MysteryVibe And The Surprisingly Difficult Challenge Of Selling Sex Toys To Men

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Sex tech startup MysteryVibe’s new penis-focused toy, the Tenuto.

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In 2016, British startup MysteryVibe made waves in the sex toy world, and the wider design and tech spaces, with its debut product, the Crescendo. A reimagining of the traditional vibrator, this flexible silicone rod with six vibrating motors, their intensities controlled via an app, promised customizability that could work for diverse body types and genders. It was not the first malleable, gender-neutral sex toy. And not every reviewer thought it lived up to its adaptable, accessible hype. But its clever yet simple innovation and sleek execution, not to mention effective marketing, made it a defining example of a new generation of smart, sensually novel, and customizable sex tech.

This year, MysteryVibe is taking a step away from anatomy-neutral malleability to try its hand at selling an explicitly penis-centric product, the Tenuto. They announced the new toy, their sophomore offering, in May, though the $130 device likely will not ship until sometime in December.

An L-shaped, flexible silicone loop similarly studded with six app-connected, variable intensity motors, the Tenuto fits onto a user’s penis in several possible ways. But no matter how one wears it, MysteryVibe suggests that it will offer a unique form of stimulation, more holistic and varied than any other male sex toy—the industry term for penis- and prostate-targeted devices—on the market now boasts. MysteryVibe co-founder and “Chief Pleasure Officer” Stephanie Alys recently told me that she thinks the Tenuto, by offering sensations people with penises may never have experienced or even conceived of before, could help men explore a satisfying new world of “pleasure-centered, versus orgasm-centered, goal-orientated sex. Slowing down, learning more about their bodies, trying new things.”

“That whole narrative,” she added, “is something we’re really keen to push forward.”

Given how limited male sex toy options are these days in both form and function—there are few offerings beyond masturbation sleeves, penis rings, and prostate massagers—the Tenuto probably will become, as MysteryVibe hopes, a category defining device. But it faces one major hurdle: Men (especially the large consumer base of cis-gendered, self-identified straight ones) notoriously do not buy many sex toys. And when they do, it is usually not because they are interested in exploring new sensations like those the Tenuto offers.

Granted, researchers haven’t probed how men engage with sex toys too deeply. Social psychologist and sex researcher Justin Lehmiller has speculated this may be because so many people only think of toys as a part of female sex and sexuality that few even consider exploring male toy usage.

Some sex store sales figures do suggest that men shop for sexual goods about as often as women. A 2014 deep dive on one chain’s sales by data journalist Jon Millward, though, showed that men mostly dominated purchases of things like condoms. Women dominated purchases of vibrating toys, the retailer’s highest selling device category. Men did dominate purchases in the lower selling anal toy category. But non-heterosexual men seemed to drive those figures, reflecting widespread and persistent stigmas around anal stimulation among straight men. Many men who bought toys that weren’t explicitly made or marketed for their gender seemingly did so for their female partners to use, whether in sex or on their own. And few women bought toys for their male partners. A 2009 survey similarly found that only a minority of American men had ever used a vibrator, and the vast majority of them only used these toys with (and likely only on) their female partners, rather than for solo fun.

When men do buy items for their own use, Millward and others have found, most seem to opt for penis rings, or other devices mostly meant to help people with erectile dysfunction get or maintain an erection. In Millward’s data, only about a fifth of his already limited pool of male consumers actually bought a device specifically made for penile stimulation. And his data came from the tail end of an apparent spike in male toy sales from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s.

Sex culture observers have suggested any number of reasons for the anemic state of the male sex toy market, all of which probably have some merit: Most media, for instance, only depicts women as toy users—and increasingly represents them as sexually liberated souls. In the rare instances pop culture does show men using sex toys on their own, they are typically portrayed as sad sacks or weirdoes who can’t find a partner. The zeitgeist also increasingly seems to view sex toys as a vital tool for accessing female pleasure, and this pleasure as a vital component of holistic wellness, or a strong relationship. That is likely why big chain retailers like Walmart feel comfortable selling vibrators now. But the zeitgeist also insists that male sexuality and pleasure are simple, built around the quest for a quick and efficient orgasm, for which one only needs a hand and one frictional, repetitive motion. That implies that men who might want, or even need, toys for themselves are somehow deficient or deviant.

This is a fair amount of cultural and behavioral baggage for a company to push against. So I asked Alys: Why did MysteryVibe decide to move into the fraught male sex toy space in the first place? And how does the company plan to sell a novel device like the Tenuto to a limited, and likely skeptical, consumer base?

According to Alys, the MysteryVibe team decided to create Tenuto for a pretty simple reason. Their existing consumers said they wanted the company to make an explicitly male-facing toy.

Alys noted that while the Crescendo is gender-neutral, many consumers “still conceive of it as a product for people with vulvas.” That is not necessarily a problem. Many men find, through partnered or solo exploration, that they can bend even toys built explicitly for use on vulvas or in vaginas towards their wants and needs. So plenty of people who assume the Crescendo is a female-focused toy may learn, rather intuitively, that they can get some mileage out of it for their own erogenous anatomy.(Similarly, MysteryVibe points out that people with vulvas can likely still find uses for the Tenuto.) But many, if not most, men never do figure out that seemingly female-facing toys can work for them, too. “One of the core pieces of feedback we were getting from men who bought it for their partners,” Alys said, was “‘when are you going to create something for me?’”

MysteryVibe, in other words, seemed to see a clear male consumers base open to buying a high-end and novel toy for their own pleasure and exploration, like the company’s existing product, but waiting for something explicitly gendered that would, in a sense, give them permission to buy and use it.

Looking at the male sex toy space, Alys said, the MysteryVibe team realized there was plenty of room for innovation, especially by moving away from designs that try to mimic human anatomy in function and in form. Variable, unique sensations and a discreet design could together offer, as Alys put it, “something that people with penises can be proud to walk into a store, buy, and use.”

Alys seems to believe that stressing the Tenuto’s novel form(s) of stimulation can effectively draw men towards it—that many men are eager not just for a respectable company to tell them it is okay to buy a toy for their own pleasure, but for a product to encourage them to explore their bodies. “Elevating the conversation around pleasure is where we’re aiming, in terms of some of the marketing and some of the ways we’re hoping to talk to people” about the Tenuto, she explained.

However, she does acknowledge the massive gap in the way pop culture and society talk about female versus male toys and sexuality. She also seems to acknowledge that there are not as many cultural forces normalizing male toys as there have been for female toys over the past couple of decades (e.g. Sex and the City, Goop), much less cultivating a complex view of male sexuality and encouraging slow, pleasure-not-orgasm-centered self-exploration. She maintains that this exploration would be valuable for the many men who have internalized a simplistic view of male sexuality. Exploring themselves, she stresses, could clearly help men achieve new heights of personal pleasure, and learn to explore their partners’ bodies as well, leading to more satisfying sensual lives overall. But it is hard to see how the sort of pleasure exploration-focused pitch she makes for the Tenuto could push past the largely intact cultural barriers against, and stigmas around, male sex toy usage to reach the bulk of male consumers.

So perhaps unsurprisingly, while the promotional materials for the Tenuto mention novel pleasure and self-exploration, they lean just as heavily, if not more so, on the rationales men already use for buying sex toys: satisfying their female partners and managing their erectile dysfunction.

“Why use a vibrator,” one promo asks, “when you can be the vibrator” by wearing the device so some of its motors act as a clitoral stimulator during penetrative vaginal sex? This, MysteryVibe’s press release materials argue, could help men close the orgasm gap between them and their female partners. They also boast that the Tenuto’s sensations can spark blood flow, which can help men get, or maintain, an erection.

These sales points position the Tenuto as a cross between a penis ring and a vibrator, items men might already be willing to buy for partnered sex. Its inconspicuous design, seen from this perspective, further positions it as something men might feel less embarrassed to buy than existing devices that could, in combination, serve the same purpose.

For Alys, though, that messaging is just a good hook to grab people initially. She believes that the same narratives that have helped to diversify female sex toys in recent years are bleeding into discussions of male sexuality. This seems to give her faith that, after the right introduction, men will be willing to engage with, and want to buy, the Tenuto as a more revolutionary tool for exploring new types of pleasure.

She also believes that, by presenting the Tenuto in spaces that usually do not feature sex toys, like tech conferences, she can create a moment of shock in unwitting audiences that opens a door of potential for some to reconsider the role and meaning of male sex toys. Novelty and surprise may be enough to give people permission to explore the Tenuto on its own unique sensory terms.

None of this is certain, though. The question of how to overcome the cultural forces that have limited male sex toys in the past “is a lot of the stuff that we’re still trying to figure out,” Alys admitted. She added that the Tenuto alone isn’t going to tear down longstanding social-sexual stigmas, and by so doing open up new potential in the male sex toy market. “I will probably spend my entire life talking about sexuality and breaking things down and establishing new attitudes,” she said.

In that sense, Tenuto may be as much a piece of sexual activism as entrepreneurship. It is, in part at least, a MysteryVibe manifesto on the realities and needs of male sexuality. And it is a gamble on the power of a few established marketing entry points, surprise, and innovation to encourage people to engage with, and hopefully embrace, a (for many) new and complex vision of male pleasure and sexuality. It is impossible to say whether the startup’s gambit will pay off. But even if it succeeds in moving the needle slightly, it could be a major step towards a more diverse, dynamic (and lucrative) male sex toy market.

Complete Article HERE!

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Breaking the Binary

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– A guide to understanding the essence of human sexuality and gender

By Sasha Ranganath 

Humans have always boxed everything up into black and white contrasts and standardised ideals, essentially losing touch with what it means to be human. In this ever-changing, quick-paced world, where everyone is in a hurry, let’s take a step back and get down to the basics of being human – identity. Specifically, sexual and gender identity.

It’s time to break the binary by understanding the LGBTQIA+ community.

Let’s first understand the difference between gender, sex and sexuality.

Sex – At birth, the genitalia and reproductive system humans possess, determines their sex. This could be male, female or intersex (more on this later).

Gender – A combination of innate traits and learned behaviour, gender is how one identifies and expresses themselves regardless of sex. Gender and sex cannot be used interchangeably.

Cisgender – describes a person who is comfortable and identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Sexuality – Completely separate from gender and sex, sexuality only refers to the romantic and sexual attraction one experiences towards other people.

Heterosexual – describes a person attracted exclusively to the opposite gender (men attracted only to women; women attracted only to men) romantically and sexually.

Now that we have this basic understanding, what does LGBTQIA+ mean?

L – Lesbian

Lesbian (n.) is the term for women who are only attracted to other women, romantically and/or sexually.

