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.
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.
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.
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.
If lack of energy has drained your sex life, there are ways to reignite the passion.
[Y]our 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.
“I don’t believe in rules. Rules are about trying to wall off an insecurity.”
by Damona Hoffman
[F]irst, 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 BlackandPoly.org, 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 PolyRoleModels.tumblr.com, 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 Meetup.com 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 BlackandPoly.org. 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 BlackandPoly.org and PolyRoleModels.tumblr.com 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.”
[S]tressors 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.”
[E]ver 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.’
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.
The quest for sexual satisfaction is as old as civilization itself. Can 21st-century medicine unravel the secret? Despite good-quality clinical studies, the holy grail of aphrodisiacs remains to be found.
[T]he quest for sexual satisfaction is as old as civilization itself. Can 21st-century medicine unravel the secret? Despite good-quality clinical studies, the holy grail of aphrodisiacs remains to be found.
For many couples, a happy sex life is key for long-term happiness. But sexual dysfunction and loss of interest in sex are common issues, affecting sexual happiness and relationship satisfaction.
In 2015, a panel of experts reviewed scientific studies investigating sexual dysfunction in men and women.
Writing in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, they conclude that “[…] that the most frequent sexual dysfunctions for women are desire and arousal dysfunctions. In addition, there is a large proportion of women who experience multiple sexual dysfunctions.”
Are aphrodisiacs the answer to getting our sex lives back on track?
What are aphrodisiacs?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “[A]ny product that bears labeling claims that it will arouse or increase sexual desire, or that it will improve sexual performance, is an aphrodisiac drug product.”
Bold claims have been made about many potential aphrodisiacs, which range from commonly used spices and exotic plant extracts to animal organs and ground insects.
Many of these are steeped in history and long-held cultural beliefs, but little scientific evidence actually exists to show that they have the desired effects.
Some products, such as yohimbine — which is extracted from the bark of the West African Yohimbe tree — have been linked with severe health risks, such as heart attacks and seizures, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Luckily, we are slowly emerging from the dark ages of aphrodisiac research, with the number of good-quality studies — aiming to get to the bottom of which compounds are safe and how they work — steadily increasing.
Ginkgo and ginseng
In a review of the scientific evidence underpinning natural aphrodisiacs, Dr. Elizabeth West, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California at Irvine, and Dr. Michael Krychman, from the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach, explain that “while the data are still limited, ginkgo, ginseng, maca, and Tribulus have promising data behind them.”
Ginkgo has been shown to increase blood flow to the peripheral organs, including the genitals. While one study showed an improvement in sexual function in both men and women, these findings were not supported in another study, according to Drs. West and Krychman.
Ginkgo is well-tolerated by most people, but it can cause risk of excessive bleeding, they caution.
Several double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies support the notion that ginseng is effective for erectile dysfunction, and — to a lesser studied degree — can improve sexual arousal in menopausal women.
As with ginkgo, there may be side effects, which include minor gastrointestinal symptoms. Those with hormone-sensitive cancers should avoid using ginseng.
Maca and Tribulus terrestris
According to Drs. West and Krychman, “Research in rodents has shown that maca [an Andean root vegetable] effectively enhanced libido and improved erectile function after supplementation.”
Although three clinical studies showed improvement in sexual function in women and men, another trial did not.
Tribulus terrestris, which is a plant traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, contains a compound that is converted to dehydroepiandrosterone, a natural steroid hormone.
“A rodent study showed increased sperm production after Tribulus supplementation,” say Drs. West and Krychman. Sexual satisfaction in the women taking Tribulus terrestrial was improved in several studies — including a 2017 trial — while semen quality and erectile dysfunction in men also saw a boost.
Not ‘recognized as safe and effective’
Despite the increase in good-quality clinical studies, the FDA caution that “[t]here is a lack of adequate data to establish general recognition of the safety and effectiveness of any […] ingredients […] for OTC [over-the-counter] use as an aphrodisiac.”
They issue a further warning:
“Based on evidence currently available, any OTC drug product containing ingredients for use as an aphrodisiac cannot be generally recognized as safe and effective.”
So, before you rush off to stock up on any purported aphrodisiac, it might be worth bearing this warning in mind. Talking to your healthcare provider, rather than taking matters into your own hands, could be a safer option altogether.
[Y]ou’re supposed to be able to tell your doctor anything. But how are patients supposed to know what to tell their doctors if the doctors don’t ask the necessary questions in the first place? When it comes to sexual health screening, many doctors either missed the class in medical school that was supposed to teach them to ask patients about sexual health questions, or their lack of attention to sexual health is a conscious choice. Bespoke Surgical recently conducted a study of 1,000 Americans of various ages and sexual identities to hear what they’ve been asked by their doctor on the topic. The results suggest few doctors are asking questions about sexual health at all, and that LGBTQ patients, in particular, are being neglected.
The survey asked participants what kinds of questions their primary care physician focused on when they brought up sexual health during physical exams. The results varied based on the sexual orientation of the patient, as the graph below shows.
There are some outliers here that should be noted, but first, take a second to note how low these numbers are overall. Over half of heterosexual respondents said they were never asked about basic sexual health questions like HPV and STD exposure—a number that’s surprising, especially since 79 million Americans have HPV, a condition that can lead to cancer in both men and women. In general, it seems like doctors aren’t asking patients the right questions about sexual health.
But consider the shocking numbers revealed in the chart above. Of the physicians who saw homosexual patients last year, only 13 percent asked their patients if they had received the PrEP HIV prevention drug. Nearly half of all gay and lesbian respondents said their doctor had not asked them about HPV/Gardasil, anal pap smears, PreP/Truvada, or prior STD exposure. Only 40 percent of patients gay, straight and bi said they were asked if they used any kind of protection during sex.
