Monthly Archives: January 2018

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Puberty is starting earlier for many children


– sex education must catch up with this new reality

Some girls as young as six and seven are showing the early signs of puberty.


The British government is consulting on a new curriculum for sex and relationship education in English schools. This change provides a timely opportunity to update how, when and what children are taught about puberty.

Astonishingly, the Department for Education (DfE) guidance on sex education has not changed for nearly two decades. But after concerted lobbying, research, and the recommendations of multiple committees of MPs, in 2017, the Children and Social Work Act finally acknowledged the need to provide “sex education for the 21st century”.

New statutory guidance for schools will be published following the public consultation, which closes in mid February. From 2019, secondary schools will be obliged to offer relationships and sex education, and primary schools to offer relationships education. Parents will retain the right to remove their children from sex education – other than that which is covered in the science curriculum – but will not be allowed to remove them from relationships education.

These changes are underpinned by widespread concern about the negative effects of digital technologies on young people’s sexual lives, particularly sexting, child sexual abuse and exploitation, and “strangers online”. The new curriculum will, it seems, teach children and young people what healthy relationships look like in the fraught context of smart phones, online porn and Instagram.

The new puberty

But the new curriculum should also take account of what is happening to the bodies of young people in the 21st century. Not only do kids seem to be growing up much faster today, many of them are actually starting to develop physically earlier than ever before.

According to many scientists and clinicians, we are living in the era of “the new puberty” in which increasing numbers of girls start to develop sexually at age seven or eight. In the 1960s, only 1% of girls would enter puberty before their ninth birthday. Today, up to 40% of some populations in both rich and poor countries are doing so.

Sexual development is also being stretched out for longer, with many girls starting to grow breasts and pubic hair two to three years before they have their first period. While there is less evidence that boys’ development is changing so rapidly, some studies also indicate that earlier entry into puberty’s initial stages is becoming more common.

The causes of these changes remain unclear. Many scientists point to the simultaneous increase in childhood obesity, while others study the effects of environmental chemicals, such as Bisphenol A or BPA (which is found in some plastics), on the body. Other research has explored the effects of social factors, including family structures, experiences of early life trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage. This range of explanations points to how complex a phenomenon puberty is.

The current DfE guidance states that:

All children, including those who develop earlier than the average, need to know about puberty before they experience the onset of physical changes.

But it leaves schools to decide, in consultation with parents, “the appropriate age” to teach children about puberty. In 2017, the Personal, Social and Health Education Association argued that this should be when they’re age seven. But talking to seven-year-olds about breasts, pubic hair, body odour and genital changes may not be easy for many teachers, or for many parents. Being seven is supposed to be a time of freedom, play and innocence.

Getting ready for puberty.

Updating sex education

Children who develop early, present a challenge both to cultural thinking about sex and to sex education policy. While many parents and young people want updated sex education, this usually comes with the proviso that such education be “age appropriate”. Although very important, this phrase is painfully vague – and it’s unclear whether it refers to chronological age, emotional age or stage of physical development.

Today, some seven-year-olds may be emotionally young but also starting to grow breasts and pubic hair. Other early developers who have experienced early life stress – such as abandonment or abuse – may feel more mature than their peers and be ready earlier to learn about puberty and sexuality. The widening gap in the timing of boys’ and girls’ sexual development also poses a challenge. Teaching girls separately, or earlier than boys – the strategy in my own child’s primary school – risks reinforcing harmful gender norms and notions of secrecy around issues such as menstruation.

Instead, perhaps we could try to disentangle puberty from teenage sexuality and to develop accounts of puberty that do not frame it as the dawn of adolescence. A seven-year-old with breasts is not “becoming a woman”, and a menstruating nine-year-old is probably not going to want to have intercourse anytime soon.

Ultimately, this means moving beyond traditional portrayals of female bodies that focus on reproductive capacity in order to explore wider meanings and experiences of being a girl. Growing up is also about new horizons, such as strength, health, even pleasure. Sex and relationships education might even then include puberty as something to be anticipated, noticed, even celebrated – rather than as yet another risk.

Complete Article HERE!


Recharge your sexual energy


If lack of energy has drained your sex life, there are ways to reignite the passion.

close-up of a mature couple relaxing in bed at home

Your sexual drive can stay high late in life, but often your energy for sex can diminish. Low energy not only affects your sex life, but can carry over to other parts of your life, too. You can become apathetic, no longer find pleasure in favorite activities, and become more sedentary.

