Anxiety Totally Ruined My Sex Life —

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But Then It Made My Relationship Even Better

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These are the strategies that worked for me…

I’ve had anxiety on and off for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I’d stay awake worrying that my family and I would literally die in our sleep for no reason at all. I’ve always felt the worst at night, alone with my thoughts. When I was younger, that meant staring at the ceiling and feeling the beat of my racing heart, but as an adult, it actually affected my sex life.

Alejandro (‘Ale’ for short), now my boyfriend of two years, knew about my anxiety the moment we started dating, but about a year into our relationship, I had a terrible flare-up that lasted for weeks. I’d hop into bed, my chest would tighten, and my heart rate would skyrocket. Sex was the absolute last thing on my mind. I just wanted to calm the heck down and not feel like the world was about to end. (Not exactly a recipe for intimacy, hah.)

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One night, Ale tried to initiate sex and I straight up burst into tears. We stayed up talking about how my nerves were ruining my libido, and we knew we needed a concrete solution—sex is veeery important to both of us—and we committed to finding one that works.

63 percent of anxiety sufferers worldwide are women, with many cases going unreported.

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So we tried deep-breathing exercises…

First up: Every night before bed, we did five minutes of deep-breathing exercises and “body scans,” during which we would lie back and tense each muscle until we zen’d out (my S.O. learned this technique from doing yoga with his mom).

We’d use guided scans from the Calm app, and they generally lasted long enough that by the time we realized the scan was over, we were about to pass TF out. So yeah, it helped my anxiety, but we usually fell asleep. Definitely useful, but not so much ~sexy~. Back to the drawing board.

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But cardio was key

We tried moving our anti-anxiety practices to earlier in the day, starting with a run. My doc had told me cardio could rev my arousal levels and Ale is an *avid* runner, so we’d take long jogs along the river once I got back from work.

While running, we’d give each other the details of our respective days. I’d feel my stressors fall away as our feet clapped the pavement. By the time we got back to the apartment, my mood was definitely lifted.

We’d make dinner after exercising, shower together, watch our favorite shows, and just talk. The runs put me in a good mood for the rest of the night until my head hit the pillow. Things were definitely looking up, but not quiiite there yet. It was a li’l glimmer of hope, though.

And we went to bed earlier

One of the last things we tried was heading to bed a bit earlier. I thought this would help me establish more of a routine (I’m a night owl) instead of constantly laying awake in my ruminating thoughts.

Plus, it would give me a chance to ~chill~ for a while, wrapped up in his arms, and get in a sexual mood, free of any pressure to start sex quickly in the name of going to sleep ASAP.

Time made all the difference

This early-to-bed strategy turned out to be crucial because it allowed us the time to cuddle and experiment. We tried incorporating more vibrating toys that offered an easy (and fun) distraction from my dread, and spent more time on foreplay. Soon, this intentional, extra-intimate sex became as ingrained in our routine as brushing our teeth.

A year later, the benefits extend way beyond a better mood. Since we made sex such a priority early in our ’ship, we learned a ton about what we like and don’t like and set the tone: no convo is off-limits.

We still talk about what’s working and what’s not, both in and outside the bedroom, and in a weird way, I have my anxiety to thank for that.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Things the Happiest Couples Have in Common —

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According to Over 11,000 Long-Term Relationships

by Emily Laurence

Similar in vein to a fountain of youth, the notion of there being secrets of relationships for long-lasting happiness feels like not much more than folklore. After all, people are different, have different needs and preferences, and are interested in varying relationship structures. According to new research though, while there may not be a single secret, certain commonalities between successful, happy unions may well exist.

When researchers examined 43 relationship studies to analyze 11,196 romantic relationships, they hoped to draw conclusions about the secrets of relationships for long, happy unions. They ultimately found five commonalities among successful couples: perceived partner commitment, appreciation, sexual satisfaction, perceived partner satisfaction, and how well conflict is dealt with. Collect all five, and you’ll win the relationship jackpot, it seems.

Below, sex and relationship expert Tammy Nelson, PhD, delves deeper into each factor for long-term relationship success.

5 secrets of relationships for long-term happiness, according to scientific research:

 1. Perceived partner commitment

“How we perceive our partner’s commitment to the relationship is more important than how we perceive their commitment to us,” Dr. Nelson says. “If we believe they’re committed to staying together no matter what—even when we’re a horrible partner—then we can relax and feel confident that our relationship will weather any [situation], including a pandemic.”

To that point, feeling as though your partner isn’t truly committed to the relationship may lead to a downward spiral of negative thoughts, such as stoking a fear of abandonment. And such thoughts, especially left unresolved, aren’t optimal for long-term relationship success.

2. Appreciation

According to the data, it’s important that appreciation within a relationship is both given and received. “Appreciation is a life skill that I write about in all of my books, talk about in all of my sessions, and practice in my own life,” says Dr. Nelson. “We always get more of what we appreciate. We get more time, more attention, more affection, and more good sex when we appreciate our partner for what they do and who they are.”

3. Sexual satisfaction

“As a sex therapist, I absolutely agree that sexual satisfaction is the glue that keeps a long-term relationship alive,” Dr. Nelson says. “Sex can bind a couple together when other life problems get in the way of their companionship and day-to-day life.”

If you feel your relationship could use some work in this area, communication is key, and seeing a sex therapist—which, yes, can be done virtually—can also help.

4. Perceived partner satisfaction

While it’s important to feel sexually satisfied, the research data notes that feeling confident you’re satisfying your partner is important, too. Having a satisfied partner can boost your own confidence, after all. To boost that confidence even further and know with more certainty that you are, in fact, actually satisfying our partner, communication is key. Yep, it’s not just important to have sex—it’s important to discuss it, too.

5. How well conflict is dealt with

Striving to be one of those couples who “never fights” definitely doesn’t have to be your relationship goal—and in fact, the research says it shouldn’t be. Not only is conflict okay, it’s unavoidable. “It’s true that all couples have conflict, and it is the resolution of conflict that matters most,” Dr. Nelson says. “If a couple can resolve their conflicts and can end their arguments well, they’re more likely to stay together and be happy.” No one is necessarily born knowing the best way to handle conflict, and that’s okay. Therapists can offer tools to help.

What’s encouraging about these factors of long-lasting relationships is that they’re all theoretically possible to work on and improve—not anything that is immovable. And that’s a relationship secret worth spreading.

Complete Article HERE!

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The BDSM Test Is the Get-To-Know-Your-Kink Diagnostic So Many Sexologists Recommend

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By Kells McPhillips

BDSM is a tidy acronym for a broad range of sexual preferences that relate to physical control, usually broken into six components, “bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism and masochism,” according to Ali Hebert and Angela Weaver, professors in the department of psychology at St. Francis Xavier University, writing in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. And it can be a safe, consensual avenue for exploring the kinks that comprise your unique sexual fingerprint. But for the uninitiated, BDSM can conjure images of how it’s portrayed in pop culture—and let’s just say, Fifty Shades of Grey is not it. Sexologists and sex educators say that IRL BDSM is more about communication with yourself and your partner than it is about Red Rooms of Pain. And to get that conversation started, there’s an online BDSM test that can help you safely learn your tastes.

The first version of the BDSM Test launched in 2014 and it—or similar quizzes like the Sex Personality Test —is often used by sexologists and sex educators with their clients. The BDSM Test is free and works by asking you the degree to which you agree with certain statements related to your sexual appetite. Statements include, “I want my partner to serve me and address me as a superior” and, “I like to be dominated, especially in the bedroom.” At the end of the test, takers will learn the degree to which BDSM “archetypes” fit their particular desires. For instance, you may be 67 percent exhibitionist (or someone who enjoys showing their naked body to other people), 42 percent voyeur (someone who enjoys watching sexual acts), or 15 percent switch (someone who alternates between submissive and dominant behaviors).

Taking the test requires you to do some personal reflection, and sex educator Shanae Adams, LPCC, says that it’s this self-examination that makes the test worth taking. “I think this quiz is for everyone who has an interest in learning more about themselves and their sexual appetites,” she says, adding that she often uses it with BDSM-curious clients. “This quiz is also great for generating discussion and providing language [for talking to your sexual partner]. It can help people become illuminated on what they don’t know and give them a direction to explore in regards to what turns them on and makes them feel good.”

“You definitely can’t know where you’re going [sexually] if you don’t have a place to start.” —Shamyra Howard, LCSW, sexologist

Sexologist Shamyra Howard, LCSW, adds that the archetypes can be particularly enlightening. “This test can help a person understand their kinks and possibly permit them to explore them. I like that the test gives you a scale to choose from [with each statement] and also gives percentages [with your results]. This can help you honor your 10 percent dom and settle in your 80 submissive,” says Howard. “You definitely can’t know where you’re going [sexually] if you don’t have a place to start.”

As with all types of tests that categorize and organize your personality and interests, remember to be flexible and open to the possibility that what revs your engine might not be the same in six months, a year, 10 years. “This is just a test and not a monolithic experience,” says Adams. It also surfaces an a la carte list of options, not a set menu: “If you test high in an area that doesn’t interest you, you don’t have to do that kink. Also in reverse, if you test low in an area that interests you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t explore it,” Adams says. “Use the test as a tool for a jump point, but not as an end-all and be-all.”

There’s a reason the term BDSM encompasses so much: Sex and sexuality are complex. So consider the test an invitation to look deeper—not a box to trap yourself in (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

Complete Article HERE!

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Gender and sexuality in autism, explained

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Gender, like autism, exists on a spectrum. In the 1990s, as growing numbers of children sought care related to their gender identity, clinicians and researchers began to notice a trend: An unexpected number of these children were autistic or had autism traits. The observation has spurred researchers to work to quantify the association.

The field is beginning to get a clear picture of the extent to which the two spectrums overlap: Gender identity and sexuality are more varied among autistic people than in the general population, and autism is more common among people who do not identify as their assigned sex than it is in the population at large — three to six times as common, according to an August study1. Researchers are also making gains on how best to support autistic people who identify outside conventional genders.

Here we explain what scientists and clinicians know — and don’t know — about gender and sexuality in autistic people.

What is gender identity?
Gender identity is a person’s internal sense of their own gender. People who identify as the sex they were assigned at birth are called ‘cisgender,’ or cis, whereas those who do not may use terms such as transgender, nonbinary or gender fluid. Researchers often use the phrase ‘gender diverse’ as an umbrella term for different gender identities, similar to the way some people use ‘neurodiverse’ to describe variations in cognitive style, including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

How common is gender diversity among autistic people?
Many studies have examined the prevalence of gender diversity among autistic people. One of the most frequently cited studies found that about 15 percent of autistic adults in the Netherlands identify as trans or nonbinary; the percentage is higher among people assigned female at birth than among people assigned male, a trend seen in other studies2. By contrast, less than 5 percent of adults in the Netherlands’ general population have an identity other than cisgender3. And in a 2018 study in the United States, 6.5 percent of autistic adolescents and 11.4 percent of autistic adults said they wished to be the gender opposite of what they had been assigned at birth, compared with just 3 to 5 percent of the general population4. This study also found that, on two measures of autism traits, higher scores were associated with a higher likelihood of gender diversity. A 2019 study found a similar association in children who are not diagnosed with autism5.

