A Beginner’s Guide To Relationship Anarchy

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– Examples & How To Practice

By Kesiena Boom, M.S.

In 2020, viewing monogamy as the only way to successfully conduct a relationship seems a little passé. Growing numbers of people are living nonmonogamous lifestyles. In fact, a 2017 study found at least one in five people have engaged in some form of consensual non-monogamy before. One approach to living a nonmonogamous lifestyle can be to adopt a philosophy of relationship anarchy.

What is relationship anarchy?

Relationship anarchy is a way of approaching relationships that rejects any rules and expectations other than the ones the involved people agree on. This approach “encourages people to let their core values guide how they choose and craft their relationship commitments rather than relying on social norms to dictate what is right for you,” Dedeker Winston, relationship coach and co-host of the podcast Multiamory, tells mbg.

People who practice relationship anarchy, sometimes abbreviated as RA, are beholden to themselves and only themselves when it comes to choosing who they conduct sexual or romantic relationships with and how they do it. Relationship anarchists look to form relationships with people that are based entirely on needs, wants, and desires rather than on socially mandated labels and expectations. Some central tenets of relationship anarchy are freedom, communication, and nonhierarchy.

An RA mindset also seeks to dissolve the strict divides between platonic friendship and sexual or romantic love that exist in wider society. Practitioners of relationship anarchy see it as superfluous at best and harmful at worst to rank relationships in order of importance according to the presence of sex or romantic love, and they reject the prioritization of romance above friendship and the elevation of the monogamous couple above all else. (The poem “On Leaving the Bachelorette Brunch” by Rachel Wetzsteon puts that philosophy into art.)

The relationship anarchy manifesto.

The term “relationship anarchy” was originally coined by Andie Nordgren, who published an instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy in a pamphlet in 2006. Nordgren outlines the following principles to guide you through a relationship anarchist life:

1. Love is abundant, and every relationship is unique.

Love is not a limited resource. You can love multiple people without it detracting from the love that you feel for each of them. Every relationship that you have is an entirely new creation between its two (or more) parties and should be approached as such.

2. Love and respect instead of entitlement.

Your bond with someone does not give you the right to control or coerce them. They are an autonomous person who can act as they wish to. Love is not a byword for bossing someone around, nor is love only real when we’re willing to compromise parts of ourselves for others.

3. Find your core set of relationship values.

Focus on what you want and need when it comes to how you will treat and be treated by others. Don’t be tempted to compromise on your inner values in order to try to keep a relationship that no longer serves you.

4. Heterosexism is rampant and out there, but don’t let fear lead you.

Be mindful of the way in which heterosexism (the assumption that heterosexuality is the only correct, moral, and desirable way to organize relationships) can corrupt your ideas about what is acceptable within relationships. Stay aware of the assumptions you hold about what gender means with relation to love and work to untangle them.

5. Build for the lovely and unexpected.

Be spontaneous in your connections. Don’t feel held back by the “shoulds” or the “ought to’s.”

6. Fake it till you make it.

Breaking with monogamous, heterosexist relationship norms is hard work. Setting out to do the work can feel like a tall mountain to climb. Push through and go for it nonetheless until it feels like second nature.

Choose to assume that your partner(s) want the best for you. When we approach our relationships with a bedrock of trust, we do not engage in validation-seeking behaviors that can drive unions apart.

8. Change through communication.

Be in continuous dialogue with your partner(s). Do not rely on “sensing” what they think or feel. Communication must be enacted at every step along the way in order to establish how things will function, not just when there are problems to solve. Without communication, people fall into old norms and can inadvertently hurt each other.

9. Customize your commitments.

Do you want to have children together but never move in together? Do you want to get married but never have children? Do you want to maintain separate homes but be committed life partners? Whatever it is that you want, you have the power to make happen. You don’t have to travel along the accepted “relationship escalator” of dating exclusively, moving in, getting married, and having children.

Relationship anarchy versus polyamory versus monogamy.

A monogamous person chooses to eschew all sexual and romantic bonds with people other than their one chosen partner. This is the model of relationship that is most common and holds the most societal recognition. While the majority of relationship anarchists are nonmonogamous and therefore have (or wish to have) sexual and/or emotional bonds with more than one person at a time, Winston says relationship anarchists can also engage in monogamous relationships.

“I do believe that someone can choose to be sexually or emotionally monogamous with a particular person and still be a practicing relationship anarchist,” Winston explains. “As long as you are questioning the status quo, examining your values, and communicating your needs, it is possible to build a radical relationship anarchist life.”

Relationship anarchy thus differs from polyamory, which it is sometimes confused with. Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners involved. It is sometimes known as ethical or consensual nonmonogamy. To be polyamorous means to acknowledge that people can love more than one person simultaneously. This is different from an open relationship, in which the couple goes outside of the relationship for sex, and not necessarily for lasting and committed emotional intimacy or love.

How relationship anarchy works in practice.

It’s not really possible to give an outline of what the average relationship anarchist’s life might look like. “Typical is a myth. In reality, each of our lives is unique and one-of-a-kind, which is also true for people practicing relationship anarchy,” says Anna Dow, LMFT, therapist and founder of Vast Love, a coaching and counseling practice for people navigating nonmonogamy.

She continues, “A lot of people hear the word ‘anarchy’ and think of radical punk rockers with tattoos and mohawks. While that’s sometimes on point, the lives of relationship anarchists are also as varied as they come. Relationship anarchy is the ‘choose your own adventure’ version of relationships. It’s a belief in coloring outside the lines and going off-trail. When we expand our minds past the predefined boundaries, the possibilities can be endless!”

That being said, a common thread between all relationship anarchists is the time given over to communication. Dow says one characteristic that links together those who are well suited to RA is “strong communication skills, including the abilities to empathetically listen and to authentically express one’s feelings/needs in a direct way. If someone struggles with compassionately considering other people’s perspectives or feels guilt when expressing their own feelings/needs, they likely have some personal growth work to do before being optimally ready for sustaining healthy relationships in the context of RA.”

While it’s impossible to identify an “average” relationship anarchist, some of the ways in which it might look to live an RA lifestyle are to live with a mix of romantic and platonic life partners who are all equally responsible for maintaining the household and making big life decisions. Or to have two romantic partners who aren’t given more time and precedence in one’s life than one’s platonic friends. It can look like choosing to have children with platonic friends instead of with lovers. In short, the sky’s the limit.

When people think of the word “anarchy,” they imagine a lawless and chaotic state of order, but “contrary to common misconceptions, relationship anarchy is not a justification for people to do whatever they want in relationships without consideration of other people’s feelings, needs, desires, or boundaries,” says Dow.

Taking the jump into relationship anarchy is not for those who are looking for an easy way out. “It’s not a magic spell for reducing the amount of work that you need to put into your relationships,” cautions Winston. Like any nonmonogamous setup, relationship anarchy will not solve problems you have in your current relationship.

In an interview with Autostraddle, Josie Kearns, a queer woman with a wife and a girlfriend, explains her approach to relationship anarchy like this:

“To me it means that my partners and I don’t control our relationships with other people — we set boundaries, but we don’t ask to enforce rules on each other. I find it much more meaningful to say, ‘I’m choosing to do this because I care about you and I know it will feel good to you,’ than to say, ‘I’m doing this because it obeys our rules.’”

Complete Article HERE!

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Pornography has been linked to easier, better orgasms in women

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This study has linked female porn consumption to orgasms that are easier to achieve and more satisfying during both masturbation and partnered sex.

A new study has linked the use of pornography to better sexual outcomes in women.

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  • A new study has linked the use of pornography to better sexual outcomes for women.
  • Researchers had 2,433 women complete an anonymous survey in which they provided both demographic information and completed several assessments related to their sex lives. Both masturbation and partnered sex were taken into account.
  • Studies like this can alter misconceptions about how porn impacts our relationships.

A new study has linked the use of pornography to better sexual outcomes in women. In fact, according to this new research, the use of pornography among women is associated with several positive outcomes including better orgasms that are easier to achieve.

“In this particular study, we examined whether frequency of pornography use during masturbation can predict sexual response outcomes such as difficulty reaching orgasm, latency to orgasm, and orgasmic pleasure during both masturbation and partnered sex,” explains study author Sean M. McNabney.

Will watching porn really make your sex life better?

In this study, researchers had 2,433 women from the United States and Hungary complete an anonymous survey, in which they provided demographic information and completed several assessments related to their sex lives. This study unearthed some very interesting observations that challenge much of the stereotypes and misconceptions people place around female porn viewing habits.

Pornography use is more common in…

Pornography use during masturbation was more common among pre-menopausal women, women who reported persistent anxiety or depression, non-heterosexual women, and women who had two or more partners.

Pornography use during masturbation was also more popular among American women than women from Hungary.

Positive outcomes related to pornography use can include…

More frequent use of pornography was related to positive outcomes during masturbation including less difficulty becoming aroused, less orgasmic difficulty, greater time to orgasm, greater orgasmic pleasure, and a higher percent of time reaching orgasm.

More frequent use of pornography for partnered sex was related to positive outcomes like less difficulty becoming aroused and greater time to orgasm.

Pornography use does not negatively impact relationships as much as many people think.

There was no association between pornography and sexual relationship satisfaction, which challenges the assumption that pornography is harmful to partnered sexual relationships.

More frequent pornography use was not associated with lower sexual responsivity. In fact, pornography use during masturbation predicted great ease becoming aroused during partnered sex.

The missing parameters of this study are important to note.

The study did not assess whether some women perceive themselves as dependent upon (or addicted to) pornography in order to achieve orgasm. This is important to note because distress resulting from pornography use may independently interfere with the female sexual response cycle.

Some other things impacted impaired sexual function in women that are worth taking note of, including lower levels of educational attainment and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression were also associated with lower relationship/sexual satisfaction.

It’s time to rethink how porn impacts our relationships

It’s more common than ever for women to consume porn. Back in 2016, the average percentage of women who consumed porn was 26 percent worldwide. In 2018, that number was much higher, with 3 out of every 10 PornHub users identifying as female.

While this may be surprising to some, it really shouldn’t be considering the lengths this industry has gone to in order to become inclusive, accepting, and more appealing to people of all genders and sexual orientations.

Visual porn platforms (such as PornHub) are still on top, but not for long.

In 2019, there were over 42 billion visits to PornHub, one of the largest visual porn platforms around. This means there was an average of 115 million visits to the website per day. Their statistics outline that the amount of content available on the site at any given time that year would have taken 169 years to watch.

Other visual pornography platforms have similar statistics, however there is a new kind of porn rising—and it’s captivating the imagination of women, in particular.

Audio porn is offering a more widely accepted, inclusive, and all-encompassing approach to sexual health and happiness.

“Audio porn” has been around for longer than you may realize, with the first phone sex line being launched in 1977 by Gloria Leonard. The 2010s saw a rise in audio porn, with platforms like Quinn and Dipsea breaking onto the pornography scene in a big way. Now, in 2020, platforms like Audiodesires, Voxxx, and more are following suit.

Audio porn offers a more in-depth, immersive, imaginative experience for women who previously found visual sex to be off-putting, offensive, or crude. More than that, it’s making the concept of pornography more “acceptable” and appreciated in mainstream media, with more attention being paid to these new platforms from sources like Yahoo and the New York Times.

Studies like this can alter misconceptions about how porn impacts our relationships.

“Some readers may be relieved to learn that pornography use is fairly common among women and is unlikely to interfere with sexual functioning during partnered relationships. Other variables such as ongoing anxiety/depression or sexual relationship dissatisfaction appear to more consistently predict sexual problems,” said McNabney.

Complete Article HERE!

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It’s Time to Solve All That Sexual Frustration You’re Feeling

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No more pent-up dissatisfaction.

