Surrogate Therapy Takes a Hands-On Approach to Overcoming Sexual Trauma

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—Up to and Including Intercourse

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Touch, erotic or not, can communicate painful memories, insecurities and vulnerabilities that are hard to verbalize.

One of the most revelatory moments of Carlene Ostedgaard’s career was the time she got an orgasm from having her shoulder touched.

It happened a few years ago, when Ostedgaard, 35, began training to become a surrogate partner. Typically treating sexual anxiety or trauma, surrogate partners work in collaboration with licensed therapists to teach their clients relaxation tools, hands-on intimacy exercises and social skills—eventually leading to unstructured, penetrative sex.

Part of Ostedgaard’s training included a two-week program in Los Angeles, in which trainees paired up for a series of exercises that slowly became more intimate, from holding hands to footbaths. One exercise involved “erotic body mapping,” in which Ostedgaard and her partner took turns touching, licking and sucking spots on each other’s bodies and rating the sensation. When Ostedgaard’s partner got to her scapula, she began to feel a current running down her spine.

“It was super cool,” she says. “I thought I knew all these wonderful things about my body, and that was a totally new experience.”

Orgasms, though, are rare in surrogate therapy, and somewhat beside the point. Instead, the focus is on understanding why and when relaxation becomes difficult. Touch, erotic or not, can communicate painful memories, insecurities and vulnerabilities that are hard to verbalize.

“You can decide what you tell your therapist and what you don’t tell your therapist,” says Ostedgaard. “The body is not very good at lying.”

Ostedgaard has been working in Portland as a surrogate partner for three years. The practice exists under the broader category of “touch therapy.” In almost every case, hands-on coaches tend to work with clients whose symptoms—whether it’s erectile dysfunction or pelvic pain—stem from shame, anxiety or sexual trauma, and the treatment can encompass a range of physical contact. Somatica, for instance, focuses on breathing exercises and nonerotic touch, while sexological bodywork often involves genital touch but not necessarily penetrative sex.

Surrogate therapy, however, almost always involves sexual intercourse. But Ostedgaard stresses that it is only a small part of the overall treatment. Most of the time is spent working on communication skills and relaxation techniques.

“Ninety-five percent of what we do has nothing to do with sex,” says Ostedgaard. “It’s getting someone to that place where they’re relaxed enough to be present in their bodies so they can enjoy sex. It’s learning to communicate about sex.”

Even in the realm of sex therapy and coaching, touch-based work is a niche practice—Ostedgaard says she is among only a few dozen nonmedical sexual health practitioners in Portland who use physical contact as part of their treatment.

Because it involves sex, the legality of the profession is complicated. Few states have directly addressed surrogate therapy. While serving as deputy district attorney in Alameda County, Calif., Kamala Harris said of the practice, “If it’s between consensual adults and referred by licensed therapists and doesn’t involve minors, then it’s not illegal.”

In Oregon, commercial sexual solicitation is broadly defined as paying for any kind of “sexual conduct or sexual contact.” But according to certain experts, the therapeutic purpose of surrogate partner therapy could dissuade prosecution.

“It’s not the actual sex that’s criminalized, it’s the business aspect,” says Lake Perriguey, a Portland lawyer who has represented defendants facing sex crimes charges. “If the agreement is more broadly stated as a joint effort to overcome an impotence through therapy, that may not run afoul of the criminal statue. If there is an agreement, written or oral, that includes the words ‘You’re going to pay me to eat you out and then your sexual blockage will be cleared,’ that would be illegal.”

In other words, it’s mostly legal in the sense that it’s not explicitly illegal. Still, according to Ostedgaard, no surrogate partner has been prosecuted in the 50 years the treatment has existed.

“I’m a little bit tired of having the conversation,”she says, “because it’s never happened, no one’s gotten in trouble, and it’s such good therapy. That’s why people leave us alone.”

The American Psychological Association’s code of ethics prohibits any kind of sexual intimacy between patients and therapists. Hands-on workers are not recognized as therapists, and refer to those they treat as “clients” rather than patients. But surrogate partners are unique in that they work in conjunction with a licensed therapist. Clients see a therapist throughout the duration of their surrogacy treatment, and sign disclosure agreements so the two professionals can share notes.

Some therapists can be skeptical about the collaboration. It’s usually the client, rather than the surrogate, who does the convincing.

“When someone comes to this stage in therapy, they’ve tried everything else,” says Ostedgaard. “If someone needs this therapy, in my mind, it’s unethical to deny them when it is so effective.”

Of the various disciplines of hands-on sex therapy, surrogate therapy is perhaps the most regimented. At the beginning of each session, the surrogate checks in with the client to see if he or she is ready to proceed with the plan for the day. Sometimes, that means repeating hand caress exercises for a session before moving on to touching one another’s faces. Just before surrogates and clients have sex, there’s usually a session that involves “quiet penetration,” sometimes colloquially referred to as “stuffing,” which is essentially just penetration without the intent of having an orgasm, and with little movement (the vast majority of clients who seek surrogate therapy are cisgender men).

“We just hang out there for like five minutes,” she says. “What we’re really doing is normalizing that sensation, whether that’s bringing them to the point of ejaculation and teaching them like, you can control this, or normalizing the feeling of a vagina, because for a lot of these folks, that’s why they’re prematurely ejaculating, it’s because they’re excited or they’re fearful.”

Treatment typically takes one to two years of weekly sessions. Emotional involvement is inherently part of the treatment—the closing sessions are somewhere between an exit interview and a breakup. The surrogate recaps the skills the client has built, and the pair say goodbye.

“The client knows from the beginning that the relationship is going to end,” says Ostedgaard. “We frame it a lot from the perspective of, ‘Look at all these beautiful new skills you have. You deserve to go spread that to the world. Why on earth would you choose to share with only me?'”

After treatment is over, clients continue to see their therapist, but cannot contact the surrogate for at least three months. “It’s painful and there’s crying and you’re going to miss them and they’re going to miss you,” says Ostedgaard. “Then they come back and they tell you like, they’ve gotten married, they’ve had a baby—really wonderful things like that.”

Sex coaches and surrogate partners often speak about their work as a way of not only healing individual clients, but also recoding cultural attitudes about sex and pleasure.

Few believe a mass shift is going to happen anytime soon. Though the practice is gaining in recognition—this weekend in New Orleans, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Educators will hold its first conference for certified members who use hands-on touch—Ostedgaard says legalizing sex work, regardless of a worker’s philosophical leanings, would be a big step.

“It would change attitudes so much if it wasn’t in the shadows,” she says. “It would change to the idea that pleasure and sex are a birthright.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What does a healthy open relationship look like?

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In a culture that favors monogamy, is it possible for couples to have open relationships that work? Recent research that used a novel framework to explore types of monogamy and nonmonogamy suggests that open, consensual nonmonogamous relationships can be healthy and satisfying.

New research delves into the conditions that make open relationships happy and healthy.

by Catharine Paddock, Ph.D.

The new study does not draw sweeping conclusions about successful open relationships. Instead, the findings identify the conditions that can promote healthy consensual nonmonogamous relationships and those that can put them under strain.

These conditions relate to the extent to which there is mutual consent, comfort, and — perhaps most importantly — communication about sex with other people.

A recent paper in The Journal of Sex Research gives a full account of the study and its findings.

“We know that communication is helpful to all couples,” says senior study author Ronald D. Rogge, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in New York.

“However,” he continues, “[communication] is critical for couples in nonmonogamous relationships as they navigate the extra challenges of maintaining a nontraditional relationship in a monogamy-dominated culture.”

Three dimensions of commitment

A 2016 study suggests that about 1 in 5 individuals in the United States engage in open relationships at some stage of their lives.

Despite this relatively high statistic, a culture that favors monogamy can present a challenge to nonmonogamous couples looking to introduce new sexual partners into the relationship.

Such couples would need, for example, to protect each other from potential feelings of jealousy and judgment from others, note the study authors.

Previous studies in this area have yielded mixed findings. The reason for this could be that the frameworks that they have used to understand nontraditional relationships have tended to focus only on one or two dimensions, for example, monogamous or nonmonogamous.

To probe these inconsistencies and gain fresh insights into the nature of nonmonogamous vs. monogamous relationships, the researchers behind the new study devised a model of commitment that embraces three dimensions: mutual consent, communication, and comfort.

Consent, communication, and comfort

In their study paper, the authors explain why they consider these three conditions — which they refer to as the Triple C model — to be fundamental building blocks of healthy relationships.

Citing other studies, they argue that the conditions describe an “adaptive process that would help to buffer relationships from the adverse effects of enduring vulnerabilities and stressful events across time.”

They define mutual consent as a condition in which both partners agree explicitly the nature of their relationship. For example, is there to be sexual exclusivity? Would this decision also apply to emotional exclusivity? And what types of other sexual partners would be allowable?

The communication dimension covers the ongoing discussion about the relationship and its boundaries. While it is an important cornerstone of any relationship, the researchers argue that communication specifically about sex with other people has a central role in open relationships.

Communication allows, for instance, couples to negotiate rules about sex outside the relationship “while maintaining high levels of respect and consideration toward the feelings of each other,” write the authors.

Comfort, for instance, includes whether partners feel that they have to agree to an open relationship even though they really want it to be monogamous.

A question in connection with comfort would ask how upset the individual would be if they knew that their partner was having sex with other people or how upset their partner might be if it were the other way around. Both partners not being very upset would signify high levels of mutual comfort.

Five types of relationship

For the study, the team analyzed responses from 1,658 people in relationships who completed an online questionnaire that included items within the Triple C Model.

Nearly four out of five of the respondents were white, and about two-thirds were in their 20s and 30s. Nearly 70% described themselves as female, and most said that they were in long term relationships — on average, these had been going for almost 4.5 years.

The researchers arranged the participants into five groups according to the type of relationship that they described. The relationship type of each group is as follows:

  • Monogamous relationship: In the early stage.
  • Monogamous relationship: In the later stage.
  • Consensual nonmonogamous relationship: Neither partner is interested in staying monogamous, and there are high levels of mutual consent, comfort, and communication about sex with other people.
  • Partially open relationship: Mixed views on monogamy and lower levels of mutual consent, comfort, and communication.
  • One-sided relationship: One partner wants monogamy, while the other engages in sex with other people. There is low mutual consent and comfort and hardly any communication about sex outside the relationship.

The findings revealed that monogamous and consensual nonmonogamous groups appeared to have high functioning both in their relationships and as individuals.

In contrast, the partially open and one-sided relationship groups demonstrated lower levels of functioning.

Secrecy about sex with others can be ‘toxic’

There were reports of healthy relationships from both monogamous groups. These groups also featured some of the lowest levels of distress and loneliness.

