What straight people need to know about going to gay bars

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It’s great you want to support your queer friend, but all those looking for a GBF: listen up.

By Grace Walsh

As a gay person, knowing my straight friends want to come to LGBTQ+ bars and spaces fills my heart with joy. I appreciate the accepting atmosphere that these spaces create, and I love that my friends want to show their support of me and my community so openly in them.

I came out just before starting university, having made wonderful (and very straight) friends during my time at college. I was worried they would treat me differently after I came out, or be freaked out thinking I either hated men or fancied one of them. Luckily, neither one of those age-old stereotypes came true, and actually I didn’t give them enough credit. It turned out most of them knew I was gay long before I did.

But recently, when I took a group of them to Soho in London for a night out, I realised even the most well-intentioned, supportive straight/cis friends can miss the mark entirely. One of my male friends came back from the bar carrying drinks and a phone number, written on a napkin. He loudly demanded to know why the bartender had thought he’d be interested because after all, he didn’t “look gay”. Sigh.

Later on, we went to dance at another bar. On a small side stage, men in cowboy costumes were dancing. Before I knew it, another friend was dancing between them and trying to take a hat from one of their heads. Awkward side glances and a request for her to get down followed.

After another friend who was feeling queasy and asked me (the only actual LGBTQ+ person in the group) to go outside with her, I left feeling let down and a little pissed off. They’d been so supportive of me for so many years, yet they’d made me – and others around us – feel uncomfortable, in a space that I had invited them into.

I could go to “straight” bars with my friends, and I often do. But there’s something quite special about being able to hold my girlfriend’s hand or kiss her without double takes from passers-by (or the horrifying offer of a ménage à trois). That’s why queer spaces and bars are important to me and many other members of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s where we can be in the majority for once, where we can feel the most comfortable and protected, and where we have the most access to music by early noughties queer icons – an integral element for survival. These spaces give people who can’t be “out” publicly for whatever reason somewhere they can truly be themselves. These are places where trans and gender nonconforming folk can hopefully feel physically safe and recognised, away from a world that isn’t always so accepting.

For Meg-John Barker, author of Life Isn’t Binary and expert on gender, sex and relationships, queer spaces are vital. “LGBTQ+ people often become used to having to come out repeatedly, to being asked intrusive questions about their bodies and sex lives and being treated as an object for people (the weird one in the office, or the gay best friend, for example). It’s understandable that they might want some spaces where they don’t have to worry about that stuff. Where they can assume that everyone will ‘get it’, relax and breathe easy,” they say.

How to behave as a straight person in an LGBTQ+ space

So, you want to support your queer friend in the space they love and have a boogie to Whitney Houston? That’s fabulous. But here’s how to do it while being respectful and considerate of the space you’re in.

Think about your motivations for going

If you’re there on safari and looking “to see something strange and exotic to you or you’re there to exploit the coolness of LGBTQ+ culture in some way” as Meg-John puts it, then maybe take your night out down the road instead.

“I’ve tried to buy a drink for/ask for a number from several women in queer spaces, who have turned out to be straight. Instead of politely declining, I’ve often been made to feel like a gross pervert for even suggesting they might be queer and interested,” says 22-year-old Becca, a bisexual student from Oxford. “I’ve also taken straight friends to queer clubs and been horrified and embarrassed when they react inappropriately when someone has assumed they’re queer

Meg-John says your reason for wanting to go to a queer space should be to “support your LGBTQ+ friend who is keen for you to go along.” They add it’s fine “if you want to learn something, or it’s an event that’s particularly looking for allies to support it and the people going.

Check whether you’re actually welcome there

For straight, cis people, the world really is your oyster! You can pretty much go anywhere and everywhere without worrying that you’ll be physically or verbally assaulted because of your sexual or gender orientation. Meg-John explains, “Don’t go to [a queer space] with your straight, cis partner and get off together very publicly. Remember that everyday spaces are safe for you in a way they aren’t for the rest of the people there.”

Luke, a 27-year-old gay writer, says queer spaces have become somewhat of a tourist attraction for hen dos. And this can cause a lot of problems. “If you’re thinking of going to a queer space as a primarily straight, cis hen do – just don’t do it,” he says. “I’ve been to numerous nights were a group of be-sashed, wasted white chicks show up and start shrieking. It really changes the vibe. Having a hen party there makes everyone feel that they’re a spectacle on display for someone else’s enjoyment and entertainment, which isn’t much fun

When hen parties invade queer spaces, they bring the gaze of the outside world with them. This means we have to go back to monitoring the way we behave, in spaces that are supposed to belong to us.”

Educate yourself before you go

Even if you think you know everything about every identity under the LGBTQ+ acronym, do your homework Meg-John says. “There are plenty of videos out there about things LGBTQ+ people are sick of hearing, or what not to ask them, as well as easy 101 introductions to language,” they add.

There’s no shame in not knowing something about a community unfamiliar to you, but there’s plenty of shame in asking a same-sex couple an ignorant question steeped in stereotypes like, “Who’s the man in the relationship?” Believe me, it still happens.

“I was once at a gay club with some straight friends celebrating our friend’s 21st. Perhaps trying to be supportive and ‘in touch’ with the birthday boy’s sexuality, they started throwing phrases like ‘Yaaaaaas queen’ around to all the camp men, assuming they’d respond positively,” says Ellen, a recent graduate who identifies as bisexual. While you may think this referencing of queer culture by straight people is totally harmless, not all LGBTQ+ people agree.

“Many queer folk are tired of hearing such over-used drag queen lingo,” Ellen adds. “And they don’t owe it to you to respond if they aren’t comfortable, especially in their own safe spaces.”

Treat people queer people like you would anyone else

Meg-John says you should avoid going to queer bars if your intention is “to flirt or get off with somebody LGBTQ+ because you’re curious, or want to have a story to tell. This involves treating people as objects for your pleasure, not full human beings.”

Ed, a 22-year-old bisexual teacher, has experienced this kind of behaviour first hand. “I have experienced problems with straight women using me a bit like a shiny new handbag. They just pull me over and are very tactile. They randomly dance with me before ushering friends to take pictures of us dancing without asking me. Then they can get frustrated when I try to walk away!”

Pansexual sex educator Topher, 30, agrees that although this behaviours is common, it can be really harmful. “I was in a very famous gay pub in Soho, resting on my boyfriend’s chest when a drunk, straight-presenting lady informed us of how attractive we were as a couple,” he says. “I said, ‘Thank you’, and turned my head away back to him.

“This is when I felt her hand run up the back of my T-shirt and down my back, before attempting to squeeze my bum. We shoved her off, and she acted very shocked to have been corrected while sexually assaulting me in public. I felt invaded and we left. One of my biggest issues with it, other than the assault, was that this was my boyfriend’s first experience of a proper gay bar and what he’d witnessed was unpleasant.”

Don’t take over the space

“Don’t go with your straight, cis mates and take up a lot room in the venue with your bodies or your noise,” Meg-John says. “Many people will feel less safe if you’re doing that. Be considerate of places with a maximum capacity that are already pretty full, too. It’s better to let LGBTQ+ people be the people who get to use the space,” they add.

So, maybe trying to get you and six of your friends into G-A-Y on Pride weekend is an idea to rethink

The morning after my night out I was presented with a bacon sandwich and some sheepish looks. Hopefully my next trip to Soho will be more successful, with a lot less eye rolling and quick escapes out of the side exit

Complete Article HERE!

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The Psychology of Sexual Kink

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The word kink has myriad associations — leather, spanking, corsets, whips, maybe even a ginger root. While its depictions in popular culture are abundant and eager, they are hardly ever accurate. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, is the most recent, and perhaps the most famous, example of kink, specifically Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism (BDSM), in mainstream pop culture — except it gets kink wrong. BDSM practitioners have called the movie more vanilla than BDSM, or dangerous, because of its superficial understanding of violent sex, glorifyingly portrayed without context.

The kink sexual preference is a greatly stigmatized one, and the psychology behind it misunderstood. Kink is believed to stem out of trauma, which is false; it’s perceived to bastardize the tender idea of making love, again false; and it’s considered ‘freaky’ and ‘not normal,’ guess: false. Understanding how kink develops and what kinky people get out of it are initial steps toward normalizing an integral aspect of human sexuality.

Kink is defined as “consensual, non-traditional sexual, sensual, and intimate behaviors such as sadomasochism, domination and submission, erotic roleplaying, fetishism, and erotic forms of discipline,” psychological researcher Samuel Hughes, who has determined the five stages of kink identity development, writes in Psychology Today.

Kink can develop innately in childhood, or be adopted later in life

Individuals may gravitate toward kink in two ways; the journey is either innate and realized as a child grows up, or an acquired taste later in life for others wanting to explore their sexuality. Children, even before age 10, can develop initial engagement in kinky behaviors, such as “wanting to be captured while playing cops and robbers, or seeing television shows with superheroes in peril and feeling absorbed by the show,” Hughes writes. For some, these initial excitements could graduate to exploring those desires with their bodies, through “fantasizing, seeking out erotic media, masturbating, and exploring material sensations on their bodies.”

Between ages 11 and 14, kids come to terms with their interests. “It can involve feeling stigma over their kink interests, feeling generally different, realizing that not all of their peers share their interests, worrying there might be something wrong with them, and sometimes actively engaging in research in order to try to label and understand their interests.” Once they realize there might be people like them out there, they can attempt to find others who share their interests, through the internet and popular culture. The last stage of kink development includes engaging in kink interests with others, which usually happens after a kinkster surpasses 18.

The word kink has myriad associations — leather, spanking, corsets, whips, maybe even a ginger root. While its depictions in popular culture are abundant and eager, they are hardly ever accurate. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, is the most recent, and perhaps the most famous, example of kink, specifically Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism (BDSM), in mainstream pop culture — except it gets kink wrong. BDSM practitioners have called the movie more vanilla than BDSM, or dangerous, because of its superficial understanding of violent sex, glorifyingly portrayed without context.

The kink sexual preference is a greatly stigmatized one, and the psychology behind it misunderstood. Kink is believed to stem out of trauma, which is false; it’s perceived to bastardize the tender idea of making love, again false; and it’s considered ‘freaky’ and ‘not normal,’ guess: false. Understanding how kink develops and what kinky people get out of it are initial steps toward normalizing an integral aspect of human sexuality.

Kink is defined as “consensual, non-traditional sexual, sensual, and intimate behaviors such as sadomasochism, domination and submission, erotic roleplaying, fetishism, and erotic forms of discipline,” psychological researcher Samuel Hughes, who has determined the five stages of kink identity development, writes in Psychology Today.

Kink can develop innately in childhood, or be adopted later in life

Individuals may gravitate toward kink in two ways; the journey is either innate and realized as a child grows up, or an acquired taste later in life for others wanting to explore their sexuality. Children, even before age 10, can develop initial engagement in kinky behaviors, such as “wanting to be captured while playing cops and robbers, or seeing television shows with superheroes in peril and feeling absorbed by the show,” Hughes writes. For some, these initial excitements could graduate to exploring those desires with their bodies, through “fantasizing, seeking out erotic media, masturbating, and exploring material sensations on their bodies.”