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No matter your relationship status—whether you’re trying to reap the benefits of being single or find yourself in a marriage that’s lacking intimacy—feeling sexually frustrated is no fun, nor is it something to ignore. Satiating your sex drive is important, as experts say it’s closely tied to overall quality of life. So if you’re feeling regularly dissatisfied, here’s how to identify what might be happening—and how to fix it—so you can get back to feeling nothing but pleasure in between those sheets.

Let’s start by defining what exactly sexual frustration is.

Simply put, it’s exactly how it sounds—any feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction with your current sexual interaction or lack thereof, says Shamyra Howard, LCSW, sexologist and author of Use Your Mouth: Pocket-Sizes Conversations to Increase 7 Types of Intimacy In and Out of the Bedroom. “[It occurs when the sexual experiences you want are not in alignment with what you’re getting.”

And yep, it’s 100 percent normal to feel frustrated (sexually or not, TBH). “Most people—regardless of gender, sexuality, or relationship status—will experience sexual frustration at some point in their life,” Howard says. “Those in non-monogamous relationships deal with sexual frustration as well, especially since not all open relationships involve sex.”

What are some symptoms of feeling sexually frustrated?

People experience and exhibit symptoms of sexual frustration differently, Howard says. Some, for instance, might lose interest in sex and consistently decline it, she explains, whereas others may seek more of it (potentially with someone who isn’t their current partner) or decide to masturbate when they’d prefer sex. Symptoms of depression may start to crop up as well, and changes in mood are common, she adds.

Physically speaking, “you might feel a sense of buildup or tension without the desired sense of relief,” says Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D., sexologist and author of The New Sex Bible. “It can be as simple as experiencing blood flow to the genitals (or another region you’ve come to associate with pleasure or orgasm), and when you don’t experience the pleasure or orgasm, you might find yourself feeling frustrated.”

To help identify how you’re feeling, O’Reilly suggests asking yourself why you have sex. “What benefits do you derive, and how do you feel before, during, and after?” she asks. “Are those feelings overwhelmingly positive, neutral, or negative?” If your answer is landing more in the neutral to negative territory, you may be feeling a little (or a lot) frustrated.

That said, symptoms of sexual frustration are not the end-all be-all, as O’Reilly says sometimes it’s about resetting expectations. “Feelings are not permanent states of being,” she says. “They’re temporary experiences and you can make attitudinal and behavioral adjustments to change the way you feel.”

But what exactly causes these frustrated feelings?

There are a wide variety of experiences that could lead to sexual frustration. Anything from not being able to orgasm and not having your pleasure prioritized, to feeling pressured to have more sex or not having enough of it—all can be a major hindrance, O’Reilly says.

That said, there are a few common causes sex therapists often encounter. The first: unclear sexual boundaries and motives. “Sex is more satisfying to people when they feel they are getting what they expect,” Howard says. People in long-term relationships likely want to feel love and intimacy, for example, whereas those who solely engage for sexual pleasure may want more raw desire. “When these expectations are discussed and agreed on upfront, each person can commit to the outcome,” she adds. In other words, you can’t just expect someone to know how to please you—communication is key.

Speaking of communication—or a lack thereof—not discussing mismatched libidos and falling into ho-hum routines can also cause frustration. If you know what to expect and there’s no variety in your sex life, it’s tough to feel motivated to, well, keep doing it, Howard says. Same goes for feeling like you “should” have sex because society tells you to (we’ve all heard the “have sex at least three times a week rule”), or because you have a partner with a higher sex drive than you. To be clear, having mismatched libidos doesn’t mean your sexual relationship with this partner is doomed. But it does mean you have to talk about it so those feelings of sexual frustration can be put to bed.

Other experiences ranging from medical conditions and treatment side effects to sexual identity, relationship issues outside of the bedroom, and external factors (think work-related problems, child rearing, or societal stressors) could be at play. The key thread is to examine all areas of your life to help identify the root cause.

How do I deal with it?

Rectifying sexual frustration is one of those things that needs to be done with lots of care and consideration for both yourself and your partner. First up: identifying the actual cause of the frustration.

“Start by ruling out any medical issues or possible interaction from medications or supplements,” Howard says. Next, use your mouth—by talking to your partner. “Lots of people have sex, but rarely talk about it,” she says. “Create a regular sex check-in where you discuss what’s working well, and what you’d like to see change.”

From there, you may want to shift the way you view sex. “Frustration often results from outcomes not meeting expectations, but it’s important to note that when you have a specific outcome in mind, you may be setting yourself up for frustration,” O’Reilly says. “One way to avoid sexual frustration is to explore sexual pleasure for pleasure’s sake, as opposed to focusing on a specific goal.”

And again, talk to your partner—alone or potentially with the help of a sex therapist—as Howard stresses it’s important your partner knows, understands, and agrees on your sexual expectations and boundaries each and every time they shift. (And yes, it’s always OK for them to shift.)

If you’re single, or just riding solo in the midst of a pandemic…

Partner or not, you don’t have to be abstinent. If the sexual frustration you’re feeling is due to a lack of sex, Howard suggests practicing solo touch and solo sex. “Masturbate, take yourself out on dates, and appreciate all of the things about you that you’d want a partner to,” she says. O’Reilly agrees: “Don’t let the absence of a partner hold you back from lending yourself a hand or reaching for your favorite toy.” (Don’t know where to start? Here are our favorite options for beginners.)

Regardless of your relationship status, remember to take care of you. “Oftentimes we complain about being sexually frustrated as though it’s someone else’s job to address our feelings—it’s not,” O’Reilly says. “You’re responsible for your own sexual fulfillment…It’s up to you to decide what works.”

Complete Article HERE!

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From Graysexual to Heteroflexible

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– Here’s A Big List Of Sexualities In 2020

by Stephanie Barnes

When it comes to sexuality, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, which explains why there is already such a long list of terms to describe sexual orientation, with more popping up every day. For someone who is searching for the perfect word to describe their sexual desires, this could take them a step closer to finding sexual liberation. For others, these terms can be a little bit confusing, and that’s OK if you feel that way.

Most people are familiar with the widely recognized acronym LGBTQ+, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus anyone who doesn’t identify as straight but also doesn’t fit in under the definitions of the other letters either. But the acronym is really just the tip of the rainbow iceberg. Here’s everything you need to know about sexuality, plus a fuller list of some of the most common sexualities in 2020.

Sexuality is an umbrella term describing the parts of your identity that deal with how you present yourself to the world, who you love, and who you find yourself attracted to or not attracted to. According to sexologist Carol Queen, Ph.D., it’s the way a person feels and expresses their relationship to sex, desire, arousal, and eroticism.

“It can include a lot of varying elements (what kind of person you’d want to have sex with, specific preferences, and more), but often we use this term as shorthand for sexual orientation and the number of ways people may express both desire and identity,” she explains. She also points out, “Sexuality can be fluid in a person’s life, so its elements may change.”

How many sexualities are there?

There’s no definitive number of sexualities since new words are constantly being conceived and integrated into popular language as the way we talk about sexual orientation evolves. This isn’t to say that new types of sexuality are being “invented” out of the blue; rather, people are creating new language to describe nuances of sexual attraction and behavior that have always existed. These terms serve as a way for people to feel seen and find communities of like-minded people. They also help with describing one’s identity, communicating with others about what you look for in relationships, and establishing compatibility with potential partners.

While there is no finite number of sexual orientation types, there are a handful of terms that you’re likely to see more than others.

The term allosexual refers to anyone who experiences sexual attraction. Those who identify as allosexual can also identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or any other orientation, because allosexuality isn’t linked to gender but simply attraction. This is as opposed to asexuality, described below.

Someone who is androsexual will find themselves sexually or emotionally attracted to folks on the more masculine side. For some people, this attraction has very little to do with biology; it’s more about having a masculine identity or gender presentation. Alternatively, some people also use the term androsexual to refer to attraction to any folks with penises, though still with a focus on people with more masculine presentations.

An asexual individual typically doesn’t experience sexual attraction to any gender. However, it is possible for an asexual being to be romantically attracted to people of other genders or the same gender, and some asexual people do have sex in certain circumstances.

Have you ever wished there were two of you so you could have sex with yourself? If you answer yes, then you might be autosexual, aka someone who is sexually attracted to themselves.

Bi-curious refers to someone who is looking to explore or has already begun exploring bisexuality. There’s some disagreement about whether this term has roots in biphobia, however.

Someone who is bisexual will likely find themselves romantically, sexually, or emotionally attracted to more than one gender. It can sometimes overlap with pansexuality, which is the attraction to people regardless of gender. (Here’s more on how to know if you’re pansexual, as opposed to bisexual.)

Closeted, also referred to as “in the closet,” refers to anyone who is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, but they have yet to publicly acknowledge this truth. These people typically have good reasons to keep their sexual identity to themselves, such as for safety from an intolerant community or to avoid discrimination associated with being “out” of the closet. Some closeted people may or may never “come out.”

Demisexual falls on the asexual spectrum. It describes someone who only experiences sexual attraction to folks they already have established a strong romantic or emotional relationship with.

Some people describe themselves as sexually fluid. A person who is fluid experiences their sexuality or sexual identity as changing over time or in different contexts rather than having one finite way they experience attraction.

The word gay is used to describe someone who is sexually, romantically, or emotionally attracted to people of the same gender. In some cases, women who date other women prefer to use the word lesbian, while others opt to use queer.

Graysexual people are all about the gray area of the sexuality spectrum and tend to experience limited sexual attraction. This means they’ll rarely experience sexual attraction, and when they do, it’s usually not very intense.

Gynesexual people are attracted to women and folks with more feminine gender presentations, as opposed to androsexual people who are interested in the masculine. Alternatively, some people also use the term gynesexual to describe attraction to people with vaginas, breasts, and a more feminine physical presentation.

Heterosexual or straight refers to people who are only attracted, whether sexually, emotionally, or romantically, to people of the “opposite” gender—i.e., men who are attracted to women exclusively, or women who are attracted to men exclusively.

Heteroflexible or homoflexible

A heteroflexible person is mostly straight (heterosexual) though occasionally is attracted to the same gender or other genders. A homoflexible person likewise is mostly gay (homosexual) though occasionally is attracted to the “opposite” gender. For example, a homoflexible man might primarily date and sleep with men but occasionally date or sleep with a woman. Like bi-curiosity, there’s still ongoing debate over whether these terms are rooted in biphobia.

The term homosexual is a bit outdated, but it refers to anyone who is attracted to people of the same or a similar gender.

A lesbian is a woman who is mentally, physically, and emotionally attracted to other women. Some women who date women prefer to be called gay or queer. Some people who don’t identify as women but do have more feminine aspects to their gender—for example, a more feminine-leaning nonbinary person—might also use the term lesbian to describe themselves and their relationships with other feminine people.

Someone who identifies as pansexual experiences attraction to folks regardless of sex or gender identity.

The dictionary defines queer as something “odd, strange, or weird,” but the word has since been reclaimed and redefined. These days, queer is an umbrella term that is sometimes used to describe anyone within the LGBTQ+ community. The term also provides a sense of community for those who may not fit into one of the other categories specifically but also don’t identify as straight or cisgender. 

Someone who falls into the questioning category is someone who is questioning their current sexual identity and curious about exploring different aspects of sexuality or gender. For example, this could apply to someone who has always identified as a lesbian but is now wondering whether they’re also attracted to men.

You might be seeing this word used in social media and dating app bios more often these days. A sapiosexual person is someone whose attraction is based on intelligence rather than sex or gender.

Someone who is sex-repulsed is repulsed or disgusted by sex or sexual behavior. This person falls on the spectrum of asexuality.

Skoliosexual is one of the newer terms on the sexuality scene, and it refers to a person who is attracted to anyone who isn’t cisgender. This means a skoliosexual will usually find themselves drawn to people who are trans or nonbinary.

A spectrasexual is sexually or romantically attracted to a wide range of sexes, genders, and gender identities.

