Sex and gender both shape your health, in different ways

Share

By

When you think about gender, what comes to mind? Is it anatomy or the way someone dresses or acts? Do you think of gender as binary — male or female? Do you think it predicts sexual orientation?

Gender is often equated with sex — by researchers as well as those they research, especially in the health arena. Recently I searched a database for health-related research articles with “gender” in the title. Of the 10 articles that came up first in the list, every single one used “gender” as a synonym for sex.

Although gender can be related to sex, it is a very different concept. Gender is generally understood to be socially constructed, and can differ depending on society and culture. Sex, on the other hand, is defined by chromosomes and anatomy — labelled male or female. It also includes intersex people whose bodies are not typically male or female, often with characteristics of both sexes.

Researchers often assume that all biologically female people will be more similar to each other than to those who are biologically male, and group them together in their studies. They do not consider the various sex- and gender-linked social roles and constraints that can also affect their health. This results in policies and treatment plans that are homogenous.

‘Masculine?’ ‘Cisgender?’ ‘Gender fluid?’

The term “gender” was originally developed to describe people who did not identify with their biological sex. John Money, a pioneering gender researcher, explained: “Gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine.”

There are now many terms used to describe gender — some of the earliest ones in use are “feminine,” “masculine” and “androgynous” (a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics).

Research shows that gender, as well as sex, can influence vulnerability to disease.

More recent gender definitions include: “Bigender” (expressing two distinct gender identities), “gender fluid” (moving between gendered behaviour that is feminine and masculine depending on the situation) and “agender” or “undifferentiated” (someone who does not identify with a particular gender or is genderless).

If a person’s gender is consistent with their sex (e.g. a biologically female person is feminine) they are referred to as “cisgender.”

Gender does not tell us about sexual orientation. For example, a feminine (her gender) woman (her sex) may define herself as straight or anywhere in the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied) spectrum. The same goes for a feminine man.

Femininity can affect your heart

When gender has actually been measured in health-related research, the labels “masculine,” “feminine” and “androgynous” have traditionally been used.

Research shows that health outcomes are not homogeneous for the sexes, meaning all biological females do not have the same vulnerabilities to illnesses and diseases and nor do all biological males.

Gender is one of the things that can influence these differences. For example, when the gender of participants is considered, “higher femininity scores among men, for example, are associated with lower incidence of coronary artery disease…(and) female well-being may suffer when women adopt workplace behaviours traditionally seen as masculine.”

In another study, quality of life was better for androgynous men and women with Parkinson’s disease. In cardiovascular research, more masculine people have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are more feminine. And research with cancer patients found that both patients and their caregivers who were feminine or androgynous were at lower risk of depression-related symptoms as compared to those who were masculine and undifferentiated.

However, as mentioned earlier, many health researchers do not measure gender, despite the existence of tools and strategies for doing so. They may try to guess gender based on sex and/or what someone looks like. But it is rare that they ask people.

A tool for researchers

The self-report gender measure (SR-Gender) I developed, and first used in a study of aging, is one simple tool that was developed specifically for health research.

The SR-Gender asks a simple question: “Most of the time would you say you are…?” and offers the following answer choices: “Very feminine,” “mostly feminine,” “a mix of masculine and feminine,” “neither masculine or feminine,” “mostly masculine,” “very masculine” or “other.”

The option to answer “other” is important and reflects the constant evolution of gender. As “other” genders are shared, the self-report gender measure can be adapted to reflect these different categorizations.

It’s also important to note that the SR-Gender is not meant for in-depth gender research, but for health and/or medical studies, where it can be used in addition to, or instead of, sex.

Using gender when describing sex just muddies the waters. Including the actual gender of research participants, as well as their sex, in health-related studies will enrich our understanding of illness.

By asking people to tell us their sex and gender, health researchers may be able to understand why people experience illness and disease differently.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

The World Health Organization No Longer Classifies Being Transgender as a Mental Illness

Share

New catalogue lists ‘gender incongruence’ under ‘conditions related to sexual health’

Ati, who is a Muslim and transgender, waits for the start of Boston’s 48th Pride Parade

Transgender people, who identify as the opposite gender to the one they were born with, should no longer be considered mentally ill, according to a new UN categorisation.

The World Health Organization issued a new catalogue Monday covering 55,000 diseases, injuries and causes of death, in which it discreetly recategorised transgenderism.

The new catalogue, which still needs to be approved by UN member countries, so-called “gender incongruence” is now listed under “conditions related to sexual health”, instead of “mental, behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorders”.

“We expect (the re-categorisation) will reduce stigma,” Lale Say, the coordinator of WHO’s department of reproductive health and research, said.

WHO says gender incongruence is characterised as a “marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the assigned sex.”

Several new chapters appear in the first update of WHO’s International Classification of Diseases catalogue since the 1990s, including the one on sexual health.

“We think it will reduce stigma so that it may help better social acceptance for these individuals,” Say said, adding that since the catalogue is used by doctors and insurers to determine coverage, the move away from a mental disorder could “even increase access to healthcare”.

The document, which member states will be asked to approve during the World Health Assembly in Geneva next May, will take effect from January 1, 2022 if it is adopted.

Several countries have already taken steps to reclassify transgenderism and take it off the list of mental disorders, including France and Denmark.

Say said she thought the text, which is the result of years of discussion among experts, would easily win approval, despite widespread lack of acceptance of transgender people in many parts of the world.

WHO’s latest catalogue also has a new chapter on traditional medicine, which previously went unmentioned, despite being used by millions of people around the world.

It also includes a section on video gaming, recognising gaming disorder as a pathological condition that can be addictive in the same way as cocaine.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

How Does Circumcision Really Affect Your Sex Life? Here Are the Facts

Share

A growing number of guys are speaking out against what they see as a cruel and barbaric practice. But how much does it actually affect your sex life?

By

When Adam Zeldis was 16, Howard Stern changed his mind about his penis forever. On his show, Stern was talking about how circumcision changes sexual sensations for men, and Zeldis’s curiosity was piqued. He had been circumcised as a baby, and he hadn’t ever thought about whether it had reduced sexual sensation for him before. In fact, up to that point, he had no idea that there were even men who weren’t circumcised.

So Zeldis decided to do some research. And when he learned what a circumcision procedure actually entailed — the surgical removal of the foreskin of the tip of the penis — he was outraged.

“I felt a loss for a sex life that I could never have,” Zeldis told MensHealth.com. “Basically, if you’re circumcised you can never experience sex the way nature intended it.”

Today, Zeldis is a senior strategy advisor for Intact America, an activist organization designed to educate people against circumcision, which it views as a medically unnecessary and cruel practice. Intact America isn’t the only organization that harbors this view: in fact, there is an entire movement — “Intactivism” — devoted to propagating the idea that male circumcision is a cruel and barbaric practice.

But what are the cold, hard facts about circumcision? Are there actually health benefits, or is it a cruel, outdated practice that permanently reduces male sexual sensation? We asked doctors and sexuality experts to weigh in.

Does circumcision have health benefits?

For decades, circumcision has been something of a given in the United States. It was considered a standard procedure for baby boys, regardless of their cultural or religious background, with doctors citing its health and hygiene benefits. For this reason, approximately 75% of men in the United States are circumcised, according to the World Health Organization.

The potential health benefits aside, “parents who choose circumcision often do so based on religious beliefs, common myths about hygiene, or cultural or social reasons, such as the wish to have their child resemble his father,” says sex therapist Kimberly Jackson, LCSW

Doctors also believed circumcision cut down on the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs), which, if left untreated, can lead to kidney infections

“The cited health benefits included [a decreased risk of] STIs, especially HIV and HPV; penile cancer; paraphimosis (when foreskin gets trapped behind the glans, which can cut off blood supply to the tip of the penis), and balanitis, or infection of the glans,” says sexual health counselor Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, PA-C, CSC, CSE.

Are the benefits of circumcision legit?

To a degree, the consensus in the medical community is still that circumcision does slightly reduce the risks of certain UTIs and STIs. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement saying that notwithstanding the potential rare complications of circumcision, including bleeding, infection, and (shudder) penile necrosis, “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks.”

But over the years, emerging research has thrown some of the stated benefits of circumcision into question. For instance, while some studies of African men indicated that circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV transmission by as much as 60%, “the research design was inherently flawed — [they] only examined the health behaviors of heterosexual men, and the results cannot be generalized across cultures,” says Jackson

That’s why more and more parents are choosing to forego the procedure. Circumcision is on something of a decline, with the number of newborns who are circumcised dropping from 84% in the 1960s to about 77% in 2010. Some doctors are also refusing to perform the procedure.