Similarly, autism appears to be more prevalent among gender-diverse people than it is in the general population. A 2018 Australian survey of transgender adolescents and young adults found that 22.5 percent had been diagnosed with autism, compared with 2.5 percent of all Australians. Some experts estimate that 6 to 25.5 percent of gender-diverse people are autistic6.

Sexuality also appears to be more varied among people with autism than among those who do not have the condition. Only 30 percent of autistic people in a 2018 study identified as heterosexual, compared with 70 percent of neurotypical participants7. And although half of 247 autistic women in a 2020 study identified as cisgender, just 8 percent reported being exclusively heterosexual8.

Why is the prevalence of gender diversity higher in autistic people than in the general population?
Social experiences are likely a main component, experts say. Compared with neurotypical people, autistic people may be less influenced by social norms and so may present their internal selves more authentically. “You could then understand the co-occurrence as perhaps a more honest expression of underlying experiences,” says John Strang, director of the Gender and Autism Program at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

It’s possible that autistic people may come to conclusions about their sexual identity differently than neurotypical people do, says Jeroen Dewinter, senior researcher at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Some autistic people have told him they would be likely to identify as bisexual after one same-sex sexual experience, but neurotypical people may be less likely to adopt that terminology based on a single same-sex encounter.

Biological factors may also play a role. Exposure levels to hormones such as testosterone in the womb may be linked to autism, some research shows; increased prenatal testosterone may also lead to more typically ‘male’ behaviors and to less common sexualities and gender identities, although there is some evidence against that link9,10. Regardless, prenatal testosterone does not explain why autistic people assigned male at birth might identify as more feminine, Dewinter says. But the biology of sexuality and gender in the general population is not well understood either.

Experts say it’s likely that a combination of these and other factors contribute to the increased variety of gender identities and sexualities among autistic people.

What does this mean for clinicians and caregivers?
Clinicians who work in gender clinics may want to screen for autism, and those working in autism clinics may want to discuss gender identity and sexual health, researchers say. They should also be sensitive to different information processing styles, Dewinter says. Some autistic people may struggle to express their feelings regarding gender. Even when they do express these feelings, they often face doubts from clinicians because of stereotypes about autistic people, which can block their access to medical care. In a 2019 paper, one autistic and gender-diverse person wrote, “The combination is seen to be too complex for the majority of clinicians, which led to long waiting times for specialized psychiatric care”11.

Screening tools may also need to be updated to better identify autism among gender-diverse children, just as they need to be adjusted to spot the condition among girls. “Clinics are working to understand what autism looks like in girls and women, and we’re going to have to take that same question with the gender-diverse youth,” Strang says. Identifying autistic children who may need support in affirming their identity is particularly important because some may seek medical interventions, such as puberty blockers, that are time-sensitive, he says.

Clinicians should be aware that autistic people may present their gender identity differently than neurotypical people do. Some autistic people who transition from one gender to another are not aware of how they also need to change their social cues, such as how they dress, if they want to clearly communicate their gender identity to others. Clinicians can help autistic people navigate these transitions and ensure they have the same access to gender-affirming medical care that neurotypical people have, says Aron Janssen, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.

How do autistic people best learn about gender and sexuality?
For years, many parents and caregivers believed that autistic people, particularly those with intellectual disability, shouldn’t be given information about sexuality and are less interested in relationships than neurotypical people are, Dewinter says. That belief is changing as researchers recognize that providing relationship support is important to ensure the overall well-being of neurodiverse people, just as it is for neurotypical people. Belonging to any kind of minority group makes a person more susceptible to mental health problems, because of a phenomenon known as ‘minority stress.’ For a person who is both neuro- and gender-diverse, belonging to several minority groups can intensify those problems12.

More comprehensive and inclusive sex education can help. In ongoing surveys, Eileen Crehan, assistant professor of child study and human development at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, has found that autistic people want information about sexual orientation and gender identity more than typical people do. Research has shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) adolescents who have more inclusive sex education in school have better mental health. But only 19 percent of U.S. sex-education materials are LGBTQ+ inclusive, according to the advocacy group GLSEN, creating an extra barrier for autistic LGBTQ+ people. “You have two hoops to jump through to get the information that you need,” Crehan says.

Where is the research going next?
Early research focused on measuring the prevalence of diverse gender identities in the autism community — and vice versa — but now researchers are increasingly turning to questions about how best to support autistic people who are gender-diverse. To do that, they’re working closely with the autistic community, ensuring autistic people guide research priorities. “I really think it’s incredibly important to lift up the voices in the community themselves, and I’m grateful to see that’s where the field is going,” Janssen says.

Complete Article HERE!

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30 Ideas To Spice Up Sexual Foreplay —

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From Erotic To Romantic

By Kesiena Boom, M.S.

Foreplay is traditionally defined as the physically and emotionally intimate acts that two people engage in to turn themselves on before having sexual intercourse. But these days, the concept of foreplay can seem a little antiquated and heteronormative as society moves toward a more expansive view of sex and sexuality.

How to think about foreplay.

Sex is much more than just penis-in-vagina intercourse. Assuming that every other sexual or intimate activity is “just” a buildup to the “main event” of P-in-V intercourse centers the pleasure of people with penises (since for people with vaginas, intercourse probably won’t make you come) and also ignores the types of sexual encounters trans and queer people have.

A healthy way to think of foreplay is to disregard the fore and concentrate on playfulness. Think of it as anything that you and your partner(s) engage in to turn each other on and set the mood, no matter what happens before or afterward. “Foreplay is about creating a mood that is conducive to being physical and wanting sex,” says sex therapist Madeline Cooper, LCSW, CST. “Making sure that your relationship is incorporating sexually arousing moments outside of the moments right before sex is just as important as the sex itself.”

Instead of “foreplay,” sex therapist Sari Cooper, LCSW-R, CST, uses the term “outercourse” to describe all the sex acts that might fall into this category.

Below are some foreplay ideas to try with your partners, organized by the five senses, plus a few bonus tips at the bottom for long-term couples.

“Pleasure is experienced through the body, and more specifically through the body’s sensations. Therefore, when looking for inspiration for foreplay, the most direct place to find it is through the senses,” therapist Bri Shewan, LMFT, tells mbg.

Look directly at each other for an extended period of time. Alternatively, try and flirtily catch each other’s eyes across the room as you both work on different things. Try and capture the “first crush” feelings of not being able to keep your eyes away from each other.

If you want to take eye contact to the next level, relationship and sexuality coach Renee Adolphe recommends incorporating tantric eye gazing.

“Begin looking into each other’s eyes. Stare into the nondominant eye, which is the left eye if you are right-handed. Stare for at least 5 minutes or however long you wish,” Adolphe instructs. “This will build a connection and help both of you open up and want to go deeper into lovemaking.”

On the flip side, disengage your sight abilities by using a blindfold to heighten other sensations. Let your partner cover your eyes and then whisper what they’re going to do to you in your ear.

“Stripteases can help spice up the sexual charge,” says Dow. “You could give your partner a striptease, request one from them, or invite them to a strip club to indulge in receiving a striptease together.”

5. Do something else while naked.

Walk around completely naked together, especially if you’re used to being covered up. Sit and watch a movie together buck naked and see how it feels to have your skin against their skin. Take time to really look at your partner, to appreciate every inch of them.

Dim the lights and light candles. Bonus points if they have a smell you find sexy.

Lie facing each other and put on a show. Not only is this hot in and of itself, but “it can also give you an opportunity to show your partner(s) ways you especially enjoy being touched too so you can maximize pleasure together in the future,” says Anna Dow, LMFT.

8. Be the stars of the show.

Make your own sexy video and watch it together.

“Kissing is vital in establishing pleasure and connection during foreplay. But expand your kissing to beyond the lips,” Adolphe recommends. “Kiss your partner’s neck, ears, forehead, breasts, chest, all over their back (backs are highly erogenous as well), the buttocks, thighs and inner thighs, back of knees, toes, etc. Enjoy kisses of different pressures. Lock eyes and use your eyes to speak and say what you want to do to them while you are kissing. They will feel that intensity.”

10. Break out some ice cubes.

Let your partner run ice cubes over your nipples or inner thighs. Put a small cube in your mouth and make out, enjoying the sensation of the hot and the cold mingling together.

Spank each other, starting gently and increasing in intensity if desired. Aim for fleshy areas such as the ass and the thighs so as to not cause any serious damage. Get creative and use household items such as a spatula or a rolled-up newspaper if you get tired of using your hands. Enjoy the sensation of your blood rushing to the surface of your skin.

Many people, even those without a specific latex fetish, find it extremely erotic to wear this restrictive and revealing material. Put an outfit on and then do something mundane like cook or clean whilst your partner watches you.

13. Apply makeup to each other or give each other a facial (not that kind!).

These activities require you to be up close and personal with each other without being overtly sexual. Concentrate on the sensation of your lover brushing powder over your cheeks or massaging lotion into your forehead. Let yourself relax into their touch.

Use nipple clamps to increase sensation. You can apply them yourself or ask your partner to. Make out whilst your partner gently pulls on the clamps.

It’s a classic, but it’s a good one. Take turns rubbing each other’s bodies, asking your partner where they especially want to be touched. Use a good quality massage oil so as to make everything glide along more smoothly. To up the ante, try a tantric massage such as a lingam massage, yoni massage, or nipple massage.

Run a bath filled with lavender oil or any essential oil you find erotic and invite your lover in to join you. “Just make sure to check about scent sensitivities and that the smells introduced have positive associations for the people involved, since scent is so strongly connected to memory,” reminds Shewan.

They’re not just for spring! Fill your bedroom with sweet-scented and brightly colored flowers and imagine you’re out in nature where anyone could come across you…

Do some light physical activity together such as yoga. The sweaty scent of a partner can really get you in the mood! Not to mention that seeing each other in tight workout clothes can be very invigorating.

19. Read erotica to each other.

Either read erotica to each other from a book or website or write your own and then exchange them, so you can get a clue about the other person’s fantasies. This can be great if you’re too shy to tell them face to face.

