Spider boys and gay armadillos…

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The best adult Twine games

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Twine is a powerful game development engine embraced by queer developers, adult content creators, and interactive storytellers. Contemporary Twine games push the engine’s boundaries, while older ones are still a fresh breath compared to the mainstream games industry’s hyperfixation on cisgender and heterosexual relationships. And yes, that extends to adult Twine games, too.

Whether you want to hook up with a shy spider boy or serve a domineering office mistress, itch.io has you covered. Listed below are our top recommendations for 18+ Twine games, especially for queer players.

The best adult Twine games

1) Most realistic BDSM Twine game: A Bunny and Her Mistress

Care, boundaries, and consent are vital parts of any bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism (BDSM) play session. But most games with kinky sex sidestep realistic depictions of domination/submission (or D/s) play. Dragons-bondage’s A Bunny and Her Mistress challenges that norm. The game stars players as “Bunny,” a submissive girl serving her mistress one step at a time. But instead of railroading players through the game’s BDSM encounter, dragons-bondage lets players choose to continue on with a scene or pause and ask for aftercare. So if spanking isn’t quite your thing, or if you’re not into hardcore D/s play, you can tap out at any time and let Mistress praise you for your obedience. Well written, blatantly queer, and ridiculously hot, A Bunny and Her Mistress is an easy choice for BDSM practitioners getting started with Twine.

2) Top adult Twine game for furries: Sent to the Office

Sent to the Office is a dream come true for furries, queer trans girls, and monster girl kinksters alike. The game stars players as the lowly, subservient plaything of a domineering dog girl (or “sexy, curvy bitch,” as the game says) sitting in a short skirt with her “fat bulge” visible and “so much… cleavage” exposed. From there, players embark on a journey filled with ogling, degradation, and everything from pet play to lactation. Clocking in at 15,000 words with over a dozen different endings, Sent to the Office is available as a pay-what-you-want Twine game on creator ikksplicit’s itch.io. Players can also test the game’s opening and try out some of its endings with the Twine’s free demo.

3) Best gay adult Twine game: Big Armadillo Boyfriend

There’s something beautiful about Big Armadillo Boyfriend. Developed by Colin Spacetwinks, the game focuses on the player character’s long-distance relationship with his boyfriend Gene. Like the name implies, Gene is an enormous, adorable armadillo. He’s also a great boyfriend with his own complicated life story to share. With the player in town for the weekend, the two go on dates together, learning more about each other and sleeping together. Featuring a “novel length” story with “no ‘bad ends,’” plenty of date scenes, and several 18+ scenes, Big Armadillo Boyfriend is a wholesome and realistic portrait of gay love and dating in Anytown, U.S.A. The game is available on itch.io for $3 or more, along with a free demo of the first day.

4) Best erotica Twine game: Night on a Web

Before gamers debated Cyberpunk 2077’s gender options, Twine developers were giving players the option to choose their gender and junk separately. AzureMagician’s Night on a Web is a perfect example. The Twine game follows an anonymous protagonist visiting an abandoned mansion where an introverted spider boy lives by himself. Before starting the game, players are allowed to experience the game as either a man or a woman, along with deciding whether they have an “innie” or “outtie” (that is, a penis or a vagina). It’s a pretty inclusive option, letting players star as canonical trans women and trans men (albeit nonbinary options are sadly missing).

Part exploratory adventure, part romance, Night on a Web is a slow burn compared to some of the other games on our recommendation list, but that’s part of its appeal. Expect some tender, erotic human/monster boy segments filled with kissing, headpats, bondage, and bottoming for a cute, powerful boy.

5) Overall best adult Twine game: The Godhood Chronicles

Paper Waifu’s The Godhood Chronicles is incredibly hot. Part role-playing game, part erotica tale, the player stars as a god brought down into the world and desired by the women around him. Sex scenes are incredibly well written, and they also come with a lot of interactivity. Players can be as gentle or as rough as they want with their mortal lovers, whether that’s kissing your priestess softly or forcibly ripping off her clothes.

For the time being, The Godhood Chronicles is on hiatus while Paper Waifu plans to port the game to a new engine. For the latest public build, fans can head on over to the game’s itch.io, or they can access the patron-only version by pledging to Paper Waifu’s Patreon.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Pros and Cons of Being in a Polyamorous Relationship

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by Dr. Jenn Mann

A polyamorous relationship is the practice of having intimate, emotional and sexual relationships with more than one person with the consent of all involved. Polyamorous people may have a commitment to more than one person they are in a relationship with. It can also mean a committed couple has invited a third partner into their relationship, who would be considered secondary to the primary lovers. It is not just about sex, it is also about emotional connection and developing romantic relationships.

Whether you need to worry about your friend entirely depends on the kind of relationship she’s in, and many poly relationships are built on honesty and trust that do make for a healthy expression of love and safe environments in which to explore. Plus, it’s not as rare as you think.

According to a 2016 study published in the journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, it has been estimated that 21 percent of people have had a non-monogamous relationship. In my observation in my own clinical practice, this is becoming more common. For exactly what it’s like to be in a polyamorous relationship, I’ve broken down some pros and cons that tend to come up.

The Pros of Polyamory

On the positive side, people who are in polyamorous relationships have some great tools for their relationship to work well: communication and honesty. Whether or not you choose to be in this type of relationship, we can all benefit from these skills.

Honesty: Most couples who are in non-monogamous relationships tend to be extremely honest and transparent about their feelings and desires, both emotionally and sexually.

Proactive problem-solving: Non-monogamous couples tend to do regular appraisals of their relationship and discuss their observations with one another. If one person feels the relationship is getting boring or stale, these couples tend to process such speed bumps with one another and make a plan of action, rather than allowing things to fester unresolved.

Rules and boundaries: Non-monogamous couples have rules about their relationships, lots of them! They work hard to establish clear guidelines and boundaries in order to make the experience of sharing their love with others emotionally safe for all involved. They know what flirting, conversations, sexual contact, and phone contact is out of bounds and what is acceptable. Too many monogamous couples make assumptions about what is OK and what is not without discussing with their partner.

The Cons

Non-monogamy can have its downsides. Bringing a third (or more) party into your relationship can create a distraction from the emotional connection between the two of you. In my clinical experience, it dilutes the intimacy in a relationship when partners spread themselves thinner. Here’s more on the less-than-optimal conditions polyamory can create.

Jealousy: Eventually, someone has feelings toward someone. I have seen way too many jealousy issues arise and emotional bonds form as a result of what was supposed to be meaningless sex, or a primary partner starts to feel secondary and gets hurt.

No new tricks: Sacrifice creates trust and bonds people to each other. Resisting the normal urge to have sex with other people shows a level of commitment and sacrifice that makes the relationship stronger. Bringing a new person into the mix can prevent you from putting energy and creativity into your sex life and relationship with your partner. You’re no longer working to up your game and figure out new fantasies to explore, techniques to try, and preferences your partner may have that you haven’t yet probed — or worse, you’re doing that with someone else.

The wrong fix: Some couples turn to polyamory for the wrong reasons, thinking bringing a third into their sex life will patch up some different issue entirely. While the addition of others in your relationship may be exciting, it does not solve the longer-term, bigger issue of how to keep things fresh in your relationship and how to become a better lover to your partner.

If you are going to have a polyamorous relationship, make sure that you and your partner clearly define the rules, limits, and boundaries of your arrangement. Communication is of the utmost importance. In situations like this, faithfulness is defined by honoring those commitments and boundaries. Keep your promises, but also leave room to renegotiate, in case either one of you has different reactions than you expected. Understand that both partners must agree to change the terms of a relationship, and consent under pressure does not count as a collaborative agreement. If you think your friend has entered into this unconsciously or without her full consent, then yes that’s cause for concern. If she’s all-in and working to love all members of her relationship fairly while getting a bounty of love (and great sex) in return? She’s probably doing just fine.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Can Brain Scans Tell Us About Sex?

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Men have a far greater appetite for sex and are more attracted to pornography than women are. This is the timeworn stereotype that science has long reinforced. Alfred Kinsey, America’s first prominent sexologist, published in the late 1940s and early 1950s his survey results confirming that men are aroused more easily and often by sexual imagery than women. It made sense, evolutionary psychologists theorized, that women’s erotic pleasure might be tempered by the potential burdens of pregnancy, birth and child rearing — that they would require a deeper emotional connection with a partner to feel turned on than men, whose primal urge is simply procreation. Modern statistics showing that men are still the dominant consumers of online porn seem to support this thinking, as does the fact that men are more prone to hypersexuality, whereas a lack of desire and anorgasmia are more prevalent in women. So it was somewhat surprising when a paper in the prestigious journal P.N.A.S. reported in July that what happens in the brains of female study subjects when they look at sexual imagery is pretty much the same as what happens in the brains of their male counterparts.

