25 Ways to Make Your Long Distance Relationship Last

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Physical distance shouldn’t be a barrier to happiness.

 

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Long distance relationships are challenging. Although you may have strong feelings for your partner, prolonged periods of time apart and a lack of physical intimacy can put any couple’s bond to the test. Deciding to commit to a long-distance relationship is an important decision, and couples have to be clear about their expectations, feelings, and boundaries before moving forward with this type of relationship. Communication, trust, and emotional intimacy have to lay the foundation so that the couple can continue to grow, even if they’re miles apart.

The good news is that long distance relationships are not impossible! “Challenging times call for some flexibility, which is a hallmark of a successful relationship. While it is difficult not being in close physical proximity, it is an opportunity to deepen and enrich the relationship in ways you may not have been able to do previously,” says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, M.S., a licensed clinical professional counselor and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist at TheMarriageRestorationProject.com. Long-distance relationships present the chance to get to know your partner on a deeper level, strengthen your emotional intimacy, and sustain a lasting connection. “It will also be a test if your relationship has staying power,” Slatkin says.

Thankfully, we live in the 21st century and have technology, so there are plenty of ways to maintain communication and an intimate connection with your partner at a distance. Having daily phone calls, video-chatting, and scheduling virtual dates are just some of the ways you can stay close with your significant other. And if the spark ever starts to diminish, we have plenty of tips from experts to keep your relationship fresh, exciting, and intimate (yep, even physically!). Here are smart tips from experts and Prevention.com editors to help your long-distance relationship make it through the long haul.

1 Stay connected with daily calls and check-ins.

Although communication is important to all relationships, openly communicating with your partner is especially vital for couples in long distance relationships, says Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author. “Many long-distance relationships deteriorate when partners forget to engage in little rituals that build healthy connection. It’s important to remember that small niceties like a tender goodnight call or a loving wake-up text go a long way,” she says.

2 And use a full range of ways to keep in touch.

Ryan Drzewiecki, Psy.D., Director of Psychology at All Points North Lodge, suggests relying on various means of communicating outside of a phone call.Send photos and videos throughout the day, share memes that made you laugh, link an article you found to be thought-provoking, or send a care package through the mail,” he says. “By mixing it up, you keep everything interesting and fun, and avoid having the act of communication become a dull routine.”

3 Video chat with your partner weekly.

Communication is essential to making long distance relationships work, but seeing your partner’s face is especially important to maintaining the connection, says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., Beverly Hills and New York City based family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, regular expert child psychologist on The Doctors, CBS TV, and co-star on WE TV. Through video chatting, couples can read body language, facial cues, and additional messages that tell us how the other person truly feels, Walfish says. “The goal is to learn what feels good to her and communicate what feels good to you.”

4 Write handwritten letters.

Writing letters is not an activity of the past! “There is something deeply special and personal in a handwritten letter, and as a couples counselor, I have found that people are often able to be more vulnerable in their writing,” says Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist with Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. “Getting something from your partner in the mail is fun, exciting, and feels like something tangible to hold on to while apart.”

5 Find creative ways to bond.

To keep the relationship fresh and exciting, dream up some creative ways to connect with your partner. “If you want to have a movie night, thanks to Amazon Prime, Netflix, and other streaming services, it’s very possible to set up a date night to Skype or Zoom while the two of you Netflix and chill,” says Christopher Ryan Jones, Psy.D. psychologist and sex therapist, member of both the American Psychological Association (APA), and host of Sex Therapy with Dr. Christopher Ryan Jones podcast. He also suggests surprising your partner with flowers, chocolates, or other thoughtful gifts they’ll appreciate from miles away.

6 Have a virtual date night.

While watching a movie at the same time as your partner is an obvious way to have virtual date night, there are plenty of other exciting options that couples can do to build romance while physically apart. Tara Overzat, Ph.D., online mental health counselor at Getting Overzat, recommends enjoying a meal together over Zoom or doing a virtual tour of a museum, such as the Louvre, together. “Even when you are apart, it is important to carve out time for a special activity the two of you can do together,” she says.

7 And create themed dates.

Just because you’re miles away from your partner, it doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with date night. Choose a themed date night a few times a month to really freshen up your virtual date. The options are endless, but consider a wine tasting, pasta making, or painting.

8 Try a couple’s personality assessment.

Alisha Sweyd, a licensed marriage and family therapist in California, recommends that long-distance couples do a couple’s personality assessment together, like the Better Love Assessment or the SYMBIS Assessment. “These assessments help you to have discussions about how your personalities work together to make an incredible and unique relationship,” Sweyd says. “They also share where you may have pitfalls that you can struggle with, and discuss ways of overcoming those obstacles. This will allow for more emotional connection and intimacy as well as strengthen the relationship as a whole.”

9 And have regular “brainstorming dates.”

A “brainstorming date” is when couples talk about what’s working and what’s challenging in the long-distance relationship, explains Karin Lawson, Psy.D., licensed Florida psychologist in private practice. “The goal of your brainstorming date is to problem-solve together (here comes the teamwork) to figure out what needs tweaking,” she says. “This might mean frequency of contact, mode of contact, what you talk about, etc. The point is to also highlight your strengths as a couple and to give credit to what’s working.”

10 Make a relationship bucket list.

Creating a bucket list can be a fun way to keep couples united on their goals and enhance excitement. Sure, you can fill the bucket list with long-term goals like moving closer together, but you can also keep your list simple and filled with fun activities. For instance, maybe your bucket list includes a trip to Mexico, running a half marathon, or attending a cooking class. The sky is the limit!

11 Find shared activities.

“Even though you’re far apart, it is important to do things together, in addition to just talking on the phone or using FaceTime,” Drzewiecki says, adding that long distance couples can synchronize activities like morning coffee, eating lunch, watching shows, or playing games together. “Shared activities will keep you engaged and interested in one another, and prevent the relationship from falling in a rut,” he says.

12 Maintain sexual intimacy.

Although it could be challenging to create a sex life without physical connection, it’s certainly not impossible, says Carolina Pataky, Ph.D., licensed marriage and family therapist, clinical sexologist and certified sex therapist. “It’s important to make the effort to be open and honest with one another about your needs, feelings and desires. Thanks to our technological advances you can maintain sexual connection,” she says, adding that long distance couples should give virtual sex a try. “Sex can be a way for you to bond with your partner and share pleasure and fun.”

13 Try a couple’s vibrator.

“Distance does not mean the intimacy is gone,” Jones says. You can take virtual sex up another level with a couple’s vibrator. “Fortunately, there are companies like We-Vibe that make amazing products that your partner can control from anywhere in the world,” he says, referring to the We-Vibe Sync. “This can really spice things up when you are away from your partner.”

14 Read a book about sex.

Long-distance couples can read a book about sex simultaneously, Sweyd suggests. “Sexual intimacy is crucial in relationships, and especially hard in long distance relationships,” she says. “During the time apart, reading a book about sexual intimacy in relationships can help to strengthen the sexual intimacy.” Most importantly, couples can discuss the book together. “Reading the book can help to spark the conversations that help a couple communicate about sex in a healthy and productive way,” she says.

15 Establish expectations.

With the element of distance, couples should discuss their expectations and desires for the relationship. “Manage unhealthy habits by communicating and taking responsibility for your fears, needs and hopes,” Pataky says. “Both of you need to be clear with what you expect of each other during this long-distance relationship.”

16 And be honest about your wants and needs.

Couples in a long-distance relationship must be honest about their desires and needs, says Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Take Root Therapy, a group psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles. “If you’re afraid to ask for something, let your partner know you’re a little nervous about bringing it up,” she recommends. “Hopefully you and your partner are able to hear each other without judgment, and come to a compromise.”

17 Don’t forget to openly discuss any concerns.

Manly says, in long-distance relationships, there can be a temptation to compartmentalize or avoid discussing bothersome issues. “Healthy long-distance relationships thrive when partners trust that they can safely discuss their worries and concerns,” she says. “Romance tends to grow stronger and couples feel more connected when they face the good and the not-so-good times as a team.”

18 And be sure to set rules and standards.

In addition to establishing expectations and boundaries, Pataky suggests setting some ground rules. “Talk about exclusivity, dating others, and so on so you can both be clear on where you each stand with one another,” she says. “Understand your commitment level and what that means to each of you. It’s better to be open with each other about all these things.”

19 Build trust.

“Trust is the basis for all good relationships,” Walfish explains. “Once trust is established and you feel safe, inhibitions decrease and free us to let loose, be ourselves, and be free within the context of coupling up.” Walfish says that long-distance couples can build trust can be built through consistent communication, specifically, over video chat. “The foundation of developing trust can begin long distance through Skype conversations,” she says.

20 Make plans to see each other.

“If possible, have regular in person visits,” Small suggests. “Getting to spend in person time together is important because it allows you both to integrate into one another life and get a sense of what life together would feel like.” In-person visits create opportunities for physical intimacy, which is an important aspect of relationships.

21 Plan a surprise trip.

Because you’ll be traveling to see each other anyway, why not switch things up and meet your partner in a really cool place? Plan a surprise trip, and your long-awaited reunion will be better than you could have ever expected.

22 Before you leave them, hide a gift in their home.

When you do get the chance to visit your partner, leave a little surprise for them to find after you’re gone. Purchase a small gift or write a thoughtful note and hide it somewhere in their home. They’ll be so happy to find it later on!

23 And swap belongings before you go.

When you’re really missing your partner, take one of their belongings home with you. It can be anything, but a fun hack is to put your partner’s T-shirt or sweatshirt around your pillow, and you can hug it and pretend it’s them at night. They’ll feel extra close.

24 Establish a timeline.

There’s a good chance that long-distance couples will eventually want to be closer together, so Pataky recommends establishing a timeline. “Humans crave touch and contact. Be honest with one another on what each of your timelines and expectations are moving forward,” she says. “Ask one another the tough questions and be willing to compromise and adjust without being afraid to ask for what you need.”

25 Remind your partner why you love them.

Although this may feel intuitive, Manly says long-distance couples should remember to tell their partner why they love them and are grateful for them. “Research shows that gratitude is an essential key for relationships—and it’s all the more important for long-distance romances that can have their share of challenges,” she says. “Take the time to let your partner know—at least a few times per week if not a few times per day—how truly grateful you are for the loving relationship.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Are We Really Going To Run Out Of Condoms?

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by Franki Cookney

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, one news story stood out. Amid the fear of the coronavirus and the uncertainty around how best to contain it, it seemed we were also on the brink of running out of condoms.

In March, the world’s biggest condom manufacturer warned of a global shortage after it was forced to close its factories in Malaysia for a week to comply with local lockdown restrictions.

Karex makes one in five condoms worldwide and has operations across the United States, United Kingdom, Malaysia and Thailand. In normal circumstances, it produces five billion condoms a year, and supplies governments, NGOs, brands and retailers in over 130 countries. The factory reopened at the beginning of April but has been operating with only half its staff.

“It will take time to jumpstart factories and we will struggle to keep up with demand at half capacity,” the chief executive, Goh Miah Kiat said at the time. “We are going to see a global shortage of condoms everywhere, which is going to be scary.”

Karex have not yet issued an update on their production levels. At the point the factories reopened they were experiencing a shortfall of 100 million condoms. But how much will this actually impact on our lives right now?

