A Big Reason Why Some People Don’t Enjoy Sex As Much

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Some of the biggest things that can get in the way of good sex: performance anxiety, relationship stress, life stress, lack of variety, lack of time, physical conditions that cause pain, sexual dysfunction where certain parts don’t work the way they should, mental health, antidepressants, orgasm focus, clitoris negligence, selfishness, selflessness, lack of communication, lack of lubrication, internalized shame about having sex…and those are just the ones that initially come to mind.

But here’s one that we don’t often hear or talk a lot about: childhood trauma. And that doesn’t include only childhood sexual abuse (although that’s a large and pervasive type of childhood trauma). It also includes being neglected by your parents, seeing aggressive or emotionally abusive behavior between your parents, getting bullied or mistreated by peers, dealing with identity-related discrimination, and more. These early negative experiences can psychologically shape us and the way we behave, think, and move throughout the world. And new research suggests those traumas can actually affect the way we experience our sexuality in a very specific way.

Researchers surveyed 410 people currently in sex therapy about their sex lives, childhoods, levels of psychological distress in the past week, and how mindful they are as people.

The results showed people who’d experienced more instances of trauma throughout their childhood tended to have less satisfying sexual lives than those without childhood trauma.

Why a bad childhood can lead to a less satisfying sex life as an adult.

It has to do with those other two variables: psychological distress and mindfulness. Predictably, the findings showed people with more childhood trauma tended to experience more daily psychological distress (that is, moments of fear, worry, anxiety, or other negative emotions felt throughout the day) than those without childhood trauma. That psychological distress was linked to lower mindfulness (i.e., the tendency to be attentive and aware of what’s happening in the present moment as it unfolds), and that lack of mindfulness was what was making sex less enjoyable. 

“Psychological distress (i.e., depression, anxiety, irritability, cognitive impairments) may encourage the use of avoidance strategies to escape from suffering or unpleasant psychological states, which may in turn diminish attentiveness and awareness of what is taking place in the present moment,” the researchers explain in the paper. “The numbing of experience or low dispositional mindfulness may diminish survivors’ availability and receptiveness to pleasant stimuli, including sexual stimuli, therefore leading to a sex life perceived as empty, bad, unpleasant, negative, unsatisfying, or worthless.”

In other words, people who’ve experienced bad stuff as kids tend to deal with more stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, and because of that, they’ve developed a specific coping strategy that involves distancing themselves from being fully aware of their emotional and perhaps even physical senses. That lack of mindfulness, however, ends up making good things—like sex—also less enjoyable.

How mindfulness affects sexual pleasure.

Plenty of past research has demonstrated how important mindfulness is to enjoying sex. One study earlier this year found people who are more in tune with their senses tend to have more sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, a higher sense of sexual well-being, and even more sexual confidence.

This isn’t just about woo-woo feel-your-feelings stuff—mindfulness is particularly key to physical pleasure. Here’s how the researchers explain it:

A lower dispositional mindfulness may be particularly detrimental to sexual functioning. Namely, individuals who are distracted, less present, less aware, or unmindful might report lower sexual satisfaction because (1) they may show less awareness of sexual stimuli or less capacity to identify and experience pleasant states as they unfold, therefore potentially experiencing less sexual satisfaction; and (2) their lack of self-regulation of attention might preclude psychological distance from anxious thoughts and decrease their contact with moment-to-moment experiences, hence tempering arousal reactions toward sexual stimuli. … A greater disposition to mindfulness has also been related to one’s ability to fully experience the sexual act.

If you’re someone who had a rough childhood for whatever reason, it’s possible that those experiences have shaped your ability to be fully present with your senses, which in turn can make sex just feel less good.

According to the study, the trauma-distress-mindfulness-pleasure connection accounted for nearly 20% of the variance in sexual satisfaction among people—in other words, these variables together were responsible for 20% of the difference between how good sex felt across all the people in the study, from the people with the lowest sexual satisfaction to those with the highest. That means this is something to seriously pay attention to if sex tends to not feel so great for you!

The researchers suggest people with childhood trauma consider spending time working to deal with their negative emotions via mindfulness—that is, learning to sit with those emotions instead of trying to avoid them. That practice, if mastered, can begin to seep into all parts of your life and change the way you tune into any and all experiences, good and bad.

“Higher levels of dispositional mindfulness may help to reroute one’s focus away from negative, critical, or anxiety-provoking cognitions and onto sensations that are happening during sexual activities with their partner, as they unfold from moment to moment, therefore promoting satisfying sexual experiences among partners,” the researchers write. “Partners presenting higher levels of dispositional mindfulness could be more aware of their internal (e.g., arousing sensations, thoughts, emotions) and external cues (e.g., erotic cues such as seeing the partner’s naked body).”

Here are a few of the best meditations for improving your sex life, plus a guide to staying present during sex itself.

Complete Article HERE!

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Goodbye Bad Sex…

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How To Rewrite Your Sexual Story

By Us

Now, the team behind the raved-about podcast, led by Lisa Williams and Anniki Sommerville, are putting their considerable expertise down on paper with their debut book, More Orgasms Please: Why Female Pleasure Matters. In the book, the collective, who firmly believe that sex, relationships and body confidence are feminist issues that can no longer be ignored, take on everything from feminist porn to body image and the menopause.

Like the podcast that inspired it, More Orgasms Please is like a great conversation with friends: at once punchy and playful, normalising and educational. Featuring insight from doctors, bloggers, politicians, therapists and celebrities, it’s an eye-opening read that puts women’s pleasure firmly on the map at a time when it couldn’t be more crucial.

In the extract below, Anniki recounts a bad sexual experience she had as a teenager, which left her feeling anxious about her future sex life. If, like so many of us, you too have had a less-than-brilliant encounter between the sheets, you’ll want to read on for The Hotbed Collective’s straight-talking advice…

ANNIKI: It’s the late Eighties. I’m fifteen. I’ve been out at a nightclub with a bunch of friends. We’ve drunk Grolsch, and been chatted up by some students from St Martin’s School of Art. They are channelling the Levi’s 501 ads and wear white T-shirts and baggy jeans.

One of them asks if I want to go back to his room. My best friend Hannah accompanies me. He lives in a hall of residence in Battersea. To cut a long story short, the boy and I snog while Hannah sleeps in the same bed. This is not unusual as beds are often at a premium and we’ve become used to sharing this way. Without warning the boy clambers on top of me and starts thrusting. Hannah mumbles, ‘Can you please stop?’ but the boy continues. Eventually after three minutes he groans. I am still wearing my thick Wolford tights. They must be at least 200 denier.

‘You are completely gross,’ Hannah says waking up. ‘I’m getting out of here.’

I don’t want to stay without her so we leave. On the early-morning bus up the King’s Road, I look down at my tights. There is a white sticky substance. ‘I can’t believe you had sex in the bed next to me,’ Hannah says.

The conversation ended right there. Had I had sex? Was that it? The problem was I lacked the necessary vocabulary to explain what had happened. My sex ed lessons hadn’t included a session on ‘dry humping’. ‘Could I be pregnant?’ I wondered. There were rumours that sperm was so powerful that it could survive outside your body and crawl up your leg if it was determined enough. I never talked about this experience with anyone – not even my best mate.

I also felt ashamed but wasn’t quite sure why. There was no one I could talk to about it. I spent many hours fretting that my future sex life would be one where I always had sex through a pair of tights because I didn’t know any better.

‘Bad sex’ experiences such as the one Anniki describes above unfortunately are the norm for many young women embarking on those first few formative sexual experiences. Without a meaningful, realistic idea of what to expect or useful education about how sex is supposed to be pleasurable, then it’s a miracle that we ever end up enjoying it at all

If you don’t know your own anatomy, what a clitoris is, or the difference between foreplay and penetration, then having sex through a pair of tights can be the unfortunate outcome. Sex education lays the groundwork. It also encourages us to talk about our experiences so we don’t think we’re abnormal. It gives us the information we need to make the right choices (and these will hopefully lead to more orgasms and less worry, anxiety and ignorance).

Bad sex probably shares a few common traits (for us anyway).

FIRSTLY: no orgasm. Of course, you can have nice sex without an orgasm but if you are physically capable of an orgasm, it’s a bit like eating rhubarb crumble without custard. Or not having a bun with your burger. Or going out with trainers and no socks so your feet get blisters (come up with your own analogy here). You can fake an orgasm (and sometimes it’s just simply the easiest thing to do: if it’s someone you haven’t had sex with much yet and you like them but you haven’t finished this book yet and are therefore still mid-journey to becoming a fully qualified sex goddess who can ask for what she likes) but this isn’t a sustainable way forward and the sooner you can put things right, the better.

SECONDLY: bad sex often hurts. This may be because you’re not lubricated enough and your sexual partner has no clue or has forgotten about foreplay, or because they’ve watched too much porn, and think frantic, crazy, Jack Russell-style action is what turns you on (maybe it does, in which case: thumbs up).