Create a shared playlist on Spotify which you both add sexy songs to throughout the day. These can be songs that are sexy in and of themselves or just songs that remind you of your relationship, depending on whether you want to set a more erotic or romantic mood.

21. Voice record yourself.

Slip off to the bathroom in the middle of the workday and touch yourself while recording a voice note of your breathing and/or a narrative of what you’re doing and send it to your partner.

22. Voice record yourselves together.

The thought of making visual porn may seem too intimidating, so how about auditory porn? You can audio record your and your partner(s) having sex and then listen back to it together to get in the mood.

23. Challenge yourself to be silent.

See how long you can go touching your partner without either of you making a sound. This works especially well if you’re in a place where you really don’t want to get caught. The element of danger can add to the eroticism.

Make one of your favorite dishes together, standing close to each other as you work. Squeeze closely past each other and brush against each other unnecessarily. Try and go through the whole cooking process without making out to heighten the feeling of longing.

Eat foods off of each other such as berries, whipped cream, or chocolate syrup. Make sure to keep foodstuffs away from your actual genitals so as to not upset your pH balance.

Cover your fingers or toes in flavored lube and then suck and lick it off each other.

27. Create a sense of occasion.

“Inviting a partner through a sext or handwritten invitation to meet the other in a room or place other than the bedroom can be an adventurous exciting change of pace,” says Sari Cooper.

28. Switch up your location.

“Novelty on where outercourse takes place in addition to nuanced novel activities can increase one’s erotic desire and physical arousal,” Sari Cooper says. “For example, inviting a partner to a nest created out of comfy blankets and pillows on a rug in a den, surrounded by a basket of sex toys, great music, and requesting a dress code.”

“Put on some sexy music and dance. Couples can really become aroused with couple dancing such as salsa, tango, or reggae, depending on the person,” Adolphe says.

30. Take penis-in-vagina intercourse off the table.

Especially if you’re a cis man and cis woman, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making everything revolve around eventually getting to penis-in-vagina intercourse. But therein lies the problem.

“When my clients talk about difficulty with arousal, I ask about their sexual script, and most of my heterosexual couples turn right to PiV intercourse after some kissing,” Madeline Cooper says. “I will ask them if they went to a restaurant and there was only one dish on the menu, if they would get bored after a while. Most say admittedly yes, and I will ask them why they do the same thing during sexual experiences.”

To offset this, Cooper recommends creating a long and diverse sexual menu featuring all sorts of sex acts other than intercourse. “Create a menu where you can do other things other than PiV, and where intercourse is not always the expectation.”

Complete Article HERE!

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4 Reasons Why You Think You’re Not Bisexual

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— Even When You Are

by Melissa Fabello

As a proud (and loud about it) bisexual woman, I often find young queer (or questioning) women in my online inboxes — mostly asking if bisexual is the right label for them to use and describe their experiences of attraction.

Most commonly, I’m asked if bisexual identity is valid under certain conditions:

  • What if I’ve only ever dated cis men?
  • What if I’ve only ever been attracted to one non-binary person?
  • What if I fantasize about having sex with women, but might not want to do it IRL?

Yes. Your bisexual identity is valid “even if.” I’ve written about this at length here. And I encourage anyone questioning if they’re allowed to identify as bisexual to read that piece.

Here, I want to deep dive into why we struggle with bisexual identity — what ideas about sexuality we may have internalized that lead us to believe that we couldn’t possibly really be bisexual.

Of course, you don’t have to identify as bisexual if that doesn’t feel good for you, even if the description fits — but it’s worth exploring why.

The definition of bisexuality (as well as other bisexual umbrella identities, like pansexuality and omnisexuality) is as varied as bisexual experience itself. But bisexual activist Robyn Ochs’ definition is a great start: “the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

It’s important to point out here that gender isn’t binary and that bisexuality can include attraction to any (and all) genders, including those that are non-binary. It’s not a trait you’re “born with”, and you don’t have to be attracted to all genders to be bisexual (although if your “I’m not attracted to all genders” sounds more like “I’m not attracted to trans or non-binary people,” you need to interrogate that).

Bisexuality, in short, is the attraction to multiple genders. The ways that those attractions show up can look different — but those differences don’t negate bisexuality.

The Orientation, Behavior, and Identity Model is a useful tool for sussing out how those three aspects of our sexuality can be mixed and matched in a thousand different ways.

Here’s the basic idea:

And while it’s super easy to understand that a woman who is only attracted to men (orientation) and has only ever dated men (behavior) may call herself straight (identity), we also need to understand that these aspects of our sexuality don’t have to “match” in order to be valid.

One woman can experience attraction to multiple genders (orientation); have historically only dated men, but fantasizes about having sex with women (behavior); and call herself straight (identity). Another woman can have the same orientation and behavior, but call herself bisexual. Hell, another woman can have the same orientation and behavior, but call herself a lesbian.

But even the orientation part of this can be complex: You can experience mostly attraction to x gender; deep, but not broad attraction to y gender; and next-to-no attraction to z gender and still identify as bisexual.

The idea is: These three things, while related, aren’t clear-cut. Our identity isn’t as simple as who we like, what we do with them, and what the numerical breakdown of our experiences with each gender look like.

There is a bisexual-specific myth out there that you can only really be bisexual if you have experienced sex with every gender you’re attracted to.

A teenager who hasn’t had sex yet, but who identifies as straight, isn’t questioned on their identity. An adult man who has recently come out as gay, despite many years being married to a woman, isn’t questioned on his identity. At least not at all as frequently as bisexual people are asked for receipts to prove our attractions.

You don’t have to have had sex with anyone to know who you’d like to have sex with.

And while sexual fantasy is not inherently indicative of our behavioral desires, it certainly can be. In sexology, we talk about the difference between masturbatory fantasy and partner fantasy. The former is stuff you like to think about to get yourself off, but isn’t something you need or want to experience in actuality. The latter is stuff you want to try for real!

You can masturbate to the idea of having sex with multiple genders, or you can watch pornography that features multiple genders, and not necessarily want to engage in sex with them. That’s totally valid. But you also can.

One of my favorite ways to shut down the “But have you ever?” line of questioning is to remind people that masturbation is sexual behavior, too. So if you’ve masturbated to the idea of x gender, even if you’ve yet to experience partnered sex with x gender, you’ve still technically engaged in sexual behavior with x gender.

While many people who experience bisexuality (sexual attraction to multiple genders) simultaneously experience biromanticism (romantic attraction to multiple genders), some bisexual people do not.

The split attraction model explains how, for some people, sexual and romantic attraction differs: the genders they’re sexually attracted to aren’t necessarily the genders they’re romantically attracted to.

For example, you can be bisexual and homo- (or queer-) romantic: You’re open to multiple genders sexually, but you only want to form romantic relationships with people of your same gender (or queer genders). You can be bisexual and aromantic: You’re open to multiple genders sexually, but you feel no (or little) desire for romantic relationships at all.

Of course, this can also work the other way around: You can experience romantic attraction to multiple genders, but sexual attraction to limited, one, or no gender(s).

The most common way that I see the split attraction model pop up in conversations about bisexuality is bisexual folks who name that they’re only romantically attracted to one gender — most often, the gender that they’re most culturally sanctioned to have relationships with, like bisexual women who only date (especially cis) men.

This is a completely valid experience.

You do not have to be biromantic to identify as bisexual.

And when we find that our attractions are in line with social expectations (e.g., “I’m a bisexual woman who only dates men, but who is open to experimenting with women”), we should ask ourselves how our socialization plays a role — and whether that is truly our natural inclination or if its acceptability is comfortable.

People of all genders can receive (and believe) damaging messaging about sexuality that confuses their ability to connect with their authentic selves. And one message that women often receive is that all women are at least kind of attracted to women — so that doesn’t necessarily make us queer.

The underlying notion of this myth seems to be that as women, our attraction to other women is frivolous or trivial — or even so expected to pop up now and then that we can brush it off as NBD.

Take the phrase “girl crush,” for example. While this tends to explain a particular phenomenon, where you idolize or otherwise appreciate another woman to the point that you want to be like her or be friends with her, it also undermines the possibility that maybe it’s just a crush-crush — and that’s okay! (Florence Given has a great t-shirt that says, “Maybe it’s a ‘girl crush.’ Maybe you’re queer.”)

Yes, there is a long history in sex research that claims that attraction strictly only to one gender is next to impossible. And when we consider that we don’t know a person’s gender just by looking at them, yes, the concept of monosexuality falls apart. But the idea that “everyone is a little bisexual” undermines the experience of folks who actively experience attraction to multiple genders and are considering bisexuality as an identity.

If you’re questioning whether or not you’re bisexual, based on how you experience attraction, you may very well be bisexual — not just experiencing some common, flippant phenomenon of attraction-that-doesn’t-count-for-some-reason.

Because bisexuality is so often left out of conversations about sexual experience (yes! even in queer circles!), it’s much harder to find models of what bisexuality looks like in practice. And that can leave us thinking that we must not really be bisexual if our experience doesn’t look like _____.

But really, bisexuality can look a lot of different ways. It’s a complex identity that isn’t always as straightforward (no pun intended) as monosexual identities. And if you’ve ever worried about the four quandaries above, rest assured that that is just biphobic nonsense — and you can identify as bisexual if you want to.

Complete Article HERE!

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Your Roadmap to Finding Your Authentic Sexual Self

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Who is your authentic sexual self?

It’s a question rarely posed, and difficult to answer. As a therapist who specializes in holistic sex education and pleasure-focused care, I often find that this is the question many of my clients are desperate to answer. The impact of being in the dark about our sexuality is painfully clear, and also painfully common. Folks who struggle with confusion around sex and sexuality are often also struggling with anxiety, depression, feelings of guilt and shame, feeling isolated or “like a freak,” and, sadly, sometimes also bring histories of trauma into the room. They show up overwhelmed, sad or frustrated, and full of self-blame and self-criticism. Most often, they describe feeling “stuck,” both within their important intimate relationships, and within their relationships with themselves.

As a sex educator and therapist, I truly believe that our embodied experience of sexuality, our connection with our sexual selves, is perhaps one of the central most important ways of being in the world. Now, with so much fear and overwhelm being generated in response to the global pandemic COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus, as well as the biological stress that accompanies very necessary harm reduction methods like social distancing and quarantine, discovering and cultivating our own unique experiences of pleasure is more important than ever. Pleasure, eroticism, and the balm of being authentically who we are is healing; it soothes our nervous systems, decreases our stress levels, and ultimate keeps us healthier.