At first brands were expecting a rise in condom use, assuming that social distancing would lead to people staying in and having more sex. In March Trojan Condoms urged retailers not to deprioritize condoms by classifying them as ‘non-essential’.  “More time together spells more sex,” said Bruce Weiss, the vice president of marketing for Trojan Condoms. “Condoms are more important than ever before and should be considered essential products amid the COVID-19 outbreak.”

At the end of March, a YouGov survey of more than 24,000 US adults, one in eight said they’d been having sex with their partner more frequently. Around the same time, adult retailers noted a rise in sex toy sales, including those aimed at couples. But as time has gone on, it’s become clear that for many people quarantine has been a total libido-killer. Being stuck at home with your partner with nothing to do and nowhere to go is not a recipe for excitement, sexual or otherwise. Vogue reported in April that many people were experiencing an “erotic nosedive” as the effects of stress and overfamiliarity took their toll.

With casual sex and hookups also off the table, the demand for condoms has gone down. By the end of April major brands such as Durex were reporting a reduction in sales. Laxman Narasimhan, the chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, the company that owns Durex, told The Guardian that quarantine restrictions in the UK had led to reduced opportunities for sex as single people and people living in different households to their partners were no longer allowed to meet up. “What you see is this virus is having a toll on the number of intimate occasions in the UK,” he said. He noted that increased anxiety had also led to less sex between established couples. 

While it might be the case people are having less sex, the desire to avoid pregnancy has not decreased. In a survey in Italy published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology 81.9% of respondents said they did not intend to conceive during the pandemic. Of the participants who had been planning to have a child before the pandemic, 37.3% said they’d since ditched their plans. Condoms might be in demand after all.

It’s worth remembering, however, that not everybody who uses birth control uses condoms. In the U.S. just 15% of women who use contraception use condoms as their preferred method. A factsheet from the Guttmacher Institute indicates that 25% use the contraceptive pill, 12% use an IUD, and many rely on tubal sterilization (22%) or vasectomy (7%). In the UK 26% of 16–49-year-olds use hormonal contraception as their usual method, according to findings from the NATSAL-3. Furthermore, barrier methods such as condoms were found to be higher in short-term relationships among younger participants—precisely the demographic least likely to be having sex under current social distancing regulations.

A potentially greater concern—both at home and around the world—is the restricted access to sexual health services and family planning. Analysis from the Guttmacher Institute estimated that 49 million women globally would miss out on contraception as a result of the disruption to services caused by COVID-19.

Many sexual health providers in the U.S. and UK have reported a drop-off in the amount of patients they’ve seen, as people stay away from hospitals and clinics. In some cases, this can be viewed as a positive. STI transmission rates are at an all-time low in the UK, and the availability of home-testing means people can get diagnosed without leaving the house. But when it comes to long-acting reversible methods of birth control, the situation is more concerning.

A survey conducted in April by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) found that in-person services for patients have shrunk dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March. Fifty four percent of local clinics have closed altogether, and many of those that remain open are operating with less than half the staff. As a result, BASHH found that 86% of clinics could not offer contraceptive choices such as the coil or implant.

Whether people who cannot access long-acting reversible methods of contraception will turn instead to condoms is debatable, though. With visits to the pharmacy or supermarket far more stressful than usual, it would be easy to put off buying condoms. If the idea of doing without contraception altogether sounds strange, consider this: 60% of women aged between 15 and 44 in the U.S. have relied on withdrawal at some point in their lives. In a recent interview, Dr Anita Mitra, a British gynecologist and author of The Gynae Geek said she’d noticed a big decrease in use of both hormonal contraception and condoms. While official figures from the WHO say 8% of couples prefer to use withdrawal over any other method, she believes the real number to be much higher. “I see a huge number of young women who tell me that they use withdrawal at least occasionally, or as their sole method for preventing pregnancy,” she said.

A global pandemic might seem like a strange time to try the famously unreliable “pull-out” method but if there’s one thing that has characterised this period it’s our sudden and necessary familiarity with everyday risk-assessment. In these circumstances it’s possible a trip to the pharmacy or doctor’s office could seem like the greater risk to take.

Either way it seems safe to conclude that our demand for condoms has diminished in quarantine—at least in Europe and the U.S. But, as Chris Purdy, CEO of family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention charity DKT International, said in April, it isn’t just the manufacture of condoms that’s been affected by the pandemic. Everything from problems sourcing the requisite components to freight, shipping, quarantine requirements and increased oversight on imports has led to delays. In many countries this could lead to shortages even when product availability is high.

Ultimately, though, condoms are only part of this picture. Even if we don’t run out, the myriad knock-on effects the coronavirus pandemic has on sexual health and family planning services around the world will be felt for a long time.

Complete Article HERE!

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Masturbating techniques from a self-love sexpert

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(A timely message as National Masturbation Month come to an end)

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This May is #masturbationmonth – and these imaginative masturbating ideas will level up your self-loving techniques

There is no shame is self-pleasure. In fact, more and more women are recognising masturbating as a form of  sexual self-care (read: wellness). Because the fact is, when you reach climax, your body really does release chemicals which encourage mental wellbeing, something we need more than ever right now. This month is known as Masturbation May, a national celebration of self-love. With all of us having more time on our hands, we asked journalist and sex educator Alix Fox (her portfolio includes being a script consultant for hit Netflix series Sex Education and resident X-rated Agony Aunt for Channel 4’s The Sex Clinic) for her expert, imaginative ideas on how to level up your masturbating techniques, and lead your own personal re-vulva-lution this #MasturbationMay.

Right, it’s time to go and practice some sexual wellness during lockdown.

Massage your hands before your glands 

Giving yourself a hand massage – there are great tutorials on YouTube – is a fantastic way to wind down as part of a self-care routine…and helps distribute silky, softening, sensual oil over your mitts before you caress your bits. It’s especially enjoyable if you’ve been typing all day.  WooWoo Bliss Arousal Oil does excellent double duty, containing CBD and aloe vera, as well as geranium extracts for a heavenly scent.

Learn the subtle art of ‘self sensate focus’

Becoming more aware of tiny, everyday scrumptious sensations can help you ‘tune into’ your body, heightening your ability to feel thrills, and giving you clues as to new kinds of touches or erogenous zones that you could harness for sexual satisfaction. For instance, when you’re in the shower, move your attention slowly from your head to your toes, noticing how the water feels in each place. As you apply lotion, see how it feels to flutter your fingers on your thighs, or grip your own wrists.

When you notice something that feels luscious, like a beautiful smell, a cool breeze, or the sounds of nature, take an extra moment to savour it. It sounds deceptively simple, but the more you get used to honing in on small, delightful sensations, the easier it is to practise in an erotic context.

Get lippy 

Partnered sex often starts with kissing, yet in solo sex the lips are frequently neglected. Apply a little balm, and try stroking and pressing your lips with a fingertip as a form of “for-me foreplay” – some women find this really turns them on. Sucking and licking your fingers or toys during masturbation can be highly erotic too, and connects you with your own intimate scent and taste.

Enjoy a little pain (au chocolat) 

A degree of controlled, consensual pain is deliciously pleasurable for many people, as it triggers the body to release endorphins which can give a blissed-out, floaty feeling…but it doesn’t occur to a lot of us to experiment with BDSM without a partner. Explore how it feels to pinch your nipples or slap your bum cheeks with a paddle or crop as you masturbate.

Invest in some coloured wax play candles and drip hot drops artfully on your skin, painting patterns as you savour the sizzle, then taking artful x-rated self-portraits afterwards: I’m a big believer in the body-acceptance and esteem-raising power of taking sexy photos for no-one but yourself.

Combine ‘oh la la’ with ‘ha ha’ 

Good times come in many forms, and masturbation doesn’t always have to be slinky and sultry, or a hallowed spiritual experience. One of the loveliest things about solo sex is that it’s entirely on your terms. Try getting comfy in bed or on a ‘pleasure picnic’ blanket spread on the floor; have your favourite snacks, drinks and toys set out; and play a comedy series on your TV or laptop while you have a leisurely play with yourself.

The world’s largest global survey of masturbation habits, carried out by toy company Tenga, found that 90 per cent of Brits state that self-touch positively boosts their mood and sense of wellbeing; add the old adage that ‘laughter is the best medicine’, and lazy night of climaxing and cackling at Park & Rec could be just what the doctor ordered if you’re feeling low.

Add the latest power tools to your ‘downstairs DIY’ kit 

Innovative new sex toy designs mean there’s no need to ration yourself solely to vibration. The Zumio X looks like nothing you’ve seen before – kinda like a water flosser for vagina dentata – but instead of buzzing, its pinpoint tip moves in miniscule circles, delivering sensation that’s intense, precise, yet oh so quiet it should be sponsored by Bjork. Then there’s the Womanizer Premium – this time looking like an ear thermometer – which uses pulses of air to caress the clitoris and quickly coax out an orgasm like some kind of coochie conjuror (a vagician?!). The Smart Silence feature means it automatically turns off when you take it away from your body, so you’re not frantically jabbing at buttons trying to shut it down before throwing it out the window in a panic if you’re accidentally interrupted by kids or flatmates.

Use the fabric of your imagination

For a new take on breast stimulation, wear a top woven from a sensual material – think a loose silky-satin vest, or a super-soft fluffy jumper, without a bra – and use the fabric to tease yourself instead of touching your chest directly. Gradually, languidly draw the garment up and down the side curves of each breast; graze it over the nipples; and use it to cup and slide against the undersides scintillatingly slowly. Need to stay silent? Slip your knickers off and stuff them in your mouth as a gag, or hoist up the folds of your T-shirt or even a long skirt using your teeth, preferably in front of a mirror so you can see how hot you look. Filth.

Complete Article HERE!

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To end conversion therapy, we must understand what it actually means

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By Travis Salway

On Monday, Calgary City Council voted, nearly unanimously, to pass a municipal ban of advertising around conversion therapy, which the city defined as “practice, treatment, or service designed to change, repress, or discourage a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour.” In doing so, Calgary joined cities such as Vancouver, Edmonton and Fort McMurray, along with provinces including Ontario and, recently, Prince Edward Island, in passing legislation banning conversion therapies.

The discourse at the publicly-broadcast citizen debate before the council vote was polarizing, however, with hundreds of speakers passionately arguing on either side of the issue over two days. Those opposed to the ban argued that they do not want to see their fellow citizens subjected to torture – referencing electroshock and other physically severe forms of conversion therapy – but the proposed law unfairly criminalizes practitioners who are merely offering advice to people who are struggling with “unwanted” same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.

Opponents of the ban claimed that these well-meaning conversations should not be conflated with “true forms” of conversion therapy. They defended this argument by noting that practitioners targeted by the ban do not try to “convert” anyone but, rather, aim to help people live cisgender, heterosexual lives that are compatible with religious doctrine.

This debate had a cardinal flaw: It didn’t centre on a single definition. As with many contentious social issues, language and meanings matter. By clarifying the intent of conversion therapy practices – their defining feature – we will be better prepared to evaluate legislative action at multiple levels of government, as efforts to end this practice continue.

Conversion therapy is a misnomer: Survivors of conversion therapy are not “converted”, and it is not therapeutic. All forms of conversion therapy – whether practiced in a licensed health care clinic, spiritual support group, pastor’s office or other setting – share a common premise, as described by Canadian legal scholar Florence Ashley: They begin with an assumption that some gender identities, gender expressions and sexual orientations are more desirable than others. More specifically, these practices seek to deny and suppress the identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2) people.