“I have not performed a circumcision since 1994,” says Steven Dorfman, MD, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. “It is a cruel, unnecessary and…substandard practice which belongs in the history books, not in the hospital or the clinic.”

As to the question of whether circumcision is more hygienic than being uncut, it is true that guys who are uncut do have to contend with smegma, an odorless (and harmless) cheese-like substance underneath the foreskin. But washing underneath the foreskin daily and rinsing the head of the penis can easily remedy that issue.

Does being circumcised reduce sexual sensation?

For many guys, this is the million-dollar question: does circumcision reduce penile sensitivity?

Some health experts claim that circumcision can reduce sexual sensation, as the procedure removes thousands of nerve endings in the penis. In fact, a 2007 study found that the glans of the uncircumcised penis was more sensitive to light touch than the glans of a circumcised penis.

“It is also thought that the extra skin adds more friction and stimulation to the clitoris during penetration (both get extra pleasure!), and causes increased sensation to the glans as well,” says Fosnight.

That said, “studies show that there is no significant change in sensation in adult men who undergo circumcision,” says Dr. Alex Shteynshlyuger, director of urology at New York Urology Specialists. A 2016 study confirmed this, finding that men who were circumcised experienced the same level of sexual pleasure as men who were not.

Do people prefer uncircumcised penises?

Although the research on the health and sexual benefits of circumcision is mixed, some parents still would prefer to circumcise their kids for aesthetic reasons — i.e., because they don’t want their sons to feel weird next to the other kids in the locker room. And some guys still do think that their sexual partners prefer circumcised penises to uncircumcised ones.

But when it comes down to it, that’s probably not the case. While there are few surveys indicating what people’s preferences are, a lot of people really don’t care if their sexual partners are circumcised or not — especially as more and more parents choose not to circumcise their kids.

“I don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter to me. Plus, I’m not everyone’s idea of ‘perfect’ down there, either.” says Maria*, 38. Karina*, 26, agrees: “I don’t care one way or the other so long as it’s clean and disease-free. Cut, uncut, whatever, it’s the guy that matters. Not how his penis looks.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

The One Sex Toy You’re Afraid of for No Reason

Share

By Bianca Mendez

Cock rings are a super-fun toy and great for anyone with a penis—but they also come with some serious stigma despite how great they are. But sex toys in the bedroom are the norm nowadays, and a cock ring is just another option—and shouldn’t be any more shameful than using a vibrator or any other sex toy (which is to say, not at all).

So why use one?

The purpose of a cock ring is to prevent the backflow of the blood, which keeps the penis hard for longer than it otherwise would, says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—and How to Get It. When a penis isn’t aroused, the blood flows in and out easily. During an erection, the blood stays in the erectile tissue until the man ejaculates, and the blood flows freely again.

This means cock rings have been used as an aid for erectile dysfunction long before Viagra was a thing, but they can also help you enjoy yourself in the moment and remove stress about staying up.

Cock rings are a super-fun toy and great for anyone with a penis—but they also come with some serious stigma despite how great they are. But sex toys in the bedroom are the norm nowadays, and a cock ring is just another option—and shouldn’t be any more shameful than using a vibrator or any other sex toy (which is to say, not at all).

So why use one?

The purpose of a cock ring is to prevent the backflow of the blood, which keeps the penis hard for longer than it otherwise would, says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—and How to Get It. When a penis isn’t aroused, the blood flows in and out easily. During an erection, the blood stays in the erectile tissue until the man ejaculates, and the blood flows freely again.

This means cock rings have been used as an aid for erectile dysfunction long before Viagra was a thing, but they can also help you enjoy yourself in the moment and remove stress about staying up.

“When used recreationally, many men report that it makes their penis more sensitive and that when they finally do ejaculate, the sensation is more intense,” Mintz says. “It also makes erections last longer, which many men like not just for the longer erection itself, but also for the psychological bonus of not worrying about losing one’s erection or lasting ‘long enough.'”

Plus, some of them vibrate…

Vibrating cock rings can offer clitoral stimulation, which makes them great for a partner, whether you’re using them on a penis or a strap-on—talk about a win/win. But for a sex toy that pretty much acts as a mini-vibe, the stigma surrounding them can make people feel reluctant to try them out. But why are folks so intimidated by this harmless-looking sex toy?

“There is so much pressure on men to last long and thrust hard to be a ‘real man,'” Mintz says. “Anything associated with making this happen is fraught with pressure.”

The way to break the stigma is to shift the mindset.

Sexual pleasure comes from a lot more than plain ol’ P-in-V action, Mintz says, noting that there are many alternative methods to get intimate. Just think of a cock ring as another fun way to experiment with your sex life.

If you’re curious about trying one with your partner, have an honest, open discussion and explain why you think it’d be fun to try it, suggests Mintz. Keep in mind, however, that sex is a two-way street—if your partner isn’t into the idea of using a cock ring, don’t force it.

What kind should you go for?

Like all sex toys on the market, cock rings come in different shapes, colors, and sizes, and are made in a variety of materials, including glass, metal, and silicone. If you’re trying one for the first time, Mintz suggests using a silicone cock ring that’s stretchy and easily adjustable.

To use the cock ring, you’ll want to place it on a semi-hard penis and position it at the base. Make sure it feels snug, but not to the point where it’s pinching. Remove it immediately once you finish.

What not to do…

Mintz says that if used correctly, cock rings are a safe toy, but in very rare cases, they can damage the erectile tissue of the penis. Using it too long will cause the blood to coagulate and give you an erection for a long time, Mintz says.

Basically, as with any new sex trick, you should take precaution. “The general recommendation is to use it for no longer than 30 minutes and to remove immediately if your penis begins to swell a great deal, hurts, feels numb, or feels hot or cold,” Mintz says. Also, never wear a cock ring while you sleep or use one under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Complete Article HERE!

CHECK OUT DR DICK’S VERY OWN:  COCKRING CRASH COURSE

Share

More young Americans now identify as bisexual

Share

One-quarter (25%) of people identified as something other than completely heterosexual, compared to 20% of people in 2015.

By Jamie Ballard

[F]ewer Americans today identify as completely heterosexual, according to new data from YouGov Omnibus. People were asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale, where 0 is completely heterosexual and 6 is completely homosexual. The scale was invented by Alfred Kinsey in 1948 as a tool to study human sexuality. The original study used several methods to determine where someone would fall on the spectrum, but YouGov simply asked people to place themselves on the scale.

The same series of questions was asked of YouGov panelists in August 2015 and June 2018, and the results show that in 2018, more people say they’re not completely heterosexual. One-quarter (25%) of people identified as something other than completely heterosexual, compared to 20% of people in 2015.

Just over two-thirds (69%) of Americans identified as “completely heterosexual” in the 2018 survey, a drop from 78% of people who identified as completely heterosexual in the 2015 survey. About half of people in the 18-to-34 age range (55%) said they were completely heterosexual, compared to 67% of 35-54 year olds, and 84% of people aged 55 and up.

But despite what seems like an increase in sexual fluidity, less than half (40%) of people said that the statement “Sexuality is a scale – it is possible to be somewhere near the middle” came closest to their view. A nearly-equal amount (42%) said that the statement “There is no middle ground – you are either heterosexual or you are not” came closer to their view.

Women and men were equally likely (18%) to report that they’d had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. In 2015, one out of every five women (20%) reported having a same-sex experience, compared to 15% of men at the time.

When asked about the possibility of being in a same-sex relationship, women (15%) were almost twice as likely as men (8%) to respond “definitely” or “maybe, if I really liked them.” Women also tended to be more open to the idea of a same-sex sexual experience, with 17% saying they thought it could happen, compared to 7% of men.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Can’t manage to approach a person for sex?

Share

Name: Jake
Gender:
Age: 18
Location: London
I have never had sex mostly because I have never managed to approach the person. I am bisexual and am desperate to have sex with a guy or girl. What are the best ways to approach someone for sex?

[C]an’t manage to approach a person for sex? Are you just shy, or are you a total geek? Either way, my friend, you gotta get over yourself if you ever hope to get laid. And here’s a tip: perspective partners can smell desperation, like the kind you speak of, a mile away. And they will avoid you like the plague.

Ok, so you’re just 18 without a lot of experience in the ways of the world. Here’s what I tell everyone who asks me this question, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation. When it comes to asking for sex; the direct approach works best. Just so long as you’re not a dick about it. If you haven’t already discovered this, baggin’ a chick will probably take a bit more finesse than pokin’ a bloke. And coming on to a mate demands a different approach than hittin’ up a stranger for a shag.