Both monogamous groups and the consensual nonmonogamous group reported levels of distress and loneliness that were similarly low. In addition, these groups reported high levels of satisfaction relating to their needs, relationship, and sex.

Sexual sensation seeking was lowest in the monogamous groups and highest in the three nonmonogamous groups. Individuals in the nonmonogamous groups were also the most likely to report having a sexually transmitted infection.

Overall, the one-sided group had the highest proportion of people dissatisfied with their relationships. These individuals comprised 60% of the group — nearly three times as high as the proportions in the monogamous and consensual nonmonogamous groups.

The researchers caution that a limitation of their study was that they looked at a snapshot in time. Another study that used the same model but followed people over some time could come to different conclusions.

The bottom line of the findings appears to be that, regardless of the type of open relationship, without mutual consent, comfort, and communication, sex outside the relationship can be felt as betrayal and can put an enormous strain on the couple.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Handle Sexual Problems

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(And Get Your Sex Life Back On Track)

by Bonnie Evie Gifford

The results are in: we’re officially having less sex than ever – but not through choice. Could our trouble discussing our sexual worries be getting in the way of having a good time?

Sex. It’s not something we really talk about as a nation, is it? For many of us Brits, talking about sex is right up there with discussing our finances and actually confronting queue jumpers instead of tutting angrily. Somehow, sex has been relegated to something we don’t talk about in polite company. Why is that? Sex is great!

According to researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, our decline in having sex isn’t because we’re feeling less inclined to have a little quality alone time with our partner(s). Half of women and nearly two-thirds of men would like to be having more sex, but due to our busy schedules, stress, and feelings of exhaustion, we just aren’t making it a priority.

Could we be unwittingly missing out on the health benefits of regular sexual release, and could our reluctance to speak about of sex-related worried be making things seem that much more scary?

The benefits of sex – it’s more than just gratification

Don’t just take my word for it – science has been proving the benefits of a healthy sex life for years. According to the NHS, sexual arousal is good for your heart, penetrative sex can act as a stress buster, plus other forms of orgasms can help you feel more relaxed in similar ways to exercise or meditation.

The feel-good hormones released during sex can also temporarily help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. The increase in physical activity that often comes with intimate relations can also help you to get a better night’s sleep, particularly if you orgasm as this releases prolactin (a hormone that makes you sleepier).

Sexual arousal and orgasm can also boost your oxytocin (the hormone that helps you feel connected to your partner) whilst lowering cortisol (a stress-related hormone). It’s a win-win. Sex just once or twice a week can help you fend off illness and boost your immune system, whilst those who have sex report a better sense of wellbeing and feeling healthier.

Doing the deed isn’t the only part of sexual relations that can benefit us. Hugging can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure, not to mention the benefits of feeling loved and supported; according to one study of 10,000 men, those who felt “loved and supported” faced a reduced risk of angina regardless of age and blood pressure.

Being single doesn’t have to present a problem. Masturbating can release the same feel-good hormones we benefit from with others, along with the added benefit of allowing us to better explore our own bodies, helping us figure out what we do (and don’t) like. Studies have even suggested a little solo fun can help you improve your body image.

The benefits don’t stop there. For men, more frequent ejaculation has seen evidence of decreased chances of a prostate cancer diagnosis before 70. For women, the benefits can be even greater. Sexual activity has shown to help relieve menstrual cramps, improve fertility, help strengthen pelvic muscles and vaginal lubrication, decrease incontinence, and even protect against endometriosis.

Encountering sexual problems

Sexual problems can affect anyone, at any time, regardless of age, sexual preferences, or experiences. Nearly half a million of us are diagnosed with an STI each year. Only one in three of us are satisfied with our sex lives, with nearly a fifth of us experiencing a different sex drive from our partners that we feel has put a strain on our relationships.

The Let’s Talk About Sex report revealed that one in three UK adults have experienced a sexual problem. It may not feel like it, but we aren’t alone. Sexual problems are more common than we may realise. What’s important is recognising when we encounter an issue that we need to talk, find out more, or seek support with.

5 common sexual problems (and how to handle them)

1. Decreasing sex drive and impotence

A loss of libido or decreased desire for sex can be particularly common for women during certain times in their lives. If you are feeling depressed, are pregnant or recently gave birth, these can all be common factors that may affect your sex drive.

Other psychological or physical factors can affect men and women. Diabetes, hormone disorders, depression, tiredness, as well as addiction (drug or alcohol) are all issues that can lead to a loss of libido. Relationship problems or past sexual experiences can also impact your desire for intercourse.  

While a decrease in sexual desire isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, if you are worried it may be affecting your relationship, causing disappointment, arguments, or even leaving you feeling like you may be drifting apart, it could be time to seek help.

Psychosexual therapy offers the chance to speak with a specially trained therapist who can help you explore and overcome sexual dysfunctions. Knowledgeable in a wide range of sexual problems with individuals of all ages, a psychosexual counsellor can help you to better recognise your sexual needs and desires, working through negative thoughts that may be affecting your ability to enjoy sex and intimacy.

Relationship counselling can be another form of talking therapy that can help you and your partner(s) to explore how you are communicating physically and verbally. Helping you to identify areas which may be affecting your ability to feel safe, relaxed, and able to enjoy sex, relationship counselling can help you to become more aware of each other’s needs, working together to find a solution that fits.

Talking therapies aren’t the only options to help handle your sex drive. Yoga can have a surprising benefit on not only your health and sense of wellbeing, but also on your sex drive. According to one study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, regular yoga practice can improve women’s levels of sexual desire. The study revealed 75% of participants sex lives improved significantly, particularly for women in their 40s and older.

If stress, anxiety, or depression is affecting your sex drive, hypnotherapy may be able to help. A clinical hypnotherapist may be able to help you handle related symptoms, as well as improve your confidence or sense of self-worth. Hypnotherapy can help some people connect with their subconscious mind, addressing events or issues that may be affecting their mood, self-esteem, or enjoyment in life.

What we eat can be something we overlook when it comes to considering our overall health and wellbeing. If stress may be affecting your sex drive, it could be worth considering what you’re eating.

Nutritionists can offer natural, healthy, simple tips and advice for how we can reduce our stress levels through our eating habits. Remembering to eat regularly, keep refined carbs for treats, and include enough protein in our diets can all have a surprising impact on how we are feeling.

If you are concerned about potential erectile dysfunction or impotence, speaking with your GP can be the first step towards finding the option that works for you. Visiting a sexual health clinic can also provide the same treatment you would recive with your GP, with most offering walk-in services and quicker results.

Common in men over 40, this is usually nothing to worry about, however, if the issue persists, your GP is the best port of call. Most frequently due to stress, anxiety, tiredness, or how much you drink, erection problems can also be caused by physical or emotional problems.

2. Sex addiction

While people have joked about being nymphomaniacs and sex addicts for quite some time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has only recently accepted sex addiction as a recognised mental health condition. Also known as compulsive sexual behaviour, many experts hope that this official recognition will help dispel the shame and worry that may be stopping individuals from seeking help and support.

But how do you know if you are a sex addict? And how do you begin seeking support? Counsellor and Vice Chair of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (ATSAC), Ian Baker, explains how identifying sex addiction isn’t as simple as assessing how much porn you watch, or how frequently you masturbate.

“You don’t just say you’re a sex addict because you watch an hour of porn a day. I’m not here to say masturbation is wrong, or fetishes are wrong, because someone’s sexual identity is important.

“It’s how it is affecting other parts of your life. Are you dropping friends? Are you not picking up your kids because of this? Are you using it to manage low mood or anxiety? [Speaking with a counsellor and gaining a diagnosis] isn’t walking in and saying ‘you’re sleeping with sex workers – you’re a sex addict.’”

Signs of sex addiction can include frequently seeking casual sex, having multiple affairs, excessively using pornography, experiencing feelings of guilt after sex, obsessive thoughts around sex or planning sexual encounters.

If you are concerned about how your relationship with sex, masturbation or pornography is impacting other areas of your life, there are a number of different places you can turn for help.

Working with a psychosexual therapist or a relationship counsellor can help you to better identify, accept and change behaviours that may be affecting other areas of your life. Psychosexual therapy (also known as sex therapy) can help you improve physical intimacy with your partner; manage sexual difficulties; identify physical, psychological, emotional, or situational causes of sexual issues.

If you have recognised you have a problem and are seeking to make positive changes, working with a hypnotherapist for sex addiction can be another option. Helping you to change the thought patterns and behaviours that may be causing you problems, a clinical hypnotherapist will use the power of suggestion to help you alter how you think and react to certain situations.

Taking into consideration your potential triggers, past experiences and lifestyle, your hypnotherapist can tailor your sessions to you, helping you break out of the negative cycle you have become caught up in.

3. Premature ejaculation

Coming too quickly (known as rapid or premature ejaculation) is a common ejaculation problem. While there is no standard or right length of time for sex to last, one study revealed the average time it takes for a man to ejaculate after beginning penetrative intercourse is around five and a half minutes.

Common causes of problems with ejaculation can include depression, stress, anxiety about performance, and relationship problems, as well as physical issues such as recreational drugs, prostate or thyroid problems.

International guidelines say regularly coming within one minute of entering your partner is considered to be premature ejaculation. While studies have found that premature ejaculation can have any impact on all parties involved, it’s worth noting that there isn’t a right or wrong way to achieve mutual sexual gratification. It’s completely up to you (and your partner) to find what you are happy with. If the time taken to come is causing you distress or emotional turmoil, it could be worth seeking advice.

Speaking with your GP can help you to identify and treat potential physical and underlying conditions. Your GP may be able to offer medication options such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), though they may suggest you try self-help options first.

If you are unsure about seeking professional advice, there are a number of self-help options you can also try (though speaking with an expert is always advised). Self-help options can include:

  • Switching to thick condoms to decrease sensation
  • Masturbating up to two hours before intercourse
  • Taking breaks during sex to distract yourself and prolong the experience

Couples therapy can be another option for those in a long-term relationship. A therapist can help you work towards improving your communication, speaking openly about issues that may be causing you stress or distress, as well as helping you to become more mindful in the moment.  

Another complementary option that studies have shown may help includes acupuncture. Using fine needles to balance the energy levels within your body, acupuncture can be used to help treat sexual performance, reduce stress and balance hormone levels. Techniques can also be used to prolongue sexual performance and boost your sex drive.

4. Pain during sex

Feeling pain or discomfort during or after sex is most often a sign that something is wrong and shouldn’t be ignored. This pain may be caused by an infection, illness, physical or psychological problem. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, it’s important to speak with your GP or visit a sexual health clinic.