When they do ask the right questions, the survey suggests doctors are asking them of the wrong people. In all but one of the above sexual health categories, bisexual patients were more likely to be asked about sexual health conditions. This could be because, as the Advocate explains, there’s a myth that bisexual people are more promiscuous than other people. The survey authors affirm this: “the ‘B’ in LGBTQ+ is often misrepresented in a variety of settings, including sexual promiscuity.”
Undoubtedly, doctors aren’t asking their patients a full range of questions because they aren’t able to spend enough time with them in the first place. People of all sexual orientations have experienced the rotating door model of doctor visits. Some primary care doctors say they treat 19 patients a day. With a full roster of 2,500 patients total, the Annals of Family Medicine says each doctor would have to “spend 21.7 hours per day to provide all recommended acute, chronic and preventive care” for that many patients. A 2016 study found that most doctor’s office visits only last 13-16 minutes. Professor Bruce Y. Lee at Johns Hopkins calls the average crammed doctor’s visit “archaic” in an article for Forbes, and says, “there is little time to actually listen or talk to patients and maybe not enough time to carefully examine them.”
The LGBTQ population seems to be catching on to the fact that primary care physicians may not know the right questions to ask their patients. That would explain why gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents were 20-30 percent more likely than straight respondents to rate having a doctor with the same sexual identity as them as “very important.” LGBTQ people are especially vulnerable to discrimination and may face barriers to health care that heterosexual people don’t. Some technology, like the entrepreneurs who launched an app to connect LGBTQ patients to gay-friendly doctors, is helping to make this easier. But it’s a quick fix to a much more systemic problem, considering so many primary care physicians don’t ask about sexual health problems at all.
Watching the X-rated clips is helping women explore their sexuality and connect with others to talk about what they want in the bedroom
By Andrea Downey
[A] study of 28 women of different sexual orientations looked at how they watched porn.
Researchers found that the online videos encouraged them to embrace their sexuality and discuss new ways of improving their sex lives.
Diana Parry, a professor in recreation and leisure studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: “We know from existing research that women are one of the fastest growing groups of people consuming online pornography and this study helps us understand some of the reasons they are doing so.
“It also seems clear that technology has enabled women to explore pornography on their own terms and to explore aspects of their sexuality that are new to them.”
Having a healthy sex life can help women feel good about themselves as well as reduce their stress levels, according to sex therapist Louise Mazanti.
She told The Sun Online: “To be in touch with your body and your sexuality gives you a sense of pleasure and sense of fulfilment that is really important in order to feel good.
“It is both a physical thing and about your identity and your self-esteem.
“It is important that you get in touch with the deeper potential of pleasure within your body because it helps you connect more deeply with yourself.
“In an orgasm there are a lot of different hormones that are released that partly reduce stress and partly increase a sense of wellbeing, belonging and a general sense of feeling good.”
Not only does watching porn and having a healthy sex life improve boost your happiness, it also improves your relationships.
“Porn is quite important for women because we don’t fantasise enough, we don’t engage with sexual imagery and porn can really help us simply by starting our imagination to think about sex,” Louise added.
“It helps us to reclaim our own sexual identity instead of waiting to only develop that when you are with a partner.
“We become so dependent on being in a relationship and that’s actually dis-empowering in terms of owning your sexuality.
“When we are in touch with our sexuality we bring so much more to the relationship because we aren’t just waiting for our partner and when they want sex.
“It [porn] allows them to bring much more sexual energy to the relationship and that is something that makes a relationship thrive.”
Parry and her team also found that the privacy offered by smartphones and laptops also made women feel more comfortable exploring different types of porn.
[M]arriages fall apart for many different reasons, but one of the most common and most challenging to overcome is the discovery that one partner has “cheated” on the other.
I put the word cheated in quotes because the definition of infidelity can vary widely among and within couples. Though most often it involves explicit sexual acts with someone other than one’s spouse or committed partner, there are also couples torn asunder by a partner’s surreptitious use of pornography, a purely emotional relationship with no sexual contact, virtual affairs, even just ogling or flirting with a nonpartner.
Infidelity is hardly a new phenomenon. It has existed for as long as people have united as couples, married or otherwise. Marriage counselors report that affairs sometimes occur in happy relationships as well as troubled ones.
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs. The incidence is about 20 percent higher when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included. As more women began working outside the home, their chances of having an affair have increased accordingly.
Volumes have been written about infidelity, most recently two excellent and illuminating books: “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” by Esther Perel, a New York psychotherapist, and “Healing from Infidelity” by Michele Weiner-Davis, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colo. Both books are based on the authors’ extensive experience counseling couples whose relationships have been shattered by affairs.
The good news is, depending upon what caused one partner to wander and how determined a couple is to remain together, infidelity need not result in divorce. In fact, Ms. Perel and other marriage counselors have found, couples that choose to recover from and rebuild after infidelity often end up with a stronger, more loving and mutually understanding relationship than they had previously.
“People who’ve been betrayed need to know that there’s no shame in staying in the marriage — they’re not doormats, they’re warriors,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said in an interview. “The gift they provide to their families by working through the pain is enormous.”
Ms. Perel concedes that “some affairs will deliver a fatal blow to a relationship.” But she wrote, “Others may inspire change that was sorely needed. Betrayal cuts to the bone, but the wound can be healed. Plenty of people care deeply for the well-being of their partners even while lying to them, just as plenty of those who have been betrayed continue to love the ones who lied to them and want to find a way to stay together.”
