What the BDSM community can teach us about consent

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By Olivia Cassano

In heteronormative porn scripts, enthusiastic consent is about as common as a real female orgasm.

However, there’s a fringe of mainstream society that actually knows how to practise affirmative consent, and one from whom the general community could learn a thing or two: BDSM enthusiasts.

As it turns out, kinksters are the ones who have been doing sex right this whole time.

According to a recent survey conducted by the sexual health charity FPA (Family Planning Association), 47% of the 2,000 people surveyed think it’s OK for someone to withdraw consent if they are already naked, and only 13% said they would discuss issues of consent with a partner.

Too often in sexual encounters, consent is considered implicit: it’s rarely asked for, and sex continues until someone – usually the woman – says no.

However, in BDSM scenarios, only a clear, enthusiastic and ongoing ‘yes’ constitutes consent. There’s a big difference between our mainstream ‘no means no’ mentality and BDSM’s ‘yes means yes’ approach.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk, sex educator, queer porn maker and BDSM provider Pandora Blake explains that the absence of a ‘no’ isn’t enough to constitute consent.

‘We’re conditioned from a young age to not say no,’ Pandora tells us. ‘Women are socialised to be people-pleasing, and when you get into the habit of people-pleasing it can make it hard not only to say no but to even be in touch with what we want.’

Because BDSM is an umbrella term that encapsulates a wide spectrum of different activities, Blake explains that you can never assume what your partner will be keen on.

‘Saying “I’m into BDSM” doesn’t mean you’re going to know what the other person actually likes, and you have to talk through it to find out if you have any kinks in common.

‘In mainstream sex people think they know the script, and actually that script doesn’t work for a lot of people, but there’s this assumption that they know what sex is.’

In the BDSM scene, partners explicitly negotiate specific sex acts beforehand, rather than assuming it’s kosher until somebody says no. Because BDSM can be risky and push people’s comfort limits, those who practise it don’t just assume a partner will be okay with a certain act just because they haven’t said ‘no’.

‘Everybody who plays BDSM games has their own ways of keeping themselves safe, and there are different community standards which different people subscribe to,’ says Blake. ‘One of the mantras that people use is Safe, Sane and Consensual, which is the idea that any riskier activities are done in a way that minimises risk and is as safe as possible.

‘Sane refers to people’s abilities to give informed consent, so: are they in a state of mind where they’re able to look after themselves? Are they sober, for example? Are they going through a crisis in their life right now where they’d be inclined to make bad decisions?

‘Another system people use is Risk-Aware Consensual Kink, which makes slightly more space for risky activity, if they consent.’

BDSM is a subculture where consent and negotiation are normalised and accepted. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that compared to vanilla people, the kink community had significantly lower levels of benevolent sexism, rape myth acceptance, and victim blaming.

Another survey published in 2012 by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom also found that 85% of BDSM practitioners polled agreed with statements such as ‘a person can revoke consent at any time’, ‘consent should be an ongoing discussion in a relationship’, and ‘clear, overt consent must be given before a scene’. Over 93% of respondents endorsed the statement ‘consent is not valid when coerced’.

‘From pre-negotiations to post-mortems – just talking about things before, after and all the way throughout – it really just comes down to communication and making sure that everybody is on the same page,’ explains Blake.

‘Most consent violations happen because people are selfish and don’t have the communication tools to find out what’s going on with the other person, but most of us want to be having sex with people who genuinely want to be having sex with us.

‘There is nothing sexier than getting that information from your partner.’

Pleasure plays a huge part in consent, and heterosexual women are the ones who get the sh*t end of the stick in bed. While 95% of straight men regularly orgasm during sex, only 65% of straight women do. Society discourages us from talking about sex (ahem, prudes), making it harder for women especially to explore what they like in bed.

If we don’t encourage women to speak up about what they want in bed, how will we ever normalise affirmative consent?