If there’s a bit of charm about you, your task will be considerably easier than if you are a crude Neanderthal who just wants to notch his belt. If you’re not sure what your selling points are, ask a friend for their feedback. If they tell you nice things bout yourself, you might be in luck. But if they tell you that you’re a charmless creep, you’ll have your work cut out for you.

Regardless what group you fall into — the “maybe fuckable”, or the “not fucking ever”, you can always improve your image and hone your unique style. Look to how you present yourself; make sure you are groomed, clean, and odor-free. Dress to impress. Stay clear of fancy or fussy, but do make it look like you gave your clothing a thought before you dressed yourself. Make yourself interesting; have a point of view, but share it sparingly. Develop a sense of humor about yourself. If you can’t be clever or witty, then keep your mouth shut for the most part.

The internet is a great place to test the waters. Dating and hook-up sites and apps abound. Put up a profile…with a photo or two. Here’s a tip, save the dick pics for the queer sites. Women don’t want to see your pathetic willie, at least not right away. And like I said above, there’s nothing more unattractive to most women, or men, than a desperate fuck. Asking for what you want is good, pleading to be taken out of pity is not!

Few women are as casual about sex as are most men. So if a woman tells you no, she just may be shy, or not ready, or not sure. If a guy tell you no, it’s not the end of the world. You’re probably not his type. There are lots of fish in the sea so if you’re not immediately successful, move on. Sometimes getting laid is a situational thing. Being in the right place at the right time is helpful.

Chicks are gonna be concerned about the whole pregnancy thing. This is a much more serious concern for a woman then for a dude. If you’re not well versed on several methods of contraception and willing to practice at least one, you’re not ready to have sex. Sexually transmitted infections ought to be a concern for you both. Don’t be a fuck-up; always use a condom regardless of your partner’s gender.

If your dick is hard, it’s not the right time to talk about sex with a woman, but it might be the best time to hit up a dude. Women don’t necessarily like the lean and hungry look. Men tend to groove on it.

There are lots of different ways to have sex, so what might be appealing to one person may not be to another. Mutual masturbation and/or oral sex are often more easy to cum by than full-on fucking with both birds and blokes.

In the end, there no standard way to ask for sex, but if you treat a prospective partner, regardless of gender, with respect, honesty, and patience, you can be sure whatever words you use will be more effective than if you’re an uncouth lout.

Good luck!

Share

We know the very best time to have sex…

Share

By Anna Breslaw

You climb into bed, shimmy up next to your S.O., and pucker up—only to find that they’ve already cashed in their ticket to Snoresville. If you’re in a long-term relationship, chances are it’s a familiar scenario, particularly if your partner is of the opposite sex. As the Daily Mail reports, a 2015 study of 2,300 people by the sex toy brand Lovehoney found that male sexual desire peaks between 6 and 9 a.m., aligning with the highest spike in their testosterone levels over a 24-hour period, while female partners desire sex most between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Is one partner *right*? Is there an optimal time to have sex? In an attempt to puzzle it out, I look back at evolutionary biology.

“Early humans weren’t having sex at night until we discovered fire, about 1.6 million years ago,” says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and senior researcher at the Kinsey Institute. According to her studies, ancient man actually had sex in the middle of the day: “They would wake up, eat, have sex, and then socialize.”

“Early humans weren’t having sex at night until we discovered fire, about 1.6 million years ago.” —Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist

As fun as that sounds, it wasn’t exactly an afternoon delight—the sole purpose of intercourse was procreation, and the constant threat of predators meant it had to be quick.

These days, we’re not constrained by the threat of a looming mastodon, and morning and night sex each boast some compelling benefits. AM sessions strengthen your immune system by ratcheting up your levels of IgA, an antibody that protects against infection, according to Debby Herbenick, PhD, a sex researcher and Indiana University professor. Obviously, this would come in handy for flu season.

On the other hand, both men and women experience an increase in prolactin, melatonin, and vasopressin after sex—all hormones that are linked to increased sleepiness. So if you have trouble falling asleep at night, sex might help—and conversely, if you have a hard time waking up in the morning, an early roll in the hay probably isn’t doing you any favors (unless you have the luxury of time to laze about while you recuperate).

It’s totally normal to have a night owl/morning person dynamic, and it doesn’t mean you’re sexually incompatible on a deeper level.

For the most part, though, the health benefits of sex, like mood-boosting dopamine, improved heart health, decreased stress, and stronger emotional bonds with your partner, apply to both AM and PM sessions. (Heyo!)

So the best time to have sex is really whatever the best time is for you and your partner. “Some people are talked and touched out at the end of the day,” says Shannon Chavez, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and licensed sex therapist. “Other people are finally decompressing from work and ready to relax and focus on sex.” It’s totally normal to have a night owl/morning person dynamic, adds Dr. Chavez, and it doesn’t mean you’re sexually incompatible on a deeper level.

Better yet, these peak desire times are usually malleable for both genders. One way to align your sex drives is a technique Dr. Chavez calls sexual conditioning. The idea is to find a time that works for both of you. (According to the Lovehoney study above, the second-most popular block of time to have sex—for both genders—is between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., so that might be a good place to start.) The more often you have sex during this time, the more you’ll come to want sex at this time. “Positive sexual experiences that happened at night, or in the morning, or in a certain environment, will create a stronger arousal response in the future,” explains Chavez. You know what they say, practice makes perfect…

Complete Article HERE!

Share

6 Things Every Transgender Person Should Know About Going to the Doctor

Share

You deserve sensitive, comprehensive care.

By Nathan Levitt, FNP-BC

[T]ransgender patients often experience tremendous barriers to health care, including discrimination and an unfortunate lack of providers who are knowledgeable about and sensitive to this population. As a result, many transgender and nonbinary people avoid seeking care for preventive and life-threatening conditions out of fear.

According to a report from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey of more than 6,450 transgender and gender nonconforming people, nearly one in five (19 percent) reported being refused care because they were transgender or gender nonconforming. Survey participants also reported very high levels of postponing medical care when sick or injured due to discrimination and disrespect (28 percent). Half of the sample reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care.

As a transgender person myself, I know how difficult it can be to access sensitive care.

That’s why it’s essential for trans and gender nonconforming people to be empowered with the knowledge and information that will help them find the best providers they possibly can, who are knowledgeable and sensitive, and will advocate for their gender nonconforming patients.

It can be hard to know where to start, so I’d recommend looking into the following resources online to help you find trans-friendly medical care near you:

And here are a few questions you might want to consider when looking for a doctor or health care provider who is accessible, inclusive, and who can responsibly and knowledgably care for you:

  • Do they have signs or brochures representing the transgender community?
  • Have the care providers been trained on issues specific to transgender health?
  • Does the organization have a nondiscrimination policy that covers sexual orientation and gender identity?
  • Do they have experience caring for transgender patients? Specifically, are they able to provide medical advice on how to manage hormones, after-surgery care, and health screenings in the trans population?
  • Are they able to provide the necessary accommodations you need to feel comfortable (For instance: a gender-neutral bathroom, a safe and comfortable waiting room environment, willingness to use your requested name and pronoun, etc.)?
  • Has their staff (including the office staff) received training on transgender sensitivity?

Even after you’ve found a medical provider, the reality is that transgender patients often still have to teach them about transgender care.

It’s your responsibility to communicate your medical history and needs so that you can get the best, most appropriate care. That can be intimidating and overwhelming, so I’ve outlined a few of the most important things you should go over with your doctor or medical provider.

1. Make sure your provider has a baseline medical history for you.

Once you find a transgender-sensitive health provider, think of this person as your medical ally—someone who can help you with any changes your body is experiencing. In that vein, you’ll want to tell them about your family and personal health history so they can better manage your health care screenings, such as cardiovascular, bone health, diabetes, and cancer screenings.

Cancer screening for transgender people can require a modified approach to current mainstream guidelines. If your provider isn’t sure what that looks like, you can point them towards UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.

Unfortunately, I know from professional experience that transgender people are often less likely to have routine screenings and cancer screenings due to discomfort with health care providers’ use of gendered language, providers’ lack of knowledge about surgery and hormones, gender-segregated systems, and insensitive care.

2. Discuss your goals and expectations around medical transition, whether it’s something you have done, are in the process of doing, or are interested in pursuing.

Of course, not all transgender and gender nonbinary individuals are interested in medical transition—including surgery and/or hormones—but for those who are considering these options, it’s important to select health care providers who understand how to administer and monitor hormones and who are knowledgeable about what is needed for pre- and post-operative care.

So it’s a good idea to ask your provider about their experiences with transition-related medical care or if they can refer you to someone who is experienced in that field. You’ll want to talk with your provider about your goals of hormone therapy, any lab work needed, and any relevant information from your and your family’s medical history.