Usage: A lesbian; Lesbians; “I am a lesbian”

G – Gay

Gay (adj.) is the term for men who are only attracted to other men, romantically and/or sexually. Gay is also an umbrella term for same-sex attraction and can be used by lesbians to describe themselves as well.

Usage: A gay man; Gay men; Gay women; “I am gay”

Wrong usage: A gay.

B – Bisexual

Bisexual (n., adj.) is the term for people who are attracted to both men and women, romantically and/or sexually. Contrary to what many believe, bisexual people are not, in fact, “half gay, half straight, or confused”.

Usage: A bisexual person; “I am bisexual”

T – Transgender

Transgender (adj.) defines people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. is the antonym, denoting people who are comfortable and identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people also undergo gender-affirming surgery to align with their identity.

Usage: A transgender person; “I am transgender”

Transgender woman/trans woman

A transgender woman or trans woman is someone who was assigned male at birth but identifies as a woman.

Transgender man/trans man

A transgender man or trans man is someone who was assigned female at birth but identifies as a man.

Wrong usage: Transgendered; transgenders

Q – Questioning/Queer

The ‘Q’ in LGBTQIA+ refers to people who are still questioning and exploring their identity. It may also stand for “queer” – a word that originated as a slur against people in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Many members of the community have reclaimed the word “queer”, and use it amongst themselves as a blanket term for the community. However, there are some members who find the word offensive and don’t condone its usage. If you are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, refrain from using this word.

I – Intersex

Intersex (adj.) is the term for people born with any of the several variations in chromosomes and hormones, and a reproductive system or genitalia that does not align with the typical definitions of female or male.

However, many intersex children are brought up as the gender their physical appearance most resembles. Some of them are also subjected to irreversible genital surgeries as infants, thought to help them “grow up normally”. This is an unnecessary procedure, as being intersex is not a medical problem. It may actually cause them psychological harm.

It is also important to note that intersex is exclusively about varying reproductive and sex characteristics, therefore it is not the same as transgender.  

A – Asexual

An asexual person, “ace” for short, is someone who does not experience sexual feelings towards others, regardless of gender. This does not mean asexual people do not enter romantic relationships or occasionally engage in sexual activity. It simply means that they rarely, if ever, have sexual desires. Note: Asexuality and celibacy are not the same thing, as celibacy is a conscious choice and decision.

Plus (+)

There is a host of other sexualities and gender identities apart from those mentioned above. Let’s take a look at a few of them

:

  • Pansexual – Describes a person who is attracted to others regardless of their gender; different from bisexual, as a bisexual person experiences attraction to only two genders.
  • Demisexual – Describes a person who is sexually attracted to others only after establishing a close relationship with them.
  • Genderfluid – Describes a person whose gender identity varies from time to time, or is fluid.
  • Non-binary – Describes a person who does not identify as man or woman/boy or girl at any given point of time. Read about non-binary poet Alok Vaid-Menon here.
  • Gender non-conforming – An umbrella term for people with alternate gender identities, including but not limited to genderfluid and non-binary people.

Related terms to keep in mind:

  • Coming out of the closet – Coming out of the closet, or just “coming out”, refers to the process of a person accepting themselves for their sexuality and gender identity, and letting people around them know.This can be a rather terrifying process for many, as it involves risks including being abandoned, alienated and even violence. If someone comes out to you, always remember that they trust you and hope that you will not treat them any differently because of their identity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a sexuality and/or gender identity different from the majority. There is no shame in knowing someone from the LGBTQIA+ community.It is also important to note that you should never disclose someone else’s identity, or “out” them, without their consent, as it could be dangerous for them. Plus, it’s not your story to tell
  • Pronouns – Pronouns are especially important when it comes to trans people and gender non-conforming people because it directly aligns with their identity. Referring to trans women as “he” or “him”, and trans men as “she” or “her”, based on their assigned gender at birth, is extremely disrespectful.We’ve all learnt that “he/him” and “she/her” are singular pronouns, and that “they/them” is a plural pronoun. However, many gender non-conforming people go by “they/them” pronouns as it is gender-neutral and can be used in the singular form.Do not purposely refer to them with gender-specific pronouns. It is ok to forget or slip up sometimes but always correct yourself without being overly apologetic.
  • Heteronormativity – The deep-rooted idea that gender falls into strictly two categories and that only heterosexual relationships are valid. Gender and sexuality vary from person to person and are not limited to rigid boxes. A large part of this mindset is due to what we watch on TV and read in the news, which is almost entirely made up of heterosexual couples, stereotypical portrayals of gender roles and depicting gay and transgender people in derogatory and/or excessively comical light. We need to consciously remove this veil of heteronormativity and look at the world with a wider perspective.

The LGBTQIA+ community has faced and continues to face immense discrimination and violence. As times change, there have been a lot of positive changes in mindsets, opinions and laws all around the world, including the recent de-criminalisation of Section 377 in India, but there still remains the discomfort and awkwardness when we talk about sexuality and gender.

Parents shield themselves and their children from such conversations, labelling them “bad” and “inappropriate”. Forced “conversion therapy” takes place behind closed doors. Classrooms, corridors and washrooms have heard and seen too many slurs being hurled, “jokes” being made, and bullying being overlooked. Teenagers and young people are thrown out of their own homes, with nowhere else to go.

There have been innumerable incidents of targeted violence that have turned fatal. The list of injustices faced by the members of the LGBTQIA+ community goes on and on and needs to stop. Use your knowledge and voice to stand up for and with the community.

How you can be a better ally:

  • Don’t laugh at “jokes” that throw the LGBTQIA+ community under the bus. Instead, call them out and make your stance known firmly.
  • If someone comes out to you, support and respect them.
  • Remember to use the right pronouns.
  • Don’t disclose anyone’s identity without consent.
  • If you don’t fully understand something, do some research about it. Don’t hold opinions that are based on incomplete knowledge.
  • Have an open mind, because the world is more than just black and white boxes. Celebrate the differences!

Complete Article HERE!

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For the Best Sex of Your Life—Ask Old People

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Not only is senior sex better than younger sex, reveals sex expert Joan Price, but millennials could actually master a more fulfilling iteration of lovemaking from their elders—one that’s based on extended arousal and less pressure to perform.

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Most of us are scared to get old, anxious that silver hair, crinkly eyes and the looming possibility of needing a walker signal the end of life as we know it. More secretively, many of us fear that the outward signs and symptoms of a life long-lived make us less desirable—not just as people, but as partners.

Not surprisingly, one of the most common anxieties people of all ages harbor about growing older is the death of their sex lives.

“I genuinely fear the day I’m old and wrinkled and my boobs are saggy,” Sophie, a newly married 30-year-old fashion executive, tells me. “I wonder, ‘Will my husband and I still find each other attractive? What is sex going to be like for us after 40 years together when I used to be hot and now I’m 70

The answer to that question will vary depending on who you ask, but pose it to Joan Price and she’ll give you one you might not expect.

“At 70?” she laughs. “Sex can be amazing. Expiration dates are for milk, not for pleasure.”

At 74, Joan is the nation’s leading and most outspoken expert on senior sex. A prolific public speaker and the author of three critically acclaimed books, a bevy of free webinars and a popular blog on the subject, Joan traverses the globe, spreading the good word that for people over 50, sex can be not only just as good as it was during a person’s fertile, more flexible years, but better.

“With the right education and sense of humor, the so-called limitations of sexuality in your golden years can actually be reframed as benefits,” Joan argues from her sunny home in Sebastopol, California. “Later-life sex can mean more intimacy, more time spent giving and receiving arousal and pleasure, and a delicious expansion of what people thought they were capable of in bed.”

Truth be told, much research has found sex gets better with age. As the years add up, people become more comfortable in their bodies and are often more adventurous when it comes to trying new things. And while sex in a person’s later years is more often defined by quality rather than quantity, rates of sex amongst the elderly are nearly indistinguishable from those of younger generations: nearly 75 percent of people between the ages of 57-64, and a quarter of those aged 75-85, are still getting it on roughly three times per month, which is only slightly less than those aged 30-49.

Joan is also happy to report that seniors are doing a lot more exciting things with their time than chastely knitting in the warm glow of The Price is Right—they’re watching porn, having kinky sex, dating online, using sex toys and happily engaging in consensual non-monogamy. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that a recent survey by Match.com found that age 66 (not 26) is the age at which women report having the most pleasurable sex. For men, it’s 64.

This would have been valuable information for Joan to know when she experienced the best sex of her life at 57 with the 64-year-old man who’d eventually become her husband (the late and great Robert). It might have reassured them both that the “glorious” sex they were having wasn’t actually that uncommon for people their age. It might have confirmed her suspicion that, despite the messages mainstream media beats into all of us, a few gray hairs and a few less hormones aren’t actually obstacles to a long life of great, post-retirement sex.

At the very least, it would have been nice to have a resource that could explain the unlikely passion she was experiencing because she and Robert were having mind-blowing passionate sex during a period in their lives where they were supposed to focus on getting their hips replaced. She wanted help understanding why, after a menopause-induced dry spell that left her thinking her sex life was caput, she and her new lover were suddenly more sexually voracious than they’d ever been.

But that sort of information didn’t exist 14 years ago. In fact, hardly anyone even dared to broach the topic of old-age sex. Apart from the odd book that did little more than admit old people were sexually active, there weren’t many examples that Joan could find in literature, TV, film or research that portrayed old-age sex as healthy or normal—let alone hot. The long-lived stereotype of an old-married couple passing their sexual prime and living out their remaining years as platonic companions prevailed, and without role models or media representation willing to prove it wrong, it had run rampant.

“People didn’t want to hear about this stuff back then,” Joan remembers. “Publishing companies wouldn’t publish books about old-age sex. People wouldn’t hire speakers who wanted to talk about it. There was very little information.”

It was actually Robert who suggested that, since there was such little information in the arena of elderly sex, she should fill it herself. Why not write a book of her own that not just documented, but actually celebrated, senior sex? At age 61, she released her first book on senior lovemaking, Better Than I Ever Expected, a straight-talking ode to old age that detailed the passion she and Robert shared, chronicling in no uncertain terms the delights and challenges of sex after 60. The book attracted so much attention that she started a blog by the same name, which quickly became one of the only places on the internet where seniors could go for sex education that catered specifically to their needs.

No topic is too racy for Joan—she flits from masturbation to sex toys to non-monogamy with a fearless directness refreshingly uncharacteristic of someone with her mileage. She’s disarmingly buoyant too. Her voice conveys a certain brightness one might not expect during discussions about how Alzheimer’s affects a person’s sex life or how sex toys can facilitate orgasms when it’s no longer as easy.