You might’ve heard the saying “Sexuality is a spectrum” before. The sexuality spectrum is the idea that all sexuality exists on a spectrum with binary “absolutes” on each end, explains sexologist Tanya M. Bass, Ph.D. The spectrum most often referenced is the Kinsey scale, which describes sexuality as existing on a spectrum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual. Any individual can fall anywhere on this spectrum.

Here’s every stop on the Kinsey scale:

0 – Exclusively heterosexual

1 – Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual

2 – Predominantly heterosexual but more than incidentally homosexual

3 – Equally heterosexual and homosexual

4 – Predominantly homosexual but more than incidentally heterosexual

5 – Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual

6 – Exclusively homosexual

X – No socio-sexual contacts or reactions

Bass points out that there are other spectrums of identity as well, such as the gender spectrum, which views gender identity as existing on a spectrum from maleness to femaleness. Any individual can fall anywhere on this spectrum. Asexuality is considered another spectrum, where people can experience varying degrees of asexuality or fall somewhere on a spectrum from asexual to allosexual.

“Spectrums describe sexuality as fluid related to gender, orientation, attraction, and expression,” Bass explains. “It can often challenge the binary for both orientation, expression, and identity.”

Sexual orientation versus romantic orientation.

A person’s sexual orientation can sometimes be confused with their romantic orientation, but the two things aren’t quite the same. Your sexual orientation is linked to who you want to have sex (or some sort of erotic experience) with, while your romantic orientation refers to who you want to love or be in a relationship with.

“You can have sex without being in a relationship; you can be in a relationship without sex. So these things explain two elements of sexuality that can be teased apart or are always experienced together—depending on the person. And they don’t even need to match. Plenty of people fall in love with the other gender but like to have sex with people of their own gender, for example. And vice versa,” Queen explains.

The prefixes a-, bi-, pan-, hetero-, and homo- can all be attached to either element. For example, a biromantic asexual person might be someone who’s open to romantic partnerships with more than one gender, but they do not want sex in those relationships. Panromantic, biromantic, and aromantic are examples of other variations of romantic orientation.

When you put sexual and romantic orientation together, you learn more about the specifics of the person embracing the identities.

There’s a lot of nuance when it comes to sexual identity, which can be both exciting and overwhelming. Remember that these words aren’t meant to be prescriptive or frightening: They’re here to make your life simpler by making it easier for you to tell people who you are and what you want from your relationships. If you were searching for your word, we hope you’ll find yourself one step closer.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Clit Test Is Like The Bechdel Test For Sex Scenes

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By Susan Devaney

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t watched Meg Ryan apparently reaching climax in a packed diner in When Harry Met Sally, the hit Nora Ephron movie that had everyone talking about faking orgasms back in 1989. Ryan’s infamous performance was for comic effect, but 30 years on, the women behind the Clit Test argue that actual sex scenes are still a long way from a convincing depiction of female pleasure (and what it takes to get there) – which is why they’re hellbent on seeing more realistic portrayals of intercourse on screen.

“Our culture still acts like the clitoris is a kind of secret or just something that might occasionally get involved in sex, but in terms of pleasure, the clit is really the equivalent of the penis,” campaign founder Frances Rayner tells British Vogue. “We’d think it ludicrous for a man to have sex without his penis ever getting a look in. But so often the sex we see on screen ignores the clitoris entirely.” Maybe that’s why, in addition to the iconic fashion moments, women (and men) loved HBO’s Sex And The City. The clitoris frequently cropped up in conversation over brunch (thank you, Samantha Jones), and while the show celebrated all of the good things about sex, it didn’t gloss over the bad and the ugly parts in the process. But SATC sadly left our screens over 16 years ago.

In 2020, TV and film’s portrayal of women’s sexual pleasure needs to catch up with the reality. “Numerous academics have pointed out that this misleading ‘sexual script’ is one of the main reasons women and girls who have sex with men have alarming rates of disappointing, bad and even painful sex,” explains Rayner. One such academic is Professor Elisabeth Lloyd, author of The Case of the Female Orgasm, whose research proves the campaign – which she’s backing – is long overdue. “In both Hollywood films and porn, the sex act is portrayed so it represents only about 6-10 per cent of women’s response,” she says. “That’s how many women have orgasm with plain intercourse, without additional clitoral stimulation. The fact that Hollywood films and porn choose to misrepresent the experience of 90-94 per cent of women needs to change.”

It’s this same frustration that led Rayner (a 34-year-old straight cis woman, who works for a charity in Glasgow), and Irene Tortajada (a 25-year-old cis bi woman, who works for a charity in London), to come together to try to change things. The result is the Clit Test, which celebrates those films and shows that do acknowledge the existence of the clitoris, and its importance. “We worked together for a few months when she [Tortajada] was living in Glasgow and quickly became friends,” says Rayner. “I took a four-day a week job 18 months ago to give me time to finally make the Clit Test happen, as I think the sex script has a really bad impact on women’s lives, and it’s just some outdated nonsense we can easily fix. I’ve grown frustrated with sex scenes I see on TV, which always seemed to involve a woman reaching orgasm through penis-in-vagina sex. Very rarely do they feature the sex acts we know most reliably bring women and people with vulvas to climax – like receiving oral sex, or having their vulva touched with either hands or a vibrator.”

Maybe that’s why the BBC’s TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People was heaped with praise for its realistic sex scenes (the book that inspired it also attempts to destigmatise another taboo: period sex). However, the clitoris is never actually mentioned in the show. So, which films and shows do pass the Clit Test? “Michaela Cole’s Chewing Gum is one of my favourites,” says Rayner. “It consistently passes throughout and it’s just such a funny, well-written account of a teenage girl who is both horny and in control, and also very confused by the minimal sex education that she is getting from mainstream porn and friends.”

It’s something Rayner relates to. “My awakening came when I was 20 after I read the Hite Report: A Nationwide Study Of Female Sexuality for a gender studies module at university. In her landmark 1976 study, Shere Hite found that only 1.5 per cent of women masturbated through penetration, whereas 86 per cent said they only ever touched the outside of their vulva. The remaining 12 per cent of women who masturbated did both. I was astonished to learn not only the stats themselves, but the fact that this was widely published at the time. It turned out I was entirely normal – the weird thing was that the definition of what sex is in our culture is something that only works for people with penises.”

Therein lies the issue: most of the sex we see on screen is through a male lens. When women are writing the script, we get to see it laid bare. “Another one I really liked was Aisling Bea’s This Way Up,” says Rayner. “When Freddie and Áine have penetrative sex, after he comes and they lie back down he asks if he can make her come. This shouldn’t be revolutionary, but even just acknowledging that a woman won’t have come from penetration is a huge step forward. There are lots of other good examples like Booksmart, Succession and Orange is the New Black.”

Tortajada and Rayner say they have been showered with “amazingly positive” responses to their campaign. “We’ve had support from Professor Elisabeth Lloyd, Dr Laurie Mintz, a lecturer in human sexuality and author of Becoming Cliterate, Golden Globe and Emmy-winner Rachel Bloom, and bestselling author Holly Bourne,” says Rayner. “A lot of women have reached out on Instagram to say thank you for raising something that is long overdue. We’re keen to make it a positive, inclusive campaign that celebrates women and our sexuality – we more often praise the passes than slate the fails. Ultimately, we want to see more clit-friendly sex acts on screen.”

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Things Getting In The Way Of Black Women’s Sex Lives

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By Ashley Townes, Ph.D., MPH

Like many other aspects of our society, sexuality education in the United States often reflects majority populations—i.e., white experiences.

While there’s been some research dedicated to understanding the sexual lives of Black women, much of it focuses on identifying what types of sexual behaviors they’re engaging in, messages of risk and prevention, and health disparities between Black women and white women. This approach to understanding Black women’s sex lives can have negative consequences such as stereotypes, stigma, and bias from doctors. Not to mention, this approach leaves out all of the aspects of their sexual lives that are exciting, fun, and pleasurable.

According to my professional work as a sexual health researcher and my personal experiences as a Black woman myself, here are five things that get in the way of Black women’s sex lives being authentic, shame-free, and enjoyable—and how Black women can overcome them:

1. Stereotypes and myths about Black sexuality.

The sexual lives of Black women have historically been misrepresented by stereotypes and myths. A few historical images that Black women have been labeled as include the mammy, jezebel, welfare mother, and angry Black woman. In general, Black women have also often been portrayed as being sexually experienced and/or engaging in sexual risk-taking behaviors rather than as being sexually responsible and having sexual autonomy. Many of these stereotypes and myths persist in mainstream media, affecting how people view Black women and their sex lives.

Stereotypes and myths are harmful to Black women because they affect how they view themselves and how they believe they are viewed by others. Stereotypes and myths might also play a role in dating, relationships, and sexual behaviors. For example, the idea or belief that Black women are “promiscuous” may cause a woman to feel ashamed of her true sexual identity and behaviors. A woman may feel embarrassed to have sexual conversations for fear of being judged. She may even feel obligated to have a certain kind of sexual life (perhaps due to respectability politics—messages received about how Black women are to act, speak, dress, etc.).

2. Health disparities in sexual health care.

Education, income level, and insurance status can all affect a person’s access to health care and its quality, and these same factors also affect racial differences seen in sexual health care. Black women can often feel that they are not listened to or treated fairly by doctors or the health care system, or they’ve had negative experiences receiving sexual health care specifically.

As the fight for social justice has gained more attention due to the many Black lives that have been subjected to police brutality, it is important that the fight for sexual and reproductive justice remains a part of the conversation to end racism, discrimination, and stigma in health care settings. Health equity is a social justice issue, and until the distribution of wealth, education, housing, and various other privileges are addressed, Black women will continue to bear a higher burden of disease, illness, and even death.

3. A lack of culturally sensitive sex education.

America lacks comprehensive sexuality education in general, but this is especially true when it comes to culturally sensitive sex education. Information that includes the historical and present-day views of Black sexuality is important for youth and young adults to understand the context behind the images they see in the media. Sexuality education should promote exploration and knowledge related to sexuality rather than reinforce or support stereotypical messages about minority groups.

In addition, there is a shortage of trained sexuality educators in cultural sensitivity and, therefore, many missed opportunities for Black girls to receive sexuality education that is unbiased. Black women need sexuality educators who are able to understand the social and cultural factors that affect Black women’s sexual lives and even have experiences similar to Black women. Diversity in sex education matters.

4. A focus on prevention instead of pleasure.

Sexuality research and sex education materials reflecting Black women tend to highlight adverse sexual and reproductive outcomes, such as the rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Meanwhile, the average sex ed class for Black teens seldom mentions more positive research such as data from the 2018 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, a huge survey that revealed tons of really hopeful insights about Black women’s sex lives. The survey revealed that Black women engage in a variety of sexual behaviors, most find their recent experiences to be pleasurable, and most experienced an orgasm.

The fact that most mainstream conversations about Black sexuality have to do with talking about risks and negative sexual outcomes means we are lacking conversations about Black pleasure. Without open conversations about pleasure, women learn to feel ashamed or embarrassed to discuss their sexual desires with their partners. But sexual communication is important for sexual development and self-esteem. In fact, the ability to communicate about sex and pleasure can strengthen sexual relationships and improve sexual satisfaction overall.

5. Mistrust of medical providers.

Sexual communication is not only vital to sexual relationships; it is essential for doctor-patient relationships. Meeting with health care professionals for preventive care and to discuss sexual health concerns leads to a better sex life. Unfortunately, much of Black history in America stems from elements of slavery that has affected several generations. Medical experimentation on Black bodies is not just a thing of the past, and that history comes with understandable mistrust of information and treatment from medical providers. Throughout history, Black women have endured medical mistreatment and tend to feel as if they are unseen and unheard.