THIRDLY: bad sex sometimes entails something happening which is so humiliating that your face burns whenever you think about it, even when it’s twenty-odd years later.

We know from our own conversations and from feedback from The Hotbed that plenty of bad sex is happening each and every day. Here are some quickfire stories about bad encounters, shared with us by our listeners:

The time I tried to give a blow job but thought you had to blow instead of suck…

The time toilet paper was still stuck to my bum and I was really into a guy and he discovered it there…

I had to pee really bad and ended up weeing all over our sleeping bag…

My entire first relationship involved sex which was OK but which never made me have an orgasm…

His mum rang him while we were at it, and he answered and had a full conversation with her before carrying on again…

In Not That Kind of Girl Lena Dunham describes a bad experience of cunnilingus, ‘I felt like I was being chewed on by a child that wasn’t mine.’

Author and columnist Caitlin Moran refers to bad sex as ‘the straight-up awful hump – a tale you will tell for the rest of time’. She tells a story of going back to a famous comedian’s house in the Nineties: ‘As we began the “opening monologue” on the sofa, he reached around for the remote control – and put on his own TV show

Perhaps you too have your own bad sex story to tell. Often the accounts of these experiences share certain commonalities: we’re disempowered, passive, naïve and insecure. We do something stupid and embarrassing and we don’t have the guts to ride it out.

Our partner is too rough, not rough enough, too fast, too slow, rude, arrogant, or picks his toenails afterwards.

Samantha from Sex and the City famously declared, ‘Fuck me badly once, shame on you. Fuck me badly twice, shame on me.’ You will have noticed that we’re not blaming our sexual partners exclusively for our bad sex. Of course, they should get clued up: read about some techniques; buy lube; ask you what you like and dislike; and know that women don’t tend to get turned on by having their head forced down into the crotch area. But while they should be able to read your body language, they can’t be expected to read your mind.

Bad sex can happen when expectations are running very high. It can happen when you’re fifteen and it can happen when you’re eighty-five. Unless women take responsibility for their own pleasure and get educated about what pleases them, and have the confidence to tell or show their partners, bad sex can last an entire lifetime

Here’s our Hotbed advice:

REMEMBER IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO REWRITE YOUR SEXUAL STORY. Just as we can change jobs and have multiple identities, so we can change the course of our sexual history. Have a frank look at your own sex life – look at the overarching narrative from teen to now. What percentage has been bad? Are there any patterns in terms of things you’ve put up with but would rather not anymore? How can you build on the stuff you love?

THINK ABOUT THE BEST SEX YOU’VE HAD AND WHAT SHAPED THOSE EXPERIENCES. Was it a specific technique? A mood? Location? It might not be possible to recreate a summer in Spain when you were twenty-two, but there will be certain ingredients that you can integrate into your sex life now…

GET OVER THE IDEA THAT SEX IS BEST WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG. The reality is often quite the opposite. The Public Health England survey that we referred to earlier found that forty-two per cent of women aged between twenty-five and thirty-four complained of ‘a lack of sexual enjoyment’, but in the fifty-five to sixty-four age group this percentage falls to twenty-eight per cent. Bad sex can be edifying in that it teaches you what you don’t want from a sexual encounter, meaning you can learn and improve as you grow older (despite the media’s failure to portray any woman past thirty as fuckable).

TAP INTO FANTASY. When we’re younger we have rich fantasy lives. Usually these take the shape of imagining sex with pop stars and actors. How can fantasy help now? How can you tap into that teen mindset where sex lived in your imagination?

OF COURSE IT MAY BE EASIER TO FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT, ESPECIALLY DURING NEW ENCOUNTERS, BUT THERE’S NO REASON WHY YOU CAN’T HAVE GREAT SEX WHILE DATING HOT STRANGERS. Showing someone where and how you liked to be touched, bringing along a tube of lube, and saying ‘softer’, ‘this is amazing,’ or ‘ooh, that hurts a bit’, are all completely acceptable from the first bonk, and could spare you both some embarrassment and wasted time.

OWN YOUR BAD SEX STORIES. Talk about them. You’ll soon discover that they’re pretty much universal. A bad sex story shared is a bad sex story out in the open and you can have a good old hoot about it and relieve yourself of any shame. We’re talking about the sex-through-tights stories here, of course. If they’re about anything abusive or damaging in any shape or form then seek help from a counsellor or therapist. The experience of abuse can’t be brushed under the carpet and will oftentimes leave heavy imprints in your memory, but with proper support and therapy they don’t have to be a barrier to improving your sex life either.

Bad sex may be a rite of passage but as we’ve explained, it can also continue from our teens into our twenties, thirties and beyond. There may no longer be Wolford tights involved, but there will certainly be times when your partner can’t perform, or you lose interest, or the baby cries, or you’re too tired, or the quality of sex is just not there for you.

In order to stop the rot and make sure that it’s not happening all the time, look out for unhelpful patterns that emerge. Do you always tend to prioritise your partner’s pleasure more than your own? Do you feel grateful if your partner makes your orgasm a priority but then worry afterwards that you were being too demanding and pushy? Do you cringe when you tell your partner about what turns you on?

It’s also worth remembering that famous Nora Ephron quote about how you can turn embarrassing stories around so you become the heroine: ‘When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh.’ That’s how Anniki feels about the whole tights story anyway. She’s ‘owning’ that bad boy.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex bans are manipulative and destructive to your relationship

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By Rebecca Reid

There’s a Greek myth called Lysistrata.

It’s a story about how the wives of the Greeks, sick of their husbands pissing off to war and coming back with a limb missing or not coming back at all, took matters into their own hands.

To create peace between various Greek factions, they went on a sex strike. No nookie for anyone until the war was over. And basically, it worked.

Lysistrata was first performed in 411BC. 2,430 years ago. And yet women are still doing the exact same thing – going on sex strike to get what they want.

Earlier this year Alyssa Milano suggested that we women go on strike from sex until the Georgia six-week abortion limit is overruled.

If you Google ‘sex strike’ you find hundreds of stories from women who got ‘their own way’ by going on strike. One woman got a new kitchen. Another convinced her husband to have another baby. Other women simply use it as a disciplinary measure to correct their husband’s behaviour.

Doesn’t anyone else find this unutterably depressing?

It’s 2019 and apparently the axis of our power as humans is still whether or not we will open our legs for our partners.

Sex shouldn’t be a reward. It should be an expression of lust, or love, or anything else that you want it to be. It should be fun, gratifying, enjoyable.

Sex shouldn’t be the adult equivalent of giving a child a chocolate button for hanging their coat up after school.

By taking sex away from your partner as a punishment you send the message that it’s an activity that you partake in for them in the first place – it suggests that sex is a favour you’ve been doing them and will no longer be doing until they toe the party line.

In every single example I could find online, the person doing the banning is the woman and the person on the receiving end is a man, which further perpetuates an untrue stereotype that men like sex and women put up with it.

Another problematic aspect of the sex ban is that often it’s women putting one in place because she wants to make a financial choice – like a new car or a holiday – that her partner isn’t comfortable with.

Instead of compromising – the money belongs to both of you – or just paying it for themselves, these women perpetuate the idea that their husbands are Chancellors of the Exchequer in their marriage.

They might as well be applying for more housekeeping money.

If your sex life is so lukewarm that the idea of giving it up to punish your partner is appealing, then you’ve got a wider problem which needs addressing.

If however you enjoy sex and withdraw it at your own deprivation then you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even if it works, do you really want to have won an argument with your other half by taking away sex, just like you would get a child to do their homework by offering screen time?

Back in 411BC Greece, women really didn’t have much power. Sex was one of the few things you had the ability to grant. But the world has moved on, and we are equal partners within our relationships and therefore we do not need to withdraw sexual favours to claw back power.

We’re intelligent, mature, sensible women with critical reasoning skills. Why would we resort to such reduced tactics to alleviate conflict?

Of course there is an element of sexual politics in any relationship – when you feel happier and closer to your partner you’ll probably have more sex. When you’re fighting or struggling through issues it might well be less. That’s normal.

No one is suggesting for a second that you should have sex with your partner if you don’t want to or you’re not in the mood. You should only ever have sex when you want to have sex. The issue is when you use ‘I’m not in the mood’ as a bargaining chip, which is patronising and controlling.

If your partner doesn’t take you seriously when you say you’re annoyed about the division of labour within the household, or that you think you need to redecorate your kitchen, then they’re not a good partner.

If you ignore their responses to your marital problems and decide to ‘punish’ your partner rather than compromising, then you’re not a good partner.

Relationships that work don’t involve point scoring. They’re not based around depriving someone else of privileges to train their behaviour. That’s how you treat a naughty child, not a spouse whom you respect.

You might get what you originally wanted – your partner might do more housework or ‘let’ you buy a new car, but what cost is this ‘victory’ to the long term health of your relationship?

Complete Article HERE!