The researchers, led by Hamid Noori at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany, weren’t initially interested in exploring sexual behavior. They were trying to find ways to standardize experiments that use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fM.R.I.) to observe how the brain responds to visual stimuli. In order to do that, they needed to compare past studies that used similar methods but returned diverse results. They happened to choose studies in which male and female volunteers looked at sexual imagery, both because doing so tends to generate strong signals in the brain, which would make findings easier to analyze, and because this sort of research has long produced “inconsistent and even contradictory” results, as they note in their paper. Identifying the reasons for such discrepancies might help researchers design better experiments.

A search turned up 61 studies that met Noori’s criteria for inclusion: Healthy adult men and women of different sexual orientations (including bisexual and transgender subjects) who had rated erotic images in terms of how arousing they were. Those participants had then been put in an fM.R.I. scanner — which detects changes in blood flow associated with neuronal activity — and been shown the most arousing images as well as neutral, nonsexualized ones. What Noori’s team found was that image type — whether it was a picture or a video — was the strongest predictor of differences in which parts of the brain became engaged. Unexpectedly, the weakest predictor was the subjects’ biological sex. In other words, when men and women viewed pornographic imagery, the way their brains responded, in the aggregate, was largely the same.

This latter, more provocative finding yielded the paper’s title, “Neural Substrates of Sexual Arousal Are Not Sex Dependent.” Headlines followed, along with controversy in the cognitive neurosciences. Researchers whose work has shown differences between men’s and women’s brains viewing sexual stimuli objected to such generalization. But the purpose of statistically analyzing many studies together, a process called meta-analysis, is precisely to be more conclusive: The goal is to reveal global patterns that smaller studies can’t.

The science of sex is inherently paradoxical. For centuries, social stigma, prejudice and misogyny have condemned as aberrant sexual pleasures we now know are healthy. Yet despite the growing realization of how much outside views shape even our most private behavior, we can still experience the mechanics of our own desire — never mind that of others — as a fundamental mystery. Noori’s team is trying to shed light on a big part of that lingering mystery: If men’s and women’s brains respond similarly to sexual stimuli, what accounts for the apparent differences in how they approach sexual practices?

Answering that question means connecting the dots from what triggers the firing of specific neurons to how those firings give rise to the myriad thoughts and feelings we have about sex to the actions we take in response to them. Knowing what all this should look like neurologically could give clinicians more ways to treat the 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men who, according to the Cleveland Clinic, report problems in their experience of sex. “Issues of sexual behavior and sexuality are highly associated with mental health, with life satisfaction, even with physiological health,” says Justin Garcia, director of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. That makes it crucial to find out what “the constituent parts” of sex are.

In fact, it is still extremely difficult to interpret what activity in a given region of the brain really means. When viewing erotica, women often (and far more often than men) experience a disconnect between their physiological arousal — measured by genital temperature, wetness and swelling — and what they describe feeling. This could mean that they do not realize or do not want to divulge that an image is turning them on, or that they believe an image is or should be arousing when it isn’t, physiologically. That dissonance raises a host of complications. To what extent do cultural attitudes toward pornography — historically, women have been shamed for consuming it — influence both our subconscious and conscious responses to sexual images? Because neuroimaging has been available for only the past 30 years — Noori analyzed studies from 2001 and later — there’s no way to compare similar scans from the ’50s, say, and see how shifting norms might have changed the results.

Complicating things further is the multifunctionality of brain networks. In 2017, Janniko Georgiadis and Gerben Ruesink, at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, published a review that showed seemingly distinct patterns of brain activity for wanting sex, liking (or having) sex and the opposite, inhibiting sex. The broadness of these categories shows how opaque those concepts are. Melissa Farmer, a research assistant professor in the department of physiology at Northwestern University, points out that “desire might be anything from when you see someone up until you act on that and approach them. That’s a lot of steps.” Neuroimaging has the potential to delineate those steps more precisely and objectively than self-reporting possibly could.

But even “objective” brain activation can be ambiguous. In a previous study, Georgiadis found that in women, the same areas that tend to become active when viewing sexual imagery that neuroscientists have deemed pleasing also became active in response to photos of vomiting or feces. What scientists tend to regard as “arousal” on brain scans could also be its opposite, or perhaps some combination of each. Likewise, it’s conceivable that the “sameness” Noori found in male and female brain activity indicates that characteristics we’ve defined as opposites actually overlap. In 2015, researchers led by Daphna Joel at Tel Aviv University published an article that analyzed more than 1,400 M.R.I.s of male and female brains and concluded that in most brains, certain regions might be more “male” while others are more “female,” creating a unique gender “mosaic” that defies either-or classification.

Sexual behavior, in turn, is inextricable from other behaviors. Indeed, as Georgiadis and Ruesink point out, the same “sometimes quite generic” brain activity associated with erotic stimuli is also part of how we process “reward, memory, cognition, self-referential thinking and social behavior.” We use the same neural processes to determine if a sexual experience is valuable and worth repeating as we do for food and drugs. A more complete mapping of how men and women respond neurologically to pornography, and how that affects their behavior, might thus offer a model for explaining happiness or addiction.

“In the brain, sex is everywhere,” Georgiadis says, and recognizing its interactions with other mental processes might also argue for a different, less binary definition of it, both as a behavior and as a biological classification. As neuroimaging enables a more granular view of brain networks, we may find that new labels are needed. That could even argue for dispensing with categories like “desire” and “arousal” or “male” and “female” in favor of descriptors that better capture how those concepts intermingle and connect with others.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to talk to your children about sexual consent

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Parents and caregivers often wait until their children are older to talk about sexual consent. And many parents often leave “the sex talk” altogether – hoping that schools will do it instead. The most recent guidance for teaching consent under the relationship and sex education curriculum simply advises that lessons should be provided before the end of secondary school. This could leave many young people without information about sexual consent before becoming sexually active.

Reports from 13,000 adolescents in the UK age 11 to 13 suggest that intimate activities such as holding hands, kissing and sexual touching is normal for this age group. Many of the adolescents reported having kissed by age 12 and having been touched or touched a partner under clothing. But without receiving lessons about consent, young adolescents could be engaging in sexual activity without agreement.

Reports from 13,000 adolescents in the UK age 11 to 13 suggest that intimate activities such as holding hands, kissing and sexual touching is normal for this age group. Many of the adolescents reported having kissed by age 12 and having been touched or touched a partner under clothing. But without receiving lessons about consent, young adolescents could be engaging in sexual activity without agreement.

My ongoing PhD research looks at early adolescents’ beliefs about negotiating sexual consent for sexual activities. And I have found that, while young people in this age group understand sexual consent, it can be difficult for them to apply their understanding of consent to situations of sexual coercion. This is sexual activity that occurs as a result of pressure, trickery, threats or nonphysical force.

My research shows that, as early as age 11, both boys and girls buy into gender stereotypes of sexual behaviour – such as that the girl decides if sexual activity will happen. My research has also found that these young people endorse constructions of rape culture, specifically that of victim blaming.

It seems then that young people need guidance beyond just learning about consent when it comes to their romantic relationships. Here are four ways to teach children about consent, based on my research.

If it’s not yes then it’s no

Encourage the use of verbal, affirmative consent for every sexual activity, every time. The only way to be 100% sure that a partner consents is to receive a clear “yes”. Remind young people to check in with their partner. They can ask questions such as: “Is this okay?”, “Can I…?”, “Hey wanna…”

Another way to double-check how a partner feels is to check their body language and facial expression. Does their body language and facial expression match what they are saying? Are they moving in or pulling away from being kissed or touched?

Don’t fear rejection

You also need to talk to your child about rejection. Young people may be afraid to ask for consent because they fear rejection, instead opting to “just go for it”. Remind them that it is better to ask and be told “no” than to just go for it, seem aggressive and risk making their partner feel uncomfortable – possibly ruining the relationship.

Also, young people often report not wanting to say “no” to someone they like because they don’t want to hurt their feelings – potentially going along with unwanted sexual activity. Suggest ways they can respond to their partner. For example, “I like you, but I’m not ready” or “I don’t want to” or “no, not yet”. These suggestions, which came up in my research, come directly from young people about how they think best to handle rejection.

Tackle the power of pressure

It’s important to also talk to young people about pressure. This can include pressure from partners or peers. Remind them that it is never okay to make someone take part in a sexual activity. This includes making the person feel guilty for not doing it, blackmailing or tricking them. There cannot be consent if a person feels pressured to engage in a romantic or sexual activity – this includes pressure to send and receive sexual images (sexting).

Empower young people to tell someone if their actions or words are making them uncomfortable. Moreover, teach young people that pressuring someone to engage in a romantic or sexual activity won’t make a person popular or “cool” but instead makes the person seem “creepy and desperate”.