Between ages 11 and 14, kids come to terms with their interests. “It can involve feeling stigma over their kink interests, feeling generally different, realizing that not all of their peers share their interests, worrying there might be something wrong with them, and sometimes actively engaging in research in order to try to label and understand their interests.” Once they realize there might be people like them out there, they can attempt to find others who share their interests, through the internet and popular culture. The last stage of kink development includes engaging in kink interests with others, which usually happens after a kinkster surpasses 18.

If this identity development doesn’t occur early on, then it leads to internalized shame, causing anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, Hughes says. He adds that young kinky people often feel like they are freaks, sick or evil for entertaining their desires. This is mostly due to the stigma and silence around kinky behaviors, which leads to rampant pop psychology pathologization of kink in media and the law. “Studying the identity development of kinky people can help us to better understand how kinky people develop resilience in the face of a world that often thinks of them as, at best, a joke, and at worst, violent criminals or mentally deranged,” Hughes writes in Psychology Today.

Social stigmatization of kink can be a detriment to kinksters’ mental health

Let’s take the example of age play, one of the most stigmatized kink expressions, as it can involve adults dressing up/behaving as babies or toddlers in a sexual situation. It is classified into “ephebophilia, or attraction to older post-pubescent adolescents; hebephilia, or attraction to pubescents; pedophilia, or attraction to prepubescents; infantophilia, which is often considered a sub-type of pedophilia, used to refer to a sexual preference for infants and toddlers (ages 0–3, though some raise it to 5),” sex therapist David Ortmann writes for Alt Sex NYC Conference, an annual event that brings together scholars from the kink community to expand popular discourse around kinky identities.

A majority of the stigma against age-play arises from the conflation of pedophilia with child sexual abuse. The former is a sexual preference, while the latter is an illegal practice that harms minors who cannot consent. In age-play, the consenting, adult sexual partners act an age different from their own, for various reasons: those who act younger may want to be cared for, or disciplined or simply play an age that they feel most familiar with. For those who gravitate toward older ages, their instincts might arise from wanting to act as caregivers or protectors of their partner, fulfilling their partners’ desire to be disciplined, and myriad other reasons, according to ABCs of Kink.

Ortmann adds that he has treated such kinksters for 14 years, and the main reasons they seek therapy is “to be seen, to be heard, to recover from shame, discover how to have sexual pleasure without harming themselves or others.” It is important to understand that “age-play is a form of roleplaying in which an individual acts or treats another as if they were a different age, sexual or non-sexually,” Ortmann writes. The important thing to remember, he adds, is that it “involves consent from all parties.” There needs to be more research into the kink origins of age-play, which has historically been difficult to accomplish owing to the silence of the community that doesn’t trust outsiders easily. “Let’s work together to find language for the very in-the-shadows sexual minorities that allow for empathy, instead of evoking fear and disgust.”

Normalizing the kink for the person, and helping them find a like-minded or accepting partner, is most important, writes Rhoda Lipscomb, a certified sex therapist, in a presentation for Alt Sex NYC Conference. With those steps come self-acceptance, less anger, better sleeping habits and better relationship patterns for those involved.

The supportive environment of kink can be a haven for those with non-normative desires and bodies

For dominant-submissive relationships in BDSM, the underlying psychological motivations are more clearly researched. For tops (in kink speak: tops are those who adopt a dominant role for a particular sexual encounter, as compared to doms who gravitate toward dominance more frequently), “I can determine what happens next; I can be independent; I can feel cherished,” make up some of the erotic motivations, according to an Alt Sex NYC Conference presentation by sex therapist Dr. Petra Zebroff. For bottoms (in kink speak: bottoms are those who adopt a submissive role for a particular sexual encounter, as compared to subs who prefer submissive sexual identities more frequently), they include, “I can hold extreme focus; I can feel safe; I can feel cherished; I don’t have to make decisions; I don’t have to worry about my partner’s reactions.” For both tops and bottoms, “openness, exploration, trustworthiness, communication, humor (playfulness, laughter, and fun), sensual experiences” are prioritized for themselves, and their partners. In tops, their bottom partners require “trustworthiness, warmth and caring; ability to read a partner; confidence and strength of character; knowledge and skill.” In bottoms, the tops need “self-knowledge, rebellious qualities (such as bratty), expressiveness, surrendering of power (servicing).”

In addition to understanding the motivations of the sexual players, it is also important to destroy the myth that BDSM encourages unwelcome violence against partners. In sexual play that involves intense sensation (sometimes, pain), for example, the players seek to achieve pleasure and challenge their boundaries, Michael Aaron, Alt Sex NYC co-organizer and sex therapist and sexologist, writes in a presentation.

People choose to harm themselves for a variety of reasons, Aaron writes: to alleviate negative emotions, to direct anger at themselves, to elicit affection from others, to interrupt feelings of being empty, to resist suicidal urges, to generate excitement, or to feel distinct from others. The bodily harm from when an individual inflicts injuries on themselves outside of a sexual context — what is called non-suicidal self-injurious behavior (NSSI) — is different from BDSM, mainly in the ways an individual feels after the hurting has happened, Aaron writes. NSSI can arise out of wanting relief from overwhelming feelings and wanting to distract emotional pain with physical. After inflicting pain for these unhealthy reasons, however, the individual feels broken or damaged, and more alienated from others.

In BDSM, Aaron clarifies, the motivation to indulge in NSSI in a sexual context emerges from “desire, hunger, eagerness, [anxiety] to start.” While indulging in the kinky behavior, feelings of excitement, pleasure, connection abound. After, players feel “satisfied, content, calm, secure, fulfilled,” and “empowered, loved, authentic.” Aaron found that most individuals who engaged in NSSI eventually stopped harming themselves after they sought the feeling through BDSM, according to a survey he conducted.

For others, engaging in kinky behavior may help in dealing with past trauma. While the trauma itself doesn’t serve as a catalyst for developing a kink (which is a popular misconception), it can be alleviated through play. “For example, a sexual assault survivor might initially feel afraid, weak, and powerless during their actual sexual assault,” Hughes writes in Psychology Today. “However, simulating that assault via consensual roleplaying with a trusted partner can help them feel powerful (because they consensually negotiated and agreed to it, and can use a safeword to stop the scene), strong (because they feel they can get through whatever physical pain or intensity comes their way), and brave, for facing what can often be dark times in their past head-on.” A major part of it is “aftercare,” the word for the time and space kinksters use for emotional and mental health, often with their partners, after having engaged in BDSM. It involves “cuddling, talking, rehydrating, and ‘recentering’ oneself, which can help those who are using kink to overcome hardships process their experience in a healthy and safe environment,” Hughes adds.

However, the process of navigating a past trauma proves difficult even within the kink communities, according to licensed sex therapist Samantha Manewitz. In an Alt Sex NYC Conference presentation, she lays out how kinksters with trauma can internalize shame, be unwilling to give up power to their sexual partners or be able to explain their own responses in BDSM play. Some scenes can also trigger trauma or feelings of isolation. It is important to empower the survivor in such situations — build their coping skills through negotiation before an act, exposing them to the act during play, and integrating their thoughts with their feelings after BDSM through aftercare, Manewitz writes.

Kink can also help build an inclusive environment for queer folks. Hughes compares the identity development for kink to the way in which kids can realize their queer identities. The emotional stages are similar, including dealing with stigma and making positive associations with those realizations. BDSM as a sexual orientation is a popular hypothesis, explained as attraction toward specific activities or toward a role (dominant, submissive, switch) — be it the individual’s or their partners’, according to Daniel Copulsky, founder of sexedplus.com and researcher of social psychology. “Everyone has a sexual orientation in regard to gender because that’s how we’ve defined sexual orientation,” Copulsky writes in a presentation for the Alt Sex NYC Conference. “Everyone has a sexual orientation in regard to power, too, if we define it as a submissive, dominant, switch, or vanilla.”

Kink can also help marginalized communities feel more comfortable in their own skin. For trans people, their relationships with their bodies are colored by dysphoria, awkwardness, and trauma. For a group whose bodies and existence are unabashedly questioned, fetishized, or who are made to feel unwelcome in societal institutions, consent in a sexual scenario holds utmost importance.

“Consent is the explicit indication, by written or oral statement, by one person that he/she [or they] is willing to have something done to him/her [or them] by one or more other persons, or to perform some sort of act at the request or order of one or more other persons. In terms of sexual consent, consent may be withdrawn at any point, regardless of what has been previously negotiated orally or in writing,” licensed psychotherapist Laura Jacobs writes for Alt Sex NYC about a core kink principle.

Trans or gender non-conforming folks can greatly benefit from this structure, as they may not have been accorded the opportunity or the language to communicate their sexual needs. Through using safe words, they can feel protected and respected; and through tight-knit local BDSM communities, they can encounter people who will respect them and their boundaries. “Ultimately, for a large number of people in the trans and gender-nonconforming community, heteronormative or not, reveling in these nontraditional forms of sexuality and relationships is part of our ongoing examination of the human experience,” Jacobs writes.

It is a shame, then, that some forms of kink, and within it BDSM, are regarded as detached, cruel and violent. In reality, kink can be a vehicle for people to embrace their vulnerability, maintain intimate bonds with various people, and learn to communicate and negotiate varied sexual preferences in a non-judgmental way. Kink is not “weird,” or something to sensationalize. When we achieve a greater understanding of non-normative sexual practices, we normalize identities that are otherwise marginalized, and who knows — might even learn a thing or two instead, both in and out of sex.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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A sexual wellness app for women could be a game changer

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Recent research has revealed that far from letting their sex lives wane over 50s are continuing to carve out some dedicated time between the sheets each week.

But making the leap from an active sex life, to one that actually satisfies, can be easier said than done; and this is where a new sexual wellness app for women comes in.

Launched on the Apple Store and Google Play late last month, Emjoy, founded by Andrea Oliver Garcia and Daniel Tamas in 2018, is an app offering up more than 80 audio sessions covering topics including how to boost libido, developing self-knowledge, increasing pleasure and improving sexual communication.

Experts in the fields of psychology, sex therapy, education and mindfulness also impart their wisdom on all aspects of sex.

Revealing the inspiration behind the app, Andrea said, “I have always considered myself a feminist and as I grew up, I realised that many girlfriends of mine lived their sexuality with shame and knew very little about themselves – some even doubting if they had or hadn’t experienced an orgasm.

“Then I came across several studies such as the pleasure gap and sexual wellbeing reports showing that cisgendered heterosexual women consistently experience less pleasure than their male counterparts. Shockingly, data from several studies show that over 40 per cent of women struggle to attain an orgasm and that 30 per cent of women worldwide experience libido issues.”