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How to have a polyamorous relationship…

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because it’s more complicated than just casual sex

Being in a polyamorous relationship is more complicated than just casual sex. We spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of “Many Love,” on what you should know about polyamory.

By Elizabeth Entenman

“In a city like New York, with its infinite possibilities, has monogamy become too much to expect?” When Carrie Bradshaw uttered that rhetorical question during a 1998 episode of Sex and the City, little did we know how common polyamory would become. Carrie was never in a polyamorous relationship, but if the show premiered today, the topic would probably come up in her column quite often.

Polyamory (or “poly” for short) is the belief that you can have an intimate relationship with more than one person, with all partners consenting. Being in a polyamorous relationship is not, as many people wrongfully believe, an exotic trend or an excuse to sleep with as many partners as you want. It’s an alternative to monogamy for people who don’t see themselves being with only one partner, emotionally and/or sexually, for the rest of their lives. Some research suggests that about four to five percent of people in the U.S. are polyamorous.

Polyamorous relationships (also known as consensual non-monogamy) require a lot of honesty and communication. To get a better idea of what it’s really like to be in a poly relationship, we spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s). She opened up about challenges, offered advice for maintaining strong communication, and shared important safety precautions for exploring polyamory. Read on if you’re curious about what it’s really like to be poly.

HelloGiggles: Is a polyamorous relationship the same thing as an open relationship?

Sophie Lucido Johnson: I describe it as being like squares and rectangles—you know, how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square? Every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship, but not every open relationship is a polyamorous relationship. Polyamory requires enthusiasm, knowledge, and consent from all people involved.

HG: What are the basic communication “rules” of being in a polyamorous relationship?

SLJ: Every poly relationship is different, so the rules will absolutely depend on the people participating in the relationship. In my relationship, it’s 100% communication about everything all the time. Defusing the tension around talking about my partners’ other relationships has taken away the power there. For me, that works really well. I very rarely experience jealousy anymore, and when I do, it’s a great opportunity for my partners and me to talk about where it’s coming from.

HG: How can people in polyamorous relationships set boundaries?

SLJ: Once again, every poly relationship is different. Every person has to establish their own boundaries and communicate about them; their partners have to listen and honor those boundaries. But I’m working on a book right now where I asked a therapist about boundaries, and he said that boundaries are tricky because it’s hard to know where yours are until they’ve been crossed.

HG: What’s the biggest challenge of being in a polyamorous relationship?

SLJ: The biggest challenge is also the biggest gift: Polyamory asks for its participants to get in bed with their uncomfortable emotions. You can’t push away feelings of fear or jealousy or anger; you have to go into those feelings, pick them apart, and try to understand them. This is hard work, but it’s profoundly rewarding, too. Polyamory and radical honesty are closely linked, in my opinion. The truth isn’t always pleasant and lovely and comfortable. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell it.

HG: Are there any safety precautions people should take?

SJL: All the precautions. My brand of polyamory is not super sex-focused—I’m more interested in emotional intimacy with some kissing on the side. But when I do engage in sex with people, it’s always protected, except with my husband, with whom I am fluid bonded. Ask people when they last got tested; ask them if they’ve been with anyone since then; ask them what they feel is important to share about their sexual history. Always check the expiration date on your condoms and dental dams. Use condoms on sex toys and invest in some sexy latex gloves for hardcore finger play.

And then beyond that, work to de-stigmatize sexually transmitted infections. Most of them are relatively harmless (meaning: they’re not going to kill you, although they’re unpleasant). We have ideas about STIs that are way out of line in comparison to the way we look at other chronic infections. They’re not grosser because they’re on your genitals. Sexual health is just health. It is crucial that we begin to talk about it that way.

HG: How can someone bring up the subject of opening their relationship with their partner?

SLJ: Don’t open up your relationship because something inside your relationship is broken. Opening it up is not going to fix the broken thing. Work on the broken thing first and establish whether it can be fixed. If one person wants to be open and the other person really doesn’t, then that relationship is probably not going to work in the long run. Honor each other’s realities. If both partners are eager and excited to pursue other relationships—versus, say, terrified or desperate—then establish what rules and boundaries make the most sense for you.

I have personally never met a couple who has made a parallel polyamorous situation work out for more than a year, but the internet swears that it’s possible. Parallel polyamory is the sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell version, where you and your partner date on the side but don’t tell each other details. I’m a big advocate of telling the truth. The difficult conversations are the ones that bring us closer.

HG: What’s the biggest misconception about polyamorous relationships?

SLJ: That polyamory is all about sex. For me (and tons of poly people I know), it’s about two main things. One: accepting and embracing that relationships do not stand still and will change over time, and committing to a partner or partners that everyone is going to communicate, constantly, about those natural changes. And two: shifting priorities to embrace friends, chosen family, and non-sexual romantic relationships, where traditionally our social priorities have been around a single partner. None of that has to do with sex. Assuming that polyamory is all about orgies and millennials three-way kissing in bars does the culture a tremendous disservice and excludes a ton of people who are asexual or sexually transitioning and are uncomfortable with sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to talk about kink with a new partner, because it doesn’t have to be awkward

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By Tracey Anne Duncan

“I like to struggle,” I whispered. What I meant was: Hold me down. Instead, she wrapped her arms around me and held me sweetly, nuzzling her face into my neck and petting my arm lightly with her fingertips. Oh, I thought. That’s not what I wanted. We had just been all sweaty and frenzied and now we were cuddling? Was she purposely withholding? Embarrassed? We had only hooked up once before, so I didn’t know her that well. “Are you into that?” I asked — determined to tell her about my kink preferences — but she was already gently snoring.

And then it hit me. She thought I said, “snuggle.”

I laughed to myself. She was a thoughtful lover and was just trying to give me what I asked for. She just wasn’t kinky, and I am kind of kinky. For the unfamiliar, that means that I like to do things in bed that some people find unusual. Kinky people call people who find our desires unusual “vanilla.” Although some people say it with shade, vanilla is my favorite flavor and I’m not here to judge anyone.

In any event, kink isn’t actually that unusual. Even though most people don’t consider themselves kinky, studies show that most people have kinky fantasies, even if they don’t actually have kinky sex. Interestingly, kink preferences often break down along party lines. Liberals tend to be drawn to BDSM (bondage, domination or discipline, sadism, and masochism), while conservatives are more likely to be into taboo-breaking activities, like age and incest play. Personally, I like to play with power dynamics. In kink circles, this is called domination and submission and they, along with bondage, are some of the most common practices of kinky folks.

But it wasn’t that long ago that I began exploring this facet of my sexuality. It’s taken time to learn how to communicate about kink well, and I still have questions — when is it OK to tell people I’m dating about my kinks? And how do I bring it up?

“There’s no one size fits all answer for these things,” says Dulcinea Pitagora, a NYC-based psychologist and sex therapist. “Anytime I hear someone say ‘that’s the rule,’ I immediately discard it. Disclosure is a privacy and a boundary issue. It’s entirely based on someone’s comfort level.”

Amanda Sanflippo, a New Orleans sex educator with an adult sex ed radio show, agrees. “It depends on the person,” she says. “I don’t have a formula.”

But if there aren’t any rules, what’s an aspiring kinkster to do with a new-ish partner when they want to try something that the other person might find strange? First of all, wait until you’re comfortable with someone and have developed a sense of trust. The experts are right in that there’s no formula for this, but you can typically tell if someone is basically trustworthy. While some people say that you should just let your freak flag fly from the very start, there are real risks around putting your private sexual desires out into the public domain, so trust is key.

“If somebody gets outed, they could lose their job, their apartment, or even their children. Discrimination happens in many different ways. There’s a possibility of disclosing that could put you in a dangerous situation,” Pitagora notes. She adds that these are worst case scenarios; if your employers or sex-negative people in your community find out about your “unusual” desires, you might just end up feeling uncomfortable, making someone else uncomfortable, or scaring off a person you want to get to know.

Sanflippo says that if you meet someone on a dating app and who is likely to be just a hookup, it’s OK to be upfront about your kinks. You can do this before you even give them your phone number or real name, so there’s no safety or outing risk. Recently, I was messaging a guy on Tinder and within the first few messages, he asked, “Are you sub?” What he meant was: Am I sexually submissive? It felt safe for him to ask and for me to answer honestly because our flirtation was still anonymous.

So if you’re chatting anonymously with someone and it feels safe to you, don’t hesitate to indulge in a little freaky banter. And if you’re already sexting on an app, it’s also OK to say, “I want to tie you up.”

But what if you meet someone IRL? Sanflippo suggests first asking your potential crush what they’re into, instead of just dropping the kink bomb on them. “If I was considering being intimate with someone, I might ask a person if they are into kinks rather than divulging my own,” she says. “I’ll ask them what kind of sex they enjoy. Then you can sense if they’re comfortable.”