The practices themselves rely upon a variety of methods, including coaching, counseling, therapy, prayer and conversation. Individuals who undergo it are often left with feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and hopelessness, losing years of their lives that would otherwise be spent achieving a positive sense of self.

From national surveys conducted last year, we know that tens of thousands of LGBTQ2 Canadians have experienced conversion therapy. With the support of conversion-therapy survivors, I and other public-health researchers have been interviewing these Canadians. They frequently describe exactly the kind of “talk therapy” that opponents of the ban seek to protect, where a provider attempts to compel an individual to manage and resist expressions of gender or sexuality that differ from mainstream expectations. And these forms of conversion therapy induce psychological distress just as other more obviously traumatic forms of conversion therapy do.

To effectively prevent conversion therapy, legislative bans must adjust their definitions to clearly state that the defining feature of conversion therapy is not an attempt to “convert” or “change” intrinsic feelings of gender identity or expression or sexual orientation. Rather, the defining feature is the goal of avoiding acceptance and acknowledgement of LGBTQ2 lives as compatible with being healthy and happy. This healthy sense of self is something that all Canadians deserve, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. That sense of self is what is fundamentally at stake in the debates over conversion therapy.

We must also acknowledge that no ban can eradicate all forms of conversion therapy. We need bans at all levels of government – municipal, provincial and federal – and for these legislative bans to share language, so they are all effectively complementary. And bans must be coupled with broader educational efforts.

In Canada, we must promote the affirmation of LGBTQ2 people, particularly to parents and caregivers who may otherwise consider conversion therapy for their children when they are struggling. Continuing legislative debates offer an opportunity for us as Canadians to clarify our position that LGBTQ2 people should be celebrated. Canadians who share these views should make their majority view known – particularly as our politicians continue to consider opportunities to safeguard the well-being of LGBTQ2 citizens.

Calgary’s new bylaw is just one example of an upsurge of proposed and enacted Canadian legislation to prevent conversion therapy. Bill C-8, an amendment to the federal Criminal Code, was tabled by federal government on March 9. While our country has gradually affirmed LGBTQ2 lives through legal and social changes in recent decades – including the addition of sexual orientation in 1995 and gender identity and expression in 2017, as statuses protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – the public debate in Calgary served as a stark reminder: Stigma, fear and hatred of LGBTQ2 people are alive and well. The only way to resist these social biases is by speaking the same language.

Complete Article HERE!

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Should You Have Sex With an Ex?

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Here’s What Happened When Real Women Did It

Sometimes, it’s okay to sleep with your ex—as long as you know what you’re getting into.

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Having sex with an ex can seem like a huge decision or just another weekend, depending on your situation. While well-meaning friends might urge you to never sleep with an ex, one 2018 study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests that it doesn’t actually hinder your ability to move on (though very little research has been done on the topic otherwise).

Regardless of how it might go, you’re not alone if you’re considering a tempting offer right now. Out of 1,000 adults, 44% admitted they’d slept with an ex, per a 2015 survey by the sex toy company Adam & Eve.

“In an honest scenario with clear boundaries and communication, sex with an ex can be safe, satisfying, and may provide some closure,” says Marcela Coto, a sexuality coach and founder of Los Angeles Sex Therapy Centers. That said, there are still risks to consider before you go for it. Even if you both have the best intentions, having sex could open up old wounds or surprise you when you feel more attached to them than you thought you would, especially if you cuddle up together afterward (you can blame the hormone oxytocin for that).

So, should you take the plunge? Read on for five common reasons people go back to their ex and what could happen after a hookup, with insight from relationship psychologists and real women who did it.

1. The sex was awesome.

“If you’re missing the best sex you ever had, that can be difficult to give up, and you don’t need to have common interests or goals in life for a hookup to be pleasurable,” says Teresa Johnson, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist based in Portsmouth, NH.

Before you dive in, though, ask yourself: Would you and your ex be satisfied with no-strings-attached-sex at this point, or would one of you have to compromise too much to give the other person what they want? Are the reasons for your breakup going to bubble up again, or are you down to get together as consenting adults without digging up old conflicts?

The bad side of great sex with an ex is that it may be easier to get sucked back into a relationship that isn’t healthy, won’t work, or both, says Rachel Needle, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in West Palm Beach, FL and co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, a continuing education company that trains sex therapists around the world. In this case, remember: You will find great sex again—and in the meantime, there are always sex toys.

“My ex and I always had amazing chemistry, even after we were divorced. When we started having sex again, I thought maybe this meant we would get back together. I even told him that I was falling in love with him all over again. For a while, he did all of the ‘good things’ he did when we were married. Eventually, though, he went back to his old ways, and I realized there was no going back. Recently, I finally started saying ‘no’ to sex with him.” —Cornelia G., 57

2. You’re drunk and looking for a hookup.

That’s a no-no, relationship experts agree. “Adding drugs or alcohol into the mix will likely only make things messier. It may impair your judgment or make a much-needed quick exit that much harder,” says Coto.

If you tend to reach out to your ex when you’ve had a little too much to drink, check in with a trusted friend. They can remind you to keep your distance until you’re clear-headed again or help you come up with a smart exit strategy if you go for it and then decide you want out, advises Johnson.

“My high school boyfriend and I dated for a year and a half. After we broke up, we ended up going to the same college and becoming friends. I got drunk one night and hooked up with him. It was awful! I woke up to him gone and never saw him again. My takeaway: Don’t drink or sleep with an ex.” —Lindsay M., 25

3. Your ex is familiar, and you’re in need of some comfort.

In uncertain times, it makes sense that you might reach out to an ex if you’re feeling lonely, says Johnson. If you’re still emotionally attached to them and tired of the whole process of looking for someone new, your ex could serve as a welcome dose of familiarity and a break from dating app frustrations.

Keep in mind, though, if sex with your ex means more than “just sex with an ex” on an emotional level, you may be setting yourself up to feel worse when it’s over, warns Jared Grant, Psy.D., an L.A.-based licensed psychologist. Think of your ex like an old smoking habit: You quit, have one cigarette in a weak moment, and then have to quit all over again—and it may be even harder now, he says.

“My high school boyfriend and first love called me up one night to tell me he and his wife had split up and hed been thinking about me. I’d just ended a long-term relationship, and I was tired of bad first and second dates. My ex and I first learned to have sex with each other so we knew everything we liked and didn’t. It was easy to jump straight back into that. Over the next month or so, we hooked up a few times. I knew it wouldn’t last, but I wanted it to. Then one night, he never showed and I never heard from him again. When it was over again, I felt weirdly glad to have had those moments again, but equally sad to have lost him all over again, too.”
—Katie B., age 30

4. You want to feel in control.

If you find yourself trying to reel your ex back in to prove you’re “still what they want” or to “show them what they’re missing,” you might want to stop right now. “I would not recommend sleeping with an ex to feel desirable or regain control because doing so is allowing the situation and your ex to define your self-worth,” says Coto.

When you’ve been in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of going back to your ex, especially if your sense of self-worth has been broken down by them, says Grant. However, you’re better off talking it out with a nonjudgmental mental health professional rather than putting yourself back in a potentially harmful situation, he says.

When I slept with my ex-husband, I did it because I wanted to feel in control and show him what he was missing. I knew he missed me and I missed him, but I also knew that his behavior was unacceptable. During our marriage, we’d had physical fights and he’d seriously hurt me. The last time we had sex, when I left his house, I felt empty and disappointed in myself. Was I so desperate for love that I’d keep going back to him? No. I had to recognize my self-worth, respect myself, and work on healing. I cut off contact from then on.” —Delores J., 49

5. You miss your ex.

Hung up on a former lover? Having sex again after you’ve taken off your rose-colored glasses could confirm that breaking up was the right decision and give you a helpful sense of closure, says Grant. On the other hand, in some cases, sex could bring you back together.

Either way, to avoid heartbreak, have a genuine conversation with your ex about what you both want from the experience and make sure you’re going in with the same expectations. If there’s even a little piece of you that’s hoping something will be reignited (and your ex may not feel the same way), then you probably shouldn’t have sex. Instead, remind yourself of why you broke up in the first place, advises Needle.

“I’d been seeing a guy named Phil for a few months when he told me he didn’t want to be in a relationship. Disappointed and looking for a distraction, I reconnected with an old crush named Jacob. It felt good to be wanted by someone else, but I couldn’t stop thinking about a text Phil had sent me: ‘I know we haven’t seen each other in a while, but if you’re still open to it, there is a rooftop and a bottle of wine with your name on it. I’d really like a chance to talk.’ With Jacob drifting to sleep beside me, I replied, ‘I miss you.’ I knew opening up to an ex went against all the advice I’d ever heard, but I trusted what I felt. The next week, I met Phil for a long conversation that started with, ‘I’m sorry.’ Phil and I have been deeply intertwined and happy ever since. Honestly, I can’t imagine what my life would look like had I followed any other voice than my own. We have been together for nearly four years and were engaged last summer.”
—Kristin S., 29

“After I got out of a toxic relationship, I ended up sleeping with my first love again. I thought that maybe we’d been together at the wrong time. Reconnecting with him was revitalizing and freeing. I also realized I wasn’t in love with him like I thought I was going to be. We just felt like humans connecting. Ultimately, the experience helped me realize that chapter of my life was over. I still liked my ex, but not romantically. Ever since, we’ve been great friends.”
—Gabby M., 30

Bottom line: No matter the scenario, it helps to know what you want before you decide to sleep with an ex.

If necessary, communicate these feelings clearly with your potential sex partner. There’s nothing wrong with having sex with an ex to satisfy your sexual needs, emotional needs, or both, but you don’t want to go into the situation blindly and end up confused or hurt, says Grant. And, if you do hook up, make sure to practice safe sex since you’re both open to other partners now, says Coto.

Complete Article HERE!

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A very, very beginner’s guide to understanding BDSM

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By Mary Grace Garis

Even as BDSM comes to popular light via media portrayals and increased openness about intimate habits and preferences, much about the sexual practice remains misunderstood and incorrectly presumed to be negative and abusive—especially in those media portrayals. This is perhaps most recently depicted in that degrading scene in Hulu’s Normal People, when protagonist Marianne asks her sexual partner—who had bound her wrists and was taking naked photos of her—to stop, and he refuses, reminding her “you asked for this.”

Despite vignettes like those that mischaracterize the intended nature of the sexual act practiced by a dedicated community, fact remains that BDSM can absolutely be a satisfying, safe, consensual, and healthy component of a fulfilling sex life. But if you’re curious about learning more about what it actually entail and perhaps experimenting with it yourself, knowing where to start can be daunting. To break down BDSM for beginners, Jess O’Reilly, PhD, sexologist and host of the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, says the basic definitions are most important to learn first. And we’re talking absolute basics, beginning with what it actually means.

“While BDSM encompasses a wide range of sexual activities, practitioners tend to play complementary roles that involve some degree of power differentials,” says Dr. O’Reilly, referencing roles of “dominant” and “submissive.” “Activities are underscored by the consent of all parties involved, and BDSM can be a part of healthy, normal, and safe sex play.”