For women, changing hormone levels during the menopause can cause new vaginal dryness in a third of women that may lead to pain, as well a uncomfortable hot flushes, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or SSRIs may be two options your may offer. Trying over the counter lubricants and moisturising creams from pharmacies may also help.

For men, pain during sex (also known as dyspareunia) is less common, but may occur during or after ejaculation. As causes can be physical or psychological, it is always worth checking with a medical professional before trying complimentary or alternative therapies. Hypnotherapy for pain management can help some individuals change their thought patterns surrounding pain, helping them to perceive pain in a different way.

Life coach and podcaster Ben Bidwell, better known as The Naked Professor, shares his own experiences with dyspareunia.

5. Boredom or differing libidos

Feeling bored in the bedroom or having vastly different libidos can have a significant impact on both our relationships and sense of wellbeing. Differing sex drives can lead to partners feeling guilty that they may not be satisfying their other half, or worry that their partner no longer finds them attractive.

Counsellor Graeme recommends speaking with your partner as one of the best courses of action.  “Talking to your partner about your relationship and the sexual side is very important. If [you] don’t discuss how [you’re] feeing, then misunderstandings inevitably appear as you assign thoughts and feelings to your partner.

“It can be difficult to talk about, but in the long run being honest bout how you feel is going to allow you to be clear about what can and cannot change. It’s important to recognise that there is an element of reality that you can’t change. Libido is another part that needs to be integrated into the relationship, and will require negotiation and compromise.

“While relationship counselling and visiting health care professionals can be useful, remember that it is your relationship so only you and your partner will know what it is like to be in that relationship ad how it can work. Outsides can help when it is difficult to talk to each other, but they cannot decide what is right for you.”

If you are worried that your differing libidos may be causing problems, there are a number of natural ways to increase your sex drive. One option, herbalism, can help you regain your balance, counteract illness and stress (both of which can affect your libido). Tracking what you eat can also help you to counter signs of stress, improve blood flow, and promote the release of endorphins.

Try eating more almonds and walnuts to increase your mineral intake and help combat stress, or switch your regular sweet treats for dark chocolate. Containing phenylethylamine, this amino acid promotes the release of endorphins and can help naturally boost your libido.

Making sure you’re getting enough sleep can also help to increase your sex drive. Try exchanging massages with your partner; this can not only help ease tension and lower stress levels, but can help you to feel closer to each other and may act as a simple catalyst for more frisky activities.

Worried boredom and routine may be settling into your bedroom romps? Counsellor Jo explains why and how sexual boredom can occur, and what you can do to get past it. Sex and relationship psychotherapist, Thomas, explains more about sexual desire and the search for ourselves in relationships.

“Sexual desire doesn’t happen in isolation. We live in a highly sexualised culture, yet more and more people are unhappy with their sex lives and are unsure what to do about it.

“It’s difficult and confusing to be present and always in touch with our true self. It’s an ongoing discovery between who you are, who you think you should be, and who you want to become.

“Sexual desire is an aspect of a person’s sexuality. It varies significantly from one person to another, and also varies depending on circumstances as a particular time. It’s constantly moving and complex. It can be aroused through imagination and sexual fantasies, or perceiving an individual that one finds attractive.

“Sexual desire can shift from intensely positive, to neutral, to intensely negative. It’s normal for our desire to go up and down at different times in our lives. The main issue is if this is causing you distress, that you are able to discuss it and find a way to reduce this distress.”

If you’re worried about a sex-related issue we haven’t covered above, check out these sex and intimacy questions, as answered by sex and relationship therapist Lohani Noor from the hit BBC Three show, Sex on the Couch. As well as answering questions, Lohani shares her three top tips for talking about sex with your partner.

For more information about relationship couselling and hypnotherapy for sexual problems, visit Counselling Directory or Hypnotherapy Directory now. Or if you’re on your PC, enter your location in the box below to find a qualified therapist near you.

Complete Article HERE!

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Cheating Doesn’t Have To Involve Sex To Count

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By Erika W. Smith

Imagine you’re asleep next to your partner. But in the middle of the night, you wake up. You notice they’re facing away from you in bed, staring at their phone and smiling. A five-line response comes back. It’s from their ex. That’s right: they’ve been texting their ex all night.

If you’re anything like me (and I’m a jealous, possessive Scorpio, to be fair), you wouldn’t be happy. You might consider this cheating, even though it’s not physical. The text exchange could be harmless, but depending on what they’re chatting about, or how this chat is making them (or you) feel, you might consider it an emotional affair.

Psychology Today defines an emotional affair as “a relationship where the level of emotional intimacy is excessive and where the level of emotion invested in someone outside of the marriage infringes upon the intimacy between spouses or committed partners.” Importantly, it affects your relationship: “This extramarital emotional involvement replaces a couples’ intimacy and obviously, may drive a wedge between partners. This in turn, may very well create distance and a feeling of separation, alienation, and loneliness.”

Emotional affairs can be just as devastating as physical affairs. “In fact, these can be very intense relationships that can have a lot more damaging effects on the primary relationship than a sexual affair could,” Jean Fitzpatrick, LP, a premarital and marital therapist in NYC, previously told Refinery29.

Every relationship has different boundaries. Some people consider flirting cheating. Some people in open relationships are fine with their partners having sex with others, as long as they’re not emotionally involved. And some people in polyamorous relationships are fine with their partners dating and falling for others, but want to be kept informed. While it will vary depending on your specific situation, here are some common warning signs of an emotional affair.

You’re keeping information from your partner

If you instinctively keep information about interactions with a friend or crush from your partner, that’s a warning sign. “It’s not that you necessarily need to be telling your partner everything, like that you ran into an old friend on the street,” Fitzpatrick said. “But when you’re making the active decision to keep something from them, because you think they might have a negative reaction, then that points to a problem.”

You don’t mention your partner to your crush

Similarly, if you never mention your partner to your crush, that’s not a great sign, either. Basically, if you’re keeping secrets, something is up — even if you might not have realized it yet

You’re not prioritizing your relationship

If you’re putting more energy into your relationship with your crush than your relationship with your partner, it’s time to reassess. And if your partner seems like they’re putting more energy into a new friendship, you might want to talk to them about it.

You’re texting or messaging the other person… all the time

The rise of social media and dating apps have made emotional affairs much easier. It’s simpler than ever to friend an old flame on Facebook, and you can text someone all day (and all night) without your partner knowing.

You know it’s different from a friendship

You probably text your best friend often, maybe even more than your partner. That doesn’t mean you’re having an emotional affair with your BFF. When it’s an emotional affair, something just feels different, even if you can’t describe exactly what it is.

Something just feels “off”

According to Psychology Today, when an emotional affair is going on, “it’s no surprise that a person who has shared a certain degree of connection and intimacy with their spouse suddenly realizes that something just doesn’t feel right any longer. They may literally feel their partner pulling away from them, feel a partner’s preoccupation with something (someone) else, and may find it hard or impossible to connect intimately in the same way they once did.” Listen to your gut reaction and consider if you need to set some boundaries with your crush — or even come clean to your partner.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘It’s a human right’:

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The campaign for learning disabled people’s love lives

Pam Bebbington and her husband, Mike. ‘Relationships are important because they give you a life companion,’ she says.

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Care staff are being encouraged to support people to develop intimate relationships and enrich their emotional lives

Pam Bebbington met her husband, Mike, through a personal ad in her local paper. She’s been married for 21 years, and appreciates having a soulmate. “Relationships are important because they give you a life companion,” she says. “You can share things and cuddle up.”

But Bebbington, a consultant at self-advocacy charity My Life My Choice (MLMC), says many of her learning disabled peers struggle with relationships. “Finding the right person is hard. Parents and carers can get in the way and curfews [such as in supported housing], money and travelling all make it difficult.” She says care staff must “allow people to have a relationship and encourage them to do so”.

This is the aim behind the nationwide Supported Loving campaign MLMC is involved in, which offers practical advice on enabling people’s intimate and emotional lives. Research has shown that young people with a learning disability lack accessible sex education resources and only 3% of people with a learning disability live as a couple, compared with 70% of the general population.

Supported Loving originally began two years ago as a social media campaign. Since then it has grown according to demand, offering good practice resources developed by support organisations and people with learning disabilities, some of whom feature in videos used in training.

Claire Bates, Supported Loving founder, says the campaign’s ultimate aim is mandatory training in sex and relationships.

She believes supporting someone’s emotional and intimate needs should be par for the course in social care. “This shouldn’t be [in] the ‘too difficult’ pile,” she says. “People with learning disabilities are often so far away from having a sexual partner, they need support to meet someone first. We need to help people have meaningful friendships and from that will come a sexual relationship, if they want one.”

Supported Loving’s latest development is an online toolkit contributed to by a range of organisations, including family planning associations, care providers, specialist dating agencies, and staff working in relationship and sex education. There is practical advice on topics including contraception, sexual health, masturbation, online dating, LGBT relationships and sex workers.

There are also plans to publish a charter promoting the relationship rights of learning disabled people, which MLMC, Supported Loving and social inclusion charity National Development Team for Inclusion are developing.

One of the toolkit’s guides outlines how relationship support should be a vital part of a care professional’s role. The tips and examples, contributed by training organisation Paradigm, suggest staff receive face-to-face guidance on how to have conversations about and support people in exploring sexuality, love and relationships. There must be clear policies around relationships rather than incorporating this issue into safeguarding training. Staff must also not assume people lack the capacity to form loving bonds or have sexual relationships.

Such online guidance is available alongside quarterly meetings that take place across the country. These aim to discuss issues and share best practice on everything from sexual abuse to online dating, with participants including people with learning disabilities or autism, family members and professionals working in social care and health.

Supported Loving is also complemented by research at the Tizard Centre University of Kent (Bates is the project’s honorary research associate). Michelle McCarthy, the professor leading the work, says of social attitudes: “Historically we didn’t expect people with learning disabilities to have rich, emotional lives – as if they were somehow ‘other’, and if they were physically cared for that was enough. That attitude hasn’t entirely gone.”

McCarthy’s project, which included four advisers with learning disabilities, explored the views of 40 learning disabled adults and 40 family carers and support staff. The research has yet to be published but emerging findings illustrate the very specific barriers created by social care services. These include a lack of one-to-one support, restrictions about overnight visitors and safeguarding concerns.

McCarthy explains: “The way services are structured and run is that they themselves can be barriers to people. So if you’ve only got only a few staff you can’t offer people one-to-one support to go and meet someone to have a date.”

The comments from learning disabled people gathered by McCarthy and her researchers underline just how vital it is to achieve progress in this area. When asked about why relationships are important, one learning disabled participant replied: “Sometimes I get lonely and I think if I’ve got somebody who I could trust it would make me happier.”