More than ever, Black women need access to quality sexual health care and, more importantly, a trusted medical provider. They deserve to feel like their sexual health care experiences are provided in a confidential, respectful, and nonjudgmental manner.

How Black women can take control of their sexual lives.

For many Black women, this is not new information. These issues and challenges have been persistent for quite some time. But what can you do about them?

First, become your own advocate. This means learning what resources are available in your area, finding out what preventive screenings and services are recommended before your appointments, and being prepared to ask questions when interacting with medical providers.

Second, find the things that work for you. This can include finding a doctor that understands your experiences as a Black woman (yes, it is OK to shop around for a doctor), finding Black sexuality educators to learn from online, and working to unlearn messages that have been harmful to your sexual development.

Lastly, work toward sexual agency. This means you have the ability to produce the results you want for your sexual life. The key to having a healthy and positive view of your sexual life starts with you.

Complete Article HERE!

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Exploring the common misconceptions regarding trans and non-binary identities

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Eight reasons why anti-trans rants are unscientific.

By Hannah Seo

Last month, a series of anti-trans tweets by author J.K. Rowling incited a maelstrom of anger, pain, and indignation. Specifically, Rowling opposed the phrase “people who menstruate” in an article, commenting on the social media platform, “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people … Wumben?”

In her tweets, Rowling has perpetuated several common misconceptions about trans people, many of which actively hurt and harm the trans community. Here’s a breakdown of some common misconceptions and why they’re harmful.

Gender and sex are not the same thing

Sex is usually determined by a doctor shortly after birth based on the external genitalia you have, and even then it’s not so clean cut. Estimates suggest that 1 to 2 percent of all people in the US are intersex, meaning their bodies don’t fall neatly inside the male/female binary: Their gonads, genitalia, and hormones don’t necessarily match in sex characteristics.

Gender identity is less clinical and more focused on how an individual views themself. Human Rights Campaign defines gender identity as “one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.”

Gender presentation is how an individual chooses to look and show their identity through their appearance. How a person presents themself is separate to the gender they identify with—and trans individuals do not need to dress hyper-feminene of hyper-masculine to prove their gender identity.

“We still have that binary mindset of what a man and what a woman should look like. Then we have the additional layer of what a trans woman should look like and what a trans man should look like, and there’s often not a lot of space in between,” says Hansel Arroyo, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery. He says being trans does not require adhering to stereotypical experiences: A trans woman dressed in typically ‘masculine’ clothing is still a woman.

Hormones are not sex specific

“Sex hormones” are a myth, says Katie Spencer, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota who researches human sexuality and co-directs the National Center for Gender Spectrum Health in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Cis men have estrogen and cis women have testosterone, not to mention the wide variability among intersex individuals—”we all have sort of a blend of them in our bodies.”
Naturally variable hormone levels have been the center of controversy in competitive sports. For example, track-and-field star Caster Semenya has been scrutinized throughout her career because of her naturally high testosterone levels. Researcher Joanna Harper recently told Popular Science that we still don’t fully understand how all hormones affect athletic performance.

Spencer adds that there are plenty of trans people who don’t take hormones or have surgery just as there are plenty of cisgendered people who do need supplemental hormones, whether it’s for symptoms related to menopause, mediating sex-drive, or to prevent hair loss. So the perception that trans people taking hormones is evidence of something wrong or unnatural is completely moot, she says. What’s more, safe access to hormones is a public health issue: Hormone therapy can already increase your risk of heart attack, but taking hormones from unreliable black market sources means you’re never really sure how much of a hormone you’re taking, and that can result in serious medical issues, like kidney failure.

Cisgendered women are not the only people who can menstruate and get pregnant

“Lots of bodies menstruate,” says Spencer. There are some trans men and non-binary people who menstruate and get pregnant. On the other hand, there are plenty of cisgendered women who don’t menstruate. Menopause and other conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome or uterine disorders can prevent regular cycles. To conflate menstruation with womanhood is wrong and offensive, says Spencer. Moreover, she says, it’s medically dangerous. 

Awareness of obstetric and gynecological care for men and non-binary folk is important, because their experiences are still poorly documented and understudied. That “time of the month” can come with a big psychological toll for some. One study of pregnant trans men found that trans men remain highly motivated to get pregnant at the prospect of fatherhood, despite the lack of information and support available to them. Another study shows that some trans men experience extreme isolation and body dysphoria during pregnancy.

Awareness of obstetric and gynecological care for men and non-binary folk is important, because their experiences are still poorly documented and understudied.

Access to the care they need to transition is crucial for trans folk and their mental health, says Arroyo. When they receive appropriate, thoughtful care, trans individuals have better mental health and are more likely to feel safe and satisfied with their care. Interfering with an individual’s ability to live their full life or to prevent them from having dysphoric feelings, he says, is awful.

Trans existence is not new

“Trans people have always existed,” says Jesse Pratt López, a photographer, activist, and proud trans woman who notably started a GoFundMe for homeless Black trans women.

For example, before Europeans reached North America, many Native American tribes had third gender roles. Indigenous groups to this day have many different names for people across the non-binary spectrum.

“Looking at past populations, from historical documents to archaeological artifacts, graves, funerary goods and skeletons, we know that the binary that we think of as gender being male or female didn’t exist in all populations—and we know it still doesn’t exist in all populations today,” says Sabrina Agarwal, a bioarchaeologist and anthropologist at UC Berkeley. “We have evidence of gender and sexuality fluidity across human cultures from even prehistoric times—from ancient Egypt, Mesoamerican, the Inca, Southeast Asia, and even in the earliest Mesopotamaian writing tablets.”

A lot of the archaeological record supports a long history of gender fluidity, Agarwal says. One way to see that is to look at grave sites. By analyzing a skeleton archaeologists can infer a person’s sex, but that sex does not necessarily match up with the gendered artifacts they find at the person’s grave site, she explains. This could be because the individual lived outside of the gender binary.

Suppressing “deviations” from what’s considered normal is an invention of white colonization, says Pratt López, and so framing transness as a new phenomenon is deceptive and wrong. When white colonizers moved in on communities around the world they forcibly brought with them tenets of sex and gender binaries.

Agarwal agrees. She says that “these ideas of a gender binary are a Western-centric perception—the white settler’s idea of how things are divided.” A noted example she has studied are the hijras, a term that includes transgender and intersex individuals, and eunuchs. South Asia has long recognized them, she says, but when British colonialists came in, they targeted and criminalized the hijra. They still face echoes of that stigma today, though India recently gave the hijra legal recognition as a third gender.

When you consider the record of gender fluidity in the world throughout history, Pratt López says, it becomes impossible to separate trans oppression from colonization.

Genitalia is not the only thing that matters in attraction and sexuality

Trans sexuality is a particularly frustrating misconception to talk about, says Pratt López. However, she says it’s difficult to pinpoint what is so hard for folks to understand. She puts forth this hypothetical situation: If a heterosexual man who is only attracted to women sleeps with a trans woman, the common public response to that kind of relationship is usually, “He must be gay” rather than, “She must be a woman.”

Further, sex and gender are not the only reasons people become attracted to one another. “People are attracted to people on multiple levels,” says Katie Spencer. “Bodies are a part of that, and gender is a part of that, but they’re not the whole picture.” You’re not attracted to someone because of their genitals in any relationship, says Spencer, so reducing trans people and trans attraction to genitals makes no sense.

Transitions aren’t the same for everyone

“Transness, like anything, is a spectrum,” says Pratt López. She notes that how a person chooses to transition, and how they want to present themselves during this time, should occur on their terms: “Trans people don’t have to have any surgeries or take hormones in order to be the gender that they are.”

Conversion therapy is dangerous and does not work.

Rowling has also insinuated that queer youth are being “shunted towards hormones and surgery,” calling it “a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people.” Contrary to what the author claims, helping trans youth understand their identities, and meeting them where they are is pivotal to closing mental and physical health disparities between trans and cis youth.

“There are people who would oppose somebody who is trans from getting appropriate medical services, whether hormone therapy or surgery, and I would encourage them to look at the health outcomes,” says Arroyo. The health disparity between cis and trans communities is frighteningly large, he says, but we see in our patients and in the research that providing support to both youth and adults can help close those gaps.

Conversion therapy, a category of discredited practices that aim to conform a person’s sexuality or gender identity to the societal norm or expectation, on the other hand, is dangerous and does not work. The UN has called it a “‘cure’ for an illness that does not exist.” Comparing transitioning to conversion therapy is a baseless analogy that does not hold up.

We often think of transitioning as going from one stereotypical side of the gender spectrum to the other, Arroyo says, but thinking about transitions as crossing a binary is inaccurate. A transition can mean different things to different individuals: Some trans folk may only want to transition by way of clothing and expression, while others might want to go as far as hormone therapy or surgery. There is no set end goal to a transition, no final destination. “It is not for me to say that one person’s way of expressing their gender is a transition or is not a transition,” says Arroyo. “And I think that’s a good reminder for us as medical providers—that it’s not for us to determine what transitioning is, but it’s for the individual to discover what transition is to them.”

How to be a better ally for trans people 

Trans individuals, and especially trans women of color, are disproportionately victims of violence. As of July 27, 22 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been violently killed in 2020 alone. 16 of them (76 percent) were people of color.

“Here we are, in 2020, still begging and pleading for people to see our humanity,” says Milan Nicole Sherry, a trans activist from New Orleans who organizes the city’s NOLA Trans March of Resilience and created the hashtag #blacktranslivesmatter. She says that instead of complacent allies, they need active accomplices who speak with their actions—those who will not only stand with trans people, but walk with them and protect them, too.

Ask yourself, “how can I show up?” and ask your trans friends, “how can I help you and trans people?”, says Sherry. If you phrase it in a direct way, then you are more likely to get a direct answer.

Being an accomplice, as Sherry puts it, could mean joining them in protest, volunteering at a clinic or youth organization, or even just talking to those around you who are ignorant about trans people—all of it contributes to a movement towards acceptance.

Any and all action is impactful, especially during a time when celebrity authors and government agencies try to invalidate the trans community based on false interpretations of biology.

Complete Article HERE!

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Is Lesbian Bed Death A Real Thing?

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By Charlotte Moore

When I think back to my first same-sex relationship, there are a few stereotypes about lesbians which I realised early on are pretty much baseless.

Firstly, even if you own a vulva, everyone is pretty much inept when first faced with someone else’s. This is only cemented by the brutal lack of LGBTQ+ sex education – or even basic acknowledgement of the clitoris, let alone pleasure for cis women and trans women – in schools.

Secondly, those who pander to the stereotype of women being incredible communicators have clearly never endured a night of the silent treatment or a blazing row over who was supposed to take the bins out. And then there’s the notion that one woman somehow takes on the role of a ‘man’ in a lesbian relationship to take those bins out in the first place.

There is, however, one hackneyed cliche that I feared might be true: lesbian bed death. Just like jokes about the “urge to merge” aka moving in together after one date, lesbian bed death is a concept that many women and people who identify as women who date women and people who identify as women deal with day in, day out. “Oh,” they say, giggling, “soon you won’t be getting any at all.

This tired, worn joke – that we don’t like sex, that we feign headaches to get out of it and have to be pressured into doing it at all – is so familiar to cis women, isn’t it? I don’t know about you but that’s not my experience or the experience of any of the women I know. So where did the idea of lesbian bed death even come from?

Let’s go back to the 1980s when this term was coined by the sociologists Pepper Schwartz and Philip Blumstein while researching sex for their book, American Couples: Money, Work, Sex. Schwartz concluded that lesbians have less sex than straight or gay couples and, with that, lesbian bed death (or LBD) became a thing.

The term lesbian bed death was coined by the sociologists Pepper Schwartz and Philip Blumstein in their book, American Couples: Money, Work, Sex. Schwartz concluded that lesbians have less sex than straight or gay couples and, with that, lesbian bed death became a thing.