Continuing she added, “As I was researching and talking to sex therapists and industry experts, I noticed the internet was crowded with inconsistent and untrustworthy information.

“That’s when I decided to stop backing amazing entrepreneurs to become one myself in order to help women enhance their sexual wellbeing with Emjoy.”

With an average 4-star rating on Google Play and an average 5-star rating on the Apple Store, here’s what those who’ve already downloaded it had to say:

‘Finally an app addressing this subject the proper way. Already addicted to all the great quality content (keep it up!).’

‘I’m delighted there is an app that breaks all taboos about women’s sexuality. It was time for something like this to exist! Thank you :)’

‘Can’t wait to…get home from work and continue “my journey”.’

‘I’ve used this app for a couple of months and its really made a difference! The quality of the content is great. It’s made me feel much more comfortable in my relationship, communicating what I want to my partner and helping me get out of my mind.

‘It’s also done in such a classy/easy way – I never feel akward [sic] or embarrassed when I listen to these sessions, it’s very natural and easy to relate to. Honestly, it’s about time someone created this type of product!!’

Would you try it out?

Complete Article HERE!

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More cardio is linked to better orgasms in women and less erectile dysfunction in men

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The researchers found that men who logged more time exercising each week had lower chances of erectile dysfunction.

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If your go-to workout involves running, swimming, or biking, your sex life may be benefiting.

A new study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that people who spent more time doing those cardio workouts had fewer physical sex problems, like erectile dysfunction for men or inability to feel aroused for women, than people who swam, biked, or ran less frequently.

To test this, researchers had 3,906 men and 2,264 women who biked, swam, or ran for exercise complete a survey. The participants came from various countries, including the United States, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and were all older than 18 years old. The average age for both men and women was over 40 years old.

In the survey, researchers asked questions about how often participants worked out each week, the distance and speed at which they exercised, and whether they had partaken in one of the three exercises methods or a combination of them.

The researchers also asked men if they’d ever experienced erectile dysfunction and how often, and asked women to rate their orgasm satisfaction, plus how easy or difficult it was for them to get sexually aroused.

Men who burned over 8,000 calories each week had lower risks of erectile dysfunction

The researchers found that men who logged more time exercising each week had lower chances of erectile dysfunction.

In fact, men who worked out enough to burn more than 8,260 each week had a 22% less chance of erectile dysfunction compared to men who burn fewer calories. The researchers said this caloric loss is equal to about 10 hours of cycling at 26 kilometers per hour over a week’s time.

Women who logged more cardio time said they had better orgasms

The women researchers surveyed also reported more sexual satisfaction if they logged more cardio time.

Women who worked out more often over a week’s time said they were more satisfied with their orgasms than women who worked out less. The women who worked out more also reported being able to get aroused more easily.

For women, arousal happens when the genitals feel tingly and begin to swell and the vagina releases lubrication. Arousal can also include feelings of excitement, according to the American Sexual Health Association.

The researchers noted that for both men and women, it didn’t matter whether they biked, ran, or swam — all of the activities helped to boost participants’ sex drives if done often.

“Thus, in addition to encouraging sedentary populations to begin exercising as previous studies suggest, it also might prove useful to encourage active patients to exercise more rigorously to improve their sexual functioning,” the study authors wrote.

There were some caveats to the study, like the fact that participants’ answers were self-reported and they could’ve lied or inaccurately recorded how often they experienced erectile dysfunction or sexual dissatisfaction. The researchers also noted that they only looked at physically active people, so their results don’t apply to people who live largely sedentary lifestyles.

The study still adds to existing evidence suggesting that regular cardiovascular exercise has benefits that go beyond appearances, like improved heart health, a better mood, and now, fewer sexual health issues and better orgasms.

Complete Article HERE!

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A glossary for BDSM beginners

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A Guide to all the BDSM Terms You Were Too Shy to Look Up

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If you’re having enough sex, it’s only a matter of time until it grows stale. Eventually, you’ll begin to crave something more than a quick release. You’ll want sex to last—and for physical pleasure to come coupled with psychological stimulation.

That’s where bondage can come into play (no pun intended). But before you can bust out the restraints and sounding needles, you need to know what’s out there. Only then, can you properly ask for whatever it is your secret, greasy, heart desires.

That’s why we spoke to Jess Wilde, a bondage specialist at the online sex retailer Lovehoney. She’s going to help us untangle the unnecessarily confusing lexicon of the bondage world.

BDSM

An abbreviation for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism, BDSM is an umbrella term for numerous sexual practices. It’s not only inclusive of the four principles in the title, it includes elements of roleplaying, dominance, submission, and other related interpersonal dynamics.

Bondage

Breaking down B in BDSM a little bit further, “Bondage is the sexual practice of restraining someone during sex and falls under the umbrella term Power Play,” says Wilde. “Power Play is where one partner takes on a dominant role and one takes on a submissive role. Restraint includes anything from holding the sub’s hands in a certain position to using restraint tools like handcuffs.”

Dominance and Submission (D/s)

Dominance and submission is a set of erotic behaviors involving one person being subservient (or submissive) to the person in control (the Dominant). This can happen in the bedroom through the Dominant (Dom) dictating orders to the Submissive (Sub), but it doesn’t even require both parties to be in the same room. Some Doms never meet their Subs in real life. They simply converse over the phone or email, where the Dom tells the Sub what he or she would like them to do.

“Being a good Dominant involves much more than being able to control and give orders to others,” explains Wilde. “A good Dominant will also be able to practice self-control and respect their Submissive. Dominants should also be responsible enough to decrease the intensity of or stop a scene altogether when a safeword is spoken.”

“Submitting doesn’t mean being weak,” Wilde continues. “It’s a gift to give up all control, to make yourself more vulnerable than most people could ever imagine, and to offer yourself, body and soul, for someone else’s pleasure… And, of course, doing so is also a Submissive’s ultimate pleasure.”

Safeword

A safeword, which Wilde noted while discussing Dominance and Submission is “a word, phrase, or signal which you both agree means ‘stop.’” She continues, “Make sure you agree on a safeword–this is a good starting point for all BDSM activity. A safeword should be easy to remember, easy to say, and should be a word you’d never usually use in sex. A personal favorite is ‘Gandalf!'”

Master/Slave

“In BDSM, master/slave, m/s or sexual slavery is a relationship in which one individual serves another in an authority-exchange structured relationship,” says Wilde. “Unlike dominant and submissive structures found in BDSM in which love is often the core value, service and obedience are often the core values in master/slave structures.”

Animal Play

“Animal play is a special type of role play where one or more participants take on the role of an animal. Animal play is commonly seen in BDSM contexts,” explains Wilde. “Typically the submissive ‘animal’ partner is humiliated or dominated, but sometimes they will take on the more dominant role. Animal play is sometimes called animal role play or pet play.”

Contract

“You may be familiar with sex contracts from Fifty Shades of Grey,” says Wilde. “The contract wasn’t just a figment of author E. L. James’ imagination. In BDSM communities, these kinds of contracts help Dominants and Submissives play with each other safely, both emotionally and physically.”

“By establishing ground rules, each partner knows what’s expected of them. It also makes issues of consent—which is crucial when power exchange and pain are involved—crystal clear.”

Electro-Play

“Electro-sex is sometimes called erotic electrostimulation (e-stim) or electroplay,” says Wilde. “It gives people distinctive tingly, tickly sensations which differ greatly to the sensations achieved with common battery-powered sex toys like vibrators.”

“It taps into the electrical signals that course through the body’s human nervous system, stimulating them to create more powerful sensory reactions. A variety of high-tech sex toys are designed for electro-sex. These include electrified butt plugs, masturbatory sleeves, cock rings, eggs, G-spot probes, and nipple clamps.”

Hard and Soft Limits

“Limits are basically a boundary, a thing you don’t want to do. BDSM often divides these into ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ limits. A soft limit is often an activity that you don’t enjoy and wouldn’t normally engage in, but you may consider doing it for the right person,” says Wilde.

“Hard limits are absolutes. These are the things that you will not do, under any circumstances. For many people, these may be activities or things which trigger bad memories, panic attacks, or other psychological stress. Hard limits can be anything at all, even things that other people consider to be tame or a lot of fun.”

Sensation Play

“Sensation play describes a wide variety of activities that use the body’s senses as a way to arouse and provide stimulation to a partner,” explains Wilde.

“Although sensation play is often related to skin sensations, it doesn’t have to be so limited. Sight, taste, and hearing can also be included in sensation play. Forms of light sensations play include playing with feathers and other soft objects, light blindfolding, and bondage with scarves or temperature play with ice or hot wax.”

“The goal of sensation play is simply to provide unusual and arousing sensations to a partner’s body. It is only limited by one’s imagination and, of course, personal limits, which should be respected at all times.”

Sub-Drop

When the fun and games are over (and the last spank has struck), there’s one last thing you have to remember to do. As Wilde explains, aftercare is an essential part of your play-time and can bring both you and your partner closer together in post-coital bliss.

“Known as ‘sub-drop’, sometimes the submissive partner can feel a wash of sadness when playtime has finished and the endorphins wear off,” says Wilde. “Bondage aftercare is the process of reassuring your partner that you care for them. Lots of hugs, loving touches and an open chat about the experience you’ve just shared are great ways to do this.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Do You Need Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy?

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by Vanessa Marin

You’ve probably never heard of pelvic floor physical therapy before, and that’s a shame: It’s an extremely helpful treatment option for a variety of difficult medical conditions. Your pelvic floor drapes across your pelvic area like a hammock, and supports the pelvic organs (the uterus, bladder, and rectum). It also assists with urinary and anal continence, and serves a role in core strength and orgasm. People of all genders have a pelvic floor.

To help me learn more about pelvic floor physical therapy, I spoke with Heather Jeffcoat, a physical therapist and the owner of Femina Physical Therapy in Los Angeles, and author of Sex Without Pain: A Self Treatment Guide to the Sex Life You Deserve. Here’s what you need to know about pelvic therapy and how it can help you.

How pelvic floor physical therapy works

A lot of things can weaken the pelvic floor, including pregnancy, childbirth, and aging, resulting in pelvic pain as well as bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunctions.

The first step of pelvic floor physical therapy is gathering the client’s history, ascertaining their goals, and providing education about how the pelvic floor works. This is followed by a manual examination. From there, physical therapists use a combination of manual therapy, pelvic floor exercises, biofeedback, and/or vaginal dilators. Patients are seen for regular appointments, and are given exercises to complete at home.

 
You can find therapists by searching American Physical Therapy Association and the International Pelvic Pain Society. Many PTs, including Dr. Jeffcoat, also offer telemedicine appointments if you’d prefer to get started that way or you can’t find a PT in your area.

