What’s A Prostate Orgasm

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—And How Do I Make It Happen For A Guy?

First of all, he’s got to be okay with butt stuff.

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Butt stuff has been taboo probably for as long as there have been taboos. But thanks to a growing conversation on anal play (hello, pegging!) you and your partner might find yourselves ready to, erm, enter new territory and attempt a prostate orgasm.

Rewind: What is a prostate orgasm?

The prostate—a gland about the size of a walnut which sits deep in the groin between the base of a guy’s penis and his rectum—is to men what the G-spot is to women. For some men, it can potentially be a total pleasure center.

Biologically, the prostate produces semen, but “sexually and erotically, it can function to heighten pleasure,” says Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., founder of The Intimacy Institute in Colorado. “What prostate stimulation does is press upon the urethra in such a way that it can actually prevent ejaculation,” Skyler says—a.k.a. it can stretch out that just-about-to-orgasm feeling even longer.

“If your partner is comfortable with prostate contact and is able to relax and enjoy anal stimulation”—the only way to get to the prostate is by sticking your finger or a toy about an inch and a half into his butt—“it adds this sensation of fullness and pressure that maximizes the intensity of an orgasm for a man,” Skyler explains.

Aside from the prostate stimulation itself, the anal action that’s part of the process can also boost a guy’s pleasure. “It’s hard to know how much of ‘prostate pleasure’ actually involves the prostate at all and how much is related to the fact that the only way to get to a man’s prostate is through his anus,” says Stephen Snyder, M.D., a sex therapist and author of Love Worth Making. “A lot of people enjoy anal stimulation, which makes sense—like the genitals, the anal area is richly supplied with nerve endings and blood flow.”

That said, “Some men don’t enjoy it—it can be a psychological lack of enjoyment or it could be a physiological one,” says Skyler, adding she’s had patients in both categories. Or maybe he’s just not interested in exploring (and that’s okay). Either way, as with any sex act, it’s important to communicate and make sure both parties are game—that includes you, btw.

How do I help my partner have a prostate orgasm?

If you’re intrigued by exploring this new territory, Skyler has some tips for how to make a prostate orgasm happen.

1. Help your partner relax.
If you are both jazzed to poke around his prostate, it’s important to start by getting super-relaxed. “The anus has two sphincters and they can tighten up and close,” Skyler says. “The way to get entrance and invitation is to really deeply relax the whole body.”

Start with a sensual massage, the goal of which isn’t necessarily to turn your partner on, but to help him feel totally comfortable.

2. Try some anal foreplay.
Once your partner feels chilled out, ease your way in. “If you’ve never done anal play, approach the anus respectfully and slowly,” Sklyer says. “Play with the full buttocks and inner thighs first and then move to play with the outer rim of the opening of the anus

3. Get some lube.
“The anus is not self-lubricating so make sure there’s a lot of lube, no matter what,” Skyler says. She recommends picking up a lubricant that’s specifically designed for anal play since these formulas tend to be a little thicker and last a bit longer. (Here are the best lubes for anal, FYI.)

4. Choose your tools.
The best way to stimulate the prostate is either with your finger or a prostate toy (basically a slim butt plug). If you’re hesitant about using your finger (even if he just took a shower, it’s okay if the idea still makes you feel a little squeamish) a toy is an awesome alternative.

“Sex toy retailers like Adam and Eve sell a lot of beginner prostate toys,” Skyler says. “Most of them even have a rounded edge like a finger.”

5. Slowly massage the prostate.
To make a prostate orgasm happen, go super-slowly—especially if this is the first time you and your partner are trying the technique. Once you’re inside, feel for the prostate gland, which is about “one knuckle’s worth” into the rectum in the direction of his penis (as opposed to his lower back), Skyler says. “It feels like a soft pillow-y ball,” she says.

Once you’ve found it, apply soft pressure or try stroking it slowly, and keep communicating with your partner about how it feels. Take your cues from him on whether to stroke or apply even pressure, go slower or faster, press more or less intense, etc. Whatever way you do it: Prepare for a whole new type of O.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Men Sexually Harass Women

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Men vastly outnumber women among sexual harassers. The reason has more to do with culture than with intrinsic maleness.

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I can’t imagine my teenage self—or any girl I knew—doing anything like what Christine Blasey Ford described teenage boys doing to her. Watching the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing last week, I was struck by the feeling that the Brett Kavanaugh she described and I both went to something called “high school,” but they were about as similar as a convent is to Space Camp.

Ford has alleged that when she and Kavanaugh were in high school, the Supreme Court nominee drunkenly pinned her down on a bed, tried to rip off her clothes, and covered her mouth so she wouldn’t scream. A confidential FBI investigation, according to Senate Republicans, did not corroborate her account. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, say the investigation was not thorough enough, and several people who say they have knowledge of the allegations against Kavanaugh have told The New Yorker that they felt the FBI was not interested in their accounts.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Ford was mistaken and that it was some other boy who assaulted her. Either way, it boggles my mind that any teenage boy would feel empowered to do such a thing.

In high school, I made a list of all the boys I liked. My bitchy friend (everyone has one) told some of the listed boys. I was mortified—not only because they did not return the sentiment (this went without saying) but also because I felt like I had inflicted my liking on the boys. They were just minding their business, trying to live, and here I was, burdening them with my liking. It felt like such a grievous imposition, making someone deal with affection he wasn’t prepared to receive.

I wasn’t a particularly shy kid or an introvert. I was just taught—or maybe had absorbed—that boys will let you know if they want to date you, and your job was to sit patiently and wait to be let known. Bucking this norm occurred only on one day of the year, for our version of the Sadie Hawkins dance, which was special and exciting for the simple fact that it was the day when girls were allowed to tell boys what they wanted.

Admittedly, some of this was almost certainly regional: I grew up in the deep suburban South, where many of the cool kids at my school were saving themselves for marriage. None of my close friends drank, and I had my first sip of alcohol at dinner with my parents the night I graduated.

I hated our gendered dating rules and found them endlessly inefficient. But still, leaking a list of my boy preferences felt like asking for a raise on your first day at a new job—too forward, too eager, too much like something guaranteed to bring about the opposite result of the one you were hoping for.

The past year has opened my eyes to the fact that, apparently, many men do not have similar compunctions. I experience this same befuddlement every time I read about yet another #MeToo allegation. It would never occur to me to install a button under my desk to entrap my victims. It would never occur to me to try to masturbate in front of people I barely know. I would find it unthinkable to ask a stranger to watch me shower.

I can’t help but feel like the difference between teen me and how teen Kavanaugh allegedly behaved, and indeed between me and the other accused #MeToo perpetrators, comes down to how our different genders are conditioned to approach anything of a sexual nature.

Though there have been several cases in the #MeToo movement in which a woman was the perpetrator of harassment, the overwhelming majority of the offenders have been men. What is it about men, I’ve found myself wondering, that explains this extreme gender disparity? And is it even about the men themselves?

Some have ascribed it to knee-jerk assumptions about men’s essential nature: nasty, brutish, and short on impulse control. Boys will be boys, and the best we can do is contain their boyish urges. But where do we get the idea that it’s just what men are like?

One theory I had, especially when it comes to the lower-level sexual-harassment offenses, was that women are simply more risk-averse. They don’t dare put their hands on the knees of co-workers at bars because they know that they might be rejected, or that the co-worker might not like it, or that it’s just not a good thing to do with someone who’s going to be sitting next to you at the Thursday event-planning meeting. Women, I thought, must just like to err on the side of caution.

Meta-analyses have indeed shown that men are more likely to take various types of risks than women are. Some studies also show that men are more into thrill seeking, if exposing yourself to a woman without her permission could be considered a sick kind of thrill. (One older paper even characterized risk taking as an inherent part of “masculine psychology.”) Stress, like the kind people experience at work, might exacerbate these differences, since men take more risks under stress and women take fewer.

But other studies have complicated that narrative. For one, women seem just as keen to take certain kinds of risks, like disagreeing with their friends on an issue or attempting to sell a screenplay. It’s just that when surveys measure risk taking in terms of things like unprotected sex and motorcycles, women tend to demur, since those types of activities are either more dangerous for women (the unprotected sex) or less familiar to them (riding motorcycles).

In fact, when researchers measured risk using more stereotypically feminine risky behavior, such as “cooking an impressive but difficult meal for a dinner party,” women turned out to be just as, if not more, likely to take risks as men. “Maybe there isn’t anything so special about male risk taking, after all,” wrote the University of Melbourne professor Cordelia Fine in Nautilus.

Several prominent psychologists believe there are actually few psychological differences between men and women. Men, it would seem, are from Mars, and women are also from Mars but are nonetheless baffled by why our fellow Martians would opt to do things the way they do. The major differences between the genders are that men are more aggressive, can physically throw things farther, masturbate more, and are more comfortable with casual, uncommitted relationships. These very differences can help explain the disparity in sexual harassment.