The latter was exactly the position a friend of mine found herself in after discovering her husband’s affair. “At first I wanted to kick him out,” she told me. “But I realized that I didn’t want to get divorced. My mother did that and she ended up raising three children alone. I didn’t want a repeat of my childhood. I wanted my son, who was then 2 years old, to have a father in his life. But I also knew that if we were going to stay together, we had to go to couples counseling.”
About a dozen sessions later, my friend came away with critical insights: “I know I’m not perfect. I was very focused on taking care of my son, and my husband wasn’t getting from me whatever he needed. Everybody should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. We learned how to talk to each other and really listen. I love him and respect him, I’m so happy we didn’t split apart. He’s a wonderful father, a stimulating partner, and while our marriage isn’t perfect — whose is? — we are supportive and nurturing of each other. Working through the affair made us stronger.”
As happened with my friend, most affairs result from dissatisfaction with the marital relationship, fueled by temptation and opportunity. One partner may spend endless hours and days on work, household chores, outside activities or even social media, to the neglect of their spouse’s emotional and sexual needs. Often betrayed partners were unaware of what was lacking in the relationship and did not suspect that trouble was brewing.
Or the problem may result from a partner’s personal issues, like an inability to deal with conflict, a fear of intimacy, deep-seated insecurity or changes in life circumstances that rob the marital relationship of the attention and affection that once sustained it.
But short of irreversible incompatibility or physical or emotional abuse, with professional counseling and a mutual willingness to preserve the marriage, therapists maintain that couples stand a good chance of overcoming the trauma of infidelity and avoiding what is often the more painful trauma of divorce.
Ms. Weiner-Davis points out that “except in the most severe cases such as ongoing physical abuse or addiction,” divorce often creates more problems than it solves, an observation that prompted her to write her first book, “Divorce Busting.”
Ms. Weiner-Davis readily admits that recovering from infidelity is hard work and the process cannot be rushed. Yet, as she wrote in her new book, “many clients have shared that had it not been for their partner’s affair, they’d never have looked at, discussed, and healed some of the underlying issues that were broken at the foundation of their relationship.”
Rather than destroying the marriage, the affair acted as a catalyst for positive changes, Ms. Weiner-Davis maintains. In her new book, she outlines tasks for both the betrayed spouse and the unfaithful one that can help them better understand and meet the emotional and physical needs of their partners.
Both she and Ms. Perel have found that, with the benefit of good counseling, some couples “divorce” their old marriages and start anew with a relationship that is more honest and loving.
It is important to find a therapist who can help the couple weather the many ups and downs that are likely to occur in working through the issues that lead to infidelity, Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If they expect setbacks and are willing to work through them, the odds are good that they’ll end up with a healed marriage.”
“Infidelity is a unique situation that requires unique therapeutic skills,” she said. She suggested that in selecting a therapist, couples ask if the therapist has any training and experience in treating infidelity and how successful the therapist has been in helping marriages heal.
Talking about sexual health with international students
[M]any people find some discomfort in detailing anything to do with their sex lives. Our bodies, sexual health and sex lives are generally seen as private matters.
In many Western countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia, students are brought up to be a little more relaxed about these matters, however in Asia generally the topic is considered much more taboo.
It is of great importance that all students, international or otherwise, sexually active or not, have a rounded understanding of sexual health and how to stay safe.
“In Australia, we take it for granted that most young people receive [sexual health] information,” Alison Coelho, co-manager of Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health said at the inaugural sexuality symposium on Australia’s Gold Coast.
“When young people arrive to do their study, they often haven’t had sexual health education… and depending on where they arrive from, the idea of discussing sexual health is often taboo.”
Coelho told The PIE News all over the world there is a real reluctance to talk about sexual health. Countless international students, therefore, arrive at university unaware.
Coelho detailed how young female students had their first period while abroad for their studies. Many, not understanding what a menstrual cycle was, panicked and rushed themselves to the emergency room.
Cultural differences in attitudes to sexual health have caused dangerous consequences for thousands of international students.
“For a number of years, the rates of new diagnoses of HIV in this population group have represented 50% percent of Australia’s new diagnoses between particular ages,” Coelho told The PIE News.
“That is shocking. These young people are coming to Australia for an education, but they are so vulnerable, do not understand about safe sex, [and] are often told there is no HIV here [so] we don’t use condoms.”
Coelho claimed universities must have “difficult conversations” about sexual health in order to ensure the safety of students.
She explained to The PIE News how international students are nearly twice as likely than the general population to identify as LGBTQ+. She attributes the likelihood of this to numerous students using their experience abroad to explore their sexuality. For many, their university country has a more open and free society which allows for this exploration.
While universities can provide guidance and encourage dialogue into sex education, the problem stems from a lack of proper education in schools.
Coelho also acknowledged students listen to their peers more than educators when it comes to sexual health. Universities, therefore, could do more to ensure the information distributed is accurate. Coelho suggested peer mentor groups, which work with a larger cohort of international students.
“Individuals identify with their peers, hence they’re more successful than professionals in passing on the information. Peers act as a positive role model and can reinforce learning through ongoing support,” she said.
[W]e don’t want to bust your balls, but how much do you really know about your testicles? Guys talk about them, brag about them, and let clichés about them flow from their lips without a second thought. So take a few moments to think about your down under friends with 12 ball busting facts about your testicles.
What’s in a name?