This is all true regardless of orientation (and, I want to note here, also includes experiences on the asexual spectrum, since asexuality is as valid an experience of sexuality as any other). When we don’t understand this aspect of ourselves, we feel blocked. It becomes difficult to come into contact with our source of erotic and creative energy, life force energy which sex and relationship expert Esther Perel calls the “antidote to death.” An authentic and embodied connection to our sexual selves is crucial to our well-being, particularly in this moment in time within disaster capitalism, where all the power structures that organize our society force us to relate to ourselves as workers whose job it is to produce, rather than as human beings whose calling it is to play, to love, to care, to feel, and to create.

It’s not surprising to me that many of my clients come to therapy seeking help understanding their sexual identities and relationship styles. This goes double for my queer clients, the demographic that makes up the majority of my practice. One of the first things I learned when I started my study of sex education, after all, was just how abysmal the state of sex education is in the United States, with only 39 of all 50 states and the District of Columbia requiring sex ed and HIV education to be taught in schools, and only 17 states requiring that the information, if provided, be “medically, technically, and factually accurate.” Only 3 states prohibit sex ed programming from promoting religion, whereas 19 states “require instruction on the importance of engaging in sexual activity only within marriage” (emphasis mine). For queer folks, the state of sex education is often even grimmer, as evident in the fact that even in the year 2020, seven states still require that “only negative information to be provided on homosexuality,” and that heterosexuality be “positively emphasized.”

These requirements have to do with sexuality education’s place within public schools, yet most of the clients I see are at least in their early twenties if not well on their way into adulthood. This, too, is unsurprising, as mainstream sex education seems to consider sexuality as something that just springs upon us during puberty, rather than considering the fact that an erotic engagement with the world is something that all of us experience since birth. The reason for this is multifaceted: sex and sexuality are, of course, still highly taboo, nowhere more so than when considering the topic of sex alongside the topic of childhood. Parents are often uncomfortable discussing sex with their children, and are very rarely given the tools and education required to do so in a way that not only prepares them to impart accurate and age appropriate information to their kids, but also guides them through the discomfort of unlearning the harmful messages they’ve internalized from their own childhoods.

The fact that most sex education occurs in public schools present another facet to the taboo: In order for teachers to feel safe enough to discuss such a highly stigmatized topic and keep their jobs, they of course have to operate within the requirements set forth by their individual districts and states. Curricula is often limited to abstinence and pregnancy prevention and information about STIs; if students are very, very lucky, they’ll have lessons that include the topic of consent outside of the overly simplistic standard of “No means no.” But too rarely is any space given to some of the most important aspects of sex education outside of the umbrella of mere safety: the nuances of consent, embodiments of gender and sexuality that diverge from compulsive cisheteronormativity, non-normative relationship styles, and pleasure.

All of which are, of course, aspects that feed into a person’s understanding of their authentic sexual self.

Sex educators online have heroically filled the gaps where mainstream sex education has fallen short. And, of course, guides to uncovering your own authentic sexuality abound in articles, books, podcasts, and coaching courses. These resources often suggest creating an intentional masturbation practice, or spending time getting to know your own unique fantasies, or even challenging yourself to watch porn for inspiration. (Pay for your porn if this is the route you take! You’ll be doing the ethical thing by sex workers, and will be getting better quality porn for your trouble in the meantime!)

But the road to authentic sexuality is as unique as the person seeking it, and there is no one size fits all method. Similarly, even the most well meaning suggestions and advice folks find online is often several steps ahead of where they’re at in terms of what they’re willing to try. If that sounds familiar, here are some things to keep in mind.

Sexual Subjectivity

Where did you first learn to be “good,” or what behaviors or desire made you “bad” (and how are these delineations related to pleasure)? Where, or how frequently, do the “should” statements pop up in your life, and what happens when they do?

What does it mean to ask someone “Who is your authentic sexual self?” When working with clients, one of the places I start involves listening for the stories people tell – and listening to the unspoken stories they’ve internalized. They’re simple, but quite subtle, and often have to do with being good (and thus socially accepted and safe) or bad (and thus socially ostracized and in danger).

When, with some gentle prompting, clients begin to bring their attention to some of these things, it’s often transformative. In sex education terms, part of what we’re talking about is the idea of sexual subjectivity, or who you are as a sexual subject. For folks of marginalized gender identities, often we’re taught to relate to ourselves as objects rather than subjects; things to be acted on rather than protagonists with agency at the center of our own narratives; performers for others’ pleasure rather than people capable of experiencing and pursuing immense pleasure of our own. Sexual subjectivity is your own unique sense of sexual selfhood, and it is a key component of uncovering your authentic sexuality.

Because we’re social creatures, our idea of self is created in the context of relationships; relationships with other people, certainly, but also with the structures and social forces that inform our identities and the relationships we have. This is why, as sex educator and sex ed business coach Cameron Glover notes, “It’s not comprehensive sex ed without racial justice education.” Racism, misogyny, ableism, fatphobia… all of these are hurdles to navigate in the journey towards a more authentic sexual self. The specific ways these hurdles inform the stories we tell about our lives, of course, depends on who we are and how we experience the world.

For example, sex educator, writer, and bisexual superhero Gabrielle Alexa described one impact of biphobia on bisexual sexual subjectivity thus: “We have to go so much harder to prove that we belong and that we’re authentic, so we often minimize the different-sex aspect of our attractions and behaviors. It definitely means that we’re influenced to perform queerness a little bit louder than we might otherwise, which requires code-switching because it also puts us at risk [of violence]. And of course, a large part of bi+ identity when you’re perceived as a woman is viewed as performing for the male gaze.”

When asked how this has influenced her life personally, she said, “I feel like I have to perform PDA twice as much or my bisexuality will be doubted – but if I’m too enthusiastic or I’ve chosen the wrong space, it can lead to rejection or violence. Bi+ folks therefore have to sacrifice safety for visibility, or vice versa, or find a middle-ground between the two, when considering how we want to express ourselves.”

HOMEWORK

We keep ourselves hemmed in for so much of the time, in an effort to be “good” and avoid shame. But avoidance of shame is not pleasure or authentic joy; it’s stagnation, anxiety, and spinning your wheels – often in the service of the oppressive structures that got you there in the first place. For one week, practice paying attention to moments in your life when you notice your “shoulds” popping up. You can scribble them down in a journal, just a sentence or two, or make note of them on your phone. What decisions do you make around how you “should” be and things you “should” do? How do you feel?

Just notice – you don’t necessarily have to change anything yet, if it feels safer to listen to the “should” voice. And in working with clients around sexuality and authenticity, since those topics are so charged, I’m also quick to remind them that we start out small, so you don’t even need to be focusing purely on sexual “shoulds.” But in those moments, allow yourself to imagine other alternatives, the things you want (and the feelings associated with them), rather than the things you “should” do.

Creativity, Curiosity, and Play

What messages did we receive about sex and pleasure from the time before we were consciously sexual beings capable of experiencing what we now recognize as desire? And are we still allowing these messages to influence how we show up in our sexuality today?

In an ideal world, all of us would have been encouraged to develop our sense of autonomous erotic selfhood from the time we were children. To be clear, this does not mean that children should be encouraged to have sex, or that it’s not of utmost importance to educate children about their bodies, sex, and sexuality in a safe and age appropriate way. But our fear of even having conversations about sex and childhood, and the continued taboo around sexuality, along with entrenched systems of oppression under capitalism, is part of what creates such a sexually dangerous environment for children and young people in the first place.

And yet – children are more naturally in touch with the erotic world than adults are by a mile. (This is perhaps one reason why our culture encourages parenting that deprives them of their autonomy in the name of supposed safety.) In her famous essay “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” Audre Lorde describes the erotic as “a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.” Systems of oppression, she writes, must, in order to continue and maintain themselves, “must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change.”

To Lorde, the erotic was not only about sex, and in fact, the conflation and relegation of eroticism solely to the realm of sexuality was part of what retracted from its true power: the power of creativity, curiosity, and play. This was, of course, a direct result of capitalism: “The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need—the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment.”

Clients often come to me looking to “solve” the problem of their sexuality, a limiting and judgmental mindset in and of itself, though an understandable one. We live in a world where we’re supposed to have it all – a great, fun, well-paying job, a loving intimate relationship (but with ONE person, usually someone of the so-called “opposite” gender), a wild gaggle of friends who you spend every weekend with (while somehow still having time for your partner), several degrees and babies (somehow simultaneously), and multiple simultaneous orgasms every single day – within circumstances that leave most of us almost nothing to work with in any sustainable way. And we’re supposed to do all of that in front of our legions of followers on social media, because pics or it didn’t happen, right?

But our sexualities are not something to solve, and our lives are not just a series of images we’re creating for validation from friends and strangers. Authentic sexuality is about experiencing and embodiment, and being attuned to what that means for you, specifically, is powerful. It’s a powerful unlearning of what we’re all taught we’re supposed to be, and how we should behave if we want to be deemed “good.”

HOMEWORK

Think of the way a baby eats: food smeared all over their face and hands, flecks of raspberry and mango everywhere, unworried about stains on clothing or making a facial expression that might offend. Think of the way a toddler interacts with the world when they are somewhere they feel safe: no toy box left unturned, loudly and with abandon, fearless, shameless. What would it be like to imagine these attitudes for yourself as you begin your excavation of your authentic sexual self? In what small ways could you practice childlike wonder and newness?

Remembering Adolescent Desire

Who were you when you were a teenager? What did you interact with that set your whole spirit on fire? What stirred your curiosity and left you lying awake at three in the morning with your whole body humming? What made you cry into your pillow or rage at your parents or sneak out of the window at night?

As mentioned above, typically we think of sexuality as starting somewhere around puberty. Most discussions of sexuality before that point have to do with determining what is “normal” and what is “problematic.” A quick Google search of “childhood sexuality” will show you article after article listing how to assess your child’s behavior for signs of sexual abuse, or instruct you in how to “shape and manage” your child’s behavior. While it’s certainly important to know how to keep children safe from abuse, the tenor of information reads dishearteningly more like scare tactics than education – much like mainstream sex ed itself.

The tension between normal and not only continues once puberty hits, though by then, we’re also doing it to ourselves. When I think back to what puberty was like for me in terms of sex and sexuality, the word that comes immediately to mind is stressful. I was very afraid, a lot of the time, that something was deeply wrong with me. More than anything else, I just wanted to belong, to fit in, and to be like everybody else (while also, of course, being known for being exactly who I was).

But my private desires, my fantasies, were my own, and not anyone else’s, and returning to that time and time again is what has helped me uncover my own sexual authenticity.

Teens, like children, are often wild with creativity, a key feature of the erotic. Teens write zines, poetry, fan fiction. They make art. They make music. They sing, they perform, they choreograph dances that take the nation by storm. Does anything in your life move you in quite the same way now, even the smallest hint of it? Find those corners, those edges, those threads, and pull.