“The bottom line is that men and women have quite similar psychology other than sexuality and aggression,” says Janet Shibley Hyde, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin who has done several studies on this topic.

There’s also evidence that men and boys are less empathetic than women are. Men make up the vast majority of prison inmates, commit 99 percent of rapes and 89 percent of murders, and cause more severe car crashes. Just 16 percent of sexual-harassment complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were filed by men.

Boys are raised to think that men should be the initiators of sexual relationships, and, as Hyde explains, boys are also socialized to be more aggressive. The two processes can be toxic when combined. “Gender differences in empathy are not huge, but they’re there,” Hyde says. “If you’re going to victimize someone, it takes a certain lack of empathy.” (Though some studies point to men’s higher level of testosterone as the explanation for their higher levels of aggression, she says, “Humans are much less controlled by their hormones than other species are.”)

The explanation, then, might lie in social norms, or in what society is telling boys as they grow into men. Men are told they’re supposed to behave more aggressively, so they do. According to research, powerful people follow different societal rules than those who are powerless, and there are more men in power than there are women. Among men in powerful positions, but not among women, a fear of being seen as weak is related to an inclination to sexually harass others. People in power are more likely to wrongly perceive that subordinates are sexually interested in them.

“Power is enabling, and it is known to reduce empathy,” Peter Glick, a psychology professor at Lawrence University, told me. “It allows people to act on their impulses.” Glick says this is why it’s so often confident women who are harassed, or those who try to assert themselves, or who behave in a masculine way, or who otherwise challenge men’s power. They are being put back in their place.

People in power enjoy “looser” rules, according to work by the University of Maryland psychologist Michele Gelfand, the author of the new book Rule Makers, Rule Breakers. “Loose” environments are those in which norms are less strict and norm violations go unpunished; “tight” environments are the opposite. “People in high-power positions tend to live in looser worlds where they sometimes not only violate social norms but also border on completely inappropriate behavior,” she told me. In her book, Gelfand points to Uber as an example of a company where extreme looseness went wrong. “Several former employees described the exceedingly loose work environment as a ‘frat house,’ rife with unprofessional and even abusive behavior,” she writes.

In a 2010 study, Gelfand and Hannah Riley Bowles hinted at why sexual harassers often get away with the behavior for so long. They found that people who thought of themselves as “high status” were more likely to want to punish their subordinates when they broke the rules, but not other high-status people. White men, but not white women, were more lenient toward other men when they broke the rules. The social hierarchy is reinforced, they write, because high-status people are granted more leniency.

Glick also underscored how a permissive, boys’-club environment can turn a would-be harasser into an actual harasser. “There are these bad apples, but there are also environments that really permit it,” he says. “If the allegations are to be believed about the guys that Kavanaugh hung out with, it’s a lot of bragging about their sexual conquests.” This is a major reason that fraternities, with their culture of heavy drinking, male-on-male competition, and hazing rituals, are so often associated with higher rates of sexual assault than the rest of the university.

When women are seen as mere tokens of status to be collected, natural male aggressiveness can descend to a dark place. Subtle messages within social circles can imply that women are, sometimes quite literally, up for grabs. Men who want to sexually harass someone, says John Pryor, a professor of psychology at Illinois State University, “are unlikely to do it if they’re in social settings where there’s normative pressure not to do it.”

Perhaps the problem, then, is not in “masculine psychology,” but in environments that allow the least scrupulous men to act on their most hideous impulses. The norms I grew up with were not great for women. Those of Georgetown Prep, where Kavanaugh went to high school, may have been even worse.

Complete Article HERE!

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Building Strength And Resilience After A Sexual Assault: What Works

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Psychologists find that cognitive processing therapy — a type of counseling that helps people learn to challenge and modify their beliefs related to a trauma — can be useful in healing the mental health problems some experience after a sexual assault.

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The wrenching testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault years ago, raises questions about the long-term emotional and physical toll this kind of trauma takes on survivors and how our society responds to those who come forward long after the assault.

Emily R. Dworkin, a senior fellow at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, studies how the social interactions of trauma survivors can affect their recovery. She was also the lead author of a paper published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review in 2017 that looked through more than 100,000 studies conducted in the last 50 years and found nearly 200 relevant ones on the relationship between sexual assault and mental health to analyze.

What she found, Dworkin says, is strong evidence that sexual assault is associated with an increased risk for multiple forms of psychological harm “across most populations, assault types and methodological differences in studies.” Too many survivors still face stigma and internalize that blame, and that can make it harder to seek help. And while some types of therapy have been shown to be helpful, she says, more information on evidence-based treatments for survivors “is critically needed.”

Dworkin talked with NPR about her research findings and offered her perspective on where society and science need to go next to prevent assaults and help survivors heal. Our interview was edited for length and clarity.

You looked at a lot of studies about the mental health impact of sexual assault, but it’s not an area as well-studied as say, heart disease. So what do we know?

Sexual assault [any type of sexual activity or contact that happens without the consent of both people] began getting research attention in the ’70s as society as a whole was going through a feminist awakening, and it kind of developed at the same time as PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], which was then known as “combat trauma.” Many things can lead to depression or anxiety. People with PTSD relive the trauma in the form of intrusive memories, nightmares, or even flashbacks. They avoid things that remind them of the trauma.

The symptoms that people were showing when they were coming home from war were the same as victims of rape trauma — recurring memories and a wish to avoid triggering them.

These days, lots of people are doing research, but there’s still a lot left to understand. What we do know is that sexual assault is associated with a higher risk for a lot of different mental health problems, including PTSD [and depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidality] … especially PTSD.

What do we know about how ethnicity and education affects the mental health of survivors of sexual assault?

We need to know more. Some of my past research on queer women shows that ongoing forms of stress can compound stress. And we know that people from marginalized groups are just at greater risk for sexual assault [and a number of other health problems]. So it’s likely that these groups experience more trauma — but I don’t think we can completely say for sure.

How does sexual assault compare with other forms of trauma, in terms of effects on mental health?

We never want to have the Olympics of trauma. But compared to other types of life-threatening trauma, survivors of sexual assault do seem to be more likely to get PTSD. In my preliminary look at the data from 39 studies on this topic, it seems like 36 percent of survivors meet criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD in their lifetime, versus 12 percent of people who don’t have a history of sexual assault.

My thinking is that sexual assault is a unique form of trauma. It is highly stigmatized, and when people go to seek help for it, unlike in a car accident — well, the police are not going to ask you if you’ve really been in a car accident.

Also, people don’t always do the most effective job of supporting sexual assault survivors. Sometimes they do things that can actually compound the trauma. In the ’70s it was known as “the second rape” when you tell the police, undergo a rape kit exam and explain it to family and friends. They don’t always know how to help.

What can survivors who are feeling overwhelmed, depressed and traumatized do to recover, and how can friends and family help?

It’s important for survivors to know that they can regain a sense of power over those triggers, and that the most natural response is to push away the triggers. Self-care isn’t about turning off those bad feelings, but feeling those feelings so that they can subside naturally.

It’s kind of a counterintuitive idea, and it’s not what we usually think to do for our loved ones. When somebody’s in pain, all you want to do is to take that pain away. It’s understandable to try to distract them, take them out for a drink, but it’s better to be a shoulder to cry on. You don’t need to cheer somebody up in the moment. Be there for them as a witness to their pain.

What about the professionals — the police, the lawyers, the therapists — that survivors need to talk to? How can they do a better job?

This all comes back to … dealing with the false beliefs we have around sexual assault — blaming the victim, challenging the victim’s choices. Changing these cultural norms is important.

One of the evidence-based treatments for PTSD is overcoming the trauma by sharing the story. That’s a very different thing than being forced to tell it in public.

I don’t want to imply that it’s the survivor’s fault they have PTSD. And they feel like they don’t want to relive it again, which is totally natural. But our bodies can’t sustain that intense emotional response for long — those feelings come down naturally.

In my clinical work, a woman came to me with her story of sexual assault. The first time she told it, she was crying. By the fourth time, she was almost yawning. Her story is not one that has power over her anymore. She has the control over whether she’s going to have her life altered.

Has the public’s perception of sexual assault changed since the Kavanaugh hearings?

I think about this stuff every day. I’ve been thinking it about every day since I was 18 and beginning my research. It takes me awhile to catch up and realize that everyone else is thinking about it now.

My hope is that we’re changing some of the cultural conversation around this.

It’s important to know that most of the disorders are very treatable conditions. I do feel like if survivors can get connected to evidence-based treatments, they can be helped — even years later.

What are the resources and treatments that work best for survivors who are experiencing PTSD or other mental health symptoms?

First-line options should be things that we know work well. What I recommend is prolonged exposure therapy [helping people gradually approach trauma-related memories and feelings] or cognitive processing therapy [a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that helps patients learn how to challenge and modify unhelpful beliefs related to the trauma]. Both have been around since the ’80s and were developed to treat survivors of rape. They have really strong evidence of reducing symptoms or eliminating the diagnosis [of a mental health disorder].