There are many different surgeries that transgender individuals may undergo to align their body with their gender identity. Share with your medical provider any gender affirming surgeries you have had or are interested in. You deserve to feel comfortable with your surgeon and feel that your health care team is working together.

As your body changes, stay informed about what additional screenings may be needed. For instance, although the data linking hormone therapy to cancer is inconclusive (when taken correctly and monitored by a medical provider), it is still important to discuss risks with your provider.

For patients who currently have hormone-dependent cancers, it is imperative that you discuss with your oncologist and your primary care provider any past history or current use of hormones.

I know that some cancer screenings such as Pap smears and prostate screenings can be incredibly uncomfortable for some transgender and gender nonbinary people. Finding sensitive providers is essential to not delay important screenings.

3. As awkward as it may be, discuss your sexual history and activity in a way that allows your medical provider to accurately assess your sexual health needs.

It’s unfortunately not uncommon for transgender men to skip pelvic exams (whether they fear discrimination, think they don’t need them, or avoid them for dysphoria-related reasons). It’s also not uncommon to forego preventive health care, such as STI screenings, out of fear of discrimination or disrespect. This can hurt the transgender population’s health.

Of course it can be awkward, but your sexual health is an important topic to discuss with your provider, so they shouldn’t make you feel too uncomfortable to talk about it. If you feel your provider is not conducting transgender-sensitive sexual histories, you should feel empowered to give them this feedback. You can even ask your provider to use the language you feel most comfortable with to describe your and your partner’s bodies. This is important because they can help you to understand how to have sex that is safe, affirming, and specific to your body and identity.

It’s also important to tell your provider the nitty gritty details about your sex life and history (like: how many sexual partners you have had, whether you’re using condoms or dental dams during sex, what kind of sex you are having, and if and when you were last tested for STIs and HIV).

Unfortunately, surveys tell us that transgender people are less likely to get tested for STIs because of the discrimination and fear they face when talking about their bodies and identity. According to the CDC, in 2015, the percent of transgender people who were newly diagnosed with HIV was more than three times the national average. Trans women are at an especially high risk for HIV; in particular, African American trans women have the highest newly diagnosed HIV rates within the transgender community.

Be proactive and ask what you should be doing to reduce your risk of STIs and HIV. One option your physician may discuss with you is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a daily pill that can greatly reduce your risk of HIV infection, and may be appropriate for some patients

I know it can be uncomfortable to have these conversations with a medical provider, and it can be just as difficult to have them with your partner. To help get you started, here are some helpful resources on sexual health for trans women and trans men.

4. If you’re using substances, ask your medical provider for trans-sensitive resources and referrals for substance support services.

Substance and tobacco use can often be the result of depression and anxiety associated with discrimination by the community. In fact, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 26 percent of transgender individuals use or have used alcohol and drugs frequently, compared with 7.3 percent of the general population according to a National Institute of Health’s report. In addition, 30 percent of the transgender participants reported smoking regularly compared with 20.6 percent of U.S. adults.

There are many risks associated with substance and tobacco use, especially in combination with hormone therapy. Smoking can cause an increased risk of some cancers, blood clots, and heart disease, and it may negatively impact the outcome of hormone therapy, among other complications. Talk to your provider about resources to help decrease substance dependency.

5. If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or any other mental health symptoms, bring it up to your health care provider.

When it comes to getting help or making that first call, you don’t have to wait until things get “bad enough.” Unfortunately, mental health issues can be prevalent in the transgender community as a result of isolation, rejection, lack of resources, and discrimination. Share with your provider any feelings of depression or anxiety you may be having. They can help manage your care and recommend a trans-sensitive mental health professional, which can be challenging to navigate on your own.

If you are in crisis, contact Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.

6. Tell your physician if you’re interested in potentially having children someday.

Transgender populations have fertility concerns that are often unaddressed by providers. If you are interested in potentially starting a family someday, make sure to talk to your provider about your reproductive health and fertility options early on, especially if you’re considering medical transition or have transitioned.

Transgender men may need to discuss cessation of testosterone if they are interested in becoming pregnant. And if transgender women are interested in having children using their own sperm, they may need to use sperm banking services because of estrogen’s potential effect on sperm production.

Finding trans-sensitive ob/gyn care, birth control resources specific to the trans population, and trans-sensitive fertility support can be difficult, but there are resources that can make it easier, like the ones listed at the beginning of this article.

Finally, remember that you are deserving of a responsible, knowledgeable health care team.

While patients often initially come into a medical office nervous, when they find a healthcare team they trust, they are able to open up more—sharing more information and asking more questions.

As a healthcare provider, I’ve witnessed that those patients who become increasingly empowered to take control of their own health have lasting positive effects, including better overall wellness and greater confidence and self-esteem. Everyone deserves that level of care.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

9 ways to make sex less painful

Share
Sex should not be painful.

By

[F]eeling some sort of physical pain during intercourse is incredibly common — according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nearly three out of four women experience painful sex at some point in their lives.

Though it might make you feel slightly better to know you’re not alone, this fact likely offers little comfort when you’re in the middle of a sexual encounter and things just aren’t feeling right. Whether you’re dealing with muscle aches due to a position that doesn’t work for your body, irritation or burning on your skin, or a gynecologic condition like vaginismus or vulvodynia, there are definitely ways to help ease your pain so you can enjoy the pain-free, happy sex you deserve.

Here are nine ways you can make sex less painful.

1. Take things slowly — very slowly.

Foreplay is important.

Some people can just go right into sex as soon as the opportunity presents itself, but others require lots of foreplay before they’re ready to go. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but if you start having sex before you’re adequately turned on, you might feel pain, especially when it comes to penis in vagina intercourse.

“Many women think that if they feel excited, then they’re ready for sex,” Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, told Women’s Health magazine in 2014. “But your body needs time to lift the uterus and make room for the vagina to expand. The latter can stretch from four inches long to a fully aroused seven inches.”

Quickies are great under the right circumstances, but if you rush into the main attraction without enjoying some previews before the show, you might feel pain, soreness, or irritation down below, so be sure to slow things down as needed. Herbenick recommended 20 minutes of foreplay to adequately prepare your body.

2. Be sure you’re using enough lubrication.

Vaginal dryness is common.

Although you still need to be sure that your body is ready for sex before your partner enters you, vaginal dryness can occur even if you’re fully ready to go. This is where lube comes in, so you’ll want to snag a silicone- or water-based lubricant, particularly one without harsh chemicals or fragrances so that you won’t risk irritating your genitals or skin.

There are no shortage of great lubricants for sex out there, but after you’ve found the one that works for you, you might want to look into the reason you’re feeling dry down below. Dryness can be caused by a slew of medications, including birth control pills, allergy medications, antidepressants, and even over-the-counter cold medicines, as well as soaps, and even smoking cigarettes, so check with your doctor.

Everyday Health also noted that vaginal dryness can happen due to a drop in estrogen levels, which happens at certain points of your menstrual cycle, if you’ve recently given birth, are breastfeeding, or are going through menopause.

Also, if you’re bathing in hot water pre-sex, you could be inadvertently drying out vaginal tissue. Checking with your doctor about any discomfort due to dryness is always the best option.

3. Check for allergies or other health conditions.

You could have a latex allergy.

If you’re feeling itchiness, burning, or irritation down below, you could be dealing with a number of health issues, so you’ll want to check with your doctor.

An itchy rash or hives can be symptoms of a latex allergy, as can vaginal irritation or burning. As Jonathan Schaffir, M.D., an OB-GYN at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told SELF magazine in 2016, “it is also possible to have a more severe form of allergy that leads to anaphylaxis, which involves system-wide swelling, dropping blood pressure, and difficulty breathing. That would be rare, but needs immediate medical attention.”

But acute reactions aside, latex allergies aren’t a huge deal, and you can safely switch to polyurethane condoms without issue. Still, pain, itchiness or irritation can be signs of other health conditions, including a yeast infection, STIs, vaginismus, vulvodynia, or an ovarian cyst, so paying a visit to your doctor is never a bad idea.

4. Try a different position.

Some positions may hurt more than others.

Unfortunately, some sex positions are more likely to cause pain during sex than others, which means you might need to get creative. Positions that allow for deep thrusting (such as doggie style) are often more painful for women, while those that allow the woman more control of the pace (such as woman-on-top, missionary, or side-by-side spooning) are often helpful if you’re experiencing painful sex.

Experiment with different positions to see which ones feel the most comfortable for you and your body.

5. Change things up completely.

Props are your friend.

If you’ve tried different positions but are still experiencing discomfort, Health suggested using props, pillows, or toys to make things feel better. Pillows are great to help align your body in a more comfortable position, and there are no shortage of sex toys and props out there to help alleviate any tension or stress in your muscles and joints. Getting a bit creative can help you explore new options while also helping to reduce pain.