What pelvic floor physical therapy can treat

Pelvic floor PT can be effective at treating a wide array of conditions, including:

  • Painful sex
  • Pain with tampon insertion or OB/GYN examinations
  • Vulvar pain
  • Vulvar itching
  • Urinary urgency and frequency
  • Recurrent UTIs
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Pelvic and/or lower abdominal pain

Dr. Jeffcoat says, “I like to tell physicians that if they have been searching for a cause of someone’s pain between their ribs and their hips/pelvis and they have been medically cleared, they should be referred to a skilled PFPT.”

Pelvic floor PT can also be used to prepare transgender patients for gender confirmation surgery, and to facilitate healing post-surgery.

Pelvic floor physical therapy and sexual pain

Recently, researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University found that 30% of women experienced pain during their last sexual encounter. Even though sexual pain is widespread, it often takes a very long time for a woman to get diagnosed with a sexual pain condition. I have heard horror stories from clients who were told by their doctors that their pain was “all in their head” or that they needed to “just have a glass of wine.” I’ve heard of doctors recommending a shot of alcohol or an anti-anxiety medication right before sex. Dr. Jeffcoat has heard the same stories, and says most traditional physicians are ill-equipped to deal with sexual pain even though the reality is that there’s almost always a physical cause.

If you try to talk to your doctor about your sexual pain and get met with an infuriating response like “just relax,” finding a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area could be a much better bet. A good PT will work with you to uncover the root of your pain and discomfort, and develop a targeted game plan for relief. I’ve worked with a lot of clients with sexual pain, and they’ve all sung the praises of pelvic floor PT.

Keeping your pelvic floor in shape

Even if you’ve never heard of pelvic floor physical therapy before, you’ve probably heard about the field’s most popular exercise: kegels. There has been an explosion of articles about kegels (also known as PC exercises) in the last few years, and there are also a ton kegel trainers on the market purporting to help you get your kegel muscles into tip-top shape. Kegel exercises can have great benefits, including stronger orgasms and greater urinary control. But Dr. Jeffcoat advises a bit of caution. She shared that about half of all women are doing kegels incorrectly, and around 25% are doing them in a way that could make their other symptoms worse. She’s not a fan of vaginal weights or trainers because, she says, they can worsen incorrect form.

Dr. Jeffcoat says that if you’re currently experiencing sexual pain, urinary urgency or frequency, bladder pain, urge incontinence, constipation, rectal pain or any pelvic pain, avoid kegels and check in with a PT first.

If you don’t have bowel or bladder symptoms, Dr. Jeffcoat recommends doing a mix of longer holds and shorter pulses. To find your PC muscles, cut off your flow of urine before your bladder is empty. The muscles that you have to use to do so are the ones you want to target. For the longer holds, gently squeeze your PC muscles for 3-5 seconds, then gradually release. For the shorter pulses, squeeze your PC muscles, then immediately release. If you want to ensure you’re doing kegels correctly, or want a customized game plan, definitely check in with a PT.

If you feel embarrassed about what’s involved in pelvic floor PT

Yes, your PT will be directly manipulating your muscles through the walls of your vagina or anus. But Dr. Jeffcoat assured me that a good pelvic floor physical therapist is passionate about their work, and about helping their clients feel comfortable. Pelvic floor issues are very common, and PTs want to help remove the stigma around getting help. Dr. Jeffcoat’s standard initial visit is 90 minutes, a good chunk of which is spent talking and helping you feel more comfortable. You also have the option to postpone the physical examination until a later session.

It may also help to think about the positive effects of pelvic floor physical therapy. I asked Dr. Jeffcoat about some of her favorite patient success stories, and she told me about seeing patients consummate their marriages for the first time ever. One case was after 19 years of marriage. She also wrote, “I’ve had so many women that are able to get pregnant without fertility treatments because they can have pain-free sex. I’ve seen women gain a new sense of empowerment by reaching a goal they truly never thought would never happen.” There can also be something incredibly validating about knowing that the pain isn’t “in your head.” The bottom line: pelvic floor physical therapy can be life-changing.

Complete Article HERE!

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When Starting To Talk To Your Kids About Sex, Younger Is Better

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By Kelly Gonsalves

There’s a common misconception that talking to kids about sex at a younger age will encourage them to start having sex earlier in life. But new research finds there’s little truth behind this worry and suggests that when it comes to teaching your kids about sex, the younger, the better.

In a new study published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, researchers sought to understand how parental involvement in kids’ sex ed affected actual sexual health outcomes. In other words, does having parents who talk to them about sex lead to kids making better decisions about their sex lives?

To answer this question, the researchers examined 31 past studies on sex education programs that substantially involve parents in teaching kids about sex—not a perfect barometer for measuring how much parents teach their kids about sex at home in general but at least a good way to gauge its effects. In total, the meta-analysis involved data on over 12,000 kids between ages 9 and 18 whose parents participated in their sex education.

Learning about sex doesn’t make kids start having sex earlier.

First of all, the results showed parents should be actively engaged in teaching their kids about sex: Kids with more parental involvement were more likely to use condoms during sex, were more open with their parents about their sexual experiences, and had higher sexual self-efficacy, which is essentially the ability to advocate for your needs in bed. And the more hours their parents spent participating in their kids’ sex education, the stronger these effects were.

But the most interesting findings dealt with age: The study found parents helping to educate their kids about sex had no effect on how old their kids were when they started having sex.

“[These initiatives] were not associated with earlier initiation of sexual activity,” the researchers explain. “This should be reassuring for parents who are concerned that talking about sex with their children may somehow result in their children initiating sex. This meta-analysis shows that across the dozens of interventions for parents, youth were no more or less likely to initiate sex at the conclusion of the interventions.”

Talking to kids about sex earlier is good for their health—and their confidence.

The results also showed the positive effects of these parental interventions were even stronger when they happened at a younger age. When parents talked to their kids about sex earlier on (specifically between ages 9 and 14), those kids were even more likely to practice safe sex later on, more willing to communicate with their parents about their experiences, and had an even higher increase in sexual self-efficacy than kids whose parents waited until they were older to start their sex education.

Rather than encouraging kids to start having sex earlier, these conversations actually just create an environment where kids have more knowledge to make more informed decisions about sex later in life. Instead of stumbling into sexual situations in their teens still without having had any formal conversations about sexual health or communication, kids have that basic information with them for whenever their sexual lives begin.

“Thirty years of public health research has shown that young people are not more likely to have sex earlier because they learn about sex,” says Lucinda Holt, M.S., a sex educator and director of communications and development at Answer, a national sex-ed organization based at Rutgers University, in an interview with mindbodygreen. “When you are talking with your child about these topics, you are providing the information they need and helping them prepare to make healthy decisions as they get older.”

She adds that another key benefit of starting these sex talks early is taking away the shame around sexuality so that young people feel comfortable asking their parents and guardians questions instead of feeling like they’ll get in trouble for bringing it up. 

“It’s better that they have you as a resource than hearsay from their friends or from sexually explicit content online,” she says.

The myth of “sexualizing our children.”

Some people worry that just knowing about the existence of sex will “corrupt” their child’s innocence and make them become interested in sex at an earlier, inappropriate age—despite the fact that this and many other studies prove that this theory isn’t true.

“People hear the word ‘sex’ in the same sentence with ‘kids,’ and they think talking to their child about sex is about having a sexually explicit conversation. That is not what we’re talking about,” Holt explains. “We are talking about parents and guardians using the correct names of body parts, helping kids understand privacy, empowering them around bodily autonomy, teaching them to respect others’ boundaries, and providing age-appropriate answers to their questions about their bodies and where babies come from.”

Holt points to projects like AMAZE, an online resource that offers kid-friendly educational, animated videos about sexuality, gender, reproductive health, and other body stuff. Created by Answer and other reputable national sex education organizations, AMAZE offers content for kids as young as 4 years old.

Starting these conversations from this young age helps kids grow up in an environment where they’re not afraid or ashamed of their bodies—meaning they’ll be better equipped to ask their parents questions when they need help and know how and when to protect themselves from possible harm.

“When you use appropriate names like ‘penis’ and ‘vulva,’ you’re sending the message that these body parts are like ‘knee’ or ‘arm,’ and we don’t have to be ashamed of our bodies. This sets younger kids up to feel comfortable speaking with a parent about their bodies and to ask questions if they have them,” Holt explains. “Giving kids some basic language and concepts means they will be better prepared to have conversations with a parent as they get older about healthy relationships, consent, and safer sex.”

The younger they are when they start learning about sex, the more prepared and safe they’ll be in the long run whenever they do decide to start their sexual lives—which, according to the research, will be no earlier than if no one had ever started teaching them about sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Signs an Open Relationship Could Be Right for You

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(and 3 That It’s Probably Not)

Sometimes it’s good to shut the door on monogamy.

By Zachary Zane

Here’s a universal truth we generally don’t discuss enough: It’s totally normal to fantasize about other people even when you’re so happy in a relationship that your heart almost bursts every time your partner wrinkles their nose right before laughing at one of your terrible puns. That definitely doesn’t always mean that you want to act on those urges—that might seem like a bad idea for a variety of reasons. But in some cases and for some people, acting on these thoughts with the blessing of their partner is a really attractive idea. Enter: non-monogamy.

Non-monogamy refers to relationships that allow people to have sexual and/or emotional intimacy with people besides their primary partners. People who may be interested in non-monogamy include those who want to explore multiple facets of their sexual orientations or who don’t feel as though it’s natural to only love one person romantically, for instance. Fortunately for people who are interested in pursuing something like this, relationship models beyond monogamy are rising in mainstream visibility, which is where open relationships can come in.

More people are visibly warming up to the idea that it’s OK to want to have sex with more than one person for life. (Forever is a really, REALLY long time.) But knowing that open relationships are a thing doesn’t help much when it comes to figuring out if one might be right for you.

Since every relationship has its own strengths and weaknesses, there’s no One Easy Trick that will reveal if an open relationship could be great for you and your partner. However, there are various tip-offs that can indicate if your relationship would thrive or crumble after opening it up. To help you figure out where you fall, we reached out to experts in ethical non-monogamy (as in being non-monogamous without being an asshole). Here are the signs they say can hint at when it might and might not make sense to consider experimenting with an open relationship.

Here’s when it could make sense to have an open relationship.

1. You’re both genuinely interested in non-monogamy.

As the founder of the educational platform Unscripted Relationships, Stephanie Webb, Ph.D., often gets the question, “How do I get my partner to agree to an open relationship?” That’s completely the wrong way to go about opening up a relationship, says Webb.

“You don’t ‘get’ them to,” Webb, whose Ph.D. is in communication with a focus on nontraditional relationships and who has personally practiced ethical non-monogamy for over a decade, tells SELF. That kind of phrasing implies that one partner is interested in an open relationship and trying to bend the other’s will, which definitely isn’t a healthy relationship dynamic for introducing non-monogamy (or just in general).

“Many people do not want to be in an open relationship and forcing a [partner] is not a way to approach it at all,” Webb says. “Instead the interest can be raised, but not pushed. If the [partner] draws a line and wants monogamy because that is what was initially expected in the relationship, it should be respected or the relationship should end.”