For resources, look for a good therapist who offers cognitive processing therapy. Also, you can check out the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies [for more information about the treatment].

As a society, what should we focus on to help survivors of assault?

Ending some of our stigmatizing beliefs about sexual assault and our mistrust for people that come forward is huge. It’s always up to survivors as to whether they disclose. The fact that we’re having these conversations in the public sphere gives me hope.

In schools, [to prevent unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault in the first place] we can teach respect for others and their autonomy. We’re not comfortable with the idea of hearing about these sorts of assaults. Our cultural norm is to avoid uncomfortable experiences. … But we need to keep talking.

Complete Article HERE!

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The New Birds and Bees:

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Teaching Kids About Boundaries and Consent

What we can learn from the Dutch: Talking openly about bodies helps keep shame at bay, and may help a child speak up if there is a problem.

By Bonnie J. Rough

As a growing number of #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport stories have put a new focus on childhood sexual abuse, parents may have an urgent sense that they should frame conversations with their children about their bodies as safety lessons.

But doubling down on warnings is the opposite of what children really need. In researching my new book about how gender equality begins with great sex ed, I learned that teaching what’s good about bodies, sex and love is actually what gives children a secure sense of body sovereignty, boundaries and consent.

Children who feel confident in their body knowledge may be quicker to identify when something is awry, and those who learn empathy and egalitarianism less likely to cross another person’s boundaries.

Here are three essential lessons parents of children under 6 can follow to help kids stay safe, confident and shame-free in their skin.

Begin with body positivity

When my oldest daughter turned 3, a certain worry started to keep me up at night. I sensed that her risk of sexual abuse was increasing with her age, and I needed to teach her more about her body in order to keep her safe. Here’s what I know now that I didn’t see then: My motivation to start the birds-and-bees talks was fear.

But after living in the Netherlands with my family and learning how the Dutch approach to sex education in homes and schools produces some of the world’s best sexual health outcomes and highest levels of gender equality, I discovered the problem with fear as motivation: When children learn that certain body parts are dangerous and invite trouble, they learn sexual shame. And shame, in turn, is the mechanism that perpetrators of sexual violence rely upon to keep victims silent.

According to the Dutch approach (and many American sexuality educators), risks and warnings should not dominate our body conversations with kids. Instead, teaching body positivity — the joy, fun and privilege of living physical human lives — helps keep shame, secrecy and silence at bay.

“Tell your children sexuality is something beautiful and should be enjoyed but only if both people want it in the same way,” says Sanderijn van der Doef, a Dutch psychologist and the author of a series of children’s books on bodies and sexuality popular in the Netherlands. “For young children, you should be clear that sexual intercourse and sexual relations are especially for adults.”

Teaching body positivity means letting babies and toddlers freely explore their own bodies. It means avoiding grossed-out faces and language (try calling a diaper “full” instead of “dirty”) in teaching hygiene. It means talking about reproductive body parts cheerfully, with correct language and affirming tones. And it means helping children discover what they like and don’t like: Is tickling on the arms O.K., but not the feet? At bedtime, does this sleepy preschooler like her back rubbed, scratched or traced over? Does the toddler want to be picked up by Grandpa, but not Auntie? We can help children to recognize the gut feelings that reveal our individual boundaries.

Don’t treat body parts as shameful

Shame about body parts, Ms. Van der Doef says, comes from a child’s environment: they learn from their caregivers when to be squeamish and embarrassed. By normalizing all body parts and speaking of them regularly and straightforwardly with correct language, we send the message that every part of a person’s body is healthy, wholesome and worthy.

As I learned from the Dutch example, normalization goes beyond talk: day-to-day nonsexual nudity — in homes, picture books, mixed-gender school bathrooms, kids’ television programs, and public changing areas and wading pools — reinforces the tenet that bodies are nothing to be ashamed of and nothing we can’t discuss (in words any caregiver, teacher or health provider will recognize) if need be.

As we respond to kids’ natural, healthy curiosity about the human form, we can instill in them the idea that all people are born with wonderful bodies capable of feeling pleasure and pain.

Teach the importance of consent

It can be daunting to explain the emotional and relational aspects of human sexuality. Yet this is our richest opportunity to instill empathy, consent, inclusiveness and egalitarianism.

Preschool is the age to teach children the hallmarks of a healthy, trusting friendship. Children at this age can be made aware of the gender-role stereotypes they’ve absorbed (for example, girls like pink and boys have short hair). A simple role-play with stuffed animals in which a “girl” teddy bear wants to play football and a “boy” animal wants to wear a dress can teach it’s hurtful to limit one anther’s opportunities.

Preschoolers and even toddlers can learn rules for playing contact games with friends such as tickling, chase and “doctor”: everyone must agree happily to the game; no hurting allowed; anyone can say “no” or change their mind. As adults, we can model the importance of consent when children want to climb on us by reminding them to ask first. We can model respect for the importance of consent, too, when a child is reluctant to give a high-five, hug or kiss — especially to an adult, and this does include Grandma — by suggesting a contact-free alternative like a verbal greeting or a wave.

Elsbeth Reitzema, a sex education consultant and curriculum author for the sexual health institute Rutgers in the Netherlands, says it’s impossible to warn children of every scenario and impossible, too, to protect them 100 percent of the time. Specific scenarios such as the lap-patting relative or lollipop-offering stranger can be good to mention, but it’s most important to instill an understanding of consent. This goes for friends, relatives, teachers and even physicians. When children expect to ask, give and deny consent at their own discretion, sexual transgressions stick out as clear violations.

Teaching consent has a protective effect against child sexual abuse by showing children that they can trust their instincts: When a grown-up or anyone else touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable, they don’t have to cooperate. They have the right to say no.

Even a young child, Ms. Reitzema says, can tell the difference between a safe secret like a sister’s birthday surprise and an unsafe one that must be told to a trusted adult: Bad secrets don’t feel fun or happy.

Adults who promptly respond to a child’s report of abuse by believing, guarding and reassuring them they did nothing wrong help protect young victims from long-term trauma. One of the most supportive messages parents can give to kids, at any age, is: “If anyone touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you can always tell me. I’m here to help.”

If you have concerns about possible sexual abuse, resources include the National Child Abuse Hotline, 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453); the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

Complete Article HERE!

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What the Bears Can Teach Goldilocks

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By Frank Strona

“Bear Culture” — a supportive, global community of mostly large, mostly hairy gay men — has evolved and thrived through ideas of inclusion, diversity, self-acceptance and self-expression. Health advocate, diversity specialist and “Daddy Bear” Frank Strona explains what Bear Culture gets right as lessons for Goldilocks and the rest of mainstream society Frank Strona, health planner, shares his unique perspective on diversity and inclusion in explaining bear culture history and lifestyle This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Find out more about Frank Strona HERE!

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5 Types of Orgasms and How to Get One (or More)

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by Hannah Rimm

The ‘Big O(s)’

There’s a lot of talk about the “Big O,” but did you know there’s more than one kind of O to sing about? Orgasms in women may seem a little harder to spot since there’s no obvious spray to end the play. But they exist, and with a little awareness and attention, you can get the Os you deserve, from the fireworks-on-display kind to the calm oh-my-gods.

When you find yourself missing out on the Big O, there are three likely culprits: expectations, communication, and method. And alongside all of that, experimenting is required. You’ll find sites reporting that there are anywhere from 12 orgasms to just 1. But we’re focusing on the five an average person can achieve, for the definitive happy ending they deserve.

What are the types of orgasms?

Here’s a list of the most common types of orgasms and what they typically feel like, although this varies from person to person:

Now, how do we make these orgasms happen?

Let’s talk about the clitoris

The clitoris is a small organ with a lot of nerve endings that peeks out from the tiptop of the vulva, is often covered by a hood, and extends down the inside of the labia. The best way to stimulate the clitoris is by gently rubbing with the fingers, palm, or tongue in a back and forth or circular motion.

Tackling the elusive vaginal orgasm

Vaginal orgasm is often misconstrued as the “best” way for women to orgasm (read: the easiest for penises), but it’s often the most difficult for ladies. Instead of a penis, try fingers or a sex toy. Insert the fingers or toy into the vagina and make a “come hither” motion toward the belly button.

There’s a point of pleasure on this wall called the G-spot and when you hit it with regular, strong pressure, it can lead to orgasm. Stimulation of the G-spot is also the way to lead to female ejaculation, as it stimulates the Skene’s glands on either side of the urethra.

Exploring the anal orgasm

Anal orgasms are much more common in men because of the prostate, but can also be achieved simply by rubbing the outside of the anal opening as well as stimulating the inside of the anus with a finger. When it comes to anal sex, please, please, please use lube. Butts don’t naturally produce lubricant and the skin around the area is very prone to tears, which can lead to unwanted infection.