Deconstruct stereotypes

Finally, challenge myths about girls and sexual activity – specifically, that girls are solely responsible for sexual activity occurring (if it occurs, she “let it happen”). From a young age, girls in our society are simply taught to “keep safe” with messages like “just say no” and “don’t let him…”. Stopping at these messages suggests that if something does go wrong, it is the girl’s fault.

An additional myth to challenge is that clothing can indicate consent. Certainly, some clothing can be “sexy” but that does not mean the person wearing the clothing is consenting to sexual activity or deserves to be disrespected.

It’s clear then that not only should the topic of consent be included when having “the talk” with kids, but young people should also be taught about consent through an ongoing dialogue. This should include conversations on acknowledging and respecting boundaries and discussions on healthy relationships.

Talking to young adolescents about consent can be difficult for parents and caregivers, because no one has all of the answers and consent can be tricky to understand – even for adults. But there are many free resources available from reputable organisations such as TeachConsent, RAINN and the Child Mind Institute.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Much Sex Is Normal?

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How does your sex life stacks up?

By Kristine Tarbert

The question of whether or not a couple is having a ‘normal’ amount of sex, when compared to others, is one of the most common questions asked of sex and relationship therapists.

And while it sounds like a simple question, therapist and author of Sex Down Under Matty Silver, reveals it does not have a simple answer.

As it turns out there is actually no right or ‘normal’ number of times a couple should be having sex. Because, as Matty explains, a couple’s sex life is affected by so many different factors including age, lifestyle, each partner’s health, and sex drive.
Here, Matty writes why sex isn’t always the main factor when it comes to a great sex life:

Where the real issue lies

This issue often comes up when the couple has what is called mismatched libidos.

If she likes to have sex four times a week and he only once or twice, they want to find out who is the ‘abnormal’ one.

It is actually quite common for a couple to have different levels of desire, and it does not generally reflect a lack of love. It is not that easy to find a partner with the same sex drive as you.

In my experience, there are happy couples who have sex every day, have sex once a week or once a month. It’s not a matter of quantity but quality.

More important than the frequency of sex is how satisfied couples are with their sex lives. Less sex doesn’t automatically equate to less love, happiness and fulfilment, especially for couples who have been together for a long time.

For them, companionship, trust, and mutual reliability are often more important than lots of steamy sex.

What counts as sex?

Another problem of estimating sexual frequency is that people often only consider sexual intercourse as having sex.

Many other activities can be considered sex, such as oral sex, genital touching, mutual masturbation or just affectionate behaviour such as kissing, cuddling, caressing and holding hands.

All these activities are also associated with higher sexual satisfaction for both men and women.

A ‘sexless’ relationship

Most sex therapists agree that couples having sex less than 10 times a year could be labelled a ‘sexless’ relationship.

A lack of sex doesn’t always mean that the relationship is in trouble, as long as both partners are satisfied with the frequency.

In most relationships, sexual satisfaction is a measure of the entire relationship. If a once-satisfying sex life becomes one in which sex is infrequent or non-existent, it’s more than likely that other aspects of the relationship are unsatisfactory.

But in my experience, when couples stop having sex their relationship can be overtaken by feelings of anger, disappointment and detachment which can lead to infidelity or divorce.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual Bereavement

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A small special gift for those who grieve

Sex After Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved -By Joan Price

By Rae Padilla Francoeur

The mind and body aren’t always in agreement. Someone grieving the death of a beloved partner can be gobsmacked by sexual arousal. Such unexpected, often unwanted feelings in the peak of grief trigger shock and shame, further traumatizing the grief-stricken.

Humans are complicated creatures, as author and expert on senior sexuality Joan Price so aptly demonstrates in her newest book, “Sex After Grief.”

“It’s time to talk out loud about sex and grieving,” she writes. “There are many books about grief after loss of a beloved, but they almost never talk about sex.”

Price consults experts in the field of grief as well as those grieving the loss of partners for materials for this book. She also draws from her research as well as her Grief Journal and her Memory Journal that she kept after losing her husband, the love of her life found later in life. She delivers a small, special gift to those attempting to reconcile warring emotional and physical responses during bereavement. What may seem like chaos is natural and normal, she reassures those in the throes of great emotional tumult.

Price, 75, lost her husband Robert Rice in 2008 and spent several years not just grieving but learning about loss and grief. She had four grief counselors throughout her journey from someone rocked by devastating loss to a generous and compassionate sage.

A knowledge of grief along with her expertise in the field of senior sexuality — she has written four other books on senior sexuality and is a sought-after speaker internationally — prompted Price to more deeply investigate the topic of sexuality and grief. Loss of an intimate partner can happen at any age. Grief isn’t the exclusive realm of the elders, sadly, and “Sex After Grief” will resonate with many seeking guidance and support after loss such as divorce, rejection or other circumstances.

The many voices in this book are smart, well-spoken and insightful. Grief seems to open an exquisite, poignant dimension where the bereaved exist in a state of extremes. Emotions, thoughts and experiences are charged and precious. Those transitioning from this stage are changed, says Price. And while they are vulnerable, apprehensive and unsure, they are also wiser and courageous.

Price’s “grief journey” lasted 10 years but during that time, she allowed herself many helpful experiences including forays into the realm of friends with benefits, erotic massage and online dating. She made sure, at every juncture, that she paid attention and honored her inclinations. Her decision to keep two journals, one she filled with good memories of her husband and one about her grief, gave her some of the material she needed to structure and write this book.

White-knuckle grief, “skin hunger,” guilt, disloyalty, loneliness and isolation, and even loving memories clog the path forward. Price writes of “halting steps” toward a place where grief exists but doesn’t always sear. Every loss is unique, every person is unique and, therefore, every journey is unique. Price’s chapters about myths, grief counselors, dating and “pilot light lovers” (those who ignite dormant passions) are all especially meaningful in that they explore experiences, sexual orientation and concerns.

Price speaks candidly about sexuality and the ways sexuality changes with age. The primary audience for this book, people over 50 (perhaps), will not be surprised by what they read. Older people know sexuality doesn’t necessarily diminish with the advent of age and age-related impairments. Older people happily accommodate. Senior sexuality still seems like something of a secret that Price is trying to bring out in the open. Wouldn’t it be nice for Millennials to know, for example, that their sexuality isn’t subject to obsolescence? People of all ages keep at it, often until a final severe illness brings a close to that part of normal and natural functioning. One of the key attributes of this book is an absence of hedging and judgment. Price has a way with candor. Sexuality is. And it’s there, even in dying and death.

Price, too, has found delight and pleasure in her sexuality once again. They exist in concert with a grief that has moderated with time and hard work.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Support A Partner Who’s Dealing With A Low Sex Drive

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By Vanessa Marin, M.S.

Most couples at some point find themselves in a situation where there’s a desire discrepancy: One partner wants more sex than the other person does. This situation is so common that I regularly have people coming to my sex therapy practice looking for solutions. The good news is that there are many!

Research has found many reasons some people might be or become less interested in sex, from the psychological to the physical to the relational and situational. Most conversations around mismatched libidos focus on helping the partner with less sexual desire find ways to get turned on again, and while that can certainly be part of a couple’s path toward a satisfying sexual life together, that strategy on its own can sometimes add more stress and pressure for that less libidinous partner.

If you’re someone whose significant other or spouse has a lower libido, your focus should go beyond just trying to find ways to turn your partner on. As a sex therapist who supports couples with mismatched libidos, I recommend a more holistic approach. Here are a few key ways to support a partner dealing with a low libido that’s causing them distress:

Be very attentive and considerate of your partner’s insecurities.

It’s really important to know that the person dealing with desire difficulties is probably judging themselves. They may think that something is wrong with them or that they’re “broken” in some way. So the partner who has the relatively higher desire needs to be kind and sensitive. All couples should approach their sex lives as a project that they work on together. They should talk about what they each need out of their sex lives to feel connected.

Use the framework of curiosity.

Oftentimes, the partner with seemingly lower desire is misunderstood. It’s not that they have low or no desire; it’s that the right circumstances haven’t been in place for their desire to be able to show itself. Approach your partner with curiosity. What kinds of contexts do they need to feel desire? What blockages get in the way of them feeling desire? If you don’t know, what dynamics could you experiment with?

It’s OK to keep initiating.

You’re always allowed to ask for what you want from your partner. And your partner is always allowed to say what they want in response. I do encourage partners with the relatively higher sex drive to keep initiating.

The pattern I typically see is that the partner with the higher sex drive will stop initiating. They’re either hurt from being turned down, wanting to feel desired by their partner, or wanting to not pressure their partner. But not initiating feels even more stifling, so the partner with the relatively higher desire starts to feel resentful. The partner with the lower desire can sense that resentment, and it makes them pull away even more.

Remember that your partner doesn’t owe you anything.

I hear various forms of this question being asked: Is the person with the lower libido responsible for agreeing to sex every now and then to satisfy their partner?

