7 Books About Expanding Your Sexual Horizons

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Spice up your fantasy life without having to interact with another person with these stories of sex and exploration

By Frances Yackel

The theme of education—spiritual journeys, individual enlightenment—pervades much of the literary canon across cultures. Reading the narrative of a protagonist’s heuristic odyssey can open the eyes of the reader as it relates to their own life. Bildungsroman novels allow us to look at our own morals and dispositions, and consider the places in which we can grow. As the hero grows and learns, we grow and learn with them. This is true of novels about sexual exploration. A history of censorship has turned sex into a subject matter only disclosed behind closed doors (or during a 45 minute class in middle school), making it difficult to be comfortable with our bodies and the pleasures for which it lusts. But this prohibition only makes the conversation more relevant.

Written with sincerity and vulnerability, these seven books share the stories, both fictional and non-fictional, of sexual exploration. The characters give us insight into our own journeys; as they learn about their own sexual appetite and biological urges, we make discoveries of our own.

Open Me by Lisa Locascio

In Open Me, high school graduate Roxana, consumed with wanderlust and an awakening sexuality, goes on a study abroad trip to Denmark. Her adventure begins when she meets a beguiling Danish PhD student who woos her and whisks her away to stay with him in a remote town, where he tells her that he has only one key and she cannot leave the apartment while he is out working. Finding herself locked away in a stranger’s apartment in a foreign town, Roxana defies the “princess locked in a tower” trope. Rather than wasting away her time, dreaming of her prince or brushing her long golden locks, she takes the opportunity to explore the intricacies of her body, reflecting on her previous and current sexual experiences, to learn about her desires. Locascio writes about sex (and masturbation) with a vivid realism that no male writer could ever achieve.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

For this hydro-erotic story, Melissa Broder pulls from her own insecurities and idiosyncrasies relating to sex. According to The New Yorker, Broder “could only orgasm when she imagined people vomiting” during her developing years. With the same vulnerability she uses to tell the public about her own sexual pleasures, she develops a protagonist willing to succumb to a lust for marine carnality. An addict to the feeling of being desired and adored, Lucy recognizes the same need in her partner, whose quasi-merman body has made him believe he will never receive love.

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn

Sexual exploration and education goes far beyond adolescence and even young adulthood, it can exist even within the boundaries of a permanent relationship, even within the time honored tradition of marriage. With the changing of bodies and situations, with lives in constant flux, growth can be incessant. When the married couple in Sarah Dunn’s novel recognize this, they make a sincere effort to progress rather than stay in place. The Arrangement tells the story of an open marriage between Owen and Lucy, in their attempt to reclaim their marriage while simultaneously sanctioning one another’s implicit sexual desires. The Arrangement plays with the periphery of what has been long considered, in many parts of the world, the conventional way to live a life alongside one monogamous partner.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Using lyrical prose that bewitches from the first page and poignant references from philosophers, pediatricians, and writers, Nelson writes about her life with a nonbinary partner. Nelson’s style, which vacillates between poetry, theory, and memoir, offers the reader a sincere look into what it means for her to love, and lust after, someone who does not fall within the confines of the binary social construction of gender.

 

 

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Educating yourself on sex and lust is one thing, educating your children is entirely another thing. In Emma Straub’s novel, set in modern day Brooklyn, two families simultaneously explore what it means to be in a relationship, whether it’s a lifelong connection or a newly flourishing one. While Jane, Zoe, Elizabeth and Andrew struggle with their own relationships after the death of a mutual college friend and bandmate, their respective children begin a fling. The juxtaposition of experienced and inexperienced, old and new, offers an interesting perspective on the development of sex and love—of growth from the one into the other.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

One of the first English novels about someone changing gender begins with, “He—for there could be no doubt of his sex…” Long before the public acknowledgement of gender fluidity, Woolf weaves the tale of a woman born in a man’s body—or a man who becomes a woman. Orlando lives hundreds of years, is exposed to centuries of chauvinism, and encounters the mistreatment of the female’s body from the perspective of a person who has lived on the other side of the coin. Orlando illuminates the brutal history of gender politics while recounting the experience of a person who lusts after both men and women.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Lusting after a person can inspire a passion for creation. Edna, a married woman, learns this when her appetite for sex is aroused by a neighbor at the boarding houses on Grand Isle where she is staying for the summer. When autumn sets in and Robert—her muse—is gone, Edna continues her fervency. Now, the object of her fervor is no longer a man, but art. Her romance with Robert catalyzes a desire to create beauty. Edna rides on the high of that inspiration, forgoing the social norms of women of the time to zealously chase after the feeling of bringing something beautiful into existence. A feeling not unlike creating a bond between another person where before there was only unfamiliarity.

She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir

Sexual exploration can be as painful as it can be pleasurable. Simone de Beauvoir, a cited expert on the condition of human suffering and the subjugation of women, wrote this novel loosely based on her relationship with Jean Paul Sartre. She Came to Stay follows the story of Françoise and Pierre as they invite a third person into their lives. Through these three characters, de Beauvoir examines the inherent paradox of love and desire; how can we feel the freedom of individuality that love promises us when we depend on the other to give it to us? As per the deep-rooted existentialism that pervades all of her texts, She Came to Stay is an investigation into meaning through the magnificence and monstrousness of sex and love.

Complete Article HERE!

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Talking about safe sex is the best foreplay

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College students need to prioritize safe sex and educate themselves on STIs

By Payton Saso

Most people learned about the basics of sex education growing up — or at least heard the slogan “wrap it before you tap it.” Yet it seems college students have forgotten this slogan and are not practicing safe sex.

Women, when having male partners, are often expected to be on a method of birth control, and while many women rely on birth control — some 60% — that is not the only concern for both partners when having sex.

For some sexual partners, the idea of safe sex may be directly correlated with being on the pill, and many forget pregnancy isn’t the only risk of unsafe sex. But sexually transmitted infections are a risk for all parties engaging in sexual activities, and college-aged people are at higher risk of contracting these types of diseases.

Since this age group is at the most risk, it is important for them to practice all forms of safe sex, which means consistently using condoms and other forms of contraceptives.

Many people choose not use condoms in long-term relationships because they know their partner’s sexual history and have been previously tested. But in college, sexual experiences are more than often outside of relationships and sexual history is not discussed. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about STIs found that, “Young women (ages 15-24) account for nearly half (45 percent) of reported cases and face the most severe consequences of an undiagnosed infection.”

A study from researchers Elizabeth M. Farrington, David C. Bell and Aron E. DiBacco looked into the reasons why people reject condoms and stated that, “Many reported objections to condom use seem to be related to anticipated reductions in pleasure and enjoyment, often through ‘ruining the moment’ or ‘inhibiting spur of the moment sex.’”

Taking a few seconds to put on a condom is not something that will ruin the experience, especially if it means protecting yourself from STIs, considering some infections are life-threatening.

Protection does not always mean using a condom, and even condoms must be used properly to prevent risk of tear. Planned Parenthood stated, “It’s also harder to use condoms correctly and remember other safer sex basics when you’re drunk or high.”

In same sex relationships, protection is just as important. Research found that, “Among women, a gay identity was associated with decreased risk while among men, a gay identity among behaviorally bisexual males was associated with increased STI risk.”

Condoms might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about protection, but there are many other options for birth control that can help prevent contracting a STI, and it’s important to talk with your partner about which method or methods with which you’re both comfortable.

Dr. Candace Black, a lecturer at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, just finished conducting research on the practices of safe sex and said that often the lack of condom usage comes from a lack of sexual education.