HOMEWORK

Reflect on your first experiences of fantasy. One of the brilliant things about being an adolescent is we interact with sexuality for the first time in almost a more pure and physically charged way. Part of that is just puberty (hormones on parade!) and where we’re at developmentally, struggling to carve our own sense of who we are while still navigating the tension of our desperate need for the approval and solidarity of our peers. We interact with sexuality before we learn more explicitly some of the “shoulds” of sex – what’s “problematic,” what’s “normal,” what might make us “freaks” for wanting it, thinking of it, getting turned on by it. But the beauty of fantasy is that there’s no wrong way to do it, and you can’t harm anyone by indulging privately in your imagination. Take some time to think back to your first experiences of being turned on. What were your drawn to? What would it be like to playfully indulge in those fantasies once again? What feelings come up? How does your body respond?

Holding Space for Trauma

It is impossible to write about sex at all without writing about trauma. Uncovering your authentic sexuality is a healing process, and if we’re healing, by necessity, of course there is harm from which we must heal. All of my clients are healing from trauma in some way, shape, or form, some to greater degrees, others, lesser. The sex negative and purity-obsessed culture we all grew up in is traumatizing. As always, I recommend support from a caring and informed professional through this process, if it’s available for you, especially around trauma.

The world we live in – organized by white supremacist, cisheternormative, ableist, fatphobic, whorephobic, sex negative capitalism – is also inherently traumatic. Many of us have experienced interpersonal acts of violation and betrayal on top of that. In the words of Dr. Jennifer Mullan of @decolonizingtherapy, “I heal in parts – because systematic dis-ease took me apart.”

It’s okay to go slow. It’s go to commit to this process in fits and starts. It’s okay to doubt yourself, to be afraid, to phone it in, to disconnect if you have to. It’s okay if the idea of childlike wonder is a foreign concept to you, or that even thinking about thinking about your adolescence is too uncomfortable, or painful, bear. There is no timeframe to adhere to. There is no race, no goal, no comparison to make. Your authentic sexual self is waiting for you, whenever you’re ready. Your authentic sexual self may show up unexpectedly, too, shining into your life here and there when you least expect it. Your authentic sexual self has been there all along, buried deep beneath the bullshit, but still there. You are here to be curious and creative, no matter what you have experienced. You are here for pleasure and joy.

Complete Article HERE!

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6 all-natural sex tips for men

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If you believe those upbeat, seductive advertisements, men only need to pop a pill to awaken their dormant sex life. Whether the problem is erectile dysfunction (ED) — the inability to maintain an erection for sex — or low libido, ED medications appear to be the quickest and easiest solution.

While these drugs work for most men, they are not right for everyone. ED drugs are relatively safe, but can cause possible side effects such as headaches, indigestion, and back pain. Plus, some men may not want their sex life dependent on regular medication, or simply can’t take them because of high or low blood pressure, or other health conditions.

Fortunately, there are some proven natural ways for men to manage their ED and increase vitality. Bonus: these strategies also can enhance your overall health and quality of life, both in and out of the bedroom.

Six ways to boost your sex life without medications

  1. Get moving. Research has shown that regular exercise is one of the best medicines for ED. One study of almost 32,000 men ages 53 to 90 found that frequent vigorous exercise equal to running at least three hours per week or playing tennis five hours per week was associated with a 30% lower risk of ED compared with little or no exercise. It doesn’t really matter how you move — even walking is great — as long as you keep moving.
  2. Eat right. Go bullish on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, while downplaying red and processed meat and refined grains. This type of diet lessened the likelihood of ED in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. Another tip: chronic deficiencies in vitamin B12 — found in clams, salmon, trout, beef, fortified cereals, and yogurt — may harm the spinal cord, potentially short-circuiting nerves responsible for sensation, as well as for relaying messages to arteries in the penis. Multivitamins and fortified foods are the best bets for those who absorb B12 poorly, including many older adults and anyone with atrophic gastritis, a condition that may affect nearly one in three people ages 50 and older. Also, make sure you get enough vitamin D, which is found in fortified milk or yogurt, eggs, cheese, and canned tuna. A study in the journal Atherosclerosis found that men with vitamin D deficiency have a 30% greater risk for ED.
  3. Check your vascular health. Signs that put you on the road to poor vascular health include soaring blood pressure, blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides; low HDL (good) cholesterol; and a widening waist. Check with your doctor to determine whether your vascular system — and thus your heart, brain, and penis — is in good shape, or needs a tune-up through lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medications.
  4. Measure up. A trim waistline is one good defense — a man with a 42-inch waist is 50% more likely to have ED than one with a 32-inch waist.
  5. Slim down. Tip the scales at a healthy weight. Obesity raises risks for vascular disease and diabetes, two major causes of ED. And excess fat tinkers with several hormones that may feed into the problem, too. Need more reasons? Slimming down helps with tips 3 and 4.
  6. See your dentist. A study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found an association between gum disease and risk for ED. Gum disease causes chronic inflammation, which is believed to damage the endothelial cells that line blood vessels, including those in your penis.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex gets complicated during the pandemic

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When the pandemic hit, couples found themselves worrying about getting sick, losing income, teaching their children at home while working full time (or worrying full time about sending them to school).

It hardly makes a perfect recipe for sex.

The stress has been too much for one Texas couple in their mid-40s with two children, according to one woman who did not want to be named due to the sensitive nature of the story, given her high-profile job in Austin.

“I stopped exercising because I was too scared of the plague ravaging society,” she said.

“While scared and doing nothing, I threw my back out and couldn’t move for two weeks,” said the woman, who now works her informational technology job from home alongside her husband.

Then her husband had a non-Covid health issue that “doused any embers that may have survived all of our lockdown trauma.”

Covid-19 has invaded nearly every aspect of our lives. So, it’s no surprise it’s infiltrated our bedrooms, too — for better or worse.

Many people are reporting challenges in their sex lives and relationships, according to early findings from the ongoing Sex and Relationships in the Time of Covid-19 study undertaken by Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute, which researches issues related to gender, sexuality and reproduction.

What the sex surveys say

The results are a mixed bag so far, said Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and the author of “Tell Me What You Want,” a book about the science of sexual desire.

“Some people reported their sex lives and romantic lives had improved and were reporting their relationships were better and stronger than ever,” he said. “But a larger number (of respondents) reported challenges in their sex lives and relationships.”

The study kicked off mid-March, and researchers initially heard back from roughly 2,000 respondents — 75% of whom were Americans and 25% were from other countries — between the ages of 18 and 81 in varied relationships. Almost 53% of the participants identified as heterosexual, almost 20% as bisexual and the rest as: queer, pansexual, gay/lesbian or other.

About 44% of participants reported a decline in the quality of their sex lives, with 30% reporting a decline in their romantic lives, according to early findings from the longitudinal study, which is in its sixth wave and will continue for several more months.

Some 14% said their sex lives had improved, he said, and 23% reported their relationship was in a better place.

And summer, Lehmiller said, brought no salvation.

When people are going on vacation and have more free time, there’s usually more sexual activity. But the most recent wave of data collection from this summer indicated our sex lives have not yet rebounded to the levels of past summers. “This summer really seems to be the exception to that peak,” he said.

More stress equals less sex

Declining quality of one’s sex life often correlates with higher levels of stress, according to Lehmiller.

“We know that stress comes from a lot of different sources, it’s complex and multi-factorial,” he said. “The more stressed people reported feeling, the less desire for sex.”

That’s true even when business is good. For Marcus Anwar, 31, working long hours in Toronto running OhMy — the classified advertising website he founded in 2017 — appears to be taking a toll on his sex life with his fiancee. With everything moving online, OhMy’s revenue has tripled its revenue since the pandemic began, he said, but that has meant less free time for the couple.

“There are days I am working 14 to 16 hours. Having the weekend off is a thing of the past,” Anwar said. “When I’m done working, I try to spend quality time with Tiffany. But unfortunately, there are constant calls and emails that I have to answer, making it very difficult to separate work from personal life.”

“Even though we’ve been together for so many years, it just hasn’t felt like it used to, when we both wanted to be having sex,” said Tiffany, 29, who declined to give her last name for privacy reasons. “(Back) when there weren’t a million things we had to worry about or have to get done.”

Talking about sex is difficult

Diana Wiley, a Seattle-based certified sex therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist, told CNN that talking about sex can be very hard.

“Some people are so stressed they’ve just kind of folded up their tents about sex, they don’t want to do it,” said Wiley, whose book, “Love in the Time of Corona,” shares tips for reconnecting sexually and emotionally in troubling times.

Wiley suggested a few ways for couples to try to get their sex lives back on track in pandemic times, including tips for full-body caressing exercises that begin with nonsexual touch to help release stress.

Being more mindful in the bedroom and in general, she said, can also be beneficial.

“Take control of your thoughts rather than let your mind send you into a tailspin,” she said, “It helps to name what’s true right now, in this moment — my family and friends are healthy, for example.”

And if you have to put sex on the calendar, do it. “It’s a myth for sex to be any good it needs to be spontaneous,” she said.

Some are having more intimate sex

According to the Kinsey Institute’s early findings, not everyone is folding up their tents, however.

For Bob Curley of Rhode Island and his wife, who had recently gone back to grad school, the couple of over 30 years had adapted to her being away from home more often.

“Initially, there was a lot of stress around the pandemic that didn’t put us in an amorous mood,” Curley told CNN. “But once we got used to it, we really started enjoying having the extra time together.”

Their communication improved in and out of the bedroom, he said.

“The sex may not have increased significantly in terms of frequency, but the intimacy definitely has,” said Curley, adding that the couple took the opportunity to “push some sexual boundaries together in a way we might not otherwise have found the time or energy to do.”

The Kinsey study backs him up, with one in five people trying at least one new sexual activity since the pandemic began, said Lehmiller, including things like trying a new sexual position, sexting or sending nude photos and sharing or acting on sexual fantasies.

“This period in time has been a sexual revolution for many people,” he said, adding that people who are trying new things were three times more likely than those who aren’t to report improvements in their sex lives.

Single life in pandemic time

For single people considering new relationships during the pandemic, feelings of isolation are often compounded with health concerns about Covid-19, said Jenni Skyler, a certified sex therapist and director of The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

“I see a lot of people taking this as an opportunity to connect online and cultivate emotional intimacy first before jumping to something physical,” she said.

Such was the case for 34-year-old San Diego resident Jackie Bryant, who pens a monthly newsletter about cannabis culture. Until recently, she said she had been perusing dating apps but not meeting anyone in person due to the health concerns of the pandemic.

“I’ve been much more choosy, talking to a number of people, trying to be open-minded, but not agreeing to see anybody unless it seemed really promising,” Bryant said. “There’s this very real layer of death and sickness tied to human intimacy now.”