However, many of these issues related to lost sexual energy can be addressed. “Never think lack of energy means an end to your sex life, and there is nothing you can do about it,” says Dr. Sharon Bober, director of the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Sexual Health Program. “There are many strategies you can adopt to get back in the game.”

Find your energy drainers

Your lost sexual vim and vigor is often related to some kind of physical, emotional, or relationship issue. Here’s a look at the most common causes.

Low hormones. Lack of sexual energy could be due to male hypogonadism, which occurs when the testicles do not produce enough testosterone, the male sex hormone. In fact, fatigue is one of the most common side effects.

Testosterone levels drop about 1% each year beginning in a man’s late 30s, and could fall by as much as 50% by age 70. (A blood test from your doctor can determine if you have low testosterone.) Testosterone replacement therapy, which is given via absorbable pellet implants, topical gels, patches, and injections, can often help spark sexual energy in men with low levels.

Findings from a study published online Aug. 1, 2016, by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that a year of testosterone therapy improved libido in 275 men (average age 72) with confirmed low testosterone. Compared with men in a placebo group, frequency of sexual arousal increased by about 50%, and they were able to have almost twice as many erections.

Speak with your doctor about whether testosterone therapy is an option for you. Long- term risks are not well known, but there is concern for an increased risk of heart disease and prostate problems.

Erectile dysfunction. Men with erectile dysfunction can experience low energy because the condition can be a blow to their self-esteem. “Men may feel embarrassed about it or worry they will be judged in some way if they cannot perform as well as they once did, so motivation and energy for sex gets depleted,” says Dr. Bober.

In this case, speak with your doctor about taking an ED drug or exploring other options for getting or keeping an erection, like using a penile pump.

Even though talking about ED may be difficult, it’s important to open up lines of communication with your partner. “For many men, it can help relieve stress to know they are not alone and someone is there for support.”

Poor sleep. Lack of sleep can be one of the main energy zappers. Poor sleep can increase stress levels and interfere with how your body and brain store and use energy, which is why you feel so sluggish after not sleeping well. And if you are tired, you have less energy for sex. Talk with your doctor if you have trouble sleeping. Steps like changing medication or dose, cognitive behavioral therapy, and adjusting your diet and sleeping environment can often improve sleep quality.

Lack of movement. When you have no sexual energy, you need to get moving. Regular exercise is one of the best natural energy boosters. Numerous studies have linked exercise with improving fatigue, especially among sedentary people. You don’t need much to get a jolt — 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise can do the trick. Focus on a combination of cardio and weight-bearing exercises like brisk walking and strength training.

Get checked out

Many medical conditions can affect sexual drive, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. So be diligent about regular medical check-ups. Also, many drugs, including blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, and tranquilizers can produce erectile difficulties. Consult with your doctor if you take any of these.

Back in sync

Lack of energy also could be relationship-oriented, if you and your partner are not in sexual sync. For instance, you may have energy for sex, but your partner doesn’t, or at least not at the same level.

“Sex may not always be comfortable for women because of menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness. If sexual activity is physically uncomfortable, not surprisingly, a woman’s sex drive also diminishes,” says Dr. Bober. “This can affect both partners, and if a man is worried that he might hurt his partner, that will certainly affect his interest in sex, too.”

In this situation, you need to communicate with your partner about how important sex is to you. It’s not about making demands, but about finding ways to explore mutual goals, such as pleasure and closeness.

“Perhaps it means negotiating a compromise just like you do in other aspects of a relationship,” says Dr. Bober. “Partners find ways to share everything from household chores to bill planning, and sex shouldn’t be any different.”

There’s a lot of room to find common ground, she adds. “There are many ways to be sexually active with your partner besides traditional intercourse. For example, you can ask your partner to be with you when you pleasure yourself, which feels intimate and can allow both partners to feel connected.”

Talk about it

Sometimes the sexual barrier is not about sex at all. An open dialogue also can reveal issues beneath the surface that may interfere with your partner’s sexual energy.

“Your partner may desire sex as much as you, but there may be underlying problems in the relationship that could affect sexual desire and need to be addressed,” says Dr. Bober.

Finally, another way to ignite lost sexual energy is to do new things together. “Couples can get into routines that can make for boring sex lives,” says Dr. Bober. “It can be fun to speak with your partner about ways to keep the relationship interesting and erotic.”

Many times, this can be done outside the bedroom, like having more date nights, going for long weekend romantic getaways, or even doing simple activities together like joining a club or taking a class.

“Investing in change can energize both you and your partner, and most important, pave the way for a renewed sense of closeness and novelty that is great for all couples,” says Dr. Bober.