If you’re looking to return the favor with your male partner, stimulate the prostate by gently inserting a finger straight forward and massage the gland.

Going for the combo and erogenous zones

In order to achieve a combo orgasm, combine clitoral and vaginal stimulation at the same time, either in parallel or opposite rhythms — whatever feels best for you or your partner. This is also the most common way to achieve female ejaculation because the clitoris is stimulated and the G-spot or Skene’s glands are engaged.

Finally, erogenous zone orgasms are achieved exclusively through a lot of experimentation. You may be able to orgasm from kisses on your neck, teeth on your nipples, or fingers on the inside of your elbows. The best way to find your erogenous zones is to use a feather or another light external object and take note where you feel the most pleasure.

Orgasms won’t come without communication

In any kind of sexual play, communication is key. Not only is consent literally required by law, but telling your partner what you want, how, and where is the best way to ensure maximum pleasure. It’s ideal to have these conversations before engaging in sexual play, but it’s equally effective to guide your partner during sex. This means asking for what you want either with words or with your body language. Remember, partners aren’t mind readers, even though we want them to be.

This also means being open to experimentation. If your regular sex routine isn’t getting you off, then experimenting with touching new areas at different times with different body parts (genitals, fingers, mouths) is the next best step to solving your orgasm mystery.

It’s also important to note that experimenting and achieving orgasm doesn’t require a partner. Pleasure is not dependent and neither are you — the better you know your rhythm with fingers and toys, the faster you can teach your partner how you tango.

What actually happens during an orgasm?

What physically happens in a woman’s body during actual orgasm is this: the vagina, uterus, and anus (and sometimes other body parts like hands, feet, and abdomen) contract rapidly 3-15 times, squeezing for 0.8 seconds at a time. Women may also ejaculate, releasing a liquid out of the urethra that contains a mix of whitish fluid from the Skene’s peri-urethral glands and urine. Don’t worry — urine is very sterile and the liquid usually comes out clear.

But not everybody experiences sex and orgasm the same way. The above explanations are great starting points, but sex doesn’t have a manual. That’s why exploring in the moment and finding what your body loves is absolutely key.

Understanding the stages that lead to an orgasm may help you

Masters and Johnson wrote a book that detailed the sexual response cycle, which states that there are four stages of the sexual response:

  • Excitement. Initially being turned on.
  • Plateau. Repetitive motion that feels pleasurable.
  • Orgasm. The burst of pleasure, and release.
  • Resolution. The refractory period.

While this is mostly accurate, it’s too general — especially when these stages cross over and there’s no explosive resolution. It’s also inaccurate to suggest that sex ends in orgasm, because this denies many women of their orgasms by pushing the idea that sex is finished when their male partners finish. Plus, not all sex requires an orgasm and orgasms don’t mean the sex is great.

Orgasms can be small. They can happen many times in a row or just once, and they don’t always happen. Don’t define your orgasms by someone else’s description… that’s ultimately shorting yourself on pleasure. Your calm clitoral orgasm can still be mind-blowing, just as your combo orgasm can be fun, and your partner’s ejaculation can be exciting.

Bodies are different. Orgasms are different. But the path it takes to get there is all about experimenting, communicating, and trying again. Allow yourself to soak in the sensations of the pleasure process just as much, or even more than, the finale.

Repeat after us: Orgasms aren’t the end goal of sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Questions you should ask before you get into a new relationship

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By Simone Paget

When I was younger, attraction, desire, love and sex were all tangled together in one big elastic band ball of feelings. I equated physical attraction with romantic love and found the two nearly indistinguishable. If I was attracted to someone, I’d immediately make it my goal to date them, often sacrificing my heart and mental well-being in the process. As a result, I frequently found myself in relationships (or if we’re being completely honest, “situationships”) with people who weren’t necessarily good for me.

I imagine my younger self scoffing at the way I manage my love life as a thirty-something single woman. I’ve dated a lot over the past few years (and even met some really wonderful people), but it takes a lot for me to want to enter into a serious relationship with someone. I’ve seen what happens when you throw caution to the wind and I’m not interested in repeating old mistakes.

“Getting back into the swerve of dating can be tough, especially coming out of a long-term relationship. It can be so easy to start a relationship into the first person you meet or heck, even match with on a dating app. But without knowing someone well, jumping into a relationship too early can spell disaster,” says author and life coach, Carole Ann Rice.

Instead, here’s a few things you should ask when considering a new relationship.

1. Are there any deal-breakers?

When I was nineteen, I went out with a guy who revealed he had a history with substance abuse and a criminal record within the first few minutes of our initial date. Despite the din of warning bells, we dated for two years.

I used to see dealbreakers as “negotiables” — things that might change if I just loved the person enough. However, some deal-breakers are just that. As Rice notes, “if you know what your deal-breakers are, such as marriage, kids, location, etc., you should find this out early on. Sketching out your expectations of your partner (and, in turn, yourself) will build a lot of transparency and trust. It’s important to know that if you aren’t willing to change something, and they aren’t either, it won’t work at all.”

 

2. Are you comparing them to past relationships?

As you may have surmised from the story above, my dating past is colourful. It’s easy for me to compare past relationships to new ones. But as Rice reminds us, it’s important that we give the other person the benefit of the doubt — at least at first. “A new relationship is best started with a blank slate – don’t tarnish them with your old thoughts and bad expectations,” says Rice. If you have emotional baggage, confront it and find a way to leave it behind.

3. Do you share the same values and lifestyle?

This, more than anything is something that I overlooked when I was younger.

As Rice suggests, “assessing how well your values and interests align should be done so early on, to avoid wasting time. If you and your new beau have extreme differences, and neither of you are willing to budge, it’s not going to work. For example, if they live and breathe football, taking up most weekends – is that something you can deal with?”

4. How do they talk about their past?

Have they ever been in a serious relationship before? How did it end? I’m less interested in the nitty, gritty of what they did with whom, but rather the wisdom they’ve garnered in the process. Whether it’s a past romance, career or family relationship,” Rice says, “be sure to let them explain their past – being mature about how the person describes their dating history is a large indicator of how they can perform in the future. Maturity is also a great sign that they’re emotionally ready to begin another relationship.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What even the most vanilla among us can learn from the BDSM community

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by Natalie Benway

“Sex is not what you do, it’s a place you go.” —Esther Perel

Americans carry a lot of anxiety about having an exciting sex life. This anxiety inspires Cosmopolitan, Redbook and the like to publish a steady stream of articles flouting “100 ways to spice up your sex life!” and “The top six ways to add more color to vanilla sex!” Shame about having “boring” sex is used to sell magazines as well as drive sales of sex toys, fluffy pink handcuffs and sexy nurse costumes, bought in half-hearted attempts to “spice things up.”

But these articles and products usually fall short of providing real avenues for change because they don’t address the mindset we need to have a fulfilling sexual experience. Many of us are afraid to ask our partner for what we are interested in exploring, or don’t know how. We need to feel safe in order to have a positive sexual experience, and sometimes “safe” can be limiting to sexual expression.

Insecurity around sex is a common issue I see in my psychotherapy practice. My friend Alison Oliver (sex educator and all-around epic woman) and I discussed the results of an exercise she has asked her students to complete in which they describe an average sexual encounter from start to finish. The formula was most often as follows: touching, kissing, light petting, heavy petting, oral sex, penile/vaginal contact, coitus, orgasm.

A common frustration among more vanilla folks is the pressure felt to spice up a basic or “boring” sex life. There is absolutely nothing wrong or pathological about wanting a vanilla sexual experience, but if you’re not satisfied, don’t have the skills or feel pressured to get kinky, what do you do?

“The frustration of vanilla — this constant quest to kinkify normative sexual relationships — seems to be the result of people’s actual sexual practices and desires butting up against the idea that there is one unified, normative way that ‘most’ people have sex,” Gawker’s Monica Heisey wrote in the 2014 article “Vanilla Sex: A Perfectly Fine Way to Fuck.” “If I’m supposed to be the default, the married man wonders, why do I want my wife to peg me sometimes? If I’m not kinky, a 22-year-old straight woman who only watches lesbian porn asks, why am I so interested in the idea of a threesome? The danger of vanilla is seeing it as ‘default’ when it’s as amorphous as any individual kinky person’s sexual preferences.”

How do we reframe our expectations so we are not constantly critical of ourselves or our partner? Let’s move away from who-does-what-to-whom and towards a curious and honest exploration of guiding principles that impact mindset. How do I get into the mindset of sex being a place we go, instead of what we do to each other? How do we explore our sexual appetite without anxiety or the pressure of an outcome?

It starts with pondering what we like — what brings us pleasure, and what mood we must be in to explore it — and being open about this with our partner or partners. When we reframe the erotic experience to focus on presence as opposed to performance, we can draw on erotic communication tools within the kink/BDSM community.

