter outside the home, so they can choose for themselves who they want to be. Support their growth into open-minded and accepting young people who’ll be able to support the gender identities of their peers, whatever they may be. That also means correcting your kids when they’re making gendered comments about their classmates or about TV shows.

You should also stay engaged in conversations around gender, especially around your children’s schools and your family’s larger community. Does your kids’ school have a weird, gendered policy about girls being allowed to wear nail polish but boys aren’t? Or about which uniforms or bathrooms trans kids are allowed to use? Use your voice to advocate for freedom, expression, and inclusivity.

“I believe in focusing on changing the environments we live in so that a gender-nonconforming child doesn’t have to fear being teased, bullied, or have to change as a means of protection from judgment,” Kahn says. “That change starts at home.”

Complete Article HERE!

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