As Bates says: “It is people’s human right to have a relationship. It shouldn’t be a ‘nice to have’, but something that adds value to people’s lives. We are social animals; if you don’t see someone in that way, then you don’t see them as human.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Move Forward When You’re in a Sexless Marriage

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A Q&A with a clinical psychologist who specializes in getting couples to talk openly about sex.

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Recently, a 36-year-old man posted something stupid on Reddit. This is not breaking news—this happens likely thousands of times per day, but the post made it over to Twitter, and people went in. The issue at hand? The guy hated his wife’s haircut. While he knew he couldn’t tell her not to get her hair cut, he admitted, “I know it sounds stupid, but every trip back to the hairdresser feels like a little slap in the face.” However, the husband mentioned one small detail that got everyone’s attention: he and his wife do not have sex.

Redditors mostly provided uncharacteristically astute commentary: “I don’t think this is about her hair. The haircut is just a tangible thing that you are focusing on. Your main issue is the lack of sex,” one user wrote. Reddit has long been a sanctuary for people in sexless marriages. There’s a whole subreddit with 182,000+ subscribers called r/DeadBedrooms, where people go to complain, commiserate, and seek help for their relationships. (There is no official demarcation of what makes a marriage “sexless,” but studies usually count couples who haven’t had sex in the last year, or marriages where sexual intimacy happens ten times or fewer a year.) The subreddit’s top post of all time is actually the story of a person with a lower libido (dubbed “LLs” on the site) trying to initiate sex with their partner. The poster triumphantly explains their realization after initating sex the night before, “My husband’s mood today is fantastic…I’m realizing how much of his joy is missing in a sexless marriage[.] I will keep reading here and working on my end of initiating.” For most posters, that’s the ultimate fantasy: their partner finally understanding just how important sex really is to them, and more importantly, why.

The traditional (read: heteronormative and sexist) narrative is that men are always ready to have sex, while women are constantly faking headaches to avoid it. That’s simply not the case. According to Pam Costa, M.A. in clinical psychology and founder of Down to There, a site devoted to getting people to talk about sex more, men and women pretty much experience low sex drive equally. Costa asserts that while sex can feel “easier” at the beginning, after a few years with someone, the “in love” hormones fade. Sex can start to become less frequent as couples encounter road bumps like depression, physical health concerns, the loss of loved ones, pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriages, or as a result of mismatched desire levels. But sometimes, the problem is simply that people don’t know how to talk about the sex that they want to be having. And no matter the reason, Costa says that honest communication about sex can help. We asked Costa our biggest questions about sexless marriages and how to address them.

How common are sexless marriages?
The accepted rate is somewhere between 10-20 percent of marriages; I consider that pretty common. One of the first things I want people to know, if they’re in a sexless marriage, is that they’re not alone. They’re in good company. It’s very common.

Are men and women equally concerned about sexless marriages?
Absolutely. I think it’s harder when a male partner has lower desire, because we do have this cultural narrative that men should always be ready. Because of this, in a hetero relationship, there can be additional shame when it is the male partner who has a lower sex drive. But, again, you’re not alone.

What makes a sexless marriage so damaging?
Sex is often a very important component of intimacy, and we all seek out intimacy in different ways. For some of us, emotional intimacy is more important than physical intimacy, or cuddling is more important than penetration. When it comes to a relationship, having shared forms of intimacy is really important. Often, in couples that come to me, one person says, “But I’m fine. Everything’s fine!” And the other person says, “How can you say that? This is anything but fine.” That’s where it starts to impact other parts of the relationship: If one person is missing the intimacy that’s important to them, they can start to be resentful or frustrated. Or the person who doesn’t want to have sex can start to feel guilty or broken.

So, you could have a sexless marriage and still believe you have a good marriage?
Yes, exactly. You can have a sexless marriage and have a happy marriage. You also don’t have to have sex to make it a marriage.

Right. Some people, including those who are asexual, might be completely fine not having any sex.
Yes, if one partner is asexual (doesn’t feel sexually attracted to anyone, or has low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity) this could absolutely play a role in a marriage being or becoming sexless. For someone who already knows they are asexual, choosing who does not require sex to be part of a satisfying relationship—or who is more invested in the emotional or other aspects of the relationship—can work very well. For someone who only discovers once in the marriage that they are asexual, discovering this identity can provide a lot of relief to both the person who identifies as ace [asexual], as well as their partner: the tension around the ace partner not wanting sex suddenly has a reason that is not related to the relationship itself.

What are some of the common causes of sexless marriages?
There are usually two big reasons. One, there’s a desire mismatch, just like how people like to eat different amounts. What can often happen with that mismatch is that the person who desires sex more asks and initiates; when the other person says no, they start to feel rejected. And no one wants to feel rejected, so they slowly stop asking. That’s very common. The other thing that also happens is that you have some sort of life milestone that makes sex difficult. Maybe you have kids, who are taking more of your time and attention. Maybe you got laid off at work. There are also things like health crises, and maybe you didn’t have sex during that period. Or maybe you have pain during sex.

Are there situations that cannot be “fixed”? Couples whose sexual desires are simply too incompatible? What do you do then?
Yes, which I why I encourage couples to review their sexual history together. What peak sexual experiences have you had?—or have you never had any? That way you can learn more about what you need to have sex that you enjoy. When you can do that—and not from a pressurized standpoint of “You have to provide that for me” but from a standpoint of “Wow, when we were on vacation in Hawaii and we had sex in a bathroom that was really a turn on for me because it was spontanteus”—that really helps. Then you can ask, “What are other ways that we can bring spontaneity into our sex life?” That’s a really good thing to learn about yourself.

When you are able to actually start to having those difficult conversations more from a curious angle than from a pressure angle, you can start to see whether or not there’s enough overlap between what the two of you desire to make it work. Certainly I work with couples who do that and realize: “We’re not enough of an overlap; does that mean we need to separate? Does that mean we need to be creative about how we get our intimate needs met? Or do we need to go outside of this relationship?”

How should partners communicate about desire discrepancies?
When I work with couples with a desire discrepancy, what we often figure out is that one of the things often underlying that is: “I’m not getting the type of sex that I want in order to desire it.” If you’re the partner who has higher desire, relative to your partner—and these are probably the people who are going to be most distressed by a sexless marriage—I think a little bit of introspection is usually helpful to acknowledge that maybe the reason you guys stopped having sex is that your partner stopped getting what they need to desire sex.

This can happen for a lot of reasons. In the beginning hormones make it easier, so we think we don’t have to try hard. There’s also lack of sex education: Sometimes someone hasn’t learned about their own desire, or how to give a partner pleasure. Or maybe they weren’t taught about how to talk about sex. So maybe they lack the skills to communicate with their partner about what they desire. Maybe if I’m the higher desire partner, I never learned how to ask my partner what they want, and create an opportunity for them to provide feedback.

What’s the first step of course correcting a sexless marriage?
When someone comes to me in a sexless marriage, wanting to have more sex, there are four steps that I go through with them:

  1. Know that you’re not alone.
  2. Seek support. Talk with your friends about it or find a coach or a therapist. Read a book—I recommend Come As You Are.
  3. Speak up. If you want to bring this up with up with your partner, speak up lovingly about why sex is important to you because otherwise they don’t know. The script I usually encourage goes something like this: “Hey this relationship is important to me, you are important to me, and intimacy in a relationship is important to me. I care about us and I want to work on improving our intimacy.”
  4. Ask what’s important to them. Because maybe sex isn’t important to them, but something else is—better communication, help around the house, or mental health.

What happens after you first bring this up? What’s the work that has to be done?
I think it’s important, when talking about a sexless marriage, to realize that the idea of going from no sex to the classic script that we have around sex might be a bit of a stretch. If you’re a hetero cis couple, you might need to expand your definition of sex—outside of “penis in vagina,” or beyond orgasm. Throw away the myth that you have to finish, because that’s a lot of pressure. When I have couples who are trying to go from a sexless marriage to a marriage where they’re having sex again, expanding that definition of sex is really helpful.

Complete Article HERE!

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Meet the BDSM therapists treating clients with restraints, mummification and impact play

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By Gillian Fisher

When we say BDSM, you probably think of chains, whips, and all sorts of sexy stuff.

But there’s far more to it.

BDSM has long been recognised as an erotic practice, with more people than ever introducing aspects of bondage, domination, sadism and masochism into their sexual pursuits.

A combination of changing sexual attitudes and greater representation in mainstream media has sparked a new curiosity surrounding the pleasures of submission.

While BDSM has typically been categorised as a sexual preference, some professional dominants have decided to apply the key principles of control and abandon to therapeutic practice. According to these specialists, their specific brand of holistic BDSM has helped clients with a range of emotional issues from trauma to anxiety.

London-based Lorelei set up her own business as the Divine Theratrix in September 2018 after two years working as a therapeutic counsellor. Marketing herself as a ‘loving female authority’, Lorelei uses BDSM components such as restraint and impact play (rhythmic hitting) to enable her clients to open up.

Lorelei, 33, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The first time I introduced BDSM to a therapy session, the client progressed more in two hours than they usually would in two months of traditional counselling. Having your physical presence is so powerful.’

Lorelei began to explore BDSM therapy after becoming frustrated by the rigid detachment she has to retain during traditional counselling sessions.

‘I was struggling with the barrier,’ she explains. ‘I thought “Christ if I could actually have contact with clients, I know it would make a difference to them”.’

The former lawyer became involved with BDSM while exploring her own sexuality at sex parties and was particularly drawn to the role of a dominant. Lorelei looks entirely unimposing, with a youthful, elfin face and a petite frame clothed in black trousers and a lacy black top. Despite her delicate appearance and obvious warmth, Lorelei has a certain air of command; a no-nonsense kind of confidence that one can imagine her using to great effect in her work.

Having gained her diploma in therapeutic counselling, Lorelei was struck by the similarities between BDSM and conventional therapy. A BDSM session with her is broken down into three main parts, which are holding (establishing the power dynamic and trust), opening and then putting back together again, which could easily describe a formalised counselling session.

But unlike standard psychoanalysis where everything is achieved through talking, Lorelei will apply physical and occasionally painful actions such as nipple tweaking or flogging to facilitate the different stages. This is always a detailed conversation about the client’s limits and session goals.

She also holds her £200 per hour sessions in a rented dungeon while garbed in classic fetish wear, which Lorelei explains reinforces the power balance and takes clients outside of their daily reality.

Lorelei tells us: ‘I deal with a lot of clients who have a lot of early trauma, which is incredibly difficult to shift because it’s in your primal brain, which predates any cognitive thought processes.