“I don’t have data on this so it is anecdotal, young women are really targeted for sex education when it does occur and so it attributes to ideas like (they are more exposed to ideas like) STIs, condom use and birth control. I think collectively we spend a lot of time teaching young girls about sex education and prevention, which I think is wonderful,” Black said. “I have not observed a parallel effort for young men. And so in my observation, again this is just kind of anecdotal, the young men don’t have the same kind of sex education as far as risk factors, as far as pregnancy as far as all of that. There is a gender disparity as far as access to sex education.”

According to the American Addiction Center, when someone’s inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol, many are “at risk for an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy or for contracting a sexually transmitted (STD) or infectious disease.”

“You have to look beyond the current circumstances of people and consider access to sexual education which is seriously lacking in a lot of places, and in particular Arizona. The sex education isn’t great,” Black said. “There are various nonprofits that try and fill that service gap and provide adolescents and kids with sex education, but there is still a significant need.”

Not properly educating young people on the risk factors surrounding unsafe sex leads to these problems in the future when students are given more freedom in college. This often results in students not prioritizing thorough sexual health, but it should be on the minds of all sexually active students.

In the long run, it’s easier — and safer — to have sex with a condom than to deal with all the repercussions that can come from not using one.

Complete Article HERE!

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We Need To Talk More About Older People’s Sex Lives

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— Here’s Why

By Kelly Gonsalves

People in their senior years deserve satisfying sex lives just like anyone else, but oftentimes a combination of physical impediments and social stigmas can get in the way of being able to pursue that. A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE found nearly 60 percent of older people are unhappy with their sex lives, and the researchers are urging health care providers to step up to the plate when it comes to helping this age group with their most intimate needs.

What stands in the way of older people having a great sex life?

Researchers analyzed health and lifestyle data on over 3,000 people between ages 55 and 74, in addition to interviewing them in person to get a sense of what their sex lives were like and what factors affected it. They found 54 percent of women and 62 percent of men were sexually active in the past six months, and 42 percent of men and women reported being satisfied with their sex lives.

What separated people with happy sex lives from those with less fulfilling ones?

Some findings were fairly obvious: The folks who had been having sex were more likely to say they were happy with their sex lives, and people in steady relationships were way more likely to be having sex and to be sexually satisfied, as were people who reported being in good health. Indeed, 27 percent of men and 17 percent of women reported having a health condition that impaired their sex lives.

The most important finding? Older people who had support from others regarding their sex life were much more likely to be sexually active (and thus satisfied). For men, being able to use medication to boost their sex life made a big difference. For women, “finding it easy to talk to their regular partner about sex” made them more likely to have it. For both men and women, seeking advice and getting help regarding their sex life also tended to boost their sexual activity—yet just one in four had actually done so.

“We identified that not many people who reported experiencing problems or lack of satisfaction sought help,” said Bob Erens, lead author of the study and a researcher and professor with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in a news release. “Although this could be an individual choice or because of a perceived lack of support, it is vital that individuals feel able to make enquiries with health care professionals. In particular, discussing problems can often lead to identification of underlying medical conditions.”

Sexual satisfaction is important for your health—especially for older adults.

Sex comes with loads of physical and mental health benefits: It reduces your risk of heart attacks and certain types of cancer, boosts your memory and other cognitive functions, reduces your blood pressure, strengthens your immune system, and can actually make you live longer. For older adults especially, a lot of those are precious assets.

Cardiologist and mbg Collective member Joel Kahn, M.D., all but prescribes sex for optimal health: “Although discussing frequent sex may bring up issues of legal, moral, and religious guidelines—not to mention other health concerns associated with sex itself—the act itself appears to be quite healthy and possibly a path to extending life span and avoiding common diseases,” he writes at mbg. “The ability to successfully engage in sex and orgasm indicates a healthy cardiovascular system, and it can be a form of exercise.”

There’s also the social component: Sex makes you get intimate with others and floods your system with bonding hormones, all of which can make you feel closer to your partner and reduce feelings of loneliness. Past research has found having sex improves older adults’ well-being, making them have more joy in their lives.

Sex is for everyone.

It’s important to note that some older people (like people of any age) aren’t having sex because they don’t want to be having sex. Indeed, for women in particular, the study noted, “Health problems provided a welcome respite from sex.” If that’s you—more power to you! No need to push at something you’re just not interested in.

But if your age, health, or stigmas about older people having sex have deterred you from exploring your intimacy, there’s no time like the present to change that. Talk to your doctor or any trusted health provider about your sexual needs. Many people in the study mentioned feeling like they had so many other health problems to worry about, and they didn’t want to bother their doctor by asking about sex. Nonsense! Your sexual well-being is a part of your health, no matter your age, and having a satisfying sex life can contribute to your overall physical, mental, and relationship well-being.

If you’ve got a health problem that’s been making sex difficult for you, talk to your doctor about the options—or find a sex therapist, sexual healer, or other professional you trust to talk through your intimacy needs. Everybody deserves to have a satisfying sex life, whatever that might mean for you.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Sex Positions For Beginners

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By Erika W. Smith

If you’re considering having sex for the first time, you’ve recently become sexually active, or you’re with a new partner, you might want to begin with some simple, fun sex positions and activities. Some situations, like standing sex, take a bit of practice, after all — and sex should be all about pleasure rather than stress or intimidation. So we talked to a few experts to find out which sex positions and activities they suggest for people new to sex.

“If you’re a beginner at having sex or deciding to partake for the first time, first things first, welcome!” says Penda N’diaye, creator of PRO HOE, a brand and blog that aims to eradicate sexual stigma and debunk myths surrounding sexual pleasure and exploration in communities of color. “It only gets better as you discover which positions (and partners) are best suited for your body and sexual desire.”

When you read through these positions, remember that they’re just suggestions — feel free to modify them to figure out what feels best for you and your partner — experiment, and most of all, have fun.

Missionary, or one person on top

“With one person on their back and the other penetrating on top, small rocking motions of the hips can create a rhythm that syncs you with your partner and also allows easy exploration of which internal areas like the most attention,” says N’diaye.

Spooning

“[Spooning brings] a little extra closeness,” N’diaye adds. “While both lying on your side, have your partner enter you from behind while you slightly lift your leg. It feels like two puzzle pieces in the right place. It’s a great opportunity for G-spot or prostate stimulation and can be a calming, intimate position.”

Mutual masturbation

Rachael Rose, founder of sex education platform Hedonish, suggests, “Mutual masturbation is one of the most underrated, but awesome, ways to play with a partner. You get to watch your partner doing sexy things, and it can be especially useful for folks newer to sex or who are playing with a new partner because you get to see how they like to be touched

Rose adds, “Laying side-by-side offers a more intimate experience and allows for kissing, and laying head-to-feet can offer fantastic views. Mutual masturbation also works great regardless of genital configuration, body size, and height differences, plus it’s easy to incorporate toys and allows folks with physical limitations to position themselves however they’re most comfortable.”

Genital rubbing

Debby Herbenick, PhD, professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health and author of The Coregasm Workout, suggests, “there’s genital rubbing/scissoring, which can be done by any gender sex partners, though it’s more often called scissoring when between women. People with penises often enjoy rubbing their penises together, people with vulvas often find it arousing if not orgasmic to rub their vulvas together, and of course penises-vaginas sometimes fit together as with intercourse, but other times partners rub one another (for example, sliding a vulva up and down a penis).”

Using a vibrator

Vibrators can enhance pleasurable sensations along the vulva, inside the vagina, outside of the anal opening, inside the anus (assuming it’s an anal-friendly toy with a wide base), along the penile shaft, around the scrotum, and some people even like breast/nipple vibration,” says Dr. Herbenick. “For some people, vibration is sufficient. Others pair a vibrator with intercourse or finger-stimulation.”

Modifying familiar positions to find out what feels best

Emily Morse, doctor of human sexuality and host of the Sirius XM radio show and podcast Sex With Emily, says, “If you don’t like a position once, then there’s always modifications. You can get pillows to prop yourself up, you can try it on the side of the bed, you can use a toy. I think we’re so limited in the way we think about positions that have to be done in one way.”