We have to be really careful about the word “responsible.” You never have to do anything with your own body that you don’t want to do. You never “owe” your partner anything. That being said, in relationships, we often do things for our partners that we don’t necessarily want to do or love doing. If you feel fully allowed within your relationship to say “no” to sex, you may find that you sometimes have the space to be open to being intimate with your partner, even if you weren’t originally in the mood.

Celebrate and honor your partner’s no.

As I mentioned above, if you give full permission to say no to sex, you’ll find that more space actually opens up for intimacy. One of the best ways to support a partner with a lower sex drive is to truly and fully give them permission to say no. Keep reminding them over and over again that you don’t want them to feel guilty, and you don’t want them to feel any pressure. If you take the teamwork approach to your sex life that I mentioned above, that also really helps. You take the energy you would normally waste feeling guilty and instead turn it toward creative problem-solving, together.

Prioritize your intimate relationship with yourself.

You can handle some of your own sexual needs! We should each have a relationship with our own sexuality, separate from our relationship with our partner. When your partner is the only outlet for your sexual needs, that puts a lot of pressure on them. You having a joyful relationship with your own body and being able to take care of yourself makes a big difference to your partner. They may even be open to keeping you company while you take care of yourself!

Creating an environment of safety, support, and curiosity—rather than pressure, stress, or resentment—will go a long way toward helping you and your partner develop a mutually satisfying sex life.

Complete Article HERE!

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ANDRO/GYNE

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By Cayla Rubin

ANDRO/GYNE is an intimate photo essay that without words and through an alluring, artistic lens, gives voice to a large group of strong individuals that deserve a platform in mainstream discourse. The mysterious black and white, nude photo series juxtaposes a man and a woman who has undergone a mastectomy without reconstruction. This passion project is shining a light onto the taboos surrounding reconstructive surgery through illustrating the power that resides in vulnerability.

Recently, certain silicone breast implants were recalled due to the fact they are known to cause lymphoma. This prismatic photo story explores the fluidity that resides in femininity. The power the results from choosing health, and being confident in that decision, versus feeling the need to transform oneself because of underlying mainstream beauty pressures is effortlessly portrayed.

You are very quick (and correct) to point out that gender and sexuality do not originate in the breasts. Why do you think that society places such a huge importance on breasts?

Breasts instantly communicate to the male gaze the fundamental desirability of the female: her ability to produce children and provide sexual gratification. The degree to which the semiotics of breasts is defined in our culture by the male gaze became glaringly apparent to me when I lost mine due to cancer.

The sexual and nurturing power of the breast is not part of that definition, especially in the US.  Rather, that power, which is the feminine power in the equation, is controversial. Bra-burning, rappers flashing or grabbing their breasts, the rows over public breast-feeding and the bizarre practice of strippers covering their nipples with tassels all attest to this.

Culturally we like breasts to be large and prominent but devoid of active female sexuality, i.e. nipples. It is total objectification. Showing cleavage is sexy. Showing nipples is slutty.

Oftentimes, doctors who prefer breast reconstruction following mastectomies push the narrative of “restoring femininity.” What are better hallmarks of femininity that we should place more value on?

Ultimately femininity is part of sexual identity and drive, regardless of your assigned gender or physical appearance. When women are objectified it serves to negate their sexual agency. So the cultural ideal of a woman, as defined by a male objectifying gaze, is a woman who is a recipient and mirror of male desire but has none of her own.

The hallmark of a feminine woman, to me, is her sexuality, and until we come to terms with that, culturally, nothing will likely change.

What offended me in the discussions with doctors around reconstructive surgery was that it was solely focused on how others experience me sexually and completely left out how I conceive of and experience my sexuality. Having lumps of numb silicone installed in my chest will not do anything for my sexuality. If anything it will detract, because it would destroy the recovered sensitivity of my chest.

The subtext in much of this discussion was that I would not be able to have sex, if I did not have breasts. No doubt many men would pass on a woman with no breasts, but they might also pass for any number of other reasons. In the end, those who pass me up are not relevant to the vitality of my sexuality.

Why is it important to picture both a man and a woman in this photo series, rather than placing the sole focus on the woman?

For a couple of reasons. We wanted to contrast femininity and masculinity to offset my femininity in a way that is readily understandable, posed next to a classically beautiful male. The nude couple is a classic genre, and we wanted to have the series work within that genre and at the same time push the boundaries of the genre. We wanted the scars to be fully visible and yet not be the main focus. We wanted the focus to be on me interacting fully as a woman, in spite of the scars, and age for that matter.

But it also had to do, more generally, with the narratives around cancer survivorship. Especially with breast cancer, it tends to be all about the lone “cancer warrior” overcoming tragedy. I don’t see it that way. I am not a survivor. I am alive in every sense of the word and, to me, being alive is all about my relationships and connections with others. Foivos happens to be a talented actor and performer, so he had the chops to do this, but he is also a good friend. I wanted that human connection and dialogue in the photographs, because that is how I know that I am alive.

What do you believe should be considered the root of female sexuality?

As with any person’s sexuality, the root has to be how you yourself experience and live your sexuality, not how others try to define it. LGBTQ people know this very well, but living a lifetime as a cis woman, I had never fully realized how much social norms interfered with my sexuality. Losing the breasts was enlightening in many ways, because it forced me to engage with my femininity and sexuality in a whole new way, liberated, in a sense, from the objectification that had been part of my life from the time I grew breasts. Rather than detract from my sexuality, the surgery led me to reclaim it as my own.

What is one thing you wish more people knew about breast amputation?

Just one thing? I would have to say that reconstructive surgery is more complicated than most people think. The amputation itself is a relatively simple and easy surgery for most people. The pain and complications start with reconstructive surgery, which, by the way, is typically a minimum of two surgeries and often more than that. Many women are very pleased with their results, but many women are not. The reconstruction will allow you to remain within the normative boundaries for a cis woman, but finding your center as a woman will take work with or without reconstructed breasts.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexist attitudes towards sex are cheating women of orgasms – and worse

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The myth that women just ‘go along’ with sex denies their right to pleasure and makes it harder to convict men who rape

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We may like to think we’re quite sexually free and equal these days, but an End Violence Against Women Coalition/YouGov survey of nearly 4,000 adults finds that two-fifths of people think men want sex more than women do. And between a third of and half of us think it is more likely that in heterosexual couples men will initiate and orgasm during sex, and decide when sex is finished, than women. In contrast, women are believed to be much more likely to refuse sex and to “go along with sex to keep their partner happy”.

This shows the persistence of the idea that sex is more “for” men than it is for women. The female climax is talked about in terms of being elusive, and yet the fact that this “orgasm gap” exists solely in heterosexual sex speaks to a lack of understanding, effort and mutuality, because lesbians are not having this problem. It’s a product of setting up the male orgasm, usually achieved through penile penetration, as the centrepiece of sex.

It is a sad state of affairs that there is a lower expectation that women will experience pleasure or climax during sex, and that this is accepted as to be expected, or “normal”. It’s self-perpetuating, because if women believe that “going along” with sex is a common female experience, they may be less likely to articulate and explore their needs and wants in early sexual relationships or when older. They may also feel pressure not to express discomfort or pain. And when sex is only one part of a long-term relationship, alongside persistent inequality around work, chores, caring and other people’s gendered expectations, plain talking and yet another plea for fairness might be just one battle too many.

Sexual inequality matters enormously, in and of itself, because women should be able to expect and enjoy sexual relationships that are based on mutual pleasure and equality. This shouldn’t need contesting or sound radical any more but apparently it does.

But there’s even more than this at stake. The sexist ideas about sex that we identified can also be a basis for some men developing a sense of greater entitlement to sex, as well as the excusing or minimising of men pestering or pushing women for sex. If you combine these ideas that men want and need sex more, and that women are just less motivated and more likely to refuse, you end up with a toxic status for women as the “gatekeepers” of sex, where it is a woman’s role to manage sexual interactions and access to her body.

If women are “gatekeepers” of whether sex takes place, then it is women who carry all the responsibility for every single sexual interaction they have. And this means that women are also seen as responsible if their boundaries are broken and they experience sexual violence. And it will be principally her who is investigated to ascertain whether a rape took place if she alleges it. The man’s behaviour apparently does not need close examination. It is assumed he will have been up for and will have pushed for sex – only 1% of people think men ever refuse sex, and 2% think men “go along with” sex. This can then lead to the rhetoric of sexual violence being set up as an unfortunate failure to properly gatekeep, a regret, just a big misunderstanding. These are powerful myths that have malign consequences. However, if we thought about sex differently, based on equality, these would be less likely.

This entrenched sexism about sex matters when we consider what is going wrong in a society that is utterly failing to deter, reduce and prevent rape. These ideas are part of why reported rape prosecutions fail, as police and prosecutors decide they can’t build a case if they think a jury will see a woman who “failed to gatekeep” before they see a man who knew he was crossing the line.