Complete Article HERE!


Here’s The Real Truth About Polyamory In The Black Community


“I don’t believe in rules. Rules are about trying to wall off an insecurity.”

by Damona Hoffman

First, let’s get a few ground rules straight. The polyamorists I spoke with do not want to be seen as sex hungry monsters who swing from partner to partner. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of polyamory is the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time. So for clarity, we are talking about emotional and physical intimacy here, not just sex.

“Polyamory, Swinging, Open Marriages, Open Relationships, Monogamish and more all fall under the umbrella of non-monogamy but people who are polyamorous are more interested in the relationship and don’t just want to have sex with people,” says editor of the online magazine, Crystal Farmer. “However, a lot poly people have sexual relationships while there are also people who don’t have sexual relationships, who are asexual or don’t have a need for a sexual connection, but consider themselves polyamorous because they are in emotional relationships with other people.”

Are you following? This means you can be polyamorous through sexual relationships or non-sexual emotional relationships or, for most polyamorous people, something in between. The bottom line is that you don’t belong to just one person.

Crystal defines herself as “solo-poly.” “I consider myself my primary partner,” she proclaims. Other than her 7-year-old daughter Crystal explains that she doesn’t want to live with someone again although she says she’s open to having relationships with men, women and gender non-binary individuals.

She was first introduced to the lifestyle by her ex-husband, who wanted an open marriage but asked her to maintain a “one penis policy.” This means that he could bring other women into the partnership and she could have relationships with other females but men were off limits.

Author and speaker Kevin Patterson, founder of the blog, has a very different point of view. He and his wife, who have been together for 16 years, have both maintained relationships with girlfriends and boyfriends with complete trust and transparency.

“I don’t believe in rules. Rules are about trying to wall off an insecurity,” Kevin told me. “When I’m triggered, it inspires me to ask where the insecurity is coming from.” He feels that his partners should all have autonomy.

In his forthcoming book, Love Is Not Color Blind, Kevin discusses what it is like being a Black polyamorous man just as he has done in speaking engagements around the country for years. Borrowing Mahershala Ali’s quote on the Black American experience, “We move through the world playing defense, we don’t have the capacity to play offense,” Kevin says he feels like he’s always defending the legitimacy of his marriage and his decision to be polyamorous to family, the church, and the Black community.

Denika, a 41-year-old polyamorous woman, also felt ostracized from her family and community for choosing to live her life in this way until she discovered the Black polyamorous community online.

A quick search of in my own city of Los Angeles yielded 19 options of polyamory groups to join. But just how diverse are these groups? Crystal, who is based just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, says that the groups she attends are predominantly white.

She is open to dating someone of a different culture but she admits that she feels more comfortable when there are other people of color in her poly groups.

In addition to meetup groups, OKCupid seems to be a popular date source for the non-monogamous.

“I am a happily married man in a polyamorous relationship” is the first line in Kevin’s dating profile. He finds it easier to date in circles where they already know about your lifestyle so you don’t have to “edu-date” a partner about how non-monogamy works.

Writer/director Alicia Bunyan-Sampson, 29, began using dating sites when she was new to the polyamory community but quickly found that her Blackness was exoticized among the couples on her polyamory dating site. She thought the first message she received, with the subject line “Ebony Seeking Ivory,” was an anomaly but when her inbox filled up with 200 similar messages, she retreated from the world of polyamory.

Although she still feels she is polyamorous, Alicia says in her essay “Diary of a Polyamorous Black Girl” that “white is the face of polyamory and has been for quite some time. It more than likely will remain that way. The face of the world is white – why wouldn’t the poly community be the same?”

Crystal sees there is more shame around polyamory in the African-American community because of our roots in Christianity and conservative values.

Denika recalls a time when her sister asked how her relationship with God played into her decision to be polyamorous. Denika sees intimacy and religion as two separate things yet that doesn’t stop her from noticing a look of disapproval when she tells people in the black community that she is polyamorous.

I turned to intimalogist Dr. Kat Smith to understand the psychology behind the polyamory movement. She sees it as a return to our evolutionary roots. “It goes to show how animalistic humans really are.” If you look at many animal packs, the leader is able to have sex with multiple females. “We are sexual beings first,” says Dr. Kat.

Her concern, however, is that women are ‘going rogue with sexuality.’ She warns, “It’s one thing to claim your freedom and sexual liberation. Another thing to put yourself in harms way by not respecting your body.”