She adds, “My main tip is to go easy on yourself. Great lovers are not born, they’re made. So if you’re just starting out sexually, every time is a learning opportunity. You can’t really fail if you’re present and you’re really listening to yourself and your body — and that will help you connect to your partner as well.”

Forgetting positions and just exploring

“There is no single best sex position, since it depends what people like and how their genitals fit together, as well as other aspects of their bodies like body size, genital size and shape, (dis)ability, and height,” says Dr. Herbenick. “Side-by-side works great for some couples and not at all for others. The same is true for other sex positions. The only ‘best’ is what works for partners… which is why I encourage exploration

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Sex ed video for teens shatters myths about sexuality and disability

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The internet has changed how kids learn about sex, but sex ed in the classroom still sucks. In Sex Ed 2.0, Mashable explores the state of sex ed and imagines a future where digital innovations are used to teach consent, sex positivity, respect, and responsibility.

By Rebecca Ruiz

Sex ed in the U.S. is often a hot mess. Teens regularly get medically inaccurate information, learn solely about abstinence, and hear only bad things about LGBTQ identity and sexuality.

Young people with disabilities can feel particularly invisible in classroom sex ed lessons, since the content typically doesn’t reflect their experience. Meanwhile, some teens may assume their peers with disabilities have no interest in sex or sexuality at all.

This new video from AMAZE, a YouTube sex ed series for adolescents and teens, takes on and then shatters the stereotypes and misconceptions about disability and sexuality.

The clip features a young character who uses a wheelchair and the pronouns they/them. They share with an inquisitive friend that yes, they are interested in dating, and yes, their “parts work just fine.” (It’s important to note that while the direct questions help start an educational dialogue in the video, young people shouldn’t similarly quiz their friends with disabilities.)

The candid conversation covers gender identity, sexual orientation, healthy relationships, and the specific challenges people with disabilities can face while trying to date. In just three short minutes, the video scores wins for representation, inclusion, and education.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual satisfaction among older people about more than just health

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Communication and being in a happy relationship, along with health, are important for sexual satisfaction among older people, according to new research published in PLOS ONE.

Sexual expression is increasingly recognised as important throughout the life course, in maintaining relationships, promoting self-esteem and contributing to health and well-being. Although are being urged to be more proactive in helping achieve a satisfying sex life, there is a distinct lack of evidence to help guide practitioners.

Led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the University of Glasgow and UCL, the study is one of the first to look at how health, lifestyle and relationship factors can affect sexual activity and satisfaction in later life, and examine how people respond and deal with the consequences.

The researchers carried out a mixed methods study combining from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) and in-depth interviews with older men and women. Out of nearly 3,500 people aged between 55-74, the survey found that one in four men and one in six women reported having a health problem that affected their sex life. Among this group, women were less likely than men to be sexually active in the previous six months (54 percent vs 62 percent) but just as likely to be satisfied with their sex life (42 percent vs 42 percent).

Follow up interviews with a sample of participants revealed that older people found it difficult to separate the effects of declining health from those of increasing age. Ill health impacted sexual activity in many ways but most crucially it influenced whether individuals had a partner with whom to have sex. Some older people were more accepting of not having a sex life than others.

For those in a relationship, was strongly associated with both the quality of communication with their partner and contentment with their relationship. The impact of health issues was not always negative; some men and women found themselves having to experiment with new ways of being sexually active and their sex lives improved as a result.

Natsal-3 is the largest scientific study of sexual health and lifestyles in Britain. Conducted by LSHTM, UCL and NatCen Social Research, the studies have been carried out every 10 years since 1990, and have involved interviews with more than 45,000 people to date.

Bob Erens, lead author and Associate Professor at LSHTM, said: “Looking at the impact of health on sexual activity and satisfaction as we age is important, however few studies have examined the between the two.

“Health can affect an individual’s sex life in various ways, from having or finding a partner, to physical and psychological limitations on sexual expression.

“We identified that not many people who reported experiencing problems or lack of satisfaction sought help. Although this could be an individual choice or because of a perceived lack of support, it is vital that individuals feel able to make enquiries with health care professionals. In particular, discussing problems can often lead to identification of underlying medical conditions.”

Although some individuals the research team spoke to were not affected by not being sexually active, it seemed to be important that health professionals make sensitive enquiries for patients who might want to access help, which can lead to significant improvements in their wellbeing and quality of life.

Kirstin Mitchell, co-author and Senior Research Fellow in Social Relationships and Health Improvement at the University of Glasgow, said: “We’re seeing numerous, interconnected factors influencing sexual activity in older people. Not being in good health can influence mood, mobility and whether a person has a partner, which in turn impact on . Medication taken for health conditions often compounds the problem.

“The study findings suggest that pharmacological approaches, like Viagra, do not always help to resolve sexual difficulties, which need to be seen in the wider context of ‘s lives.”

The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study, including that Natsal had an upper age limit of 74 years, and so the study is unable to describe the sexual health and wellbeing of people at older ages.

Natsal-3 is the largest and most comprehensive study of sexual attitudes and lifestyles in the world, and is a major source of data informing sexual and reproductive health policy in Britain.

Complete Article HERE!

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You Can Teach Yourself How To Orgasm

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— Here’s How

By Erika W. Smith

In one of my favorite scenes in the Netflix series Sex Education, Aimee goes to Otis for advice because her new boyfriend has what she thinks is a weird kink. “Steve says his ‘thing’ is girls properly enjoying sex,” she says with an eye-roll. After Otis asks her a few questions, Aimee shares that she’s never had an orgasm and she’s never masturbated. Otis, as Aimee puts it, “prescribes a wank.” Cue a montage of Aimee masturbating in various positions all around her bedroom. The next time she’s with her boyfriend, she has very specific instructions: “I want you to rub my clit with your left thumb. Start slow, but get faster, but not too fast. When I start to shake, blow on my ear and get ready for fireworks.”

While it might be a touch exaggerated, there’s a lot of truth in this scene. Never or infrequently orgasming is common, particularly for women, about 10-15% of whom have difficulty orgasming (though it can happen with people of any gender). And if you’ve never had an orgasm — or if you orgasm infrequently — and you want to, the best way to have one is to spend some quality time masturbating

Let me stress that part again: if you’ve never (or rarely) orgasmed and you want to, you should start with masturbation. Because you don’t have to orgasm. Sex or masturbation can still be plenty of fun without an orgasm. Part of the Mayo Clinic’s definition of anorgasmia (the medical term for consistent difficulty reaching orgasm) is that the lack of orgasm distresses you or interferes with your relationship. If you’re not orgasming and you’re totally fine with that, then don’t feel like you need to have an orgasm. While pressure to orgasm, body image, and shame around sex can contribute to anorgasmia, there are a variety of other possible causes, including medications such as SSRIs, illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, and gynecological surgeries.

Okay: if you do want to learn how to orgasm, the first step is to stop focusing on trying to have an orgasm. Though this might seem contradictory at first, taking away the pressure to perform can be a big help. “Commit to practicing some mindful masturbation on your own, and just figuring it out,” Emily Morse, Doctor of Human Sexuality and host of the Sirius XM radio show and podcast Sex With Emily, tells Refinery29. Instead of trying to have an orgasm immediately, commit to getting to know your body over a period of several months.

“Common reasons why people, particularly women, have difficulty orgasming is because we’re in our head, and we’re focused on orgasming,” Dr. Morse says. “If you go in with the goal of ‘I’m just going to try to see where I can find pleasure in my body,’ knowing that you, on your own, can figure it out can be empowering. You’re much likely to get there once you just say, ‘I’m exploring.’”