“Testicles” and “balls” are not exactly the same thing. When men refer to their balls, they are actually talking about three things: the testicles, the scrotum (the skin sac that protects the testicles), and tiny tubes called epididymides that are attached to the testis and which store and transport sperm. Your testicles are your big T (testosterone) producers, so you want to make sure they are healthy and happy at all times!
Location, location, location.
Real estate agents know the value of location, and your testicles aren’t much different. That is, your left ball and your right ball are not exactly next to each other; one hangs a little bit lower than the other (or one is higher than the other, your preference). Each ball is approximately 2 inches by 1 inch, although typically the right testicle is slightly bigger than the left one. However, even though you might think the bigger testicle should hang lower, that’s not the way nature works. Go figure.
Bigger is not necessarily better.
According to a study conducted at Emory University, men who have smaller testes are more likely to be nurturing dads than are their peers who have bigger balls. The authors evaluated 70 American men, including Caucasians, African-Americans, and Asians, who had a child aged one to two years old. Analysis of brain function while the men looked at children and questionnaire responses resulted in the conclusion that “the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between mating effort and parenting effort, as indexed by testicular size and nurturing-related brain function, respectively.”
Two’s company, three’s a crowd.
An extremely rare condition called polyorchidism is defined as the presence of three—or more—testicles. Only about 200 cases of polyorchidism, more or less, have been reported in the literature, so it’s not a condition that should keep you up at night with worry. However, if you have a unexplained mass in your scrotum, it’s something your doctor may want to rule out.
Pain in the balls.
If you experience painful, swollen, and/or inflamed testicles for no apparent reason (e.g., no one has kicked you down under), it may be time to see your doctor. Trauma to the testicles, such as from a sports injury, usually results in temporary pain. In other cases, however, such as testicular torsion (twisted testicle, which is a medical emergency), epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis, often caused by a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea), inguinal hernia, testicular tumor, or orchitis (inflammation of the testicle from bacteria or viruses), a doctor should be consulted. Sometimes it’s more than just a pain in the balls!
One thing you can say about a man’s balls—they aren’t attractive. All those little bumps and lumps sure don’t make them pleasing to the eye, but are they dangerous as well? In most cases, no. However, an enlarged vein called a varicocele can have a negative impact on fertility and be painful. Tiny fluid-filled bumps called epididymal cysts are unsightly but harmless. Only 4 percent of the unusual lumps on the balls end up being cancer. If you have a lump or bump that doesn’t seem quite right or that has appeared suddenly or changed in size or shape, be sure to have your doctor check it out.
Cool balls, man.
Your body temperature may hover around 98.6 degrees, but your balls run about 1 to 3 degrees cooler. Why? It seems to be nature’s way to keep sperm “on ice” so to speak. A cooler temperature keeps sperm in a resting state until they are ready to move on and result in pregnancy or just a vacation away from home. On the other side of the cooler, when men experience a fever or sit in a sauna for a length of time, their sperm counts are temporarily reduced. Cool is where it’s at.
Balls rise to the occasion.
Just before a man ejaculates, his testicles rise up close to his body and make contact at the moment of truth. More specifically, in most men the right testicle begins the journey upwards before the left one. Since the right ball is usually already closer to the body (see “Location, location, location”), it has less of a journey to make.
If you want your balls to be all they can be, then pamper them. That means no smoking (lowers sperm count), limit alcohol use (lowers T and sperm count), dress them comfortably (no overly tight underwear, pants, or bathing suits—except on limited special occasions!), wash them daily and gently, and protect them from trauma, especially in sports. On this latter point, wear a protective cup during contact sports and get the right saddle for your bicycle.
Balls have muscles.
Well, not exactly, but there are several types of muscles in the area that are responsible for keeping your balls in motion. For example, the cremasteric muscle works like an elevator, causing your scrotum and testicles to rise and lower (see “Balls rise to the occasion”). Another muscle called cartos causes the testicles to move within the scrotum. This muscle tissue is also the one that can be blamed for the wrinkly appearance of your balls. The good news: you don’t need to work these muscles in the gym!
Once a month, all men should check their balls. Not just a perfunctory pat, but a thorough examination to be sure there are no hard lumps or any bumps that have changed in size or shape. Why? Testicular cancer is not near the top of the disease list, but it does affect about 1 in every 270 men. When caught early, it usually can be cured. The best time to perform this ritual is when showering. If something doesn’t feel right, see your doctor.
During sexual arousal, a man’s balls can increase in size by 50 percent or more. Of course, most men are too busy thinking about something else while the blood is rushing to their testicles, but their partners may notice the change. This ball busting event is temporary, and the testicles return to normal size once the excitement is over. However, if a man’s balls don’t return to normal size or become enlarged at other times, it’s time for a visit to your doctor.
“Hotel is closed for private event” read the signs affixed to the front of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last weekend. A steady stream of people, mostly men, many in leather harnesses, some in collars and on leashes, and some simply in jeans and sweaters, walked in and out in an almost continuous stream.
Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL), now in its 48th year, is a three-day long celebration of the leather community, a subculture that celebrates various sexual kinks, many centered around leather and toys. Bears, daddies,pups and others identifying with various subsets roam the Hyatt Regency, participating in conference-like demonstrations about suspension (BDSM where you’re bound and hung) and electro (BDSM involving electric shocks), buying handcrafted leather goods and sex toys, and, of course, partying. (Actual sex was not part of the convention but no doubt took place in private.) It’s a predominantly LGBTQ centric space, although look closely enough and you’re sure to find people on every part of the gender and sexuality spectrum.
My first MAL was in the winter of 2016. I’d just gone through a breakup and my friend had suggested that perhaps it would be good for me to explore life beyond my comfort zone. “Just get ready,” he’d said, “it may be more than your little vanilla heart can handle.” And he wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.