‘I know from personal experience that these feelings can be very overwhelming and they need to come out. In this setup, clients know that because I am completely in control, they can totally let go and I will be there to make sure they feel safe and feel held.

‘Just because I’m a dominant doesn’t mean I can’t be nurturing.’

Because of its reliance upon specific power roles, anticipation and the relinquishing of control, BDSM is an inherently psychological practice. But how does a BDSM healer make emotional catharsis and not sexual gratification the primary goal of a session?

New York based Aleta Cai tells us: ‘Making sure that client understand what they want to achieve through a session is key. I make it very clear that healing and self-actualisation are the primary objectives of my sessions.’

Aleta practices what she describes as Sacred BDSM which combines new age modalities such as reiki and clairvoyance with traditional BDSM devices, including sensory deprivation and restraint. A self-described empath, Aleta explained that the BDSM template allows clients to access a deeper level of surrender.

‘I feel that in the West, there is a focus on psychoanalysis and probing the rational mind, which can lead to people getting stuck in their own narratives,’ Aleta says. ‘Things may be alerted to the rational mind that the body needs to process, and BDSM can facilitate that processing.’

Born in China, Aleta moved to Los Angeles during infancy and has retained her tinkling LA inflection. However, the 29-year-old speaks in a slow, measured manner which demands full attention. After completing her degree in Psychology at NYU, Aleta worked as a professional dominatrix at a well-known BDSM dungeon for two years.

Her transition towards Sacred BDSM began three years ago. The turning point came during a standard mummification session (this process involves being wrapped up like its Egyptian cadaver’s namesake) where Aleta introduced crystals and healing energy devices to the process.

Aleta said: ‘I was amazed, in just 20 minutes I felt the client’s different energies being unblocked and the immense sense of release he experienced. That’s what began my journey towards introducing certain elements into my own healing work.’

The reiki master also runs what she calls a ‘vanilla’ healing practice alongside her multiple artistic projects. Spirituality informs both practitioners’ work, with Lorelei being inspired largely by branches of matriarchal mysticism and paganism while Aleta is particularly influenced by Eastern medicine and esoteric theologies.

Aleta says: ‘My intention is to maximise their healing through BDSM so for instance if I felt someone’s root chakra is very heavy, I would cane them repetitively until I saw a somatic relief in that chakra. If I mummify someone, I will take them into hypnosis which will allow them a deeper layer of catharsis that is not just the physicality of being wrapped up.’

The concept of accessing a kind of heightened consciousness through BDSM makes sense scientifically as pain triggers adrenaline and endorphins which can lead to feelings of euphoria. For this to be experienced in a therapeutic and emotionally releasing manner is mostly dependent upon how the activity is framed.

Seani Love said: ‘A lot of BDSM does involve some level of therapy anyway, because sexuality is humanity’s inherent driving force. But when you outline the BDSM experience as an emotionally healing practice, it involves all aspects of the person making the release not only psychological, but also emotional, physical and spiritual.’

The Australian native applies a variety of disciplines to his BDSM work, including Pagan ritual and Qigong, in what he describes as a ‘hodgepodge of healing practices’.

The former software engineer began working part-time as a Shamanic BDSM practitioner eight years ago, finally going full time in 2013. Seani now prefers the title of sex worker and has won awards for his travail, which earn him £390 for a three hour booking. However, the 49-year-old still runs sessions and workshops specializing in Conscious Kink and BDSM therapy. It was Seani who personally mentored Lorelei while she was deciding what path she would take.

At the start of our meeting Seani seems slightly nervous; softly spoken and prone to fidgeting. As the interview gets further underway he seems to relax a little, obviously passionate about the remedial aspects of his work. When asked about his greatest achievement during his BDSM therapy career, Seani describes an intense experience with a 65-year-old client who had been rejected by his mother after being dropped on his head.

‘I called in a female assistant so he could experience some maternal love in his body during the session,’ Seani tells us. ‘We retraced some particular steps, used some impact play to get him out of his head and got him back to that pre-verbal stage, then invited the assistant to hold and nurture him. It was so powerful; he finally found peace with his mother from the ritual we created.’

Seani also has a background in gestalt therapy and a level 3 diploma in counselling, but has found his particular therapeutic niche within the erotic and BDSM sphere. While he has helped many people through applied BDSM, he is quick to state that it isn’t the right path for everyone.

‘I think it’s important for me to say that I wouldn’t prescribe shamanic BDSM as a healing path for all people,’ he notes. ‘I would never directly recommend it, but if people are drawn to it, it’s available.’

At first glance, BDSM therapy seems contradictory. Alleviating emotional distress with physical pain seems illogical, even detrimental. But when done skilfully, this practice enables the expression of raw emotion, without rationalisation or any holding back from the client.

People have turned to primal scream sessions, isolation tanks and rebirthing therapy in pursuit of emotional balance and found such practices effective. With mental health conditions making up 28% of the NHS’s total burden, perhaps for some select people, an overtly physical approach could provide the release that is so desperately needed.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why You Should Start Your Day With Morning Sex

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By Erika W. Smith

Back in 2004, Maroon 5 released “Sunday Morning,” a hit single all about the joys of having sex on, well, Sunday morning. Fast-forward thirteen years, and a 2017 study by British health and beauty retailer Superdrug confirmed what Maroon 5 already knew: the best time of the week to have sex is 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. (If by “best” you mean “voted most popular in a survey of 2,000 Brits,” that is.)

There are many reasons why you should have morning sex — yes, even on weekdays. “Morning is one of my favourite times for sex. Whether or not there is an orgasm involved, it is a great way to begin the day,” Liz Goldwyn, founder of The Sex Ed, a multimedia platform for sex, health and consciousness education, tells Refinery29.

You’re at your best

Depending on how we spent our evenings, nighttime sex can be less than ideal. “Focusing sex as a highlight at the end of an evening or date isn’t always ideal — we may not be at our ‘freshest,’ whether we’ve consumed a big meal, alcohol, or are just tired from our day,” Goldwyn says.

Your body is ready

No matter your gender, all of us sometimes wake up with “morning wood” — an erect penis or clitoris. This is all thanks to your body’s changes during the REM changes of sleep. Waking up with an erect penis or clitoris doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re turned on… but hey, it might help you get there quicker.

Sex might feel better

Some studies suggest that sex may feel better in the morning because our testosterone levels are highest at the start of the day. We all have testosterone in our bodies, and this hormone plays a big role in how we experience sexual desire. And there’s an extra benefit for people with penises: studies have indicated that higher testosterone levels can improve erection strength and sexual function for them.

You’ll relieve stress

Sex is a proven stress-reliever, and can even help you start your day off feeling calmer, thanks to the chemicals dopamine and serotonin. Some people even use masturbation as one tool to help manage anxiety (though it’s not a cure-all).

You’ll be more productive at work

A 2017 showed that for around 24 hours after you have sex, you’re more productive at work. Researchers found that employees who had sex were not only in better moods, but also showed “more sustained work engagement and job satisfaction.”

Your immune system will get stronger

Some research indicates that morning sex can boost your immune system throughout the day by enhancing your IgA levels (that’s an antibody that protects against infection). Hey, anything to help stave off a cold.

You’ll feel connected to your partner

If you have a partner, having morning sex can help you bond. “Often in a partnership, we are busy and may have trouble finding time and energy to have sex that suits differing schedules and libidos. Knocking it out first thing in the morning leaves you both smiling during the workday,” Goldwyn says. “This can increase connection and intimacy, giving you more to look forward to later!”

You’ll start your day in a good mood

Sex just makes us feel good — and it’s not all about physical pleasure. We also experience increased levels of dopamine and oxytocin. As Lawrence Siegel, a clinical sexologist and certified sexuality educator, once told Refinery29, “An orgasm is a massive release of feel-good chemicals that leaves you in a meditative state of consciousness.”

BTW, all of these benefits (except for bonding with your partner) also apply to solo sex — so go ahead and place a fully-charged vibrator in your nightstand for easy access in the A.M

Complete Article HERE!

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How female sexuality is finding its voice

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By Remy Rippon

After centuries of secrecy, female sexuality is finally finding a voice, with women entering a new era of enlightenment and fulfilment thanks in part to the booming wellness industry.

Considering how long females have graced this earth, it’s astounding to think it was only 21 years ago that scientific research discovered something fundamental about that crucial female sexual organ, the clitoris.

In 1998, Melbourne-based urologist Dr Helen O’Connell published a groundbreaking paper debunking the long-held belief that the clitoris was merely a small glans, proving instead that it extends up to nine centimetres long underneath the pubic bone. The findings set a more accurate representation for medical professionals, sexologists, educators and womankind of the inner workings of one of the most complicated areas of the female body.

Revolutionary as the research was, however, there is still a lot we don’t know about female sexuality. At least 50 per cent of women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone and some don’t experience orgasm at all. While science made great leaps, the taboos surrounding female sexuality are still stuck in a time warp.

But change is afoot. In 2019 vaginas are big business and the female gaze is casting its eye over the US$30 billion sex industry. A recent report by trend forecasters J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, coined the term vaginanomics – an emerging market addressing women’s sexual fulfilment, which runs the gamut from aesthetically pleasing sex toys, female-positive porn and an increasingly open conversation led by fact and research.

Once a topic only discussed with your inner circle (or frankly, not at all), female sexuality is now seemingly all around us. And we have the wellness movement to thank for it. Having stocked our wardrobes with a lifetime supply of sportswear, our pantries with activated everything and our schedules with an endless roster of workouts, the final frontier of wellness has set it sights on another heart-rate-raising activity: sex.

“We need to be open to the idea of more a holistic model around sex. For us to feel healthy and happy we need to be enjoying a healthy sex life, too … having a healthy relationship with our sexuality is a good start,” says Australian sexologist and Authentic Sex podcaster Juliet Allen.

All this pillow talk is also being championed by some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Love her or loathe her, Gwyneth Paltrow has fuelled a positive conversation about sex and has become the closest thing we have to a grown-up incarnation of Dolly Doctor. Want to know the ins and outs of orgasmic meditation or how water can improve your sex life? It’s all in her book: The Sex Issue: Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about Sexuality, Seduction and Desire.

While the tome isn’t without is fair share of Goop-isms (sacred snake ceremony, anyone?), in the foreword Paltrow addresses the selfconsciousness we harbour around sex: “Women talking about sex – about what they like and don’t like, what they are getting and not getting in their intimate relationships, the toll of sexual trauma and how they heal – has a tendency to make people (both men and other women) extraordinarily self-conscious and uneasy,” she writes, continuing: “Whether tantra or BDSM or threesomes or vanilla are your thing will never be the point; knowing yourself, all your options, and how to ask for and pursue what feels good to you, is.”