While you’re doing this exploring, commit to experimentation. “Make sure you’re warmed up, you’re turned on, you’re exploring other erogenous zones, and you’re really taking the time,” Dr. Morse says. Spend some time in front of a full-body mirror while masturbating; try different breathing patterns; try using sex toys; try different positions. Touch different parts of your body, and use different types of touch. If you have a clitoris, Sex With Emily has an episode called “The Clit Notes” that covers all the different ways you can touch your clit. Dr. Morse also suggests spending some time “seducing yourself” — clean your room, light some candles, put on some music, try out different fantasies</a

“Our brain is the largest sex organ, no matter who you are,” Dr. Morse explains. “My advice would be to do the exploring, cultivate a really rich fantasy life, and figure out what your erotic themes are. What really turns you on? What are your fantasies? What do you need to feel the most pleasure? And then just experiment with that. Let go of what everyone else is doing, and do your own work to find out how you’re going to get there.”

After you’re comfortable orgasming on your own, then you can take what you’ve learned and tell your partner what you like. “It’s called self-love for a reason, right?” Dr. Morse asks. “No one else is responsible for our orgasms and our pleasure but us. And then once we learn that, we can communicate that to anyone else who’s interested in coming along for the ride.

Complete Article HERE!

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Five things I wish I’d known about sex and relationships in university

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By Simone Paget

Fun fact: During my first year at the University of Toronto, I was in a student film appropriately titled, Sex and the University. Before your mind travels too far down the gutter, it was a sweet romantic comedy that parodied the famous HBO show of a similar name. The irony being that the film didn’t contain a single sex scene. However, the title of the film couldn’t have been more on-point for that era of my life.

Like many people, my late teens and early twenties were a time when I was exploring my sexuality, all the while trying to get a grip on relationships and other adult responsibilities, often with confusing, painful results. The university years are an emotional minefield. Whether you’re wrapping up first year or your collegiate days are long behind you, there are probably a few things you wish you’d done differently.

Here’s what I wish I’d known about sex and relationships when I was a university student.

1. Prioritize people who prioritize you.

One of my favourite quotes by Maya Angelou is, “never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” I had this taped to my mirror in university, but I often failed to take heed. I spent a lot of time chasing after partners who (in retrospect) didn’t prioritize my feelings or time. People who really want you in their life, will make it happen. Letting go of lopsided relationships will give you more time to hang out with your friends and allow for better, more deserving people to walk into your life.

2. The only person keeping track of how many people you’ve slept with is you.

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about my “number.” I was always worried that I was having too much sex, while my male friends were concerned they weren’t hooking up with enough girls. Hello, sexist double standards. Long story short: none of us were truly living our best sex lives.

When it comes to the number of people you’ve hooked up with, there’s no right or wrong answer. As long as you’re protecting your health, engaging in consensual encounters and treating the people you hook up with respect, the number doesn’t matter.

3. If you have a bad experience, help is available. Take it.

Within the first two months of university I was sexually assaulted. Six months later, I had another bad experience with someone I was dating. I honestly can’t explain why I didn’t get help at the time (it took me until I was in my thirties to finally see a therapist). I think part of me thought I could handle all of the feelings on my own. As a result, the aftershock of these experiences seeped into nearly every area of my life over the next decade. Even if you don’t think what’s happened to you is that serious, go talk to someone. It’s worth it.

4. You can have a safe, healthy, satisfying sex life.

The underlying theme of the sex education I received in high school echoed what the gym teacher says in the movie Mean Girls: “Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die.” The fear associated with sex held me back and caused a lot of undue anxiety. However, if you use safer sex methods and get tested regularly (which is essential for your health and peace of mind), you can protect yourself and still have a healthy, fun sex life.

5. It’s okay to experiment.

In my early 20s, I had several opportunities to date and experiment with other women (gorgeous, smart, cool women), but I never followed through. Now I wish I had. I think at the time I was scared, but of what I’m not really sure. Once again, it took me until my thirties to explore this part of my sexuality. Stop worrying about what other people think. Whether you’re gay, straight or somewhere happily in between, you’re not required to define your sexuality for other people. You deserve pleasure. Give yourself permission to explore.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Pregnant Couples Should Totally Have Sex

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(And How To Do It Well!)

By Julia Guerra

A survey issued by the parenting website ChannelMum back in 2017 found that, on average, couples will have sex 78 times in a matter of six months (that’s 13 times per month) before they conceive. But what happens after they score a positive on the stick? Do they stop, for lack of a better word, scoring in the bedroom?

In life, and in pregnancy, it’s important to listen to your body and honor its needs. This includes any sexual desires that may (and usually do) arise. Of course, if you aren’t comfortable having sex while you’re pregnant, that’s perfectly fine. But while pregnancy is a lot of things, it doesn’t have to be a celibacy sentence.

The stigma around pregnant sex.

It’s one thing to put physical intimacy on pause if it’s uncomfortable or harmful to the mother, or if someone in the relationship feels genuinely uncomfortable having pregnant sex. However, there’s nothing inherently “dirty” or “wrong” about having sex while pregnant. But according to Sofia Jawed-Wessel, Ph.D., MPH, sex researcher and co-director of the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the taboo pitted on pregnant sex isn’t directed at the sex itself but rather at pregnant women having sex. 

“Our culture has a difficult time juxtaposing motherhood and sexiness without fetishizing—without objectifying the pregnant person,” Jawed-Wessel explains in an interview with mbg. “We have a difficult time seeing the pregnant person as a whole person beyond their pregnancy.”

It all comes back to the “why,” she says. In other words: Why is a pregnant woman having sex?

If it’s to meet her own sexual needs, a pregnant woman pursuing sex is often seen as an “aggressor,” as selfish. If it’s to meet the man’s needs, that’s another story, Jawed-Wessel says. “If [a pregnant woman is] having sex not for her own pleasure but for her partner’s, because nine months is a long time for men to be celibate, then we understand. If she’s partnered with a woman, well, we won’t even acknowledge that!”

How attitudes about pregnant sex can affect an expecting couple’s sex life.

In her most recent study, Jawed-Wessel and her team of researchers followed 116 couples in which one partner was between eight to 12 weeks pregnant. Researchers asked participants to complete four surveys over the course of three months, with questions focusing on their attitude toward sex before pregnancy, their attitude toward sex during pregnancy, how often they were having sex (with their partner and/or solo), sexual activities that gave them the most and least satisfaction, and so on.

The cross-sectional study, published last month in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that a couple’s attitude toward pregnant sex could actually affect their overall sexual satisfaction. Partners who shared a positive attitude toward pregnant sex were more satisfied overall than couples who went into the experiment with reservations toward pregnant sex.

Jawed-Wessel says a negative attitude toward pregnant sex can be a reflection of one or all of the following:

1. They’re choosing to believe pregnant sex myths over their doctor’s advice.

Jawed-Wessel says experts are seeing a “disconnect” between what the doctor prescribes and the negative attitudes couples have about pregnant sex because of myths about the potential risk of either compromising the pregnancy or harming the fetus directly.

For the record, there is little evidence to prove sex can induce a miscarriage, and experts say it’s highly unlikely. Doctors do suggest patients with very specific medical issues—such as placenta previa (when the placenta covers all or part of the uterus), and cervical insufficiency (when a woman’s cervix is weak and dilates too early in the pregnancy)—abstain from sex during their pregnancy. For the average pregnant person who isn’t experiencing a high-risk or abnormal pregnancy? As long as your doctor says it’s safe, you’re good to go.

And yet many couples are still apprehensive or just unable to shake off the fear of doing damage to their future baby.

2. Societally speaking, women are desexualized when they become pregnant.

As Jawed-Wessel points out, most cultures—definitely America’s—view motherhood as a kind of pure, moral, and exclusively family-oriented state, whereas having sex still carries overtones of being immoral or selfish. Even if they don’t recognize it, some men buy into this sexist dichotomy and struggle to find their partner sexually desirable during pregnancy, seeing their partner transitioning from “lover” to “mother.” It’s not about the physical bump or even the baby per se (though it may be the case for some men); it’s more about that psychological shift taking place in how they’re viewing their partner.