This is a great rule of thumb. Wait to talk about sex with someone until it seems like you might want to have sex with them; if you’re already thinking about exchanging fluids, exchanging a few words beforehand can’t hurt.

And if you do plan to have sex soon, instead of making a demand like, “I want you to forcefeed me cake,” you can ask a question like, “What do you like to do in bed?” This is a direct and emotionally friendly way of figuring out whether your hookup might be into the same things as you. It’s also a good way to game out your sexual compatibility and strategize about what sexual activities might be mutually pleasurable in advance.

“The conversation about consent is what’s actually more important,” Pitagora says. “The nitty gritty and specifics aren’t as important.”

Basically, you can say you’re kinky and not go into detail — but you can’t not ask for consent. Since I’m already oversharing, I will tell you that more than half of my recent male partners have tried to do some pretty aggressive and dangerous to me without asking for permission. I don’t know what’s going on in cis-het 50 Shades of Patriarchy land because I mostly date women, but you cannot assume that people are into rough sex or BDSM.

“It’s important to know that it’s something that some people are into,” says Pitagora, “but some people aren’t and they could be traumatized. You don’t want to traumatize your sexual partners.”

Um, yeah. What she said.

Activities such as sexual choking, which is rising in popularity in vanilla het sex and porn, are considered “edge play” in BDSM communities. That means that it’s dangerous, and so not only do you have to ask for consent, you also have to know what you’re doing. “The person not asking for consent is also not trained to do it,” Pitagora says. This means that they shouldn’t do it, ever.

I’m (really) not trying to scare you away from BDSM, but sexual choking is also called “erotic asphyxiation” and you’ve definitely heard of it because people die from it. Tying someone up the wrong way can lead to all kinds of injury, including nerve damage. Getting and giving consent and talking about what you and your partner do in the bedroom aren’t just issues of ethics and pleasure — they can be issues of life and death.

“People should embrace saying the obvious,” Pitagora says, especially straight, cisgender men. “Cis-het men are used to being dominant by default. They might think asking for consent is too obvious, but because we can’t know, it’s just not obvious.” In other words, even if you are already pretty sure that someone is saying YES, you need to ask them to say (or scream, if you’re into that) YES out loud so that everyone’s signals line up. Consent can also be a great lead in to talking about your kinks. “Is it OK for me to kiss you?” is just a single word switch away from, “is it OK for me to spank you?”

In the past year, I’ve gotten a lot better about being explicit about what I want. In some ways, I was late to the kink party — I was basically married for half my life to vanilla folks and I never really thought to sexperiment with them. But, actually, I’m not late. Most people become more sexually adventurous as they age, and it can take a lot of trial and error before you get good at saying what you like out loud to new partners.

It’s definitely worth it, though. I’ve had more great sex in the last six months than I did in the first 20 years of my life. So if you’ve got some kinky fantasies, don’t worry, you’re not late, either, it’s just might take you a hot minute to learn how to talk about them.

A few weeks ago I hooked up with my sweet, snuggly friend again. She straddled me and playfully held my hands together over my head. When I resisted, she let go.

“No,” I said, “when I resist, I want you to push harder.”

“Ohhhhhhh,” she said, smiling. And then she held me down.

I think I like her.

Complete Article HERE!

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Have Sex ‘Micro Talks’ With Your Kid

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By Catherine Pearlman

In the history of parenting, there might be nothing more dreaded than The Sex Talk. Masturbation, nocturnal emissions, menstrual cycles, how to use condoms—nobody wants an awkward lecture on these topics. I remember once joking with my mom about douching after seeing a commercial on television. She then took on a super serious tone and started to explain vaginal hygiene. I am not sure I’ve yet to recover.

At the same time, despite access to a plethora of internet resources and improved education in the classroom, kids do need their parents to step in to fill in the gaps. But how do you go about it with feeling like you’re busting into a private life without an invitation? And how do you cover the always-changing environment in which teens are living?

Maybe it’s time to retire the old, let-me-sit-you-down kind of sex talk in favor of something more palatable—and more effective. I suggest micro conversations numbering in the hundreds across years of young adulthood.

How to you engage in a micro chat? Simple. You look for moments in your everyday communication with your children to bring up important sex-related topics. You might use current events, community happenings, social media, television and books to ask questions and spark discussions.

The approach keeps your kids informed without having the stress of a single face-to-face onslaught of facts. Here are four ways to use micro conversations to broach the tough topics related to sex.

If you see something, say something

The other day, I was walking with my 12-year-old son into Costco. I see a girl with a hickey on her neck. So, I say, “Hey, Em, do you see the red spot on the girl’s neck? Do you know what that is?” He had no idea. I explained how people can make hickeys. When he asked why someone would do that, it opened up the conversation about young relationships.

Another time, I was watching a reality program with my daughter. There was a boyfriend who was becoming controlling with increasing levels of anger and even some violence. I asked her if she would be concerned if her partner acted like the boyfriend on the show. We both expressed concerns for the girl in the relationship, and then discussed intimate partner abuse.

 

Read what teenagers are reading

Young adult novels are not just for kids. In addition to helping parents know what is really going on in the private lives of teens, these books are windows of opportunity to talk about dating, sex, rape, consent, sexual identity, sexting and more. When I read Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, I was shocked and distraught about everything I was reading. Surely, this type of teen life is exaggerated. Turns out my daughter wasn’t shocked. Why? Because she had already seen glimpses of suicide, hazing and same-sex attraction. Reading that book allowed me to talk about those issues in a very real but not uncomfortable way.

Use the news

Every day there’s a story that can be discussed over dinner. Talk about the Brock Turner verdict and the latest #MeToo story. Mention the controversy of transgender athletes competing in high school and start a discussion about all of the potential concerns on both sides. Let that lead into the transitioning process, hormones, what makes someone a man or woman, and on and on. Bring up a recent study showing sexting with teens is on the rise. There’s an endless stream of topics. Just google “teen” and the subject of your choice.

Documentary movie night helps when experience fails

I regularly subject my kids to watching real stories about real people. Sure, they’d rather watch America’s Got Talent. But they sit through these movies and then the conversations begin and flow for days. My daughter and I watched Audrie & Daisy, a film about date rape in high school. We were able not only to discuss how and when sexual assault can happen but also the effects of drinking, drugs and cyberbullying.

Starting a sex-related conversation with children at any age isn’t easy, even in micro doses. If it doesn’t go well at first, no worries. Just try again another time. Keep at it. Eventually it does become easier as teens become accustomed to talking about a wide range of issues. Then in the future when your child is faced with sexting, drugs, sexual assault or relationship issues, they’ll know you can be approached for help.

Complete Article HERE!

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Want to have better sex?

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Talk about ‘it’ with your partner more, say Texas researchers

Conversation helps sexual satisfaction and desire, especially with partners in committed relationships.

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  • A new meta-analysis from the University of Texas at Austin finds that better sexual communication leads to better sex.
  • The survey of 48 studies discovered that communication plays a key role in helping with a number of sexual dysfunctions.
  • Both genders benefit in regard to orgasms and satisfaction, while desire is an important component of female sexuality.

We know communication leads to better results. An entire library of business books discuss the importance of honest and, if necessary, tough conversations to drill down and specify potential problems in the corporate environment. The same holds true for societies and politics — dialogue is better than silence. Yet, for some reason we seem to forget that lesson when we get home to slide into bed.

A new meta-analysis from three researchers at the University of Texas at Austin argues for the importance of frank conversation at bedtime (as well as leading up to it). According to their survey of the literature, better conversation leads to better sexual satisfaction, orgasms, and desire levels.

Looking over 48 studies on sexuality, sexual dysfunction, and conversations about sex, the team of Allen Mallory, Amelia Stanton, and Ariel Handy wanted to know if there is a link between sexual communication and sexual function. Are couples that talk about sex better at it?

First, the researchers opened by discussing two different aspects of avoidance. Sometimes couples with sexual problems dodge the topic out of shame, fear, or uncertainty. Likewise, couples that have difficulty discussing their sexual lives might be more likely to encounter problems down the line. They continue,

“Either way, it is likely that sexual function and sexual satisfaction are both directly impacted by sexual self-disclosure, which may protect against future sexual dysfunction and ultimately enhance future communication.”

The pathways that open up possibilities of better sex include the disclosure of one’s preferences. If your partner knows what you like (or hate), you’re more likely to please them. And if such a discussion is had early on, if either (or both) partner change their preferences over time, they’re likely to feel comfortable discussing that change, leading to further trust and pleasure.

Another pathway leads to better intimacy: Couples that are open enough to share their pleasures are more likely to be intimate with each other. Failure to communicate needs and desires leads to the opposite — that is, discomfort and distrust, fomented by a lack of dialogue.

Both pathways are especially important in long-term, committed relationships. The well-known “honeymoon phase” of every relationship creates an addictive chemical cocktail in the brains and bodies of sexual partners. Yet our biology is not designed for sustaining the intensity of this period. Communication, the authors declare, is an essential key to ensuring both partners are pleased as the dopamine and serotonin surges decrease.