There are plenty of issues with Schwartz and Blumstein’s book, namely that its authors posited their small research sample as being representative of all lesbian couples. Something else to consider is that back then, lesbian sex was harder to define. Internalised misogyny led to a lot of women assuming that what they were doing wasn’t necessarily sex, because sex meant penetration. On top of this, the study only measured the quantity of sex, not the quality – which, as we all know, tells you nothing.

Why, then, has the shaky concept of lesbian bed death persisted? A huge reason has to be the fact that, predictably, there is little reliable research into the sexual experiences of lesbians. With this in mind, it would be easy to disregard lesbian bed death as a homophobic, anti-women myth. But to do so would make those who do experience it feel even more isolated.

I know this myself. Despite being worried about my sex life, I have shied away from addressing the subject of lesbian bed death, for fear of being told I was reinforcing a problematic idea.

“We’ve been together for two years and everyone jokes about lesbian bed death. I love my girlfriend more than anything. We’re both just so busy and when we climb into bed after work – it’s honestly the last thing on my mind,” says 24-year-old Emily. “I don’t think she’s unhappy. But we haven’t really spoken about it – maybe we should?”

Talking about sex – having it and not having it – is key to any relationship. But, says 23-year-old Lily, giving oxygen to the idea of lesbian bed death is problematic.

“It’s obviously a trope of lesbian relationships that women don’t have a sex drive or any sort of libido – so, obviously, LBD is inevitable,” she tells me. “This, I think, is patriarchal nonsense. But I think we need to acknowledge that female sexuality is different. Sex with your partner is different when you’re in a f/f relationship.”

I sat down with Tabitha Bast, a psychosexual therapist experienced in LGBTQ+ relationships, to get her thoughts. “The first thing to say is all long-term relationships, statistically, will see a decrease in sexual desire,” she explains. “And a relationship with two women can have nuances that a heterosexual relationship doesn’t – for example, if you’re two cis women, that’s two menstrual cycles. It’s common to feel less sexy around your period and with two cycles to manage, this can present a challenge.”

There’s also a theory, popularised by Emily Nagoski, a women’s sexual health expert and author of Come As You Are, that there are two core types of sex drive. “The first is spontaneous sex drive – this is pretty much as it sounds: you see someone that you’re attracted to and you want to have sex,” Emily explains. “The second is a responsive sex drive – where you feel sexy once you start to engage in kissing or touching. The latter, a responsive sex drive, is more common in females, so it means that sex needs to be initiated before either party feels turned on.”

The third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) found that 51% of women had experienced sexual difficulties in the last year. So why has this notion that women who have sex with women are more likely to suffer stuck?

Emily also notes that “sex with a woman is different. A study from 2016 highlighted that while lesbian couples may have sex less often, they do have sex for far longer. As well as this, they can actually experience more orgasms than a straight couple. So we also need to highlight the quality of sex, rather than just the quantity.”

Ultimately, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, shame and guilt around how much sex we are having seems universal. In truth, there’s no ‘set amount’ of sex that we should be having. But this can become an issue when one partner’s sex drive is far higher than the other’s. Tabitha talks about the challenges this presents for both parties. “They both feel awful. If you’re the initiator, you can feel shame – it’s a predatory feeling. But being the rejector is just as bad. The guilt that comes with turning down your partner can be just as problematic.”

Perhaps, then, lesbian bed death isn’t a thing. It’s just a questionable name for something we all face at some point in our monogamous romantic relationships with sexual partners: the decline of desire. When real life sets in, with all its takeaways, boxsets and working late, the thrill of tearing off your significant other’s clothes often wanes.

Tabitha suggests that the best way to deal with this is firstly to accept that you are two different people with different feelings. “Communication is the best way to address it. Treat it with curiosity – it doesn’t have to be a heavy conversation – and use prompts. For example, if you’ve watched a TV show with a sex scene, ask: ‘Did that turn you on?’ Introduce feedback as part of your after-sex routine and talk about the parts you enjoyed.”

Another important area of consideration is our hormones. Some women take birth control even in a same-sex relationship to manage their periods or acne. This, too, can affect libido.

And of course, hormones can disproportionately affect trans women. “Since being on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) I feel far more comfortable in my own body. But my libido seems to shut down,” says 29-year-old Harmony. “I’ve only been with my girlfriend a year, but it’s hard to get myself to a place where I feel sexy.”

Trans women can experience a huge mix of side effects from HRT, as well as the pressure of societal transphobia, which can cause anxiety.

“There have been positive and negative changes to taking HRT. I was told that there would be an effect but they couldn’t say how I would be affected,” adds Beth, who is a trans woman and has been on HRT since 2015. “Transphobia and anxiety has definitely affected my libido. I was afraid to be intimate with people for fear of them responding negatively.” While Beth now has a loving partner, she adds that there is a “level of internalised transphobia. Men are perceived as sex-crazed individuals and I was afraid to embrace my own sexual desires in case I seemed ‘less female’.”

Internalised transphobia and anxiety can certainly have a negative effect on sex drive, explains Tabitha. “As a therapist, I obviously recommend that all of these issues can be addressed in therapy. Especially ones that relate to how we feel about ourselves. Therapy is a safe space to discuss these issues and give these feelings the time and respect that they deserve to be treated with.” It’s not just verbal communication which is important here. Touch communication matters, too.

So where do we stand on lesbian bed death? While there’s clearly some truth to the trope, it’s relevant to all couples. Lack of sex cannot and should not be defined as a symptom of queerness. Indeed, the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) found that 51% of women had experienced sexual difficulties in the last year, with 11% of women saying that they were distressed or worried about their sex life. So why has this notion that women who have sex with women are more likely to suffer stuck?

In the end, reducing the experiences of lesbians, of cis women and trans women, to an oversimplified trope only exposes the continued lack of research and investment in LGBTQ+ sexual studies or even into menstrual cycles, birth control and hormonal changes. It’s 2020: let’s fund that research, amplify women’s voices and leave lesbian bed death in the ‘80s, where it belongs.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Sexual Context Can Take Sex From Good To Great

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By Alicia Muñoz, LPC

If you stumbled on a magic relationship lantern and a sex genie popped out and said, “I will grant you one wish,” what would you ask for? There’s a good chance many of us would wish for reliably hot sex.

Sex, when it’s good, can be powerfully satisfying. It’s a joyful, life-affirming experience that touches all aspects of our humanity: physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental. Unfortunately, for many of us, it doesn’t happen as much as we’d like it to. Or else it’s Groundhog Day in the sheets: It happens way too often, way too predictably.

What’s missing from most people’s sex lives.

Part of what makes sex challenging is that we’ve been discouraged from investigating or understanding it since early childhood. Rare is the child encouraged at the dinner table to discuss positive and negative messages they received about their body in gym class or asked open-ended questions by a loving parent, like: “And how did you feel when that nurse got mad at you for calling your vulva (or penis) by its proper name?”

By the time we’re adults, any positive sexual experiences or sensations we have can seem like “magic” because our minds have been conditioned to short-circuit, go blank, default to predictable judgments about sex and bodies, or react to the topic of sexual feelings, erotic sensations, pleasure, and our “private parts” with confusion. Often, we don’t understand the factors that go into our positive (or negative) sexual experiences because we haven’t felt fully free to spend time exploring and understanding these factors, or getting the support we need to work through our mental and emotional blocks to doing this.

And if we don’t know what makes sex good (or not so good) for us, how can we foster and nurture the external and internal circumstances we personally require to support the sex lives we want?

The power of sexual context.

There’s a shorthand for all the complex, interlocking factors that contribute to our experience of sex at any given moment: “sexual context.”

Our sexual context encompasses all of the elements—internal and external—that influence our sexuality at any given moment. On a macro level, it encompasses our ever-shifting environment, the sensory stimuli that surround us, and our conscious and unconscious internal world. On a micro level, it’s our immediate surroundings and state of mind: beeping sounds in the street that distract us from our lover’s kiss; the stress and tension that makes it hard to relax and savor touch; or the music, candlelight, and prolonged eye contact with our spouse that allow us to exhale and let go.

Context encompasses where we are and how we feel about it as well as who we are and how we experience ourselves. It affects our perception of sexual cues, our sensations, our arousability, and much more.

To begin exploring what contributes to your ideal sexual context, try this:

  1. Bring to mind your last pleasurable sexual experience, partnered or alone.
  2. Consider whether there was an event prior to this experience that may have “set you up” to enjoy it, e.g., “I just finished taking a long, relaxing bath,” “I was exhilarated from a workout,” “I watched a romantic movie,” or “My partner was away all week and I missed him.”
  3. Make two columns on a piece of paper: internal and external.
  4. In the “internal” column, jot down adjectives that best describe your state of mind, your emotional state, and how you felt physically at the time of this experience.
  5. In the “external” column, jot down adjectives that best describe your physical environment: sounds, sensations, smells, visual elements.
  6. Consider how these internal and external factors contributed to your receptivity to pleasure and sensual/sexual enjoyment.
  7. Repeat items 1 through 6 on this list with a couple of other positive sexual experiences, and look for patterns in the factors that contributed to your pleasure.
  8. Write down several concrete ways you might consciously create new variations of the factors that came up most often on your lists in your daily life, e.g., “I will make a practice of initiating a full-body hug with my partner three times daily,” “I will get out of my humdrum work routine by asking for a slow dance after dinner,” “I will go for a run before work to energize myself,” or “I will read erotic poetry on a park bench.”

Since most of us won’t stumble on a magic relationship lantern or sex genie in this lifetime, consciously understanding the different contextual factors—internal and external—that support and contribute to our personal experience of enjoyable sex is one of the most accessible and realistic paths to sexually empowering ourselves.

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LGBTQI+ populations face unique challenges during pandemic

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Global conversations about the impact of the pandemic on gender equality have left out sexual and gender minorities. COVID-19 is a threat multiplier.

By Yvonne Su, Yuriko Cowper-Smith, Tyler Valiquette

As global leaders begin to recognize the inequalities that are being exposed as a result of COVID-19, it is important to consider who is included and who is excluded when we talk about gender. An analysis of the global conversation thus far reveals that the gender dimensions of COVID-19 and the push for gender equality during the recovery phase have largely only focused on how the pandemic has and will continue to disproportionately impact women and girls.

However, gender and sexual minorities are rarely included in discussions about vulnerable populations, and global responses have largely failed to consider the unique needs and challenges that LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex) populations face. This disappearance of sexual and gender minorities from international discourse is significant because research has shown that LGBTQI+ people are particularly vulnerable to crises like a pandemic.

The United Nations (UN), International Labour Organization, World Bank, Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF have all put out various statements and reports on the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality, but their focus is concentrated solely on women and girls. While some organizations, such as Care International and the Pan American Health Organization, add LGBTQI+ people to their list of vulnerable groups, only a few have addressed LGBTQI+ rights head on in some of their publications: UN Women, Oxfam Canada and the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

While publications by international organizations and NGOs advocate for a better understanding of the effects of COVID-19 on gender equality, the sidelining of LGBTQI+ concerns makes it more difficult for organizations to advocate for enhanced protections during the pandemic.

In order to understand the gendered-impacts of COVID-19 beyond women, we draw on findings from a case study of Venezuelan LGBTQI+ asylum seekers in Brazil, an epicentre of the pandemic. As of July 23, 2020, there have been at least 2,227,514 cases of COVID-19 in Brazil and 82,771 deaths. Our analysis of 23 interviews with Venezuelan LGBTQI+ asylum-seekers, politicians and workers in non-governmental organizations and UN staff, shows that asylum seekers are experiencing increasing violence, transphobia and xenophobia in Brazil during the pandemic.