Crystal was met with this sentiment so often that she wrote a blog about it for She wanted to make it safe for other people who feel like her. “I like having sex but that doesn’t mean that I’m compromising my values or putting my life in danger just for sex,” Crystal declares. “I’m a polyamorous person and I’m proud of it.”

Trust seems to be the highest priority among all the poly individuals I spoke to. Denika notes, “I need to be able to trust people. Sometimes it can be hurtful but I will be upfront with you so you’re not mislead in the end.” She clarifies that she doesn’t do hookups. “If all you want is sex then you need to be upfront with your intentions but don’t waste my time,” Denika explains.

Is polyamory “right” for African-Americans? You will have to draw your own conclusion. What I can say is that the polyamorous people I spoke with all seemed happy with their decision to live life in this way. It’s evident from the growing popularity of sites like and that there is at least a curiosity and an openness to exploring non-traditional relationship options.

Denika’s advice is to “know yourself, explore your sexuality, intimacy, sense of self and be open to something different.”

Complete Article HERE!


Same-sex couples experience unique stressors


Study by SF State professor finds that institutionalized discrimination has lasting effects

Professor of Sociology Allen LeBlanc

By Lisa Owens Viani

Stressors faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals have been well studied, but San Francisco State University Professor of Sociology Allen LeBlanc and his colleagues are among the first to examine the stressors that operate at the same-sex couple level in two new studies conducted with support from the National Institutes of Health. “People in same-sex relationships are at risk for unique forms of social stress associated with the stigma they face as sexual minority individuals and as partners in a stigmatized relationship form,” said LeBlanc.

In the first study, recently published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, LeBlanc and colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with 120 same-sex couples from two study sites, Atlanta and San Francisco, and identified 17 unique pressures that affect LGB couples. Those range from a lack of acceptance by families to discrimination or fears of discrimination at work, public scrutiny, worries about where to live and travel in order to feel safe, and experiences and fears of being rejected and devalued. The researchers also found that same-sex couple stressors can emerge when stress is contagious or shared between partners and when stress “discrepancies” — such as one partner being more “out” than the other — occur.

“We wanted to look beyond the individual, to look at how stress is shared and how people are affected by virtue of the relationships they’re in, the people they fall in love with and the new ways couples experience stress if they’re in a stigmatized relationship form,” said LeBlanc. “One of those is feeling that society doesn’t value your relationship equally.”

“Changing laws is one thing, but changing hearts and minds is another.”

That perception is the focus of a second study just published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. LeBlanc found that feelings of being in a “second-class” relationship are associated with mental health issues — such as greater depression and problematic drinking — even after taking into account the beneficial impact of gaining legal recognition through marriage. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, but the effects of long-term institutionalized discrimination can linger, according to LeBlanc.

“Our work is a stark reminder that legal changes will not quickly or fully address the longstanding mental health disparities faced by sexual minority populations,” said LeBlanc. “Changing laws is one thing, but changing hearts and minds is another.”

Even though people in same-sex relationships experience many unique challenges, research also shows that having a good primary intimate partnership is important for a person’s well-being, which is true for both heterosexual and LGB couples. “The unique challenges confronting same-sex couples emanate from the stigma and marginalization they face from society at large, not from anything that is unique about their relationships in and of themselves,” said LeBlanc. LeBlanc’s study builds on an emerging body of research suggesting that legal recognition of same-sex relationships is associated with better mental health among LGB populations — as has long been suggested in studies of legal marriage among heterosexual populations. “This new research suggests that legal marriage is a public health issue,” said LeBlanc. “When people are denied access in an institutionalized, discriminatory way, it appears to affect their mental health.”

LeBlanc said transgender individuals were not included in the studies because of other stressors unique to them; he noted that another study focused specifically on trans- and gender-nonconforming individuals is underway. He hopes his research will help people better understand and support not just same-sex couples but also other stigmatized relationships, including interracial/ethnic relationships or partnerships with age differences or different religious backgrounds. “It’s not just about civil rights for LGB persons,” he explained. “It’s about science and how society can be more supportive of a diversity of relationships that include people from all walks of life.”

Complete Article HERE!


How to enjoy sex even when your mental ill-health is working against you


Anxiety and low self-esteem can seriously impact your sex life


Ever had one of those days when your brain seems to be dead set on working against you?

You’re planning a nice bit of sexy time – whether with a partner or simply some solo fun – but your head’s just not in it.

However much you might want to get jiggy with it, your brain is skipping around elsewhere and you just can’t concentrate, let alone roll around in orgasmic delight.

So what causes your head to seemingly separate from your body at just the moment you want to be able to focus on fun times?