6. Create a relaxing, sex-positive environment.

Clear your mind.

For many people, it can be hard to fully relax and enjoy the moment, which leads to tension in our bodies as we are having sex. So doing some things to help yourself feel connected in the moment is a great way to have more pleasurable sex.

Relaxation looks different for everyone, but some helpful tips include keeping a space free of clutter and mess, so you won’t be worried about getting cozy on top of a pile of clothes. Playing relaxing music, lighting candles, and keeping a comfortable temperature and linens might sound like a scene from a cheesy romance novel, but these things can all truly help you feel more at ease and able to be more present in the moment.

Trying out different mindfulness techniques can also help, and MindyBodyGreen reports that plenty of people enjoy meditation or breathing techniques to help their brain stay present and connected. Most of us lead such busy, hectic lifestyles that it can be hard to truly disconnect and enjoy sex, which could unknowingly be causing you pain or discomfort.

Meditation is a proven stress reliever, and research shows that when your body is producing too much of the stress hormone cortisol, it can be hard to get aroused. When you meditate, you’re naturally lowering the levels of cortisol in your body, which can help your mental health both in the sheets and outside of them.

7. Take a break from intercourse.

There are other ways to have intimacy.

It might sound obvious, but pain can often be a signal that your body needs a break, so it won’t hurt to listen to your body and explore other options for a little while. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy other forms of intimacy — if you haven’t enjoyed a makeout session in a long time, it can be a surprisingly fun way to keep the spark alive without the worries of pain down below.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little exploration of your bodies to figure out what works best — without pressure to climax or have a full-on sex session. It’s entirely possible you’re trying to have too much sex, which is especially common in the early stages of a relationship.

You should never push through pain or something that doesn’t feel right — forcing yourself to do something you’re not enjoying is not okay, so taking notice of your body and brain during sex is crucial.

8. Communication is key, so you’ll want to speak openly with your partner.

When you talk about it, you can take some of the scariness away.

No matter the reason you’re experiencing pain during sex, talking it out with your partner is a great way to help get you to a place where you’re both enjoying sex … without wincing in pain.

No one deserves to engage in sexual activity that makes them feel pain or discomfort, so sitting down with your partner is a good way to brainstorm solutions to help you both feel great. Maybe it’s a matter of changing up the speed or pace of sex, or you’re hoping to try new things.

Experimenting and giving honest feedback is never a bad idea, but it’s especially important if things haven’t been feeling right.

Also, if you have experienced sexual abuse of any kind, it can be understandably difficult to enjoy sex. It’s entirely up to you whether you discuss your feelings with your partner and when, but know this: your feelings are absolutely valid, and you have every right to discontinue sexual activity at any point, no matter the reason.

9. Be honest with yourself about what you want.

It may not be sex.

Our bodies are all different, and we all have different wants and needs, especially when it comes to sex. People of all genders are entitled to the sexual experiences they want, but it’s also OK if you’re not interested in sex right now or ever.

Pop culture might have you think that people want to have sex all the time, but there are plenty of reasons you might not want to, and they’re all perfectly valid.

New moms are often given the green light for sex around six weeks after giving birth, but not all people who give birth are ready right away, thanks to a drop in estrogen levels and healing scar tissue after giving birth. If you’re simply not ready for sex, there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you’re recovering from illness or trauma, or simply don’t enjoy sex and think you might identify as asexual, you have every right to explore your feelings without forcing yourself to have painful sex. Talking with your partner can help, as can seeking the advice of a doctor or therapist you trust. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do sexually, no matter what movies or porn might suggest to the contrary.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Kinky Sex Could Be the Secret to Your Success

Share

Turns out whips and blindfolds are the unseen force behind a lucrative career—and a satisfying love life.

By

[C]laudia wasn’t sure if it was nerves or the night before that had given her the confidence to ask her boss for a raise. Either way, negotiating her salary was easier than expected. She’d been practicing, after all… just on something a little less G-Rated.

The 36-year-old mother-of-two, who asked me not to use her last name, had spent the past few days negotiating with her husband about how she could flex her longtime fantasy of dominating him in a way they’d both enjoy. Afterward, she told me, the experience had made her feel confident, valued, secure and pleased at their ability to compromise—feelings which she was surprised to find lasted into the the following day. When she arrived at work, still swimming in the satisfaction of a fantasy realized, she decided this was it. Raise day.

The way Claudia was able to benefit from her erotic encounter is a common theme among people with knacks for kink. Many successful visionaries throughout history, from artists to scientists and even politicians, have had well-documented kinks and fetishes that affected how they operated in their daily lives. I was curious: Could it be that whips and blindfolds are the unseen force behind their artistry, leadership and innovation?

A wave of recent research has confirmed this: If it’s something you desire in the first place, kinky sex can benefit you not just in the bedroom, but outside of it as well. “Unconventional” sexual practices and fantasies, such as BDSM, group sex, or role play, have been shown to reduce psychological stress, improve mental health and can help with satisfying and communicative relationships. Kinky people have also been found to have higher self-worth than those who are too afraid or ashamed to pursue their fantasies; all positive effects, which Los Angeles-based sex therapist, Jamila Dawson, LMFT, says can help optimize your goals, mood and overall well-being even after kinky play ends.

“A healthy relationship to kink can absolutely be the underlying cause of some people’s success,” explains Dawson, who specializes in kink and polyamory. “I see this all the time in my practice.”

No wonder Claudia felt so motivated.

So, how is it that kink is able to give the people who practice it such an edge? Why would getting lost in the fantasy of floggers, blindfolds and safe-words matter in everyday moments like asking for a raise?

The answer is multifaceted, but the primary way kinky sex gives people a life boost is the fascinating way in which it can affect the brain.

Activities like BDSM can actually alter the pattern of blood flow within the brain, creating a number of favorable mental states with positive effects similar to that of mindfulness and meditation, according to recent findings by Dr. Brad J. Sagarin, Professor of Psychology at Northern Illinois University and founder of the BDSM Research Team. These mental states are highly distinctive, altered states of consciousness which can improve mood, enhance cognition and heighten our capacity to form original ideas and novel connections, adds Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a faculty affiliate of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and author of the blog Sex & Psychology. In the context of kinky sex, these distinct head spaces are called “flow.”

Flow is most often described as a transcendent state of heightened sensory awareness, focus, presence and euphoria. It can be intense—it’s not uncommon for people to feel high, floaty, melty, tingly, or detached from both time and their body. Most commonly, it’s brought on by the endorphins released during a physically intensive experience (flogging or spanking, for example; similar to a runner’s high), but the same feeling can be brought on by passionate mental or emotional stimulation.

Interestingly, the quality of these altered states can differ according to the type of kinky play someone’s involved in. In particular, Dr. Sagarin’s research found that dominance and submission activates two unique types of flow that enhance creative and emotional conditions.

More specifically, Dr. Sagarin found that the participants who played the submissive role in their experiment achieved greater transient hypofrontality, which refers to a feeling of peacefulness and happy detachment, where time has slowed down. Runner’s high, meditation and even some drug highs produce a similar effect. Meanwhile, dominant participants experienced slightly different altered state. As opposed to a dreamlike detachment, those in the dominant role felt a greater sense of control, a loss of self-consciousness, clearer goals and heightened concentration—less of a “high” in their case; more of a laser focus.

When you’re in one of these flow states, Dr. Lehmiller continues, you’re operating with much lower levels of self-awareness. You’re focused; you’re in the zone. It’s like playing an instrument—when you think too hard about what you’re doing and how each note is supposed to sound, you psych yourself out and make mistakes as your body tries to catch up to your brain’s over-analysis. But when you detach from that hyper-awareness of yourself and let things, well, flow, they come out naturally. They sound better.

That’s precisely the mental state in which both creativity and productivity flourish best—when we’re not concerned with moment-to-moment survival or the stressful mundanities of everyday life.

Outside of the bedroom (or dungeon, or… wherever), feelings of flow can stay with a person anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, during which time Dawson, the sex therapist, says many of her clients and kinky acquaintances harness their power for a variety of uses. One acquaintance in particular, she tells me, was able to overcome a severe case of writer’s block the morning after her partner finally obliged her rope bondage fantasy. The catharsis of a fantasy realized—and the freedom to inhabit her desires in a safe and trusting space—put her in a creative mood.