The guiding principles of kink/BDSM make no assumptions about what your appetite might be and are not limited in the menu of possibilities. Kink culture is grounded in safe, sane and consensual communication.

Oliver draws on kink/BDSM principles by supporting her students in communicating their sexual boundaries, interests and erotic preferences with an exercise in which they divide sexual menu items into three columns:

  • Yes, please — Favorable activities you’re always or often in the mood for in a sexual/erotic encounter.
  • No, thank you — Activities that are out of bounds for whatever reason, and are off the menu.
  • Maybe? — Activities that have conditions necessary, or you would enjoy under specific circumstances. These are menu items you are curious about and might be open to trying.

These erotic communication tools allow us to express, negotiate and explore our appetites. We can also access the tools of mindfulness to explore presence as opposed to performance. In mindfulness, we are not eating to get to the end of the meal, but to enjoy and experience the food. This can easily be translated to an erotic or sexual experience.

During a mindful eating exercise I do with clients, they are asked to eat a raisin or a nut and act as if they are an alien from another planet and have never seen or experienced the object in their hand. They are prompted to explore it with all their senses and notice not only what they see, hear or smell but also what they think. If their mind wanders, as it often does, they are prompted to gently bring their awareness back to the object of attention. Then they are asked to put the food in their mouth and explore it without biting it, then chew and swallow it and notice how many stages of the experience are automatic or intuitive.

What if we had this kind of presence of mind during a sexual encounter, instead of being distracted wondering if the other person is looking at the size of our ass or critiquing our performance? What if we could be brave and vulnerable in expressing our yes, no or maybe interests to our partners?
Sounds kinky.

Complete Article HERE!

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Rekindling the spark

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– how older couples can rediscover the intimacy of the early days

‘Poor communication is one of the main causes of discord’

A lifetime together can make some couples complacent, uncommunicative, or changed so much that they no longer recognise the person they first fell for. Here, in week three of our Be Your Best You series, Claire O’Mahony asks the experts how older couples can revitalise love and rediscover intimacy

By Dr Damien Lowery, Annie Lavin, Margaret Dunne

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that change is the only constant in life, and this is clearly evidenced in romantic partnerships: they are not static entities. If you’ve been part of a couple for a long time, neither of you may recognise the people you once were, and likewise your situation will have changed, all of which is played out in your relationship.

It’s also a truism that good relationships require work and that they take an effort to maintain. Long-standing couples can potentially face a variety of challenges: they may have grown apart or they might have communication issues. Even couples who are very much in love sometimes acknowledge that an element of complacency can be found in their relationship and that a certain frisson is lacking. For those in the 55+ demographic, other factors can emerge, affecting how partners relate to each other. For women, menopause can bring side effects such as loss of libido and weight gain resulting in negative body image. Men’s sexual function, meanwhile, can be affected by declining testosterone levels and sometimes ill health. Major life changes at this time can impact on relationships, whether that’s dealing with empty nest syndrome or adjusting to the dynamics of retirement. “There is a lot of change occurring and we aren’t accustomed to change,” says consultant psychologist Dr Damien Lowry, whose practice is in Rathgar, south Dublin. “We are highly adaptive individuals and capable of adaptation and adjustment but it doesn’t come easily and it really puts a strain on our capacity to cope. If there are any cracks in relationships, it’s likely that it will be exposed by these marked changes in our lives.”

However, there are strategies that can be employed that can help older couples revitalise their union and strengthen their relationship, and some of them are even fun:

Better communication is key

Many studies have indicated that poor communication is one of the main causes of discord in relationships. According to Dublin-based dating and relationship coach and psychology lecturer Annie Lavin, clients often have a particular need that they want to express but in trying to do so, end up criticising the other person instead. “Generally when it comes to the effectiveness of any conversation, it’s determined by the tone that we set,” says Lavin, who works to empower people to achieve relationship success by transforming their relationship with themselves. “There’s a huge difference between saying something like, ‘I’m sick of doing everything’, and explaining to your partner that you’re feeling whatever that might be.” She suggests coming to the conversation with a calm demeanour and starting with how you feel but not attributing blame. “Instead of saying, ‘You don’t care about me’, it’s better to say, ‘I’m really upset and I’m really hurting about this’. We have to describe the problem neutrally without criticising the person, so you have to be specific.” Dr Damien Lowry agrees that the use of ‘I-messages’ is an effective way of communicating your needs. “An I-message is saying, ‘I am struggling’ or it’s even linking to behaviour – ‘I feel upset or ignored when you arrive home and ask where your dinner is’. Ultimately, it’s a way of avoiding falling into the trap of criticism.”

Getting Sex back on track

Growing older does not necessarily mean a decline in sexual activity and intimacy. The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing 2017 found that the majority of adults aged over 50 in Ireland are sexually active, with 59pc reporting they had sex in the past 12 months. The study noted that those who are sexually active have a higher quality of life and tend to have more positive perceptions of ageing. Margaret Dunne is a specialist psychotherapist in psychosexual, fertility and relationship therapy, based in Glenageary, Co Dublin. She has found that couples often come to her because they hadn’t been making time for each other, as life might have been so busy with children, which led to an absence of sex. These couples almost need to know how to start again. “When people come to me and say they want to get their sex life and their relationship back on track, it can be very exciting but it can be daunting as well,” she says. The first thing she will ask clients to do is to get tested medically – erectile dysfunction, for example, can be a sign of a heart complaint, high blood pressure or diabetes – before progressing any further.

“The challenge is to change what they have been doing all the time, which may not be working anymore and as our body and mind develops, our sexuality develops too and sometimes people forget and think, ‘If I do A and B, I’ll get to C’ whereas in actual fact, sometimes things change and what worked once mightn’t anymore,” she says. The intimacy aspect is also crucial. Dunne explains that there are four stages of intimacy: operational, where two people live in the same house and divide out tasks; emotional intimacy, where they feel close; physical intimacy and sexual intimacy. It’s difficult for couples to move onto sexual intimacy if there is a disconnect between any of the other three areas. The psychotherapist gives couples a series of exercises called sensate focus where they will touch without having sexual intercourse. “It works very effectively because it almost brings them back to maybe years previously when they were going out together and it was a little bit of touching and being quite intimate but not maybe going the whole way, as it used to be known. It brings back that sense of excitement, and they explore each other’s bodies,” she says. “If you’ve someone who’s not really in the mood or worried that they’re not able to perform, this takes that pressure off, and there’s a huge amount of trust involved.” She also gives couples individual exercises where they explore their own bodies and realise what’s sensitive for them, something that can change over time.

What constitutes a healthy sex life at this stage in life? “Whatever the couple are happy with,” says Dunne. “It’s when one or the other isn’t happy with it and doesn’t enjoy it, that’s when it becomes problematic. I often encourage them at the same time to push themselves out of their comfort zone. They may have never discussed their sex life before and it’s a chance to almost reinvent themselves and to be able to enjoy sex. A lot of them mightn’t have been having sex before marriage, maybe there wasn’t a huge amount of experimenting. For some, they’re at the stage where it’s become very mundane, repetitive and functional. I know there’s a hesitation in talking about it, but it helps tremendously if they can instead of looking outside of themselves for how to earmark whether their sexual relationship is healthy or not.”

Accentuate the positives

We will often hone in on the ‘don’ts’ of relationships – don’t get defensive, don’t give the silent treatment, don’t go to bed angry. But it’s vital to focus on introducing positivity into relationships too. Relationship coach Annie Lavin points to the work of author Gary Chapman who categorises the expression of love into five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. “Some of us can rate highly in maybe one or two of those love languages, so if we understand how our partner likes to be appreciated, then we can meet them there, and that goes both ways obviously,” says Lavin. “Expressing appreciation is something we sometimes forget in partnerships and to be thankful for the littler things that your partner does for you. Affection can wane over time and that may need to be reintroduced and to realise that they still admire their partner and what is it about their partner that they now admire, which may have changed from the beginning.” The same goes for establishing caring behaviours such as showing encouragement. According to Lavin, the three universal needs of any relationship are belonging and companionship; affection, either verbal or physical, and support or validation. “The most caring thing you can do in a relationship is to discover your own patterns and really know your own relationship history, to know the things that can really set you off or trigger you. Having this knowledge will help shortcut any relationship issues that can show up so you can then begin to realise, ‘Is this my issue and is this something I’m bringing to this relationship?’ Once you’re then aware of any variations you might have under those three needs, you’ll be less likely to blame your partner when you feel they’re not giving you that extra thing you need.”

Re-establish your identity as a couple and not just parents

Once the children have left home, parents may struggle in their new configuration as a unit of two. Lavin says that the key here is to remind yourself what made your partner tick before children came along, and to become an expert in your partner again. Finding an activity that you both enjoy whether that’s golf, cinema nights or any other, is a good step towards strengthening your connection. It’s something that you can both revel in. “Make sure that you have the time to spend together that’s enjoyable as opposed to just the chores and the routines,” says Lavin. “The idea of dating could be long gone for couples who have been together for a long period of time, so set aside some time every week, even if it’s just to sit down together, have a dinner together. Make it a time where they bring a newness to the relationship by reflecting on their past, how they got together, and maybe just getting to know how the other person thinks. It’s about getting curious again about the other person as opposed to thinking they know everything about them already.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Your Guide to Finding a Doctor Who Is an LGBTQ+ Ally

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It can be tough, so here’s some help.