The pandemic made “me drill down on what I was looking for even more,” she said. “Am I going risk my life for some chump? … not anymore.”

During a recent socially distanced second date that ended with an awkward but cute moment when saying goodbye, Bryant said, she and the man navigated their personal safety rules. “I was like, ‘For you I don’t have rules,’” she said. “From opposite sides of my yard, we walked toward each other and kissed.”

“I’ve decided I can’t put that part of my life on hold. I need sex, I want to be in a relationship and who knows how long this will last,” Bryant said. “You learn to navigate that within the confines of Covid.”

And how people navigate the pandemic, it seems, may have the power to lead to a sunnier sexual outcome.

“The overall emerging picture is that there are more struggles and challenges,” Lehmiller said. “But there’s a sizable number of people who really seem to be thriving during this situation, too.”

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Shere Hite, pioneering sex researcher

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PARIS, FRANCE: US feminist and sexologist, now a naturalized German citizen, Shere Hite poses for the photographer, 12 February 1990, in Paris. Hite made waves in the 1970s and 1980s with her radical feminism, asserting for example that women could easily find sexual fulfillment and raise children properly without men.

“All too many men still seem to believe, in a rather naive and egocentric way, that what feels good to them is automatically what feels good to women.”

Such terse pronouncements made Shere Hite – a sex researcher who died this week at the age of 77 – both a feminist hero and a controversial figure in 1970s America.

Her pioneering work The Hite Report upended prevailing notions about female sexuality.

The book, which came out in 1976, laid out the views of 3,500 women on sexuality and the female orgasm. It challenged many male assumptions, and was derided by some, including Playboy, which dubbed it the “Hate Report

She endured intense and lasting criticism in the US, and eventually renounced her American citizenship in 1995.

Born Shirley Gregory in the conservative heartland US state of Missouri, she once worked as a model in New York.

To pay for her degree at Columbia University she appeared in a typewriter advert that capitalised on her blonde hair and attractive looks with the caption: “The typewriter that’s so smart that she doesn’t have to be.”

Her anger over its sexism inspired her to join protests against it.

At one meeting of the National Organization for Women, Hite said the topic of whether all women had orgasms came up. There was silence until someone suggested she look into the topic.

The Hite Report: A National Study of Female Sexuality became a huge international bestseller, totalling 50 million copies worldwide.

Thousands of contributors set out the pleasures and frustrations of their sexual lives in the work. More than 70% of the women interviewed said they could not reach orgasm through penetrative sex with men alone, and needed clitoral stimulus to reach climax.

“I was the only sex researcher at the time who was feminist,” she told the Guardian in 2011. “I tried to extend the idea of sexual activity to female orgasm and masturbation.”

Feminist writer Julie Bindel said that Shere Hite’s “groundbreaking” work “put women’s sexual pleasure first and foremost for the first time ever”.

“In many ways she began the real sexual revolution for women,” she told the Guardian.

But the work generated a huge backlash. Some accused her of hating men, while others said she was helping break apart families at a time of rising divorce rates

The controversy around the Hite Report and her later works – for which she received death threats – caused her to leave the US and move to Europe, spending time in Germany and the UK. She renounced her US citizenship in 1995.

“After a decade of sustained attacks on myself and my work, particularly my ‘reports’ into female sexuality, I no longer felt free to carry out my research to the best of my ability in the country of my birth,” she wrote in the New Statesman in 2003.

Her husband, Paul Sullivan, told the Washington Post that she had the rare neurological disorder corticobasal degeneration. She died at her home in north London on Wednesday.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Have the Sex Talk With Your Teenage Kid

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A cheat sheet for making that dreaded conversation a little less awkward, and a lot more effective.

By Charles Duhigg

According to experts, if your son is 12, he’s probably seen porn. Have you talked about this with him yet? Do you know what to say? Journalist Peggy Orenstein has interviewed more than 100 teenage boys about their experiences with sex, porn, and gender for her book Boys & Sex, and she says we need to pay more attention to boys’ sense of male identity. Masculinity doesn’t always have to be “toxic,” but we need to find better ways to teach our sons what it means to have a healthy understanding of relationships. In this recent episode on How To!, Peggy breaks down how to have a productive conversation with your son about sex in a way that won’t make you—or your kid—die of embarassment. This transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Charles Duhigg: How did you get to writing about toxic masculinity?

Peggy Orenstein: I have spent 25 years writing about girls and women—before Boys & Sex, my most recent book was Girls & Sex, which was about the kind of contradictions that young women still faced in their intimate encounters. As I went around the country after publishing that book, everywhere that I went, parents and boys themselves would say, “What about boys? When will you write about boys?” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, in fact, nobody was talking to boys. More importantly, nobody was really listening to boys. So I started doing some interviews and then very quickly after I started that, the MeToo allegations began and suddenly everybody was talking about sexual misconduct and the idea of toxic masculinity. It created this imperative to reduce sexual violence, but also, I thought, a positive opportunity to engage young men in conversations about issues of sex and intimacy and gender dynamics because we really have to know what’s going on in their heads so that we can guide them toward better and more informed choices.

And what is going on in their heads?

I felt there were two things going on at once. On the one hand, they saw girls as equal in the classroom, deserving of educational professional opportunities, and so on. But, on the other hand, when I would say, describe the ideal guy to me, it was like they were channeling 1955. It went immediately back to dominance, aggression, athleticism, and sex as status-seeking. And the really big one, of course, was emotional suppression. What they would say most often was that they felt that the two emotions they were allowed were happiness and anger. So that whole bucket of emotions that boys learn around sadness, betrayal, frustration—anything like that gets funneled into one emotion.

I would ask boys what they liked about being a guy and that was a lot harder for them to answer honestly. I think that with girls—this is not to say that everything is OK in girl world—but we’ve given them this alternative identity to traditional conventional femininity that they can embrace and grow into and feel good about, but that hasn’t happened with boys.

When you’ve talked to boys or their parents who have had conversations about sex and gender in positive ways, how did the conversation go?

I mean ideally, we start our conversations with our children from birth when we’re naming body parts correctly. We think about sex as this siloed thing separate from every other aspect of our humanity and citizenship, but it’s really not. It all connects. I liken it to table manners. If I said to you, “I want you to sit down with your child and tell them that, ‘This is your fork. This is your knife. Say please and thank you. Ask to be excused at the end of the meal. OK, go forth and be polite,’” that would be ridiculous. You know that you have to tell your child to say “thank you” a million times during their childhood before they do it reflexively. They don’t do it on their own. And so talking about all of these things about sex can’t be done in one conversation. They have to be then tiny things that are kind of peppered throughout.

And if you’re in a situation where you have two parents who are on board and, moreover, you have a male father figure who is really willing to talk to boys, that is gold. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to know all the answers. You don’t have to do it right every time. But just trying and indicating a willingness to have difficult, uncomfortable conversations that you don’t know how to have—what an amazing thing that is to show to your child.

I’ve read these things that say kids are exposed to sexualized messages and porn earlier. But when it comes to my 12-year-old, I don’t even know if he’s really seen porn. So if I have that conversation too early, I’m worried that he doesn’t know what I’m talking about and it’s weird and scary for him, but if I wait too long, then it’s too late.

So often the first exposure to porn is accidental. It’s not something that they’re seeking. It’s somebody forwarding a meme or somebody turning their phone around and thinking it’s funny. So they may be exposed to graphic sexual images before they’re looking for them for sexual gratification. But boys between 11 and 13 tend to start seeking porn out intentionally. So if your kids are that age, there’s a great website called amaze.org that does sex education for middle schoolers. They have some really good information for kids and parents on how to have an age-appropriate conversation about pornography.

Also, I think you need to look at mainstream media. I remember being with my daughter when she was 11, and I asked her if she knew what porn was and she said she did, but she hadn’t seen it. Then we went home and we were watching some movie on Netflix and it had a generic sex scene, but it was the kind of thing that we see a million times, which is kiss, kiss, rip off clothes, go immediately to heterosexual intercourse up against a wall or in bed. In two seconds everybody’s having a simultaneous orgasm and it’s over. They are getting a terribly distorted idea about sex! And one thing that I find in talking to older boys is that guys who are regular porn users express less satisfaction with their partnered interactions, with their own performance, and with their partner’s bodies. And so I think grounding these conversations in the idea that we want you to have a good sex life, but mainstream media is not showing you the way to get there.

I have a friend who says that her son will only have conversations with her if she’s sitting outside of his bedroom door, he’s sitting inside his bedroom, the door is closed except for a two-inch crack, and they talk through that. You might have to find creative ways so that you’re not sitting down looking him in the face during these conversations. It might be less squirmy if you’re engaged in some other activity at the same time.

Most of what our kids are actually seeing on the internet is social media, and they may see jokes that are insensitive or sexist. How do we teach our kids to be exposed to this barrage of information that we can’t control or really even know what they’re seeing?

That is the trick, isn’t it? I think the truth is that right now, all our kids are going to suddenly pop up with something in a conversation that’s going to make you go, “What the hell?” It’s really hard to know what your kid is looking at all the time, but I think that we, as parents, have a tendency to think that what’s going on in their online world is lesser or not really real. But it’s very real to them and it has a huge impact. Particularly during the pandemic when everything has moved online, they’re having their childhood online. So I just wanna express total empathy and support, because we are all, as parents, contending with this. It’s just so new.

I think it can all really come back to not just the golden rule—which is treating people the way that you would want to be treated—but the platinum rule: How does that person want to be treated? How do we see that person, whether it’s gender, sexual orientation, or just the individual person? Thinking about others from their perspective is an act of empathy and that is going to be good for your child in so many ways.

Complete Article HERE!

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The complicated, and sometimes surprising, global fight for LGBT rights

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Members of the LGBTQ community light candles in Kampala, Uganda, last November during a vigil to pay tribute to victims of hate crimes in Uganda and around the world.

By Bilal Qureshi

As 2019 drew to a close, Merriam-Webster declared the pronoun “they,” reconfigured as a non-binary gender identifier, its “word of the year.” The authoritative choice to cement a once-contentious usage affirmed the expansion of both the language and the politics of gender and sexuality in recent years. As of this summer, the United States has had five years of nationally legalized same-sex marriage, an openly gay presidential candidate, the expansion of federal workplace protections for transgender employees and many pop-cultural firsts. In the mainstreaming of LGBT identity, the 2010s could be seen as the lived promise of the rainbow-tinted arc of justice once denied to those confined to the emotional and physical violence of closets.

