Monthly Archives: February 2018

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Take a Little Look-See

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Jessica Biel and Chelsea Handler are getting up close and personal with their bodies for a good cause. In “Look See,” a hilarious new short, Biel and Handler finally answer the question “What is a vulva?” and encourage women everywhere to become more familiar with their bodies. The NSFW video aims to de-stigmatize the vagina, and, most importantly, encourage women to take a look down there every now and then.

“Look See” opens with Handler walking in on Biel using a hand mirror to look at her vagina (tampon instructions style), and things only get more open and wild from there. “Is it weird?” Biel asks Handler. “No! You have to check in with your vagina. How else are you going to know what’s going on down there?” Handler responds. And then, the debate begins: was Biel looking at her vagina, or was she looking at her vulva? “The vagina is in, so, technically, we’re just looking at our vulva,” Biel says.

For the record: Biel is correct, the vulva is the word for exterior female genitals, but Handler also has a point when she says, “Let’s just say vagina, because vulva’s gonna confuse people.” But, while language is important, the main message of the video isn’t so much that one has to know the scientific terms, it’s that a woman should feel no shame in getting to know their bodies. Because after all, women should be familiar enough with their own vaginas to know if theirs looks like “a smug, young Burt Reynolds — with the mustache,” like Biel’s.

 

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What’s the difference between sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape?

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Physician Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual assault of girls on the USA Gymnastics team.

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The terms “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment” – and even “rape” – crop up daily in the news. We are likely to see these terms more as the #MeToo movement continues.

Many people want to understand these behaviors and work to prevent them. It helps if we are consistent and as precise as possible when we use these terms.

But what does each term mean?

We are three scholars who have specialized in the scientific study of sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment over several decades.

Let’s start by defining each of these terms. Then, we can look at how these behaviors sometimes overlap.

Sexual abuse

The term that has been in the news most recently with reference to sports doctor Larry Nassar’s trial is sexual abuse, a form of mistreating children. Sexual abuse is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults.

All 50 states have laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act. In the United States, the age at which consent can be given ranges from 16 to 18 years.

Sexual abuse can include many different things, from touching a victim in a sexual manner to forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way to making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act.

Rape

In 2012, the FBI issued a revised definition of rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The revised law is gender neutral, meaning that anyone can be a victim.

When carefully examined, the FBI definition does not look like most people’s idea of rape – typically perpetrated by a stranger through force. The FBI definition says nothing about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator and it says nothing about force. It does, however, say something about consent, or rather, the lack of it. Think about consent as your ability to make a decision about what happens to your body.

A perpetrator can compel a victim into a penetrative sex act in multiple ways. A perpetrator can ignore verbal resistance – like saying “no,” “stop” or “I don’t want to” – or overpower physical resistance by holding a person down so they cannot move. A person can penetrate a victim who is incapable of giving consent because he or she is drunk, unconscious, asleep, or mentally or physically incapacitated; or can threaten or use physical force or a weapon against a person. Essentially, these methods either ignore or remove the person’s ability to make an autonomous decision about what happens to their body. State laws vary in how they define removing or ignoring consent.

Perpetrators can’t defend against charges of rape by claiming they were drunk themselves or by saying they are married to the victim.

In November 2017, participants combined the ‘Take Back the Workplace March’ and the ‘#MeToo Survivors March’ in Hollywood.

Sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault have been used interchangeably in coverage of events leading to the #MeToo movement, and this practice, though unintentional, is confusing. In contrast to the specific criminal act of rape, the term sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, from unwanted touching and kissing, to rubbing, groping or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways. But sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape.

Social and behavioral scientists often use the term “sexual violence.” This term is far more broad than sexual assault. It include acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic. Sexual violence includes using false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts. It can encompass noncontact acts like catcalls and whistles, which can make women feel objectified and victimized. It includes nonconsensual electronic sharing of explicit images, exposure of genitals and surreptitious viewing of others naked or during sex.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior.