By Sophie Saint Thomas

Once, at a medical appointment, I saw a nurse who seemed unable to wrap his head around the fact that I was sexually active but not on birth control. I wasn’t sleeping with cisgender men at the time; I didn’t need pregnancy protection. Even though I explained this, he prodded me with more questions about my sexual orientation than needles to draw my blood.

I’m a queer, white, cis woman with access to money, transportation, insurance, and other resources that allow me immense privilege. I’ve still had trouble finding doctors and other medical professionals who act as LGBTQ+ allies. To me, a medical LGBTQ+ ally is well-versed in the correct language to describe my sexuality, doesn’t automatically assume I’m straight just because I’m femme, doesn’t say or do offensive things when I correct them, is committed to understanding how my sexuality might influence my health, and generally treats me with respect.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has identified the LGBTQ+ community as a “health disparity population” due, in part, to our lowered health care access. Unfortunately, some of this comes down to LGBTQ+ patients avoiding medical treatment due to past discrimination and fear of stigma. When LGBTQ+ people belong to other marginalized groups, such as being a person of color or having a disability, it only becomes more difficult to find accessible, non-biased care.

It shouldn’t be this hard. Not only because access to affordable, quality health care should be a human right, but also because LGBTQ+ people are at greater risk for a variety of health threats. These include depression, suicide, substance abuse, breast cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS, depending on the specific community in question.

Unfortunately, even the health care we do get sometimes falls miles short of the compassionate, dignified sort we should receive.

Finding decent and affordable health care in America is a challenge for many people, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Being LGBTQ+ can just make it harder.

Outdated misconceptions about gender identity and sexual orientation have no place in medicine, but they can run rampant. Liz M., 33, a queer, disabled, and non-binary person, tells SELF of “the nurse practitioner who asked ‘how I became a lesbian’ while her hands were inside my intimate parts.”

Even with the best of intentions, medical professionals can make assumptions that lead to mistakes. Leah J., 21, is a non-binary LGBTQ+ speaker and activist with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that is traditionally seen as a condition that only affects women. “Navigating [seeing] an ob/gyn as a non-binary person is very difficult,” Leah tells SELF, explaining that people in doctor’s offices have misgendered them. Leah also has yet to see an intake form that offers “non-binary” as a gender option (or provides space to write in an answer), they add. Then there’s the thorny matter of how medical professionals talk about Leah’s condition, which causes the body to make an excess of testosterone. “I’ll grow extra hair on my face. My voice might be lower. [Doctors have assumed] it’s something I want to fix, that I want to change,” Leah says.

Sometimes it simply comes down to medical professionals’ lack of familiarity with the specific health issues at play for their LGBTQ+ patients. After a dental procedure left me with bloody gums, I asked my dentist and ob/gyn if there was an increased risk of STI transmission during oral sex on people with vaginas. Both doctors fumbled over their words, leaving me without a clear answer.

So, how does the LGBTQ+ community find a safe space to seek medical treatment free from judgment, assumption, and in the worst cases, harassment and even assault?

There are various resources out there for LGBTQ+ people to find supportive primary, sexual, and mental health care.

Here are a few places to start:

  • The Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) surveyed 626 medical facilities across the nation to see which provide patient-oriented care for LGBTQ+ people. (The survey evaluated areas such as staff training in LGBTQ+ services, domestic partner benefits, and patient/employment non-discrimination.)
  • The HEI designated 418 of those facilities as “LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leaders” because they scored 100 points, indicating that they’ve made a concerted effort to publicly fight for and provide inclusive care. An additional 95 facilities got “Top Performer” because they received 80 to 95 points.
  • You can look through the full report to learn about the survey and see how various health centers and hospitals performed. The Human Rights Campaign also has a searchable database of 1,656 facilities they’ve scored (including those from past years and some that have never participated at all). Here’s a map laying out where those facilities are, too.
  • Another great resource is the GLMA (Gay and Lesbian Medical Association) provider directory, Bruce Olmscheid, M.D., a primary care provider at One Medical, tells SELF. The providers in the directory have agreed to certain affirmations listed on GLMA’s website, such as: “I welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families into my practice and offer all health services to patients on an equal basis, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, and other non-medically relevant factors.”
  • Planned Parenthood has long been fighting the battle to provide affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all. On their LGBT Services page, they explicitly state their commitment to delivering quality care no matter a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Of course, while this policy is excellent, Planned Parenthood has many health centers. The level at which staff reflects the written policy can vary from location to location. With that in mind, you can find a local center here.
  • GBLT Near Me has a database of local resources for LGBTQ+ people, including health-related ones.
  • This great Twitter thread serendipitously went viral as I was writing this story. The person behind the account, Dill Werner, notes that you might be able to find therapy services through your local LGBTQ+ center, your state’s Pride website, or by specifically Googling your location and the words “gender clinic.”
  • One Medical of New York City put me in touch with an LGBTQ+ general practitioner with quickness and ease. One Medical is a primary care brand that offers services in eight metropolitan regions: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Enter your location here to find nearby offices.
  • You can use the website to find One Medical doctors who specialize in LGBTQ+ care,” a One Medical representative tells SELF via email. If you click “Primary Care Team” at the top of the site, you’ll see a dropdown labeled “Interests” with an “LGBT Care” option. (One thing to note: One Medical is a concierge service with a membership of $199 a year, although the fee is not mandatory, so you can ask your local office about waiving it.)
  • If you’re in New York City, Manhattan Alternative is a network of sex-positive health care providers committed to affirming the experiences of LGBTQ+ people, along with those in gender non-conforming, kink, poly, and consensually non-monogamous communities. If you’re not in NYC, try searching for a few of those keywords and your city, like “sex-positive therapist in Washington, D.C.”
  • You can also try Googling “gay doctor” or “LGBTQ+ doctor” in your area, Dr. Olmscheid says.
  • This isn’t specifically about doctors, but we’d be remiss to leave it out: If you or someone you know is LGBTQ+ and having a mental health emergency, organizations like The Trevor Project offer crisis intervention and suicide prevention specifically for LGBTQ+ people. You can reach their 24/7 hotline at 866-488-7386. They also have a texting service (text TREVOR to 202-304-1200) and an online counseling system. (The texting is available Monday through Friday from 3 P.M. to 10 P.M. ET; the online counseling is available every day of the week at the same times.)
  • Trans Lifeline is another incredibly valuable hotline. It’s run by transgender operators in the United States (877-565-8860) and Canada (877-330-6366) who are there to listen to and support transgender or questioning callers in crisis. While the hotline is technically open 24/7, operators are specifically guaranteed to be on call from 10 A.M. to 4 A.M. ET every day. (Many are also there to talk off-hours, so don’t let that keep you from calling.)
  • “Leverage your community. Ask friends or colleagues if they’ve had positive experiences with their doctors. It’s important to keep the conversation going,” Dr. Olmscheid says.

Of course, all of this might lead you to a list of doctors who don’t accept your insurance, possibly driving up the cost of your care. In that case, Liz has a strategy for working backwards. “If none of my friends know someone good, I start by going into my insurance page and [seeing] who’s in-network,” Liz says. “Are they publicly or visibly identifiable as someone with at least one marginalized identity? Then they might understand that prejudice, even in medicine, is a thing.”

You might feel all set once you’ve found a doctor. But if you’re still not feeling comfortable, you can try calling the front desk with questions.

“I don’t always feel people who advertise as LGBTQ+-competent [actually] are,” Kelly J. Wise, Ph.D., an NYC-based therapist specializing in sexuality and gender who is trans himself, tells SELF. Doing a bit more digging may help ease your mind.

Leah Torres, M.D., an ob/gyn based in Salt Lake City, advises calling the office to ask questions before booking an appointment. You can try asking if the office sees or attends to LGBTQ+ people, Dr. Torres tells SELF. (Dr. Torres is a SELF columnist.) You can also ask more specifically about their experience with people of your identity if you like. If the receptionist doesn’t have an immediate answer for you and doesn’t seem concerned about getting one (or does, but no one follows up with you), that might tell you something about the care the office provides. (Although sometimes the doctor is great with LGBTQ+ issues, and the staff isn’t as familiar. “One of [medicine’s] pitfalls is that the office staff isn’t always trained,” Dr. Torres says. “Having a staff that’s able to set aside their own assumption and bias is important.”)