While Joan says older folks are typically relieved by her willingness to go there, younger people are surprised to hear her talk like that. Why wouldn’t they be?

Apart from the stray sex-positive TV show (see: Frankie & Grace, Transparent, and, to a certain degree, Golden Girls), senior sex, if it’s shown at all, is almost always depicted as ridiculous, gross, or non-existent. Ever seen Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton’s 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give? There’s a sex scene in which they attempt to consummate their love, but that in itself is a punchline—Nicholson, it appears, can’t get it up without Viagra.

Likewise, films like Quartet and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel have tried their hands at septuagenarian romance, but whatever sex the characters are supposed to be having must have taken place just out of the camera’s frame, because we never actually see these people, in all their aged glory, making love.

Hollywood has never been good at depicting sex accurately, regardless of how old the people are on screen, but at least sex between people under 50 is acknowledged. Pass that age threshold, though, and it would seem audiences are being spared depictions of aged sex. This lack of visibility and its false representation as “gross” or embarrassing only contributes to the stereotype that older bodies are not worthy of desire, which stokes the fear of younger people who fall prey to the idea that good sex belongs to the taut.

“Although mainstream media tells us younger people are objectively sexier, that’s not necessarily true,” Joan says. “We need to unlearn our society’s attitude that only young, firm bodies are desirable. We are capable of sexual pleasure at any age, and we are also capable of inspiring sexual desire. If we feel sexy and see ourselves as sexy, we project a juicy attitude that is appealing and desirable. Our negative body image is our own worst enemy—that’s what we need to battle, not the wrinkles or sagging body parts!”

Many older people do see themselves and their partners as sexy. In fact, one 1999 survey conducted by AARP and Modern Maturity magazine revealed that the percentage of people age 45 and older who consider their partners physically attractive actually increases with age—a reassuring finding, no doubt, for the many young people biting their nails about growing old.

More soothing still is Joan’s point that it’s not just looks that matter when it comes to attraction. Non-physical qualities like humor, intelligence, kindness, communicative skills, thoughtfulness, sex technique and romanticism factor in equally, if not more, into a person’s allure. More importantly, these qualities—not a really thick head of hair and a glistening set of six-pack abs—are what creates the intimacy and connection that makes sex good. Of equal importance is technique, but even that is ageless. In fact, Joan, and many others, would argue that age only improves and refines a person’s bedroom aptitude.

“That’s why I say sex has no expiration date and that it’s better than anyone expected,” says Joan. “In general, we know ourselves pretty well by the time we hit 50. We know what we like, and we know what we’re looking for—not just sexually, but in life. We’ve already made the requisite mistakes in past relationships, and we’re more aware than ever that we’re not invincible. This makes us less inclined to settle and more interested in the idea of pursuing something, and someone, that works right for us.”

Joan’s message is not that sex-while-70 is fancy-free. Far from it. Those willing to brave it often, though not always, grapple with challenges like decreased libido, difficulty becoming aroused, erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, painful sex, a lack of mobility, depression and hormonal changes that can make the idea of sex seem like a lot more effort than it’s worth.

“One reason people give up on sex as they age is they don’t feel the same hormonal urges as they used to,” Joan explains. “We also may have medical or mobility issues, or we’re on medications that dampen our responses.”

Insecurity about the aging body’s appearance and physical abilities can also make older folk withdraw from sex. Many people Joan’s age retreat from the world of romance over anxiety about having sex with a new person, and many more are overly cautious about exploring pleasure in their older years because of lingering damage from a past relationship. New and unfamiliar feelings also come up as people age—a person’s sexuality, after all, is dynamic and often in flux across their lifetime. Not surprisingly, Joan says one of the most common things she hears from people is that they want a different kind of touch than they used to, in a different place, and by a different person (even by a different gender)

“Any combination of these things can lead us to assume that part of our lives is over,” she says. “But that doesn’t have to be true!”

What’s important for people her age to remember, she says, is that these changes and challenges are not insurmountable obstacles to satisfying sex. They just mean seniors have got to learn to work with what they’ve got.

Thankfully, Joan’s got an arsenal of reassuring tips to help them do that.

One of her favorite and most effective nuggets of wisdom is a concept called “responsive desire,” an idea popularized by author and sex researcher Emily Nagoski in her book Come As You Are. Responsive desire describes a simple method for getting in the mood when you’re not feeling aroused: stimulating yourself physically before you’re feeling randy. A diametric reversal of how pleasure works in a person’s younger years—arousal first, then stimulation—responsive desire is a game-changer for vintage bodies who, for the myriad reasons listed above, may not feel as lusty as they used to.

“Many seniors think, ‘If I don’t have the mental urge, it means I don’t want or need to have sex’,” says Joan. “Not so. You just have to create that urge yourself by getting revved up physically even if you don’t feel desire at that moment. Once you do, the desire will follow.” In other words, senior desire is there, it just needs to be awakened in the body first.

This is a life-altering revelation with real effects. One of Joan’s readers wrote in to say that learning about responsive desire saved her marriage. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to have sex, she discovered, it was just that she was waiting for desire to occur rather than creating it herself. Once seniors learn they have more control over desire than they think, explains Joan, an entire world of passionate and pleasurable sex opens up.

This is especially true if they’re willing to evolve their understanding of what the word “sex” actually means. As opposed to its standard definition of “penis going in and out of vagina,” Joan urges the people she speaks with to see sex as “anything that arouses them and brings them sexual pleasure.”

Defined in those terms, sex becomes more than just a single, penetrative act by which to judge the success of a romantic undertaking. Instead, sex can be viewed as a whole spectrum of acts: masturbation, using sex toys, kissing, a BDSM power exchange, watching porn together, the stroking of a partner’s newly replaced knee under the table. It all counts as long as it’s pleasurable.

Often, what feels good need not include orgasm or an erection to occur. In fact, taking the emphasis off both these things can provide an opportunity to explore a new, more intimate and more fulfilling iteration of lovemaking—one that’s based more on extended arousal and foreplay, an elongation of the pleasure process and less pressure to “perform.”

And while many younger people may gawk at the prospect of orgasm-less, erection-free sex, this expanded-definition approach has worked wonders for Joan’s senior readers (it can for people of all ages, actually—you don’t need to wait until you’re 75 to realize that goal-less, more full-body sex can be beyond pleasurable). One older gent who viewed one of Joan’s Great Sex Without Penetration webinars wrote:

Joan is flattered but not surprised by success stories like this. “Sex really opens up for us when we realize it doesn’t have to take a particular form, go in a particular direction or have a particular outcome,” she says. Viewed like that, it’s no wonder so many older people are maintaining healthy and active sex lives. They might not be having intercourse per se—though many are—but they are sure as hell having sex.

“We don’t have older-age sex ed, so when we start not being able to have orgasms with penetration or enjoy sex at all because of vaginal pain or erection problems, people are usually relieved to find out that sex isn’t over for them,” says Joan. “People just need the right education and a spirit of adventure.”

“That,” she adds, “and a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at sex at our age, what can you laugh at?”

Complete Article HERE!

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What spending two weeks in a chastity device taught me about my sexuality and my marriage

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I had no idea how much of my daily interactions with my wife were subtle negotiations for sex, but my wife sure did. She’d come to accept it as part of being married to a man

By Key Barrett

It’s “Locktober” again, the month where men willingly lock their genitalia up in chastity devices in the hopes of making it “hands-free” for 31 days. Some do it for the kink, some for the challenge, and a great number do it as a way to be more present and engaged with their partners (called “keyholders”). Though I could never do a whole month, I did do it for two weeks, and what it taught me about my sexuality and how it can dominate my marriage was nothing short of revelatory.

First, some context. As an erotica writer, I wanted to understand the common theme of chastity to write more believable characters. My wife agreed to be my keyholder for two weeks and unlock me only if she desired it. I had a spare key to unlock for safety reasons and maintenance, but not for any other reason

With these rules in place, our dynamic changed within three days. What had started as some fun denial play became something else entirely. Once my wife trusted that I really was “locked up” at her discretion, she felt free to interact with me without every action being viewed through my sexual needs, which we dubbed “the barter system”.

Simply put, I had no idea how much of my daily interactions with my wife were subtle negotiations for sex, but my wife sure did. She’d come to accept it as part of being married to a man. But now, if my hand lingered too long on a caress, my cage made the motivations painfully obvious. Call it cognitive behaviour therapy for my penis.

Beforehand, her being playful with me was viewed primarily as an invitation to sex. Now it could now exist on its own. My listening to her day wasn’t partially “putting in the time to earn sex,” because sex wasn’t an option. I was liberated to enjoy the act of listening.

Subsequently, she opened up physically and emotionally and I enjoyed being the emotional support a husband is supposed to be. Over time, my sexual needs became less singularly focused on the end goal of orgasm, and more focused on courtship and on her. Closeness, caresses and bonding took prominence over my desire to get off.

I still wanted sex, but I was free from the dishonest dealings of my libido. I wanted sex as an accompaniment to intimacy, not intimacy as post-coital add-on. This distinction was huge. When the sex did come, it was better both physically and emotionally for us both.

There were other benefits, too. My locus of thought moved from “me” to “we”. She felt more entitled to her needs and filtered her words less.

I also learned the multiple roles masturbation played in my life and which ones weren’t helpful. It was healthy to use it as a release for sexual frustration during a week when there was just no time for sex, but it didn’t stop there. I used it when putting in the time to get my partner in the mood seemed like too much effort. In that sense it was lazy man’s sex that I benefited from, but denied my wife that intimacy, and treated sex like a chore.

When left without masturbation I sought other options. Intimacy with my wife (in a reciprocation-free environment for her) allowed her to ease into the enjoyment of it and allowed me to be a part of her pleasure without filtering it through my own. Needless to say, that was a lot of fun for us both.

If I was stressed, my new avenue was one that had always been there: I talked to my wife about it. She had great insights but mostly she just listened. The stress went away, and unlike the short-term benefit masturbation provided, I got longer term benefits like companionship, trust, vulnerability and reassurance.

I emerged from my two weeks with my masculinity intact, but a deeper understanding of what it meant to be her man. And we emerged a happier couple.

Complete Article HERE!

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A strong libido and bored by monogamy:

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the truth about women and sex

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When a heterosexual couple marries, who’s likely to get bored of sex first? The answer might surprise you…

What do you know about female sexuality? Whatever it is, chances are, says Wednesday Martin, it’s all wrong. “Most of what we’ve been taught by science about female sexuality is untrue,” she says. “Starting with two basic assertions: that men have a stronger libido than women, and that men struggle with monogamy more than women do.”