That first year I met Adam, a dentist in town from Texas just for MAL. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said back in a hotel room he was sharing with a friend of mine.
“Do I look that out of place?” I asked. I’d put on a leather jacket to try to blend in.
“Not out of place,” he said, “just kind of shocked.”
And shocked I was. Not necessarily at anything that was going on at the hotel that night, but more so at the fact that for the better part of my life I’d allowed myself to believe that this kind of sexual openness was only available to a certain kind of person.
“Where I grew up, there wasn’t really anything like this,” said Anthony, a 30-year-old living in Arlington, Va., who grew up in Portsmouth. (The sources for this story preferred that only first names be used, for privacy reasons). “There was no kink culture, and I really wanted to explore it. Everyone here was super welcoming, and that’s why I keep coming back.”
This was a common sentiment. “It’s a different part of the gay family,” said Garret, 28, who lives in Washington. “We all have different interests … and if nobody else respects that, come to MAL because they do here.”
Respect, as it turns out, is a dominating theme throughout the course of the weekend. You might expect that when many attendees are walking around in only a jockstrap and a harness, but it is pleasantly surprising to see how strictly they adhere to that principle. In the era of #MeToo, when moreand morequeer folks are being vocal about the role consent plays in queer spaces, perhaps the leather and kink communities have something to teach the general public about active and enthusiastic consent.
Ask for permission before petting. Hold out your hand and let the pup come to you first. If the pup doesn’t, or turns or growls, let them be as they may not want to or have permission. This is rule No. 5 as listed on the board outside the 10th anniversary mosh at the MAL Puppy Park, a yearly tradition in which individuals who participate in pup play — a BDSM role-play wherein one participant acts as the “pup” and one as the handler — have an opportunity to interact with other pups. Other rules include: Nudity is not permitted in public spaces, genitals cannot be exposed and DO NOT pull on a pup’s tail or collar. It can cause injury and is disrespectful. Change some of the verbiage and perhaps these would be appropriate guidelines to post at the Academy Awards.
“It’s where I met my current roommate,” said Allyn, a 31-year-old originally from Wisconsin who now lives in Washington, of his first MAL experience. “It was exhilarating. I’d never seen anything like it. It make me feel brave and nervous at the same time.” He didn’t speak to his would-be roommate the first night they met, however. “I mean, I had a ball gag in at the time,” he recounted.
Zack, 23, from Baltimore, also used the world “exhilarating” when describing his first MAL experience. “I got chills coming down the escalator into the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to Folsom I’ve ever been too,” a reference to the San Francisco street fair that’s the world’s largest leather celebration.
Everyone I spoke to talked about descending that escalator on the evening of the opening party. It is truly a complete sensory experience. The sight, sound and smell of wall-to-wall leather and latex on every kind of body, not just seen but celebrated and appreciated.
While I was talking to Garret about the weekend, someone he appeared to know approached him, whispered something in his ear and, after he nodded yes, lifted Garret’s arm and began to sniff his armpit. Garret continued to answer my questions without pause. “There may be something over here that’s not your thing, but then you’ll look over there and see something going on that you’re totally into,” he explained “Don’t be shy, don’t judge other people for something you don’t understand. And above all, come and have a good time. No one is here to be spectacled. It can be a learning and cultural experience.” The sniffer had moved on to his other armpit by the time he finished talking.
Although I have yet to be brave enough to buy and wear a harness to MAL myself, each year I attend I move closer toward that goal. At the very least, the event has highlighted for me the fact that there is an exciting world beyond the “vanilla” one I’d relegated myself to — and has given me a better understanding of the queer community as a whole. At one point, in the leather market, a man who had recently undergone top surgery was trying on a new harness next to a group of folks signing to one another, while feet away a $1,400 bejeweled pup hood was on sale. Only at MAL.
Before I get to the contents of the box, a quick word about the packaging. It’s handsome in a manly sort of way. The front of the black cardboard box features embossed images of the three toys in the kit. They identify the toys as a Silicone Triad Ring, (read: glorified cockring) Silicone Plug Small, (read: butt plug) and finally, a TPR Stroker (read: wanker sleeve). The back of the box features a see-through cutout of the toys along with an illustration of how to use the Triad Ring. I’m glad they did that because I was completely stumped as to what to do with the thing when I first saw it.
Inside the box there is a clear plastic clamshell sort of deal that houses the three toys.
So now that we know what the box contains let’s look at each toy in turn. I’m going to start with the Triad Ring. Like I said I was totally miffed by what I held in my hand. It looks like a figure 8 with an extra loop. Each of the three rings are a slightly different diameter. Once I saw the illustration on the box I figured it out. You can stack them or spread them out. The largest of the loops is used like a traditional cockring. It is made of silicone, so that’s good. It’s also stretchy so that I can easily get it around my cock and balls. (BTW, if you don’t know what a cockring is or why you would want to wear one; check out Dr Dick’s tutorial: Cockring Crash Course.)
Once I had the largest of the rings in place I attempted to stuff my balls through the middle ring. This wasn’t at all easy. You see, the smaller the rings get the less give they have for stretching. I don’t want to brag but I have big balls and it was a struggle getting it on. I finally had to resort to using some water-based lube to assist me with this. Finally, I had to fit my cock through the smallest ring. This was a bit easier, but the lube helped too. Once I had the blasted thing in place I had to take a breather. Here’s a tip: if you plan to use the Triad Ring for sex with a partner, be sure you put it on way before you initiate sex with your partner. It would be a total buzz kill trying to wrangle this thing into place while your partner is patiently waiting. Also, if ya try to put this on when you already have a boner, you’ll lose the stiffy well before you get into place. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Personally I found the Triad Ring overkill. I love wearing a cockring and it is very helpful keeping an erection, but the Triad Ring wasn’t very comfortable and it didn’t do anything extra to enhance my erection.