Venezuelan LGBQTI+ asylum seekers in Brazil

Since 2015, more than 5 million people have fled violence, persecution and economic ruin in Venezuela and 264,000 people have applied for asylum in Brazil. Among them, LGBTQI+ asylum seekers are commonly directed to the only LGBTQI refugee centre in Brazil, Casa Miga. Run by volunteers and supported by a national LGBTQI+ charity, Casa Miga was already under-resourced and over-stretched prior to the pandemic. But with COVID-19, myriad inequities that disproportionately affect the physical, mental and financial well-being of LGBTQI+ people have overwhelmed the centre’s capacity and increased the risk of gender-based violence and abuse against its resident asylum seekers.

With limited local, national or international focus on the challenges faced by LGBTQI+ people as well as refugee populations, the shelter’s staff and its residents feel hopeless, ignored and disempowered in their fight against the COVID-19.

Asylum seekers at Casa Miga experienced homophobic, transphobic and xenophobic violence in Brazil prior to the onset of the pandemic. Many asylum seekers referenced experiences of discrimination while at work or while searching for employment, in public or in interactions with the police.

Asylum seekers recounted experiences of having homophobic slurs hurled at them, being assaulted by locals and being both physically harmed and dismissed by the police. One asylum seeker had a near-death experience after he was left alone in the Amazonian rainforest following a mugging by a group of men. In the most egregious example, one of the asylum seekers had his jaw broken by two police officers in Manaus. The violence faced by trans-asylum seekers is further notable. A trans asylum seeker shared that she was assaulted while working as a sex worker, and that when she reported her attack to the police, she thought the officers did not care to investigate because she was both trans and Venezuelan. Beyond this one incident, all asylum seekers interviewed claimed to have faced LGBTQI+ based violence and xenophobia while living in Brazil.

COVID-19 acted as a threat multiplier

The threat and danger of contracting COVID-19 is very real for the asylum seekers. A resident of Casa Miga was infected with the virus in May 2020. In addition, the refugee shelter is located in Manaus, the city with the highest mortality rate of any Brazilian capital city. With over 100 people dying daily in April and being buried in mass graves in Manaus, the city’s mayor, Arthur Virgílio who recently contracted COVID-19, pleaded for urgent international help. As one asylum seeker shared: “It has impacted me gravely. I am in a constant state of fear. I don’t know when this is going to end. I know people who have become sick and who have died from this. Manaus is very badly hit by the pandemic. I will continue taking the precautions and keeping my distance from people, but despite these actions, the fear continues.”

The asylum seekers face both the fear of contracting COVID-19 and false narratives propagated by fake news stories on social media claiming they are spreading the virus. These allegations caused the asylum seekers to be even more worried about their safety and less likely to leave the shelter.

The economic stability and mental health of the asylum seekers also suffered as a result of the pandemic. Those asylum seekers who had been able to find informal work such as sex work and selling crafts, were left financially destitute when their work was banned. When the pandemic began, many asylum seekers were cut off from their monthly allowances from the government. It took over a month from the time of the cut off for Brazil to institute their Auxilio Emergencial (emergency fund) but many asylum seekers were unable to benefit from it due to the documentation and resources required (such as a cell phone) for access. As one asylum seeker shared: “It is impossible to sustain a job now and I can afford nothing for myself.”

Meanwhile, the settlement process has been temporarily halted, spurred on by the closure of the main refugee determination centre in Manaus. All of these factors compound the stress around asylum seekers’ tenuous positions in Brazil. These interruptions, lack of resources and access to services such as health care, have left asylum seekers feeling desperate and in limbo.

When governments fumble, vulnerable people suffer

Despite success in handling previous public health crises, the Brazilian government was completely underprepared for COVID-19. The administration has so far failed to provide any leadership on how to tackle this pandemic, choosing to focus on the supposed economic health of the country over the well-being of its own citizens. With the administration turning a blind eye to its own citizens, asylum seekers and the centres that care for them were largely left abandoned to manage on their own.

All the politicians interviewed stated that the government does not recognize distinct vulnerable groups within the larger refugee population in their policies, or when formulating Brazil’s strategy to respond to refugee flows and COVID-19. Without financial resources from the government, international organizations, or NGOs, Casa Miga is barely operational, relying on volunteers and local, haphazard and unpredictable donations.

When international actors blend LGBTQI+ considerations into other gender-based discussions, the ability of LGBTQI+ people and organizations to appeal for support during the pandemic is greatly limited. Facing increased violence and challenges during COVID-19, LGBTQI+ asylum seekers need more protection but are often unable to advocate for themselves.

Ultimately, when asylum seekers face increased violence based on their gender identity and sexuality, the reporting and response by the international humanitarian community, including Canada’s, must include their voices and considerations.

Complete Article HERE!

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10 Places to Get Actual Hot Audio Porn and Erotica

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Close your eyes and enjoy.

By

In my humble and horny opinion, audio porn is a deeply underrated way of consuming your smut. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a fan of watching my porn, but there’s something uniquely satisfying about listening and tapping into your own imagination with the help of anything from narrated erotica to standalone porn sounds.

Luckily for me, audible porn (and similar sexy audio-based sex and wellness content) is on the rise. Where I used to have to dig up porny audio clips on Tumblr, I now have my pick of a wide variety of new apps and sites for anyone who wants to get in touch with their sexuality and get off using their ears. From guided masturbation tutorials to hot original stories, there’s bound to be something out there that will turn you on. Check out these apps and sites to get started:

1. Dipsea

Often called the “Headspace of Erotica,” Dipsea has a mix of original audio stories and wellness content meant to connect you to your sexuality and desires. Their short audio stories are often character- and emotionally-driven on top of being hot, so if you’re someone who likes a little plot with your porn, Dipsea has a huge library for you. The wellness section of the app is also a treasure trove of discovery, featuring guided erotic exercises and how-tos. They cover anything from how to sext to edging during masturbation.

Try it: $9/month for unlimited, dipseastories.com

2. Quinn

Quinn is a pretty no-frills audio porn site. Users can upload their own clips, including narrated scenes and stories, guided masturbation sessions, and erotic sounds of themselves masturbating or having sex with consenting partners. You can search by category, whether to narrow down by gender and sexuality, or to find specific kinks (think tags like accents, BDSM, teacher/student, and public sex).

Try it: Free, tryquinn.com

3. Tumblr

Tumblr may have cracked down on visual porn and explicit images in recent years, but it’s still home to a ton of audio porn—particularly user-submitted clips, which are great for anyone who likes their porn to have an “amateur,” real vibe to it. Direct-to-listener porn is popular on Tumblr, meaning audio that speaks to you, whether dirty talk, instructional, or narrative. You have to search around a bit to find blogs to follow, but get started with blogs like Let Me Hear It, Sounds of Pleasure, and Audio Orgasm.

4. Audible and Scribd

Okay, so Audible and Scribd are actually two popular places to buy audiobooks in general, but still definitely helpful for our purposes. One of the best things about audiobooks is how immersive they can feel, and this is doubly so for steamy erotica. It might not be as X-rated as some of the options on this list, but well-written and well-narrated erotica can be as hot as any porn. Try searching “erotica” on either Audible or Scribd and sort by highly-rated to see what other listeners are loving. For more information, check out SELF’s guide to finding truly sexy erotica.

5. Audiodesires

Audiodesires is relatively new, so they don’t have a robust library yet and are still growing with weekly releases. So far, they have stories designed for women and couples, with the couple stories leaving intermissions for you and your partner to get in on the action together. They also have a whole section dedicated to erotic ASMR—so if you want to get those sweet, sweet brain tingles as you listen to your porn, this is the app for you.

Try it: Free for limited access and $4/month for premium, audiodesires.com

6. Girl on the Net

Girl on the Net is a UK-based sex blogger who does a lot more than just produce audible porn, but it’s certainly one of the things she’s known for. On her site, you can enjoy a mix of erotic fiction and real-life sex stories, and BDSM-lovers in particular will have a lot to choose from. As a bonus, she also links out to other sex bloggers, some who do audio erotica, too (such as On Queer Street).

Try it: Free, girlonthenet.com (but you can support her on Patreon!)

7. Literotica

This free erotic fiction site may be best known for its user-written stories, but it has a pretty solid collection of “adult audio,” too. Depending on what you’re into, there’s a mix of narrative-driven smut (such as an erotic murder mystery series, seriously) and pretty straightforward stories that lean hard on common fantasies (like boss/employee, BDSM, and infidelity).

Try it: Free, literotica.com

8. Vibease Chat

So technically, Vibease Chat is an app companion to the Vibease vibrator ($95, vibease.com). On top of being a remote control vibrator good for long-distance play with a partner, the Vibease vibrator can also sync with erotica from its app. Meaning, yep, it vibrates in time with the narration. That said, you don’t actually need to use the vibrator to enjoy the app. The library has a mix of free and for-purchase stories that you can listen to without the vibe.

Try it: Free with per-story pricing, vibease.com

9. Reddit

Much like Tumblr, Reddit has some steamy audible porn if you know where to look, such as r/gonewildaudio. You might have to wade through the many posts to find stuff that you like, but some subreddits have filters to help you avoid content and kinks you really don’t want to see. If you’re looking for something more vanilla but still potentially erotic, check out r/pillowtalkaudio. Bonus: Both subreddits allow you to post requests that other users can fill.

10. Emjoy

This intimate self-care app leans a bit more toward wellness than porn, with guided audio practices and pleasurable meditations, but it has erotic stories as well. If you’re looking for a more holistic app that will help you get in touch with your desires and sexual well-being, Emjoy is an excellent place to start. It’s kind of like taking a class about your own body and sexuality—and the homework includes listening to erotica.

Try it: Free for limited access and $30/year for premium, letsemjoy.com

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Know If You’re In a Toxic Relationship

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The signs you’re in a toxic relationship can be difficult to identify — here’s how.

By Maria del Russo

Any relationship, be it romantic or otherwise, can be complicated. Whether it’s the relationship you have with your pushy mother-in-law, a childhood friend, or a spouse, interpersonal connections can be as challenging as they are rewarding. But a toxic relationship — one that is emotionally, and in extreme cases, physically damaging — is not complicated: it’s abusive. And learning the signs of a toxic relationship can help ensure that your relationships are healthy, sustainable, and mutually beneficial.

“A toxic relationship includes many factors,” Dr. Pavini Moray, a sex educator and founder of Wellcelium, a sex and intimacy school, tells Woman’s Day. “The main gauge, though, is how you feel the majority of the time.” If, for the most part, you feel supported, loved, and generally happy, an occasional spat or heated disagreement doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in a toxic relationship. “Toxic relationships detract from the quality of your life, rather than add to it,” Moray says. And while that could mean different things to different people and depending on their unique relationship, there are certain red flags everyone should look out for.

If you identify with any of the below, it could point to some toxicity in your relationship. But Moray says that all is not lost should you find yourself in this situation. “There is no cookie-cutter answer,” Moray explains. “Some couples can get support, can really get into the work of relational repair, and pull through.” So don’t let the below list scare you. See it more as step one in your healing — whether it’s with your partner, a friend, a parent, or on your own.

An absence of mutual care and support.

While it’s unrealistic to expect to feel happy every second of your relationship, the contentment, support, and shared joy should be more prevalent than not. “You may experience a dullness or a lack of pleasurable sensation when in a toxic relationship,” Moray says. “You may also feel afraid or unworthy, especially if your partner speaks in a derogatory, critical, or consistently blaming manner.” One of the reasons why people enter relationships is to meet their need for belonging, safety, and connection, and that need should be met on a consistent basis. “A relationship that is without the positive benefits of a quality connection like care and joy alongside negative impact means the costs of the relationship are outweighing the benefits,” Moray says. “Your needs are not being met.”

An ongoing lack of effective communication.