With that said there’s a huge difference between a partner who makes it clear that they would never want any form of an open relationship and a partner who is interested but may need time to understand how an open relationship would manifest.

“Fears and insecurities about a new type of relationship style are typical,” board-certified clinical sexologist Rhoda Lipscomb, Ph.D., tells SELF. Experiencing these emotions at the thought of opening up a relationship doesn’t automatically mean it’s not a good idea. “This can actually help the couple so long as they are able to communicate well about what the fears mean and move forward at a pace that works for both of them,” Lipscomb says. That brings us to our next point.

2. You’re ready to communicate your ass off.

A healthy open relationship does not start after a single talk. “Opening a relationship takes so much time and work,” Webb says. Properly navigating this new terrain requires a series of ongoing conversations where you and your partner discuss what you’re looking to get out of the new relationship dynamic along with any rules you need to follow to make that happen.

Perhaps in order for you both to feel fulfilled and safe in your open relationship, neither of you can have sleepovers, play with friends, tell each other details of your trysts, have sex with other people without protection, or have sex with others inside your shared home.

Discuss emotional boundaries too. Are you both only interested in having sexual connections with other people? Or are you OK with polyamory, which allows for emotional connections and even loving other people too? Making sure you both agree upon these types of boundaries is key.

3. Your relationship currently stands on a foundation of honesty and trust.

Every expert quoted in this piece made one thing abundantly clear: Successful open relationships can require even more honesty and confidence in your partner than monogamous ones.

When a couple has this foundation, it’s a lot harder for non-monogamy to harm their bond, Lipscomb says. But without that trust or ability to be completely truthful, it’s much easier for an open relationship to exacerbate your relationship issues or create new ones. For instance, if you don’t trust your partner as much as possible, will you believe them when they say they’ll always use protection? If you feel like you can’t be honest with them, will you be able to share what about an open relationship makes you feel most vulnerable—which is the only real way you can get reassurance for those fears?

It’s necessary that both of you feel comfortable discussing questions and concerns you might have even if you’re a little nervous. Otherwise, your open relationship could implode pretty quickly.

4. You and your partner have mismatched libidos or kinks.

“Some folks have a partner who is uninterested in having a sexual relationship but still desires an emotional connection,” clinical psychologist and American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists–certified sex therapist Kelifern Pomeranz, Psy.D., tells SELF. This may happen when one partner falls on the asexual spectrum, is taking medication that stunts their libido, is too stressed from work to want much sex, or for any number of other valid reasons. On a similar note if one of you is all about a certain kink and the other has absolutely no interest, allowing one partner to practice that kink with others might offer a solution.

Of course these types of situations still require honesty, trust, and thorough communication. Those are nonnegotiable in any good relationship, especially open ones.

5. You’re in a mixed-orientation relationship.

If you’re in a mixed-orientation relationship, you may already know that term for it, but just so we’re on the same page: A mixed-orientation relationship means that partners have different sexual orientations.

Here’s when opening up your relationship might not be the best idea.

1. It’s in direct response to infidelity.

One of the worst things you can do after a partner cheats is immediately open the relationship. That’s not to say you can’t open it up if one of you has cheated in the past, but there’s that trust issue again: You both need time to work through infidelity as a unit before bringing anyone else into the mix, even if it’s no longer in secret.

“Open relationships of all kinds require trust, knowledge, consent, and emotional (and sometimes physical and spiritual) labor,” says Webb. “Infidelity breaks trust; opening the relationship when this kind of trauma has occurred is not impossible, but it does not set anyone up for success either. I recommend doing the work to rebuild the relationship and then approaching openness from a foundation of trust.”

2. Your relationship is already on the brink of ending.

Opening up a relationship in a desperate attempt to stave off a breakup isn’t a great idea. Without the strong, healthy bond that’s necessary for an open relationship to work, introducing non-monogamy might just push you over the breakup precipice.

People who try an open relationship as a last-ditch effort to avoid a breakup typically already have one foot out the door, Lipscomb says. “They do not have a strong connection and want someone—anyone—other than their primary partner,” she says, but they might be staying because of children, a fear of what their family will say, comfort, worries about hurting their partner, social stigma around divorce, or other reasons. An open relationship might seem like the perfect compromise in these cases, but it won’t work as a bandage over fundamental relationship issues or unhappiness.

3. One or both of you can’t handle jealousy.

It’s a misconception that people in successful open relationships never feel jealousy. The difference is that they know jealousy can happen, respect boundaries in an attempt to avoid it, and deal with it in a healthy manner if it arises anyway.

None of this is possible without—say it with us, folks—honesty, trust, and communication. That essential combination is what allows you to say something like, “Hey, I don’t know what it is, but I get wildly jealous when I know you’re seeing that guy.” It’s also what allows your partner to accept this kind of statement from a loving, empathetic place and reassure you as necessary.

Issues besides jealousy might come up when you’re in an open relationship, just like they would in a monogamous one. Bottom line: “Partners need to be able to listen to one another with compassion and not defensiveness, communicate their wants and needs, express themselves honestly, and take responsibility for their actions,” says Pomeranz.

Complete Article HERE!

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Bed Death Is Real.

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Here’s How to Keep It from Turning into a Sexless Marriage

by PureWow

If you and your S.O. haven’t done the deed in six months or longer, you are not alone. In fact, you are trending. If you believe recent headlines, tons of married or long-term couples all over the world are in the midst of a full-blown sex strike. Even Pink is talking about it: “…you’ll go through times when you haven’t had sex in a year,” the singer and mom of two recently said of her 13-year marriage to Carey Hart. “Is this bed death? Is this the end of it? Do I want him? Does he want me? Monogamy is work! But you do the work and it’s good again

According to the New York Post, “’Dead bedrooms,’ the buzzy new term for when couples in long-term relationships stop having sex, are on a zombie-apocalypse-like rise.” It cites a study that shows 69 percent of couples are intimate 8 times a year or less; 17 percent of those surveyed hadn’t had sex in a year or more. This is on the heels of research out of the University of Chicago demonstrating that between the late 1990s and 2014, sex for all adults dropped from 62 to 54 times a year on average. And, per Time, “The highest drop in sexual frequency has been among married people with higher levels of education.”

In her cover story on The Sex Recession, The Atlantic’s Kate Julian reports on the many possible causes behind this unsexy ebb: “hookup culture, crushing economic pressures, surging anxiety rates, psychological frailty, widespread antidepressant use, streaming television, environmental estrogens leaked by plastics, dropping testosterone levels, digital porn, the vibrator’s golden age…helicopter parents, careerism, smartphones, the news cycle, information overload generally, sleep deprivation, obesity. Name a modern blight, and someone, somewhere, is ready to blame it for messing with the modern libido.”

Chances are you and/or your spouse are impacted by one (if not several) of the above. So what can you do to break a dry spell? Read on for expert tips.

1. Focus on each other as well as the kids

We could tell you to start putting each other first. But chances are it’s not gonna happen. Parents with children between the ages of 6 and 17 are having less sex than even those with younger children, according to research. Blame co-sleeping, snowplow parenting or “generalized family anxiety” caused by everything from travel soccer to SAT prep. More than past generations, parents are putting kids front and center, and their sex lives are taking a hit. Here’s advice from psychologist and author Dr. Debra Campbell: “Dispense with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ attitude to sex because passion and excitement thrive most on creativity and a bit of novelty. That means, don’t limit yourselves by thinking about sex as purely intercourse, as only happening at a particular time of day or night, or requiring certain circumstances— especially now circumstances have changed.” A weekly date night might not be feasible, but making out in the car after a parent-teacher conference could be. Hug occasionally. Say thank you. Kiss hello and goodbye. As relationship guru Dr. John Gottman says, good marriages thrive on “small things often” as opposed to the single, annual, grand romantic gesture.

2. Check your meds

This one’s complicated. Depression and anxiety inhibit sexual desire. But often, so do the essential antidepressants and birth control pills we take to mitigate both. However, depending on multiple personal factors, from physiology to psychology, you may find that a lower dose or a certain type of birth control impacts your sexual desire differently. You may have a better response to an IUD than to an oral contraceptive, for example. Definitely talk to your doctor. And (here’s an idea) bring your spouse in on the conversation.

3. Banish tech from your bedroom

For many long-term couples, Netflix and Chill evolves into Netflix and Pass Out. We’ve done deep dives into how phubbing can be toxic for romantic relationships. And research shows that sleep deprivation (whether it’s caused by parenthood, work worry or tech use) reduces sexual desire. More sleep = more and better sex. And it turns out all that late-night Instagram scrolling may be eating away at your self-esteem and your sex life as well as your sleep. “A large and growing body of research reports that for both men and women, social-media use is correlated with body dissatisfaction,” writes Julian in her Atlantic story. Feeling hot is key to arousal. Is watching a 26-year-old travel Influencer jog down the beach in Phuket going to help? “A review of 57 studies examining the relationship between women’s body image and sexual behavior suggests that positive body image is linked to having better sex. Conversely, not feeling comfortable in your own skin complicates sex.” Anything healthy and positive you can do for your body—and the less time you spend comparing it to anyone online in a bikini—will probably improve your sex life.

4. Stop counting

When it comes to sex, it’s quality over quantity. How often you do it matters less than how happy you are with your sex life, according to relationship therapist, author and sex researcher Dr. Sarah Hunter Murray. The average married couple has sex once a week or less, and those who do are just as happy—and perhaps happier—than those having it two to three times a week, per research in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. “The frequency with which we have sex receives a lot of attention because it’s the easiest way to measure and compare our sex lives to our peers,” writes Hunter Murray. “But having lots of bad sex isn’t going to make anyone happy nor is it going to leave you feeling satisfied.” She advises looking at the reasons why you’re not having sex and doing what you can to work on those together. Is it because you approach money differently? He’s critical of your parenting style? Your careers are in different stages? You resent the division of household labor or carry more than your share of the mental load? What can you do to communicate about or change your circumstances? “If we are fighting or falling out of love with our partner, not having sex could be a symptom of a much larger problem,” writes Hunter Murray. “However, if we are simply busy, sick, navigating parenthood, or identify as asexual (and the list goes on) then it may be more circumstantial and nothing to panic over.” The bottom line? Less frequent good sex is better than bi-weekly sex that leaves you cold or not feeling any closer.

Complete Article HERE!

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Talking to your children about sex is ‘best way to avoid unwanted pregnancies’

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By Hattie Gladwell

Attention, parents: talking to children about sex is the best way of preventing unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs, a study has found.

Talking to your kids about the birds and the bees can be uncomfortable, with many parents reluctant to do so.

But research suggests that interventions involving parents and children actually lead to safer sexual practices and don’t make teenagers more likely to engage in sexual activity.

Lead author Dr Laura Widman said: ‘People have been studying parent-based sexual health interventions for decades, and we wanted to know how effective they are; as well as whether there are specific features of these interventions that make them more effective.’