Next we have the Silicone Plug Small. Again, it’s made of silicone, which is very good. If you don’t know this already, you can only use water-based lube with this silicone toy. And if you are a novice butt pirate, be sure to use a lot of lube, both on the toy and in you hole before you attempt insertion.
I’m kinda new to anal pleasuring so I appreciated that the Silicone Plug was of the small variety. It’s not too much larger than a stout finger. (BTW, if you are unsure of what a butt plug is or why you would want to use one; check out Dr Dick’s tutorial: Butt Plug Crash Course.)
I liked the Silicone Plug a lot. I mostly use it when I’m alone. I can wear this thing for hours without irritation. It gives me intense prostate stimulation and I can even bust a nut without much stroking and just from the prostate stimulation alone. Very cool!
Now that I got the hang of this but plug thing, I’m gonna try a slightly larger one. I may even start to wear it when I’m having a shag with my GF, Shelia. That should give her something to talk about.
Finally, we have the TPR Stroker. I had to look up TPR. TPR = Thermo Plasticized Rubber. I found that TPR is commonly used in adult toys due to cost effectiveness, and ease of manufacturing. These materials can range from soft and flexible to firm and stiff. The good news is these elastomers do NOT have phthalates in them. And they are safe for those with a latex allergies. The bad news is the products containing TPR, while compatible with water and silicone based lubricants, are not compatible with oils, like massage oil. They are also not non-porous, so they can’t be sterilized, like silicone can, so there’s no sharing this toy with anyone else. These products should not be stored touching other plastic items, as they may interact poorly and melt. ☹
The TPR Stroker, curiously enough, has a set of finger rings on the side so you can have a secure grip while you stroke it up and down your cock. I thought that was funny because it seems pretty superfluous to me. It only has an insertable length of just less than 5”. My cock is 7” and pretty thick, so this was not designed with me in mind. The hole you stick your dick into is pretty small too and I couldn’t insert my willie without a big glob of lube. I used water-based lube. The inside of the stroker is ribbed for my pleasure.
I’ve used a number of strokers in the past; this is my least favorite, mostly because it wasn’t the right size for me. You might like it better than I do.
After using it a couple of times and washing it thoroughly in warm water and mild soap I noticed that the TPR began to get tacky. That was a bummer because I didn’t want to touch it after that. BTW, air-drying it is the only thing you can do. Don’t try to dry it with a cloth.
The other two toys, the Silicone Plug and Triad Ring, are made of silicone and they are really easy to clean. Toss them into the skink with mild soap and warm water, scrub them down a bit, and let it air dry. Or you can just wipe it down with a lint-free towel moistened with peroxide, rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution to sanitize for sharing.
In the end, I thought this kit was a mixed bag. I liked the butt plug, the Triad Ring was just OK, and the TPR Stroker was a bust. On the plus side, the price is right for the kit. You can get it for under $30.
[I]n the sex education class for adults with intellectual disabilities, the material is not watered down. The dozen women and men in a large room full of windows and light in Casco, Maine, take on complex issues, such as how to break up or how you know you’re in an abusive relationship. And the most difficult of those issues is sexual assault.
Katy Park, the teacher, begins the class with a phrase they’ve memorized: “My body is my own,” Park starts as the rest join in, “and I get to decide what is right for me.”
People with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate more than seven times that for people without disabilities. NPR asked the U.S. Department of Justice to use data it had collected, but had not published, to calculate that rate.
At a moment when Americans are talking about sexual assault and sexual harassment, a yearlong NPR investigation finds that people with intellectual disabilities are one of the most at-risk groups in America.
“This is really an epidemic and we’re not talking about it,” says Park, a social worker who runs arts and wellness programs for Momentum, an agency based in Maine that provides activities in the community and support services for adults with intellectual disabilities. Those high rates of abuse — which have been an open secret among people with intellectual disabilities, their families and people who work with them — are why Park started this class about healthy relationships and healthy sexuality.
Because one of the best ways to stop sexual assault is to give people with intellectual disabilities the ability to identify abuse and to know how to develop the healthy relationships they want.
“Let’s talk about the positive parts of being in a relationship,” Park says, holding a marker while standing at a whiteboard, at the start of the class. “Why do we want to be in a relationship?”
“For love,” says one man. “And sexual reaction.”
“Romance,” adds a woman.
“How about support?” asks Lynne, a woman who speaks with a hushed voice and sits near the front of the class.
“Having support, right?” Park says, writing the word on the board. “We all want support.”
From working with the men and women here, Park realized they want to have relationships, love and romance. They see their parents, siblings and their friends in relationships. They see people in relationships when they watch TV or go to the movies. They want the same things as anyone else.
But it’s harder for them. When they were in school, most of the adults in this room say, they didn’t get the sex ed classes other kids got. Now, just going on a date is difficult. They probably don’t drive or have cars. They rely on public transportation. They don’t have a lot of money. They live at home with their parents or in a group home, where there’s not a lot of privacy.
And then there’s the one thing that really complicates romance for people with intellectual disabilities: those high rates of sexual abuse.
“Oftentimes, it actually is among the only sexual experience they’ve had,” says Park. “When you don’t have other healthy sexual experiences, how do you sort through that? And then the shame, and the layers upon layers upon layers.”