Martin pulls no punches. Her bestselling memoir Primates of Park Avenue cast her as an anthropologist observing the habits of her Upper East Side neighbours. She claimed among other shockers that privileged stay-at-home mothers were sometimes given a financial “wife bonus” based on their domestic and social performance. The book caused a furore, and is currently being developed as a TV series, with Martin as exec producer. Her new book, out this week, should be equally provocative. Entitled Untrue, it questions much that we thought we knew about women’s sexuality.

Her starting-point is that research into human sexuality has been, historically, overwhelmingly male-centric; “notable sexologists”, starting with Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal (1833-1890) are mostly male. You have to scroll through another 25, including Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey, before you arrive at a female name: Mary Calderone (1904-1998), who championed sex education. And even in the subsequent 30 names there are only five women, including both Virginia Johnson (partner of the famous, and male, William Masters), and Shere Hite.

All these men made certain assumptions about women’s sexuality. It’s no surprise that it was Hite who revolutionised thinking on female orgasm, arguing that it was not “dysfunctional” to fail to climax during intercourse. Crucial, too, says Martin, has been the work of Rosemary Basson, who realised that spontaneous desire, the kind sexologists had measured for years, was only one type of relevant desire, and that responsive or triggered sexual response is much more important for women. Measured on that scale it turns out that women are, in fact, every bit as sexually arousable as men.

New findings showed that women reported similar intensities of desire and arousal to men, and “a real shift in thinking” about females and monogamy. “We were taught that men were the ones who needed variety, but the exact opposite turns out to be the case,” says Martin. “Overfamiliarisation with a partner and desexualisation kills women’s libido. We used to think it’s only men who became sexually bored after marriage; turns out that’s not true. It’s when women get married that it’s detrimental to their libido.”

Martin isn’t here to talk about her own relationship, but for the record she’s 53, has been married for 18 years, still lives in New York, and has two sons aged 17 and 10 who are, predictably enough, “mortified” at what their mother writes about. She hopes her work will help validate the feelings of the next generation of young women: “It’s not about giving them permission to ‘cheat’, not even giving them permission to refuse monogamy, but I hope it does give them permission to feel normal if they don’t like monogamy,” she says. Because that’s the central fallacy: the belief that monogamy is harder for men than for women. In fact, argues Martin, the exact opposite is the case. “Women crave novelty and variety and adventure at least as much as men, and maybe more.” She talks me through what she says is the classic pathway for women when they marry or commit to one heterosexual partner long-term (the research has so far concentrated on heterosexual couples; more work is needed on gay women’s sex lives). “A couple live together, their libidos are matched, and they have a lot of sex. But after a year, two years, maybe three years, what tends to happen is that the woman’s desire drops more quickly than the man’s. At that point the woman thinks, ‘I don’t like sex any more.’ But what, in fact, is happening is that she is having a hard time with monogamy; because women get bored with one partner more quickly than men do.”

So women are socialised to believe that they’ve gone off sex, when in fact they’re craving variety. Instead of being the brake on passion, says Martin, the female half of the long-term partnership is the key to a more adventurous and exciting sex life. What it’s all about, she explains, is the existence of the only entirely pleasure-seeking organ in the human repertoire, the clitoris. For her portrait, she wears a necklace shaped like one. “Women evolved to seek out pleasure, women are multiply orgasmic, women’s biology sets them up to seek out pleasure,” says Martin. “The clitoris has a very important back story about female human sex which is that our sex evolved for the purpose of adventure.”

Another element in the mix, she says, was the finding that a third of women who are having an extramarital relationship say their marriage or long-term partnership is happy or very happy. “So we need to understand that women aren’t just seeking variety because they’re unhappy, they’re seeking it because they need variety and novelty,” she says.

What does all this mean, in a practical sense, for our sex lives? Martin doesn’t like the word “cheating” – she prefers to use the term “step out” – and that’s what some women decide to do. But it’s not the only solution. “There are many women who are suffering but don’t want to leave their relationship or to step out, and they’ve not yet discovered vibrators,” says Martin. “I can’t tell you how many women have told me they never had a vibrator – there’s a generation in their 40s and 50s who missed the vibrator revolution and never caught up. And there are all these new vibrators out there – and anything new you can introduce will make a big difference to your sex life.” Another way forward can be for a couple to open up their relationship in some way, and invite someone else in. And she has other ideas up her sleeve that seem a lot less risqué, like going on a zip wire, taking up dance lessons or going scuba diving together. Why does that help? “Research on the neurochemicals has found that our sexual desire is triggered when we do something new with a long-term partner. A thrilling activity is ideal: it can give you a wash of hormones that makes you feel new to each other again.”

Indeed, part of the narrative seems to be that men are too quick to settle for “the usual” (which makes sense now we know they’re not the ones who are bored); but opening up the conversation about what else they could try can relight the fuse. The trick here, counsels Martin, is for them to keep on and on asking. “Men really caring about what women want sexually makes a huge difference. You might need to have the conversation over and over, and women might keep saying they’re happy with things as they are – but keep asking, and eventually women will open up about their sexual fantasies. We find that their menus are more varied than men’s. Men are shocked, but also gratified and thrilled, when they find out how sexually exciting we can be when we get past the inhibitions that have been socialised into us.”

Paradoxically, there’s been a parallel shift in attitudes towards extramarital affairs and divorce alongside the growing studies into women’s sexuality. Martin quotes the US statistics: in 1976, fewer than half of well-educated Americans thought having an affair was always wrong; by 2013, that figure was 91%. “We’ve become a lot less tolerant of infidelity in recent years,” says Martin. “And meanwhile divorce has become much more common: a large number of people in the 1970s who thought affairs were OK, thought divorce was wrong.”

So at the precise moment science reveals women have the bigger “need” to be sexually adventurous, society clamps down on infidelity. And that, says Martin, is hugely significant. “The way we feel about women who refuse monogamy is an important metric for how we feel about equality.” She’s talking, she says, about women who openly refuse monogamy by being polyamorous. The overwhelming story we buy into, after all, is that men who “cheat” are just “men being men”; women who “step out” are far more likely to be criticised and shamed. Ultimately, though, they’re challenging something very deep in society’s expectations of them – and perhaps their stance is the most radical female stance of all.

Complete Article HERE!

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Size Really DOES Matter When It Comes to Male Fertility

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Here’s the question of the century: Does size really matter?

Well, when it comes to sexual pleasure, many women say no, because it’s more about the way you work it and how attractive you are than how big your penis is.

But according to new research presented this week at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Colorado, the answer is yes; size does matter…when it comes to fertility.

Apparently, men who aren’t too well-hung also tend to have more problems with fertility compared to men who are well endowed.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, recruited over 800 participants from a sexual health clinic and tracked them for three years.

The results revealed that men who struggle with infertility have, on average, a penis that is one centimeter shorter than those who don’t have reproductive issues. To be more specific, the average penis length was found to be 12.5cm (4.9 inches) for infertile men, and 13.4cm (5.3 inches) for fertile men.

“It may not be a striking difference but there was a clear statistical significance,” says head researcher Dr. Austen Slade.

Slade believes the reason for the relationship between a shorter penis size and infertility is likely due to underlying problems, such as hormonal disturbances or imbalances, or problems in the testes, which can lead to smaller penile length.

However, he also assures everyone that if you have a smaller peen but are otherwise completely healthy, there’s nothing to worry about.

“This is the first study to identify an association between shorter penile length and male infertility,” Slade says. “It’s possibly a manifestation of congenital or genetic factors that predispose one to infertility. For now, men with shorter penises don’t need to worry about their fertility.

“It remains to be determined if there are different penile length cut-offs that would predict more severe infertility,” he concluded.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual orientation may be set by sex hormones in the uterus – new study by Kiwi and Europeans

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Lesbians are more inclined to taking risks, alcohol use and “sexual sensation seeking”, the study found.

Some women may be born gay because of the amounts of male and female sex hormones they were exposed to in the uterus, according to a new study.

Based on a review of 460 scientific studies, New Zealand and European researchers argue that the quantities of testosterone and oestrogen may be crucial in understanding the full range of female traits – from those that are typically masculine, to those that are typically feminine.

The researchers believe that arguments suggesting same-sex sexual behaviours are contrary to the order of nature are implausible when seen in the context of their findings.

Sex hormones play a key role in the development of reproductive organs and other characteristics. Testosterone is found in men and less so in women. Oestrogen, too, is produced in the bodies of both sexes, but plays a bigger role in women.

The review article by the researchers, one of whom is Severi Luoto, a PhD student of evolutionary psychology at the University of Auckland, has been published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The review identified clusters of sex-typical traits which vary in their degree of masculinity.

Lesbian and bisexual women tended towards being more masculine on physical traits such as facial structure, the length of leg and arm bones and hearing. Their behaviour inclined towards the riskier, greater alcohol use and more “sexual sensation seeking”, the university said.

“While these traits vary between heterosexual and non-heterosexual women, the current findings suggest the traits also vary between different types of non-heterosexual women.”

Luoto said women have increasingly masculine traits across the range of sexual orientation: from heterosexual, mostly heterosexual, bisexual, femme lesbian to butch lesbian women.

“Butch lesbians show a composite of masculine biological, psychological, and behavioural characteristics.

“Higher bodily masculinity is an indication of higher exposure to testosterone in prenatal development.

“Femme lesbians and bisexuals do not have similarly masculinised bodily traits, but they do show psychological and behavioural masculinisation.

“So, we infer that bodies of femmes and bisexuals have not been masculinised in prenatal development but parts of their brains have. Increased masculinisation of psychological and behavioural traits may have resulted from moderate exposure to testosterone, or high exposure to oestrogen.”

“We propose that the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen present at different times of fetal development might account for differences in masculinisation of the body and psychological traits between types of non-heterosexual women.

“Our neurodevelopmental theory can provide a framework for understanding non-heterosexual women’s body morphology [or type], psychological dispositions, behavioural outcomes and lower general health.

“Distinguishing between different types of non-heterosexual women leads to an improved understanding of their different developmental trajectories and behavioural outcomes.

“Advances in the scientific understanding of diversity in human sexuality should help direct social policy, and provide impetus to abolish laws across nations which still restrict freedoms of expression and association, or punish same-sex sexual behaviour.”

Complete Article HERE!

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I’ll Have What She’s Having: Books for Better Sex and Better Relationships

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By Judith Newman

Having recently found myself single again, I approached the latest crop of books on sex and relationships with more than scholarly interest. Anything new happen while I’ve been on ice for the past 25 years? Let’s find out.