3. They’re viewing vaginal intercourse as the end-all-be-all of physical intimacy.

Most straight people tend to think sex needs to involve vaginal intercourse. Of course, there are numerous sexual behaviors and experiences that a couple can explore that have nothing to do with penetration, but because couples fall into a routine, they lose that sense of adventure and mystery in the bedroom. Then when pregnancy comes along and makes P-in-V intercourse perhaps less accessible or comfortable, they assume that means sex can’t happen.

What should sex look like for pregnant couples?

According to the team’s findings, sexual satisfaction during pregnancy was extremely contextual for each couple and for each individual partner. The paper outlines that kissing, intercourse, and using sex toys as a couple all led to more sexual satisfaction. But some sexual acts didn’t bring as much joy: For instance, men experienced high levels satisfaction using toys alone (likely while masturbating) and low levels of satisfaction from vaginal fingering (maybe because they couldn’t get off from it, the researchers posit). Women reported the opposite: They were most satisfied through vaginal fingering and actually less satisfied when they used sex toys on their own (perhaps because it was a last resort when they weren’t being satisfied by their partners, the researchers say).

Clearly there wasn’t one overarching solution to being sexually satisfied while pregnant, and more sex didn’t necessarily correspond to being more sexually satisfied. Specific sex acts were more enjoyable for some partners than for others. That being said, the researchers’ model showed one common thread: The more positive of an attitude a couple had toward pregnancy sex, the more sexually satisfied they felt overall.

Sexual satisfaction is important for a healthy relationship—yes, even for soon-to-be parents.

“Pregnancy does not suddenly leave a couple void of sexual needs,” Jawed-Wessel and her team write in their paper. “Sex is important to individuals and their relationships, and pregnant people and their partners are no exception. Relationship satisfaction has been frequently linked to sexual satisfaction among the general population, and pregnant individuals follow a similar pattern.”

They add that pregnant women also experience unique benefits from being satisfied with the state of their sex life and relationship: “Pregnant women with higher relationship satisfaction have also been found to be more positive about their upcoming role as a mother and experience less maternal emotional distress.”

In a recent edition of her newsletter, sex researcher and educator Dr. Zhana Vrangalova emphasized why it’s so important for couples not to lose sight of their sex lives due to a pregnancy: “I know that sex during and post-pregnancy may feel strange, or different, or awkward. But I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the health and quality of your relationship to maintain your sexual connection during this time. The longer you go without it, the harder and weirder it’s going to be to come back to it and reconnect in that way.”

Her advice?

“If you’re the one pregnant, give yourself the right to be a sexual being, and revel in your new body. A lot of women report that pregnancy sex was the best sex they’ve ever had!” she writes. “And if you’re the partner of someone who’s pregnant, please work on overcoming the harmful myths and negative feelings about pregnancy sex you’ve internalized, and make your partner feel beautiful, sexy, sexual, and desired.”

Communication is key.

Of course, this isn’t meant to put pressure on couples to do what they’re just not feeling. If a couple or partner just doesn’t want to have sex for whatever reason, Jawed-Wessel says there is nothing wrong with pushing pause. But she stresses: Communication is key.

“We see partners making assumptions or jumping to conclusions on what the other is thinking, and this is never good,” Jawed-Wessel explains. “[Pregnancy] can be a time to really explore each other’s sexuality and come to a closer understanding of one another so that when both partners are ready to push play again, it is easier to navigate and relearn each other’s needs and wants.”

As long as both partners have an open line of communication flowing and are being honest about their needs, Jawed-Wessel tells mbg, “there is no reason for sex or lack of sex during pregnancy to be harmful to either partner.” It’s only if either partner feels unsatisfied, or if the woman feels as though her partner does not find her sexually desirable, that may cause an issue.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., sex researcher and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University–Bloomington, tells mbg that ultimately the importance of sexual intimacy during pregnancy will depend on the couple. For some, keeping things fresh in the bedroom during pregnancy is a priority. For others, sex is put on the back burner. “[New parents] have bigger fish to fry, focusing on staying and feeling healthy, caring for their pregnancy, getting things for their baby, napping more, doctors’ appointments, etc.,” Herbenick says. But she does suggest pursuing physical closeness in other ways: “Those who abstain [from penetrative sex] might find [satisfaction] connecting to kiss and cuddle to nurture intimacy.”

Overall, navigating the ways in which you and your partner can stay sexually satisfied during pregnancy is a personal process. As long as your medical provider gives you the OK, try your best to home in on how this experience can enhance your sex life and bring you closer, not only as new parents but as a couple. By keeping the communication flowing and maintaining a positive attitude, satisfaction will come—in and outside the bedroom.

Complete Article HERE!

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What To Do If You Want Sex To Last Longer

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By Erika W. Smith

There have been a lot of studies about how long sex lasts on average — but most of those studies focus on the length of P-in-V sex between a cis man and a cis woman, whereas we know that sex can encompass a lot more. When it comes to studies looking at how long sex — including foreplay, outercourse, oral sex, and any other kind of non-P-in-V sex — lasts on average, for people of any gender and sexuality, we have less data to go by. But even if we did have exact data, those numbers don’t really matter. Because the only real answer to “How long should sex last?” is “A length that you and your partner are happy with.”

In fact, studies and averages are “a comparison trap,” says Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationships counselor who practices in New York. “It’s really more about what works in your relationship.”

Sex therapists generally consider someone with a penis to be experiencing premature ejaculation if they are ejaculating after less than two minutes of penetrative sex, Dr. Fleming says. The Mayo Clinic’s definition of premature ejaculation adds an important caveat: “Premature ejaculation occurs when a man ejaculates sooner during sexual intercourse than he or his partner would like.” If both partners are happy with how long sex is lasting, then it’s not something to be concerned about — there’s a lot more to sex than penetration, after all. “How much does [the partner] enjoy penetration?” Dr. Fleming asks. “Maybe they already had an orgasm first because of foreplay, oral, or manual stimulation.”

But if both partners — no matter their gender or genitalia — want sex to last longer, they can try some different tactics to make that happen. Dr. Fleming divides these strategies into two groups: the physical and the psychological. On the physical side, there are masturbation exercises. In particular, people with penises can “learn to stay in the safe zone before the point of inevitability, which is ejaculation,” says Dr. Fleming. If sex isn’t lasting long because one person is experiencing pain or discomfort, see a professional who can see if there’s an underlying health condition. If you’d like sex to end more quickly, masturbation exercises also apply. And whether you’d like sex to last longer or end more quickly, you should be using lube it helps reduce friction, makes sex feel more comfortable, and feels great. Try experimenting with different amounts lube, or trying different kinds of lube, to see how that feels.

There’s also the psychological side of sex. Along with trying out positions and types of sex, “that might mean including fantasy, or talking dirty,” Dr. Fleming says. It can also mean reframing what you think of as sex to include sexual activities outside of penetration — and if there’s a cis man in the couple, it can mean rethinking the idea that sex ends when he has an orgasm.

Dr. Fleming also suggests trying new sexual activities more than once — even if the first time you try a new position doesn’t have an effect on how soon your orgasm happens, that might be different the third time you try it. “When you try something new, you want to try, try again,” she says. She refers to the safe word system of red, yellow, and green, where red means “stop,” green means “go,” and yellow means “slow down” or “give me a moment.” “If it’s awful, ‘red light,’ then obviously don’t” try it again, she says. “But if it’s more like a yellow, then hang out and see if it turns green. Sometimes we have to do things enough to really be present and relax, and relaxation is the foundation of arousal.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Talk to Your Partner About Getting Tested With Minimal Weirdness

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It’s possible! (And smart.)