This is why we are calling for more, accelerated and frank conversations about actual sexual practice. We need men to recognise their responsibility and accept accountability both for sexism and for good sex. We need to put an end to the notion that sex is something done “to” women, and to reach a place where enthusiastic, mutual consent, equality and pleasure in sexual relationships is the norm.

Sex will be so much better when it’s more equal.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex Drug for Women Stirs Up Controversy in Medical Community

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Just don’t call the new medication for women’s low desire for sex ‘female Viagra.’

Vyleesi acts on neurochemicals in a woman’s brain to help her feel desire.

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There is some good news out about how women’s sexuality, long overlooked in the medical community, is treated now. Amid much hype and interest, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Vyleesi (bremelanotide), an injection designed to improve female sexual interest arousal disorder (FSIAD) — also known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder — in premenopausal women, in June 2019.

Is Sexual Interest Arousal Disorder the Same as Sexual Desire Disorder?

Formerly called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), the term for a lack of desire for sexual activity was recently updated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). The disorder is when women are distressed by the fact that they have little to no desire for sexual acts and the lack isn’t due to medication, disease, relationship problems, or psychological issues. The low desire is chronic (six months or longer), present at all times (not just during certain situations), and is associated with personal distress. (The distress must be the woman’s, and not the partner’s. There is nothing wrong with a woman with low desire who isn’t upset with the status. There is a difference between dysfunction and disinterest.)

New Drug Helps Validate Women’s Sexual Experiences

“The whole concept of minimizing women’s sexual health issues is important. In the past, if women had sexual problems, they were just told they were hysterical. Now their issues are coming to the forefront, and at least the release of Vyleesi may indicate that women’s sexual health is becoming more of a priority. It’s empowerment for women that they now have choices and options,” says Michael Krychman, MD, executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health in Newport Beach.

Leah Millheiser, MD, director of the female sexual medicine program at Stanford Health Care in California, adds, “It is a coup for women that the FDA is recognizing chronically low libido as an important health issue.”

New Libido Drug Is Not a Cure for All Sexual Problems

There has been some controversy, however, over the release of Vyleesi, in that it may promise more than it can deliver. First, to be clear, the injections are not a silver bullet. Women’s sexuality is a complex interplay of medical, psychological, situational, and relationship status.

“Female sexual health and wellness are multifactorial. Vyleesi provides one facet to help but it’s important to appropriately assess the woman first. If the woman has complaints, she needs to be offered an intervention: Not just medical, but sometimes also psychological input and counseling are also very appropriate. In my clinical experience, women can benefit from medical intervention and some sort of counseling as well,” says Dr. Krychman.

You May Still Need Sex Counseling to Get Back on Track

Reality check: You will still have to work on your relationship. Women and their partners have to remember that if they have had long-term concerns with desire, they may need help via sex therapy on getting back to intimacy. “It’s challenging to go from 0 to 10. You have to relearn sexual trust and intimacy. Simply giving yourself a shot is not necessarily going to be a panacea. Vyleesi improves desire, but don’t expect to feel like you’re in your sexual prime again. It’s a subtle improvement, but that might be enough to improve intimacy and sexual self-esteem,” says Dr. Millheiser.

Vyleesi Is Not Appropriate for Women With Low Libido Who Do Not Have Arousal Disorder

Vyleesi is only for premenopausal women with female sexual interest arousal disorder. For women who have low sexual desire — and would like to have more — their first stop should be to a clinician who can assess where the issue is. If sexual dysfunction is ruled out, making behavioral changes is more effective than medication. “As you age, spontaneous sex is harder to come by. Making time, relationship and sex counseling, finding private time, getting into a new environment, sex toys, and working on body image can all help. Women may not start out with spontaneous desire, but can develop responsive desire in the act,” says Millheiser, who also recommends “pregaming.” Self-stimulate, or read or watch something arousing, so you can develop responsive desire prior to engaging with your partner.

Not Female Viagra: Vyleesi Does Not Work the Way Viagra Does

There is also a prevalent misconception that Vyleesi, the second medication of its kind to come to market following the release of Addyi (flibanserin), is a female Viagra (sildenafil), referring to the male medication for erectile dysfunction. Vyleesi works on desire, while Viagra works on arousal. “Clinicians really want to move away from comparing women’s drugs with men’s. Viagra increases blood flow to the penis but men have to have desire in order for it to work. Vyleesi alters neurochemicals in the brain so women can feel desire,” says Millheiser.

Has the Public Been Provided Enough Information About the Drug?

The National Women’s Health Network, a consumer activist group, says that the FDA rushed Vyleesi to market too soon. In a statement about the approval, Cynthia Pearson, executive director, said, “The National Women’s Health Network is disappointed in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to approve the drug bremelanotide (brand name: Vyleesi) and urges women to avoid using the drug until more is known about its safety and effectiveness. Women simply do not have enough information to make an informed decision about whether the drug is safe and effective. The FDA did not call on their advisers to review the drug publicly, and the sponsor has not yet published full clinical trial results. The limited data that has been published leaves many important questions unanswered. For example, it appears that hundreds of women enrolled in the pivotal trials were not included in the company’s presentation of the results. What happened to those women?”

The organization also points out the potential side effects: severe nausea, and skin and gum darkening, which did not go away after stopping treatment in about one-half of cases.

There Are Concerns About Side Effects, Safety, and Effectiveness

“We respect the ability of women to make good decisions if they have good information. We are not saying side effects are a reason why women shouldn’t use it; the issue is how much do we know? Can you get enough information to make an informed decision? A very determined person could get more info by reading the detailed label on the FDA website, but it still feels like the FDA didn’t do women good service here by the rush,” says Pearson, adding, “I’ll be surprised if it takes a very big place in the arsenal. It is not very effective and makes a lot of women very uncomfortable. My prediction is it is going to be something of a flop.”

Krychman disagrees with this assessment: “The product has been extensively studied. I think it’s appropriate for the FDA to make its own judgment. They evaluated and assessed the clinical program, which was very robust, and they have a competent group of advisors.”

Millheiser concurs, “The drug company behind Vyleesi has provided sufficient data on safety and efficacy. If there hadn’t been, the FDA would not have approved it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Prostate Play

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How To Massage One To Orgasm

By Erika W. Smith

People born with a penis are also born with a prostate — a walnut-shaped gland wrapped around the urethral canal. It’s often compared to the G-spot, because the prostate’s location is in a similar location inside the body and both can feel amazing when stimulated. People of all sexual orientations love prostate play, which makes sense, because it can lead to intense pleasure and orgasms.

Massaging the prostate to orgasm is sometimes called “prostate milking.” People with prostates can do this alone or with a partner, using either fingers or a sex toy. Prostate milking “provides a full-body orgasm, versus a penile orgasm, which is strictly genital-based,” We-Vibe’s sex expert, Dr. Chris Donaghue, tells Refinery29.

There are many reasons why someone might try prostate milking. “Exploring prostate stimulation has psychological, biological, and sexual health benefits,” Dr. Donaghue says. “When the anal area is shunned, it becomes constricted and tense, and avoidance of this area leads to shutting down other connected areas in the pelvis, which creates sexual issues with erections and ejaculation.”

That’s right: prostate milking can lead to stronger erections and orgasms. There are also many other sexual health benefits. “Prostate milking helps flush out the prostate, increases blood flow to the pelvic area, and strengthens pelvic floor muscles,” Dr. Donaghue says.

But most people who love prostate milking do so simply because of how it feels. “The biggest reason for exploring the prostate is to unlock higher arousal and levels of pleasure,” Dr. Donaghue says. “The prostate is a man’s most direct access point to explosive orgasms — orgasms that are longer, hotter, and can lead to the ability to have multiple orgasms.”

Megwyn White, Somatic Sensuality Guide and Director of Education at Satisfyer, adds that prostate milking has additional health benefits. Along with enhancing sexual pleasure and orgasms, it can “release blockages and improve flow of urine” and “be an effective treatment for prostatitis,” a condition in which the prostate gland is inflamed, causing difficult or painful urination, groin pain, and sometimes flu-like symptoms. Prostate milking “helps free the prostate of what’s called ‘expressed prostatic secretion,’” she explains. “This action leads to a prostatic secretion getting released from the prostate, and also has the potential to stimulate profoundly intense orgasms, and ultimately act as an overall reset to the sexual arousal cycle.”

If prostate milking sounds intriguing and you’d like to try it, start slowly and use lube. White says it’s important to relax before beginning: “Think about the practice of prostate milking as an incredible way to take you into a deeply surrendered state so remember to try not to over control your experience.”

You can try different positions to see what works best, such as squatting or lying on the back with knees bent. Dr. Donaghue says, “I always recommend getting used to having the anal area touched first by massaging externally in the shower or during masturbation, and then later practicing putting your finger internally. The prostate best responds to gentle pressure.” If there’s any pain or discomfort, stop and check in with your healthcare practitioner, because this could be a sign of an underlying health issue.