If you’ve ever had a sexual fantasy and thought, “Oh God, what’s wrong with me?” a quick read of TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life (Da Capo, $27) might ease your mind. Sure, maybe I’d had some odd thoughts, but did I have vomerophilia, the condition of being sexually aroused by vomit? No, I did not. Nor do I want to be a human cow, which means — well, look it up. So, all in all, I’m vanilla (which is both an expression and part of the buffet of sexual food fantasies).

Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, surveyed almost 4,000 Americans of various religions, ethnic groups and economic backgrounds to see what races our motors. Group sex is by far the most common fantasy, followed closely by receiving or inflicting pain. (You didn’t think those millions of copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey” were all bought by the same randy gal, right?) There were many startling findings, at least to me. For example, men and women aren’t wildly different in their fantasy lives, although women are more fluid in their sexuality and care more than men about where the sexual act takes place (presumably in the room with the best lighting and window treatments).

I was less surprised to learn that people who identify as either Republican or Democrat really are different in their fantasy lives. Republicans are publicly more conservative in their tastes, but in their private lives are more likely than Democrats to crave taboo situations like exhibitionism, voyeurism and fetishism. American political affiliations have implications for body features too. “I found that among men and women, both gay and straight,” Lehmiller writes, “Republicans were more likely to fantasize about larger penises than Democrats.” He speculates that they’re more likely to see the penis as a symbol of power or toughness. I can’t possibly imagine how he could come to this conclusion.

Lehmiller isn’t just putting out a compendium of our raciest thoughts; he tries to explain what those thoughts do for the health of our psyches. And he believes they do a great deal. We need our fantasies both for ourselves and, often, to share with our partners, even when it’s uncomfortable. He gives concrete advice on how to do this without making them feel threatened.

Incidentally, not all fantasies are about being transgressive. Many people simply dream of sex with a loved one, often an absent loved one. The teenager who masturbated to the fantasy of making love to his ex-girlfriend, ending with him cooking her a romantic dinner … well, I almost cried. (And wondered whom I could fix him up with.)

It may be preferable to regard HOW TO KEEP YOUR MARRIAGE FROM SUCKING: The Keys to Keep Your Wedlock Out of Deadlock (Diversion, $22.99) as a book of comedy rather than self-help because the married authors, Greg Behrendt (who wrote “She’s Just Not That Into You”) and Amiira Ruotola, are very funny people who are more at home with punch lines and movie scenes than helpful advice. The key to a good marriage is in the setup, they say, using a regrettable metaphor: the planting of flowers of goodness that will get you through the weeds of badness. “The practice, not the goal, is to learn how to love each other even when you struggle to like each other.” O.K., fine. But before we get to this common-sense conclusion, we need a weedwacker to get through a lot of dopey ideas. Should we really get married because it makes it harder to walk away? Do we all need a movie “trailer moment” of a marriage proposal so our mates won’t resent us in the future? Not merging your finances is a recipe for disaster? (I’d argue that more often it’s the exact opposite.)

The best reason to read “How to Keep Your Marriage From Sucking” isn’t the advice but the fabulous cautionary tales from the marriages of the authors’ friends. Here’s a valuable lesson: If you’re a would-be groom, don’t enthusiastically spell out “Will you marry me?” in s’mores right outside your tent while on a romantic camping trip. Adorable to wake up to, theoretically — and in reality an invitation to marauding raccoons, who bit the future groom on the hand when he tried to rescue the ring he’d set next to his culinary masterpiece. Well, that’s one way to make memories.

My aunt — and probably yours too — had a favorite expression when my cousins and I would gas on and on about some new love interest: “You think you discovered sex?” I was reminded of Aunt Alberta while reading GIRL BONER: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment (Amberjack, $24.99). Its author, the sexuality podcaster August McLaughlin, writes as if she discovered sex, and she really wants to share the news. Her book is terrifically encouraging, if not exactly filled with surprises. Masturbation, good! Fat-shaming, bad! “Embracing our sexuality and capacity for pleasure can be as crucial to living a full, healthy life as eating a balanced diet, breathing well and getting sufficient nightly sleep.” True words, those.

McLaughlin has written a thorough primer on everything from sex toys to bondage to “no means no,” intended for young women readers who might be new to the idea that they deserve, and own, their personal pleasure. I just wish it weren’t written with a level of preciousness that made me want to scream my literary safe word. “In the mirror I could see my vaginal lips bulging outward, like fiery rosebuds blooming.” “Make sure your nipples get some TLC. … Because, delicious!” I don’t know what a chapter that involves her family’s history of sexual abuse should be called, but I can promise you it’s not “Porn Perks, Problems and the Penises in Between.”

The book I least looked forward to reading — because I thought it would be gloomy — turned out to be the best of the bunch. IF YOU’RE IN MY OFFICE, IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together (Holt, $26) has the best description of the institution: “Divorce is, at best, a knife fight in a closet. And the kids are in the closet with you. … And the lights are off.”

Fifty-six percent of all American marriages end in divorce — and the divorce lawyer James J. Sexton claims he wrote this book to help you beat the odds. So he’ll teach you what his years of observing warring couples have taught him. It turns out to be a lot, starting with: You need to stay interesting to your mate, which generally involves staying interesting to yourself. Lose your identity in marriage, and you’re likely to lose the marriage.

It’s not novel to tell people that they need to know how to communicate better, but Sexton’s advice is both spot on and very specific — and he sugarcoats nothing. (Including himself: He too is divorced.) He points out, for example, that what we all like to think of as constructive criticism of our mate is actually just criticism. He’s a big believer in training people through redirection and praise for even tiny changes, kind of like throwing bushels of “Whoosa Good Boy!” at your dog. And this guy is nothing if not a realist. Holding sex back as punishment is counterproductive, but suddenly becoming way more affectionate and enthusiastic when your mate does something right: That’s the way to go.

The book is riddled with jaw-dropping stories about people’s insane behavior when things go wrong. Sexton is a very hard guy to shock. This is his interior monologue when a new client says, ‘You’re not going to believe what I’m going to tell you.” “Really? Because unless you’re a nun” and you’re sleeping with “your cousin while married to a hit man for the Russian mob who has liquidated all of their drug money and converted it into Nigerian currency that you’ve transferred to your tattooed bisexual lover who happens to be a sitting judge, you’re not making a blip on my shock radar.” Sexton has seen some stuff. There are not one but two chapters on what he calls “nanny fascination,” which sounds about right to me. In fact, if I were advertising the book rather than reviewing it, this would be the headline.

Of course, I was nosily waiting to find out what happened in Sexton’s own marriage. We never learn. But perhaps there’s a hint in his unequivocal advice about Facebook: Leave it. Or, as he titles his chapter on the perils of social media: “If We Were Designing an Infidelity-Generating Machine, It Would Be Facebook.” Who would have guessed that the person who gives the best advice about marriage was the guy responsible for getting you out of yours?

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Have the Sex Talk During and After Cancer

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One expert shares advice for opening the line of communication between patients and health care providers, as well as their partners.

BY Katie Kosko

Sex and intimacy after cancer can often become an afterthought. Many people are focused on fighting their disease, but don’t realize that sexual health matters, too. And it’s not a challenge that is hopeless.
As more and more people are becoming cancer survivors, cancer centers now have health care professionals who can aid those in need of sexual health advice following treatment. Sharon Bober, Ph.D., founder and director of the Sexual Health Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, understands these concerns. In an interview with CURE during the 11th annual Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer Conference held Oct. 19-20 in San Diego, she shared tips on how to have patients’ voices be heard and debunked those “magic pill” myths.

What questions should a patient ask before, during and after treatment?
I think it’s very important that patients feel comfortable asking someone on their medical team whether it’s a doctor or a nurse about sexual health. I say that because often providers do not bring up the topic first. We know that it can be a topic that may feel taboo or uncomfortable, including for providers, and often patients get the message that if nobody’s asking then it might not be something that they should talk about. I’m here to say that that’s not the case. Patients really need to bring up the topic even if nobody else is, especially if they have any concerns or changes that are bothersome or distressing in sexual health.

I think we need to think about sexual health like any other review of our system. So, when people go for treatment and are asked about nausea, pain or fatigue, they should also be asked about sexual health. That’s not always the case and that’s where it’s perfectly fine for a patient to say, “Actually, there is something else we haven’t talked about. I’m concerned about changes in sexual health or changes that might be coming or changes that have happened and I’m not sure what to do about it.”

Are there ways couples can overcome the sexual side effects of cancer? What about single people who may be dating?
It’s important to think about sexuality and sexual function really at the intersection between mind, body and relationship. It is not typically only about one factor but when a couple, whether they are married or dating, is dealing with changes in sexual function as a couple they are also dealing with changes in roles and changes in styles and patterns of behavior. There may be an expectation or worry that you don’t want to make your partner feel bad but on the other hand it’s hard to talk about. It’s very important for couples to take time and say, “Listen, this is a part of our life which is different and it is OK for us to talk about it.” That’s really the first step.

For single people, it is important to appreciate that we are not only about our body parts. Sexuality is more than just one body part or any one part of something that has changed. And that recognizing when we go dating and we start to meet people everybody brings something to the table whether it’s cancer, depression or something in the family — all of these things are part of what makes us human. It’s important to realize that because you may have had cancer that is not going to be the reason why you can’t have a successful relationship. It just means that you are going to want to find a partner who is sensitive, who is going to be caring and who is going to be open to hearing about this.

Are there any proclaimed sexual health “cures” that patients should stay away from?
We live in a culture where everything is focused on a pill. We live in a culture where we want everything in 140 characters in a Tweet or we want to have something quick and easy. The truth is when it comes to sexual function it is often at the intersection of a variety of different things that are going on. From my point of view, that’s great news because it means that there are ways we can improve the relationship, we can improve how someone thinks and feels about themselves, we can also improve the mechanics around, for example, vaginal dryness or erectile function. But it doesn’t have to be only one thing that you have to find or that there is a magic pill. It’s important for people to focus on communication and intimacy and enhancing desire. It’s important, for example, for women on the other side of menopause, they are not expected to have spontaneous desire. Desire becomes something we have to cultivate. We need to stick with evidence-based intervention. And although we sort of would like to think if I could just go with the magic cure, that will work, but there’s no magic. On the other hand, it is powerful and magical to have an intense sexual relationship with someone that you love.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
There is help available. The good news is that there are a number of resources that people can access online, such as the National Institutes of Health and American Cancer Society. We now have much more to offer than we used to.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex & Accessibility 101:

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How to Have Super Hot Sex with or as a Disabled Person

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I was once a horny and confused disabled teenager, and somehow managed to come into my own as a horny and downright pervy disabled adult. Growing up, no one ever talked to me about sex or sexuality. Outside of my peer groups (and often times even within them), sex was a touchy issue. Doctors, educators, family — they all functioned from a place that sex wasn’t for someone like me. And woof, how do you feel good initiating conversations about your bod and all the things you find yourself wanting to do with it when even your doctor seems squeamish about it?