One is sexual coercion – legally termed “quid pro quo harassment” – referring to implicit or explicit attempts to make work conditions contingent upon sexual cooperation. The classic “sleep with me or you’re fired” scenario is a perfect example of sexual coercion. It is the most stereotypical form of sexual harassment, but also the rarest.

A second, and more common, form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention: unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, relentless pressure for dates or sexual behavior. Note that romantic and sexual overtures come in many varieties at work, not all of them harassing. To constitute unlawful sexual harassment, the sexual advances must be unwelcome and unpleasant to the recipient. They must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to “create an abusive working environment,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unwanted sexual attention can include sexual assault and even rape. If an employer were to forcibly kiss and grope a receptionist without her consent, this would be an example of both unwanted sexual attention and sexual assault – both a civil offense and a crime.

Most sexual harassment, however, entails no sexual advance. This third and most common manifestation is gender harassment: conduct that disparages people based on gender, but implies no sexual interest. Gender harassment can include crude sexual terms and images, for example, degrading comments about bodies or sexual activities, graffiti calling women “cunts” or men “pussies.” More often than not, though, it is purely sexist, such as contemptuous remarks about women being ill-suited for leadership or men having no place in childcare. Such actions constitute “sexual” harassment because they are sex-based, not because they involve sexuality.

Come-ons, put-downs: They’re both bad

In lay terms, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention are come-ons, whereas gender harassment is a put-down. Still, they are all forms of sexual harassment and can all violate law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Historically, social attitudes towards all these hostile actions have assumed a continuum of severity. Sexist graffiti and insults are offensive, but no big deal, right? Verbal sexual overtures cannot be as bad as physical ones. And, if there was no penetration, it can’t have been all that bad.

These assumptions do not hold up to scientific scrutiny, however. For example, researchers at the University of Melbourne analyzed data from 73,877 working women. They found that experiences of gender harassment, sexist discrimination and the like are more corrosive to work and well-being, compared to encounters with unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion.

We have tried to clarify terms that are now becoming household words. Of course, life is complicated. Abusive, assaulting or harassing behavior cannot always be neatly divided into one category or another – sometimes it belongs in more than one. Nevertheless, it is important to use terms in accurate ways to promote the public’s understanding.

Finally, we take heed that society is in a period like no other and one we thought we would never see. People are reflecting on, and talking about, and considering and reconsidering their experiences and their behavior. Definitions, criminal and otherwise, change with social standards. This time next year, we may be writing a new column.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Sex Toy Shops That Switched On a Feminist Revolution

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The “White Cross Electric Vibrator Girl” as pictured in a 1911 Health and Beauty catalog.

BUZZ
The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy
By Hallie Lieberman
Illustrated. 359 pp. Pegasus Books. $26.95.

VIBRATOR NATION
How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure
By Lynn Comella
278 pp. Duke University Press. $25.95.

Think back, for a moment, to the year 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Beatles released the “White Album.” North Vietnam launched the Tet offensive. And American women discovered the clitoris. O.K., that last one may be a bit of an overreach, but 1968 was when “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” a short essay by Anne Koedt, went that era’s version of viral. Jumping off of the Masters and Johnson bombshell that women who didn’t climax during intercourse could have multiple orgasms with a vibrator, Koedt called for replacing Freud’s fantasy of “mature” orgasm with women’s lived truth: It was all about the clitoris. That assertion single-handedly, as it were, made female self-love a political act, and claimed orgasm as a serious step to women’s overall emancipation. It also threatened many men, who feared obsolescence, or at the very least, loss of primacy. Norman Mailer, that famed phallocentrist, raged in his book “The Prisoner of Sex” against the emasculating “plenitude of orgasms” created by “that laboratory dildo, that vibrator!” (yet another reason, beyond the whole stabbing incident, to pity the man’s poor wives).