But beyond the privileged capitals of the United States, where pronouns are being respected and applied, the political and personal borders of LGBT life remain far more complicated, as the extraordinary new book “The Pink Line” reveals. South African journalist Mark Gevisser’s account of the global fight over LGBT rights is a hugely ambitious and exceptional work of long-form journalism. Eight years in the making, with stories from Malawi, South Africa, Egypt, Russia, India, Mexico, Israel and the Palestinian territories, this is a landmark study of unprecedented frontiers in the battle for civil rights. Gevisser, who is gay and came of age during the 1980s AIDS crisis, acknowledges in the introduction that reporting this story was also a personal quest to understand the dramatic shift between his generation and the current moment. But instead of a triumphant celebration of progress, this is a layered and surprising work about those living along these cultural fault lines — what Gevisser calls the world’s new “pink lines.”He shows how the unapologetic queer demands for dignity are colliding with moral panics and nationalist politics. Entrenched ideas about family and religion are being forced into conversations with rapid shifts in norms and discourse. As the recent debate over J.K Rowling’s comments about trans women reveals, social media identity politics are even igniting culture wars among progressives. To find through-lines in this swirling and shifting story, Gevisser focuses on case studies. He embeds with activists, lawyers, parents, LGBT refugees and those who are living and moving along the world’s LGBT frontiers. Migrations and technology have allowed for trends that seemed impossible in his own generation. “It was no coincidence that the notion of LGBT rights was spreading globally at the exact moment that old boundaries were collapsing in the era of globalization,” he writes. “The collapse of those boundaries meant the rapid global spread of ideas about sexual equality or gender transition — and at the very same time, a dramatic reaction by conservative forces, by patriarchs and priests, who feared the inevitable loss of control that this process threatened.”

In a chapter titled “Pink Dollars, Global Gay,” an international gay cruise sails into the harbors of the Caribbean nation of Dominica, where authorities arrest an American gay couple seen having sex on their balcony under stringent local homophobic strictures. In later sections, a Russian transgender mother struggles to be recognized as a rightful parent in painful custody battles for her daughter. A lesbian couple from Cairo, awakened by the Arab Spring, flee the country as the Tahrir Square revolution collapses and a spirit of rebellious freedom is brutally crushed. Gevisser’s book feels especially revelatory in this globalist approach, making thoughtful comparisons that illuminate just how privileged Western societies have become in the application of LGBT legal rights.

What makes Gevisser an especially compelling narrator and guide to this subject is his awareness of his privilege as a White, upper-middle-class South African from a country with one of the most progressive post-apartheid constitutions in terms of human rights. He writes openly about his struggles with “the white man’s savior complex” as he considers how to help an impoverished teenage gay Ugandan refugee seeking asylum in Canada, or how his passport allows for the freedom of movement unavailable to many queer people in the world. (Along with his considerable travels, Gevisser has studied and lived in the United States.) His self-disclosure liberates him from the sometimes insular and patronizing Western gaze on LGBT communities in postcolonial societies, understanding how American or European cultural power may have galvanized LGBT movements but can also serve to destabilize and in many cases endanger local struggles for sexual and gender diversity. These gray zones make the book riveting and morally complex.

I was deeply moved by these nuances in “The Pink Line” to reflect on my own coming-of-age and coming-out story. I began the last decade still in my 20s, still in the closet, and watched the 2010s unfurl with the most extraordinary transformation of the politics, culture and inclusion of LGBT lives in the United States. I remember the anti-gay-marriage mandates and frequent homophobic slurs in college in the early 2000s, now replaced with pop-cultural icons and sprawling pride weekends. I have friends whose pronouns are “they” and who are thriving professionally and personally. But I have also spent the past few years living outside the United States, married to my husband, and have experienced the humbling checkerboard of LGBT rights in different parts of the world, the unexpected moments one has to slip back into closeted skin — and the stories of enduring inequity and struggle. Like every queer person who crosses a border, I too have been living and thinking along pink lines.

Gevisser gives language and form to those experiences. As he explains, “The Pink Line” is a shifting border, sometimes porous but too often marked by defeat, discrimination, otherization and loss. His stories reveal how loves are disrupted, families torn apart, jobs lost and exiles enforced. But as he reiterates, there are daily triumphs, breakthroughs and, in some of his most moving stories, unprecedented transformations in families from the Palestinian territories to Malawi whose hearts and doors are opening where that once seemed impossible. While the author’s own sexuality certainly makes him a partial observer, this is by no means a memoir or a polemic. It is a work of clear-eyed analysis and exceptional reporting, and it deserves a wide and non-LGBT readership that wishes to understand these frontiers. What elevates the book is Gevisser’s poetic and queer gaze, his searching language about why he has dedicated almost a decade of his life to understanding a generational transformation. Dedicating his book to his husband, Gevisser notes, “Writing about it seemed, to me, to be my debt to love.”

Complete Article HERE!

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10 Men’s Sexual Health Questions That Are Too Embarrassing to Ask

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Sex, Viagra, & Ejaculation

1. Do Different Sex Positions Increase or Decrease Chances of Pregnancy? 

No. Regardless of what sexual position you use, vaginal sex can cause pregnancy. 

2. Can I Drink Alcohol With Viagra and Cialis?

Yes. There will not be a bad interaction between the two; but, keep in mind that when you drink alcohol, your erection may not be as firm and the medication may not work as well.

3. Is There a Surgery That Can Increase the Size of My Penis?

Even an implanted penile prosthetic will not increase the size of your penis. If you are overweight, getting to your ideal body weight will help restore some of the length you have lost since gaining weight.

Many men will ask about injections to add girth and if there is a procedure to increase penis length. The AUA (American Urological Association) considers fat injections, to increase penile girth, and suspensory ligament division surgery, which can increase length, to be unsafe and ineffective.

4. Is My Penis Average in Size Compared to Other Men?

This is a question that is hard to answer, and one that many men wonder about. There are many different techniques to measure penis length, including the amount of force the clinician uses to stretch the penis.

Also, some men will see a significant change in penis length once it is erect. Others will notice that their penis only becomes more rigid. There is not a number that men should set as their benchmark.

Some medical conditions and surgical procedures can reduce the length of your penis. We cannot always restore the length you lose. 

The biggest take-home for patients regarding this is to keep a healthy weight. Get care if you feel like your erections are not rigid enough or if you have other concerns about your penis.

5. How Long Should My Erection Last During Sex?

The answer to this question is completely different per person. There is not a standard time that all men should be able to maintain an erection.

For most men, the goal is to get an erection that is rigid enough for penetrative sex and that lasts until both partners are satisfied. We counsel patients that if an erection has lasted over three to four hours, they should get care with the nearest emergency room. (This is called priapism.)

6. What Is Considered Premature Ejaculation?

There is not a standard amount of time that an erection should last before ejaculating. The AUA defines premature ejaculation as “ejaculation that occurs sooner than desired, either before or shortly after penetration, causing distress to either one or both partners”.

There is not a lab test that can determine this. We make this diagnosis based on your report and a physician assessment. Treatment options are available. Your provider can help you decide which is best for you.

7. You Don’t Ejaculate After an Orgasm—What Causes This?

Various surgeries or medications can cause a man not to ejaculate after an orgasm. (The means the penis does not expel any semen). This is called aspermia. The semen can also go backwards into the bladder, which is called retrograde ejaculation. Common causes of aspermia can be a:

  • Prostatectomy or other prostate procedures such as transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP),
  • taking Flomax (Tamsulosin),
  • diabetes, or
  • nerve injuries.

8. Are Orgasms and Ejaculation Different?

Yes. Typically, an orgasm is the pleasure you experience while ejaculating. Men can have an orgasm without ejaculation. On the flip side, men can ejaculate before orgasm. It is also possible to have an orgasm and ejaculation without an erection that is satisfying for sex.

These conditions can have various causes, some that we can identify and treat, and some that we can’t.

9. How Much Ejaculate Should I Have?

Ideally, men should have at least 1.5mL of ejaculate. This is equal to 0.304 US teaspoons, so it is not a large volume. As men age, the amount of ejaculate begins to decrease, but if you notice a big difference, suddenly, you’ll want to contact your provider.

It’s OK to have more, but if you are noticing significantly less over time, especially during the time you are trying to get pregnant, we recommend seeking care with a urologist.

10. Is a Curved Penis Normal?

Some men have a slightly curved penis that has lasted for quite some time. If it is not painful and does not bother you, that is normal. If it is painful or bothers you, then make an appointment with a men’s health doctor. You doctor will evaluate your condition and discuss your treatment options.

If you notice a new curve to your penis and that bothers you with either pain or appearance, come see us. We can discuss next steps. This curve can impact your erections, which is another element we can evaluate and treat.

Complete Article HERE!

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Want better sex?

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Audio erotica and mindfulness could be the answer

By Alex Peters

Sexual wellness app Ferly is promoting female pleasure through mindfulness

For Dr Anna Hushlak it’s not about getting off, it’s about how you get there. That’s why she, along with co-founder Billie Quinlan, created Ferly, a safe space for women to help us get in touch with our bodies and learn about our sexuality, desires, and pleasures.

Part of a growing number of apps catering to female sexual wellbeing, Ferly focuses on the self-care aspect of sex with a particular interest in the mental and emotional side. Combining mindfulness and cognitive therapy with self-touch in immersive audio experiences, Ferly guides you through exercises involving body mapping, self-pleasure, fantasies, and nuturing desire so that you can get more sex-literate and have more positive, mindful sex. It’s like Headspace but with masturbation.

“In the UK, 51 per cent of women aged 16 to 64 have reported experiencing three or more sexual difficulties in the last year, everything from pain or anxiety during sex to low libido and issues with arousal,” Hushlak tells me from where she isolating in rural Canada. “For us, having good sexual wellbeing is as important as getting regular exercise or getting a good night’s sleep. It’s one of those things that’s just so fundamental to our health yet we haven’t historically seen it that way.”

Guiding their community on this journey towards sexual confidence and wellbeing is very close to Hushlak and Quinlan’s hearts – they’ve travelled down the same path as many of their community and they themselves are still discovering and navigating what works for them. Both founders have experienced sexual violence personally and shared similar feelings of guilt, shame and stigma around it. “Billie was sexually assaulted at work. I was raped when I was a teenager. And neither of those experiences we really had support around,” Hushlak tells me. “There was a feeling of having to rediscover ourselves and our sexual selves and our autonomy through sex. And that led to Ferly because it’s the support that we wish we had that wasn’t there when we went through it.”

We spoke to Hushlak to find out more.

How would you explain the concept of mindful sex to people who haven’t heard the term before?

Dr Anna Hushlak: It’s about really slowing down. It’s about understanding how you feel about sex, not just how you have it. Most of our education, if we’ve even had an education around sex, has been focused on the ‘doing it’ and it’s often come through a particular lens of heterosexual sex. Generally it’s two people, generally it’s penetrative, and generally it’s considered successful if it results in an orgasm – typically that’s male climax.