New Yorker Eileen Kelly created Killer and a Sweet Thang, a sex-demystifying website which promotes an open and honest dialogue around sex, for similar motivations. What started as a Tumblr for Kelly to offer peer-to-peer sex education – information which, she says, was off-limits in her Catholic household – quickly transitioned into a popular Instagram account and website serving up real-world sex advice and coming-of-age titbits from more than 100 writers. “Whether you talk about it or not, sex is constantly around you in advertising, in movies, in magazines – you can’t escape, so we might as well have a conversation about it,” the 23-year-old founder says.

Elsewhere online, a lack of reliable information around female sexuality has ushered in a new wave of honest, female-created and approved content. OMGyes, a one-time-purchase site with the seal of approval from actor Emma Watson, is a research-backed education resource with a singular objective: female pleasure and orgasm. “The more we talk about it and learn about it, the better it gets. And we made OMGyes to accelerate that shift – with new scientific research and a frank, honest showcase of the findings,” says program director Claire Kim, who notes that Australia has the most subscribers per capita.

The site’s not-safe-for-work video tutorials demonstrate a host of techniques and cliterature – prepare to add adjectives like edging, signalling and orbiting to your bedroom vocabulary – but uniquely, they feel as safe and inclusive as if you were hearing this information first-hand from a friend.

With OMGyes Kim wants “more people to see and feel the way the current generations are releasing those old taboos. Many ways of thinking that have been passed down aren’t really good for anyone. And we’re so excited that, maybe, we can shift culture so the next generation can enjoy pleasure more.”

Millennials and Gen Z are driving much of this shift, which could be credited to logistics – excellent information and purchasing power is at their fingertips. According to the 2018 Global Wellness Summit Report, it’s thanks to young people that “sexual pleasure brands are strongly aligning themselves with wellness, and sex is fast shedding its taboo status”.

In fact, the sex and tech worlds are now happy bedfellows, with the newest haul of toys being designed by women, for women. A report by Technavio released last year notes the sexual wellness market is set to grow by almost US$18 billion by 2022. The most buzzed-about products – everything from vibrators, clitoral stimulators, devices for Kegel training and pelvic floor exercises – rival beauty brands with their aesthetically pleasing packaging and whipsmart innovations. Lioness, the world’s first smart vibrator, even collects data from your experiences and links that information to your smartphone.

And forget exploring the dark, often-irksome depths of the web: the e-tailers promoting these goods are beautifully curated and, dare we say it, cool. Co-founded by ex-magazine publisher Monica Nakata, online store Par Femme aims to “destigmatise the whole consumer purchasing decision around sex toys”. “Sexual empowerment is such an important step in empowering women overall,” says Nakata.

On the site, white cotton basics sit alongside editorial-worthy imagery of sex toys and candid discussions and reviews. Nakata notes the fact that as the sex and wellness industries have converged, conversation has opened up to “a wider audience group than ever before and reinforcing the idea that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In the past, sex positivity was something we didn’t really hear about, and now it’s actually becoming aligned with body positivity,” she says.

Women, it’s time to bring your O-game.

Complete Article HERE!

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Event aims to increase ‘cliteracy,’ open conversation about female sexuality

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Female sexuality activist and psychology professor Laurie Mintz (left) and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” actress Rachel Bloom (right) answered questions from the audience about the importance of the pleasure of sex for women at a campus event.

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Sexual pleasure and accurate sexual information are essential for healthy relationships, a psychology professor said at a campus event Thursday.

The Campus Events Commission hosted “Becoming Cliterate: An Evening of Conversation between Rachel Bloom and Dr. Laurie Mintz” on Thursday evening. The event featured a conversation between Bloom, the actress and writer known for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and Mintz.

Mintz is the writer of “Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters – And How to Get It” and a psychology professor at the University of Florida. With her work, she aims to sexually empower women, she said.

The event took on a Q&A format, in which Bloom and Mintz took questions from the audience about women’s anatomy and cultural attitudes toward female sexual pleasure.

Both Bloom and Mintz said sexual pleasure was fundamental for personal fulfillment.

The clitoris is vital for women’s sexual pleasure, Mintz said. Nearly all forms of women’s sexual pleasure, even if not from direct genital stimulation, are connected to the clitoris in some way, Mintz said.

The clitoris has thousands of nerve endings, and serves only as a source of pleasure. The vast majority of women require some form of clitoral stimulation to orgasm, Mintz said.

However, like many men, many discussions of women’s sexuality neglect the clitoris, suggesting instead that women should be able to orgasm without it being stimulated, Mintz said.

This widespread misinformation damages the self-esteem of both men and women, Mintz said. When a woman cannot orgasm from penetration alone, both partners might believe there is something wrong with them, Mintz said.

“Men (may) feel emasculated and not as worthy when they don’t make a woman orgasm – they want to, but they’ve been misguided and don’t know how,” she said. “The problem is the culture – it’s not women, it’s not men.”

Pornography may also be to blame for this spread of misinformation by portraying sex in which a woman instantly reaches orgasm through penetration, she added.

Many people refer to women’s genitals as a whole by “vagina,” which is anatomically incorrect, Mintz said. By calling all of women’s genitals the name of the part that gives men the most pleasure, society devalues women’s sexuality, Mintz said.

“We are linguistically erasing the part of ourselves that gives us the most pleasure,” she said.

Bloom added that although “clitoris” is an anatomically correct word, it is often seen as taboo.

Bloom recalled an experience she had when she was producing and starring in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” In one episode of the show, they wanted to include a line in which a character stated women’s sexual pleasure comes from clitoral stimulation. However, the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates television and other broadcasts, objected to the line.

They were only able to include a reference to the clitoris when a character spoke about it as part of the content of a science textbook, Bloom said.

“We had to make (the context) super scientific,” she said. “We didn’t have to do that for ‘penis’ or ‘vagina,’ just with a word that pertains only to pleasure.”

The FCC’s regulations were an example of the stigma against discussing women’s sexual pleasure, Bloom added.

In order to combat misinformation and negative attitudes toward women’s sexual pleasure, Mintz advised women to be assertive in bed with their partners. Women can practice this by being assertive in other aspects of their lives, she said.

Sergio Corona, a fourth-year geography student, said he liked how Mintz and Bloom acknowledged the misconception that all women can orgasm from penetration, as well as the shame women and men may feel.

“I’ve had girl peers that said they have had that shame (of not being able to orgasm from penetration) – it’s a hard misconception to break,” Corona said. “(Mintz and Bloom) smashed that misconception and said it’s about having an equal conversation as equal peers.”

Valerie Juntunen, a fourth-year psychology student, said she liked the nonjudgemental manner in which Mintz and Bloom discussed sex.

“I loved how it was framed in a sex-positive manner … and promoted healthy relationships,” she said.

Remy Small, a second-year theater student, said she thinks Bloom’s and Mintz’s frank discussion of sex made it easier for people to talk openly about women’s sexuality.

“Even in a liberal place like California, people are afraid to talk about it because of its connotations,” Small said. “I think (Mintz and Bloom) created a safe space for everyone – everyone was encouraged to ask questions.”

Complete Article HERE!

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These 3 Qualities Better Equip You For Nonmonogamy

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Open relationships are becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason: They allow people to connect with each other in ways that make sense for their real needs and lifestyles, removing monogamous expectations that don’t work for everybody and allowing for more ways of relating to each other. Even for those who are monogamous to the bone, the rising popularity of consensual nonmonogamy encourages all of us to think about what constitutes a satisfying relationship and then consciously create it from the ground up.

Of course, that doesn’t mean open relationships are right for everyone. A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research, in fact, suggests some couples might be more cut out for it than others are. After surveying 1,658 people in relationships, researchers found about 32% of them identified as being in nonmonogamous relationships. Of these nonmonogamous relationships, some were much more functional, healthy, and stable than others. These were the three qualities that set apart couples handling nonmonogamy well and those that weren’t:

  1. Mutual consent: Both partners agreed to being nonmonogamous, meaning they’d mutually decided they were both OK with each other sleeping with other people. 
  2. Ongoing communication: The partners talked openly and often about their sexual activity with others. That allowed for lots of respect and consideration for each other while pursuing sex elsewhere, and no secrets that could leave one person feeling betrayed or left out.
  3. Comfort: Beyond just consenting to it, both people want nonmonogamy. “If one partner felt coerced into agreeing to a nonmonogamous structure (potentially desiring monogamy but wanting to accommodate their partner’s desires for nonmonogamy) or simply felt less comfortable with a nontraditional relationship structure even after agreeing to it, then ongoing [sex with other people] could very likely lead to hurt feelings and jealousy,” the researchers explain in the paper on their findings.

The catch, of course, is that these three qualities are needed in all relationships⁠—whether nonmonogamous or not.

A monogamous relationship doesn’t work if both people don’t consent to being exclusive (consent), if they can’t talk to each other about their sexual needs (communication), and if both parties aren’t super into monogamy (comfort).

And yes, couples in open relationships are just as happy.

When the researchers compared monogamous couples and nonmonogamous couples who had all three traits, they were equally functioning and healthy. The members of both types of couples felt like their needs were being met, had low levels of both loneliness and psychological distress, and felt satisfied with the relationship. (In comparison, nonmonogamous couples with low levels of some or all three of the above traits were much less healthy, happy, and stable.)

The consensually nonmonogamous couples that did have all three traits were some of the longer relationships among all the couples being studied. The researchers believe this fact suggests that consensual nonmonogamy might even strengthen relationships, “offsetting the natural decay in quality” usually observed in traditional relationships. “Although the partners in these relationships have low interest in monogamy, are highly embracing of casual sex, [and] are actively seeking new sexual partners…they are doing this in a manner that maintains the quality and integrity of their primary relationships,” the researchers write.

So if you’re considering opening up your relationship, you now know exactly what qualities you’ll need to make it work: mutual consent, ongoing communication, and comfort. Here’s how to start up a conversation as a couple when you’re ready.

Complete Article HERE!

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Happy endings

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The ins and outs of clinical sexology

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Sexology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of human sexuality, including sexual behaviours, interests and function. A sexologist is a trained professional who specialises in human sexuality.

There are many different ways a sexologist may work, and many different areas she may work in – in clinical settings, in education, and in research. Here’s the type of couple a clinical sexologist may encounter.

A consultation

Sarah and John have been together for two years and have recently become engaged. Generally, they’re very happy with their lives, with satisfying careers, good relationships with their families, and many shared interests. They’re even hoping to start their own family but the one area of their lives that things don’t work so well in is the bedroom.