World-famous composer Georg Friedrich Haas is a more well-known example of this. In 2016, The New York Times chronicled the unusual union between Haas and his wife, writer and sex educator Mollena Williams—a 24/7 kinky relationship in which Haas, now a 64-year-old music professor at Columbia University, played the role of Master; Williams, his ever-doting Submissive. Reportedly, the two fell in love after Haas told Williams he wanted to “tame” her on OkCupid. (“I find intense fulfillment in being able to serve in this way,” she told The New York Times, describing the situation as feminist because it’s her choice.)

In the article, Haas directly attributes his success as an artist to his kinky (and sexually vibrant) marriage, which he said had “dramatically improved his productivity and reshaped his artistic outlook.” After three divorces and a lifetime of repressing what he’d once considered “devilish desires,” he explained that the freedom to not only explore, but live in his dominant fantasies had “roughly doubled” his artistic productivity.

This delights, but does not surprise Dawson.

“In general, I’ve found that people who engage in forms of expansive sexuality such as kink are more creative or imaginative in their jobs or recreational life,” she says. “The culture of kink supports their creative drives. It gives them a space to play with the limits and boundaries of their bodies and minds, and with mental states such as surrender, fear, playfulness and surprise. In that sense, kink’s not so different from art, design or any creative venture. It’s a totally valid form of self-expression.”

Of course, not everything kinky immediately leads to a revelation, artistic inspiration or a sudden solution to a long-suffering problem, but, as Dawson points out, getting into a headspace where it’s more likely to happen definitely doesn’t hurt.

In fact, while many people still hold the belief that fantasizing in a relationship means you’re unhappy with your partner (a faulty theory devised by Freud in 1908 which has since been debunked), it has been reported that people who incorporate fantasy into their sex lives reap a surprising number of benefits. Frequent fantasizers have sex more often, engage in a wider variety of erotic activities, have more partners, masturbate more and orgasm more reliably than people who fantasize infrequently, or don’t fantasize at all.

And just having sex can also make you more productive at work. A 2017 study from Oregon State University found that having sex before work—either the night before or the morning of—made people more engaged and efficient on the job.

Fantasy-based sex can also decrease stress and anxiety much like meditation and exercise, only rather than through silence or sweat, the reward comes through say, the satisfying swish of a paddle, or the worshipping of a lovely foot. Kinky sex has also been linked to the sorts of changes in cortisol levels which can reduce psychological and physical stress; correlated with better physical and mental health, increased life span, better coping skills, and improved mood. Show us a job, relationship, creative project or personal goal that can’t be helped by those things.

Expressing a fantasy, a particularly intimate form of connection, can even increase intimacy and connectedness in relationships. One 2009 study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found people who practice sadomasochism (consensually exploring the pleasure of pain) show an increase in relationship closeness. This, researchers theorized, is because safely executing that kind of play takes a great deal of trust, acceptance and communication.

“Most people in mainstream relationships tend to reserve the most transparent and direct communication for challenging situations like a fight or some obstacle that requires they finally ‘break down’ into total honesty,” Dawson continues. “By contrast, when responsible people engage in kinky acts, there is almost always clear, intimate communication and respect for boundaries, two things that build trust like nothing else.” And even if you identify as vanilla, you can still benefit from communicating like kinky people do: with limits, safety, comfort, and compromise in mind.

Translating that to other areas of your life—either at work or in relationships—isn’t that big of a jump. Midori, a renowned fetish and sexuality educator who teaches a three-day domination intensive for women called ForteFemme, tells me her students utilize her kinky negotiation tactics in a number of practical ways.

One, an IT manager, uses her negotiation training to “discover what motivates potential employees and their compatibility with the scope of the project and team environment.” Another has a special-needs child in school. When school administrators tried to shirk their responsibilities and blame her parenting, she used the physical postures of dominance and negotiation skills Midori taught her to advocate for her daughter’s well-being.

“We learn so much about our bodies and our minds when we engage in kinky sex,” explains Dawson. “It absolutely makes sense that we’d transfer that knowledge to other endeavors.”

Perhaps this transference is why people who engage in BDSM and kink have been found to be happier, more conscientious and less neurotic than people who don’t engage in so-called “deviant” sex.

The question that remains then, is not whether kink is safe, healthy and beneficial, but how you can apply it to your life. If you’ve been harboring kinkier desires and feel empowered to communicate them, one way to cash in is pure honesty: Turn to your partner after reading this and have a discussion about how you’d like him or her to spank you, armed with the knowledge that them doing so can benefit you in ways beyond the thrill of the sensation.

Ideally, that knowledge can help mitigate any shame or embarrassment the prospect of sharing and negotiating your kinky fantasies may bring, but if you’re not ready to communicate your kinky interests—or simply don’t harbor them at all—there are other ways to go about reaping the rewards.

“Let’s be clear, it’s not kinky sex itself that makes life better,” Midori cautions. “It’s the conversational skills and self-knowledge needed to engage in it that makes life better.”

A small, but significant tool she recommends is to start noticing and logging each occasion you don’t speak what you really want, or you minimize your wants in comparison to another’s. These are areas to apply the communication, negotiation, self-awareness and creative thought kink affords. Changing these habits isn’t easy, she says, but they address a lifetime of putting your own needs aside. In kink, when there’s consent, it’s okay to put yourself first.

Dawson offers some of her own advice inspired by safe BDSM practices to help you reach flow during any kind of sex, be it vanilla or covered in more leather than an industrial tannery.

“Setting the scene, taking the time to breathe and slowing sex down to a pace that’s much slower than you’re accustomed to are all things kinky people do to get the most out of their scenes and interactions,” she says. Enhanced pleasure and erotic creativity, Dawson reminds us, can be achieved when you’re not focused on a particular outcome—rather, simply immerse yourself in the experience, concentrate fully, and remain open to what arises in the moment. You can get into the same sort of flow states that latex-clad dominatrixes can, sans the craving for control.

The experience of living one’s fantasy in a safe, consensual space that’s free of judgment and expectation, it seems, far outweighs the perceived benefits of keeping kinky desires under wraps. If you have them, try bringing them to light. At the very least, you might get a raise out of it.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Want to figure out the rules of sexual consent? Ask sex workers.

Share

by Jessie Patella-Rey

[T]he #MeToo movement has pushed issues of consent to the foreground of our cultural zeitgeist. Confoundingly, though, some of the movement’s most vocal champions seem to be the worst at respecting the very conventions they are espousing. Shortly after now-former New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, for example, Schneiderman resigned in the face of four sexual-abuse allegations. In a public statement, he claimed that he had simply been engaged in “role-playing and other consensual sexual activities.”

If Schneiderman really believes that to be true, his understanding of what consent actually involves seems to be fundamentally confused. Consent demands thoughtful communication, careful reflection and sometimes takes practice. Few know this better than people who deal with consent every day as part of their jobs: sex workers, for whom negotiating consent and setting boundaries is central to the work of sex work. It’s our ability to tackle these issues that makes us good at what we do. As the conversation around consent moves ahead, it’s time others start learning from our own hard-won experience.

If turning to sex workers for conceptual clarity and moral guidance rings odd to you, it may be because we sex workers have been systematically excluded from these discussions. Many refuse to acknowledge that sex workers are even capable of exercising consent. This is the rhetoric of what anthropologist Laura Agustín calls the “rescue industry”— a term used to describe people and institutions who conceptualize all sex workers as victims in need of saving. Catherine MacKinnon has argued, for example, that “in prostitution, women have sex with men they would never otherwise have sex with. The money thus acts as a form of force, not as a measure of consent. It acts like physical force does in rape.” More recently, Julie Bindel has proposed, “In almost every case it’s actually slavery. The women who work as prostitutes are in hock and in trouble. They’re in need of rescue just as much as any of the more fashionable victims of modern slavery.”

This thinking casts sex workers as victims, entirely without agency of our own, while ironically speaking authoritatively about us without asking for our input. It’s a stance that parallels the hypocrisy behind Schneiderman purporting to champion consent for women while allegedly ignoring it in practice.

This is a mistake. As Lola Davina, former sex worker and author of several books, including “Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry,” put it to me in an email, she views “sex workers as soldiers on the front lines of the consent wars.” That squares with my own experience, which suggests that the lessons we teach may be broadly applicable. In my own work as a phone-sex operator, which I also write and podcast about under the name Jessie Sage, I’ve had numerous clients who have called me to rehearse future conversations or negotiations with their wives or partners. And my experiences merely scratch the surface of what’s possible.

With this premise in mind, I recently reached out to community organizer and writer Chanelle Gallant to ask what she thinks sex workers can offer. “Something unique about sex work is that consent is seen as a collective responsibility,” she said. “Sex workers organize to build their power and the ability to prevent abuse.” In some cases, that might involve exchanging information about bad customers, workplaces or managers. In others, it might be about collaborating to improve workplace conditions.