By Kasandra Brabaw

You’re pressed against the wall of a new date’s apartment as they kiss your neck and reach to undo your pants. Every atom in your body is ready for more, but then your brain kicks in: Shit. We haven’t talked about STIs yet.

Or perhaps it happens when you’re on cloud nine after defining your new relationship. You’ve gone over whether or not you want kids, proper toilet paper orientation, basically everything except sexually transmitted infections. It’s the only nagging thought dampening your excitement.

As much as you’d like to tell your brain to shut up in these moments, discussing STIs with sexual partners is essential for taking care of your health, even if it does seem incredibly awkward.

Here’s why you need to have the talk.

Ideally, you’d talk about STIs before having sex with any new partners. But we live in the real world and we know that that’s not necessarily the norm. So why is that? You might tell yourself it’s fine to skip this talk. Who wants to talk about your last STI test or that time five years ago that an ex gave you chlamydia? Can’t you just assume that this person would mention it if there was something to bring up? Your last STI check was all clear. You have condoms. It’s all probably fine, right? Listen, we understand the urge to completely ignore this topic.

Ultimately, having this conversation is about sexual health, but there’s a cultural bias that feels like you’re in some way accusing someone if you bring up STIs,” Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist in New York, tells SELF. “There’s still a lot of stigma.”

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you are not accusing someone of being promiscuous or dishonest by asking them about their STI status. Anyone can get STIs and many come with absolutely zero symptoms. Assuming “Oh, he would tell me if he had an STI” assumes that they got tested recently, which may not be something you’ve discussed yet. Likewise, assuming “I’m sure she doesn’t have an STI” is most likely completely baseless—you cannot infer STI status from anything other than an actual test

So, yes, you need to have this talk—even if you’ve already had sex with this person. The rates of many sexually transmitted infections are on the rise for various reasons. And while medications can clear up STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, others, like herpes and HIV, are incurable.

That doesn’t mean getting an STI has to devastate your life. Even STIs that aren’t curable are often manageable with the correct treatment, and people with these conditions can still lead full, happy, sex-filled lives. But trying to avoid STIs, especially those transmitted via bodily fluids, is generally easier than dealing with them after the fact. That’s why talking about STIs with your sexual partner (or partners) is so critical.

The way you bring up STIs depends largely on the status of your relationship. Of course, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how you do this. All the advice in the world doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be a little awkward. But here are some tips that may help.

If it’s at the moment before sex with a new person:

can pause that up-against-the-wall moment to ask if your partner has been tested for STIs and what the results were. But at this point, you don’t really know them well enough to do much with that information.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. The way they respond to this question can be a great litmus test. But unless you know for sure that your partner recently got tested and hasn’t had sex with anyone else since then, operate under the assumption that they might have an STI and that you should have the safest sex possible. That may mean using a condom, a dental dam, or both. (Remember that these barrier methods don’t protect against all STIs, since some, like herpes and HPV, can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact.)

You can ask your partner if they have these barrier methods around or pull one out yourself. If they question you or protest, Fleming suggests saying something like, “Since we haven’t gotten tested together, we definitely need to use a [barrier method].”

This is also a great way to lay the groundwork if you think you’ll have sex with this person again. “The assumption is that you’re going to be tested eventually,” Fleming says.

If you’ve been seeing someone and want to get tested before having sex:

Tosin Goje, M.D., an ob/gyn at the Cleveland Clinic, says that she often sees women who want to be screened before having sex in a new relationship. “You should have a conversation with your partner and have them screened also,” Dr. Goje tells SELF.

Although bringing this up at all is great, it might be best to do it in a non-sexual context when both of you are thinking clearly. If you’re a little freaked out to mention it, admit that. You can say something like, “I’m nervous to talk to you about this, but it seems like we might have sex soon, and it’s important to me that we get tested for STIs first

As an alternative, you can get tested and kick things off by sharing your results. This can make it clear that you’re not judging or shaming your partner by bringing up STI testing. It’s just a normal part of having sex with a new person. Fleming suggests saying something like, “Since it seems like we’re going to have sex soon, I decided to go get tested. When did you last get tested?”

If you’ve had sex with them already:

Maybe you’ve been using condoms and/or dental dams up until this point, but now you want to stop. If you don’t know what to say, keep it simple: “If we’re going to stop using condoms/dental dams, we need to go get tested. Just to be safe

Perhaps you got caught up in the moment, had unprotected sex, and are wondering if it’s OK to just make that your M.O. with this person. In that case, try, “I know we haven’t been using protection, but if we’re going to keep doing that, we should get tested so that we can really enjoy it safely.”

Again, it might be easiest to have these kinds of conversations when you’re not right on the brink of sex. And if you’re going to be having unprotected sex with someone, you should talk about not having unprotected sex with other people, too.

What if they aren’t receptive?

We’d hope that everyone would be open to discussing sexual health with someone they’re about to have sex with. But since STI stigma is real, even someone who’s otherwise a total catch might be confused or offended. Hopefully they’ll come around quickly once you discuss why it’s important to you.

“If you ultimately explain that this is non-negotiable and they still say no, then you may want to question if this is the right partner for you,” Fleming says. “If they’re not thinking about…what you need to be comfortable, that’s a red flag.”

Katie M., 32, knows this all too well. Soon after she graduated from college, she started dating someone new. The first few times they saw each other, they made out, but eventually things got more heated, Katie tells SELF. When they were on the verge of having sex, she said, “I’m fine with sex, but we both need to get tested before that happens.” But her partner pushed back, saying that they should just trust each other.

If you find yourself in this situation, Fleming suggests saying something like, “I’ve never received this reaction before. Can you tell me why you’re so against getting tested?” You can also explain that trust has nothing to do with it if you haven’t been tested recently, and that you’re trying to look out for their health, too

For various reasons, Katie stopped seeing that partner soon after their STI discussion. Seven months later, she met the man who eventually became her husband. They were dating long-distance and hadn’t yet had sex when he made plans to stay with her over Thanksgiving. “I told him that if we were going to have sex while he was there, we both needed to get tested,” she says. He had an STI report from his doctor in his suitcase the day he got off the plane.

What if either one of you tests positive?

You may expect to have celebratory sex immediately after you both get your test results. But if one of you tests positive for an STI, you should ask your doctor what the diagnosis means for your sex life. You might need to abstain while completing a round of antibiotics, for instance. If you’ve already had sex with this person, it would be worth having a conversation about whether or not they should be tested and treated, too.

Opening up to your partner about having an STI can be unnerving, but it won’t necessarily be the disaster you might imagine. Carly S., a 26-year-old with genital herpes, has been there. Herpes never fully goes away, even if you take antiviral medications to help prevent outbreaks and lower the odds of spreading the virus.

When Carly started dating after breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, she knew she’d have to tell potential partners about having herpes. She worried that it would torpedo budding relationships, but the first guy she told simply responded “Okay,” and that was that.

“I know it’s not a big deal [to have an STI], but it was kind of like validation [that] not everyone is going to think I’m gross,” Carly tells SELF.

When Carly stopped seeing that partner and brought up her STI status to a different man, he also didn’t judge her. He said, “That sucks that that happened to you.” They’re still dating today.

Bottom line: An STI does not need to ruin your life, sexually or otherwise. “It’s not who you are; it’s just a thing you have,” Fleming says. “You need to take care of yourself and your partners, but it in no way defines you, who you are, or what you can offer as a partner.”

Also keep in mind that if you and a new partner get tested together, the prospect that one of you has an STI is already on the table. That might make it even more likely that you’ll receive the nonchalance Carly encountered. So might sharing enough medical context to explain why your specific STI isn’t the end of the world, like how long treatment will last or what medications you’ll be starting to lower the chances of spreading the infection.