She said parent-based interventions are programmes aimed at working with mums and dads, and often their children, to address issues such as communicating about sex, providing sexual health information and encouraging safe sex.

The research team analysed 31 trials involving more than 12,400 youngsters, aged nine to 18, with an average age of just over 12.

One of the strongest effects the analysis identified was an increase in condom use by adolescents whose parents took part in an intervention, compared to those whose parents didn’t participate.

The study also found several features that increased the size of that effect. Interventions that focused on children aged 14 or younger had a stronger effect than interventions aimed at older kids.

Interventions that targeted parents and adolescents equally, rather than focusing primarily on either audience, were more effective; while programmes that lasted for 10 hours or more were more effective than shorter interventions.

Dr Widman, an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University in the US, said: ‘These are variables that make sense intuitively.

‘Reaching kids when they’re younger and, often, more willing to listen; involving both parents and adolescents; spending more time on the subject matter – none of those are particularly surprising.

‘However, it’s good to see that the data bears this out.’

She pointed out that another interesting finding was that interventions did not affect the age at which teens became sexually active.

She added: ‘In other words, the kids who were taught about sexual health did not become sexually active any earlier than kids who were not part of the interventions.

‘But kids who were part of the interventions were more likely to use condoms when they did become sexually active.’

Study co-author Reina Evans, a PhD student at North Carolina State, said: ‘This highlights the value of parent-based interventions, and makes clear that certain features are especially valuable when developing interventions.’

And the study argued that special attention can be placed on fathers:

‘We found only one intervention that targeted fathers, and it worked very well,’ Dr Widman said.

‘Similarly, there was only one intervention aimed specifically at parents of sons, which also worked very well.

‘This suggests that it may be worthwhile to pursue broader efforts to assess the effectiveness of gender-specific interventions for parents and adolescents.

‘What’s more, we found that there is a dearth of information on the effectiveness of online interventions. That’s definitely an area ripe for future study.’

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Too Stressed Out To Have Sex?

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Do These 3 Things

By Myisha Battle

Anticipation is part of the reason why sex is so hot at the beginning of relationships

Inevitably, having sex becomes a part of most romantic relationships but, sometimes, there is a hindrance that couples can’t always stop from happening: stress.

A new client recently began our session with “I’m just not that into sex anymore. It’s not that I don’t think about it, I just don’t have the same kind of drive for sex that I used to have.”

Lack of interest in sexual intercourse is one of the most common concerns I see as a sex coach. It affects all kinds of people of all relationship statuses, but its roots can be found in similar areas.

Single men and women come to me explaining that they don’t think about themselves sexually and they feel out of touch with their own sexual energy.

Couples tend to come to me after dating for some time and feel that the sex they have now isn’t as fulfilling as the sex they had at the beginning of their relationship.

But, why are they feeling less into sex?

  • Stressed out singles

Today, the average person is busier and more consumed by distraction than ever before. Most of us work long hours, maintain busy social calendars and have numerous commitments to family and friends.

To stay on top of everything, the average person checks their cell phone approximately 80 times a day. Why should this matter when it comes to our desire for sex? Because we don’t have an endless supply of energy.

If the energy we do have is used to accomplish things outside of ourselves all the time, it can’t be used to connect to our deepest needs if it’s been depleted.

In my experience, this is the number one reason why people can go weeks or months without even checking in with themselves about their sexual needs.

On top of energy depletion, we are also tapped into what feels like an endless supply of potential sexual partners through online dating sites and apps.

Dating can be another stressor when you’re single. It can be fun, for sure! But there’s a lot that goes into finding a match, sparking up a conversation, and moving that conversation into real life.

Some single folks are so burned out by the process that online interactions are all these relationships end up being, which is fine if you’re a digisexual, but most of us are looking for in-person sexual experiences.

  • Long-term loving couples

Some married couples or couples in a relationship are concerned that they’re not having enough sex. This might be a legitimate issue if they’ve seen a dramatic drop in frequency or quality — or the concern may be rooted in the myth that the sex you have at the beginning of a relationship will continue to be the sex you have for the duration of your relationship.

In general, there is a natural bend towards less frequent and less explosive sex as a relationship develops over time. On average, most long-term couples have sex about once a week. Knowing these two facts can sometimes alleviate any concerns the couple might be having.

Couples are not immune to stress as individuals or as a unit, so some of the stressors mentioned previously for single people apply to couples as well.

Couples also have sources of unique stressors including but not limited to shared household and financial responsibilities, childcare, managing in-law relationships, finding time for individual pursuits and making sure that the overall health of the relationship is good. This is a lot of unsexy stuff that’s all part of a loving relationship.

If any of the above sounds familiar, then there are ways to help you tap back into your sexual connection with yourself and your partners.

Ask yourself, “What kind of sex life do I want?”

Answering this question is a worthwhile activity for anyone regardless of their relationship status.

Being single might mean that your sexual life is deprioritized because of your busy life, but it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to think about what kind of sex and sensual experiences you would like to have as part of your life. This can give you some clarity about what to work towards.

If you are partnered, do this activity separately and then share your results. There may be some things on your partner’s list that will surprise you and will even make your marriage better than ever!

So if stress has made you less interested in sex, here are 3 ways to fix that.

1. Respect your need for pleasure

Many clients tell me that they think about sex regularly, but that they don’t allow themselves to engage in fantasies.

Your body has natural sexual rhythms, and it will communicate to you what it wants. Your job is to listen to it. Of course, you do not have to indulge in every fantasy that pops into your brain, but take note of when you’re having fantasies and rather than pushing those thoughts away allow yourself to entertain them a little longer.

No one is going to know and you’ll benefit from maintaining your connection to your body’s need for sexual pleasure.

2. Find pleasure in everyday activities

When we’re stressed out and living in our head, we forget to use all of our senses, which are crucial for tapping into our sexuality. That’s why I encourage my clients to develop mindfulness as they move through the world.

This can start with the simple act of invoking all of your senses while enjoying your cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning. Create time to hear the sound of the boiling water or coffee pot brewing, take in the sight of the liquid being poured into your cup, smell the aroma, feel the heat of the mug in your hand and notice the taste.

This is a classic mindfulness practice that can set the tone for your day and get you rooted in your body.

3. Put sex on the calendar

This may sound cheesy, but for some couples, putting sex on the calendar is a great tactic to build back that anticipation for sex that was there at the beginning of courtship.

Think about it this way: when you were dating you set up a time in the future to meet and you had all this time before the date to fantasize about how the night would go.

That anticipation is part of the reason why sex is so hot at the beginning of relationships, so building it back in is such a game-changer when couples need to recharge their sex life.

Single folks or individuals within a couple can benefit from calendaring in solo sex as well. I often recommend that busy folks put masturbation on their calendars. Think of it as part of your wellness routine or self-care.

A regular masturbation practice can help you maintain a healthy amount of sexual desire while also reducing stress. For these reasons, your sexual connection to yourself deserves a place on your calendar.

If you feel that you could use some help putting practices in place to re-connect to your sexual self, consider working with a sex and dating coach like myself.

Complete Article HERE!

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Bisexuality Among Black Women Is On The Rise

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By Tristan Bridges and Mignon R. Moore

Since 1972, social scientists have studied the General Social Survey to chart the complexities of social change in the United States.

The survey, which is conducted every couple years, asks respondents their attitudes on topics ranging from race relations to drug use. In 2008, the survey started including a question on sexual identity.

As sociologists who study sexuality, we’ve noticed how more and more women are reporting that they’re bisexual. But in the most recent survey, one subset stood out: 23% of Black women in the 18 to 34 age group identified as bisexual – a proportion that’s nearly three times higher than it was a decade ago.

What forces might be fueling this shift? And what can learn from it?

Bisexuality among women is on the rise

In the 10 years that the General Social Survey has included a question on sexual identity, rates of identification among gay men, lesbian women and bisexual men in the U.S. haven’t changed much.

Bisexual identifying women, on the other hand, account for virtually all of the growth among those who say they’re lesbian, gay or bisexual. Of all of the women who responded to the 2018 survey, more than 1 in 18 identified as bisexual. One decade ago, only 1 in 65 did.

Bisexuality among women is on the rise

In the 10 years that the General Social Survey has included a question on sexual identity, rates of identification among gay men, lesbian women and bisexual men in the U.S. haven’t changed much.

Bisexual identifying women, on the other hand, account for virtually all of the growth among those who say they’re lesbian, gay or bisexual. Of all of the women who responded to the 2018 survey, more than 1 in 18 identified as bisexual. One decade ago, only 1 in 65 did.

The most dramatic shift among bisexual identifying women is happening among young people. In the 2018 sample, more than 1 in 8 women from the ages of 18 to 34 identified as bisexual. There were more than twice as many young female bisexuals as there were young lesbians, gay men and bisexual men combined.

That’s a large shift – and it all happened in a relatively short period of time.

Add race to the figures and you’ll see that young Black women, in particular, account for a disproportionate share of this shift.

A few years ago, we wrote about how approximately 18% of young Black women identified as lesbian or bisexual in the 2016 General Social Survey sample. That rate was more than two times higher than for white women or other racial groups – and almost four times higher than for men of any racial group.

By 2018, more than 25% of young Black women identified as lesbian or bisexual. And the majority of that change can be accounted for by bisexual-identifying Black women.

In other trends, Black women also led the way

Data like these help us to establish a shift is occurring, but they don’t really explain why it’s happening.

Exploring the “why” requires different methods of analysis, and existing studies – like Mignon Moore’s research on gay identity and relationships among Black women – can provide some clues.

But beyond this, other demographic research shows that Black women have led the way in other trends related to gender.

Consider the gender gap in college attendance. As early as 1980, Black women began to outpace Black men in completion of a four-year college degree. It wasn’t until a decade later that white women started earning college degrees at a higher clip than white men.

And in the first half of the 20th century, more unmarried Black women started having children. Eventually, more unmarried white women started having children, too.

Perhaps when it comes to sexuality, Black women are also ahead of the curve. If that’s the case – and if this trend continues – we might expect women of other races to follow suit.

A shortage of men?

Cultural forces might also play a role.

Sociologists Emma Mishel, Paula England, Jessie Ford and Mónica L. Caudillo also analyzed the General Social Survey. Rather than study sexual identities, they studied sexual behavior. Yet they discovered a similar pattern: Young Black women were more likely to engage in same-sex sexual behavior than women and men in other racial and age groups.

They argue that these shifts speak to a larger truth about American culture: It’s more acceptable for women to spurn gender norms because femininity isn’t valued as highly as masculinity. Since masculinity and heterosexuality are closely intertwined, men might believe they’ll suffer a higher social cost for identifying as bisexual.

Others have pointed to the shortage of men hypothesis to explore young Black women’s decisions about relationships and marriage. This too might explain why young Black women, in particular, seem more willing to explore bisexuality.