Both Dr. Donaghue and White mentioned it may be easier to use a sex toy than a finger, especially if you’re going solo. Dr. Donaghue recommends the Vector by We-Vibe, while White suggests the Satisfyer Beads. And while prostate milking can make masturbation feel even better, it can also be a lot of fun to try with a partner — who might combine prostate stimulation with oral sex or a hand job. The possibilities are endless.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Apps are definitely changing our sexual behavior

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We’re just not sure how

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Plenty of analysis has whiffed on diagnosing the impact of dating apps on our behavior — but that doesn’t mean we’re immune.

Recently, three researchers at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Observation and Research in Sexuality and Gender Matters (ORGASM) Lab, Alex Lopes, Cory Pedersen, and Kaylee Skoda, asked a group of gay and bisexual men to consider this scenario: You’ve been messaging a hot guy you matched with on a dating app. You’ve both been getting pretty flirty and sexual. You’ve both made it pretty clear that you’re getting turned on by this exchange. Then, the team showed the men a phone screen of the most recent hypothetical messages in this chain, one of which used an eggplant-and-rain emoji combo and the last of which clearly propositioned: “I’m pretty close to you. Think you’d want to come over and have some fun?” How, the researchers wanted to know, would their assembled subjects respond to this steamy John Doe?

But what they really wanted to know was not, say, how different demographics respond to phone-based hookup offers. Without drawing attention to it, they’d made a subtle tweak to the phone screens, with some displaying a 100 percent phone battery life, some 20 percent, and some five percent. They wanted to see if this seemingly irrelevant detail would affect the men’s decision making — and lo and behold, the lower the screen’s displayed battery life, the more likely men were to agree to the hookup. As they wrote in a paper for the academic journal Sexuality & Culture in June, “when individuals are faced with a low phone battery, a sense of urgency may be experienced, which can increase risk-taking behaviors to accommodate an impending phone ‘death.’”

The idea that something as innocuous and, practically, inconsequential as phone battery life could actually change something as big as our sexual behaviors may seem like utter bullshit to many. After all, as social psychologist and sex researcher Justin Lehmiller told me, “we might like to think that our decision-making is immune from outside influences” like this. Our phones are just tools that we use to explore and enable our personal, entirely internal proclivities.

But no matter how absurd this study or the general idea that our phones and the apps on them can alter our sexual behaviors may seem, it is not bullshit. “The reality is that our behavior is subtly shaped by numerous outside factors that we don’t always consciously recognize at the time,” said Lehmiller. “There is actually quite a bit of research looking at how the use of smartphone dating and hookup apps is related to sexual behavior.” The sooner we embrace the reality that our phones can play a notable role in shaping our intimate lives, the sooner we can push back on that influence.

We’d only notice, or acknowledge, these effects if suddenly we lost access to our phones, and experienced a difference in our sexual behaviors or decision-making.

People often underestimate the effect that any tool or technology can have on the ways we think and act, said Pamela Rutledge, a psychologist who researchers precisely these effects. Part of our chronic denial may stem from the fact that, as the psychologist Bernard Luskin has noted, media and technology are the air we breathe now, so ubiquitous that any effects they may have appear invisible, as if they are already a part of us. We’d only notice, or acknowledge, these effects if suddenly we lost access to our phones, and experienced a difference in our sexual behaviors or decision-making.

Part of this denial may be more of an intuitive act of self-preservation, as the psychologist Brad Bushman has argued when exploring why so many people balk at the idea that violent media could have an effect on us despite ample studies suggesting that it does. When faced with a study that claims something you like to engage with could be having an unexpected or unwanted effect on you, he noted, you’re likely to try to discredit that study so you can keep blithely engaging with that tool. Even folks who acknowledge that there could be some logic to the idea that a phone could influence behavior tend to believe that these tools or devices “have a much stronger effect on others than [on] themselves — called the third-person effect.”

“Thinking this way increases our sense of personal control,” Lehmiller explained. Maintaining that sense of autonomy is vital to many people’s comfort and confidence in day-to-day life. Admitting that “a dying phone battery can influence the way one chooses a sexual partner,” added Skoda, “is a fairly sobering realization on how dependent we have become on technology,” and a blow to that sense of control, of self-definition and internal consistency that few are keen to embrace.

The effects of media and tech on our behaviors, media psychologistsargue, are also just one variable among many, gradual, and varied from person to person or app to app. It is easy for many skeptics to write a force so subtle and imprecise off as negligible or nonexistent. But there is a rich body of evidence out there on how technology writ large can affect our thought processes. Most people probably harbor some lurking sense that tech in general can influence human life and behaviors, that the internet or television or computers have somehow changed our world. But it may be especially easy to doubt claims about the links between our phones and intimate lives because cultural commentators have been so apocalyptic, and gotten so much wrong, on this topic over the last few years.

Case-in-point: The overarchingnarrative on app-based dating in a number of major think pieces in the early- to mid-teens, like Vanity Fair’s infamous 2015 takedown of Tinder culture, was that they would obviously lead to an explosion in hookups and casual sex and a reticence to ever settle down in favor of swiping endlessly for something better — likely on the basis of looks alone. Yet recent studies seem to suggest that young millennials, a smartphone- and app-saturated demographic, are actually having less sex with fewer partners than previous generations. The things people look for in relationships, even on apps, haven’t really changed over the last decade, nor do apps seem to affect relationship stability. Some analyses actually suggest that, absolutely contrary to pop jeremiads, people meeting through Tinder may be getting married faster than those meeting offline.

With so many predictive misfires, it’s easy to call baloney on new assertions.

Smartphones and dating apps are also extremely new pieces of technology. We’ve only had the former for about 12 years and the latter for 10; Tinder has only been widely available for a little more than five. That’s not enough time for researchers to conduct a thorough array of studies, sort out the findings that seem to hold water across them, and hash them out conclusively in the public sphere. So it’s particularly easy to find holes in the methodologies of studies on the phone-sex intersection.

A number of early studies have, for instance, drawn correlations between phone-based app usage and things like a higher number of sexual partners and likelihood of being diagnosed with an STD — stand-ins for overall riskier sexual behavior. Some research also suggests that people who use smartphones to facilitate their dating or sex lives have lower self-esteem than their peers. Yet as Lehmiller pointed out, with the data we have thus far, it is hard to tell whether phones or apps cause these disparities, or whether the folks who use their phones to mediate their dating and sex lives are just more prone to sexual risk taking behaviors and low self esteem in the first place. “My research suggests that app users are more sexually active to begin with,” he noted, “and that they’d have more partners and more STDs as a group regardless of whether [dating apps] existed” or not.

Skoda stressed that the ORGASM Lab’s phone battery life study is itself very preliminary. It does make logical sense, noted Rutledge, as we know that the perception of scarcity, which a low phone battery may signal or exacerbate, does increase people’s sense of the urgency to act. (That’s the logic behind items are going fast or only so many days left advertising campaigns, which are demonstrably effective.) The phone battery study itself, Skoda pointed out, was inspired by a fellow researcher reading “a newspaper article that discussed how Uber users were more likely to pay for surge pricing when their phones had low batteries.”

This study was conducted as a hypothetical in a lab, which does not often reflect how people act or think in real life. And, Skoda noted, researchers need to see if the finding holds up across different demographics, types of dating apps, and contexts in general. The effect _could _be narrow or prove nonexistent.

“This isn’t to say that apps [and phones] have no effect on our behavior,” Lehmiller stressed. “It is very likely that they do.” Academics have started to make a strong case that the volume of options on dating apps and their swipe mechanics, taking into account the way human brains work, may be encouraging the objectification of others and rushed, ill-advised romantic-sexual decision-making. And that constant engagement with social media via phones seems to create informational distortion chambers that can at times amplify negative messaging about sex, sexual health, and sexual violence, influencing the thoughts and behaviors of those most hooked in. Troves of anecdotal evidence, consistent over multiple sources and years, also strongly suggest that, by simply giving us more and easier-to-access dating options, apps and similar tools change our relationship calculus, including making it easier for people to feel like they don’t need to stay in and settle for subpar or even toxic dynamics for lack of a wealth of other opportunities.

The sooner we can accept that things like a phone’s battery life, or other aspects of phone-mediated relationships and sex, can have an effect on our intimate behaviors, though, the better.

It will just take time for those effects to become apparent and agreed upon. It took decades for researchers and public health experts to reach some nuanced conclusions about how depictions of sex on television can influence people’s sexual behaviors. To wit, a show can shift what viewers think is normal, and thus will seek, in a sexual encounter, depending on how realistic they believe the program to be, and a host of other potential mitigating factors. And even that field of study still has its doubters and naysayers, likely because of the challenges involved in doing research in this field. If one believes that certain types of TV viewing could possibly have a deleterious effect on people’s sexual health, then it’s not exactly ethical to run a randomized experiment regulating their media diets to see what happens. Nor is it ever easy, Rutledge pointed out, to control for every possible confounding variable that could affect one’s behaviors.