Remember: You got this.

Anyone who treats you poorly for talking about STIs (or having one) probably isn’t worth it. Whether you are bringing up STI tests or the fact that you have an STI, there’s always a chance that someone might respond cruelly, ghost you, or do something else along those rude lines.

It’s their right to decide who they do and don’t want to have sex with. But if someone treats you poorly over taking responsibility for your sexual health, they’re likely not a great partner to have in the first place.

Complete Article HERE!

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Asexuality: “Identity over society’s fixation with sex”

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Sexuality is a spectrum and it doesn’t matter where you fall

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Today, we recognize that sexuality and gender fall on a spectrum. Sexual orientations such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality are well-known, but I’d like to talk about a lesser known one: asexuality. Not everyone is — or wants to be — sexually active.

I wrote to my friend, Tab*, who is asexual, asking her some questions to hopefully shed some light on the nuanced meanings of asexuality and how she navigates relationships.

The Varsity: According to Wikipedia, asexuality is “the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity.” Do you agree with this definition and can you elaborate on what asexuality means to you?

T: I definitely agree with the first half, but I also make the distinction between sexual attraction and interest or desire.

A friend of mine once used the analogy of looking at a beautiful painting in a museum: you think the painting is beautiful, but you don’t want to take it home and have sex with it. That is not to say that people are ‘just objects’ to asexuals, but rather that no matter how aesthetically pleasing they are to me, I just don’t want to have sex with them. They are about as sexually attractive as a painting.

TV: I’m sure there is a stigma around being asexual, especially in a heterosexual and sex-driven society where every form of media is filled with innuendos and sexual references. How do you reconcile your own identity with society’s idea of what a person should be?

T: I think that being asexual doesn’t necessarily mean being sex-repulsed or ‘prudish.’ Nor does it necessarily mean having a low sex drive… or not having any romantic feelings at all. Society, or at least North American society, definitely puts a lot of emphasis on sexual attractiveness as a measure of value, or as something to strive for.

I think it took me a long time to kind of condition myself, or kind of learn to first accept that I won’t be like any of the hypersexual or super beautiful, stereotypical models, celebrities, and characters I often see in [media], but that was okay, and I still had value to other people.

I think that finding out that there was a sort of label for the way I felt about others, sexually, helped me out a lot in accepting that I wasn’t just strange or destined to have no meaningful romantic relationships in my life, which is something that weighs on my mind. I have other things to offer other than just being a sexual partner. Is it actually that important to me to be attractive or valued by people who only consider my sexual value? I figured the answer was no, and that it was kind of BS that I’d be considered less of a person just because I didn’t find people sexually attractive. I never really reconciled my identity with society’s idea of a person more than I just prioritized my identity over society’s fixation with sex.

TV: There’s a lot of emphasis on hookup culture especially with dating apps like Tinder. What does a relationship mean to you? How do you navigate dating and meeting people, especially in university?

T: I’ve been pretty removed from the whole hookup culture. I mean, I have Tinder, but it’s definitely more of a time-waster. To be honest, I’m absolutely trash at navigating the dating scene. I have a lot of my own personal issues to deal with, not to mention I’m the kind of person who mostly keeps to myself. Hookup culture is still definitely something I keep in mind though, and it often intrudes with whenever I get a message or match on Tinder, or some person talks to me for longer than I deem strictly necessary in a social exchange. So, even taking sexual orientation out of the equation, the dating scene is already hard to navigate.

That being said, I have an all-together probably too romantic idea of a relationship. I don’t think I’m quite made for casual dating — if I find interest in someone deeply enough to pursue some sort of deeper relationship, I definitely am in it for the long term.

I’d love for someone to be comfortable with, who inspires me to be a better person, who I change and grow with, who I trust. A person who is worth going the distance for, and who’s as committed to me as I am to them. That sounds awfully idealistic, but that’s probably my best idea of a relationship.

TV: There’s this idea that to be intimate means to have sex — what do you think about this idea of intimacy? And what does intimacy mean to you instead?

T: When I wrote cringy poetry as an edgelord high schooler, I actually wrote about this. My idea of intimacy hasn’t actually changed much since then, although it’s defined itself a bit more. There’s definitely intimacy to be had in sex… baring yourself to another person and trusting that they want you and will accept you as you are. So there’s nothing wrong with saying having sex is intimate.

I think the mistake is when people say that sex is the ‘ultimate’ form of intimacy, or even the only form. I think that as a baseline, intimacy is being able to be vulnerable around another person, not just by being able to share problems and stuff with your partner, but to be able to really experience and share the simple intimacies in life, like waking up and going to sleep in the same bed as the person you love, being able to spend time doing nothing but enjoying each other’s presence, being secure and content. It’s almost hard to describe, but like, if you’ve ever seen a couple that are just so in love… that are just so happy to be with their partner, that it’s almost embarrassing to be witnessing it? That’s the kind of intimacy I’d love to have.

TV: Do you feel pressured to be sexually active?

T: Not enough to make me actually have sex with anyone just for the sake of relieving the pressure, but I definitely feel a bit pressured… Sometimes wondering if I should just have sex with someone just to say I’ve had the experience and can surely say it’s not something I like. Most of the time, I think that’s pretty ridiculous though, because I don’t think it’ll change my attraction. Part of me feels that I should have sex just to experience some sort of intimacy… or that I should at least say yes to sex if my partner asks for it. I think some part of me still considers my lack of sexual attraction abnormal in a sense, such that I should be the one accommodating others’ sexual desire instead of the other way around. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky to have understanding and accepting people around me.

Complete Article HERE!

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This Might Be Why You Struggle To Get Turned On

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By Kelly Gonsalves

For those who struggle with sexual desire and arousal—i.e., they just don’t get turned on that easily, that often, or when they want to be—sex can be a pretty frustrating affair. Even if you’re in a loving relationship and like the idea of physical intimacy, for some reason you just can’t get yourself in the mood for it.

A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy offers some clues as to what’s going on with your libido: Apparently women who have difficulties with sexual desire tend to have stronger sexual concordance, meaning their mental and genital arousal levels generally tend to align.

Researchers had 64 women individually come into a lab and watch a series of erotic videos while their vagina and clitoris were hooked up to a device that monitored physical markers of arousal: pulsing in the vaginal canal and increases in blood flow to the clit. The women also continuously indicated their subjective level of arousal (i.e., how aroused they felt in their heads) throughout the video by pushing a button to indicate when they were feeling more or less turned on. Later, each woman’s sexual concordance was measured based on how much their physical arousal levels matched up with their subjective, self-reported arousal levels.

All of the women also completed a questionnaire to determine their sexual functioning, which refers to a person’s ability to experience sexual desire, get aroused, lubricate, have an orgasm, and engage in pleasurable, pain-free sex. As far as sexual functioning, the researchers specifically homed in on women who struggled with desire versus those who didn’t.

The mind-body connection may be stronger with some women.

Here’s what the researchers found: Women with lower sexual functioning tended to have more alignment between their genital arousal and their mental arousal (i.e., sexual concordance). In other words, for women who had more trouble with sexual desire, their bodies and minds were actually more synced up than for other women.

What exactly does that mean? It means your body doesn’t get turned on without your mind also in the game, and vice versa. The two work in tandem.

Of course, this is true for most people. (“Your brain is your most important sex organ,” self-love guru and mbg Collective member Melissa Ambrosini tells mbg. “If it’s not in the game, you’re going to struggle to experience anything close to bedroom bliss.”)

But these findings suggest this mind-body connection might be especially important for women who have trouble accessing sexual desire. One theory the researchers posited in the paper is that women with higher concordance might be more likely to be very aware of all the physical sensations in their body and thus be less able to specifically focus on sexual sensations around the clitoris and vagina. Likewise, the body might be hyper-sensitive to unrelated thoughts buzzing in the mind and thus not respond to sexual stimuli because of all the other mental information it might be engaging with.