You can also look through the office’s reviews on resources such as Yelp and ZocDoc. Even if there aren’t any pertaining to LGBTQ+ people in particular, you may get a better feel for how they treat people in the potentially vulnerable spot of trying to look after their health. Finally, consider looking into what sorts of community events the office has participated in, the charitable contributions they’ve made, and the social media presences of the office and the specific provider you might see.

Once you’re face to face with your doctor, their allyship (or lack thereof) might become clear pretty quickly.

Your doctor’s office should be a safe space to explain anything they need to know in order to take excellent care of you, including various aspects of your identity. When they ask what brought you in to see them, that’s a great time to lead with something like, “I have sex with other women, and I’m here for STI testing,” or “I’m dealing with some stress because I’m non-binary, and the people in my office refuse to use my proper pronouns.”

But remember that the onus is really on the doctor to navigate the situation properly, not you, Wise says. Here are some signs they’re committed to doing so:

  • They ask what your pronouns are, or if you tell them before they ask, they use the correct ones.
  • If they mess up your pronouns, they apologize.
  • They ask assumption-free questions such as, “Are you in a relationship?” rather than, “Do you have a husband?”
  • They also don’t assume things after you express your identity, such as thinking you’re there for STI testing just because you are bisexual.
  • If their body language and/or facial expression change when you mention your identity, it’s only in affirming ways, such as nodding and smiling.
  • They admit when they don’t have the answers. “You don’t want the person who is like, ‘I know everything’. You want someone who knows when they have to ask a colleague,” Dr. Torres says. As an example, Dr. Torres, who doesn’t have many transgender patients, tells those undergoing hormone therapy that she will discuss their care with an endocrinologist.

What if a doctor screws up and doesn’t apologize or otherwise doesn’t offer compassionate, comprehensive care?

“Our medical system hasn’t caught up with how evolved our gender and sexual identities are,” Leah says. “A lot of people just aren’t educated.”

If your medical provider does do something that makes you uncomfortable, you might freeze up and not know how to respond. That’s OK. However, if you feel safe enough, try to advocate for yourself in that moment, Wise says. You can try correcting them by saying something like, “I actually don’t date men” or, “As I mentioned, my pronouns are ‘they/them.’” Depending on how comfortable you feel being direct, you can also straight up say something like, “That was extremely unprofessional.”

If you don’t feel you’re in a position to speak up but you want to leave, do or say what you need to in order to get out of there. Maybe it’s exiting the room instead of changing into a dressing gown and proceeding with an exam, or even pretending you got a text and need to attend to work immediately. Whatever you need to do is valid

However you respond in the moment, writing a Yelp and/or Zocdoc review after your appointment or sharing your experience on social media is really up to you. You might feel compelled to warn other LGBTQ+ patients, Wise says, but only do this if you really feel OK with it—it’s not a requirement. (Especially if you’re concerned it might out you before you’re ready.) Dr. Torres also notes that you can file a complaint with the office or hospital’s human resources department. Another option: Get in touch with your state’s medical board to report the episode.

As you can see, there are plenty of options at your disposal if you want to spread the word about a medical professional who isn’t an LGBTQ+ ally. But if all you want to do is move on and find a provider who treats you with the care you deserve, that’s perfectly fine, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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Well-Timed Study Shows the Lasting Consequences of Sexual Assault

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This week, a study affirming the lasting impact of sexual assault and harassment on middle-aged women’s mental and physical health was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Its timing is remarkable, published amid an ongoing national conversation and controversy surrounding the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings — specifically, allegations that he assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, now 53, when both were in high school.

For their study, researchers surveyed 304 women (all nonsmokers) between the ages of 40 and 60, 19 percent of whom reported a history of workplace sexual harassment, and 22 percent of whom reported a history of sexual assault. (Notably, both figures are significantly lower than national estimates, which hold that 40–75 percent of women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, while 36 percent have experienced sexual assault.) While previous research has established a link between sexual harassment and/or assault with poor health outcomes in women, many of those studies relied on self-report of the individual’s health, among other limitations. For this study, though, researchers assessed participants’ health themselves (by measuring their blood pressure, discussing medications and medical history, etc.), allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of these events’ specific impact.

The study’s authors found that both workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault had lasting, negative effects on women’s health. Women who reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment had significantly higher blood pressure and significantly lower sleep quality than women who didn’t. The former group was also more likely to suffer from hypertension. Women who reported having experienced sexual assault were more likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety than those who didn’t, and were also determined to have poorer sleep quality.

Beyond the fact that their reporting rates are considerably lower than national estimates, the authors note that their experimental group is the best-case scenario in other ways, too: by choosing nonsmokers, for instance, they eliminated a factor likely to amplify those negative health effects. And by surveying participants who volunteered to share their difficult experiences, they were perhaps limited to only the best-adjusted, best-supported survivors. If a highly educated, married, and upper-middle-class woman like Dr. Ford experiences trauma symptoms decades after the assault, one can only imagine how those effects, mental and physical, might be compounded in women with fewer resources at their disposal.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay, Straight, or ‘Ask Me Each Morning’:

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A Crash Course on Sexual and Gender Identity

by Dr. Chris Donaghue

We live in a beautiful time where sexual and gender identity are now limitless, and can be born out of authenticity and creativity. Diverse bodies are gaining full recognition and allowing for confidence in self-expression.

So I laugh when I hear people talk about “opposite genders,” because it’s impossible to catalogue all the various ways of identifying. Words like “man” and “woman” or “gay” and “hetero” no longer explain the complexity of sexual or gender identity. We are learning there are more than five sexes, multiple sexual orientations and hundreds of gender expressions.

A person can have two X chromosomes with ovaries and a uterus on the inside and also have a penis on the outside; some have a sexual orientation that is sexually fluid, bisexual, heteroflexible, asexual, solo sexual, fetish sexual or poly sexual; and life includes the genderfluid, agender, trans and non-binary.

None of that list is complete, and all of these are healthy and beautiful. Nature reflects all of this diversity as well, and thrives because of it. Only humans seem to struggle to accept that.

With all this emerging diverse embodiment comes great confusion and frustration for some, mostly around how to label others and which pronouns to use. But if you can remember others’ names, and all the players on your favorite sports team along with their stats, or all the lyrics to every Beyoncé song, then you can handle asking questions and honoring preferred pronouns and chosen labels.

It’s an act of compassion and respect.

So don’t fall into the trap of heteronormativity and homonormativity, which are social pressures to do sex and gender a certain way. It’s a trap that results in creative and diverse people attempting to be “just like everyone else,” where only those who mimic traditional norms survive.

Nor should you feel that a singular sex act, with a same-sex partner or otherwise, should define a person’s sexual identity or redefine their past, present and future. Everyone gets to self-define.

Here are 5 things to remember about sexual and gender identity:

1. You don’t have to choose.

If you feel comfortable with a solid, enduring and concrete identity, go for it. But that’s not required for your health, nor is it a reality for everyone. Feel free to identity with a blanket identity like “queer.” Exploration of sexual and gender identity is not only healthy; I encourage it.

2. You can create a new label.

Not everyone’s gender identity falls in line with their anatomy or with the binary of male and female. Much health sits outside identity, as there is no standard or universal “male/female” psychology, for instance. Sex and gender are not “either/or”; they are both and neither, and they often change.

3. You can change your mind.

Are we really “born this way?” Some are and some are not. Gender identity and sexuality are the synthesis and constellation of many different complex sources. Some identify as neither, none, other, all, or “ask me each morning.” And most importantly, it doesn’t matter!

Choosing an identity doesn’t mean having to keep that identity permanently. You can explore sexuality and gender endlessly. You can identify as hetero and engage in same-sex sexual exploration, just like you can call yourself “female” and present as non-binary or butch.

4. Find your community.

Sexual and gender minorities, like all minorities, often require association with identity labels to build community and need confidence from having social value reflected back from others. It’s important in building self-esteem, especially for minorities, to have a community around you that understands and values who you are. Find local friends and online groups, and surround yourself with social media that supports your identity.

5. You have a right to demand and expect respect.

Being sexually creative or gender-diverse is a sign of health, especially in our conformity-obsessed culture. The issues that come with being non-normative don’t mean something is wrong with you, but rather they reflect the major problems with a world that sees difference as a disorder.

What do you want people to know about your gender identity?

Complete Article HERE!

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The Kavanaugh allegations show why we need to change how we teach kids about sex

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By Sarah Hosseini

When I was 13 years old, I met a guy at the gas station right outside my suburban neighborhood in Upstate New York. Other neighborhood kids and I would go there to buy sodas and smoke cigarettes behind our parents’ backs. He was a friend of a boy I went to school with. He flirted with me and said I looked “so mature.” He was 20 years old.

He started regularly showing up at my house after school while my mom was at work. I don’t remember ever inviting him there. I told him my mom didn’t allow boys in our house. “But I miss you. It will just be for a few minutes,” he pleaded.