For us, mindfulness is about flipping the script. It’s about saying: how do you actually feel about it? What’s your mind-body connection? Have you taken the time to explore and discover your body? Have you taken the time to actually notice sensations in your body, to create awareness of your body? And it’s much more focused on things like cultivating intimacy, on playing with sensation and touch and experience. And it’s really about body awareness and bringing that into your sex life.

Why was an app the right choice for the platform?

Dr Anna Hushlak: Looking through the science around digital interventions and online therapy, there’s quite a bit of research showing that online interventions are as effective as offline and face-to-face. And another big aspect for us is accessibility. When you’re face-to-face, you’re required to be there physically and that assumes that you’ve got financial freedom to get there, that you’ve got physical mobility to get there, and that you’ve got time to be able to get there.

The other aspect to that was that not everybody is comfortable with the topic. If people are in relationships, their partners might not be supportive of it, or it might be kind of a tense topic for them. We know that not everybody is starting in the same place. So an app allows for a degree of privacy and a degree of going at your own tempo and your own rhythm in a way that’s yours and yours alone. An app was what we saw as the most accessible and the most affordable option for people to do that. And it also allows us to tap into countries around the world. We’ve got users in Saudi Arabia, we’ve got users in Argentina, we’ve got users in the Philippines. So it’s meant that we have that global reach in a way that we wouldn’t be able to do if it was just face-to-face.

One of the techniques that you use is cognitive therapy. Can you explain that a little bit?

Dr Anna Hushlak: There’s a really phenomenal researcher, Dr Lori Brotto, who’s pioneered using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for sexual wellbeing and treating sexual difficulties. The principles of it are a combination of cognitive therapy, which focuses on reframing negative beliefs and ‘head tapes’ or ‘thinking areas.’ It’s different tools and techniques that help you restructure those thoughts so that they’re not so paralysing and overwhelming and you don’t get wrapped up in these thought cycles. That’s then combined with mindfulness-based techniques. So for example, breathwork, body mapping, focusing on non-sexual touch, really tapping into body awareness.

The combination of the two allows us to help our community members reframe a lot of the messaging they’ve been told and the beliefs they have around sex. For example, that good sex results in orgasm and to reframe that more to say, ‘What does pleasure mean to me? What feels good?’ Alongside doing physical practices that help them kind of ground themselves in the moment, either alone or with a partner. So mindful masturbation where instead of taking two minutes to get off, it’s taking 15 minutes to and touch your collarbone, to play with touch on the inside of your leg, to notice the movement of your breath, to play with different feathering techniques on the clitorus and so it’s much more about a combination of mental and physical practices working together.

What has been the effect of technology allowing such easy access to porn on women’s relationship to sex?

Dr Anna Hushlak: Mainstream porn brings up all these issues around toxic masculinity, around performance, around gender roles, around body image and what a body should or shouldn’t look like. We’ve definitely seen rates of labiaplasty on the rise. One of the reasons we decided on audio erotica for the app was because it allows us to move away from body ideals. It also allows us to tap into imagination and fantasy, which we know are incredibly important to healthy sexuality.

The use of fantasy and erotic stimulus is incredibly important in that it allows us to create the context and it helps us to get in the mood, which, or women and folks AFAB is particularly important because for them desire tends to be more responsive instead of spontaneous, whereas for men, it tends to be more spontaneous. Dr Emily Nagoski, writes about this and she describes it as this lightning bolt to the genitals, which is the main story we’ve been told about what desire and arousal looks like. But that’s actually not what most women experience.

Are women more inclined to prefer audio rather than visual erotica?

Dr Anna Hushlak: I’m not sure statistically the difference between men and women in that regard. A lot of our community comes from backgrounds where they’ve experienced sexual difficulties. People who have felt a lot of shame or stigma, whether that’s from trauma or just ‘meh’ average-type sex. Erotica has been a way for them to transition into opening up their own sexuality, whether there’s a difference between their preference for audio or visual. 

I’m completely making an assumption but I would think that because of the nature often of body insecurities and the pressure around women to have a particular looking body, I would say that audio allows for there to be more left to the imagination. Generally, in mainstream porn, there is a typical idea of what you have to look like and audio allows us to just kind of step away from the visual. A lot of us have actually lost the ability or muted our ability to imagine and visualise and fantasise because we’re fed images all the time.

The stories section of the app has a queer section, how have you tailored content specifically towards queer women?

Dr Anna Hushlak: What we’ve found is that thoughts around same sex often fall into two categories: either same sex is wrong or same sex is fetishised. One of our big things is how do we try to challenge our own limitations around thinking about it? How do we try to broaden the conversation around it? Having queer stories in there, but also, when we do our guided practices if we’re talking about people in relationships, not assuming that it’s a couple. It might be a polyamorous relationship. Not assuming pronouns, so by default using they instead of he or she. Making sure that we’re not describing sex as heterosexual penis and vagina penetrative sex, which is the default that most of us have been taught is ‘normal’.

It’s an opportunity for us to challenge those norms and to think about how we can support our queer community as well as how we can learn to be better allies to that community. Making sure that we’re not speaking for but we’re speaking with. I know that the stories are an interesting area for some of the queer folks in our community to start to explore that side that some of them haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to do based on more traditional upbringings or kind of shame and stigma around that kind of cultural taboos.

During lockdown you’ve seen an increase in downloads of 65 per cent and an increase in content such as the Body Mapping being consumed. Why do you think that is?

Dr Anna Hushlak: On one hand, you have the people who are now suddenly in lockdown with a partner and are now having to navigate a much more intense environment. A lot of the topics that came up around that were: healthy communication, fluctuations in desire, low libido, how do you keep your sex life going? On the flip side, we had the community members that were in lockdown on their own. So you’ve got the people that have been maybe using sex as a tool for confidence and self-esteem. So with them you had the switch to starting to look inwards as opposed to externally for validation. Taking the time to re-evaluate what sex means to them and develop a healthier relationship to sex

Then we had the other group of people who were on their own that were coming from a sex-neutral or sex-negative lens where it was like, I’ve never really masturbated before. I don’t really know how to do this. I’ve got a lot of shame or stigma around it, I don’t feel comfortable touching myself. We would see an increase in, for example, body mapping as a practice which is much more around shifting from a perspective of masturbation to self pleasure. Not being focused on this goal of getting off, not masturbating in the same way that we’ve kind of been masturbating our whole lives: vibrator on for two minutes, I’m done, scratched that itch. Self-pleasure is much more of a mindfulness approach: I’m going to just feel sensations in my body and I’m going to explore what I like and what I don’t like, what I may be curious about. And the whole purpose of it is just to be present with my body, not necessarily to come.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Is Sternberg’s Triangular Theory Of Love?

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A Closer Look

By Sarah Regan

There’s no question that a relationship will go through many phases over the years and that many emotions are involved in the development of said relationship. There are plenty of theories about the types of love and the emotions that go into it, but according to one theory, there are three main components of love. This theory is known as Sternberg’s triangular theory of love.

Sternberg’s triangular theory of love.

Developed throughout the ’80s and ’90s by psychologist and professor Robert Sternberg, Ph.D., the triangular theory of love identifies three main components of love: intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. Each of the three encompasses different emotions, with all three resulting in what Sternberg calls complete or consummate love.

His original paper on the theory analyzes the works of Freud and other well-known psychologists to come up with the theory of his own. We asked him how he came up with it, to which he replied, “I was at a point in my life in which a relationship I was in was not going all so well. I thought about different relationships I had been in and came to the conclusion that there were three elements that dominated the relationships, at least in terms of love.”

And as a matter of fact, his theory was just proved universal through research on over 7,300 people across 25 countries.

The 3 components of the theory:

In Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, intimacy in a relationship deals with how close, connected, and trusting one feels toward another, Sternberg tells mbg. It also deals with communication, and namely, how well you can do it. Overall, it’s about feelings of closeness and connection, or “how intimate and tied to the other person one feels,” Sternberg says.

Passion, as you might have guessed, is about how passionate the relationship is. It encompasses “how excited one gets in thinking about or being with the partner,” Sternberg says, or “how much one feels one absolutely needs the partner.” And of course, it also deals with sexual attraction. When we have a relationship that feels electrifying and easy to obsess over, that would fall under passion, too.

The third element of the triangular theory of love is commitment, or “the extent to which one is in the relationship for good,” as Sternberg explains it. And it’s the only one of the three that’s conscious or intentional. There is a decision component to this in the short term, which leads to long-term commitment. Sternberg describes it as “the level at which one says ‘this is it; I don’t need to keep looking!'” and chooses to continue the partnership.

How the types of love intersect.

Interestingly (and importantly), the three components can and do interact in different ways, leading to different types of love.

As marriage therapist and certified sex educator Lexx Brown-James, LMFT, recently told mbg, “A relationship without intimacy and passion that solely has commitment is called empty love. These relationships can survive; however, partners might look more like roommates than lovers.”

The eight combinations of love, according to Sternberg:

  1. None of the three = non-love
  2. Intimacy = friendship
  3. Passion = infatuated love
  4. Commitment = empty love
  5. Intimacy + passion = romantic love
  6. Intimacy + commitment = companionate love
  7. Passion + commitment = foolish or fatuous love
  8. Intimacy + passion + commitment = complete or consummate love

Since its inception, though, Sternberg also became interested in how love actually develops, as opposed to focusing on what love is. This led to his theory of love as a story. “Different stories lead to different patterns of love in the triangular theory,” he says.

The combos people could have according to the triangular theory of love gave rise to Sternberg’s idea of love as a story, or “the idea is that we all have a set of stories of love.” According to him, these ideas we have of love tell us what we think a relationship should be and thus govern how our relationships play out. “Examples of stories are the fairy-tale story, the business story, the travel story, [etc.],” he notes. “Each story has two predefined roles. For example, the roles in the fairy-tale story are a prince and a princess, and in a business story are two business partners.”

How can I tell what type of love I have?

It’s worth noting that every relationship will have their own balance of the three components. But according to Sternberg, “different relationships highlight different aspects. If you feel like friendship dominates, you may be specializing in intimacy. If you feel like sex dominates, you may be experiencing infatuated love, and so forth.”

To figure out which of the eight combinations you have, consider the three components and to what degree they are present in your relationship. How much intimacy, passion, and commitment is there?

There are countless theories about what constitutes love, and only you can really understand your own feelings and relationships. Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, which has now been widely proved, is an excellent tool if you’re looking to figure out the emotions behind your relationship and even where it may be falling short. By working to strengthen the three components of intimacy, passion, and commitment, according to this theory, your relationship will be better because of it.

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