To help you learn the ropes of the sexual practice before you break out the literal ropes, Dr. O’Reilly shares her four components of the BDSM for beginners below. Whether you’re curious to give it a try yourself or simply want to know more, you’re going to want to take notes.

BDSM for beginners: 4 basics ground rules everyone should know.

1. Know what BDSM stands for

BDSM describes sexual play that involves some exchange of power or pain, with different people involved subscribing to different roles and dynamics within the scope of the session. Broken into its singular letters, BDSM stands for individualized terms: “bondage,” “dominance” or “discipline,” “sadism” or “submission,” and “masochism.” Sometimes the terms are grouped together in pairs, with BD referring to bondage and discipline, DS standing for dominance and submission, and SM referring to sadomasochism.

2. Know the meaning of R.A.C.K.

R.A.C.K. stands for risk-aware, consensual kink. This basic phrase outlines two of the essential components of kink while still recognizing that there is some risk inherent to all sex play. For instance, if you’re interested in trying wax play with your partner, you don’t want to just take a jar candle named Lilac Breeze, light it, and go to town. Rather, you want to get consent for the activity, outlining together how to execute it as safely as possible, and noting the risks involved that you are both fully aware of. Because even unintentionally giving your partner a third-degree burn or ripping off chunks of their body hair will almost certainly take you both out of the experience.

“For kinky sex to be considered risk-aware, all parties involved must understand and acknowledge the potential negative outcomes of the proposed activity.” —sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD

“For kinky sex to be considered risk-aware, all parties involved must understand and acknowledge the potential negative outcomes of the proposed activity,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “These risks should be discussed ahead of time—not in the heat of the moment when sexual tension is already building. It is important to address the measures you plan to take to minimize risk when your mind is clear and your judgment isn’t clouded by desire or other distractions.”

3. Consent in BDSM is paramount

Before engaging in sexual activity of any kind, you always, always need consent. “To be considered consensualall parties involved must be capable of expressing their explicit and informed consent,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “The absence of protestation does not amount to consent, and the clearest way to secure consent is to ask. Similarly, the most straightforward way to provide consent is to offer an enthusiastic and genuine ‘Yes!’”

Dr. O’Reilly adds that an important component of BDSM beginners should know is that consent is the cornerstone of all kinky activities, and it needs to be granted before and throughout every individual session. “Do not assume that because a lover wanted to be tied up and rough-handled last Saturday night, that they also want to be bound and spanked next Thursday morning,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “You always have the right to withdraw your consent at any time without explanation, regardless of what you may have agreed upon in the past.” This is precisely what Normal People got wrong about BDSM in the case of Marianne’s incorrectly assumed consent.

4. It’s important to check in on safety

Even if elements of distress are an intentional component of a consensual BDSM scenario, you absolutely want to check the emotional and physical safety of your partner(s) and yourself throughout the experience, continually confirming comfort on both fronts. An “are you okay?” can suffice, but you can also establish a safety word or non-verbal cue to communicate your status.

“For instance, two light taps can reassure your lover that you’re feeling good,” Dr. O’Reilly. “You’ll also want to check in to establish that your partner’s physical safety is secured. If you’ve tied them up, you should check the skin under the bondage equipment to ensure that their circulation isn’t obstructed. If you’ve been spanking them, you’ll want to check in and make sure that the pressure isn’t too much for them to handle.”

And, remember, no matter whether you intend to put these basic foundational guidelines about BDSM for beginners into any kind of action or not, simply knowing about them is key for destigmatizing the sexual practice for those who do. And that alone is helpful in perpetuating a more inclusive understanding about pleasure and how we each experience it.

Complete Article HERE!

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Our romantic relationships are actually doing well during the pandemic

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By Lisa Bonos

Can’t stop fighting with your partner about whose turn it is to do the dishes? Looking at China’s uptick in divorces that followed their coronavirus-related lockdown and wondering if a similar trend in the United States might follow?

Well, here’s encouraging news for America’s sweethearts. A recent Monmouth University poll found that most people in relationships are satisfied with them, despite the expected stresses that might come from, say, working from home together, losing a job, managing kids at home or preventing your family from getting the virus.

“Relationships aren’t perfect — there are always some underlying issues,” said Gary Lewandowski, a psychology professor at Monmouth University who helped craft the survey questions. “But on average, the relationships we’re in are pretty good.”Here are five takeaways from the survey, which was conducted April 30 to May 4, among a sample of 556 American adults in relationships.

1. About three-quarters of Americans with a romantic partner say their relationship has not fundamentally changed since the coronavirus outbreak.

When asked if their relationship had gotten better or worse since the pandemic began, 74 percent said it was about the same. Ten percent said it was a lot better and 7 percent said it was a little better. Only 4 percent said a little worse and 1 percent said a lot worse.

Weathering a pandemic adds stress, but Lewandwoski noted that when we’re stressed, “we turn to our partners,” who are generally ready, willing and able to be our support during difficult times. “A lot of people want more closeness in their relationship,” Lewandwoski added, highlighting a finding in earlier research. “Those people are getting what they wished for.”

2. Argument frequency and sex lives have changed for the better, but only slightly.

Less than 2 in 10 of those in relationships said they get into fewer arguments with their partner, while 1 in 10 said they get into more of them — and 7 in 10 said there has been no difference. And despite chatter that isolation leads to more opportunities for intimacy, only 9 percent said their sex life has improved. Still, even fewer — 5 percent — said it’s gotten worse, with 77 percent saying it is about the same.

3. About half expect their relationship will emerge stronger — and hardly any think it’ll be worse.

When looking toward the future, partnered Americans were even more enthusiastic about the strength of their relationships. A 51 percent majority said their relationships will get stronger by the time the outbreak is over and just 1 percent said their relationship will be worse. Another 46 percent said their relationship will not have changed at all.

Lewandowski noted it’s possible poll respondents were being hopelessly optimistic, but he emphasized that if a relationship has at least one partner who’s an optimist, the couple generally has higher relationship satisfaction. “Optimists handle life’s rough patches better, which is certainly helpful given the current situation,” Lewandowski said in a release announcing the poll results.

4. Married partners are more likely than unmarried ones to say their relationship has not changed.

About three-quarters of married couples said their relationship has not changed for better or worse since the coronavirus outbreak began, while just under two-thirds of unmarried couples said the same.

Among unmarried partners, 22 percent said their relationship has helped decrease their daily stress level, compared with 12 percent of married couples. Similar shares of each said they have increased levels of stress.

Lewandowski posited that the pandemic hasn’t changed married couples’ relationships drastically because they’re likely to have dealt with trying times — such as a job loss, severe illness or death of a loved one — before this moment. “They’ve traveled a lot of these paths before,” Lewandwoski said, “and have endured other stressors in their lives or relationships and have more refined strategies with how to cope with problems and stress.”

Younger people in relationships, those 18 to 34 years old, were more likely than older people to say the pandemic has affected their relationship. (Couples in that age group are more likely to be unmarried than those who are older.)

5. Most say their relationship isn’t adding to pandemic stress — but women are a little more affected than men.

A 59 percent majority said their relationship has had no impact on their daily stress level. But 29 percent of women said their relationship has added to their daily stress, while 23 percent of men said the same. The key factor for doing well during the pandemic, Lewandwoski said, is the strength of the relationship before the pandemic. “The couples who are already doing well are doing even better now,” he said.

“Overall, these results suggest that the global pandemic may not be as bad for relationships as many have feared,” Lewandowski said in the poll’s release. “Our relationships may become stronger and even more important than they already were.”

Complete Article HERE!

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There Is No Bigger Turn-On

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Than Watching My Partner Sleep With Another Man

The taboo of bearing the humiliation that comes with being a “cuck” can actually be very pleasurable.

Confessions is a series of essays on personal experiences, many of which have been kept secret for a long time. By sharing these previously confidential accounts, we explore our own mental health without judgment and in the hope that it makes it a little lighter of a burden for us to carry. It’s also a reminder that no matter how odd or unique these experiences can be, there’s always someone who can relate – and none of us are alone.

by Anonymous

I don’t know how and when I developed a cuckold fetish. It’s one of those taboo fetishes that people don’t talk about. In this situation, a man takes pleasure in watching his partner having sex with someone else, where he is only allowed to watch unless asked/commanded to participate by his “superiors”.

Maybe it was in late 2018, when my first threesome with this guy I had just started dating turned into a weird power struggle, when the guy I was “sharing” him with pulled him away from me to devour him all by himself, and for the first time in the longest time, I felt my boner die. It was as if I lost some battle with my sexuality that day. It took a while to get back to feeling normal again and once the guy left, I could proceed with my main squeeze at full mast. That feeling haunted me for a while, but I found myself yearning for that feeling again.

Maybe it was in early 2019, when the guy spoken of above turned into my full-fledged partner and we were experimenting with monogamy. We lay in bed and I wondered if now was the right time to talk to him about not being stuck in a monogamous setting. I also wondered how a third guy with us in bed finishing up the job for me would look like. I asked him if he was willing to open up the relationship. It wasn’t unheard of in the community and if RuPaul could be in one, then why not lowly mortals like us? It took him a while before he could come around to understanding it. Sexual and spiritual entanglements are entirely different. Or perhaps it was a good way to convince ourselves that this was going to be a new normal in a world where ten apps are filled with a hundred guys that are willing to come over if you have “place”.

Maybe it was later in 2019, when after experimenting and finding comfort in our new arrangement, we decided that it was the right time to welcome a guy into our abode for a three-way that could possibly be my redemption from the last time. We picked someone we both knew and had met before on separate occasions. So there was no awkwardness for any parties involved. And without any foreboding, we jumped right into it. It became a beautiful synchronous melody, where nobody felt left out and everyone desired the other. It feels weird writing these things down because I know how the Indian society perceives it, but that’s the reality of it. Sometimes it feels amazing to share your love with someone outside your relationship. The outpour of sensuous energy that afternoon in our apartment was unparalleled.

Maybe it was in early 2020, right before the lockdown put a temporary ban on all sexual fetishes, where we had a newfound respect for each other in our relationship and our wonderful third wheel (or a ‘bull’ as one may call them) was around whenever we beckoned him. By now, we had found a certain ease with our bodies and we didn’t shy away from telling each other about our other sexcapades. But the ones with our bull were the best because they seemed so non-fussy. During one of these encounters, I found myself trying to not be the alpha for a change, and let him have the proverbial reigns if you may. I just took a step back and watched what was unfolding in front of me.

A major part of being the cuck is also being teased. And my partner and the bull jumped right into their roles—tempting me, mocking me, arousing me with every taunt. But I could do nothing. I was just to bear the humiliation that came with being a cuck, and I felt most of my sexual insecurities waft away. If being inadequate is sexy for a change, then so be it. For once, it wasn’t just another ordinary threesome. It was operatic. Hey, Shakespeare did enjoy using the word ‘cuckold’ a lot. In our own script, there was no jealousy, there was no malice—there was just acceptance in all our parts of the roles we had chosen.

Just like God when he created the universe, we knew we were pleased.

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From Top to Bottom: Heteronormativity & Queer Relationships

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By Raymond Matthews

Back in my day as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman, one fateful night the Universe (and a generous helping of Kirkland Vodka) guided my friends and I to a party on DP which we were assured would “pop off” any minute. We awkwardly stood in a circle, red Solo cups in hand, swaying to “Sicko Mode,” when we noticed a stray bro wandering toward us.