The studies the team pored over, which included more than 12,000 participants in all, looked at a variety of topics related to sexual dysfunction, including desire, emotion, lubrication, arousal, erection, and pain. While communication appears to be helpful to everyone involved, Mallory notes that one sex cherishes dialogue more:

“Talking with a partner about sexual concerns seems to be associated with better sexual function. This relationship was most consistent for orgasm function and overall sexual function — and uniquely related to women’s sexual desire.”

From their literature review, it appears that both genders experience better orgasms and overall sexual function when more talking is involved. For women specifically, desire is greatly enhanced with conversation. These links appear to be strongest in married couples.

The authors note that correlation is not always causation. As with every study, they add that more research is needed. The good news is this field might be the most enjoyable for humans to experiment with.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Questions Adults Still Ask About Sex

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By Gigi Engle

As an educator who writes and teaches about sexuality, sometimes I still get questions from readers and clients that surprise me.

The most shocking thing isn’t the slew of downright strange questions (of which there are many) but the fact that most of the questions that find their way into my inbox and practice are very common sex questions that I assume most adults know by now. Will a vibrator damage my clitoris? How do I make my partner stop watching porn? Does penis size matter? Is an uncircumcised penis normal? There is no end.

For an educator, it can be frustrating. I put so much information out there only to have the same questions asked again and again.

While it can be maddening, it highlights how deeply sexual shame is ingrained in our minds and culture. People have the information at their fingertips, right there on the internet, but it still doesn’t land.

The fact that these questions are still being asked isn’t the fault of the people asking them. In fact, I’m sure you’ll read some of the examples below and realize you yourself don’t know the answer to at least one. This lack of knowledge into the most basic of sex questions says much less about the people asking them and much more about the state of sex ed. We’re doing ourselves a great disservice as a country by making comprehensive sex ed impossible to access. It’s not your fault you’re confused; it’s our culture’s fault.

With that being said, here are five of the most surprising questions adults still ask me about sex:

1. How do I know what I like in bed? I don’t think I’ve ever had an orgasm.

The short answer: Masturbate. So many of us have this intense fear of self-pleasure, as if touching ourselves could make us dirty, slutty, or unworthy of love. (Note: There is nothing wrong with being a slut, FYI.)

These deep-seated puritanical views of sexuality are extremely pervasive and among the main reasons people don’t enjoy sex. While it spans across genders, this is true for female-bodied people, especially. The clitoris is so key to experiencing pleasure and orgasm. If you’ve never touched your own body, you’re going to have a lot of problems communicating your desires to a partner.

Explore your body. See what feels good for you. You can do this in bed, in the bathtub with a showerhead, using a hand or a vibrator—whatever works for you. Finding out how to bring yourself pleasure is the key to unlocking your sexuality.

2. Why don’t I get wet enough during sex?

This is a question that I get regularly. In these instances, “sex” refers to intercourse. People with vaginas want to know why they need to use lube (or spit, yikes), why intercourse doesn’t feel good or is painful, and why they aren’t having orgasms during sex.

The answer? Because intercourse just doesn’t produce orgasms for most vulva-owning people.

The vaginal canal has very few touch-sensitive nerve endings. The key to female orgasm is the clitoris. While the internal clitoris expands deep into the body, the clitoral glans (the bud at the top of the vulva) is where most of the nerve endings are clustered.

Most of us require clitoral stimulation with adequate foreplay in order to become aroused enough to have intercourse. When the clitoral network is engaged, the clitoris and vulva swell while the vagina lubricates itself. Without this foreplay, sexual intercourse can be uncomfortable or even painful.

“Foreplay” itself is a misnomer, as it places all of the importance on intercourse, when intercourse isn’t even a prerequisite for sexual satisfaction.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter how wet you get. You should really always be using lube. Lube helps with friction, comfort, and even aids you to have more orgasms. (Here’s mbg’s guide to picking the right lube.)

3. Why can I orgasm with my vibrator but not during sex?

This question often goes hand-in-hand with queries such as: Is it normal to prefer masturbation to intercourse? And: Can I get addicted to my vibrator?

Vibrators were designed to bring clit-owning people to orgasm. They offer intense sensation that can give you pleasure like nothing you may have experienced before. With that being said, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that you can become addicted to vibration. 

We have to stop thinking of orgasms as a finite resource. We need to open ourselves to experiencing and embracing our full potential for pleasure. You may “need” a vibrator to experience an orgasm, and you know what? That’s totally OK. Some clit-owning people need more intense stimulation to have orgasms.

As I’ve mentioned, intercourse very rarely stimulates the clitoris, the key player in female orgasm. It’s not surprising that you’d prefer a vibrator or oral sex. You’re not weird or broken. You’re a normal sexual being. I promise.

4. If I want to try butt play; will it make me gay?

The “will putting something up my butt make me gay” question is extremely popular among cis men. It seems like no matter how many times I write about the joys of prostate play, this question appears in my email a few times a year.

Here is the truth: No, putting something in your butt will not make you gay. If you put something in your butt and then decide that you are into men now, well, it wasn’t because you put anything in your butt.

If you’re gay, you’re born gay. No amount of butt play is going to “make you” anything.

That being said, butt play is accessible for any and all people, regardless of gender. The first few inches of the anus are packed with nerve-rich tissue. Male-bodied people have a prostate, a walnut-size gland located a few inches inside of the butt. When stimulated, it can offer intense and pleasurable sensation.

If you’re interested in butt play, there is no reason you shouldn’t explore it!

5. What do I do about mismatched libidos?

This question, while very common, has no easy answer. The most important thing we can do about mismatched libidos is to communicate with one another. This is a difficult feat for most couples. Talking about sexual issues or concerns is not something we’re taught how to do.

With strict gender roles set in place by society, it is easy for people to become defensive when their partner raises concerns about sex drive. If you’re a man who doesn’t want sex as much as your partner, it’s considered “unmanly.” If you’re a woman who wants more sex than her male partner, you must be some kind of harlot or crazed sex demon.

Yet, these stereotypes are not at all true. Women, men, queer folks, and beyond all have differing libidos that have nothing to do with gender or sex. To get around differences in libido, we need to talk about it with our partners to find workable solutions. The person with the higher libido often caters to the person who has the lower libido, stifling themselves because they’re sick of being “turned down” for sex. This is not good. Both people are responsible for the sex in a partnership. Everyone deserves to feel satisfied and sexually fulfilled.

Sex is part of relationships. You are in a partnership, and both people need to be willing to compromise to keep the relationship healthy. If we knew how to talk about sex, we’d be able to have these conversations much more freely and without fear of judgment.

If you’re dealing with mismatched libidos, working on more effectively communicating about it is step one.

We need to talk more about sex. 

If we want people to stop floundering on the topic of sex, we need to talk about sex. If we had pleasure-based sexual education in schools, young people would go into the world much more equipped to deal with relationships and communication around sex.

If you’re interested in getting more sex ed in your life, check out Planned Parenthood’s website for starters. They have super-informative up-to-date information on sexual health and wellness. They even have super-digestible short sex-ed videos. Inform yourself. We all have to.

Complete Article HERE!

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Reconnecting With My Sexuality as Someone With Depression

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By Alice Laura

One of the things I find when reading about recovering from depression, is that there’s not always much focus on sexuality. There’s a lot about learning to love ourselves, being kind to our body, setting boundaries and how to live day-to-day, but not how to be comfortable in our sexual-self. I can imagine it’s often overlooked because for many, it is not the easiest topic to talk about. Antidepressants frequently lower a person’s libido as a common side effect, which means sex is often the last thing on our mind. For me, however, sexuality is an important part of my identity and something that I want to explore again.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression over 15 years ago. During that time, I have had periods of improvement, time with severe physical health issues affecting my mobility and a time within an emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship. I have had times where I have used sex as a coping mechanism, a distraction and a punishment. I am polyamorous; currently living with my partner and his fiancée, bisexual and into BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism).

Two years ago, I was at my worst ever mentally. A combination of my severe depression and “people pleasing” behavior had led me into an online relationship with an old “friend” that — under the guise of BDSM and my submissive nature — became emotionally abusive. I had pushed my closest friends and family away feeling like I deserved to be treated badly. I convinced myself that the extreme pornography I was looking at was something I was interested in, not because it turned me on but because I thought I was less than human and should be treated that badly myself. I told myself that I didn’t matter, not really. I became suicidal. I did things that I regret and will for the rest of my life, but I am trying to move forward…trying to heal. Part of that is trying to reconnect with my sexuality.