So there’s always room for some amount of doubt and negation. But generally, time and consistent findings, communicated repeatedly to the public with rising certainty, can get us to acknowledge uncomfortable realities about how things like phones can affect our intimate selves, no matter how much we like to believe we control that part of ourselves fully.

The sooner we can accept that things like a phone’s battery life, or other aspects of phone-mediated relationships and sex, can have an effect on our intimate behaviors, though, the better. We have finally reached a point in time when more people meet online, many via dating apps, than meet in person or through friends and family, and in which phone based dating apps are now a vital part of some subcultures’ dating and sex lives. If phones become our primary tool for dating and sex, then we really need to know and discuss how they do affect our intimate selves.

Awareness of the type of effects phones can have on our intimate lives can help us subvert these mediums for good. We know, for instance, that putting certain messaging into certain TV shows can have a huge effect on things like people’s level of knowledge about condoms and their usage or the extent to which they stigmatize people living with HIV, and how to use that power to insert effective pro-sexual health and wellness messaging into the media. It would help to know how we can best use phones to make our sex lives definitively _better _and safer more often than not.

But on a much more basic level, becoming aware of the effects our phones and the apps on them can have on us is key to modulating those effects that may concern us. As Rudledge put it, it would “help people recognize when they are reacting to a ‘trigger’ rather than thinking through and coming to a rational decision” about their sex or dating life on their own. Then they can take that power back for themselves.

Complete Article HERE!

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What College Students Should Know About Consent

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By Erika W. Smith

In 2015, artist Emma Sulkowicz wore a pale blue graduation robe and cap as they carried a 50-pound mattress across the stage, helped by four of their friends. Sulkowicz had been carrying the mattress — identical to those used in dorm rooms — around the Columbia University campus for an entire school year, as a performance art piece that doubled as their senior thesis. When they began the piece, Sulkowicz said they would carry the mattress until the student they said raped them in their dorm room was either expelled or voluntarily left school. But Sulkowicz graduated before either of those things happened.

Sulkowicz’s performance brought a new spotlight to the ongoing national conversation about sexual assault on college campuses. Now, the #MeToo movement has brought a new lens through which to continue the conversation. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while in college, and according to the advocacy organization End Rape On Campus, nearly one in four transgender and gender non-conforming undergraduate students will be sexually assaulted while in college.

And many of the people (mostly cis men) committing sexual assault don’t understand that what they’re doing is sexual assault. One study found that male undergraduates were more likely to admit to raping a partner when the assault was described in other language (for example, “Have you ever coerced somebody to intercourse by holding them down?”) rather than when the word “rape” was used.

Ted Bunch, co-founder of A Call To Men, previously told Refinery29 that in his workshops for high school boys, only 19% can accurately define consent. “Boys actually think ‘no’ means try harder. They think ‘no’ means get her drunk or that they’re not approaching it right and they have to change their approach,” he said.

Campus sexual assault is so prevalent that it has often been called an “epidemic,” and yet only eight states in the U.S. require public school sex education to even mention consent. It’s vital that students understand consent before entering college — the first six weeks of college are sometimes called “the Red Zone” because this is the time of year when the majority of on campus sexual assaults occur.

As Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape editor Jaclyn Friedman previously wrote for Refinery29, “When I talk to students about sex and consent, I’m often asked — mostly by young men — how often they have to check in with a partner to make sure they’re doing consent right… But rape is not a technicality, and consent is not a one-and-done box to be ticked; it’s an ongoing process between two people, which requires treating your partner like an equal. Trying to reduce ‘consent’ to something you need to get out of the way so you can go ahead and get some means you’re more concerned with gaming the rules than with treating your partner like a human person.”

We’ll break down some of the intricacies and common misconceptions about consent here, but Friedman gets right to the main point of it: treat your partner like a human person.

What Is Consent?

At its most basic definition, consent means agreeing to do something. When talking about sexual activity, activists are pushing for laws that establish affirmative consent, or “Yes Means Yes.” This approach establishes consent as something you actively say “yes” to, rather than simply the absence of a “no.”

According to End Rape On Campus, affirmative consent laws “establish that consent is a voluntary, affirmative, conscious, agreement to engage in sexual activity, that it can be revoked at any time, that a previous relationship does not constitute consent, and that coercion or threat of force can also not be used to establish consent. Affirmative consent can be given either verbally or nonverbally.” Additionally, these laws make it clear that someone is “incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or is either not awake or fully awake, is also incapable of giving consent.” California and New York have such laws in place, as do a number of individual schools in other states, including the University of Minnesota, Texas A&M, and Yale University. Even if your state or school currently has a laxer legal view of consent, morally, this is the way to go.

How Do I Know If My Partner Is Giving Consent?

Sexuality educator Jamie J. LeClaire highlights five different factors to examine when talking about consent. They tell Refinery29 that consent must be:

 1. Voluntary: “Consent must be freely given without any threat, force, intimidation, or coercion.”

2. Informed and coherent: “Someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and not entirely coherent, or asleep or not completely awake, is unable to give consent.”

3. Enthusiastic and unambiguous: “You shouldn’t be unsure of whether or not someone is into what’s happening. There should be no confusion as to whether your partner is a willing and eager participant.”

4. Reversible:Consent can be withdrawn at any time. That first green light can become a ‘Time to slow down’ or ‘Actually, I want to stop,’ at any moment for any reason, and that’s totally 100% valid, and their bodily autonomy must be respected.”

5. Ongoing and specific: “Sex is an active, continuous interaction — consenting to some heavy petting isn’t necessarily agreeing to be flogged.”

Remember that, as LeClaire says, “Consent must be given no matter what your relationship status is with your sexual partner.” Whether this is a long-term partner or someone you just met, if they’re not into it, stop.

Consent & Alcohol Or Drugs

Some consent guidelines say that a person cannot give consent if they are “incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.” However, other activists push for stronger standards.

“When it comes to mixing alcohol and other drugs with sex, my advice is: don’t,” Sam Wall, Assistant to the Director at sex education site Scarleteen.com, previously told Refinery29. “Any alcohol consumption makes consent anything from automatically questionable to outright impossible.” However, she added, “Realistically speaking, we know people can and do have mutually consensual, non-sober sex.” So if you and your partner do decide to have sex after drinking or doing drugs, “clear verbal consent is a MUST, not a maybe, and ANY indication someone is simply wasted, or isn’t aware or alert or all-there should be a stop sign, no argument.

Research shows that around half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol, and that men who drink heavily are more likely than other men to report having committed sexual assault. If you think there’s any chance drinking may impact your ability to tell whether your partner is consenting, do not drink and have sex.

Consent & Condoms

In the past few years, there’s been a lot of media coverage of the rise of “stealthing” — the practice of removing a condom during sex without a partner’s consent. In one 2018 study, 32% of women who have sex with men and 19% of men who have sex with men reported having experienced this. Unfortunately, there are no laws in the United States that explicitly name stealthing as a form of sexual assault, however, activists and lawmakers are pushing to change that.

“If someone consented to sex using condoms or other prevention methods, that’s the conditions of sex in which they consented. Removing the barrier method without your partner’s knowledge is an absolute violation of consent and sexual assault,” LeClaire says.>

Consent & Nude Photos

Keep consent in mind when sending nude photos, too. Earlier this year, Texas introduced a bill that would make sending unsolicited nude photos a misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine. Many couples enjoy sending sexy photos to each other — but make sure that the person you’re sending the photo to actually wants to receive it.

Unsolicited nude pics via text, SnapChat, dating apps, or whatever it may be, are a breach of consent. It’s really not that hard to ask for consent for sending naughty pics,” LeClaire says. “[Text something like], ‘I took some XXX photos of myself earlier, would love to send,’ and wait for permission. If they aren’t into it, respect that!”

If your partner sends you nude photos that you asked for, keep those photos private and do not share them with your friends or post them online. This is a violation of consent commonly called “revenge porn.”

How Do I Ask For Consent?

Some people think that asking for consent is “un-sexy,” but that’s not the case at all. As LeClaire points out, there are many different ways to ask for consent, up to and including dirty talk. Saying something like, “Do you like this?” or “I really want to [describe what you want to do]” are both ways of asking for consent. Your partner’s response “should sound nothing short of excitement, and it should NOT sound like hesitance, silence, or unease,” LeClaire says.

What Is Title IX?

In 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments banned discrimination on the basis of sex in “any educational program or activity receiving federal funding,” which includes both public and private colleges. Along with protecting students from discrimination in areas such as sports, Title IX applies to sexual assault and harassment. Title IX “provides protections for students who are survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape,” LeClaire explains.