All too often it boils down to lack of confidence in yourself and what you’re doing.

If you have problems with self esteem, it can trickle into all areas of your life – and that includes the bedroom.

The saying ‘first you have to love yourself’ is bit of a cliche – but like most cliches, it’s actually true. Many things can sap your confidence, both mental and physical.

For my friend Amy, the problem is a lack of confidence caused by physical issues.

The problem has grown over the years, to the stage where it’s such a big issue that she’s unsure how to even start working through it.

‘I was born with cerebral palsy and I also have ME and fibromyalgia,’ Amy says.

‘I’ve gone from being moderately active and social to spending most of my time at home and sleeping a lot.

‘I was never particularly confident with guys because I have always been overweight.

‘I’ve had four sexual partners so far, three men and a woman. All were basically one night stands that were pretty unsatisfactory for me (and probably them too).

‘I’ve not had sex in years now and have never really dated anyone.

‘I’m pretty fed up of that to be honest but I feel quite isolated socially and wary of anyone who might take an interest because I feel so unattractive.’

You need to learn to love yourself

My personal suggestion in any situation like this always boils down to that same cliche – you have to learn to love yourself first.

Mirrors, masturbation and practice is the key.

Look at yourself so that you’re used to what your own body looks like and learn what really turns you on.

If you practice this alone then you’ll have all the more confidence when it comes to getting down to it with someone else in the room.

Amy’s story is just one of many I hear all the time from people whose sex lives have become unsatisfactory through no fault of their own.

I spoke to relationship and sexuality counsellor Jennifer Deacon and asked for her general advice on separating sex from anxiety.

‘When you’re anxious it’s often hard to feel turned on – or even have any desire at all.

‘That in turn can feed the anxiety more, particularly if you’re in a relationship where you might feel you’re letting your partner down, bringing up a whole heap more anxiety.

‘As with any anxiety the first thing is to try and find that tricky balance between reflecting on what’s going on with your thoughts and over-analysing.

‘What’s stopping you – is it the thought of being naked with someone else? The physical acrobatics that you might feel you ought to be performing?

‘Or is your sexual desire being suppressed because of meds that you’re taking?

‘Try to reflect on what’s going on, and then work through the ‘what ifs’ and ‘shoulds’ that often make up a huge part of anxious thoughts.

‘If you have a partner, try to communicate with them what you need – for example if you’re missing intimacy but are scared of initiating hugs or cuddles because you’re not sure you want full sex, then try to find a way to talk about this with them.

‘If your anxiety has roots in a trauma that you’ve experienced then communication becomes even more important – both communicating with yourself as to what you need and want, and communicating with your partner so that they can support you.

‘Lack of libido can be a common side effect from medication so if you notice that your sexual desire has waned since you started a new medication or changed your dose, consider discussing this with your GP or specialist.’

Many prescription drugs do indeed have side effects that affect the libido – and doctors aren’t always up front about explaining the risks.

Okay, so ‘losing interest in sex’ might be a long way down the list of worrying potential side effects, but given that antidepressants often cause this issue, I’m always amazed that it isn’t discussed more.

Sex is a healthy part of life and if you still want it but struggle to get any joy out of it, that’s going to affect your happiness levels.

After literally decades of living with chronic anxiety, I’ve been through endless different drugs in the hope of finding one that will help without ruining the rest of my life.

The problem is that drugs affect everyone differently – what works brilliantly for one person can potentially have drastically negative effects on another.

The first antidepressant I was given was Prozac.

Back then it was the big name in drug therapy and widely considered to be suitable for everyone.

And yes, it helped my depression – but it also completely removed my ability to orgasm.

I still wanted to – my sex drive itself wasn’t affected in any way – but I simply couldn’t ‘get there’.

I still regale people about ‘that time I gave myself RSI through too much w*nking’ – it’s a funny story now, but at the time it was utterly true and completely miserable.

I went back to the doctor and had my meds changed.

At the last count, I think I’ve tried about thirteen different anxiety meds and I still haven’t found one that I can cope with.

Ironically, if I was happy to lose my libido then several of them would have been perfect – but why should we be expected to go without one of the most enjoyable life experiences?

Personally, that makes me just as miserable as being anxious or depressed, so it invalidates the positives anyway.

Currently I’m med-free – and not very happy about it – but at least I still have my sex life.

For some people, finding the right medication without it affecting their libido will be easy.

But everyone has to find their own balance – some might prefer to take the meds and sacrifice their physical enjoyment.

But it’s okay to want both.

Complete Article HERE!