This collective organizing also translates to the interactions of individual sex workers with their clients. Stripper and journalist Reese Piper told me that she has had to learn how to avoid situations with people who will violate her. “Sex workers know how to walk away from people or situations that are dangerous or not worth our time,” she said. “It’s part of our job to detect dangerous customers. And it’s also our job to invest in customers that will value our labor.”

Alex Bishop, a sex worker and activist, talks about gaining these insights and skills as a gift that sex work has given her. She told me, “Before I did sex work, I didn’t think as deeply about sexuality and consent. I was still young and naive and slept with men because they bought me dinner or were nice.” It was her job that helped her change her way of thinking, so much so that she suggested she would like to see everyone try out sex work “for a few weeks,” if only to help open their eyes. To her way of thinking, “sex work instills a lot of confidence in those that do the work. It becomes easy to say no because you find yourself saying it all day long to clients.”

Piper agrees, telling me, “Stripping taught me how to value my time, my emotional energy and my body. It taught me how to stand up for myself. I never used to tell men who accosted me on the street to go away. Now it’s easy. I don’t feel bad about valuing my space and soul.”

Mistress Eva, who specializes in domme work, describes her interactions with clients as safer and defined than those outside of sex work. At the airport on the way home from DomCon, she took a few minutes to write to me: “I never have to hesitate about entering an interaction as a sex worker, because our interaction is always preceded by negotiation and an understanding of our combined desires and limits.”

Circling back to Davina, I asked for specific examples of how sex work has taught her how to negotiate consent. She explains, “Here’s what sex work taught me: I can say ‘yes’ to a lap dance then say ‘no’ to kissing. I can say ‘yes’ to kissing, then say ‘no’ to a blowjob. I can say ‘yes’ to a blowjob, then say ‘no’ to intercourse. … Saying ‘yes’ to one sexual act is saying ‘yes’ to that particular sexual act, and nothing more. Sex workers navigate these waters all day, every day.”

Recognizing that they can add a lot to our conversations around consent, many sex workers have taken it upon themselves to teach consent in their sex work practices. Ginger Banks, who has been a sex worker for eight years, told me, “After learning more about consent [as a sex worker] I see so many different ways that we violate it, possibly [unintentionally]. I think it is important to discuss this topic of consent with our fan bases.” Reflecting on her experience as a porn performer, she explained, “This is why I try and integrate the consent into my films, compared to just having it done just off camera. This way I can teach people about consent while they watch my films.”

It should be clear, then, that despite what the rescues industry assumes, we sex workers spend a great deal of our time both exercising and practicing consent. Significantly, we do so in the context of our relationships with clients. These sort of low stakes transactional interactions are fertile ground for productive consent work. Sex workers can, and often do, walk away from interactions with clients who fail to value consent. Accordingly, clients must practice negotiating consent in order for a transaction to continue. And, as my own experiences suggest, those are skills that they can transfer to their other relationships.

Given all of this, I’d argue that we need to empower sex workers to continue to do the sort of valuable, consent-focused work that we are already doing. In relationship to consent, we need to stop thinking about sex work as the problem, and start thinking about sex workers as part of the solution.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Why straight parents struggle to talk to their LGBTQ kids about sex and how to make it easier

Share

By

[A] few months ago over Sunday brunch, my 18-year-old daughter and I fell into a discussion about sex and dating. Between the omelets and crepes, she described how she felt about her new boyfriend, and I gave advice on enjoying their young love while retaining her independence and sense of self.

From the time she was in middle school, I have spoken to my daughter about how to stay safe on dates — never let anyone else get your drink, no means no, you do not have to do anything you do not want to do, always practice safe sex — and other rules I wanted her to live by. Every discussion we have had and every piece of advice I have given originated from our shared identity as cisgender, straight females.

Not long after that brunch, I read about a recent set of online focus groups conducted by Northwestern University that examined heterosexual parents’ attitudes toward talking about sex with their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer teens. Some of the remarks from those parents made me realize how easy I have had it, in a way, talking with my teenage daughter. Few parents feel comfortable broaching the subject of sex with their children, but parents of LGBTQ teens have the added challenge of not always feeling equipped to talk about an experience they themselves have not had.

“I have no idea what sex is really like for men, especially for gay men,” one mother commented.

Another parent reported sending her bisexual daughter to a lesbian friend to talk to her about “gay sex.”

“I felt challenged that I’m straight, my daughter is dating a gal, and I didn’t know anything about that,” the mom wrote. “All my sex talks were about how not to get pregnant and how babies are conceived.”

Aside from sexual education in schools (which is not universal) teens learn about sex from their parents and peers, so if no one in their life knows what it is like to have the sex that corresponds to their orientation, they are left to fend for themselves. Michael Newcomb, lead author of the focus-group study and an assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says it is difficult for heterosexual parents of an LGBTQ teen to give advice about how to stay safe when having sex. In fact, parents who participated in the Northwestern focus groups reported sexual safety was the most challenging subject for them when giving advice to their LGBTQ teens.

“The mechanics of sex are different for LGBTQ people in some ways, so those young people could be unprepared the first time they have sex and could get into unsafe situations,” Newcomb says. “Most often with safety, we think about prevention of things like HIV and STDs, but safety encompasses much more than that. It’s about not feeling coerced into having sex, it’s about feeling comfortable while you’re having sex, not being in pain; all of those kinds of things that would be very difficult to prepare for if no one in your life knew what it was like for you to have sex.”

About a quarter of the 44 parents in the focus groups expressed concerns about predators, with one parent of a 16-year-old, questioning, gender-nonconforming teen writing. “They are in a very vulnerable place, and sometimes I feel they are desperate for a true friendship/relationship. If they were to let someone in, I would really want to get to know the person and understand their intentions.”

Newcomb says because there are fewer LGBTQ people than there are heterosexuals, it can be difficult to find partners in more traditional settings, such as schools. So they may be more likely to meet partners online.

“Navigating who you can or cannot trust online can be very challenging, particularly when most people on those sites are adults,” Newcomb says. “If LGBTQ youth are highly motivated to meet partners online because they feel isolated, they may overlook some indicators that potential partners may not be trustworthy.”

I spoke with one mother who, with her husband, has two sons, one who is straight and the other who is gay. Long before her son came out to her when he was 14, she suspected he was gay.

“It was a matter of him getting comfortable talking to me about it,” says the mom, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her family’s privacy.

In the five years since, she has talked openly with him about sex and relationships and says she is lucky she has a lot of gay friends whom she often turned to for advice.

While acknowledging she needed some assistance with the more mechanical aspects of gay sex, she says she spoke to both her sons in the same way when it came to how good relationships work.

“It has nothing to do with being gay, but about keeping the lines of communication open and letting your kids understand that they are being listened to,” she says.

Newcomb, who is also a clinical psychologist, advises parents — whatever their teen’s sexual orientation — to initiate conversations about sex and dating, regardless of how uncomfortable they or their teenagers feel.

“The more frequently parents initiate conversations about sex and dating, the more likely it is that their child will come to them when they have a question or when they could potentially be in trouble,” Newcomb says.

He added it is important for parents to tell their LGBTQ teen their experience as a heterosexual person might be different and to acknowledge what they do not know. Newcomb suggests parents and their LGBTQ teen do research together online because parents may be better prepared to evaluate the credibility of the information. It also gives parents the opportunity to teach Internet literacy.

“Parents may need to help their teens figure out who they can and cannot trust online, as well as put in place strategies for staying safe when meeting people in person who they met online initially (for example, meet in public places or have a parent meet the other person first),” Newcomb says in an email.

He also recommends reaching out to organizations such as PFLAG, a national nonprofit that provides information and resources to LGBTQ people and their families.

“It’s a great support system for parents — particularly with a child who is first coming out — to be around other parents who are much more experienced. It can help in providing role models for how to effectively parent LGBTQ teens,” Newcomb says.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Share

How to Talk About Your Sexual Desires With Your Partner

Share

“You want to ensure this conversation feels like good sex.”

By

[L]et’s talk about how to talk about sex. When you think of ‘the talk’ what do you think of? Most people probably think of an awkward conversation about sex with a parent, teacher, or other adult, and it probably left much to be desired, quite literally. A new initiative from the National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCHS) and Altarum, called the Five Action Steps, aims to flip the unhealthy and often silent culture around sexual pleasure on its head. The action steps focus on normalizing conversations around sex, and provide the real-life skills and information that people need to have healthy conversations about physical intimacy and sex.