After everything that has happened I’m finding it hard to let myself be sexual. It makes me vulnerable. I am in an incredibly loving and caring relationship with someone who is patient and amazing. He has been there through everything, has forgiven my poor judgement and lying, based on the fact it came from a dark place. We have a brilliant relationship with each other, until it comes to intimacy. I find that I can’t let go of my fear, my memories, my demons. I know that time will help, as it always does, but this goes right into the core of my being. My sexuality is important to me, but I am scared of falling into the same patterns of behavior. I’m scared that I have conditioned myself to be a “people pleaser” so much that I don’t know where my boundaries are anymore. It’s particularly hard when being submissive is part of who I was. Now, I have no idea if that’s really who I am.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my body, frequently having issues with low self-confidence. I was bullied in school for a combination of my weight, my studious nature and how easily I showed my emotions. However, I had a long term boyfriend from the age of 16 and he made me feel good about myself. We explored sex together. Through our open relationship, I explored my sexuality and came out of my shell. I learned to love myself, even with my flaws. I developed as a person and found a new confidence in myself and for awhile, I was happy, more outgoing and wasn’t scared to make the changes I needed to in my life to stay happy. Unfortunately. I went too far. I became addicted to sex and to the attention I could get from putting myself out there. I ran a NSFW (not safe for work) Tumblr that had thousands of followers and I would chat with guys who messaged me. It felt innocent enough, because they were on the other side of the internet. The problem was that I would push myself further and further because it got more likes, more interactions. Around the same time, my physical health failed me and I spiraled into that dark depression. What started as sexual confidence turned into a way to punish myself for being an awful human being. It got too real when I let in that old “friend,” regressing into that naive 18-year-old that he knew before, with added self-deprecation

Now that I have come out of the other side of that relationship, I am desperate to find a happy medium. One where I am comfortable with myself and can let myself go and enjoy sex, but I don’t push it too far into a dependency on the attention I can get from sharing my sexuality with the world. I’ve closed most of my social media accounts and am trying to be careful with what pornography I look at online. My partner is being incredibly patient with me, though it is hard for both of us because we have a history and we are having to start from scratch again. But this time, I lack the confidence and the knowledge of what I want. It’s easy to slip back into old habits for a moment, but then I start to overthink and question my motivations. Either that, or I have flashbacks or dissociations due to the trauma of the emotional abuse.

I’m lucky to have come out of this with the chance to overhaul my life. I’m slowly starting to explore the various incidents that led me to making some really poor life choices. My physical health has greatly improved and my mental health is getting better gradually. I have amazing support and the time to work on myself. Somedays, I think back to how sexually free I used to be and I’m filled with loss, wondering if I can ever get to a place where I am that comfortable with myself again. I want to be sure that I am doing everything for the right reasons, without obsessing about what I am doing. I am balancing analyzing my motives with actually letting myself feel and enjoy sensations. It’s hard work. Sex is meant to be fun, not something that leads to massive anxiety. With a combination of therapy, time and patience, I will get there and form a healthy relationship with myself and my sexuality again.

Complete Article HERE!

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Hospital’s new online workshop helps parents talk about sexual health with kids with disabilities

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Having “the talk” fills most families with dread. For parents of teens with disabilities, the conversation often takes on an added layer of complexity. Parents want to keep their especially vulnerable children close and safe, while instilling independence and strong self-esteem. They want their kids to assert their own boundaries, even as these children often require assistance with many aspects of their daily lives. Parents want their youth to go out into the world and have healthy relationships, but they worry because disabled people are at increased risk of abuse.

In a bid to help, Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital launched a new online tool Monday designed for parents looking for insight into how to speak meaningfully with their disabled youth about sex. The new workshop, available free to the public off the hospital’s YouTube channel, covers everything from good relationships and consent to gender identity and social media – this for a cohort often left out of the sex ed discussion, thanks to lingering stigma around disabled people’s sexuality.

“We have needs and desires as well. We need to be educated on how to navigate these situations and have these conversations without it feeling like it’s such a taboo topic,” said Emily Chan, who co-designed the new workshop as chair of the hospital’s youth advisory council.

Chan, 22, has centronuclear myopathy, a rare neuromuscular condition. She said parents of those with disabilities often keep a “tight rein” on their children, but she urged them to speak with their kids about healthy relationships early, “not waiting until we’re heading into adulthood, or already in adulthood.”

The online workshop follows the release last week of new guidelines that recommended sexual health education be made available at short- and long-term care facilities serving youth with disabilities or chronic illnesses, with information geared toward their specific needs. Colleges and universities should offer comprehensive sex ed training to those studying to be caregivers and personal support workers for disabled people, according to The Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education from the Sex Information & Education Council of Canada, a non-profit organization promoting sexual and reproductive health.

Joanne Downing sets the same priorities when she talks to her three children, ages 17 to 21, including her 19-year-old son Matthew, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is non-verbal. Downing wants them all to be safe, respectful and make good choices.

“We talk about ‘my space, your space,’ and ‘good touch, bad touch,’” Downing, 57, said about Matthew. “He can understand whether or not he’s crossed that barrier or if someone’s crossed that barrier on him.”

Downing offered a family perspective for the new webinar and coached parents at two workshops held at the hospital over the winter. Talking to her own son, Downing uses proper terminology for body parts, and explains the difference between private and public space. One thing she recommends parents do with their disabled teens is differentiate between platonic friendships and romantic or sexual relationships.

“[Matthew’s] perception of having a girlfriend is someone of the opposite sex who’s a friend that he can hang out with,” Downing said. “He definitely likes girls and he flirts. He loves it. He knows pretty much every single swim instructor at the pool.”

Downing stressed the importance of striking a balance between autonomy and safety. Even though she’s involved in every facet of Matthew’s life and care, the mother has also taught her son how to ask for privacy.

Autonomy is critical to discussions of sex ed with this cohort, according to Yukari Seko, a research associate at Bloorview Research Institute, who along with social worker Gabriella Carafa developed the new online workshop. “Research shows that parents of children with a disability can be overprotective, and understandably so because they need more help,” Seko said. “But it can sometimes hinder their transition to adulthood. They need to learn and practice taking some risks.”

Opportunities to be independent – and to fail – are integral to figuring out what you want and don’t want in adult life, said Chan. “Youth need the chance to explore their environment and their relationships with others, to not be afraid to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes,” she said. “You need to be able to get out into the real world and have those experiences to shape your personality, beliefs, values and how you approach different situations.”

At the same time, safety is a very real concern for these parents. Children and youth with a disability or chronic health condition are at an increased risk of sexual abuse, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society.

Miriam Kaufman, author of the Society’s report on this issue and the book Easy for You to Say: Q and As for Teens Living With Chronic Illness or Disability, said it is particularly important for parents of disabled youth to discuss consent, not only because these children can be more physically vulnerable but also because they’ve gotten conflicting messages about bodily autonomy all their lives.

“We have trained, from birth practically, young people with disabilities and chronic health conditions to put up with things that in any other context would be considered abuse: medical procedures, painful procedures … being held down for procedures and being told not to yell and to co-operate,” said Kaufman. “We train these kids from a young age that it’s okay for these strangers in the health care system to have access to their bodies. … They’ve learned that they don’t really have ownership of their bodies.”

It’s always a fine tightrope for parents of kids with disabilities, Kaufman said, who are trying to protect their children while helping them develop positive self-image. “Most parents also want their children to grow up sexually healthy, to be able to have relationships and be happy in those relationships,” Kaufman said. “They don’t want to totally freak them out about sexuality, in terms of protecting them.”

At Holland Bloorview, Seko urged families of disabled youth to educate themselves on these issues, but also to listen to their kids’ questions and observations.

“They are the experts of their life, too,” Seko said.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ridiculously Common Worries Sex Therapists Hear All the Time

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For anyone asking, “Am I normal?”

By Anna Borges

Fun sex things to talk about: enthusiastic consent, pleasure, sex toys, kink, orgasms, positions, intimacy. Less fun sex things to talk about: insecurity, inadequacy, unwelcome pain, dysfunction, internalized stigma, embarrassment. Understandable. No one wants to sit around chatting about their deepest sexual anxieties. But when you rarely see people having these less sexy conversations, it’s easy to assume you’re the only one who might have a complicated relationship with sex. You’re not.

“The sex education standard in North America is fear-based, shame-inducing messages that erase pleasure and consent,” sex therapist Shadeen Francis, L.M.F.T., tells SELF. “Because of this, there is a lot of room for folks to worry. Most of the insecurities I encounter as a sex therapist boil down to one overarching question: ‘Am I normal

To help answer that question, SELF asked a few sex therapists what topics come up again and again in their work. Turns out, no matter what you’re going through, more people than you might think can probably relate.

1. You feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Listen, good sex takes practice. It’s not like sex ed often covers much outside the mechanics: This goes here, that does that, this makes a baby. For the most part, people are left to their own devices to figure out what sex is actually like. A lot of the time, that info comes from less-than-satisfactory places, like unrealistic porn that perpetuates way too many myths to count. So if you’re not super confident in your abilities and sometimes feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re not the only one.

This is especially true for people whose genders and sexualities aren’t represented in typical heteronormative sex ed. “Intersex people, gender non-conforming people, and trans people rarely have been centered in sexual conversations and often are trying to navigate discovering what pleases them and communicating that with partners outside of gender tropes,” says Francis.