To set the stage, he was five Natty Lites in, and he’d adopted a Scottish accent while wearing a Texas University shirt and American flag shorts (a multicultural icon). After staring at me for a solid minute, off-brand Shrek asked me a question: “Are ye gay mate??”

I laughed it off and said yes, thinking that was that, but no, discount Braveheart wanted me to give him a deep dive into the gay lifestyle, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since my high school musical theater days.

“Are you a top or a bottom? Like, if you’re with another dude are you more like the girl or the guy?” he asked.

This may sound outlandish and I’ll admit I haven’t run into any drunk wannabe Scotsmen before or since, but the “top or bottom/girl or guy” question is one queer people hear quite often. Most queer people (myself included) find this question insulting because when straight people ask it, they’re asking you to validate yourself by mimicking straight romance and sexuality.

I’ll admit that for some, it can be comforting and familiar to understand yourself in terms of an unambiguous masculine/feminine framework, but the beauty of queerness is in its ambiguity. It offers the freedom to explore gender and sexuality without imitating straightness, because by definition queerness is a rejection of straight traditions.

This is to say that queerness is not an oddball parody of heterosexuality, but its own set of gender and sexual identities, making it impossible to “straighten out” in order to emulate heterosexuality.

It’s worth noting that this mindset is not exclusive to straight people; many queer people impose these dynamics on themselves because of pressure to perform gender, sexuality, and romance in palatable, familiar ways.

Many modern depictions of sex and romance are told from straight perspectives, which can cause queer people to internalize implicit messages that the only romantic and sexual experiences worth having must include a sharp masculine and feminine contrast. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying masculine and feminine dynamics in your relationships, it’s important to remember that there are other — equally fulfilling — ways to enjoy sex and romance.

Feminine people often have feminine partners, masculine people have masculine partners, genderfluid people have genderfluid partners, and so on and so forth. These relationships are just as fulfilling as the more traditional masculine/feminine paradigm, and allowing yourself to choose which dynamic works for you rather than blindly following “normal” gender dynamics will likely make your relationships more authentic and enjoyable.

On the surface, most queer people hate the “top or bottom” question because it’s rude and creepy for someone to ask intimate questions about your sexual preferences out of the blue.

But on a deeper level, this question is insulting because using someone’s gender expression to determine their sexual role (or vice versa) is laughable. There are feminine tops, masculine bottoms, and everything in between. This can even go beyond queer relationships, as it would be laughable to assume that all straight couples act the exact same way in bed together based solely on their gender.

The main issue with all this is that romance and sexuality — whether queer or straight — is not a black-and-white Etch A Sketch. It’s a messy, multi-colored Picasso painting; you can try to make logical sense of it but it’s best to appreciate it for its disjointed, avant-garde beauty.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s How You Can Talk To Your Partner About Your Fetish

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by Neeta Karnik

“Tie me up and tell me your dreams.”

We wish it were that easy to tell our partners about our fetishes. But sometimes, the confidence takes a back seat, and we end up breaking in sweats, dismissing the idea of opening up to our partner. Don’t worry; if you have experienced such a moment, it is completely understandable. This is something that does require courage as you are opening up about something that you are vulnerable about. So to help you, here are a few ways that you can talk to your partner about your fetishes.

1. Communicate Your Trust

It is best to tell your partner that you find this topic sensitive, and it has taken a lot of courage to be open about it. You can also tell your partner that you trust them, but there is a small part of you that fears that you will be judged. This way, you are letting them know about your insecurities of being perceived differently, and you are hoping that they will be more mindful of their words.

2. Start Small

While you may have the kinkiest fantasies, you may also want to go slow when it comes to revealing them and see how your partner is accepting the news. Moreover, try not to joke about it to make the situation light. There was a time when I was so nervous about telling my partner about my sex-adventures that I added, “Just kidding!” at the end. This further confused my partner. So it is best to leave the jokes aside and talk about it in a simple manner by revealing your least kinky fantasies first and then breaking the big ones once your partner is in the zone for it.

3. Try Mutual Disclosure

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed, try asking your partner to talk about his/her fantasies so that you can feel comfortable disclosing yours. This way, you will feel more confident in revealing your fetish to your partner. If you want, you both can try writing it down, and then exchanging notes.

Just like all of us experience emotions in our unique way; similarly, our sexual experiences are also unique to us and having a fetish is completely normal. Don’t worry; your partner will be understanding of your desires in bed. Besides, it never hurt anyone to be creative in the bedroom, with consent!

Complete Article HERE!

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17 Totally Normal Things to Experience in Your Relationship Right Now

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The good, the bad, and the irritating.

By

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that the coronavirus crisis is rife with stressors and challenges that would shake up even the healthiest of relationships. Maybe the pandemic is acting as a pressure cooker for relationship problems you already had or maybe it’s serving as a playing field for new, unexpected discoveries. Hell, maybe the pandemic has even been good for your relationship and it’s kind of throwing you for a loop. Whatever it is, you might be wondering if your experience is normal. And while “normal” is pretty dang subjective, there’s a good chance you’re not the only one navigating new feelings about a relationship, positive or negative.

To help normalize the various ways the pandemic might be impacting your romantic relationships right now, I asked both therapists and everyday people to share what’s coming up in their sessions and their personal relationships too. If you can relate, you’re definitely not alone. (Some responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

1. You’re struggling more intensely with relationship problems.

You probably didn’t expect your problems to magically disappear because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult to continue to struggle with them now. “When we go through a major crisis, it tends to highlight the things that couples have already been struggling with,” sex and relationships therapist Emily Jamea, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., L.P.C., tells SELF. “So couples who were already having some issues might see these things come to a head, whether it was a big issue like trying to recover from infidelity [or] smaller issues like arguing about finances or childcare.”

2. You’re anxious about fast-tracking your relationship.

When social distancing measures became stricter, many couples who didn’t live together were faced with the decision: Stay apart for an undefined amount of time or buckle down together. For those who chose to shack up, it’s natural to feel a lot of uncertainty, regardless of how things are going.

“My partner moved in with me at the end of March and it’s been going well,” Leigh M., 27, tells SELF. “But without the pandemic, I think we wouldn’t have moved in together for at least another year. It’s weird to think about and I’m worried that not being able to take this step intentionally instead of out of necessity will catch up with me.”

Speaking of moving in together, if you took the plunge because of the pandemic and are grappling with the decision, don’t be too hard on yourself. Relationship therapist Kiaundra Jackson, L.M.F.T., tells SELF that she’s seeing a few couples who are struggling with the pandemic move-in. “They came to me and they were embarrassed because things were rocky and they needed help already, but it’s okay,” she says. “This is an unprecedented time and it calls for different measures.”

3. You’re fighting more than ever.

There’s no understating how difficult things are right now, so plenty of couples who rarely fought before—or at least who considered themselves good at fighting constructively—are dealing with an expected surge of quarreling. “We slept in separate rooms for the first time in 10 years of marriage,” J.R., 39, tells SELF. “We both fought, both cried, and I was already panicking about divorce in the middle of a pandemic.”

Jamea notes that “divorce” is getting tossed around a lot in sessions with her clients too, but she cautions against making any major decisions amid the crisis, especially if this is the first time it’s coming up. “We don’t tend to think very clearly when our nervous systems are in overdrive and our anxiety is through the roof,” she says.

4. You’re handling being apart just fine (and you’re maybe kind of worried about it).

If you weren’t already living together and decided not to cohabitate through the pandemic, struggles around a newly “long-distance” relationship might seem pretty straightforward. You expect to miss each other, to fumble through virtual dates, and to work on stepping up your communication game. But those aren’t the only feelings coming up right now.

“It’s going on two months and I really have no idea where my relationship stands,” Rachel S., 31, tells SELF, adding that her friends in the same situation are really vocal about missing their partners while she’s more “eh.” “I like to think that this is a sign of a healthy relationship and secure attachment styles and what have you, but I also feel like maybe I should be missing him more,” she says. “I guess we’ll see.”

5. You’re feeling more appreciative of your partner than ever.

This list isn’t all doom and gloom, I promise. A pleasant side effect of the pandemic might just be that your appreciation for each other—and the work you put into your home, family, relationship, or career—has gone through the roof.

“Couples are taking a step back and looking at this, saying, ‘Wow, I never realized how much my partner was doing at home’ or ‘I can’t believe my partner is handling this with so much grace and flexibility’ or ‘My partner is so strong for showing up as an essential worker,’” says Jamea. And if you haven’t started noticing these things and taking the time to express appreciation, now is an excellent time to start.

6. You’re craving alone time.

I don’t know who needs to hear this but: No matter how much you love someone and enjoy spending time with them, OF COURSE YOU NEED ALONE TIME. Like a lot of experiences on this list, it’s not so much the feeling that’s notable as it is the inexplicable guilt that comes with the feeling.

So if you’re questioning whether it says something about you or your relationship that you’re not thrilled to suddenly be spending 24/7 together—especially with the stressors and pressures of a global pandemic—don’t worry. Space from a partner is healthy, says Jamea, and it makes sense you’d be feeling restless or irritable without that.

7. You’re thinking about your ex.

Nope, this isn’t a pandemic phenomenon limited to the singles out there. “I had a dark night where my husband had been getting on my nerves all week and all I could think was how my ex would be acting differently,” Lauren T., 29, tells SELF. “Which wasn’t true at all. Once I was done being emotional, I knew I was romanticizing him. That relationship sucked, but in the moment it was like, ‘My ex never chewed with his mouth open’ or ‘My ex wouldn’t make me put the kids to bed every night.’”

You might not even be comparing your ex to your current partner. “My boyfriend is a doctor so I spend a lot of time on my own and for some reason, I’ve been stalking my ex on Instagram out of boredom,” Hannah L., 35, tells SELF. “It’s not like I miss him. Quarantine makes us do wacky things, I guess.”

8. You’re feeling grateful—and guilty—to even have a relationship.

In a time when there’s a lot of suffering going on, it’s natural to think about the privileges we have—whether that’s still having a job, good health, or yep, a relationship to help get you through this. “I think a lot of people are aware of the fact that there’s a huge percentage of people who are truly alone during quarantine,” says Jamea. “So they’re feeling very lucky and don’t want to rub it in their single friends’ faces.”

9. Or you’re annoyed at the assumptions people make about how “lucky” you are to be in a relationship.

Of course, there’s a flip side to this. “People can easily perceive, ‘Oh, that person is so lucky,’” says Jamea. “They think, ‘They’ve got a partner to keep them company, they don’t have to deal with loneliness, they can entertain each other,’ without really realizing that a relationship brings its own set of issues and dilemmas.”

If you’re dealing with any of the negative emotions on this list, it can obviously be frustrating to have people diminish your experience and assume you’ve got it easy compared to them. “I feel for my single friends, but they don’t get it,” says Lauren. “I don’t want to whine about my struggles because I know they think being married right now automatically makes things better. But I’m jealous of my friends who live alone for this. The grass is always greener.”

10. You’re mourning the temporary nature of the situation.

As a reminder, feeling grateful for the positive aspects of our new normal doesn’t mean you’re grateful the pandemic happened in the first place, so there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the extra time you have to spend with your partner.