Sarah has always experienced pain during penetrative sex. She believes it’s connected to her early sexual experiences when her boyfriend at the time was rough during sex and she didn’t express her feelings. She always saw it as “part of making him happy”.

Now she’s realised that she could have said something, and is more willing to talk about her experiences with John. She wants to have penetration with John, but is fearful that it will hurt and hence avoids doing it.

John was a virgin until he met Sarah. He had “made out” with girls but had never gone further than that. He always wanted to be sexually active but the opportunity did not arise for him to experience sex before he met and fell in love with Sarah.

Although Sarah and John are sexually active together, their attempts at sexual intercourse have been fraught with difficulties. As John is inexperienced sexually, he feels anxious about hurting Sarah and he wants to “get it right”.

This anxiety stops him enjoying himself and being “present” during sex, so he has developed erectile difficulties. He can attain an erection both during masturbation and oral sex with Sarah, but when they begin the penetration he loses his erection.

Sarah and John have heard that they can talk to someone about their concerns and they make an appointment to see a sexologist.

A growing field

Books on sexuality and love, such as the Kama Sutra, the Ars Amatoria, and The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight, have been around for centuries. But they’re not framed within a formal field of scientific or medical research.

During the late 1800s – despite the social attitudes of sexual repression in the Victorian era – more liberal attitudes towards sexuality began to be presented in England and Germany. In 1886, for instance, Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) published Psychopathia Sexualis, which is considered to be the leading work that established sexology as a scientific discipline.

Within a decade or so, English medical doctor and sexologist Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) challenged the sexual taboos of his era, specifically regarding masturbation and homosexuality. His 1897 book Sexual Inversion, described the sexual relations of homosexual males and is considered to be the first objective study of homosexuality. He actually coined this term and, despite the prevailing social attitudes of the time, did not consider homosexuality as a disease, as immoral, or as a crime.

Throughout the following decades, many other scientists expanded our understanding of human sexuality. Some noteworthy names are Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Wilhelm Stekel (1868-1940), Ernst Grafenberg (1881-1957), after whom the G-spot is named, Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956), John Money (1921-2006), and the American duo William H. Masters (1915-2001) and Virginia E. Johnson (1925-2013).

Although sometimes controversial, these scientists and practitioners contributed greatly to the development of the discipline of sexology.

A happy couple

In 2015, there are many practising sexologists around the world. Those like the practitioner Sarah and John would access are typically called clinical sexologists because they work with the diagnosis and treatment of sexual concerns and dysfunctions, among other sexual health presentations. But they may go by other titles such as sex therapists, for instance, or psychosexual therapists.

Most use the Ex-PLISSIT model of sex therapy when working with clients. Originally developed by Jack Anon in the 1970s, and later expanded by Sally Davis and Bridget Taylor in 2006, the letters of the model refer to four different levels of possible intervention.

They are Extended (Ex) and Permission (P) – meaning to give permission throughout the work with clients for them to discuss sexual behaviour and sexuality issues, as well as to support the client in their experiences of sexual behaviours (as long as they are not harmful); Limited Information (LI) – clarifying any misinformation, dispelling myths, and providing factual information in a limited manner; Specific Suggestions (SS) – providing specific suggestions relating to the particular issue; and Intensive Therapy (IT) – providing highly specialised therapy for more complex presentations to the individual(s). The key aspects of this model includes being aware of and providing explicit permission throughout the work with the client or clients so the client(s) can work through their personal issues as a core feature of the other stages in Ex-PLISSIT.

This requires the practitioner to be reflective about all interactions with her clients, with the intention of increasing self-awareness by challenging assumptions.

The Ex-PLISSIT model helps practitioners with a framework to help them identify their role in the assessment and conceptualisation of an individual’s sexual well-being needs; not all practitioners are equipped to work with all clients’ issues. The model also highlights that not all clients need to experience each of these levels to resolve their situation.

In order to help Sarah and John, their sexologist would have taken a thorough sexual history for them both, and worked with them to understand their sexual difficulties. It seems likely that they were reinforcing each other’s experiences and unknowingly contributing to each other’s anxiety about sex.

With John, the sexologist would have focused on his “performance anxiety”. They would help both Sarah and him recognise and manage any unwanted thoughts, and help them to be more mindful during their sexual experiences.

Sexologists are specialists in human sexuality and hold specific knowledge and skills. They study people’s sexual behaviours, feelings and interactions, and assist them to reconcile any issues they have about their sexual experiences, with the aim of improving their lives.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex Education Rally Reminds Teens “You Are Not Chewed Gum”

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“There is no shame in having all the information possible.”

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“You are not chewed gum,” read an art display featuring wads of gum, located in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., unveiled on October 30 by advocates for science-based comprehensive sexual education. The display, organized by Advocates for Youth and Trojan, sought to push back on abstinence-only messaging that says sexually active youth are comparable to a chewed piece of gum for future partners.

The unveiling comes at a particularly crucial political moment for sexual and reproductive health. Earlier this summer news broke that the Trump administration had awarded $1.5 million in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program funds to anti-choice organizations such as Obria and Bethany Christian Services. Additionally, some high-profile abstinence-only sex education activists have taken up prominent posts within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, rebranding what has been commonly known as abstinence-only sex ed to the more vague “sexual risk avoidance.”

But according to advocates, no matter what these programs are called, they still paint normal human sexuality as inherently shameful. “We see [that] this one was a very common factor in a lot of schools: the idea that anybody who is sexually active, their worth is lessening and lessening every single time they engage in activity, which isn’t true whatsoever,” says Bukky, a 19-year-old student at Howard University and a member of Advocate for Youth’s International Youth Leadership Council in an interview with Teen Vogue.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 10 states and Washington, D.C., require that only abstinence-only sex ed be taught in public high schools, while 29 other states require that abstinence-only be stressed within sex ed curricula. Just 17 states require medically accurate sex ed be taught in public schools. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, released in October, STI transmission rates for syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia have hit an all-time high in the U.S.

Sexual health advocates say now is the time for action. “I have seen many times over the impact of shame-based abstinence only education,” says Logan Levkoff, a sexual health educator involved in the protest. “I think it has implications; tremendous implications for physical health, and certainly has implications for emotional health, and none of them are good implications. So to be a part of a program that is really saying abstinence only sexuality education and [sexual risk avoidance], as they’ve been rebranded, are setting our young people up to fail.”

The message of the day brought back memories for Bukky’s colleague on the International Youth Council, Ayanna, a 19-year-old student at George Washington University. “This really resonated with me because my sex education in North Carolina was just shaming, just all around,” she tells Teen Vogue. “We never talked about sex. So just the fact that sex is something that is pleasurable and, like, fun, and not something that, you know, necessarily has to be like a marriage for procreation. That’s a very heteronormative, cis perspective on it. We didn’t talk about… what sex can look like in different types of relationships with different genders. And we didn’t talk about anything related to gender expression. It’s just ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

Former Disney Channel star Joshua Rush was also on hand to detail for Teen Vogue his own experience with sex ed in his home state of Texas, which requires abstinence-only sex ed be emphasized, and later in California, which requires medically accurate comprehensive sex ed. “I grew up [in Texas], and I know there’s different personal convictions in the way that people feel, and a lot of that comes from religion,” he says. “But the fact of the matter is that this isn’t a conversation about religion. This isn’t a conversation about culture. We’re not telling kids, ‘Hey, go out, have sex.’ We’re telling kids, ‘Hey, go out, and have the information that you need. If you choose to make that decision.’ There is no shame in having all the information possible. There is a problem when people don’t have the right information.”

Ayanna frames the issues surrounding sex ed as a “concoction of terrible decision-making” centering [on] adult hang-ups with sex. According to her, sex ed needs to match up with the reality adolescents are facing today.

“We know that high schoolers and even some middle schoolers are out here making pretty adult decisions because of the circumstances that they’re in,” says Ayanna. “So instead of trying to shelter them and coddle them and to give them, like, this sweet sugarcoated birds and the bees, we have to be real and honest because we know what young people are doing. So why not? And they’re gonna do it anyway. So why not make them prepared and safe so that they can live full lives and not be shamed to be who they are and engage in practices that they want to with consent with other people?”

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Boost Your Sex Life While Looking After Your Mental Health

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by Bonnie Evie Gifford

We’d all like a bit more passion between the sheets (and on the streets, if that’s what does it for you), but can you give your sex life a boost without risking your overall wellbeing?

Going through a dry spell. Having a crisis of confidence. Just feeling plain ol’ frumpy, fed-up, and unsexy. It happens to us all at some point or another (well, unless you’re some kind of fabulous, self-loving, body-confident kind of person who rarely has an off day – in which case, please tell us your secrets).

The thing is, when things feel bad, it’s easy to fall into a shame spiral, for your thoughts to automatically become more negative, and to allow self-sabotaging, defeatist thinking to rule. Worrying about a little thing like your sex life can feel trivial when there are so many other things to be concerned about – it shouldn’t be a priority… right?

Sex isn’t just fun, it’s good for you. Sex is good for your heart, the closeness that comes with sexual encounters can help lower your blood pressure, decrease stress, and even fend off illness. Studies have shown that those who have more sex report feeling healthier than those who don’t.

We share seven ways you can boost your sex life while still putting your mental health first.

1. Identify your stressors

Why is it you feel your sex life needs a boost right now? What is it that is causing you to feel dissatisfied. Identifying the cause (or causes) of your negative feelings around your sex life (be those feelings of anxiety, worry, stress, or dissatisfaction) can help you to uncover any underlying problems.

Stress can be a major factor in our overall sense of health and wellbeing. If you’re worried stress or work-related anxiety may be affecting other areas of your life, try these 10 simple ways to tackle stress right now, or discover how you can beat back to work anxiety (and stop it taking over your free time).

By taking the time to sit back and ask yourself these kinds of big questions, you can begin to reveal if there are any areas of your life that need addressing. We all experience periods of work-related stress, relationship worries, and ill mental health or wellbeing during our lives.

Acknowledging that you are struggling is the first step towards seeking help and support – be that of loved ones, or a professional. Through fixing what is really causing you disruption and discomfort, you may begin to see a positive impact on other areas of your life.

2. Acknowledge your libido

Throughout your lifetime, your sex drive will fluctuate. It’s completely natural to go through periods where you experience less sexual desire than others, for both men and women. It’s ok to not be feeling it.

If you are experiencing other relationship issues, stress, depression or exhaustion, it’s worth noting that all of these can all be contributing factors to a lower libido.

If you’re worried, it can be worth speaking with your GP, checking out NHS inform’s advice, or talking with a psychosexual therapist. Sex therapists are qualified counsellors who have extra training to help with sex-related difficulties or concerns, and can help you feel more intimate with your partner, as well as exploring new ways to help you feel more comfortable.