People also worry that they’re straight up bad in bed all the time, Lexx Brown-James, L.M.F.T., certified sex educator and the founder of The Institute for Sexuality and Intimacy in St. Louis, tells SELF. “The most common question I get is, ‘How do I know if I’m good at sex?’” This, Brown-James emphasizes, isn’t the right question to be asking. Not only is everyone’s definition of “good sex” different, but it’s not going to come down to something as simple as your personal skill set. It’s about consensually exploring and communicating about what feels good, emotionally and physically, with your partner or partners.

2. You’re embarrassed about masturbation.

Depending on a few different factors, you might have a lot of internalized shame and self-consciousness around masturbation. Maybe you grew up in an environment that told you it was dirty or wrong, maybe no one talked to you about it at all, or maybe you’ve always felt a little nervous about the idea of pleasuring yourself. According to Francis, a lot of people have masturbation-related hangups.

If that sounds familiar, it’s important to remember how common masturbation is and that there’s no “right” way to do it. Not only do people of all ages, abilities, races, genders, religions, sizes, and relationship statuses masturbate, but there are tons of different ways to go about it, too. “People masturbate using their hands, their body weight, their toys, and various household or ‘DIY’ implements,” says Francis. Same goes for how people turn themselves on—people masturbate to fantasies, memories, visual and audio porn, literature, and a lot more. Some masturbate alone, while others also do it in front of or with their sexual partner or partners. Sex therapists have heard it all.

Basically, if your way of masturbating feels good to you and does not create harm for yourself or others, then it is a wonderfully healthy part of your sexuality and you should embrace it, says Francis. (Just make sure you’re being safe. So…don’t use any of these things to get yourself off.)

3. You worry that you’re not progressive enough.

You’ve probably noticed that lifestyles like kink and polyamory are bleeding into the mainstream. It’s not unusual to stumble across phrases like “ethically non-monogamous” and “in an open relationship” while swiping through a dating app.

According to sex therapist Ava Pommerenk, Ph.D., this increased visibility is having an unfortunate side effect: Some people who aren’t into the idea of polyamory or kink have started to feel like they’re…well, boring or even close-minded. Which is not true! But plenty of people equate alternative sexual practices with progressiveness when it’s really about personal preference. If you’ve been thinking your vanilla nature makes you old-school, just keep in mind that it’s totally OK if any kind of sexual act or practice isn’t your thing

While we’re on the topic, it’s worth noting that both non-monogamy and kink can be wonderful but require a lot of trust and communication. Some people who aren’t educated on the ethics involved are taking advantage of these practices as buzzwords to excuse shitty behavior.

“I get a lot of people, particularly women in relationships with men, whose [partners are] making them feel guilty for not opening up their relationship,” Pommerenk tells SELF. At best, that kind of behavior means there’s been some serious misunderstanding and miscommunication, but at worst, it can suggest an unhealthy or even emotionally abusive dynamic, says Pommerenk. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s worth unpacking, possibly with the help of someone like a sex therapist. You can also reach out to resources like the National Dating Abuse Helpline by calling 866-331-9474 or texting “loveis” to 22522 and the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 800-799-SAFE (7233) or through email or live chat on the hotline’s contact page.

4. You feel pressured to have sex a certain way or amount.

“One aspect of this that I see a lot—and this is true for all genders—is pressure to perform,” sex therapist Jillien Kahn, L.M.F.T., tells SELF. “[That] can include things like the pressure to have sex at a certain point in dating, feeling expected to magically know how to please a partner without communication, and/or fear of sexual challenges and dysfunctions.”

Kahn likes to remind her clients that sex isn’t a performance. “The best sex happens when we forget the pressure and are able to connect with our bodies and partners,” she says. “If you’re primarily concerned with your own performance or making your partner orgasm, you’re missing out on so much of the good stuff

Pommerenk also says it’s not uncommon for her clients to worry about the consequences of not being sexually available to their partners. For example, they feel like they’re bad partners if they’re not in the mood sometimes or that their partners will leave them if they don’t have sex often enough. A lot of this is cultural messaging we have to unlearn. It’s not difficult to internalize pressure to be the “perfect” sexual partner. After all, people in movies and porn are often ready and available for sex at all times. But much like worrying that you’re not open-minded enough, if this is how your partner is making you feel or something that they’re actually threatening you about, that’s not just a sexual hangup of yours—it’s a sign of potential emotional abuse.

5. You’re freaked out about a “weird” kink, fetish, or fantasy.

“Many of my clients seem to have a fantasy or enjoy a type of porn they feel ashamed of,” says Kahn. Some of these clients even feel ashamed to mention their fantasies or preferred porn in therapy, she adds. “The thing is, the vast majority of your fantasies have been around far longer than you have. The porn you look at was developed because a lot of people want to watch it. Even in the rare exception of unique fetishes or fantasies, there is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Kahn.

It can help to remember that just because you have a fantasy or like a certain type of porn doesn’t necessarily mean you want to do any of it IRL. According to Kahn, that’s an important distinction to make, because people often feel guilty or panicked about some of the thoughts that turn them on. For example, rape fantasies aren’t unheard of—in fact, like many fantasies, they’re probably more common than you’d expect, says Kahn—and they don’t mean that a person has a real desire to experience rape.

“I try to make sure my clients know that the fantasy doesn’t necessarily mean anything about them, so it is not necessary to try and analyze it,” says Kahn. “Whatever you’re fantasizing about, I can confidently tell you that you’re far from the only person excited by that idea.”

What if you do want to carry out a fantasy you’re worried is weird? Again, as long as you’re not actively harming yourself or anyone else, chances are pretty good that whatever you’re into sexually is completely OK—and that you can find someone else who’s into it, too.

If you’re still feeling embarrassed about any of your sexual practices, desires, or feelings, Kahn has these parting words: “Sexual anxiety and insecurity [are] such a universal experience. There’s constant comparison to this continually changing image of sexual perfection. [People should] discuss sex more openly for many reasons, and if we did, we would see how incredibly common sexual insecurity is.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why You Should Still Be Having Solo Sex While You’re In A Relationship

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By Gigi Engle

Masturbation is good for you.

Studies have shown masturbation (and the subsequent orgasms that follow) can help relieve symptoms of depression, improve sleep quality, and even make you more likely to engage in partnered sex (and find that sex more satisfying).

Contrary to the sex shame-y cultural beliefs we have around sexuality, masturbating when you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy sex with your partner. In fact, studies have shown that people think about their partner most often when engaging in masturbation.

That’s right. Engaging in solo play is healthy (and normal!) even when you’re in a partnered relationship. And new data confirms this theory: According to a new study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, solo sex is very good for you, no matter your relationship status.

Pretty much everyone is masturbating.

Since there is little research into masturbation, especially when it comes to women, the study sought to provide a basis for more research into female solo-sexual behaviors to be done in the future. It provides a baseline other researchers can build upon. Researchers surveyed 425 women, 61% of whom were in committed relationships, about their masturbatory and sexual habits.

What the results show is that almost everyone masturbates: 95% of participants had masturbated at some point during their lives. Further still, the 26% of study participants reported masturbating on a regular basis, at least once per week, while 27% reported masturbating two to three times per week.

A whopping 91% of women said they masturbated while in relationships. About 9% of participants reported they actually prefer masturbation to partnered sex, and 21% even preferred it to receiving oral.

Masturbation: We’re all doing it.

The top reasons women masturbate are pretty illuminating.

“The reasons cited for engaging in masturbation were manifold, ranging from sexual desire to relaxation and stress reduction,” write the study’s authors. The main reasons women masturbate were pretty widespread. While the top reason to masturbate was fulfilling sexual desire (76% listed this as masturbation motivation), 23% cited stress relief, and a notable 44% used it for relaxation.

The jury is in: The reasons for masturbating are nearly limitless.

Of the 5.5% of women who reported never masturbating in relationships, they cited, “I hardly ever feel sexual desire” and “Sex is a partner-only thing” as their reasons.

In other words, it’s women who have low desire and those who don’t understand the benefits of masturbation (and the pleasure it brings) who don’t do it. Now, if you want to engage only in partner play because it’s your preferred way of receiving pleasure, that’s totally OK. It only becomes a problem when you’re refraining from masturbation because of underlying shame you have around enjoying your sexuality for yourself.

Masturbation is not replacing sexual partners.

According to the study’s authors, “For many women, masturbation does not represent ‘a partner substitute’ to seek sexual pleasure but rather is a stress coping and relaxation strategy.” Solo play is its own self-care activity, not a replacement for partnered experiences.

Masturbation and orgasm release a wave of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. Oxytocin has been shown to help with sleep, calm the nervous system, and relieve pain. Sometimes you don’t want to go through the bells and whistles of partnered sex and would rather have some time to yourself with a nice, self-induced orgasm.