In 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights introduced new guidelines for how colleges should handle sexual harassment and assault. However, President Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, has worked to roll back these Obama-era guidelines. Still, Title IX currently applies to sexual assault on campus.

“Every college will have a Title IX coordinator. If you know someone has sexually assaulted someone, inform your school’s Title IX coordinator. If you or someone you know what sexually assaulted, tell your school’s Title IX coordinator (with consent),” LeClaire says.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘A human need’

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Disability groups say people on NDIS should have access to sex workers

By Judith Ireland

Disabled Australians should be able to access sex toys, dating support and sex workers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme if they require them to live a normal life, a coalition of disability advocates says.

Four of Australia’s major disability groups argue the NDIS needs a “sexuality policy” to cover a broad range of needs such as adaptive sex toys, services from sex workers and sex therapists – as well as education about sexuality and relationships.

But the National Disability Insurance Agency, which administers the NDIS, says the scheme does not cover sexual services or therapies as part of its assistance to disabled Australians.

The agency recently launched an appeal against a tribunal decision that granted a severely disabled women access to a sex therapist under her NDIS plan.

People with Disability Australia spokesperson Matthew Bowden said it was a “human need” for people to be able to express their sexuality and have fulfilling sexual experiences, urging the government to show a “compassionate approach to a private and sensitive issue”.

In a new position statement, Disabled People’s Organisations Australia says disabled people date, have casual partners, marry and enjoy loving relationships like others in the community.

“Historically, people with disability have been subjected to societal beliefs that we are either asexual or hypersexual, while constantly being denied full autonomy over our own bodies,” says the alliance, which include organisations that represent women, Indigenous and multicultural Australians.

“While accessing services of a sex worker may not be for everyone, this option should not be denied or dismissed on the basis of disability, or the moral beliefs of third parties.”

Disability advocates stress that access to sexuality supports – particularly sex workers – would be considered on a case-by-case basis, and involve significant disability. For example, this might include someone with severe cerebral palsy who could not reach their own genitals.

Saul Ibister, president of Touching Base, an organisation that has been helping disabled people access sex workers for 20 years, said sexual expression was part of an ordinary life.

“The community does not expect people with disability to live the life of a nun,” he said.

In July, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found the provision of a sex therapist was a “reasonable and necessary” support under the NDIS for a woman with multiple sclerosis.

The woman is in her 40s and was diagnosed with MS about 16 years ago. She finds it difficult to walk but has no loss of intellectual capacity.

The NDIA originally refused the woman’s request for “sexual release” but the AAT found in her favour. The government almost immediately announced it would challenge that decision, and an appeal has been lodged with the Federal Court.

Sex therapists do not touch clients but focus on issues such as how to adapt sexual activity to a disability.

An NDIA spokesperson said: “The NDIS does not cover sexual services, sexual therapy or sex workers in a participant’s NDIS plan.

“The NDIS can fund supports to enable [people] to participate in the activities they choose; however, the NDIS does not fund the private activity itself and does not generally fund the cost of private activities.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What to Know About Sexsomnia

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A Rare Sleep Disorder Where You Have Sex in Your Sleep

By Morgan Mandriota

The facts about this weird sleep condition, from a 26-year-old woman who has it.

It happens at least three times a week: I wake up to find myself masturbating, breathing heavily, and on the brink of an orgasm. I always finish myself off (sorry, TMI) and then fall right back asleep afterward.

Sounds great, right? Not really. These frequent episodes are the main symptom of sexsomnia—a rare sleep disorder that causes people to have sex or masturbate in their sleep. Though I haven’t been clinically diagnosed with sexsomnia, I’ve been experiencing episodes like this for as long as I can remember. In the last few years, though, they’ve happened more regularly.

Along with the physical irritation caused by rubbing my clitoris beneath my sweatpants so often, sexsomnia has brought me emotional frustration, too. That’s because I have no control over this behavior, or even awareness of what I’m doing until it’s just about over. Though I’ve never tried to have sleep sex with a partner, I’m still cringing at the memory of sleeping over a friend’s house five years ago and finding out that I woke the entire family with my loud moaning.

Sexsomnia falls under the umbrella category of parasomnias, which are any disruptive, abnormal, and habitual activities that occur between and during stages of deep sleep. Other parasomnias include sleepwalking, night terrors, and sleep eating—except you’re getting way freakier than just spooning ice cream into your mouth in your slippers at two in the morning.

What causes sexsomnia, and who gets it? Can my fellow sexsomniacs and I be cured? I spoke with psychiatrists and sleep specialists to get to the bottom of this rare yet real disorder.

Sexsomnia symptoms and triggers

Sexsomnia is a lot more than the occasional sexy dream or hazy morning bumping and grinding. People who have the disorder will experience regular instances of moaning, pelvic thrusting, and masturbating or initiating sexual intercourse with the person lying beside them, all while they’re snoozing away.

Men are more likely to have sexsomnia than women, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Sleep. Another study, published in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine in 2016, found that male sexsomniacs are more likely to try to have sexual intercourse with a partner, while women with sexsomnia tend to masturbate, as I do.

The 2016 study confirms that these behaviors are amnesic, meaning they happen in a confused, partially awake state and likely won’t be remembered once the person has fully woken up. (Unlike my experience, where I wake up aware of what’s going on.) It also suggests that sexsomnia may occur along with other parasomnias.

What triggers sexsomnia? Basically anything that disrupts a normal, healthy sleep pattern—such as drinking alcohol or consuming caffeine too close to bedtime. Maintaining an irregular sleep schedule or not getting enough sleep can led to sexsomnia as well, Alex Dimitriu, MD, who is double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine in New Jersey, tells Health. Less commonly, sleep apnea, seizures, or a condition called REM behavior disorder can also contribute, he explains.

Depression, anxiety, and a lack of sexual activity may also affect how frequent sexsomnia episodes occur. In my case, I’m an anxious person in general, but I’ve certainly noticed that I wake up touching myself more often when I’m in the middle of a sexual dry spell.

Gail Saltz, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill-Cornell Medical College, tells me that sleep disorders like sexsomnia are made worse by certain medications, including many psychiatric medications. Being highly stressed can be a factor as well, says Dr. Saltz, who adds that it tends to run in families.

How sexsomnia has affected me

As troubling as sexsomnia can be, I’m lucky because my symptoms seem to bother me more than they bother anyone else.

None of my partners have ever brought it up to me, which is a good sign—unless they were too uncomfortable to mention that something happened. To see if that was the case, I recently asked an ex if he noticed that I did anything “weird” in my sleep, adding, “like… sexually” to help jog his memory. “No, but I do remember you waking up really horny,” he replied. That’s not sexsomnia, though, since I was awake and in the mood.

Last summer, I went on a 16-day road trip with my best friend. We shared a bed that whole time, and I caught myself having an episode one night but immediately stopped as soon as I could snap out of it, thankfully. This November, I’m taking a vacation to Aruba with my family, and needless to say, I’m definitely fearful of what might happen, since we’ll be sharing close quarters.

As you could imagine, sexsomnia is more problematic when you’re in a long-term relationship and share a bed with that person every night. In my case, I haven’t been in enough serious relationships where the disorder might affect someone other than myself, which is when I’d finally seek treatment. Dr. Saltz recommends seeking help “if sexsomnia becomes a real problem, such as your partner is disturbed by it, you are doing things that you or your partner do not want, or there is any danger.”

Are sexsomniacs cursed for life?

Speaking of treatment, there’s no magic cure for sexsomnia, unfortunately. But there are steps you can take to make it happen less frequently or even halt it completely.

People who sleep alongside sexsomniacs can often stop the episodes by either pushing their partner away or not responding to them. As for sexsomniacs themselves, they can aim to get better quality sleep, reduce their stress levels, decrease nighttime drug and alcohol consumption, and have more (conscious) sex.

Prescription meds are also an option. “Paroxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that can increase deep sleep, reduce nighttime erections, and reduce the frequency of nighttime awakenings, so it may be helpful for sexsomnia,” Martin Reed, a certified clinical sleep health educator and founder of the online sleep help site Insomnia Coach, tells me. “Clonazepam is another drug typically used to treat parasomnias.”

Dr. Dimitriu says that treatment should begin with optimizing and eliminating the triggers. If the behavior continues, then a discussion with your doctor and a consultation with a sleep specialist would be the next step.

Dr. Saltz warns, however, that people shouldn’t read into sexsomnia and give it too much meaning. “These behaviors are more about primitive human behavior due to random brain stimulation than something personally about you,” she says. After all, sex is one of our strongest biological drives as mammals. Deciding whether to treat sexsomnia seems to boil down to if these instincts are problematic for those who have it and the people they sleep next to at night.

Since I’m not sharing a bed with anyone right now, I’m keeping these tips in mind for the future. For now, I’m going to start masturbating before I fall asleep—so I’m getting the sexual release that will hopefully put my sexsomnia to bed once and for all.

Complete Article HERE!

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