“A lot of couples who live their lives like two ships passing in the night and are so busy between their jobs or their commute or their kids haven’t gotten this kind of quality time together for a long time,” says Jamea. “I’ve heard from a lot of people that a weird part of them doesn’t want this to end and they’re already feeling sad that this isn’t permanent.”

11. You’re slacking on the couple stuff, tbh.

It might be easy to beat yourself up if you’re not “taking advantage” of sheltering in place to cook together more, have cute date nights, catch up on your sex life, or whatever you once told yourselves you’d do together when you had “more time.” But these are not exactly easy times to be on top of your couple game, whether you live apart or are isolated together but too busy dealing with the stresses of the pandemic.

“We are having a harder time being intentional with each other because there is no separation of when we are spending time together or when we are in the same room with each other,” Sam S., 26, tells SELF. “I feel like we don’t have a chance to miss each other. We used to go on hikes on Sundays and so now, it feels harder to find our replacement quarantine activity.”

12. You’re pausing future planning.

With so much uncertainty, most of us are living in a suspended present, making it feel impossible to figure out what next week will look like, let alone next year. “We have been talking about engagement and marriage and that conversation feels like it’s on hold since we don’t know when we will be able to plan a wedding,” says Sam.

13. You’re exasperated by the differences in how you and your partner are handling the pandemic.

Maybe your partner has started wanting to loosen up on social distancing now that the weather is getting better or maybe you wish they’d just stop scrolling through the news in bed. Whatever it is, you wouldn’t be the only one questioning a loved one’s judgment because of their pandemic choices.

“Some people feel their partner is putting them at risk, others think their partner is being too uptight and preventing them from enjoying life,” says Jamea. “These tensions are putting huge tolls on relationships because people feel like they’re seeing a new side of their partner.”

14. You’re dealing with various partnerships getting thrown out of whack.

On top of the other stuff on this list, non-monogamous or polyamorous couples face plenty of unique pandemic challenges, too. It’s important to recognize that it’s okay to be struggling with boundaries, communication, jealousy, or other challenges that can be particularly likely in non-monogamous relationships.

“I’m quarantined with my primary partner in a studio apartment, so maintaining my relationship with my girlfriend who lives elsewhere has been awkward,” Wendy X., 26, tells SELF. “Normally we’d go out together or meet at her place, and I don’t want to make my partner sit through my FaceTime dates. So for now, we mostly text and talk on G-Chat, and video call when my partner is in the shower or at the store.”

15. You’re pretty sure you’re going to break up when this is over, but you’re sticking it out.

Whether your relationship was already doomed before the pandemic or the pandemic is showing you things about your partner and relationship that you can’t unsee, now is a sucky time to go through a breakup. So some people are just…postponing it until later because they’d rather not deal with it now.

“What I’m seeing is that people are trying to coexist and cohabitate the best they can,” says Jackson. “They might know that more than likely, they’re not going to be with this person long term, but breaking up would cause even more stress right now, so they’re waiting it out.”

16. Or you’re closer than ever.

“A particular unexpected side effect has been the way I have uncorked my personality,” Alyssa D., 31, tells SELF. “I was sure there was nothing left to hide, but it turns out that my alone time is usually when I get out most of my Silly Alyssa energy.” Now that Alyssa doesn’t really have any alone time, her husband has a front-row seat to some of the “weirdo energy” he normally doesn’t see from her. “It’s kind of nice that even after 10 years together, I can be pleasantly surprised by how I relate to him,” she says.

17. You’re learning how to be a better partner.

Regardless of what personal struggles the pandemic poses for you and your relationships—and where you will stand on the other side of this—both Jamea and Jackson point out that this is a unique opportunity to learn about ourselves, our relationships, and how we handle crisis. “I do think that there is a little bit of a silver lining there if couples are able to look at it that way,” says Jamea.

Pay attention to what’s coming up for you and your partner. You don’t have to automatically act on what you notice, but there’s probably some useful information buried in your feelings, reactions, and experiences to all this. “This situation has really brought to the forefront the importance of healthy self-esteem, how our childhood and past relationships have brought us to this point, and the responsibility we have to work our own shit first instead of expecting others to magically know how to make us feel better,” says J.R. “Knowing why we do what we do has been fundamental to understanding how we can work on issues to improve them.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Stuck in the middle

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Growing into my identity

As an empathic perfectionist, conflicts stung me. I used to perceive any conflict as a reflection of my flawed character. It took years of inner wrestling to understand that conflicts were opportunities to grow, not threatening, but nurturing in their tumult.

All too often, humans keep to their comfortable spaces, unwilling to engage in a conflict with those who differ. I do not have that luxury, nor do I want it. I open myself up to you today to push the conversation of sexual identity and religion, not as a destabilizing conflict, but rather a nurturing discussion that extends a welcome to all beliefs and identities.

I felt alienated in religious settings where my questions about the Bible and its origins were dismissed as irrelevant or spiritually weak, and as I learned more in school about the uses of the Bible to validate atrocities throughout history, I lost trust in my religious communities because the Bible wasn’t considered in its historical context or its imperfect translations. Specifically, I remember staying up one night at Christian camp reading Genesis 3, and as I read verse 16 in its NIV translation, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” I cried without really knowing why.

Until, that is, I read Wilda Gafney’s womanist interpretation. In “Womanist Midrash,” the pain of that passage healed as she explored how the Spirit of God uses she/her pronouns in the Biblical Hebrew; how it describes an androgynous being, not Adam but rather the adam, referring to humankind that is then split in two; how “over” translated to “in” and “with” more often, reading instead “he shall rule with you.”

When I stopped living in fear and started letting go and opening myself up to conversations around religion, I found space to wrestle with my identity, my God, and their Scripture, leading me to where I stand today as a bisexual, Christian, cisgender woman.

I may have known my identity for awhile now, but only until recently have I found a sense of representation and visibility through my studies of queer and feminist biblical scholarship. With help from the class “Gender, Sex, and Religion,” I was exposed to multiple approaches to the Bible beyond just traditional biblical studies.

“I think [including more perspectives] just makes for more accurate, more representative, more interesting scholarship,” Mika Ahuvia, an assistant professor at the Jackson School of International Studies, said.] “The more [people] are looking at a text, the more nuances they notice.”

It turns out that biblical authors had no language for sexual orientation and gender identity, but rather viewed sex and gender within patriarchal constructs motivated over the years by different political, religous, and socioeconomic influences.

When the topic of “homosexuality” did arise in the religious circles at youth groups or summer camp, I was told that the Holiness Code of Leviticus in Scripture not only addresses it, but condemns it. Never, however, was I told during these conversations of its historical context, where it fails to mention how these laws merely condemned sodomy — non-procreational sexual acts — not homesexuality itself, nor did anyone explain the cultural beliefs that influenced these laws.

In biblical Israel, there was a cultural necessity to understand the religious and social significance of their bodies and so, procreation was viewed synonymously to achieving immortality and wasting semen was thought to be impure and harmful because it was believed to hold the most crucial role in reproduction.

By exposing myself in a variety of knowledgeable, heavily researched interpretations, queer and feminist biblical scholarship specifically equipped me with a platform and the language to heal. Whether it’s the deconstruction of gender and patriarchy through reinterpreted creation stories in Genesis or the contextualized and researched approach to the Holiness Code of Leviticus, biblical scholarship redefined my relationship with the Bible and deepened my understanding of its authors and how interpretations changed with time, and how they were shaped by and influenced societal constructs of gender and sex.

Regardless, the search for community as a queer Christian continues. Whether it was my faith in secular communities or my sexuality in religious ones, I still don’t know where I belong, a feeling all too familiar in my experience between straight and LGBTQIA+ communities.

While we may be the “B” in LGBTQIA+, the bisexual community still faces health disparities and stereotypes from straight and queer communities for a variety of reasons.

“Our research has found that bisexual people do experience many health disparities, both in Washington state as well as nationally,” Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, a professor in the School of Social Work, said. “For example, we found that bisexual women compared to lesbians have higher rates of disability and are more likely to experience disability at earlier ages

Fredriksen Goldsen especially noted the community’s lack of visibility, where an “increase in visibility could create opportunities to further build and expand communities” as well as reduce stigmas.

“As we recognize bisexual lives, we can begin to understand their distinct experiences,” Fredriksen Goldsen said. “Our research has documented many disparities as well as strengths in this community, as bi people are resilient.”

At the intersection of religious, secular, straight, and LGBTQIA+ communities, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the majority of these communities and the unique individuals within them don’t know how to interact with each other. As someone on the receiving end, the lack of dialogue between these diverse communities lends its hand to miseducation, stigmatization, and polarization.

When Ahuvia started teaching “Gender, Sex, and Religion,” she noted that the biggest gap she felt like she had to overcome was between the secular and religious students. Now, four years later, it’s shifted.

Silence and invisibility serve no one, so I will never refuse the challenge to uproot what I hold true, wrestle with it, learn, and grow.

Complete Article HERE!

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It took us long enough, but we’re finally paying attention to women’s pleasure

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By Erin Magner

While the history of women and pleasure is fraught with stigma, it appears we’re in the midst of a pleasure revolution. Now, female-identifying founders are creating pornography, sex toys, sex-education platforms, and erotica, all of which normalizes and celebrates a woman’s right to get off. Not only are consumers turned on by this building movement—the global sex toy market alone is expected to be worth $35 billion by 2023, up from $23.7 billion in 2017—but investors, too, are shuttling millions of dollars into sexual wellness start-ups such as Dipsea, a sexy short-story app, and Unbound, an e-tailer selling sex toys and other bedroom accessories. In short, there’s never been a better time than now for having a vulva and loving to orgasm.

So how did we get to this place of openness when, just two decades ago, Samantha Jones’ unapologetic pursuit of big Os on Sex and the City was considered radical? While there have been many twists and turns throughout the history of women and pleasure, it can be argued that the modern movement’s roots first planted in the 1950s. Back then, attitudes toward sexuality were still, in many ways, informed by the repressive Victorian era—when society demanded a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward female desire. Yet in 1953, sexologist and biologist Alfred C. Kinsey, PhD, published his landmark (and controversial) book titled Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, which shed light on women’s then-rarely discussed habits regarding masturbation, orgasms, and sex before marriage. (Spoiler alert: Among the 6,000 women interviewed for the book, all of those activities were highly popular.) From there, the world slowly but surely opened its eyes to women as sexual beings.

The early history of women and pleasure

Four years following the release of Dr. Kinsey’s book, William Masters and Virginia Johnson began their pioneering work on the physical mechanisms behind sexual arousal at Washington University in St. Louis. Their most groundbreaking findings are still frequently cited today, like the four stages of sexual arousal—excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution—and the idea that women are able to have multiple orgasms. “Even the very suggestion that sexual pleasure might be important for women and not just men was massively radical during those times,” says Zhana Vrangalova, PhD, professor of human sexuality at New York University and resident sexpert for sex-toy brand Lelo.

As the history of women and pleasure progressed, a succession of cultural milestones continued to help champion the idea of non-procreative sex among women. First, the birth control pill hit the market in 1960, which officially allowed women to have sex without the prospect of pregnancy. Helen Gurley Brown’s book Sex and the Single Girl (1962) gave advice for sex and dating as an unmarried woman, and a group of Boston women later self-published the seminal Our Bodies, Ourselves (1970), which provided evidence-based information to teach women about their sexual anatomy. Then as the hippie counterculture spread a message of free love, leaders of the second-wave feminist movement encouraged women to take an active role in their own sexual experience. You know, like men had been doing for centuries beforehand.