This is perfectly normal and healthy. Orgasms are nature’s Xanax.

Complete Article HERE!

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There are infinite ways to have sex & there’s nothing unnatural about any of them

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The famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey once said the only unnatural sex act is one that can’t be performed.

By and

Humans have discovered an almost infinite amount of ways to have sex — and things to have sex with. The famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey said: “The only unnatural sex act is that which can’t be performed.”

From foot fetishes to the kinkiest outfit or habits, fetishes are an endless rainbow of preferences and practices. Although human studies on fetishes and atypical sexual interest are few, case studies and research on non-human animal behaviour have revealed some insights about them and how they may develop.

In fetishism, the subject of the desire is not necessarily related to sexual intercourse, yet the fetish drives a person’s sexual arousal, fantasies and preferences. Fetishes can be part of a healthy and playful sexual life for individuals and couples, and also forms the basis of some sexual subcultures.

Unfortunately, fetishes have often wrongly been associated with sexual deviancy, making it easy to feel weird or shame about them. Many of us are quick to judge things we do not understand or experience. When it comes to sex, we can believe that things we don’t do are weird, wrong or even disgusting.

Let’s not judge each other’s sex lives. Instead, embrace your curiosity.

The Pride marches taking place this summer began as a social movement against repressive and discriminatory practices against LGBTQ people following the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969. Fifty years later, Pride month has become a commemoration and celebration of sexual minorities and diversity.

Let’s take a look under the covers together to paint a more positive view of these so-called “perversions.” We all may have a kink or two. So why not feel more accepting of our more obscure sexual desires?

What are fetishes?

Fetishes are not just about whips and leather, but part of a natural curiosity to explore the unknown territories of our sexuality.

A lot of the early science claimed fetishes were sexual abnormalities or perversions. However, most researchers and clinical practitioners now only consider fetishes to be harmful if they cause distress, physical harm or transgress consent.

Scientists have recently begun to understand how some fetishes develop. Several animal studies and case reports on humans suggest that early imprinting and Pavlovian or classical conditioning can shape the formation of fetishes. We believe learning from experiences plays a large role in forming fetishes.

From a Pavlovian conditioning perspective, fetishes are seen as the product of associating early and rewarding sexual experiences with objects, actions or body parts that are not necessarily sexual. This is perhaps why different people have different fetishes.

As for early imprinting, the best example comes from a study in which newborn goats and sheep were cross-fostered by a mother of another species. Goats were mothered by sheep, and the sheep mothered by goats. The results showed male goats and sheep had sexual preferences for females of the opposite species, meaning the same species as their adopting mothers, while females on the other hand were more fluid in their choices and were willing to have sex with males of both species.

Studies with rats have shown that other non-human animals also develop fetishes.

This study shines some light on sex differences in human fetishes, as men with fetishes tend to vastly outnumber women with fetishes.

These sex differences appear to be explained solely by differences in sexual urges, where men tend to show higher arousal or less repulsion towards various “deviant” sexual acts than women do. This, nevertheless, does not imply men have more psychological disorders.

Fetish-related disorders

Fetishes, just like any other thing in life, can be taken to where it may be a little “too much.” They may not only be preferred, but also needed in the expression of sexual arousal, which can impair the preferred pattern of arousal or performance.

Fetish-related disorders are characterized by the expression of two main criteria: recurrent and intense sexual arousal from either the use of objects or highly specific body part(s) that are not genitalia manifested by fantasies, urges or behaviours; those which can cause great distress or impairment of their intimacy, social or occupational life.

Some are particularly troubling, like exhibitionism or frotteurism. These paraphilias are believed to be distortions of normal sexual interactions with others. Sadly, both of them still remain poorly understood.

As previously mentioned, if by some reason we can establish associations that can drive our arousal through learning experiences, research has also shown that these associations can be “erased.” However, this process can be quite slow, difficult to change and susceptible of being spontaneously triggered by familiar cues.

No definition of normal

Fetishes have the potential of enhancing or expanding the repertoire of sensations we experience during sex. In fact, experimental data shows that animals become more sexually aroused when they learn to associate sex with fetish-like cues.

Instead of focusing on what you should like or what should get you off or not, you’re better off wondering how that thing suits you or your partner. Normality falls within blurry lines, and it is up to you to expand its limits or not.

There is no exact definition of what constitutes normal or healthy. These definitions are highly dependent of the context (historical time and culture).

We get caught up with what appears to be more frequent, healthy, natural or normal: but what about what feels right?

So how do you know if you have a fetish? If there is consent and respect, it really doesn’t matter what you do between the bed sheets, on the kitchen table or on that secret hidden spot.

Perhaps you don’t have a fetish. But it’s never too late to try.

As North Americans celebrate Pride this summer, we should take it as a reminder of our colourful sexual diversity —and also the infinite ways to have sex, with nothing unnatural about any of them.

We believe all people should be allowed to express their sexuality and embrace it without the weight of stereotypes or “normal” standards to live by. Life is too short to not make the best out of it, especially when it comes to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh.

Complete Article HERE!

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If You’re Into Kink…

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You Need to Join One Of These Dating Apps

By Erika W. Smith

Kink can encompass a lot of things: bondage, yes, but also spanking, choking, feet, cuckolding, and watersports. And it turns out that many of us are at least a little bit kinky. One Canadian study asked over 1,000 adults about their sexual fantasies, and found that about half were interested in some kind of kink. The most popular kinks fell under the categories of voyeurism, fetishism, exhibitionism, masochism, and sadism.

“People want to be tied up,” researcher Christian Joyal told the Montreal Gazette. “As long as it’s with a consenting partner, people will be relieved to know that their desires are not necessarily abnormal.” He added, “One hundred years ago, oral sex was considered gross, 50 years ago it was illegal and now it is the number one fantasy. In 30 years from now, I would be surprised if BDSM wasn’t part of normal sexuality.”

Whatever you’re into, you’re far from alone. And while you can certainly ask your Tinder match if they want to choke you or exchange “kink menus” with your partner, there are also kink-specific dating apps out there to make the search for someone with compatible kinks a little bit easier.

Keep in mind that, as always, consent is mandatory — and if you match with someone who wants you to sign a “consent contract” or refuses to use a safe word, that’s a red flag. If you don’t already know your potential kink partner, sex and intimacy coach Shelby Devlin previously suggested to Refinery29 that it’s a good idea to “[go] on a couple of dates and [get] a feel for someone, giving them an opportunity to demonstrate that they’re good with boundaries, before you do any BDSM.” And that goes for any other kink, too.

On the plus side, many people using kink-specific dating apps may already be kinky pros, rather than someone who just watched Fifty Shades of Grey for the first time. Here are a few kinky apps to get you started

Complete Article HERE!

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Getting Kinky In a Relationship?

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by:

Don’t worry, it’s okay to be freaky in a relationship and most of the time the other person will love you for it. If you feel that your sexual taste goes beyond that of the average person, have no fear as most Americans feel just like you.

As a society, we tend to move on from what is regarded as normal in order to satisfy our needs. According to surveys, couples who have been going out for more than four years tend to move on to other means of sexual desires that are regarded as less common by many.

Couples who go out for more than four years are moving past the stigma and shame associated with fetishes and kinks, and are becoming more and more comfortable in sharing their pleasures and desires.

If you’re a kinky person, then your partner needs to hear out your desires and fulfills your needs. A mismatch is a relationship killer, and if you’re the kinky one, then there are a few things that you need to do in your relationship in order to get accepted from your partner.

Talk With Your Partner

This might sound weird, but a lot of relationships tend to move past their problems by simply communicating with each other. We understand that you might be afraid to tell your partner about your fetishes and desires, but trust us that communication is key in a relationship. Start off slow and start by talking about what you like most in the bedroom. Explain what that is and why that turns you on. Make sure to make the mood as comfortable as possible, as you don’t want to make things weird.

When you start to talk things out, you will find out if your partner approved of your kinks, if he/she is/are open to them, and if they’re interested in doing them. Your partner might hide it at first, but we’re positive that they will grow into it.

Give Your Partner Time to Think

Most intercourse therapists say that you should always give your partner think about your kinks and desires. You might have told your partner that you’re into restraints and harnesses, and that might sound too much for your partner. But the key is to give your partner room to think it out. Never demonstrate the kink without the approval of your partner. He/she needs to feel safe at all times during bedroom business, and forcing your kink onto your partner is an instant red flag. If your partner eventually approves of your restraint kink or you have agreed on a sex toy you would like to use, you can go to Extreme Restraints and choose the type of restraint together that you will both enjoy.

Show Your Appreciation for Trying Something New Together

If your partner doesn’t feel as kinky as you, and if your partner agrees to your kink, then always show your appreciation for trying something new with you. They might not know how to do it at first, so you should never judge them for doing it wrong. Always be encouraging,  supportive, and avoid making any negative comments towards your partner.

Complete Article HERE!

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