Working with a hypnotherapist can also help decrease any embarrassment or nerves that may be affecting your libido, encourage you to reframe your thoughts, regain confidence, and even manage menopause symptoms.

As counsellor Graeme explains, having different libidos doesn’t have to negatively impact your relationship.

“In most relationships the sexual drive or libido is different in the partners. Of course, often when we start a relationship it feels like it will last forever; you can hardly keep your hands off each other; you are both very ready to have a sexual relationship; you seem to share the same level of desire and have a great time together. Of course this honeymoon period rarely lasts forever, and as the levels of hormones drop back to more normal levels we settle down into the day to day existence of being a couple. Each of us returns to our normal libido.

“All too often this can affect the relationship; the partner with the greater sex drive can feel rejected, or that the couple has fallen out of love. All of these are a reflection of them trying to make sense of the different drives.

“Talking to your partner about your relationship and the sexual side is very important. If the couple don’t discuss how they feel then misunderstandings inevitably appear as you assign thoughts and feelings to your partner. It can be difficult to talk about, but in the long run being honest about how you feel is going to allow you to be clear about what can and cannot change.

“It’s important to recognise that there is an element of reality that you can’t change. [Their libido] is another part of them that needs to be integrated into the relationship and will require negotiation and compromise.

“Mismatched libido is a relatively common problem in relationship counselling and couples can get past it and have fantastic long-term loving relationships by being honest, talking about it, and finding creative solutions that celebrate both partners’ needs and the whole relationship they have.

3. Make small changes to your environment

Your bedroom doesn’t just affect how you sleep – it can also have a surprising impact on your sex life. Creating a more relaxing, calming environment can help you to relax, gain higher quality rest, improve your sleep, and feel less distracted. As one nutritionist explains,

“Lack of sleep massively affects our hormones and daily lives. We are less able to deal with mental or physical stress, our metabolism can slow down, sex hormones are disrupted, and we can get cranky or distracted easily.

Removing your phone from the bedroom can help avoid one of the biggest passion killers – phubbing. If you ever find yourself scrolling, clicking on notifications, or automatically opening up Insta when you could be spending some quality time with the one you love, this could be a sign that social media is affecting your relationship and you may need to get control of your scroll. Find out more about the benefits of taking a break from your phone, and how sleep get help increase your sex drive.

4. Remember: confidence is sexy

Paris Hilton is quoted as having said “No matter what a woman looks like, if she’s confident, she’s sexy.” Is that really true? Can our confidence influence how sexy we feel?

Confidence and self-belief comes from our positive thinking, relationships, and friendships. It can affect your mood, behaviour, and even how you carry yourself. When we have low self-confidence, our negative self opinions can affect other aspects of our lives, from relationships to our careers.

If we can’t believe in ourselves, why should anyone else? Yet changing our own negative self-view can feel impossible. NLP Coach Vicki explains how working with a life coach can help boost your confidence and self-belief,

“Once you start to notice your self-talk and your self-language you will soon come to realise that you are self-sabotaging. Becoming aware of your self-sabotaging thoughts and language will allow you to realise the damage you are creating, you can then replace with self-praising thoughts and language.”

Counsellor Wendy explains how you can begin stepping outside of your comfort zone and improve your confidence.

5. Rediscover foreplay and rekindle intimacy

If you’re in a long-term realtionship, improving your sex life often starts with working on your relationship. Lulls in desire and the frequency of sexual acts can become more common when you are with someone for a longer period of time.

Focusing on improving the quality of your relationship and increasing your sense of intimacy can help you to feel closer to one another, whilst resparking feelings of desire. Planning date nights together, practising open communication, setting aside quality time together, or doing activities outside of the bedroom can all help.

Bringing the focus back to foreplay, over the main act itself can help to increase both your desire and libido. Spending time together touching, kissing, or just being close with each other can all act as ways in which you can feel closer, helping you each to focus on the here and now.

6. Ditch nasty habits

We’ve all had that one (or more) bad habit that we know we should kick, but we just… haven’t gotten around to it yet. But what if your habit is having a bigger impact than you may realise?

According to one study, smoking is one of our biggest turn-offs in the bedroom, with over half (59%) of Brits agreeing. More than a quarter of us have considered ending a relationship due to our partner’s smoking habits.

Quitting bad habits like smoking or excessive drinking can increase your energy levels, improve your immune system, and increase your life expectancy. Hypnotherapy, behavioural therapy, group therapy, and telephone counselling for smoking are all options that can offer a supportive, expert environment to help you change your habits for the better.

Looking after yourself through addressing addictions and practising self-care can help boost your sense of wellbeing and encourage you to start reprioritising the things that matter most in your life.

7. Come together outside of the bedroom

Increasing your passion in the bedroom may be the end result, but it doesn’t have to be the sole focus. By addressing your overall intimacy, you can feel more relaxed, closer to the ones you love, and more able to open up and share.

Emotional intimacy and closeness is key to having a more fulfilling partnership. It can help you to better meet your partner’s needs, as well as communicate your own.

Holding hands, hugging, or touching more can all help release more oxytocin, allowing you to feel calmer, less stressed, and closer. Research has shown hugs can have a huge range of benefits, from protecting us against illnesses to boosting our overall health, happiness and sense of wellbeing.

Creating quality time in your busy schedules to be together can be a great first step towards putting your partnership first, and reaffirming with each other how important you are. While life’s stresses and strains may continue to get in the way, nurturing our relationships with the ones we love is vital in showing them how much we care for and appreciate them.

If you are concerned your mental health may be affecting your overall sense of health and wellbeing, it’s important to reach out and seek help. Contact your GP to find out what help is available in your local area or call Samaritans on 116 123 to speak to someone 24/7.

To find more sex and relationship help and support, visit Counselling Directory. Or discover how hypnotherapy and life coaching can help improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Complete Article HERE!

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Not Sexually Compatible With Your Partner?

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Here’s How To Work On It.


By Caroline Colvin

A couple’s compatibility doesn’t hinge on just one thing. Compatibility takes into account a couple’s habits, interests, attraction, and the effort both partners are willing to put into their relationship (among so many other factors). Sex is one important part of an even bigger compatibility “whole,” but it’s not everything, nor is it the most important part of a relationship for every couple. Nevertheless, a healthy sex life is a priority for some, and if you feel like you’re not sexually compatible with your partner, you might feel a little discouraged. But don’t panic, your relationship isn’t doomed. There are a few solutions you and your partner can consider to help make your sexual relationship work.

Dr. Carol Queen, staff sexologist at sex toy company Good Vibrations, explains that sexual incompatibility tends to become an issue because of the taboo around sex. If you and your partner don’t talk about sex openly and comfortably before you become super committed, you might not even realize how different your sexual tastes are.

“We talk about sex like there’s a ‘normal’ baseline. There isn’t!” Queen tells Elite Daily. “As long as we’re not imposing on someone else coercively or non-consensually, we all have a right to our sexuality. It’s not a problem that we’re different. It’s a problem that we don’t understand that’s one element of partner compatibility to consider.”

Queen recommends three possible solutions: taking care of your sexual satisfaction through masturbation, opening up your relationship so you can see other people with whom you’re more sexually compatible, or asking your partner to work on becoming more compatible with you. “The most effective way to do this is probably to see a sex therapist together, though there are other things you can do instead if that isn’t an option,” Queen says.

For starters, she recommends not having this conversation while in bed. “Do it over a quiet dinner, a glass of wine — but not a lot of glasses. This isn’t a good mix with inebriation, or on a walk. Don’t spring the conversation on them,” Queen says. “Ask for some of their time to discuss something important.”

Then, let your partner know that it doesn’t seem like you two are a perfect fit in terms of your desires. For example, this could be a matter of your partner having kinky tastes while you prefer something a little more traditional, or vice versa. Your dissatisfaction might stem from the fact that your partner might not be able to help you orgasm, or perhaps they have a lower sex drive than you. There could be several reasons you feel this incompatibility. Tell your partner how you feel and then ask them what they think.

You might find that they agree with you and are willing to work on your sexual compatibility together. This starts with honest communication about your sexuality, including boundaries and priorities. According to Queen, one concrete way to approach this is by sitting down with your partner and creating individual “Yes, No, Maybe” lists. In the “Yes” category, you would write down all the things you already know you like and want to make a regular part of your sex life. In the “Maybe” category, you would write the things you’d be willing to try. And finally, in the “No” category, you would write the things you don’t want to do. From there, you and your SO would avoid everything on your “No” lists, and work to find common ground on the “Yes” and “Maybe” lists.

“If you and your partner can talk openly about these kinds of things, you can pretty likely find a sweet spot of activities you both enjoy,” says Queen.

If you find that you or your partner have one non-negotiable turn-on or kink that the other refuses to try, try not to panic. Queen admits this isn’t an “easy fix,” and describes the situation as one that has “led many couples to therapy, to open their relationships, or to even break up.” Nevertheless, “if you can communicate clearly and lovingly about your differences, you have a head start,” she says. Talk it out to work it out.

Ultimately, whether it’s the sex you’re having now or something new you try out in the future, make sure you’re having sex because you want to. You should never feel like you need to have a type of sex that you don’t want to just to keep a partner, Queen says.

If you and your SO are interested in opening your relationship, Queen says you’ll “need to make sure you are caught up on your communication skills, can handle jealousy, time management, and all the things you need to be good at to successfully have an open relationship or a polyamorous one.”

A book many sexperts (Queen included) recommend is Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton. “I promise you the book is wise and worthwhile,” Queen says. You can also sit down with your partner and make “Yes, No, Maybe” lists for polyamorous relationships too.

Talking about sex can be tough. It’s why you might find yourself dating someone long-term who you’re not sexually compatible with. You and your partner might need some time to process the discussion, especially if it was difficult on you, and that’s OK.

If after you have this discussion “your partner just won’t hear you and denies what you’re saying and experiencing, that’s a red flag,” says Queen. “In a situation like this, therapy is called for. Breaking up might even be called for. If a partner denies your perspective is even real, and does not commit to work on the relationship, you may not be in a situation that can be improved.”

It might feel like a serious bummer, but try to remember that you deserve a happy, healthy sex life, and if your partner’s not willing give that to you, you shouldn’t be afraid to find someone who will.

No matter what you and your partner end up doing, it’s important that you talk through your issues. Queen says that not talking about them can prompt problematic relationship behaviors, like affairs or faking pleasure. Talking to your partner isn’t a 100% guarantee that all of your problems in the bedroom will be solved, but it’s a start, and it’s also one solid, brave, healthy step you can take to work on your relationship before calling it quits all together.

Complete Article HERE!

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