This class, she says, is about “breaking the chain, being empowered to say, ‘No. This stops with me.’ “
“I Think People Take Advantage”
The women and men come to Momentum during the week for different programs. They go kayaking and biking; they go to the library and do volunteer work at the local food bank. There’s a range of disability here. You can look at some of the men and women — maybe someone with Down syndrome — and see they have a disability. Others, even after you talk to them, you might not figure out they have an intellectual disability.
Like one small woman with short, choppy dark hair, streaked red.
She’s 22 now, but when she was 18, her boyfriend was several years older. She says he was controlling. He didn’t let her have a cellphone or go see her friends.
“He was strangling me and stuff like that,” says the woman. (NPR is not using her name.) “And he was, the R-word — I hate to say it, but rape.” She says he raped her eight times, hit her and kicked her. “So I don’t know how I’m alive today, actually. He choked me where I blacked out.”
She thinks she was an easy target for him, because of her mild intellectual disability. “I think people take advantage,” she says. “They like to take advantage of disabilities. I have disabilities, not as bad as theirs. But I think they like to take advantage, which is wrong. I hate that.”
She says the class helped her better understand what she wanted, and had a right to, in a relationship. She’s got a kind and respectful boyfriend now.
Her friend Lynne listens and says she would like to find a boyfriend. But in her past, she has experienced repeated sexual abuse.
She talks about a time when she was 14 and “this older guy that knew us” forced her to have sex. She says she told people but no one believed her. The next year, when she was 15, she was sexually assaulted — this time by a boy at her school. “I was trying to scream,” she says, “but I couldn’t because he had his hand over my mouth, telling me not to say anything to anybody.”
Lynne, who is 38, says those rapes and others left her unable to develop relationships. “I couldn’t trust anyone,” she says. Lynne (NPR has agreed to identify her by her middle name) says this class has helped her realize she wants a real, romantic relationship and has taught her how to better find one.
“There’s A Lot Of Loneliness”
Katherine McLaughlin, a New Hampshire sex educator, developed the curriculum used by Momentum. She wrote it so that it uses concrete examples to describe things, to match the learning style of people with intellectual disabilities. It shows pictures and uses photographs.
McLaughlin says the main desire of adults with intellectual disabilities is to learn “how to meet people and start relationships. There’s a lot of loneliness.”
That loneliness leaves them vulnerable to getting into abusive relationships, she says, or to rape.
Sometimes, especially when they’re young, they can’t name what happened to them as a sexual assault. Because they didn’t get the education to identify it. “We don’t think of them as sexual beings. We don’t think of them as having sexual needs or desires,” McLaughlin says. “Often they’re thought of as children, even when they’re 50 years old.”
Sheryl White-Scott, a New York City internist who specializes in treating people with intellectual disabilities, estimates that at least half of her female patients are survivors of sexual assault. “In my clinical experience, it’s probably close to 50 percent, but it could be as high as 75 percent,” she says. “There’s a severe lacking in sexual education. Some people just don’t understand what is acceptable and what’s not.”
Most of the women and men at the class in Maine say they didn’t get sex ed classes, like other kids, when they were in school. Or if they did, it was the simplistic warnings, like the kind given to young children. “It’s easy to fall back on ‘good touch-bad touch’ sex ed,” says Michael Gill, the author of “Already Doing It: Intellectual Disability and Sexual Agency.” “That’s a lot of what they get.” And the usual warning about “stranger danger” can be unhelpful, because it’s not strangers but people they know and trust who are most likely to assault them.
Most rapes are committed by someone a victim knows. For women without disabilities, the person who assaults them is a stranger 24 percent of the time. NPR’s data from unpublished Justice Department numbers show the difference is stark for people with disabilities: The abuser is a stranger less than 14 percent of the time.
“Parents get this; professionals don’t,” says Nancy Nowell, a sexuality educator with a specialty in teaching people with developmental disabilities, an umbrella term that includes intellectual disability but also autism.
Parents have significant reason to worry: Figuring out what’s a healthy relationship is difficult for any young person, and it can be even trickier if a person has an intellectual disability. People with intellectual disabilities are vulnerable to problems from rape to unwanted pregnancy. Some people with intellectual disabilities marry. A small number have children — and rely on family or others to support them as parents.
Still, says McLaughlin, parents often are reluctant to talk to their children with intellectual disabilities about sex. “Parents often feel, if I talk about it they will go and be sexual,” she says, and they fear that could make them targets for sexual assault.
But educators such as McLaughlin, Gill and Nowell argue the reverse: that comprehensive sexuality education is the best way to prevent sexual assault. “If people know what sexual assault is,” says Gill, an assistant professor of disability studies at Syracuse University, “they become empowered in what is sexuality and what they want in sexuality.”
Gill argues that a long history of prejudice and fear gets in the way. He notes early 20th century laws that required the sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities. That came out of the eugenics movement, which put faith in IQ tests as proof of the genetic superiority of white, upper-class Americans.
People with intellectual disabilities were seen as a danger to that order. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote in a 1927 opinion that ruled the state of Virginia could forcibly sterilize a young woman deemed “feebleminded.”
Carrie Buck was the daughter of a woman who lived at a state institution for people with intellectual disabilities. And when Buck became pregnant — the result of a rape — she was committed to a state institution where she gave birth and was declared mentally incompetent to raise the child. Buck was then forcibly sterilized to prevent her from getting pregnant again. There was evidence that neither Buck, nor her daughter, Vivian, was, in fact, intellectually disabled. In the first half of the 20th century, impoverished women who had children outside marriage were often ruled by courts to be “feebleminded.”