To be fair, Mailer & Co. had cause to quake. The quest for sexual self-knowledge, as two new books on the history and politics of sex toys reveal, would become a driver of feminist social change, striking a blow against men’s overweening insecurity and the attempt (still with us today) to control women’s bodies. As Lynn Comella writes in “Vibrator Nation,” retailers like Good Vibrations in San Francisco created an erotic consumer landscape different from anything that previously existed for women, one that was safe, attractive, welcoming and ultimately subversive, presenting female sexual fulfillment as “unattached to reproduction, motherhood, monogamy — even heterosexuality.”

As you can imagine, both books (which contain a great deal of overlap) are chockablock with colorful characters, starting with Betty Dodson, the Pied Piper of female onanism, who would often personally demonstrate — in the nude — how to use a vibrator to orgasm during her early sexual consciousness-raising workshops in New York. I am woman, hear me roar indeed.

Back in the day, though, attaining a Vibrator of One’s Own was tricky. The leering male gaze of the typical “adult” store was, at best, off-putting to most women. Amazon, where sex toys, like fresh produce, are just a mouse click away, was still a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye. Enter Dell Williams, who after being shamed by a Macy’s salesclerk while checking out a Hitachi Magic Wand, founded in 1974 the mail order company Eve’s Garden. That was quickly followed by Good Vibrations, the first feminist sex toy storefront; it’s great fun to read the back story of Good Vibes’ late founder, Joani Blank, along with radical “sexperts” like Susie Bright and Carol Queen.
Continue reading the main story

The authors of “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” each put in time observing how sex toys are sold, so have firsthand insight into the industry. Whose take will hold more appeal depends on the reader’s interests: In “Buzz,” Hallie Lieberman offers a broader view, taking us back some 30,000 years, when our ancestors carved penises out of siltstone; moving on to the ancient Greeks’ creative use of olive oil; the buzzy medical devices of the 19th century (disappointingly, doctors’ notorious in-office use of vibrators as treatment for female “hysteria” is urban legend); and the impact of early-20th-century obscenity laws — incredibly, sex toys remain illegal in Alabama — before digging deeply into more contemporary influences. In addition to feminist retailers, Lieberman braids in stories of men like Ted Marche, whose family business — employing his wife and teenage children — began by making prosthetic strap-ons for impotent men; Gosnell Duncan, who made sex aids for the disabled and was the first to expand dildo production beyond the Caucasian pink once called “flesh colored”; the Malorrus brothers, who were gag gift manufacturers (think penis pencil toppers); and the hard-core porn distribution mogul Reuben Sturman, who repeatedly, and eventually disastrously, ran afoul of the law. Although their X-rated wares would supposedly give women orgasms, unlike the feminist-championed toys they were sold primarily as devices that would benefit men. Much like the era’s sexual revolution, in other words, they maintained and even perpetuated a sexist status quo.

“Vibrator Nation” focuses more narrowly on women-owned vendors, wrestling with how their activist mission bumped up against the demands and constraints of the marketplace. Those early entrepreneurs, Comella writes, believed nothing less than that “women who had orgasms could change the world.” As with other utopian feminist visions, however, this one quickly splintered. Controversy broke out over what constituted “sex positivity,” what constituted “woman-friendly,” what constituted “woman.” Was it politically correct to stock, or even produce, feminist porn? Were BDSM lesbians invited to the party? Would the stores serve transwomen? Did the “respectable” aesthetic of the white, middle-class founders translate across lines of class and race? If the goal was self-exploration through a kind of cliteracy, what about customers (of any gender or sexual orientation) who wanted toys for partnered play or who enjoyed penetrative sex? Could a sex store that sold nine-inch, veined dildos retain its feminist bona fides? Dell Williams solved that particular problem by commissioning nonrepresentational silicone devices with names like “Venus Rising” from Gosnell Duncan, the man who made prosthetics for the disabled. Others followed suit.

Even so, Comella writes, the retailers struggled to stay afloat: Feminist stores refused, as a matter of principle, to trade on customers’ anxiety — there were none of the “tightening creams,” “numbing creams,” penis enlargers or anal bleaches that boosted profits at typical sex stores. Employees were considered “educators,” and sales were secondary to providing information and support. What’s more, Good Vibrations in particular was noncompetitive; Blank freely shared her business model with any woman interested in spreading the love.