Learning how to effectively communicate with the people in your life can be challenging, to be sure. And every once in a while, you’ll have a day where every little thing your partner, parent, or friend says sends you into a rage. But if you’re finding you can’t talk to your loved ones without arguing, it might point to a deeper issue. “If you or your partner is feeling rageful or belittled much of the time, something is wrong,” Moray says. “While conflict is a natural part of relationships, the way you do conflict matters a lot.” The key is to be able to work through difficult subjects without lashing out at one another. If that seems to be lacking, your relationship may not be thriving.

There’s relationship imbalance.

In a healthy relationship, there is a balance of support. Sometimes you have to support your partner, and other times they need to support you. If that balance is out of whack, though, Moray says something more seriously could be up. “Both of you need to feel your needs are important to the relationship, and that you are on the same team,” Moray explains. “If you find you are consistently giving in to your partner’s desires, eventually the imbalance will result in resentment from the partner who is over-giving.” Balance in a relationship doesn’t just apply to big, potentially life-changing decisions, like where you’ll live or whether you’ll have children. It applies to smaller, daily decisions too, like if your partner always chooses the restaurant or whose family you visit for the holidays.

There’s a lack of mutual consent.

While the other signs that have been previously discussed can be chalked up to lack of respect, Moray classifies how consent is or isn’t happening in your connection as a form of abuse. If you’re doing things you really don’t want to do, or are coerced to go beyond your own boundaries — whether they are financial, physical, sexual, or emotional — it’s a sure-fire sign of toxicity. “Healthy relationships are based on a foundation of consent,” Moray says. “Everyone in the relationship agrees to be in the relationship. If you ever feel like you cannot leave the relationship, for any reason, it’s a good idea to consider whether this relationship is in your best interest.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Find a Sex-Positive Therapist

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Some therapists advertising kink- and polyamory-friendly treatment might not be all they seem. Here’s what to look for if you’re seeking mental healthcare that doesn’t see “sexual deviance” as deviance.

by Penda N’Diaye

Layla, a 30ish queer sub who enjoys domination by her partners—her name has been changed for her privacy—has been in therapy for about five years. She first sought therapy when she divorced a long-term spouse and began exploring a relationship with a dom. Layla’s first therapist assured her that her treatment plan was “kink-friendly”—a designation Layla felt was crucial to her emotional well-being and progress. How that was expressed in practice, though, didn’t feel understanding or inclusive of Layla’s sexuality at all.

“My partner has been very key to my recovery in that he has been there both emotionally and, when I have needed him to be, in a dominant way,” she said. “But I soon realized that if I discussed my kinks or my dom/sub relationship [with my therapist], she was extremely uncomfortable with it—she told me [my dom] was controlling.”

“Once it became clear my kinks in general were an issue, I stopped telling her anything more,” Layla said. “I wasn’t ashamed of being submissive and didn’t want to change. I’m glad that I wasn’t primarily seeing my therapist about sexuality, because the emotional result may have been much more damaging.”

The widening cultural acceptance and exploration of different sexual identities, and consequently more clients and their partners needing to address questions in the context of counseling and therapy, has caused an uptick in kink- and non-monogamy-informed therapy. With this expanding market comes mental health clinicians who market their services as sex-positive—some who are qualified, and some who have little experience with kink in terms of their practice, but understand that there’s demand for kink-friendly therapy. Many of the latter variety of therapists are ill-equipped to treat these clients and rarely have the background to address inquiries surrounding kink because of their own clinical understandings of and training around deviance and mental illness, according to Psychology Today. Instead, they benefit from a growing client base —without the perspective necessary to treat them effectively.

Kink sexualities are vast and nuanced, meaning that if a client is seeking care for sexuality or if it comes up as a secondary concern, there are varying levels of kink awareness and treatment. Because kink, particularly, is often based on power dynamics, it’s easy for a clinician to pathologize these behaviors, when, in reality, they are often positive and healthy modes of sexual expression. Even if a client is actively concerned with the impact kink has on the rest of their mental health, consensual kink behavior does not equate to a mental disorder.

If a client is asking a question like, “Why am I curious to explore polyamory?” that a therapist doesn’t have the tools to properly assess, we begin to doubt ourselves, shame ourselves, feel misunderstood, and potentially be misdiagnosed, Andrea Glik, poly and kink affirming therapist, explained. When therapists misunderstand the dynamics of a kinky or polyamorous relationship, said Glik, “It makes us doubt ourselves, and it shames us, especially when this advice is coming from a perceived expert.” She said that, instead, therapists treating kinky clients need clearer tools for understanding that kink is not necessarily a response to trauma or abuse, and for being educated about how consent is managed in kink interactions and power-exchange relationships.

How Therapists Falsely Advertise Kink-Friendly and Polyamory-Friendly Treatment

It’s not enough for clinicians to just want to talk about sex openly and affirmingly. When therapists are truly informed about kink and non-monogamy, they have histories of expertise around the intricacies that come with those dynamics. The Kink Clinical Practice Guidelines Project outlines three levels of kink-affirmative therapy: “kink-friendly,” meaning having minimal kink awareness and openness to not pathologize kink behaviors, “kink-aware,” which includes clinicians that have worked with kink-identified clients and have a specific grasp of concepts and practices within kink culture, and “kink-knowledgable,” being able to affirm kink and know the difference between whether a client’s treatment needs to solely focus on kink behavior, or if it is a peripheral part of treatment. A therapist who is “kink-knowledgable” understands that consensual kinky practices do not ordinarily need to be treated as an impairment in work or life. Clinicians should not assess a client with the assumption that any concern is directly linked to kink or polyamory.

The sex therapy industry has mushroomed because of the cultural shift towards speaking more openly about sex in our society, which comes more than a century after famous sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson began their research on sexuality that ultimately laid the groundwork for sex therapy techniques used in the 1960s to the current day. Now, their work is criticized by researchers over the exclusion of homosexual clients and their methods of observing sexual behaviors in a laboratory (as opposed to in response to cultural and personal constructs). The discipline was rooted in a traditional view: white, cisgender, heterosexual encounters.

“Sex therapy is still a young industry,” explained Jamila Dawson, a therapist who specializes in treating LGBTQ people, poly people, and people who are involved in kink. The field is still evolving some 60 years after Masters and Johnson led early 20th century forms of sex therapy, which repressed and denigrated kinky sexual behaviors.

If someone seeks sex therapy, it benefits them to see a clinician with the same sexual experiences, Glik said. “As a queer therapist—and, also, a person who is in therapy with a queer therapist—the interrogation that I’ve done around my own sexuality, I want my therapist to have the same understanding of what that process is.” This applies to other areas of sexuality, as well, according to Glik: “Obviously, the client’s and therapist’s processes are potentially different, but there’s a level of understanding and of self-reflection around the difficulties and nuances [that come with particular kinds of sexual expression].”

Every client and clinician approaches therapy with their own history and experiences pertaining to sexuality. “I don’t think it’s so much as therapists not having their own biases, but it’s being very aware of what their biases are, and that they’ve done work around their own sexuality specifically,” said Dawson. What’s important here is that those biases don’t interfere with the assessment of a client’s behaviors that are not related to or caused by their sexuality.

According to sex educator Jimanekia Eborn, “Folks are going into a session with a therapist already nervous, possibly [with] their guards up. Who knows what it took for that person to show up, and then they get there, and you know nothing about their identity? To trick someone into thinking that they are going into a safe space is so selfish.”

If a therapist isn’t aware of the nuances of a particular community and its sexual practices, they may misinform, and even possibly harm, clients they advertise to in those communities. This is what Zoe, a 20something non-monogamist whose name has been changed for their privacy, feels is what happened when they went to therapy with their partner to navigate their poly agreements. “One of the things that is important to me about polyamory, versus other types of ethical non-monogamy, is the focus on autonomy for all parties involved, but our therapist insisted that rules were necessary,” Zoe said. “[The therapist] didn’t understand why her suggestion of what was essentially the veto system wasn’t ethical non-monogamy.”

Part of what alarmed Zoe was that the therapist also said that a lot of her other clients followed a “one-penis policy” as a successful form of polyamory. (The “policy” prohibits women—Zoe uses they/them pronouns—from having multiple sexual partners, but the same rules don’t apply for the man in the partnership.) “She continued to talk over me about how some of her polyamorous clients only have sex with people outside of their primary partner(s), but aren’t allowed emotional relationships, and I’m like, That’s an open relationship, not polyamory… I felt entirely unheard,” Zoe said.

How to Find a Kink-Friendly or Polyamory-Friendly Therapist

There are increasingly emergent ways to seek out kink-aware therapists who truly account for and affirm healthy, consensual involvement in kink. Once Layla’s therapist made it clear that they would shame her queerness and BDSM practices, she decided to look elsewhere for mental healthcare. “I found my current therapist on the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom‘s kink-friendly professionals directory,” she said, citing a resource that includes a listing of psychotherapists, medical, and legal professionals that are knowledgeable and sensitive to diverse sexualities. “[My current therapist] actually specializes in all kinds of kink/sexual identity/sexuality and relationships, as well as trauma. My experience with them has been mind-blowingly different, because I can actually tell them everything about how submitting to my dom is actually [part of] taking care of myself,” she said.

“[My therapist] is able to help me leverage my D/S to continue my healing, and it’s really amazing,” Layla continued. “So much of my comfort is in not having to be responsible for teaching someone the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of BDSM because they already understand it.”

Beginning in 2010, a group of clinicians who work with sexually stigmatized clients created a comprehensive set of guidelines for therapists that want to approach kink and other sexual identities without shame or ignorance. The Multiplicity of the Erotic, a conference created in 2012 by the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) and Programs Advancing Sexual Diversity (PASD) reinforces these guidelines and promotes clinical training on alternative sexualities. The work of the clinicians that pioneered a broader scope of sex therapy is compiled as a set of kink-inclusive guidelines here.

Still, as Eborn said, “[Sex therapy] is expanding and looking more into kinks and understanding more identities. But there is so much gatekeeping in the community, and it is still really white. Those that are gatekeepers need to understand that there is enough work for all people, as well as realize where they are missing information and actually do the work.”

Therapists have a responsibility to provide accurate, community-informed care to their kink patients. To clients and experts, that means beginning with having clinicians evaluate their own biases and attitudes about kink, addressing how those can affect their interactions with clients, and making an effort to study and offer resources that pertain to kink- and poly-inclusive identities. Most important, clinicians must have the education and context to determine whether a person’s consensual kink behaviors, fantasies, or sexualities, by themselves, are directly related to their reasons for seeking therapy—or are simply their methods of sexual expression.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Unpack Your Sexual Shame & Turn It Into Your Greatest Teacher

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ByAlexandra Roxo

Once I was riding in a car back from Joshua Tree with a few progressive people whom I love. It was a long car ride, and the conversation turned to sex. A friend mentioned that the man she was dating loved blow jobs. Then I said something about having a mind-blowing orgasm when a yogi filmmaker and I were engaging in conscious kink, playing with pain, and that I was in an altered state of bliss for three days after. The car went quiet.

What did I say? Was it the trance of bliss or…the kink? It was consensual, of course, but I had crossed some sort of invisible line. I wondered: “How come blow jobs are OK to discuss, but a spanking is too hard-core for conscious folks? Couldn’t conscious spanking exist? And where is safe to talk about real sex if not with people we love?”

Most of all, I felt ashamed of my “freaky” sexual tendencies, and I internalized this and stopped speaking. It was clear that discussing some of my sexual adventures, even among the most progressive circles, could be seen as “too much.” Did someone in the car experience an encounter similar to mine that didn’t result in arousal? It’s possible. Was it the wrong space to chat about sex openly? Possibly. But if so, where is the right one? 

When we talk about sex, there’s a possibility shame or pain will arise.

Anytime we open the doors to talk about sex, there is a possibility that shame or pain will arise, as we are dealing with a vault of human experience that has been repressed for millenniums, resulting in mass pain and trauma. But does that mean we keep hiding it away? No.

In order to heal, we must actually start talking about it—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in safe places and with people we trust. Coaches. Healers. In sacred circles. With love and understanding and intentionality and no judgment. 