There was another myth in popular culture that people with intellectual disabilities were violent and could not control their sexual urges. Think about that staple of high school literature classes, John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” The intellectually disabled Lennie can’t control himself when the ranch hand’s wife lets him stroke her hair. He becomes excited, holding her too tight, and accidentally strangles her.
The class in Maine aims to help these adults know what’s a healthy relationship and how to communicate how they feel about someone.
The main way this class differs from a traditional sex ed class is that — to help people with intellectual disabilities learn — the material is broken down and spread out over 10 sessions. Each class lasts for 2 1/2 hours. But the adults in the class are completely attentive for the entire session.
They do take a couple of very short breaks to get up and move around, including one break to dance. Everyone gets up when Park turns on the tape recorder and plays — just right for this group asking to be treated like adults — Aretha Franklin singing “Respect.” There is joyous dancing and shouts. And when the song is over, they go back to their seats and get back to work.
[I]f you want to maintain your penis size and keep it ready to perform, it is important to know how to exercise your penis. While the “love muscle” is not actually a muscle itself, your member contains spongy tissue and chambers that fill with blood to make it harder and larger; so it’s important to exercise it like any other part of the body.
You can exercise your penis by engaging in activities that increase blood flow into it. And the best way to encourage blood flow and preserve penis length is to have regular sex and/or to masturbate more. Simply put, it’s a case of use it or lose it. The more you have sex or masturbate the better shape your penis will be in. Another thing you may not know is that your penis actually exercises itself while you sleep.
Exercising Your Penis in Your Sleep
Your penis actually gets a workout while you sleep. Those middle-of-the-night and early-morning erections have an important function. They are a way for your penis to pump itself up and get some exercise. These erections are called “nocturnal erections,” and they serve several purposes such as promoting oxygenation and blood flow to the penis and helping prevent erectile dysfunction (ED). Plus, from a biological perspective, waking up with your “little friend” ready to go with your partner nearby helps encourage reproduction. Isn’t that convenient?
This “nature’s little helper” is also a natural penis extension therapy, helping to maintain penis size by continuously stretching the penile tissue. When you have an erection, oxygenating blood fills the penis, making it hard. Having good blood flow is an essential component to achieving and maintaining that erection. All healthy men with normal erectile function have multiple erections during their sleep cycle.
As you get older, you may notice that these nocturnal and morning erections are not as strong or as frequent as you had in your younger years. One of the reasons nocturnal erections reduce as you age is because of decreased testosterone, but their absence and other erectile problems could indicate a larger health problem. If you can’t remember the last time you woke up with a hard-on, or if you have experienced erectile dysfunction while awake, talk to your doctor because erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a sign of heart disease.
The downside to having fewer nocturnal erections as you age is that you stop receiving the extension and exercise benefits they provide. That makes it so you have to start working harder in the non-sleeping hours. If you don’t exercise your penis regularly, your penis can actually shrink 1-2 centimeters. Some of the other risks for loss of penis length include weight gain, aging (due to lack of use and declining hormones), genetics, and prostate surgery.
About 70 percent of the men who have their prostate removed can expect to lose some of their penis length. Prostate cancer patients are often unable to achieve an erection for 6-24 months, so doctors sometimes prescribe penis pumps. A penis pump is a tool that keeps the blood flowing in and out, and it helps prevent permanent shrinkage by stretching the penile tissue.
How to Test for Nocturnal Erections
If you are not waking up with erections and are not sure if you still even have nocturnal erections, here’s a simple nocturnal erection test you can do over three nights in the privacy of your own home. Before you laugh, this is actually a real test used by urologists, and it has a name—the nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) stamp test.
Get a strip of four to six postage stamps (you’ll need a strip for each night). Wrap the strip around the shaft of the penis and moisten to seal the ring. Once the stamp is dry, carefully place your penis into your shorts or underwear to protect the stamps from falling off. In the morning, check to see if the stamps have been broken along their perforation. During at least one of the three nights you should see the ring of stamps broken. If the ring is not broken there may be a physical problem, and you should talk to your doctor.
ED and Heart Disease
If you no longer are getting nocturnal erections or if you have had trouble with your erectile function during the waking hours, talk to your doctor to get your heart checked. A lack of nocturnal erections is one of the signs of ED, and ED is connected with another, scarier ED: early death. So even though exercising your penis is important, you also need to exercise your heart and eat a heart-healthy diet to protect both your heart and your love life.
When Size Matter
If you are concerned about losing your penis length, the best and most enjoyable plan is to use it as much as possible. There are penis-lengthening procedures, but they all have some cautions or drawbacks. One of the interesting penis facts, is that about 50 percent of your penis is actually inside your body courtesy of a suspensory ligament that attaches the penis to your pelvic bone. During surgery, a doctor releases the ligament so that more of the penis can move outside the body. It’s a serious procedure that takes awhile to heal, so you should look into whether gaining that extra inch or so is worth it.
If girth is more your concern than length there are some penile widening procedures as well. You can have a doctor implant silicone, fat, or tissue grafts into your penis. Another procedure that improves girth is to inject hyaluronic acid (a substance found in your body) into the penis. It is said to be painful but effective.
Maintaining a healthy sex life remains the best natural “sex-ercise plan” you can follow (along with exercise, diet, and lifestyle modifications). There are also other great sex exercises for men that can help strengthen muscles and increase stamina and flexibility for better performance. Most men will agree that having sex regularly to maintain penis size sounds much more inviting than cutting or injecting their favorite—and most sensitive—body part unless there is a serious medical reason for it.