Consumer culture and feminism have always been strange bedfellows, with the former tending to overpower the latter. Just as Virginia Slims co-opted the message of ’70s liberation, as the Spice Girls cannibalized ’90s grrrl power, so feminist sex stores exerted their influence on the mainstream, yet were ultimately absorbed and diluted by it. In 2007, Good Vibrations was sold to GVA-TWN, the very type of sleazy mega-sex-store company it was founded to disrupt. Though no physical changes have been made in the store, Good Vibrations is no longer woman-owned. Although the aesthetics haven’t changed, Lieberman writes, the idea of feminist sex toys as a source of women’s liberation has faded, all but disappeared. An infamous episode of “Sex and the City” that made the Rabbit the hottest vibrator in the nation also portrayed female masturbation as addictive and isolating, potentially leading to permanent loneliness. The sex toys in “Fifty Shades of Grey” were wielded solely in service of traditional sex and gender roles: A man is in charge of Anastasia Steele’s sexual awakening, and climax is properly experienced through partnered intercourse. Meanwhile, the orgasm gap between genders has proved more stubborn than the pay gap. Women still experience one orgasm for every three experienced by men in partnered sex. And fewer than half of teenage girls between 14 and 17 have ever masturbated.

At the end of “Buzz,” Lieberman makes a provocative point: Viagra is covered by insurance but vibrators aren’t, presumably because while erections are seen as medically necessary for sexual functioning the same is not true of female orgasm. Like our feminist foremothers, she envisions a new utopia, one in which the F.D.A. regulates sex toys to ensure their safety, in which they are covered by insurance, where children are taught about them in sex education courses and they are seen and even subsidized worldwide as a way to promote women’s sexual health.

In other words: We’ve come a long way, baby, but as “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” make clear, we still may not be coming enough.

Complete Article HERE!

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9 reasons having sex is good for you, according to science

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By Alexandra Thompson

Science reveals nine ways having sex benefits your health.

According to California-based obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Sherry Ross, few things in life are better for people’s hearts, bodies and souls than getting intimate between the sheets.

From burning calories to boosting the immune system and even fighting the signs of ageing, numerous studies reveal regular love making seriously boosts people’s wellbeing.

Sex is even a natural painkiller and could help combat insomnia, Dr Ross adds.

Below, Dr Ross outlines the nine ways, proven by science, being active between the sheets boosts people’s health and wellbeing.

Burns calories

Researchers from the University of Quebec at Montreal analysed 21 heterosexual couples with an average age of 22.

Results revealed women burn, on average, 69.1 calories when they have sex for just under 25 minutes.

This calorie-burning number climbs higher still if you are on top, in a squat position or having an orgasm.

Dr Ross told NetDoctor: ‘The act of sexual intimacy can be a great workout and counts as such for many as their daily exercise regimen.’

Boosts the immune system

A study by Indiana University found women with healthy sex lives produce higher levels of antibodies, which fight off infections.

Dr Ross said: ‘Regular sex makes for a stronger immune system, fighting off common illnesses such as colds and having less sick days from work.

‘Sex also helps lower your blood pressure and lowers your risk of heart attacks.’

Prevents incontinence

For women suffering from urinary incontinence, which is common after childbirth, incorporating Kegel exercises into your sex life can strengthen your pelvic floor and improve bladder control, according to Dr Ross.

If this isn’t enough, such exercises also heighten orgasms for both you and your partner, she adds.

Is a natural painkiller

Contracting genital muscles generate a pleasurable feeling that can reduce the discomfort of menstrual cramps, headaches and joint pain, according to Dr Ross.

She adds tracking your menstrual cycle and scheduling in an orgasm before your first period could prevent crippling discomfort.

Aids insomnia

After an orgasm, endorphins and the hormone prolactin are released, which relax the body and mind to promote sleep, Dr Ross claims.

Boosts pregnancy chances – even if you’re not ovulating!