Fast forward to 2018, and doctors are still garbage. But I like to think that we queers of the world are ever-evolving, and as result, getting pretty hip to the concept that all different kinds of bodies want to connect with other bodies. With that in mind, I’m not going to waste any time defending the desirability of disabled folks. Disabled folks are desirable. Period. Disabled bods and access needs are still left out of the conversation when it comes to S-E-X and well… f*ck that. So settle in and hang out for a minute. We’ve got a lot to talk about.

Disability Sexuality

Disabled folks make up the largest minority population in the world; upwards of 20% of people in the US are living with a disability. This means whether you, yourself, are disabled or not, disability touches everyone in some way or another. Our genders and sexualities vary as much as anyone’s, but our access to communities that affirm (or allow us to explore) our genders and sexualities is frequently lacking. Navigating sex and disability as a queer person has its challenges, but outside of societal misconceptions and misinformation, it’s not necessarily any more (or less) complicated than navigating any other body or sexuality. Bodies are weird. Sex is weird. Weird is good.

While the information here can be useful for anyone, this guide primarily focuses on physical access needs in sex. Disability is an incredibly broad umbrella term. There are a lot of different ways that disability exists in the world, and needs and considerations vary greatly. This is in no way meant to be definitive or all-encompassing. All bods are different and need different things. That’s kind of the point. As always, take what applies and feels good for you.

Communication

Inarguably, communication is the key to good sex, period. But, for disabled folks (and the babes that love them), those conversations may feel a little more vulnerable than conversations some able-bodied folks are used to having, and it helps to learn better ways of navigating them.

It should go without saying, but assumptions never do anyone any good in the bedroom (or anywhere, really). It’s important to find ways to communicate your wants and needs without ambiguity. Knowing what you want can be half the battle whether you have accessibility needs or not, so don’t be afraid to do a little work in finding that out for yourself. Handy worksheets like this old gem from our own Austen, Ara, and Geneva can help you not only brainstorm your own wants and needs, but find common ground with your partner. Talking about you want to do with your partner, also opens up the line of communication to advocate for the things you may need in order to do it. If you’re feeling anxious, try to remember that these conversations feel vulnerable for all bods involved, so be kind to both yourself and your partner! Initiating potentially vulnerable conversations about sex and bodies can work best outside of the bedroom. Talking about sex can feel daunting enough; changing up the space and talking it out before you’re in the bedroom can help ease some of the pressure and help you connect.

If you’re able-bodied and your partner isn’t, remember that when your partner is opening up to you about their body, it’s a conversation, not an inquisition. Make sure you’re meeting them in the middle, not putting them through an interview. Talk about your own boundaries, needs, hopes and expectations. Rather than “How do you…?” or “Can you…?” lines of questioning, focus on pleasure (i.e. “What are you into?” “What feels good for you?”). Your interest is in finding out what makes them feel good, not unraveling the mystery of their body. Good conversation topics to consider: preferred words/terms for parts, parts of the body you do or don’t like to have touched/seen/etc., body sensitivity or pain.

A common don’t that comes up all too often is the dreaded “I don’t even notice,” “You’re pretty/handsome for a disabled person,” or “You’re not disabled to me!” Able-bodied folks tend to think these are compliments, but I can assure you as a person who’s heard it all, they aren’t. The last thing anyone getting down and dirty with you wants to hear is that you don’t see them, or that you have to avoid parts of them to feel attraction for them.

If you’re disabled and wanting to open up communication, remember that communicating with your partner is a back and forth. You’re not responsible for sitting under a spotlight and disclosing your medical history, and you should never feel pressured to say or do anything that doesn’t feel right for you. Everybody’s got needs and expectations in physical and intimate relationships! Try not to feel weighed down sharing yours.

Communication while getting down is important, too. Tell your partner when they’re making you feel good, and be open to vocalizing (and switching things up) when something’s not working for you. Likewise, be open to hearing from your partner when something isn’t working for them.

The effort it takes to hone your communication skills really pays off; it feels good to know what you partner needs and expects from you, and it feels really good to know that your partner cares about what you need. Besides, talking about sex is great foreplay, pal!

Getting Down

Setting the scene

One thing disabled folks with physical access needs are beyond familiar with is the need for preparedness. Sometimes we can get bogged down by all the little details needed to make a space accessible; sex is really no different in that regard. Setting the scene for the sex you want helps ease anxiety surrounding unwanted interruptions or time-outs. It helps keep things flowing, and builds up the anticipation — which can be exciting!

Making sure that your harnesses, toys, positioning furniture, lube, and clean up supplies are within reach is a great start, but there’s more you can do to set the mood. Don’t underestimate the power of intention!

For folks who experience incontinence, waterproof pads and blankets can help with anxiety surrounding unwanted (or wanted!) messes.  While any mattress pad could do the trick, items made for play such as the Liberator Fascinator Throw, or the Funsheet can make the playspace feel less sterile and more sexy. Think about what kind of material makes you feel best in these situations. Throws like the Fascinator absorb fluid without leaking through, whereas items like the Funsheet do not absorb fluids (which can potentially feel overwhelming for some folks). Regardless of your preference, when sexy time is over, just toss your sheets/throws into the washer and you’re good to go. Anxiety surrounding incontinence can feel like a lot, but try to remember that honestly all sex is messy and that’s often half the fun.

Lube & Barriers

Lube is f*cking important! This is true for everyone, but especially when stimulating a part of the body that has limited or no sensation. Apart from wanting to avoid general injury, many conditions can make it difficult for a body to produce its own lubricant. Find a lube that works well for you and your partner and use that lube generously.

I won’t go too ham in talking about barrier methods, but I will note that there are a lot of options to consider, from a proper fitted condom on penises and dildos/vibrators, to dental dams, and the very poorly named “FC2 female condom.” Be sure to be conscious of sensitivities to frequently used materials such as latex (and less commonly allergenic) nitrile/neoprene. It’s best to stay clear of barriers with added flavoring or spermicides. Always remember to check your lube is safe for use with the barrier method you’re using!

Positioning

There are an infinite number of ways to get two bodies to connect in just the right way. Shaking things up and exploring the way things feel best not only ensures you and your partner’s comfort, it’s also just hot and fun. There are gender- and sexuality-inclusive online quick guides like this one from The Mighty that may help get your creative juices flowing. There’s also positioning harnesses and slings like Sportsheets’ Super Sex Sling and Doggie Style Strap that can help take some of the pressure off of strenuous positioning. Sportsheets is a disability-inclusive brand also offering items like shower suction handles and foot rests, and other positioning tools that can aid in accessible play.

If your partner needs help transferring out of a chair or another assistive device, let them guide you in helping them properly. Don’t ever lift or move a partner without being asked to, and don’t ever move assistive devices to unreachable places unless your partner asks you to.

Harnesses

For some with limited mobility, spasticity or pain in the pelvic/hip region, standard harnesses may not be an option for strap-on sex. Fortunately, there are multiple harness options for those looking for accessible ways to engage in penetrative play, and getting creative in the harness department can be just as hot as it is practical! Sportsheets offers a thigh harness and the La Palma from SpareParts offers a gloved hand option. For folks with penises using strap-ons, SpareParts Deuce is a great option. Designed to be wearable regardless of ability to achieve erection, the harness has an upper ring for use with a dildo, and a lower ring for penis access.

Toys

This is the part where I might as well start by throwing my hands in the air praising the Hitachi Magic Wand. As a stubborn contrarian I’d love to find a reason to tell you why it doesn’t live up to its hype, but I’d be lying. Apart from being probably the greatest sex toy on earth, with its strong vibrations, large head, and versatile modification options, it’s also probably one of the most accessible. There are hitachi toy mounts like this one from Liberator, various head attachments, speed controllers (which do need to be plugged into the toy/wall, but also extend the range quite a bit), and good ol’ DIY mic stand setups. The rechargeable wand does away with the need to stay plugged in and is worth every penny for the upgrade.

For anal stimulation, b-vibe offers a wide selection of remote vibrating anal toys in a variety of sizes and shapes, eliminating the need to reach down to adjust or change settings on the toy during use. For comfortable wear in seated positions, try options with a thin base like the snug plug or the pleasure plug from Fuze.

For folks with penises who may be experiencing what sex expert Joan Price refers to as erectile dissatisfaction or unreliable erection due to paralysis, but want to engage in penetrative sex, ppa/extenders like Vixen’s Ride On paired with a comfortable harness can be helpful in achieving penetrative sex with a partner. The Pulse 3 Duo is also a great partner toy option for folks with penises of varying functionality.

If you can, skip the ableist toy manuals that come with most sex toys and instead, talk to a sex educator at your local progressive sex shop about your prospective products and how to use them safely and care for them. It’s well-documented that there’s historically been (and continues to be) a problem with unfavorable language in a LOT of sex toy user manuals and packaging. If you don’t have access to local progressive sex toy shops, shops like The Smitten Kitten, She Bop, Early To Bed, and Babeland all have online stores and customer service options that can be really helpful.

After Care

Lastly, be sure to check in. After care isn’t an option; it’s a major part of play. Talk to your partner about what feels good for both of you when play is over. Maybe you or they need to be held, or like a glass of water when things are winding down. If incontinence is a concern, it may help to have a course of action pre-planned for cleaning up in a way that helps to relieve stress or discomfort.

Ultimately, there are plenty of tools and tips to achieve the sex you want, but the bulk of the work relies on successful communication. Remember to think beyond speaking, and consider how you’re listening. Are you doing what you can to create a connection that supports your partner in voicing their wants and needs? Supporting your partner through the vulnerable parts paves way for the creativity that comes with engaging and fun sex.

A few quick references:

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability

Disability After Dark Podcast

Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, & Liberation

Complete Article HERE!

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How Evangelical Purity Culture Can Lead to a Lifetime of Sexual Shame

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Former born-again Christian Linda Kay Klein combines personal reflections with years of research to trace the psychological effects of purity culture on women in her new memoir, “Pure.”

by Stephanie Dubick

For millions of girls growing up in evangelical Christianity, sexuality is a sin. Girls are sexual “stumbling blocks,” they’re told—a danger to the relationship between men and God.