According to this argument, fewer “marriageable” men create a need for women to consider options beyond heterosexual relationships or marriage. A traditional marriage isn’t as necessary as it once was; since women have more educational and economic opportunities, they can afford to be pickier or, possibly, to explore same-sex relationships.

Another aspect of the hypothesis involves the disproportionately high rates of incarceration of Black men in the U.S. It’s possible that because Black women are, as a group, more likely to live in areas with smaller “pools of marriageable men,” they’re more open to bisexuality.

We’re less convinced by the shortage of men argument because it ignores the fact that incarceration rates of Black men haven’t increased over the past decade. Yet over this period of time, the percentages of young Black women identifying as bisexual have grown substantially.

The challenge of surveying sexuality

Finding reliable ways of measuring sexual identity on surveys is more difficult than you might think, and the trend could have been spurred by something as simple as the way the question is phrased in the General Social Survey:

“Which of the following best describes you?”

  • gay, lesbian or homosexual
  • bisexual
  • heterosexual or straight
  • don’t know

Of the roughly 1,400 people who responded to this question on the 2018 GSS survey, only six responded “don’t know.” Another 27 didn’t respond at all.

But everyone else selected one of those three options.

Perhaps some respondents didn’t want to neatly tie themselves to the category of “gay” or “straight.” If this is the case, “bisexual” almost becomes a default fallback.

Either way, one thing seems clear: Young people – especially young Black women – are more willing to explore their sexuality. And the ways they are sexually identifying themselves on surveys is only one indicator of this change.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Worst Thing About Sex For Nearly A Third of Women

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by Kelly Gonsalves

If I asked you what the worst thing about having sex is, what would you say?

For nearly one out of three women, it’s body shame.

Sex toy company Lovehoney asked over 3,000 people this question. Men’s top concern about sex was when it was over too quickly. But for women, the most commonly reported worst thing about sex was feeling self-conscious—some 30% of women said this.

Why women feel so self-conscious during sex—and how it affects their pleasure.

“Our culture puts a lot of pressure on women to be attractive yet not too sexual—open and receptive to sexual experience but not too knowledgeable or demanding,” certified sex coach Myisha Battle, M.S., explains to mbg. “There is also societal pressure for women’s bodies to conform to an often unattainable standard of beauty. All of this (and sometimes more) contributes to why women feel self-conscious during sex.”

Past research has found body image to be a big roadblock to women’s sexual well-being: Studies have shown feeling bad about your body makes you less likely to advocate for your needs in bed, stand firm in your boundaries, and ask for safer sexual practices. On the other hand, feeling confident in your body—particularly your genitalia—has been linked with being less stressed over “performance” during sex and actually having an easier time getting turned on, lubricated, and having orgasms.

“It’s really challenging to believe in your sense of pleasure when you are constantly questioning whether or not you are living up to standards that the world imposes upon you,” Battle says. “When we don’t feel the best in our bodies, our sex lives can suffer. In my practice I see people who have difficulty with arousal and orgasm as a result of self-monitoring and overthinking. It’s actually very common. When our minds are racing with these thoughts, it can inhibit our ability to tap into physical sensations and dampen our experience of pleasure.”

How to get out of your head during sex.

1. The “M” word.

Yes, it’s about mindfulness—you can’t get away from it!

Mindfulness is deeply tied to sexual pleasure. No matter your gender, if you regularly find yourself feeling self-conscious and anxious about the way your body looks during sex, Battle recommends taking up a meditation or mindfulness practice to be able to monitor your thoughts and learn to release the negative ones.

“Notice when you’re having a self-critical thought. Keep a journal if it’s helpful. You may be surprised at how many times this happens,” she explains. “You can then try replacing each negative thought with a positive one. It takes time and sometimes a lot of effort to come up with something positive, but over time it can be really helpful for cultivating a positive self-image.”

(If you need some ideas for positive thoughts to repeat to yourself about your body, I love feminist life coach and women’s rights lawyer Kara Loewentheil, J.D.’s recommendations.)

2. Rally the troops.

Self-confidence stems from within, but that doesn’t mean the people in your life who love you can’t help you in that journey. Research shows people who talk about sex with their friends tend to have more sexual self-confidence and are more willing to ask for what they want in bed. And if you’re in a relationship, that partner of yours should be worshipping your body—and making it obvious. Another study found people who feel like their partner really appreciates their body are more sexually satisfied, have more desire and orgasms, and are more satisfied with their relationship overall.

3. Develop a body love ritual.

“I also recommend taking some time out of each day to practice body acceptance and self-love. Take a moment to thank your legs for getting you to work, your belly for digesting your food, your arms for helping you carry your groceries, and so on,” Battle says. “We only get one body in this world, and regardless of ability, age, size, or race, every body has the capacity for pleasure and is deserving of it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What do we really know about male desire?

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Not much, according to Canadian sex researchers

Winnipeg relationships therapist Sarah Hunter Murray found a male desire that’s less voracious, indiscriminate and skin deep, and more emotionally complex – fragile, even.

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Although sex researchers historically gave male subjects centre stage, they paid surprisingly little attention to how men actually desire. Today, contemporary sexologists say our cultural understanding of men’s sex drive remains simplistic and leans on old clichés – that male libido is always sky-high, self-centred and ready to go, with practically anyone. Men who aren’t this way are still treated as exceptions, not the rule.

Canadian researchers and clinicians are starting to push back on these ideas by asking deeper questions about the inner world of male desire. They’re looking at how heterosexual men lust (and don’t) within their relationships, what motivates them to have sex with their partners, what frustrates them in their intimate lives and how they process rejection from the women they love. What they’re finding counters much of what’s been previously assumed about men.

“We’ve got this stereotype about men’s desire being constant and unwavering. More recently, we’ve got #MeToo highlighting stories of men’s sexual desire being dangerous, toxic and about power. But what else is going on?” said Winnipeg relationships therapist Sarah Hunter Murray.

Murray interviewed nearly 300 men and spoke to hundreds more over a decade in her therapy practice – executives, truck drivers, athletes, teachers and dads among them. Their insights are included in Murray’s recent book, Not Always in The Mood: The New Science of Men, Sex, and Relationships, which offers a rare glimpse into a world we think we understand, but possibly don’t at all.

Notably absent from Murray’s book are the usual tales of raging male libido. One husband is too stressed out by the family business to think about sex. A boyfriend turns down his girlfriend’s advances for two months as he dwells on an unresolved argument. Another husband tells Murray his sexual interest piques when he and his wife talk late into the night. In her conversations with men, Murray found a male desire that’s less voracious, indiscriminate and skin deep, and more emotionally complex – fragile, even.

While Murray offers a strikingly new perspective on heterosexual male sex drive, other Canadian researchers are studying men’s sexual problems in long-term committed relationships. In Halifax, clinical psychologist Natalie Rosen is looking at why men experience low desire with their partners. At the University of Waterloo, PhD student Siobhan Sutherland is exploring male and female partners’ sexual complaints, which happen to be the same. And at the University of Kentucky, Canadian researcher Kristen Mark mines “sexual desire discrepancy” in couples, finding it’s sometimes wives and girlfriends who are more interested in sex than husbands and boyfriends – guys who find this scenario particularly troubling because of social expectations about the supposedly more carnal male gender.

Their emerging research suggests serious blind spots around male desire are harming relationships and holding couples back from broaching what they want in their intimate lives.

“If we ignore the nuances of sexual desire in men, we risk continuing to perpetuate stereotypes – that men’s sexual interest is uniformly high and independent of context – to the detriment of the many men whose experiences are multifaceted,” said Halifax’s Rosen. “In enhancing our understanding of men’s sexual desire, we can improve individual and couple sexuality and ultimately promote the quality of intimate relationships.”

The Globe spoke to researchers – and men – about busting the most pernicious myths lingering around male desire.

Not in the mood

Despite stereotypical depictions in pop culture, real-world men aren’t always fired up.

“The myth is that men are a sex toy that you can pull out of your closet and it’s always ready to go when you are. Well, no, that’s not actually the case,” said CJ, a 41-year-old government employee in St. John’s who is divorced and now in a relationship with a woman he’s known for two decades. (In order to protect the men’s privacy, full names are not used). “If your time and energy is spent on the adulting – paying bills, working overtime, trying to keep your energy up for elderly parents or young kids – is there really time to connect emotionally and build that bridge that ends up in the bedroom?” said CJ.

Adam, a Kitchener, Ont., retiree who’s been with his wife for more than two decades, also disputed the notion that the male sex drive runs non-stop, no matter what. “If I’m focused on something or upset about something at work, I just want to be alone or work something out in my head. You don’t want to have any kind of interaction with anybody,” said Adam, 67. “My partner used to talk about the ‘tent time’ or the ‘bear time.'”

In conversation with Murray, the Winnipeg relationships therapist, men pointed out that sex wasn’t at the forefront of their brains when they were sick, tired, stressed out at work or feeling emotionally disconnected. “Men’s sexual desire is not a static trait that never changes and is impermeable to outside influences,” wrote Murray, who holds a PhD in human sexuality. “We’ve gotten used to talking about the complexities of women’s desire being affected by how much sleep they’re getting, how much stress they’re under or by being a parent, but we simply don’t talk about this with men,” she said.

Halifax’s Rosen is currently recruiting couples for one of the first studies to look at men struggling with lowered desire within their relationships. “There’s so much pressure in how men’s desire is supposed to conform to the stereotype of always being ready and interested in sex,” said Rosen, an associate professor in psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University and director of the school’s Couples and Sexual Health Research Laboratory. “The men I’ve seen clinically feel a lot of shame around it, like there’s something wrong with them. Their family doctors don’t bring it up with them and they don’t see representations of themselves.”

Faking it

During their first therapy sessions with Murray, men often boasted about their robust sex drives. Subsequent conversations saw them dialing it back. Numerous husbands and boyfriends confessed that “some of their desire was feigned rather than authentic,” Murray wrote.

Men told her that they agreed to sex they didn’t fully want because they felt they had to. Having been socialized all their lives about high-octane male desire, men were playing the part. They were also faking it for the sake of their girlfriends and wives, who took sexual rejection and lagging male libido personally. “Men talked about this fear that their female partner might not be open to them saying ‘no’ to sex,” Murray said.

In St. John’s, CJ copped to faking sexual interest before. “It’s almost on a scale of 1 to 10. I’m not really there but I’m at a 6 and a half so I can go along with it,” CJ said. “Other times you kind of take one for the team, realizing that she’s probably done the same thing for you.”

Through her first interviews, Halifax’s Rosen is finding that men with low sexual interest are still reporting they regularly have sex with their female partners. Rosen said the men felt guilt and obligation to “please their partner to maintain the relationship.”

The female gaze

The standard thinking still goes in heterosexual dynamics: Men do the complimenting (and the objectifying), the desiring and the pursuing – and are naturally content with the setup. Not exactly, the men interviewed said.