Researchers from the Kinsey Institute and Indiana University found women who have sex when not ovulating create an environment in their wombs that make it more hospitable for growing embryos.

This is due to orgasms activating the immune system, which then seems to prepare women for even the possibility of pregnancy.

Improves mental health

According to the sex therapist Vanessa Marin, skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin, which is also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’.

This can reduce anxiety and stress, while promoting feelings of closeness.

Prevents wrinkles

In 2013, UK-based neuropsychologist Dr David Weeks questioned more than 3,500 people about their sex lives over 10 years.

Results revealed those who have regular, healthy sex lives look up to seven years younger than people who do not get intimate two-to-three times a week.

Dr Weeks believes this is due to the release of endorphins that boost circulation and reduce stress, as well as the production of human growth hormones, which promote skin elasticity.

Makes you brainier

According to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, sexually-active older adults perform better in verbal and visual tests.

This may be due to the release of oxytocin and ‘the happy hormone’ dopamine, which have both been linked to improved cognitive function.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex advice from a youngster is no use to older couples

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“When we first fell in love, we really didn’t know what the future would hold. We were in awe of love’s mysterious forces. But if our relationship has endured, it will have been thoroughly worked through and mirror our maturity in life. Love’s forces will have created a bond between us that radiates a quiet warmth. There is a welcoming space to share common interests and the joy of living. We perceive our own true individuality and treat our partners with respect and honour.”

If this is the picture of your relationship then you probably don’t have any issues with sexuality. It is woven securely into the tapestry of your relationship. For some couples, it’s a subtle thread. For others, it’s more colourful and vibrant.

However, if you’re wondering what has happened because sex isn’t thriving in your relationship, there is a lot of advice out there that won’t help you in the long run.

Forget about learning new sexual techniques. They won’t save your sex life. By now, you should know what works for you and what doesn’t. Forget about trying to retrieve the stamina you had in your 20s, 30s or your 40s. It’s better to appreciate the resiliency you’ve gained through experience.

Forget about taking pole dancing classes or buying expensive lingerie unless you truly think you will enjoy it. Forget about taking advice given to you by someone younger than you who think they know the real secret to a good sex life. If they haven’t experienced sex in an older body or in a long-term relationship, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about.

While trying something new may shake things up and make you look and feel differently in the short-term, sexuality is a living experience. It is a response from inside of you, not a reaction to an idea taken on from the outside. Rearranging things on the outside may help a little, but the real shift takes place by aligning your interior life with your outer experience.

You can begin by asking yourself some questions.

What’s it like being in your older body?

As we age, the exaltation of touch and sensation softens. That fiery, electric current that passes between young lovers gives way to a slow burning flame that is deeper and longer. We take our time. We notice that sensations become less localised, leading to a profoundly satisfying whole body experience.

In older bodies libido tends to decrease. For women it’s a common aftermath of menopause. For men, sex drive lowers more gradually and is definitely noticeable by around the age 62 when most men begin to experience difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection. It takes more time to warm up. But the silver lining is that by spending time touching, kissing, and caressing, you can crawl into your partner’s skin, melting body and soul.

Intimacy or sex?

Intimacy is at the heart of a strong relationship. It is the experience of emotional closeness when two people are able to reveal their true feelings, thoughts, fears and desires. They are completely free in each other’s presence. When sex comes from a place of love and connection, it is the physical embodiment of intimacy.

Although sex and intimacy isn’t the same thing, they are inextricably linked. Intimacy builds sex and sex builds intimacy. Intimate sex can be deeply fulfilling whereas sex without intimacy can be very unrewarding.

What if sex is no longer a part of your relationship?

While sex is an integral part of many relationships, some couples don’t have sex anymore. This may have happened through circumstance such as when one person became ill or simply because sex slowly disappeared in importance over the years.

If sex is a very subtle thread in the tapestry of your relationship, it’s important not to abstain from all physical contact. Hugging, kissing, holding hands and cuddling heighten awareness and awaken the senses. It’s a way of getting to know each other as if for the first time.

Complete Article HERE!

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