‘This idea that consent is a contract is really pernicious,’ Blake says. ‘Consent is revocable and ongoing, and being encouraged to change your mind is necessary for consent. By saying you’ve changed your mind, you’re helping your partner respect your boundaries.’

‘Consent isn’t about just avoiding negative situations, it’s not about getting permission to do something, it’s an active process and collaboration between two people who respect each other to create the best experience for everyone involved.’

The same rules of engagement the BDSM community respects can easily be applied to vanilla encounters. Talking about what you want before, during and after a sexual encounter isn’t just necessary, but can be incredibly sexy too.

Asking and giving consent doesn’t have to be a formal sit down where you lay out all the things you’re ok and not ok with (although, if you want to do it that way, it’s perfectly cool).

In fact, foreplay and dirty talk are perfect ways to practice explicit consent. Asking things like ‘can I do X?’, ‘do you like it when I X?’, ‘I want to do X to you, do you want that?’ not only make the experience that much hotter, but they make sure you’re respecting your partner’s boundaries.

The only reason some people think of consent as a formal request for a sex, something that ruins the mood, is because in heteronormative, vanilla sex scenes, consent is rarely given as explicitly as it should be.

Explicit consent has a number of advantages over the implicit consent practised (or better yet, not practised) in traditional sexual scripts because everyone is required and encouraged to ask for what they want.

Boundaries and acts that are off-limit are clearly discussed, there’s no intimidation or coercion, and there’s no ambiguous silence that can be exploited. Just because you’re not keen on a flogging session, doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two from BDSM.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Use A Wand Vibrator During Sex

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By GiGi Engle

It’s no secret that a wand vibrator is the cornerstone of any notable sex toy collection. There is a reason why Hitachi wands have been best sellers since their advent in the 70s: They deliver powerful, insanely awesome orgasms.

The wand is the clit-whisperer. No matter who you are or what you like, almost every woman will agree that a wand vibrator is the best thing in the world.

Did you know that the love you have for your wand can be a part of partner sex and not just your favorite masturbation accomplice? Yes, that’s correct. The two things are not mutually exclusive. Here’s how to use your favorite giant sex toy during sex.

Why a wand vibrator during sex?

Bringing sex toys into the bedroom is finally becoming a new normal for many people — as .it should. Nearly every woman requires stimulation of the external clitoris to experience orgasm. Sex toys are a conduit to this necessary sexual touching, and vibrators are designed to help you orgasm. Any partner who is comfortable with themselves will not be intimidated by a sex toy, but rather open to experimentation. After all, who doesn’t want their partner to come?

If you’re in the early stages of your sex toy adventures, you’ll probably want to start with something small and non-threatening. Finger vibrators and pocket rockets are excellent for beginners, but eventually you’ll probably be ready to graduate to something bigger and more powerful. That’s where wang vibrators come in.

Wands are, for the most part, freaking enormous. I’m currently looking at my favorite wand and this sucker is a solid twelve inches long. It’s a subway sandwich-sized sex toy.

We love our wands because of their power-packed charge and long handles. They make masturbation easy. You can hold the handle at chest-height and reach the clitoris without moving a muscle. Convenient! The girthy head gives you all-over clitoral stimulation without having to do much in the way of maneuvering.

For the brave amongst you, these same positive attributes can be utilized during partner play. You may have cornered the wand as your solo-only toy, but its big head and long body make orgasms during intercourse even easier.
If you want to ease your partner into it, start by having them watch you use it on yourself. This can be a huge turn on. Seeing how you make yourself orgasm could be just the push your partner needs to get on board.

The best positions for wand play

Starting out with wand play means finding the right positions that are both comfortable and orgasmic for you. Now is not the time to be getting acrobatic. There will plenty of opportunities for that later down the line. For now, stick to these three basic positions to get placement in order.

Don’t worry if it feels awkward at first. All new sex things are weird in the beginning.

Missionary: Your wand can seriously spice up this go-to position. When you’re in missionary, slip the wand between you and your partner. If they are able to stay propped up on the their arms, it will help make some extra room for the wand. Hold the wand like you would while masturbating on your back.