Importantly, the study also found sexual functioning and concordance were particularly linked when mental arousal predicted changes in genital arousal. In other words, when the body got aroused as the mind got aroused.

“These results coincide with previous research suggesting that the subjective experience of arousal may be particularly important in influencing genital responses in women with sexual desire and arousal difficulties,” the researchers write in the paper. “Therapeutic approaches that enhance women’s emotional or subjective experiences of sexual arousal may therefore be beneficial for improving sexual functioning.”

How to kick the desire system into gear.

If you struggle with desire, these results suggest it’s likely your body and mind’s sexual responses are more closely connected than in other people. And your mind may be particularly important for getting your body on board.

That suggests your road to tapping into your sexual desire isn’t going to be about initiating physical acts and waiting for your body to feel a spark before you’re able to feel mentally turned on. It’s going to be about first getting mentally stimulated and then letting your body follow your mind’s lead.

How do you get mentally stimulated? Consuming good erotica alone or with a partner can be a great way to whet the mind’s appetite, as can sending each other racy messages by text or email. Relationships expert and mbg Collective member Esther Perel advocates for the power of fantasy and even suggests exploring a little role-play in her mbg course on erotic intelligence.

If you’re looking for something simpler that you can tap into in the moment, master confidence coach and host of the UnF*ck Your Brain podcast Kara Loewentheil recommends reflecting on some of your most heated moments of the past and looking within for inspiration: “Think about a time you felt really sexy—what was going on? What were you thinking about yourself? There’s always a thought even if you weren’t aware of it at the time. Wearing something that makes you feel sexy or putting on a slow jams playlist can help, but fundamentally it’s thinking about yourself as a sexy and sexual person that will really light the fire within.”

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Surprising Facts About Vaginas From The ‘Gynae Geek’

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By Esther Newman

From advice about popping jade eggs down there to steaming our lady parts, we’re inundated with information about what to do with our vaginas. Unfortunately, much of this – the supposed merits of jade eggs and steam baths included – is false, headline-grabbing nonsense.

Someone who knows the importance of women truly understanding their bodies is Dr Anita Mitra, a gynaecologist and self-confessed “Gynae Geek” (as she is better known to her 45k+ Instagram followers). Her recently published book – The Gynae Geek: Your No-Nonsense Guide To ‘Down There’ Healthcare – is a bible for hard vagina facts and dispelling misguided, internet “wellness” theories.

Taking the reader from the basic anatomy of the vagina through their first period, sexual health, contraception, fertility and pregnancy, Dr Mitra explains in a straight-talking, friendly tone, how women should best look after their bodies. She shares her own experiences along the way, stories of her patients and her friends (one particular laugh-out-loud moment describes how a friend believed her cervix scab had fallen off “thanks to the most energetic dancing at the Pyramid Stage” at Glastonbury festival.

Here at Refinery29, we consider ourselves pretty knowledgeable when it comes to vulvas, vaginas and women’s sexual and reproductive health, but even we were surprised by how much we didn’t know after reading The Gynae Geek. Read on for the five most surprising things we learned from Dr Mitra.

Use an IUD and menstrual cup at the same time with caution

As Dr Mitra explains, everyone seems to have a different answer to whether or not this is advisable – some say it’s okay, some say it could be harmful. “This is because theoretically you could dislodge your coil with the… vacuum effect,” Dr Mitra explains in chapter 3, the section of the book dedicated to periods. This “suction” experience, she continues, is something that she has had confirmed by a number of “SOS message[s]” from women via social media, many of which beg her to help reinsert the saved coil. “[W]hile I’m all for recycling, you can’t reuse a coil,” Dr Mitra states, advising that if this happens to you, it is important to use a fresh coil in its place.

“If you do choose to use a cup with a coil,” she continues, “I would advise checking the strings at the end of your period. If you feel they are lower than normal, you can feel the rod of the coil or you can’t feel any strings at all, I would use condoms until you’ve had it checked by a doctor to ensure it’s still in the right place to give you full contraceptive protection.”

When you smoke, so does your vagina

“Smoking is most often associated with lung-related diseases, but nicotine and its metabolites have been found in the vaginal discharge of smokers, as well as that of women exposed to passive smoking,” Dr Mitra explains. “Smoking is known to have anti-oestrogenic effects, which can cause women to go through an early menopause, have osteoporosis, as well as vaginal dryness and higher rates of bacterial vaginosis.”

There is such a thing as a “retroverted uterus”

Also known as a “tipped/tilted uterus”, a retroverted uterus means that “the uterus points backwards (retroverted) instead of forwards (anteverted).” Dr Mitra explains that between 20–30% of women have this and often, it is just how a woman is born and many find that it never impacts their health. “In some women, however, it may be due to conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, or the presence of scar tissue that pulls the uterus backwards,” Dr Mitra clarifies.

Though it sounds scary, Dr Mitra says a retroverted uterus – no matter its position – does not affect a woman’s chances of pregnancy because “sperm is able to swim in all directions”. “As the uterus increases in size in pregnancy, it will gradually flip forward, and by twelve weeks – when most women are having their first scan – a retroverted uterus may have corrected itself, so that many women never even find out they had one.”

A retroverted uterus can make smear tests a little trickier and uncomfortable as the cervix is harder to locate, but Dr Mitra promises that doctors know “plenty of tricks to make it easier and less painful”.

How and when you use contraception should change when you’re on holiday

Helpfully, we also learned from The Gynae Geek that how and when we take our contraception should change as we travel. If you take the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) – the most commonly used contraception in the UK – and are changing time zones, Dr Mitra suggests that you “adjust the time you take it to be similar to when you are at home”. For example, if you usually pop your pill at 7am when your alarm goes off at home in London, the corresponding time in a different country might not be appropriate (such as the middle of the night). If this is the case, Dr Mitra advises that it is “better to take it earlier rather than later”, such as the night before.

If you’re on a long-haul flight and need to take your pill, she notes that it is important to “keep mobile, wear compression stockings and stay well hydrated on the flight to reduce the risk of blood clots.”

If you take the progesterone-only pill (POP), which works to thicken the mucus produced by your cervix so it is harder for sperm to penetrate, Dr Mitra says it is important to “[b]e mindful of the three- or twelve-hour time window for taking it,” something that can be tricky when contending with jet lag. “Don’t forget about the chance of getting a tummy bug if you’re going somewhere exotic,” she continues. “If you’re going somewhere remote, or don’t want a ‘Bridget Jones in the pharmacy’-type scene, you may want to think about taking some emergency contraception in the form of the morning-after pill.”

If, like many millennial women, you use a fertility awareness app or method, Dr Mitra strongly suggests considering a different type of contraception, just “while you’re travelling and for some time after you get back until you think your cycle is back into the swing of things”. This is because the “timing of ovulation may be incredibly difficult to predict when you’re working with jet lag, or even just a change of schedule”.

The only contraceptive methods Dr Mitra does not consider affected by travel include the two types of coil (the Mirena coil and the copper coil), the contraceptive injection, the implant, condoms and sterilisation.

There’s an STI we’ve never heard of

Thought to infect approximately 1% of under-45-year-olds in the UK, mycoplasma genitalium is an STI not commonly known or talked about. The symptoms are similar to those of many other STIs: “abnormal vaginal discharge, pain on urinating and bleeding after sex or between periods” and “it can cause long-term health complications including pelvic inflammatory disease and premature delivery if present in pregnancy”. Dr Mitra tells us that the infection is “detected most effectively using a vaginal swab rather than a urine test and is treated with antibiotics”. Admittedly not a cheery note to end on, but we’ll bet you learned something too.

Complete Article HERE!

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