Despite all of this progress, however, Dr. Vrangalova points out that the framework for female pleasure in the 1960s and early ’70s was still largely based on a male perspective. “Given that the ’60s were a time when women were still very much second-class citizens, the way sexual pleasure was conceptualized was the way men, rather than women, thought about pleasure,” she says. “There’s no doubt women participated, but it seems like they adopted the male-driven vision of sexual pleasure, rather than focusing specifically on female pleasure. This was an inevitable product of the times—even scientists across diverse fields believed that whatever findings were true of men were also true of women, more or less.” For instance, at this point in the history of women and pleasure, there was still a pervasive view that women, like men, should be able to reach orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone.

“The ’60s were a time when women were still very much second-class citizens, and the way sexual pleasure was conceptualized was the way men, rather than women, thought about pleasure.”
—sexologist Zhana Vrangalova, PhD

Thankfully, in 1976, sex educator Shere Hite’s book The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality re-emphasized the importance of clitoral stimulation in reaching orgasm—an idea put forth by Dr. Kinsey two decades previously. (It wasn’t until 2005, however, that researchers led by Australian urologist Helen O’Connell, MD, would actually create a full map of the clitoris’ internal and external structures.) Then, in 1982, a book titled The G Spot and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality, brought this then-little-known erogenous zone—and the concept of female ejaculation—into the public consciousness.

But soon after, new discoveries around women’s pleasure began to cool off, a phenomenon that Dr. Vrangalova attributes to the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. “Unfortunately, that swung the pendulum on sexual pleasure—male and female—back toward the more conservative end of the spectrum, and America entered the Dark Ages of abstinence-only sexual education,” she says. “This had the incredibly harmful effects of sexually crippling an entire generation of Americans with lack of information, increasing fear of sex and STIs, and increasing stigma around pleasure, especially if it was outside of long-term committed relationships.”

Women are sexual beings, but there’s a pleasure gap to close and stigma to stop

Fast-forward a decade, however, and pleasure once again started to creep back into the zeitgeist. But even in 1999, when Sex and the City was must-watch viewing, 40 percent of women still claimed to experience sexual disfunction, characterized by a lack of sexual desire and difficulty attaining arousal.

According to public-health researcher Katherine Rowland‘s new book, The Pleasure Gap, this feeling of sexual dissatisfaction still endures, despite all the strides that have been made during the past 60-plus years. “Among the women who I spoke to, the persistent low desire was heavily associated with the idea that sex should revolve around penetration as the main course, with maybe a polite prelude of a foreplay, rather than thinking about sex as a broader universe of intimacy,” Rowland previously told NPR. “It’s the combination of a larger culture that privileges male sexuality over women’s, a culture that doesn’t teach women that pleasure belongs to them. A lack of anatomical self-knowledge. And feelings of sort of persistent danger and women being often censored and censured for expressing their desire.”

Yet on all of these fronts, the tides have been slowly turning in recent years, thanks in large part to the rise of the digital age. “The internet and smartphones enabled unprecedented access to vast amounts of sexual pleasure information and to all sorts of alternative and more liberal sexual values and lifestyles,” says Dr. Vrangalova, who notes that online porn and erotica helped to normalize the concept of “a women’s right to pleasure.”

Furthermore, the #MeToo movement of 2017 set the stage for the current pleasure revolution. “There are a lot of women who relived their traumas during #MeToo…it wasn’t a linear path,” says Alexandra Fine, sexologist and CEO of next-gen vibrator company Dame. “But it does ultimately feel like it empowered women to reclaim their sexual pleasure as their own and to speak more openly about it.”

It’s that open dialogue around sex that’s leading women to get curious about their own pleasure patterns right now—and that’s clearing a path for companies to create products and services that help them get to know their own bodies. “[At Dame,] we’re hearing so many stories of women being really honest about what their sexual experiences are in an unfiltered way that wasn’t available before,” Fine adds.

What to expect from the next chapter in the history of women and pleasure

As knowledge gaps continue to emerge around women’s sexual pleasure, organizations like Allbodies—a digital sex-ed platform—are stepping up to fill them. Allbodies co-founder and doula Ash Spivak says there are still many vulva-owners who feel alienated by conventional pleasure wisdom, either because they’ve previously experienced trauma or by virtue of the fact that everyone’s body works differently. “We have so much emphasis on orgasms in general as being the pinnacle, but pleasure is a spectrum,” she says. “There’s so much room in there to really play around and that’s really never been taught.”

“We have so much emphasis on orgasms in general as being the pinnacle, but pleasure is a spectrum. There’s so much room in there to really play around and that’s really never been taught.”
—Ash Spivak, Allbodies co-founder

There are also plenty of institutions that aren’t yet ready for an open dialogue around female arousal at this point in the history of women and pleasure. For instance, Facebook still doesn’t allow advertising for sex toys—although it does allow ads for sexual-health companies, like those promoting erectile-disfunction treatments for men. And Fine says targeting this is the next frontier of the pleasure revolution.

“This conversation around advertising policy is a really interesting place where it’s showing up,” she says, noting that Dame sued the New York City MTA in 2019 for refusing to run its vibrator ads in the subway. Changing this reality is part of her bigger mission for Dame. “If we can’t have public discourse around sexuality because we think it’s inherently inappropriate, then we’re pushing sex to the shadows. And the things that happen in the shadows when it comes to sex harm women.”

Fortunately, research is continuing to unveil nuances of the female sexual experience, which can only help to erase shame and popularize the idea that there’s no one-size-fits-all path to pleasure. One 2019 study, for instance, debunked the idea that all orgasms are positive experiences—some women do, indeed, view them as negative at times, particularly when they feel coerced into having sex or pressured into climaxing.

Brands are even contributing to our collective knowledge. Dame, for instance, asks members of its Dame Labs community to test its prototypes pre-launch and then uses feedback to fine-tune each product. For instance, Dame engineers were surprised to learn when developing the company’s first internal vibrator, the Arc, that testers considered the toy’s external sensations to be even more important than its internal stimulation properties—even though testers said they would purchase the toy to use internally. The engineers edited the design accordingly, and as a result, pleasure won.

And while pleasure is a right entitled to all people, vulva-owners certainly included, Fine, for one, believes there are even bigger health gains to to glean from knowing as much as possible about the female sexual experience. “I really believe that sex is part of our wellness—it’s literally what creates our life,” she says. ‘Why would we think it’s not constantly impacting [us]?”

Complete Article HERE!

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Is Testosterone Therapy Safe for Women?

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Testosterone is often prescribed to boost a low sex drive, but the research on its long-term effects remains questionable.

by Sarah Ellis

The hormone testosterone (called “T” for short in medical circles) has long been associated with the male physique, athleticism, and a heightened sex drive. But now, there’s an idea making the internet search rounds that testosterone therapy may be the secret sauce to revamping a woman’s shuttered sex drive.

Even health-conscious celebrities have gotten in on the hype. In 2011, Jane Fonda told The Sunday Telegraph that she started taking the hormone in her 70s to boost her sex drive. But before you run to your doctor to ask for a prescription, you should know that testosterone therapy is a controversial approach that is not FDA-regulated for women at this time. Despite its mythical reputation, this hormone isn’t a cure-all for sexual dysfunction, and it could even be dangerous for your health if not taken carefully. Let us explain.

How Does Testosterone Work in Women?

Testosterone may be known as a male hormone, but women’s bodies naturally produce it, too. It’s one of many hormones that work together to control our mood, metabolism, sexual desire, bone and muscle growth, and reproductive system. As you age, your hormone levels change, with one of the biggest shifts occurring during menopause when your menstrual cycle stops for good. Menopause causes your estrogen and progesterone levels to decrease, but interestingly, it is not associated with a sudden decrease in testosterone, according to the North American Menopause Society.

That said, there is evidence that testosterone decreases throughout your life. “Testosterone drops with age more than with menopause,” says Margaret Wierman, M.D., professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, CO and former Vice President of Clinical Sciences at the Endocrine Society. This may explain why testosterone pills, gels, and patches are sometimes touted by drug marketing campaigns (and celebs) as a sex drive booster for older men and women whose testosterone is naturally lower than it used to be.

The problem with this approach, according to Chrisandra Shufelt, M.D., associate director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles, CA, is that testosterone is not necessarily the miracle drug you may be reading about on the internet. “If you search online, it seems like testosterone could be the panacea of all hormones, relieving everything from fatigue to weight gain to depression,” Dr. Shufelt says. But interestingly, she notes, there is no scientifically proven list of symptoms directly correlated to low T in women. Everyone’s hormone levels are naturally different, and what looks “low” on a testosterone test for one woman may be a perfectly normal T level for another.

Does Testosterone Impact Sex Drive?

To some extent, yes—but it’s not the end all, be all. Dr. Wierman explains that there are many different causes of sexual dysfunction (the term for when you’re no longer craving or enjoying sex). “There are mechanical hardware causes, there are relationship causes, there are mood causes,” she says. “There are rarely hormonal causes, and [in those cases] it’s usually estrogen deficiency that is causing abnormalities.”

What Is Testosterone Therapy?

Testosterone products are supplemental versions of the hormone that people take to increase their existing T levels. They come as a patch, gel, pill, tablet, or injection. Prescription testosterone products are FDA-approved for men whose bodies cannot produce adequate testosterone, due to genetic conditions like Klinefelter syndrome or damage from infection or chemotherapy. Testosterone products are not–we repeat, not!–approved for people whose testosterone is decreasing with age.

Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped people from taking T (and doctors from prescribing T) for reasons other than it is officially intended. This practice has become so widespread, in fact, that the FDA issued a safety announcement in March 2015 urging doctors not to prescribe testosterone to anyone other than men with testosterone-lowering medical conditions. The statement noted that testosterone therapy could possibly increase your risk of cardiovascular problems or stroke.

For women, the risks of testosterone therapy are even less clear. “What we know about safety and what has been studied in women is the short-term effects, up to two years,” Dr. Shufelt says. “Longer effects are not known, and we do not know the effects in women who have risk factors for heart disease and breast cancer.” She stresses that longer-term studies will be necessary to determine whether low-dose testosterone therapy has detrimental effects on a woman’s body.

When testosterone is taken in excess quantities, Dr. Shufelt explains, it can lead to some pretty severe medical issues for women. “Too much testosterone in women can result in deepening of voice, hair loss, acne, anger, and negative changes to the cholesterol panel,” she says. Dr. Wierman remembers seeing a perimenopausal patient who had been given testosterone pellets at an anti-aging clinic. The high levels of T caused an increase in bad cholesterol, increase in blood pressure, excessive body hair growth, and loss of scalp hair.

Yikes! Are There Any Medical Guidelines for Women and T?

In September 2019, the Endocrine Society, International Menopause Society, European Menopause and Andropause Society, and others got together to publish a global consensus statement on the safety and efficacy of testosterone therapy for women. Dr. Wierman, one of the principal authors, explains the major takeaway: testosterone therapy has only proven to be useful for one specific subset of women–post-menopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is characterized by an absence of sexual desire, to an extent that it causes emotional distress and relationship problems for a couple. HSDD can be caused by a variety of factors, from medication use and chronic health conditions, to chemical imbalances and hormone deficiencies. It is diagnosed by a healthcare provider using a questionnaire and treated with anything from counseling to hormone replacement therapy, depending on the situation.