I shared a red metal bunk bed with my sister. We had matching comforters and stuffed animals neatly placed next to our pillows. He crouched under the low beams and jerkily groped me up and down, including beneath my underwear and training bra. I implored him to stop and pushed his hand away, but he whined, “A few more minutes.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer. And so, these encounters continued for weeks. I never told anyone until typing it for this article.

There were more violations of my body, with different boys and men, in varying situations. One was when I was as young as 7, and they continued all the way up through adulthood. Some were more terrifying than others.

While watching and listening to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, my own sexual attacks played in my head. The harrowing details she recounted are familiar to many women: nonconsensual groping, mouth-covering, the fear of rape, the fear of death and the laughing. The indelible memory of laughter.

This is the sexual landscape faced by girls and women in our country, but it doesn’t have to be. We have unprecedented access to information about sex thanks to the Internet, yet sex is still a taboo topic, especially with children. As a mom of two daughters, ages 7 and 8, I used to cringe thinking about sex talks with them. Now, I can’t think of anything worse than not starting the conversation.

“Parents sometimes think they’re ‘protecting kids’ innocence’ by avoiding sexual topics and questions when they come up. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t mean kids don’t get sexual information; it means they get it from less reliable sources like peers and unhealthy sources like pornography,” Connecticut-based marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney says in an email. Whitney also writes for the website Keep the Talk Going, which provides “talk starters” and tips for parents.

One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). One in five women in college experience sexual assault, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“When young people are taught by omission that prowess on the sports field is more valuable than negotiating a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship, we realize we have our priorities wrong and women bear the brunt of such disorienting tactics,” New York City-based therapist Cyndi Darnell says in an email.

Many experts have ideas on how to combat sexual violence, but one particularly compelling option is the call for more comprehensive sexual education. A 2014 study from Georgetown University shows that starting sex education in primary school reduces unintended pregnancies, maternal deaths, unsafe abortions and STDs. Several psychologists, clinicians and educators also believe early sex ed could perhaps help reduce sexual assaults and rapes.

So where do we start?

Fundamentally, we must believe access to sexual health information is a basic human right, as outlined by the World Health Organization. We must also believe that sexual health extends beyond reproduction and disease. It needs to encompass the physical, emotional and social construction of sexuality. And it has to start when kids are young.

“The power and majesty of human sexuality must be respected and taught with the same reverence we use to teach children about how electricity works. It can be used to power our homes or destroy lives, it’s the user that determines its outcome,” Darnell writes. She believes that in our culture, the burden is unfairly placed on the individual to know better, rather than on society to support, care and educate.

“This is a systemic problem that must be changed,” she adds.

The current standards for sexual education in America leave much to be desired. Only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and the curriculums are highly variable. Many programs are abstinence-only and omit crucial information about contraception, sexual orientation and consent. They don’t even touch the topic of pleasure.

“Unfortunately, sex education is largely approached in a fear-based, sex-negative way in U.S. schools, and the curricula are rarely honest with children about the reasons people have sex,” says Brianna Rader in an email. She’s a sex educator and founder of the sex and relationships advice app Juicebox. “We teach young girls that they are more responsible for sexual mistakes and that men are going to one day give them their sexual pleasure instead of empowering them to claim it for themselves. We don’t even discuss the clitoris,” she writes.

The United States has a long way to go toward establishing an all-encompassing model. In the meantime, there are great private sector and nonprofit resources to help parents fill in the gaps. Scarleteen is a website providing inclusive sex information for parents and teens, including message boards where users can anonymously ask questions and seek advice. The site is also highly dedicated to gender identity and sexual orientation topics. Our Whole Lives, or OWL, is a sex education program founded by the Unitarian Universalist Association, which operates under the belief that informed youth and adults make better and healthier decisions about sex. Their curriculums and workshops start in kindergarten and continue to adulthood.

Preparation is great, but what if you get caught off guard by a curious little one?

“When little kids ask about something sexual, they’re just trying to learn about the world. They’re curious about how bodies work, just as they’re curious about everything. We adults may freak out — omg! this is about sex! — but for young kids, it’s just a matter of fact,” Whitney writes.

She suggests answering their questions with simple but honest facts. Which is really the basis of all sex talks, no matter the age.

I can’t say for certain whether more comprehensive and honest sex education would’ve prevented what happened to me. But I can say that I wish I had been empowered with self-knowledge, because it would’ve given me what I didn’t have in those moments: assertiveness, alternatives and options. I deserved more, and our kids do, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Bring Sex Toys Into the Bedroom Without It Being the Most Awkward

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A sex educator’s four top tips.

By Gigi Engle

You have your trusty vibrator, the one that always gets the job done when on the self-love train. Have you considered introducing your favorite toy to your partner? For most women, external clitoral stimulation is needed in order to have an orgasm, and that’s not always a given during sex. Sex toys are designed to bridge the gap between what we get from sex and what we want from sex but aren’t getting. They are the helping hand you need. (In addition to, you know, your hand.) It seems like they would the natural addition to your sex life.

But it can be hard to introduce sex toys into the bedroom for the first time. You’re not the only one nervous about taking your sex toys across the border from Solotown to the Land of Let’s Get It On.

Sex toys are in many ways the final bedroom taboo. As a sex educator and coach, I can personally attest that people are still intimidated by them, however much we tout the dogma of the sacred vibrator.

If you (or your partner) is a little (or a lot) nervous about getting started with sex toys, try these four tips I use with concerned and curious clients. You’ll get there! It just takes some empathy, communication, and a lot of encouragement.

1. Tbh, this might be a super awkward thing to discuss, so prepare yourself for the awkwardness.

Real talk: Your partner may be really threatened or offended when you bring up using vibrators in the bedroom. There is some deep-rooted insecurity around sex toys that, while outdated and unfortunate, still exists. It’s like if you want to bring a vibrator into the bedroom, somehow you’re telling your partner they aren’t good enough. Not true!

Don’t focus on yourself and your sexual needs exclusively. This can potentially alienate your partner and put them on the defensive. Make the conversation about both of you. Approach the topic with empathy and be prepared to deal with a contentious reaction

Have an open an honest conversation about why this is something that turns you on. Tell your partner that it’s new, a little kinky, and fun. It’s something for the two of you to try together in order to expand your sexual repertoire.

Remember, vibrators aren’t only good for you and you alone. They offer immense pleasure when applied to the tip of the penis, the perineum, and the ball sack. If your partner has a vulva and hasn’t used a vibrator before, sex toys will blow their mind, too!

2. Offer to go shopping together, but be ready to go alone.

You may have a sprawling collection of sex toys (good for you!) or not, but if your partner is feeling peevish about using a sex toy, it is best to buy something new. There can be all sorts of loaded feelings about a toy that has been used before, especially with other partners.

You want this to be for both of you, something special that you can share. Offer to bring your partner along to the store or to shop online with you. It might relax them to see that there are so many options for sex toys, as well as not-at-all scary places to shop for them. For a fabulous customer experience, choose Babeland, Unbound, Pleasure Chest, Wildflower or Good Vibrations. These places have sprawling online shops for your convenience.

Be prepared to get shot down on the shopping trip. It might just be too much. And that’s OK! Trying sex toys for the first time can be a bit scary. If you are on your own, embrace the experience. Choose something that you and your partner will love. Speaking of which …

3. Don’t pick some enormous, phallic monster dildo.

The last thing you want to bring home to a nervous partner is some scary, veiny, Rabbit vibrator with a million spinning beads and a realistic penis-head. Nope. This will not go well. Nothing says, “I’m replacing your dick with this vibrator” or “I need a penis over your vulva to be happy” like bringing home a vibrator that is shaped like a larger-than-life penis.

Choose something non-threatening to start. You want to keep it playful and exciting, not terrifying.

Go for inspiring curiosity, not anxiety. When in doubt, choose a sex toy that doesn’t even look like a sex toy. The more quiet the toy, the better. You want something in a non-fleshy color that is more “cute” than it is explicitly sexual. I love to recommend Bender from Unbound and the Form II from JimmyJane. Bender looks like Gumby and the Form II looks like a bunny. What could be scary about that?

For those especially squeamish around sex toys, Fin from Dame Products is the ultimate toy for beginners. It literally turns your hand into a vibrator, giving you one less thing to think about during playtime. You place the little vibrator between your fingers, and put the strap over them. It doesn’t move and it won’t fall off.

4. Focus on pleasurable exploration.

Got the gear? Great. When you bring the sex toy into bed, keep the play about you and your partner. Verbal encouragement (read: dirty talk) will be your best friend. Tell your partner how good they are making you feel and how turned on you are.

You want the toy to be a part of the experience, not the entire focus of the experience. Be sure to remind your partner how sexy they are and how much you love their penis/vulva/body.

If possible, don’t mention the toy. You can guide your partner’s hand to your hot spots, or simply use the toy on yourself. They want to make you feel good. If they see how much you’re enjoying yourself, they will likely be open to including sex toys as part of the regular routine.

Complete Article HERE!

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