“Men really don’t get checked out very often,” said Alexander, a 22-year-old Toronto student who has been with his girlfriend Mary, 21, for more than a year. “We have better sex when she’s complimented me and encouraged me. …It changes the whole tone of the evening,” Alexander said. “If a woman initiates even just one component of sex, that is the biggest vote of confidence.”

In her conversations with hundreds of men, Winnipeg’s Murray found many wanted their spouses and girlfriends to look at them, compliment them and act on their own urges. “Interview after interview, it started to become very clear that the most salient and important experience that increased men’s sexual desire was feeling wanted by their female partner,” Murray wrote. “A lot of women don’t think to outwardly demonstrate their desire for their male partners.”

Waterloo’s Sutherland asked 117 heterosexual couples in long-term relationships about their problems in bed for a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in March, and found men and women voicing pretty much the same concerns: frequency of sex, initiation and how much their partners showed interest. “We used to think that women just wanted to be romanced and men just care about sex. That’s not true. Men want to feel wanted as well, and for women to show interest in them,” Sutherland said.

Beyond skin deep

Current assumptions about male libido still often go like this: sex for men is about getting off, a practically robotic function.

Look deeper and many men balk at that assumption. For Kitchener’s Adam, intimacy is how he connects with his wife. “I may touch my partner … I’m not intending to be crude, but sometimes she reacts in a way that [suggests] this is the only motive I would have,” Adam said. “There are times when men are struggling to find a way to show intimacy. A touch is presumed to be a claim on the body, instead of just a way to connect and make some contact.”

Toronto’s Alexander expressed frustration with literature and pop culture that depict sex as solely about physical gratification for men. “If we’ve just had sex, I don’t want to go to sleep,” he said of his girlfriend. “I want to reflect on what just happened with her.”

In research interviews and therapy sessions with Murray, husbands and boyfriends described feeling their sexual-interest spike on date nights, long walks and during close conversations – the stuff of rom-coms. “To hear men talking about romantic and sweet things about their partner that turn them on, it challenged my own assumptions,” Murray said.

The therapist argued that women who are constantly cynical about the nature of their partners’ sexual desire might be missing the bigger picture. “When we have a limited belief about what turns our partner on, we unfortunately miss the more complex, nuanced, and meaningful ways that he feels desire for us,” Murray wrote. “Many of men’s emotional bids for connection go unnoticed.”

Mars, Venus and Planet Earth

Waterloo’s Sutherland found that women and men voiced virtually all the same desire-related problems in their relationships. Here, she hit on something sexologists increasingly note: When it comes to intimacy, there is often less difference between the genders than there is between individual people. “There used to be this idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus,” Sutherland said. “We find more and more in our research that it’s just not the case.”

Winnipeg’s Murray found gender norms were limiting couples’ experiences in bed, particularly the sexual scripts that tell men they need to pursue and women they need to be the gatekeeper. CJ agreed: “If you’re conforming to the same roles, if you’re not stepping outside a little bit, it has a detrimental effect. It becomes a flow chart: I initiate. You respond. If yes, then bedroom. If bedroom, then missionary.”

Speaking to distraught couples, Murray noticed that false assumptions about raging male libido left both men and women feeling inadequate: Some women questioned whether their own lower desire was dysfunctional, while some men who didn’t experience near-constant sexual urges told Murray they felt broken.

The author wants relationships to become a place of respite from gendered expectations about desire that have little, if anything, to do with individual couples.

“These misconceptions hold us in antiquated boxes about what men and women should be, and don’t leave room to have a new discourse around what we actually want to experience,” Murray said. “It doesn’t let us be our authentic selves.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Can’t Climax?

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This Might Be Why

By Samantha Vincenty

Ever needed to sneeze—nose tickling, whole body clenched, staring up at a light in hopes that a big “ACHOO!” will free you—only for the sneeze to somehow stall out, leaving you shaking clenched fists as you accept that the release just ain’t happening? Not being able to have an orgasm after a big build-up often feels like that…times a million.

Inability to orgasm is frustrating for someone trying to achieve sexual release through sex or masturbation. Chronic problems reaching climax can also sap the joy from a couple’s sex life when disappointment spoils what’s meant to be a playful encounter: Eventually, you’re worrying about whether “it” will happen before your clothes even hit the floor. Or worse, sex becomes a fraught activity and you avoid it altogether.

If you’ve experienced trouble reaching orgasm, you’re far from alone, and it happens to both women and men. Here are some expert tips on getting there if you can’t orgasm, but would very much like to.

Anorgasmia is the persistent inability to achieve orgasm.

Not a failure to achieve orgasm, mind you—in fact, let’s ban the word “failure” in this arena from here on out (we’ll touch on why later). The word “inability” is a tricky one too, says Anna Kaye, a counselor and certified sex therapist who works with adults struggling with relationship and sexuality issues.

“The fact that one doesn’t have an orgasm sometimes, most of the time, or even ever, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are UNABLE to have one,” Kaye explains. “It means that in that circumstance, with that partner, with that moment’s mindset, one doesn’t.”

In other words, even if you’ve been affected by anorgasmia for most of your life, you’ve got plenty of reasons to hope that can change.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are four types of anorgasmia: Lifelong anorgasmia (have never had an orgasm), acquired anorgasmia (you’ve had orgasms before, but now they elude you), situational anorgasmia (you can only come a certain way, such as through masturbation), generalized anorgasmia (you can’t climax, period). Understanding which type describes your situation can light the path to treatment.

Visit a doctor to rule out medical issues.

“Certain medical conditions, like diabetes or multiple sclerosis, can interfere with orgasm,” says Joshua Gonzalez, an L.A.-based doctor trained in sexual medicine. Gonzalez and Kaye both note that certain medications, particularly SSRI-class antidepressants, can wallop your sex drive as well.

Those are far from the only biological factors that may be at play, which is why voicing your concerns to a qualified doctor can help. “Additional reasons include hormonal issues, pelvic trauma or surgery, spinal cord injury, and cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Gonzalez says.

If the difficulty only occurs with a certain sex partner, that may be a red flag.

If you’ve previously been able to climax but can’t make it happen with someone you’re definitely attracted to, your instincts may be telling you something.

“Women may have trouble achieving an orgasm if they are trying to make it happen with a person whom their gut doesn’t feel good about,” Kaye says. “In other words, the relationship isn’t right, or the person isn’t right for them.”

Kaye points out that communication problems can be at play, so before you kick them out of bed for good, voice your concerns.

Past negative associations with sex are worth exploring with a therapist.

Dark thoughts about your sexual self may not be at the forefront of your mind in bed, but it’s possible they’re roiling under the surface. “Sociocultural beliefs about sex, underlying anxiety and depression, and prior emotional, physical, or sexual abuse can also negatively affect orgasm,” Gonzalez says.

If you haven’t, consider unpacking your experience with a trusted mental health professional. “Past unprocessed sexual trauma can lead to the body holding back, feeling unsafe, and therefore not allowing the person to surrender to an orgasm,” Kaye adds.

Pressure is an orgasm-killer.

You might try shelving the expectations for an orgasm altogether, so worry doesn’t snuff out your libido and chase hopes of climax further away.

“Don’t work hard or get frustrated trying to make an orgasm happen, because in that situation it won’t,” says Kaye. “Instead, focus on intimate caressing, stroking, and playfulness with your partner. An orgasm may just be a wonderful side effect of the intimacy that blows your socks off (if they were still on).”

Heterosexual women, and their partners, can try getting to know the clitoris better.

According to Indiana University’s National Survey of Sex and Behavior, “About 85% of men report that their partner had an orgasm at the most recent sexual event; this compares to the 64% of women who report having had an orgasm at their most recent sexual event.” Those numbers suggest men think their getting their female partner off more than they actually are.

Therapist Ian Kerner, author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman, jokes that this is because men tend to be “ill-cliterate,” and clitoral stimulation is a major (for some, even necessary) part of achieving orgasm for women.

“The clitoris is the powerhouse of the female orgasm and responds to persistent stimulation of the vulva, rather than penetration of the vagina,” says Kerner, who calls the external part of the clitoris “the visible tip of the orgasm iceberg.” A significant number of women need clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm—as opposed to penetration—so penis-in-vagina intercourse may not take you over the edge.

Unsure where your clitoris is? Check out Planned Parenthood’s handy female sexual anatomy explainer. And speaking of getting hand-y…

Masturbation is the best way to learn what you need.

We can extol the many benefits of self love (and we have); it’s truly the best trial-and-error practice around when it comes to coming.

“It’s important for women to be able to masturbate and give themselves an orgasm, so they can create the ‘neural wiring’ for orgasms to happen,” says Kerner. If you find that your hand doesn’t get the job done, you can pick up one of these excellent vibrators for beginners</a

For men, though, Kerner cautions that masturbation can occasionally hinder a man’s ability to orgasm with a partner “due to a combination of pressure and friction that’s difficult to replicate during sex.” He recommends either taking a break, or trying your non-dominant hand instead.

You may not be getting enough foreplay.

If an orgasm is a flame, foreplay is the gasoline. Foreplay is a catchall term for any pre-sex play that heightens excitement: Deep kissing, footsie, nipple stimulation, a striptease, dirty talk—the list is honestly endless, so long as it turns you on.

Foreplay makes partners more present in the moment, can foster a sense of safety through doting attention, and, as Kerner points out, turns up the heat: “A lack of adequate foreplay or percolation of arousal is also often at the root of a woman’s lack of orgasm during partnered sex.”

Is stress chasing your orgasms away?

“In my clinical experience men are able to get interested in sex even when external stressors are high with chores, deadlines, and fatigue,” Kerner says. “Conversely, many women complain that during sex it’s very hard for them to get out of their heads and into a state of arousal.”

Learning how to relax and let go is easier said than done, but Kerner suggests couples work together to reduce external stressors outside the bedroom, and then create a soothing environment that sets the stage for intimacy. Light candles, bust out your softest sheets and try exchanging massages with your partner.

Dream up a hot fantasy (especially during solo sessions).

Getting lost in a sexual fantasy is another way to put life’s stress and distraction out of mind and achieve the big O. Kerner advises clients not to feel guilty or less present when they’re imagining a hot scenario—”it’s really okay to fantasize during sex”—and suggests strengthening that fantasizing-muscle while masturbating.

Take your sweet time.

Play, experimentation, and patience are essential in discovering (or rediscovering) how you orgasm, so there’s no need to cut solo or partnered sex short because they’ve finished and you don’t think it’s going to happen for you.

Try staying in the moment for five, ten, fifteen minutes more to see what happens, and go heavy on the affection. And remember that intensity varies by person, so if you don’t experience the kind of leg-shaking, eye-rolling Os you see in movies, that’s not a failure on your part (there’s that word again

As Kaye says, “The success and satisfaction of lovemaking doesn’t come from how fast one reaches an orgasm, but how much one enjoys it.”

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