Such is the way of the purity movement. Emerging out of white evangelicalism in the early 1990s, the conservative Christian movement—today promoted by both local churches and national organizations such as Focus on the Family and True Love Waits—emphasizes sexual purity and abstinence-only education. The cornerstone: If women remain virgins until the day they marry a man, they’re holy; if not, they’re damaged goods. To avoid the latter outcome, young adults are required to make promises—signified in the form of purity balls, rings, and pledges—to remain abstinent from puberty ’til “I do.”

After marriage, the metaphorical chastity belt unbuckles. But as writer Linda Kay Klein engrossingly details in her recently released book, Pure: Inside the Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, the psychological effects don’t stop there; they can follow women into their adult lives, leading to mental and physical side effects similar to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In purity culture, both young men and women are taught that sex before marriage is wrong. But it’s teenage girls who end up most affected, Klein finds, because while boys are taught that their minds are a gateway to sin, women are taught that their bodies are. After years of being told that they’re responsible for not only their own purity, but the purity of the men and boys around them; and of associating sexual desire with depravity and shame, Klein writes, those feelings often haunt women’s relationships with their bodies for a lifetime.

Klein knows from personal experience. After realizing she couldn’t be the woman the church wanted her to be, she left the evangelical community in the early 2000s. It was at that point, when she began considering having sex, that the symptoms started. “It began when I took the possibility of having sex and put it on the table,” Klein tells Broadly. “From that point on, sometimes it was my boyfriend and I being sexual that would make me have these breakdowns where I was in tears, scratching myself until I bled and ending up on the corner of the bed crying.”

Klein knew immediately that the reactions were linked to her religious upbringing, but assumed it was specific to her. “I never wondered where it came from, I just wondered why it was manifesting that way,” she says. “It couldn’t be that everyone who was taught these things were having these experiences, because surely I would have heard about it.”

Eventually, though, Klein realized that she wasn’t nearly alone. In 2006, she began compiling dozens of testimonies from childhood friends involved in the purity movement and found that they were all experiencing similar feelings of fear, shame, and anxiety in relationship to sex. “Based on our nightmares, panic attacks, and paranoia, one might think that my childhood friends and I had been to war,” writes Klein. “And in fact, we had. We went to war with ourselves, our own bodies, and our own sexual natures, all under the strict commandment of the church.”

Today, Klein considers the phenomenon an epidemic. When she first realized the scope and severity of what she was researching, she decided to quit her job—at the age of 26—and dedicate herself to learning more about the effects of purity culture. She went on to earn an interdisciplinary Master’s degree from New York University, for which she wrote a thesis on white American evangelicalism’s messaging toward girls that involved interviewing hundreds of current and past evangelicals about the impact of the purity movement on their lives. Eventually, those seeds of research grew into Pure.

A 12-year labor of love, the resulting book is an eye-opening blend of memoir, journalism, and cultural commentary that masterfully illustrates how religion, shame, and trauma can inform one another. Citing medical studies, she lays out that evangelical adolescents are the least likely “to expect sex to be pleasurable, and among the most likely to expect that having sex will make them feel guilty.” And in comparison to boys, Klein observes, girls are 92 percent more likely to feel shame—especially girls who are highly religious. For many women, like Klein, that shame can manifest in physical symptoms.

Klein observes and cites an expert who found that many women who grow up in purity culture and eventually begin having sex report experiencing an involuntary physical tightening of the vagina—also known as vaginismus—that is linked to a fear of penetrative sex and makes intercourse extremely painful. This could also be considered a symptom of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), a diagnosis developed by Dr. Marlene Winell, a psychologist in San Francisco and author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. According to Winell, as quoted by Klein, RTS is a condition “experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination.” The symptoms resemble those of PTSD, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorders, and can result in depression, sexual difficulty, and negative views about the self.

Perhaps more convincing than the medical research and professionals that Klein cites, though, is the wealth of testimonies she gathers from women. One woman she spoke to described having years of awkward, uncomfortable sex with her husband until she began to feel overcome by such extreme exhaustion, she had difficulty getting out of bed. Another shared that after her first sexual experience, her body began to shake uncontrollably. In one extreme account, a woman said that feelings of panic and guilt flooded her mind “like a cloud of locusts” after an early sexual encounter. Soon after, orange-sized welts broke out on her stomach, arms, back, and breasts and it became difficult to breathe. After jumping into the shower to find relief, welts the size of both of her palms formed on her vagina. “I would say it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” she told Klein. “I had no idea what was happening to me. My legs, my face, everything was bright red. It felt like I had absolutely no control over these horrific, nightmarish things that were happening to my body.” The woman was rushed to the emergency room, and though the doctors told her she went into anaphylactic shock, they couldn’t explain what caused it. While she knows something medical happened, she told Klein that’s she is certain something spiritual happened to her as well—the result of what happens “when you tempt Satan.”

Pure is a thorough and focused study on the effects of the purity movement’s rhetoric on women and girls, but Klein stresses that her findings aren’t relevant only to religious conservatives. Rather, they represent an extreme microcosm of a broader culture of gendered sexual shaming to which we should all be paying attention.

“The conclusion that I reached was that the evangelical culture is useful because it provides a mirror of what’s happening in other places in the culture,” Klein says. “You see what happens when you have high doses of this toxic messaging. But the reality is that this toxic messaging is everywhere and we’re all taking in unhealthy amounts of it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Your Clitoris Is Like an Iceberg — Bigger Than You Think

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by Sarah Aswell

Who says the clitoris is pea-sized? Well, for a very long time, science did. But sometimes science gets it wrong before it gets it right.

And even when science gets it right, sexism still takes the stage and moves away the spotlight. It’s time that both men and women learn that a woman’s pleasure center isn’t a tiny nub: It’s an expansive playground, and we need to relearn the rules to having fun.

Why has the clit been left in the dark?

It’s little wonder that the penis receives the vast amount of attention in research and under the sheets. The male sexual organ isn’t just external. It’s also attached to what has historically been considered the dominant sex.

The clitoris, on the other hand, took much longer to discover, let alone correctly comprehend. It also has the unique distinction of being the only organ in the human body dedicated solely to pleasure, an amazing fact that has ironically been left neglected by science and romantic partners alike.

Dr. Sybil Lockhart, PhD, is a mom, neuroscientist, and full-time researcher at OMGYES, a website that focuses on research and content related to understanding and enhancing female pleasure. Lockhart has a few ideas as to why the clitoris has been given the cold shoulder by science.

Who says the clitoris is pea-sized? Well, for a very long time, science did. But sometimes science gets it wrong before it gets it right.And even when science gets it right, sexism still takes the stage and moves away the spotlight. It’s time that both men and women learn that a woman’s pleasure center isn’t a tiny nub: It’s an expansive playground, and we need to relearn the rules to having fun.

Why has the clit been left in the dark?

It’s little wonder that the penis receives the vast amount of attention in research and under the sheets. The male sexual organ isn’t just external. It’s also attached to what has historically been considered the dominant sex.

The clitoris, on the other hand, took much longer to discover, let alone correctly comprehend. It also has the unique distinction of being the only organ in the human body dedicated solely to pleasure, an amazing fact that has ironically been left neglected by science and romantic partners alike.

Dr. Sybil Lockhart, PhD, is a mom, neuroscientist, and full-time researcher at OMGYES, a website that focuses on research and content related to understanding and enhancing female pleasure. Lockhart has a few ideas as to why the clitoris has been given the cold shoulder by science.

“In order to get funding, researchers must often pitch their projects as solutions to problems,” she explains. “But the clitoris is not problematic. It is a pleasure enhancer!”

“We hope that in 10 or 20 years, health researchers will look back and say, wow, we knew for years how physical exercise and brain exercise improve our longevity and happiness — why didn’t we get to the clitoris sooner?” adds Lockhart.

Not only has the clitoris been largely ignored throughout history, information about it — when given — has often been partial or plainly incorrect. In the 1400s, a guide for finding witches considered the clitoris the “devil’s teat,” and any woman with one was a witch.

Even in the early 20th century, Freud was convinced a woman’s ability to orgasm was based on her psychological maturity and that only mentally healthy women could have vaginal orgasms.

Ignorance surrounding the clitoris isn’t just bad for women. It’s also bad news for the significant number of women who experience clitoral pain caused by disease or infection.

Not knowing how to talk about the clitoris — let alone not knowing how a healthy clitoris functions — harms our quality of life, our health, and even our chances at equality in general.

The good news is that the tide is shifting.

On the flip side, knowledge about the clitoris can improve lives

“What we’ve observed again and again is that as women begin to discuss their pleasure with [OMGYES] and with their sexual partners, they report more fun, improved relationships, and better orgasms,” Lockhart says.

The advent of female doctors and researchers has pushed back against the sexism of science, while general societal changes have made space for open discussion of the clit.

At the same time, new technology allows us to better see, understand, and utilize all of the clitoris.

We now know that the tiny, pea-sized body part most people think of as the clitoris is only the gland — and the tip of the iceberg.

We also know that while “clitoral orgasms” and “vaginal orgasms” were once seen as different entities, all female orgasms are technically the result of clitoral stimulation (i.e., different parts of the iceberg).

As the award-winning mini-documentary “Le Clitoris” explains, there are two 4-inch roots that reach down from the gland toward the vagina.

Le clitoris – Animated Documentary (2016) from Lori Malépart-Traversy on Vimeo.

The clitoris might also be the “woman behind the curtain” when it comes to the G-spot. A study using ultrasound found that that magical area is likely so sensitive because the clitoral root is located right behind the anterior vaginal wall.

Reclaim the clitoris and get ‘clitorate’

A growing body of knowledge and research is great. So is a slow lifting of the taboos surrounding sex, female anatomy, and female pleasure. But how can these things help you, your clitoris, and your female pleasure? Well…

Start reading. Lockhart’s research, for example, can be accessed at OMGYES, where it has been condensed into dozens of short videos.

Say goodbye to taboos. A lot of the ignorance about women’s bodies is because of taboos. It’s time to be open and honest, beginning with the realization that women’s sexual pleasure is good and healthy. Also, our ideas that tie the worth of women to whether they can orgasm solely through penile penetration? That has to go.

Check out a 3-D model. Unlike the penis, much of the clitoris is internal. You can either check out pictures in the mini-doc above or print out your own three 3-D model. (The website is in French, but you can use Google Translate to find the instructions for the 3-D printer.)

Schedule a date with yourself. “There are many different ways to touch a clitoris … just as we might prefer different combinations of menu items at a restaurant,” Lockhart says. “Learning and finding words for the particulars of how you or your lover like to be touched can take the pleasure to a whole new level.”