Dr. Wierman says that for post-menopausal women with HSDD, “controlled studies showed that getting high physiologic doses [of testosterone] increased satisfying sexual relations by one per month, with some other potentially good effects on sexual function,” such as arousal and ability to orgasm. The consensus statement specified that these doses should mimic – not exceed – natural levels of testosterone in premenopausal women. The statement authors urged that more research be done on testosterone therapy for women, and that testosterone products for HSDD should be created specifically with women in mind.

So, What Does This Mean for Me?

If you’re curious about testosterone therapy and wondering if you fit into the subset of women who may benefit, Dr. Wierman suggests talking to your regular women’s healthcare provider. “I think that most providers, whether they’re gynecologists or endocrinologists or primary care doctors who specialize in menopausal women, can discuss the issues related to testosterone pros and cons,” she says.

But before you walk away with a prescription, keep in mind that your low sex drive may not have to do with your hormones. “The first thing when someone has abnormalities in their sexual function is to discuss all the different other causes of it, and try to be a detective,” Dr. Wierman says. “If she is having painful intercourse, maybe it’s local vaginal estrogen she needs. If there’s stress in the relationship, maybe therapy is what they need.” Testosterone therapy is one option to increase libido, but it’s certainly not a foolproof key to amazing sex. And unless you’re a postmenopausal woman with HSDD, you probably want to steer clear.

Complete Article HERE!

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Futurists predict what your sex life may look like after the pandemic

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By Anna Iovine

The macro effects of the coronavirus impact are undeniable: Hundreds of thousands of lives lost, mass unemployment, life seemingly suspended in midair. But the pandemic’s impacts have also rippled down to the minutiae of daily life, like social media behavior and messages on dating apps.

Uncertainty is now an inescapable presence. As someone who’s single, I often toil over what sex and dating will be like “after this is all over,” when and if it’s ever really over. While no one can know for sure, of course, I decided to ask futurists — people who stare uncertainty in the face for a living — for their thoughts.

Where we are now

First, let’s look at the present: Plenty of folks are still meeting people, whether virtually or by eschewing social distancing rules (and risking lives in the process) to meet up in-person. Dating apps raced to add features to keep users swiping or “liking,” from Hinge’s “Date From Home” menu to Bumble’s “Virtual Dating” badge.

Hell, even virtual orgies are a thing now.

Ross Dawson, futurist and co-author of the Future of Sex report, which was initially released in 2016, believes that the pandemic accelerated already-existing trends. Online dating was already the top way couples meet each other in the United States pre-pandemic. People have fallen in love through screens for decades now — and we’ve seen it’s not just about sex, but intimacy and engagement. Tech that allows you to hold hands from afar, for example, was a Kickstarter campaign in 2014.

What the pandemic did do, however, was push people to virtually date beyond chat. We’ve gotten creative while quarantining, now having dinner or watching a movie with a date over FaceTime. “That’s something that you are less likely to have done in the past,” said Dawson. “[You’re] sort of pushed into this situation where you’re trying to get to know each other or to build a relationship or engagement.”

“We are finding creative ways to connect intimately on all the other dimensions of intimacy.”

Dawson has actually been surprised about how slow-moving people have been with building these genuine relationships online. “It’s gone more slowly than I would have expected in terms of people really using these tools of communication and connection to engage, not just superficially with social media or chitchat or memes and stuff to ones which are truly engagement,” he said. “A lot of people are discovering the potential of this for the first time.”

Group chats are replacing bars and parties as “pick-up zones,” according to Bryony Cole, founder of Future of Sex and co-founder of Wheel of Foreplay, a game for intimacy during COVID. “The emergence of online sex parties and mixers is also allowing people to dip their toes into worlds they may have been hesitant to explore in the physical realm, like NSFW sex parties,” said Cole in an email to Mashable. 

Cole also thinks the pandemic has somewhat reverted dating into old fashioned courtship — getting to know each other before exchanging any touch or body fluids. Indeed, op-eds in the New York Times and Vanity Fair have celebrated this shift, and it’s been a running joke online that only being able to communicate virtually is rendering dating into a 21st-century Austenian story:

“We are finding creative ways to connect intimately on all the other dimensions of intimacy (emotional, intellectual, spiritual and shared experience),” wrote Cole, “whether that means swapping a recipe for the other person to cook, or actually cooking the dinner and getting it delivered to them, or divulging a deeply personal story.”

Cole believes the pandemic engendered an acceleration of an already-existing trend: The shift in sex culture. With the popularity of shows like Sex Education and Euphoria and Gwyneth Paltrow’s The Goop Lab exploring sexual wellness, it’s like our society was already primed for this shift according to Cole. 

The pandemic hasn’t changed futurist Faith Popcorn’s predictions on the future of sex and dating but, similar to Dawson and Cole, she envisions an acceleration. Popcorn, who established her futurist marketing consultancy BrainReserve in 1974, said this acceleration is already being seen in sex tech: Sales of teledildonics — smart sex toys that can be remote controlled by people on different continents — are increasing (just as sales of non-smart sex toys are). 

These spikes in sales could change VC attitudes of the sex tech industry for the better. “I have already seen a shift in attitudes with investors looking to dip their toes in the $30bn industry,” said Cole. “Previously there were challenges accessing funding because of the shame and taboo associated with sex, now it looks like an incredibly lucrative industry to be a part of, as we realize intimacy is essential.”

While these are largely positive shifts, the pandemic may be responsible for negatives as well. Popcorn pointed out that only 18 percent of couples are satisfied with communication during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the demand for couples therapy is up 48 percent, a Talkspace representative told Mashable.

But these are all occurrences happening now. What about when the pandemic is over?

The immediate aftermath

In the wake of the pandemic, Popcorn predicts a big spike in divorces; it’s already happening in China. Beyond that, she predicts a phased return — a term more often used in connection to coming back to work after time away. While people are craving sex and connection, they’re also scared that they could contract the virus. Popcorn said this will lead to health passports — certifications that a potential hook-up is virus free — being popular among singles. Those with antibodies will reenter the dating pool faster. 

Dawson also compared immediate post-pandemic sex and dating to working from home. Just as many companies will revert to a sort of midpoint — where not everyone is working from home anymore, but some people never return to the office — many people will go back to dating in real life right away, while others won’t.

Since far more people have experienced virtual dating, said Dawson, it’s now an option among the array of other dating options. He imitated someone’s future reasoning: “If it’s easier and it works, then yes, we can go out for a drink or a physical dinner. But maybe, for whatever reasons… let’s do a virtual dinner today. That’s actually gonna work because we’re an hour and a half away, let’s just try that instead.”

Another analogy Dawson gave was to international travel. Just as some people will be on the first flight to a foreign country, some people will seek out sex immediately — but not everyone. Others will stay put at home, and still others will not be so quick to touch and exchange bodily fluids.

In Cole’s observation of online discussion, she sees three groups emerging: “A first wave of people that are eager to get out there, a more cautious wave of folks who will only start to date when everything has opened back up and the government have okayed it, and another wave of people who may have found their new preference, to spend more time with themselves.”

She doesn’t foresee dating changing that much beyond the presence of video chat — but it depends on how long social distancing lasts. “If we were in lockdown for years instead of months, yes it would have an impact,” said Cole. “For now I expect to see normal dating patterns bounce back, albeit with some honed virtual flirting and sexting skills.”

Popcorn thinks that some people will retreat from relationships. They will experience what she calls armored cocooning, a segment of her general term cocooning, which is the need to protect oneself from the realities of the world. Armored cocooning is taking extreme measures to protect and prepare one’s household to survive and thrive. It includes necessities like food, education, and telemedicine. This coincide’s with Cole’s third group of (non)daters. 

Popcorn also foresees a level of hedonism, of people enjoying not only sex but drugs and alcohol, partying, indulging in food and purchases. Like non-monogamous relationship coach Effy Blue predicted, Popcorn said that some will buck the tradition of monogamy.

“We’ve looked in the face of the end of the world,” said Popcorn. “Monogamy? Come on. Savings accounts? Come on. Saddling my shoulders with a mortgage? No way.

“Monogamy? Come on. Savings accounts? Come on. Saddling my shoulders with a mortgage? No way.”

Dawson, too, believes that this experience could lead people to open their relationships. For him however, that’s because the pandemic came at a time where polyamory was already becoming more popular. “We’re at a social threshold,” said Dawson. “For sometime now there’s been more discussion, it’s become more acceptable, it’s become part of the conversation. The stigma is disappearing.”

“I think that this is part of that acceleration piece,” Dawson said on non-monogamy. “In the sense that it’s an existing trend reaching a threshold.” He’s unsure of how massive this specific acceleration will become, but the pandemic could act as a trigger of sorts; people who may have been interested in non-monogamy previously may actually go for it when the pandemic is over.

Looking further into the future

According to Popcorn, we’re all going to have varying degrees of PTSD after the pandemic, similar to living through a world war. This will not only make therapy — including therapy bots — essential, but it will impact our nerves, tempers, and subsequently our relationships.

The marriage rate in the US is already at an all-time low, and Popcorn believes it will sink further, as will the birth rate.

This is, at least partially, because parents see they may not always be able to regulate childcare to the educational system. “After farming, after we started coming to cities, people have found relief in send[ing] kids to school,” said Popcorn. “Now we’re seeing that maybe school will not shelter our children.”

When adding in the uncertainty of our future, the presence of climate change, more and more people may opt to be childfree. Furthermore, the massive job loss and healthcare uncertainty many people in the US are facing right now doesn’t bode well for a twenty-first century baby boom.

Cole agrees that birth rates will decline. “While some predict a baby boom because of isolation, if we look at history during times of economic uncertainty, we can assume the population will drop,” she said. 

Dawson and co-author Jenna Owsianik had several predictions about what the sex landscape may look like in the upcoming decades in their report. Here are two examples: First dates in motion capture worlds will become popular in 2022, and by 2024 people will be able to both be anybody and be with anybody in photo-realistic virtual worlds.

Dawson stands by the report, but believes one prediction may be thrusted forward due to the pandemic. By 2028, according to the report, over a quarter of young people will have had a long-distance sexual experience. “We might be able to push that forward a little bit,” said Dawson. Given that many people are opting to sext and send nudes now as opposed to risk meeting in real life, that’s certainly a possibility.

Both Dawson and Popcorn believe that human-robot relationships are the future. The Future of Sex report predicts that one in 10 young adults will have had sex with a humanoid robot in 2045, and Popcorn pointed out the rise of AI-fueled sexbots. Popcorn also foresees more “digisexuals,” people who consider technology integral to their sexuality.

“We must change and we can change.”

While this is speculation as of now, Dawson is optimistic about how the pandemic could be a catalyst for positive change. “This is a tremendous opportunity,” he said. “We must change and we can change, and in so many aspects including the nature of social relationships and how we connect and how we relate and engage and give each other pleasure.”

Cole, too, foresees positive moves going forward.

“We’ve moved on from shame,” she said, “we’ve gone beyond the giggles over vibrators from 90s Sex & The City, we’ve elevated our social sexual awareness with movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, and now, the future of sex is set to blossom – both as an in industry, a cultural conversation and critical part of our lives.”

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