Sexual shame can prevent us from living a healthy sex life, first and foremost, which is one reason to face it. But we often bring it to other areas of life, too! Our repressed sexual shame can show up in friendships, as jabs at friends who may trigger something in us. It can show up as menstrual cramps, IBS, self-confidence issues. Sexual shame is often an elephant in the room in today’s world. 

Here again, as with every part of the transformational process, change begins with awareness. 

Becoming aware of sexual shame.

To be able to hold space for awareness around sexual shame, you must first create a safe space internally. Acknowledging your sexual shame and coming to your own internal acceptance about anything that may have instilled this in you is the place to start. From here, we can begin to process emotions that are stored away relating to your sexuality.

Your core wounds may come up, reflected in your daily life, relationships, and thoughts. You may attract some situations that trigger your wounding and may serve as opportunities for healing. Remember, this is how you know it’s working! This is not a bad thing. This is productive. It’s really important to let yourself feel whatever surfaces and not be afraid. Each emotion, each trigger, and each memory that arises is important. Do what you need to do to be safe, take it at whatever pace you need, care for yourself.

If you have had many sexual experiences that were intrusive and nonconsensual or are holding on to a lot of sexual shame, this may feel like a no-go zone for you. That is OK. I trust you to trust yourself and tread with gentleness and care. I trust you also to know when to stop if something feels like it’s too much for your system. When to take a pause and breathe. And when to keep going into the work. This takes a lot of awareness and discernment, skills you will cultivate over time, in your daily practice and contemplative work.

For me, dealing with multiple sexual assaults and healing through resultant pain in my system has happened in steps over the years. In circles. In writing. Journaling. Feeling. Therapy. With coaches. In ceremonies. And most of that I did on a very limited budget; somehow I called it in. It’s definitely been a 360 approach, and I didn’t have a road map. I went with my gut. So go with yours. Feel into what is right for you.

Keep up with your daily practice. Take impeccable care of yourself. Ask a friend for support. Take an Epsom salt bath. Other ways to move energy that feels sticky in your body: Have a deep cry, punch a pillow, find a place to have a good scream, shake your body out or dance vigorously, write like you’re vomiting words in your journal, go to a steam room or sauna. Whatever you do, letting the feelings move out of your body is key.

And, again, do not be afraid of the depth and breadth of the feelings that may come up when you are doing this work. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to reclaim some of your power. Remember that before acceptance may come rage, sadness, anger, and fear, and all of this is OK.

Complete Article HERE!

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Understanding These 2 Types of Sexual Desire Will Help You Feel In Control of Your Libido

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Introducing: Spontaneous and responsive desire.

By Gabrielle Kassel

By now, you’ve probably heard a sexual health pro say—punctuated by 👏👏👏, of course—that porn is entertainment, not education. And that’s true. But there’s another type of media that shoves lies about what sex “should” (eye roll) look like down our collective throat: Romantic comedies.

One of the ideas these films have implanted into our brains? That the desire to get it on hits you out of nowhere—BAM! As a sex writer, this really gets me heated (as in, mad, not horny) considering only an estimated 15 to 20 percent of cisgender women (vs. 75 percent of cisgender men) primarily experience sexual desire in this way, according to sex researcher Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., in her book Come As You Are. (ICYDK, here’s the definition of “cisgender” and more about gender identity.)

“Most often depicted in movies, spontaneous desire is the urge for sex that hits you out of nowhere,” says Jill McDevitt, Ph.D, resident sexologist for sex toy emporium CalExotics. But what’s much more common for (cisgender) women is something called responsive sexual desire, which is when the desire comes in response to (or after) sexual activity has already (consensually) started. Meaning, sexual activity begets arousal, versus the other way around.

As McDevitt puts it: “Spontaneous desire is sex on the kitchen counter. Responsive desire is watching Netflix together, and starting to feel a tingle when your partner starts to trace the outline of your shorts during the sex scene in the movie you’re watching.”

The good news: Once you understand how these two types of sexual desire work, you can hack your sex life so you can start having as much (or as little) sex as you want! But first, scroll down.

Spontaneous vs. Responsive Sexual Desire

First things first: Both styles of sexual desire are normal and healthy. Unfortunately, people (especially cisgender women) who primarily experience responsive desire assume that they’re sexually defunct because their desire doesn’t look like Mila Kunis’s in Friends with Benefits. (See: Why Your Lack of Sex Drive Isn’t a Disorder)

Such is not the case, assures Zhana Vrangalova, Ph.D., professor of human sexuality at New York University and resident sexpert for sex toy brand LELO. “Most of these folks can experience desire/arousal, but they (and their partners) aren’t giving responsive desire a chance,” she says.

What does responsive desire look like IRL? Rather than waiting for a sudden urge to get down, you might say, “hey babe, any interest in me giving you a massage and seeing where that goes?” Or, “how would you feel about turning on porn and masturbating side-by-side, and seeing if that gets us in the mood?”

If you’re skeptical, you shouldn’t be. After all, “sex itself is not better just because it starts with spontaneous desire—people report just as much pleasure and enjoyment regardless of how it started,” says Vrangalova. Besides, the type of desire isn’t a measure of how good the sex was. How pleasurable it was is!

Deducing Your Own Sexual Desire Style

According to Nagoski’s aforementioned research, about 75 percent of men and 15 percent of women primarily experience spontaneous desire, whereas 5 percent of men and 30 percent of women primarily experience responsive desire (all cisgender). But for the rest of folks, sexual desire is context-dependent, says sexologist Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., host of the podcast Sex with Dr. Jess. Meaning, “sometimes they’ll experience more spontaneous desire and other times the desire is more likely to happen responsively,” she says.

It’s common for context-dependent types to primarily experience spontaneous desire at the start of a relationship and responsive desire as the relationship ebbs on, or during high-stress, busy bouts of time. (After all, stress can lead to lower libido and even an inability to climax.)

Odds are, you were able to deduce your main type just by reading the above definitions. If not, I recommend investing in Nagoski’s books and flipping to the end of Chapter 3. There, you’ll find a “Sex Contexts” worksheet where she instructs you to journal (in detail!) about three of both your best sexual experiences as well as the “meh” ones. In reviewing these experiences, you’ll likely notice common themes around when and where sex took place, as well as whether the activity erected from spontaneous desire, responsive desire, or neither. For instance, if your top sexual experiences happened in coatroom closets at weddings, odds are you tend to experience spontaneous desire. If your top sexual experiences happened after day-long romantic dates or sexting sessions, odds are your desire leans responsive.

How to Lean Into Responsive Sexual Desire

So you primarily experience responsive desire and your partner primarily experiences spontaneous desire. Or, you both primarily experience responsive desire…now what? Fear not! “There are lots of different ways couples with different sexual desires can meet in the middle,” says sexual health expert Lyndsey Harper, M.D. ob-gyn, founder and CEO of Rosy, a sexual health technology platform.

1. Schedule sex.

Don’t be so quick to dismiss it. (After all, it works for sticking to your workout routine—why not extend it to your sexual wellness as well?) Sitting down with your planners and Google calendars and plotting out between work, birthdays, and exercise when you’re going to make time to ~get it on~ may not sound sexy. But “when the partner with responsive desire knows sex will happen at a certain time, they can seek out arousal tools, like erotica, ethical porn, masturbation, or ahead of time to help themselves get in the mood,” says Dr. Harper. (Or, good ol’ daydreaming.)

Plus, assuming you clear out your calendars for longer than, like, thirty minutes, it also ensures there’s plenty of time to do things that help the responsive desire partner get in the mood (think: showering together, kissing, etc.) versus feeling pressured to be ready to go ASAP.

If scheduling sex far ahead doesn’t feel right for you and your partner, consider scheduling date nights instead, and touch base that day about whether sex is on the table or not. Or, try some of these other suggestions first.

2. Intentionally take turns initiating sex.

Often in relationships where one partner experiences spontaneous sexual desire and the other experiences responsive sexual desire, the spontaneous person begins to feel like they’re always the initiator, says Vrangalova. Then, the partner who experiences responsive desire may begin to feel like their partner is constantly pestering them for sex, and feel guilty for saying no. This can lead to resentment on both sides. To interrupt this cycle, she suggests agreeing to take turns extending invitations to one another to have sex. Just remember: Your partner always maintains the right to say no.

Here’s how it works: Pre-determine a period of time within which you’ll each initiate, says O’Reilly. Maybe you’ll plan to initiate sex once per week, and alternate who initiates each week. This way, the responsive desire partner(s) can actively seek out arousal once they’re aroused, says Dr. Harper. (More here: How to Ask Your Partner for More Sex Without Offending Them)

3. Don’t make sex the objective.

Going from zero-percent horny to sex (of any kind) can be super daunting, especially when you’re working or busy child-rearing. Unfortunately, for a lot of couples, lines like “hey, babe, want to try to have sex tonight?” or “want to smash?” are common-place.

Vrangalova’s suggestion? Try asking “I’d love to take a shower together at the end of the day” or “how would you feel about a good old-fashioned makeout session?” instead. Why? Because making things like long passionate kisses, sensual massage, watching porn, reading erotica together, dirty talk, fantasy sharing, hand play, or even cuddling can feel more accessible to a not-currently-turned-on partner. (See More: 10 Foreplay Ideas That Can Be Even Hotter Than Penetration)

“If it progresses to sex from there, great. If not, that’s okay, too!” she says. “You’ll still get the benefit of spending intimate time together.” (And, if it’s applicable, the benefits of human touch.)

4. Lean on pleasure products.

Research reveals that vibrator use is positively correlated with desire, lubrication, orgasm, lower levels of pain, and overall sexual satisfaction,” says O’Reilly. “So, sometimes some vibration or suction is just what your body needs to get in the mood.” Rather than going right for your hot-spots, spend some time using the vibe on your inner thighs, back, chest tissue and nipples, and the fleshy part of your bum, she suggests. Think of it as a self-care massage—and then let it turn sexual if it feels right.

5. Do a little extra sex ed.

Specifically, read books on this very topic such Mind the Gap by Karen Gurney or Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski.

Why? Because the greatest obstacle most couples face is their expectation around how sex “should” work, says Vrangalova. “Many people get stuck in this notion that you should only have sex if both partners are spontaneously horny at the exact same time—and refuse sex when that’s not the case.” (Sound familiar?)

Both of these books go into even more depth on topics discussed in this article to help you better understand just how normal any type of sexual desire is and how the messages you might have absorbed through pop-culture are pleasure-blocking your sex. Both also feature exercises you and your boo can do together to help you better understand your preconceived notions about desire, and how to troubleshoot them for boosted pleasure. (Get more wisdom from Nagoski here: How to Get More Pleasure By Shifting Your Mindset.)

What If These Don’t Work?

Okay, so you thought you primarily experienced responsive desire, gave these tricks a try, and still can’t find your libido? First, talk to your healthcare provider. Certain medications, mental health illnesses, and chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer can affect sexual functioning.

If you get the clear from your doc, think about why your body (specifically something known as your sexual inhibition system) might be intentionally keeping you from getting turned on. If your body perceives that it’s in danger, it can actually shut off your ability to get aroused. For instance, if you’re concerned about getting unintentionally pregnant, contracting an STI, or being socially shamed for who/how you’re having sex, arousal just won’t work. Ask yourself: What can I do to limit the (perceived) risk of the sex I want (keyword) to be having?

Also: Reflect on your relationship. How are you feeling about your boo? No doubt, it’s pretty tough to get turned on by a partner you’re feeling resentful of or aren’t feeling comfortable with. Addressing any underlying relationship issues (or TBH, calling it quits) may help.

Regardless, know that any way you experience sexual desire is ok. If you can relinquish the idea of there being a “normal”—because, truly, there is no “normal” in anything sex-related—that just might help you get there.

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