Get your partner involved. Even just talking with your partner about these topics can make you closer and improve your bedroom romps. Once you’re educated, educate the person or people in your life who happen to have a relationship with your clit.

Talk to your doctor. Women are turned on by many, many different things, and can orgasm in many, many different ways. Some women have trouble reaching orgasm (research puts the number around 10 percent), while others might have an issue with clitoral health. Both topics are totally normal to talk to your doctor about.

Lockhart has one last tip as well: “After the first orgasm, many women have a completely different sensitivity to touch. One wouldn’t have brisket for two courses in a row. It is well worth one’s time and energy to investigate what new dishes you or she might enjoy for dessert.”

Keep the learning inside and out

The clitoris can seem like a mystery, but the time to get a healthy understanding of it is now. Ignoring or misunderstanding the clitoris is also ignoring female health and pleasure.

And health and pleasure come from knowledge, so let’s get learning, inside and outside the bedroom. We’ve been in the dark for too long. It’s time for everyone to get clitorate.

Complete Article HERE!

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If You’re Not Talking About Sex, You’re Not Good At It

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Good sex can’t happen without good communication. Here’s how to talk the talk with your partner.

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Good sex is hard to find. Maybe it’s a chemistry thing. Maybe it circles back to attraction. Or, maybe, it has more to do with our inhibitions around talking about what we like and want in bed with the people we like and want in bed. That’s at least where Stella Harris has landed.  A sex educator, intimacy coach and BDSM instructor, Harris unpacks this argument in her book, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink and Relationships. Within it, she discusses the prevalence of American non-communication and the reasoning behind it. She also provides insights and exercises designed to steer audiences away from this unsatisfactory standard. We spoke to Harris about how, exactly, couples can up the intimacy by way of communication.

Why is it so essential to talk about sex regularly with your partner?

All bodies are different. And there’s only so much you can figure out through trial and error. There’s no way to guess what someone is going to be into or what fantasies they have. When you aren’t talking about sex, you’re only scratching the surface of what experiences you could be having and the amount of pleasure you could be experiencing. We aren’t mind readers, and honestly, that’s probably for the best.

Was there anything, in particular, that inspired you to write this book?

People so badly want that quick fix, or that “one move” that will blow their partner’s mind. And they hate it when I tell them they have to talk to the person they’re touching. There’s nothing I can teach you that will get you out of having to talk to the person you’re having sex with. People are just so horrified by that. They think it’s going to “ruin the mood.” Other folks will come into my office and tell me about a secret fantasy they’ve been sitting on for 20 years but they won’t tell their partner. It’s too high stakes. If someone you’re partnered with rejects you or thinks you’re weird after you’ve told them about your fantasy, well, that’s really hard to live with. So much so that telling a stranger feels easier.

How can partners help each other find comfort in communication?

Part of what the book talks about is not just communicating your own interests but how to hear about other people’s desires in a way that is full of compassion; in a way that won’t shame them, even if you’re not into what they’re into. If you want someone to be vulnerable and upfront with you about their interests, you have to listen and answer compassionately. You have to think about what you’re putting out there. You have to figure out your own biases so you know what you have to work on before you accidentally hurt someone’s feelings. If you’re making fun of things, like, say Trump and his urine play, and it turns out that’s something your partner is into, they’re never going to mention it to you. We do a lot of offhand shaming. Sex makes for an easy punch line. Sometimes, I have to remind clients that certain behaviors are okay.

You do a lot with the kink community. What do you think more mild audiences can gain from the way they conduct themselves around sex?

I like to bring in some examples from the kink community when dealing with folks who think talking “ruins the mood.” Think about planning play-parties, for example. It’s not ruining the mood; it’s like planning a vacation. It’s part of the excitement. I try to bring them away from the mindset that anything that isn’t entirely spontaneous is “boring” or “unsexy.”

How can couples in long-term commitments benefit from better communication?

The best way to keep a long-term relationship strong is by experiencing novelty together. Sex is an amazing place to keep adding novelty. It doesn’t have to be kink or anything you might consider weird. Adding sex toys, adding role-play, even just adding a new position can help. There are so many ways to change things up. But you can’t surprise somebody with that stuff. You have to make sure they’re up for it.

What about parents?

Communication is especially important after having kids. Bodies change. Even if you thought you knew what you’re partner was into before, there’s a good chance what they’re body is up for has changed. This is really the time where you need to talk about maybe doing new things. You’re not going to stumble into it by accident.

How can people get the ball rolling? Where is a good place to talk about, well, talking?

I suggest people schedule conversations. Tell your partner you want to talk to them about some fun, new and sexy thing you want to try.  You want to make sure they’re in a receptive place before you open up that conversation. Sometimes it helps to be in a more neutral environment than at home. I often suggest people go out to dinner and discuss things. There’s a saying, “don’t negotiate naked.” And I think that works really well here. The idea is that, if sex is imminent, you’re not going to have as clear a head going into the conversation, as you should. If you’re in the moment you’re not going to think of all the questions and all the caveats that you might want to cover. It really helps to do it outside of a sexual setting.

So, ideally, how should people communicate during sex?

I actually quote Dan Savage’s formula in the book. He says the best way to ease people into dirty talk is by telling your partner what you’re going to do, what you’re doing, and what you did. I basically encourage people to narrate. Coming up with what to say seems to be the most terrifying thing for people. It’s easier when you simply narrate what’s happening. Say how attractive your partner looks, or how good they look against the sheets, how they look under the light, how they feel against your body… Take your imagination out of the equation, at least at first. Just throwing out positive affirmations can go a long way.

Complete Article HERE!

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Talking about sex is awkward, so how can teenagers ‘just ask’ for consent?

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The topic of sexual consent seems to be in the news on a daily basis, especially since #MeToo went viral one year ago. From posters to podcasts, there are endless resources promoting the importance of getting and giving explicit consent. Many suggest that a “yes” must always be enthusiastic, and that partners should “ask first and ask often”.

In principle, these are good messages. But my research with more than 100 young people aged 13 to 25 indicates that they understand the importance of consent, yet find it hard to put this advice into practice. They want opportunities to figure out how to manage desire and rejection. But very often conversations about consent – especially in schools – tend to start and finish with legal definitions and very black and white examples.

A key finding from my research is that doing explicit and verbal consent is awkward. It is important to acknowledge and talk about this awkwardness, rather than simply present ideal examples of consent, as though everyone will suddenly be able to “just ask” or “say no” without doubt or confusion.

It’s important to talk about the “grey areas”; those contexts where differing assumptions mean getting and giving consent can be confusing or difficult. For example, when sex doesn’t follow the progression often portrayed in porn, films and series, or when young people are learning to navigate the different dynamics that emerge with people they know well, and people they don’t.

This is especially important for people who have little or no sexual experience, and few opportunities to discuss the complex and emotional sides of sex without fear of judgement. Clearly, navigating sexual intimacy is more complicated than mainstream media and educational messages would suggest. Especially when many people (women in particular) aren’t well practised at saying “no” – even in situations that aren’t sexual.

The difficulties with saying ‘no’

It’s well evidenced that – particularly in middle class British society – it’s rare for people to say an outright “no” to anything. From a young age, people are encouraged to be polite, avoid making situations awkward or embarrassing and to please people in more powerful positions.

If we do say “no”, we are encouraged to say “no, thank you”, smile sweetly and more often than not to provide a reason for the “no” so that the person doesn’t feel upset or rejected. And it’s clear that people fear rejection in romantic and sexual situations.

It’s all very well to encourage people to “just ask” someone if they want to do something sexual. But the realities of doing this are complicated and go against the societal and cultural norms that make talking about sex awkward – if it’s even discussed at all.

If only things were always this simple.

One young person, Becs, said: “You do want consent, but you’re too scared to ask for it.” There were comments about “ruining the moment” and seeming like you “don’t know what you’re doing”. Jamie noted:

It’s really hard for someone to actually upfront ask someone if they want to do specific things with them … it might be a really massive impact on your self-esteem.

I don’t for one moment think that anyone should go along with sex they do not want for fear of hurting someone else’s feelings. Yet it is understandable that people who are earlier on in their sex lives might worry about getting it wrong, or avoid a situation where they invite rejection. These worries are a problem when they stifle open communication between sexual partners, such that it becomes difficult to express readiness and desires, and to establish the readiness and desires of a partner.

Discuss and demystify

The young people I worked with related genuine and understandable arguments about why it was not socially safe or acceptable to explicitly seek or express consent to sex. But they all expressed the importance and value of what we might term “mutual consent” – even if they did not use that specific phrase themselves.

While everyone needs to be taught about consent, it needs to be done in a way that focuses on how more communication – although awkward to begin with – is likely to enable more pleasurable experiences in the longer run, rather than simply teaching that consent is important so that you don’t get in trouble with the law.

Talking and teaching about the grey areas may seem a difficult task, but this research shows that by engaging with young people’s uncertainty and awkwardness about wanting, being ready or being open to sex, society will be helping them build the skills they need to be able to be clear and to communicate their choices.

It’s crucial for young people to discuss, learn about and demystify the actions, emotions and experience that might fall into the grey area. And the discussions need to focus less on whether these experiences should be considered legal or illegal, and more on how they can be navigated in an ethical and communicative way, resulting in positive pleasurable experiences, or positive decisions to change or not pursue sexual interaction in that moment.

It’s quite right that we, as a society, seek to improve the way that young people learn about sex and relationships, and to have more open conversations about consent and sexual negotiation. But campaigns and sex education might have more meaningful impact if they address the awkwardness of sex and intimacy, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.

Complete Article HERE!

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Butt Plugs Are For Hetero Men Too

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By Chris Jager

As much as you may snigger at the word “butt plug”, it turns out they’re perfectly valid sex toys – regardless of your gender or sexual orientation. At least, that’s according to this (surprisingly classy) animated tutorial. Prepare to be elucidated.

Butt plugs essentially fulfil two purposes – to bring pleasure to the user and to ‘train’ the anus. (If you’re clueless as to why you’d want to train your anus, try this beginner-friendly, NSFW primer.)

The video above, which was produced by Carvaka Sex Toys, breaks down the butt-plug basics – from the available sizes and types of materials used, to the ins-and-outs of the relevant human anatomy.

Apparently, a butt plug can lead to intensified orgasms in both members of a heterosexual couple – by stimulating the prostrate in men and massaging the back of the vaginal wall in women. Wearing a butt plug can also greatly enhance the feeling of fellatio.

Welp, that’s me sold. Probably.

Complete Article HERE!

See Dr Dick’s tutorial: Butt Plug Crash Course HERE!

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