Telling someone what you do and don’t like or want isn’t a mood killer, but a lack of comprehensive sex education has made young people feel like they’re in the dark about how to have a healthy, consensual romantic or sexual relationship. According to a recent study from Harvard, 70% of the 18 to 25-year-olds who responded wished they received more information from their parents about some emotional aspect of a romantic relationship, and 65% wished they received more emotional guidance from sex education classes in school. As the study notes, “sex education also tends not to engage young people in any depth about what mature love is or about how one develops a mature, healthy relationship.”

Being able to talk honestly and openly with partners about your sexual desires, boundaries, and safe sex and sexual health care are all elements of a healthy relationship. Good sex should is just as much about communication as the physical act. Sex educator Shan Boodram talked to Teen Vogue and gave three key tips on how to talk about your stimulation of choice, your partners likes and dislikes, and more.

Know your body’s recipe for pleasure

“You need specific instructions on how it can work. It might be different depending on the heat, the flour, the temperature. Results can vary,” she told Teen Vogue. “You could cook something and throw some salt and cheese on there and it might be okay, but what would happen if you had a recipe and knew exactly what ingredients you needed to mix together and how to bake them just right to give you pleasure?” Finding out what kind of stimulation your partner enjoys, what positions they like, and how you both feel most comfortable practicing safe sex can be pleasurable in and of itself. However, according to Shan, “If you’re not talking about it with your partner, you’re doing a drastic disservice to the act and the potential it could have.”

Start the conversation by talking about your own likes and dislikes

Having too much pride and not knowing how to advocate for yourself are two barriers that might make talking about sex feel terrifying or awkward, Shan explained. Starting the conversation by talking about your own likes and dislikes, fantasies, and ideas can make it easier. “It can be, ‘What’s the hottest thing someone’s ever done for you before?’ Start asking the questions you want to ask. And hopefully that person will pick up on it and start doing the same things for you,” Shan told Teen Vogue, adding, “You want to ensure this conversation feels like good sex. You’ve gotta approach it with curiosity. Good sex is when you’re a tourist and not a tour guide. And you also want to be a tourist in this conversation. You’re curious and in this new space and you should be excited because you don’t have all the answers.”

The Five Action Steps suggests that talking to your partner about sex is a part of learning to treat your partner well and expecting them to treat you well. Shan explains that learning how to advocate for yourself can begin with talking about smaller desires with your partner, like what you want to watch on Netflix or what you want to eat for dinner. Starting small can help you talk about things that feel more complicated, according to Shan.

Give feedback

Part of talking to your partner about sex is also establishing boundaries. The most important thing to remember is that you deserve to be in a relationship where the amount of sex you’re having and the ways you’re being intimate align with what both you and your partner want and need. Sex, like any part of a relationship, is something that requires work, but talking about it can be as simple as telling someone when they do something you really like.

“You can say ‘I don’t like what you’re doing,” or wait for a moment when they do something you like and say, ‘More of that,’” Shan says. Positive reinforcement can make your partner feel confident about their abilities. Learning together is an option, too. Shan suggests that mutual masturbation is a great way to “show each other how you like to be touched.”

Ultimately, the Five Action Steps provide a framework for how to begin that conversation, and build a fulfilling relationship or partnership. And while sex and physical intimacy don’t necessarily have to be present in a relationship to make it healthy, talking to your partner is the only way to know how high of a priority sex is, and what your partner does or doesn’t like. That means it’s also an opportunity to help your partner understand exactly what you find most pleasurable.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

How Do You Figure Out What You Really Want From A Relationship, Anyway?

Share

By Kasandra Brabaw

[M]any times, the advice that sex and relationship experts give to anyone who wants to have a great relationship or sex life boils down to one main principle: communication. People have to ask for what they want out of a relationship and/or sex, and then keep talking to their partner about how to make that happen. But how do you ask for what you want if you’re not really sure what that is?

It’s easy to say that you should know how you want a partner to treat you and what types of sexy things you want to do together, but it’s not as easy to actually figure it out. Yet, knowing what you want (and making sure you get it) is essential to having a healthy relationship, according to the National Coalition For Sexual Health (NCSH). The NCSH released five action steps to good sexual health, one of which stresses the importance of knowing your sexual standards and holding your partners to them.

But, before you can hold your partners accountable, you need to educate yourself, says Shan Boodram, certified sex educator and host of Facebook’s Make Up or Break Up. “If you want to get good at anything, if you want to understand what your strength is in golf or what your strength is in math, then you have to go and learn about that thing,” she says. She’s not advocating a “practice, practice, practice” mentality to sex and relationships, though. When you don’t know much about sex or relationships, planning to just dive in and figure it out could go badly, she says. You have the potential to hurt yourself or hurt your partner.

Instead, Boodram suggests learning what you want by reading and talking to other people. Read about things like love languages and kinks, watch responsible and feminist porn to see what turns you on, masturbate to learn how your body responds to certain types of touch, and talk to your friends about what they do or don’t enjoy from sex and relationships. Essentially, you need to give yourself the sex education that you never learned in school. We don’t live in a society that encourages exploration of sexuality, Boodram says, so it’s important for us to develop a language for talking about sex and relationships on our own. “We’re [told], ‘No, no, no, don’t learn about that. You don’t talk about it,'” she says. “Then all of a sudden, when you’re of age and society deems that it’s okay for you to be having sex, you’re supposed to be perfect at it.”

But you can’t be perfect at anything that you haven’t been told how to do (and btw, there isn’t really a “perfect” when it comes to sex and relationships). So, don’t go into your first sexual and romantic relationships with too many expectations. But, do take the time to think about what you want from sex, relationships, and love so you feel prepared when it happens. Because you’re much more likely to have a happy and healthy love life if you know how you want to be treated.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Can You Get An STI From Anal Sex?

Share

That itch in your butt? It may not just be a harmless rash.

By Isadora Baum

[W]hen you think of sexually transmitted infections, symptoms like vaginal itching and pelvic pain probably come to mind. But the same STIs that threaten your health down below can infect other body areas. They’re typically transmitted through oral sex or anal sex, but some can be picked up after direct skin contact.

The scary thing about getting an STI in another part of your body is that you’re less likely to recognize signs, so you don’t seek the right treatment—and the infection potentially gets worse. Here are four body areas that can play host to an STI, plus the symptoms to look for.

On your face

You already know that genital herpes can spread to your lips if you have oral sex with someone who has this STI. What you may not know is that the same type of herpes that shows up below the belt can infect other parts of your face, such as around your mouth, Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Health. Herpes can also appear on your tongue or nose.

How do you know if a sore on your face is herpes? Early signs are the same as genital herpes: tingling and itching, and then as the sore develops, it blisters and scabs over. If you’re unsure, check in with a dermatologist. You can treat herpes with over-the-counter cold sore remedies; your doctor can also prescribe antiviral meds that cut the duration of an outbreak.

In your butt

Yep, we have to go there. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be transmitted to the rectum if you have anal sex with an infected partner, Karen Brodman, MD, a gynecologist in New York City, tells Health. Your risk of one of these backdoor STIs increases if you develop small tears or nicks in the thin skin of the anus, through which the bacteria can get into your system.

STIs transmitted through skin contact, such as genital herpes or HPV, can develop in or outside the anus and rectum, says Dr. Brodman. Herpes may also show up as sores on the skin of the buttocks. And of course, HIV is spread via anal sex, as are blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B and C.

Signs of an STI in your behind include rectal burning, unusual discharge, bleeding, pain, or a fissure, says Dr. Brodman. You might also notice blisters or achiness in the groin, she adds. If any of these develop, let your doctor know. And don’t be embarrassed—she’s seen it all before.

In your eyes

STIs that trigger eye infections include herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, says Dr. Adalja. The signs of many of these conditions mimic pink eye: think pain, swelling, redness, and discharge.

An eye herpes infection, however, can present differently. If the herpes virus is in your eye, it may result in an outbreak of one or more lesions on the eyelids or even the cornea, triggering pain and sensitivity that could jeopardize your vision by causing scarring. If you have any symptoms, see your ophthalmologist promptly, says Dr. Adalja.

In your throat

STI infections in the soft, moist tissues of the back of the mouth and throat are more prevalent than you might think. Chlamydia and gonorrhea (including the drug-resistant strain known as “super gonorrhea”) can set up shop here if a person contracts either of these infections during oral sex. Scarily, you may not even know it; sometimes the only symptom is a sore throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

HPV is another infection that invades the throat—and it’s thought to be behind the recent rise in cases of head and neck cancers, especially among men. While there are more than 100 types of HPV, the type that causes many cases of cervical cancer, HPV 16, is also responsible for most head and neck cancers. Though HPV of the throat is becoming more common, a 2017 study emphasizes that the overall lifetime odds of cancer is low. Still, if you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor.

Complete Article HERE!

Share