The reach of the wand’s base helps you access your clitoris without reaching down too far. You’ll have ample opportunity to make out with your partner and focus on the combination of internal and external stimulation. Your partner’s weight will add to the pressure of the wand head on your clitoris for intense, full-body orgasms

Open-Legged Spoon: This is like a regular spoon only, you know, open-legged. Lie on your back and spread your legs, bent at the knee. Have your partner enter you from below, perpendicular to your body. Drape your knees over their side. You can align bodies like you would in a classic spoon for more intimacy

Grab your wand and rest it on the clitoris. This is an ideal lazy-girl sex position. You have total access to your clitoris, while your partner penetrates you. This low-impact position will change how you see your wand forever. Plus, it’s super sexy and dirty looking.

Doggy Style: For those of you who enjoy masturbating on all-fours with a wand, this will be your bread and butter. Lie on your stomach, sticking two or three pillows under your hips. Prop your wand against the pillows so you can lean your vulva against the top. Have your partner enter you with either their penis, fingers or dildo from behind.

A wand is amazing for doggy style because you get to ride it while your partner is riding you. You’re basically the center of a filthy nasty sandwich — something everyone deserves.

Queening: This position is great for everyone, but works especially well for same-sex couples. Lean your back against a throne of pillows like a queen. Grab the wand and hold it against your glans clitoris while your partner uses their tongue on the rest of your vulva. The vaginal opening is full of nerve endings and is amazing for exploration. They can also lick up and down your labia. Want to make it even more intense? Have them place a stainless steel dildo inside your vagina while they lick around the opening. The weight of the toy will pull the entire pelvic floor and internal clitoris downwards, resulting in an orgasm for the books.

If you don’t already have a wand vibrator, stop what you’re doing right now! You need one. Whether you’re planning to use it for partner play, by yourself, or both, it’s a must-have.

While Hitachi has long reigned supreme, it’s never admitted to being a sex toy. To this day it claims to be a neck massager. There are approximately zero people on this planet who have used a Hitachi magic wand as a neck massager, but I digress.

Female-run companies have stepped up and created wands that are proudly marketed as sex toys. Plus, they’re made from high quality materials you can trust. Our favorites are Le Wand and Ollie from Unbound. We like our sex toys like we like everything else: Highly quality, feminist, and orgasmic.

Complete Article HERE!

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Talking sexual health with older patients

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Dr Sue Malta and her research team want to promote more positive social perceptions of older people’s sexuality, in general practice and beyond.

By Amanda Lyons

It is no secret that Australia’s population is ageing.

But that doesn’t mean older Australians are leaving the pleasures of the bedroom behind – and nor should they, argues Dr Sue Malta.

‘Having a healthy sex life when you’re older, even when you do have disability and disease, is actually really good for your health and wellbeing, and also your overall cognition and cognitive function,’ the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health research fellow told newsGP.

‘So there’s lots of reasons for people to remain sexually active in later life, and for GPs to encourage them to be so, if that’s what the older patient wants.’

Our culture contains many deeply embedded stereotypes about older people, and one of the strongest is that they are asexual. But, as shown by Sex, Age & Me, a national study conducted on the sexual and romantic relationships of over 2000 Australians aged 60 and older, this is very far from the case: almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents reported having engaged in a variety of sexual practices in the preceding year, ranging from penetrative intercourse to mutual masturbation.

Despite this kind of eye-opening data, stereotypes about older people’s sexuality – or lack of – persist, even among older people themselves and the health professionals who treat them.

The Sexual Health and Ageing, Perspective and Education (SHAPE) project, for which Dr Malta is a researcher and project coordinator, also revealed these stereotypes could cause significant barriers in discussion of sexual health between GPs and older patients.

‘GPs don’t want to initiate these conversations, they want them to be patient-led,’ Dr Malta said.
‘But older patients won’t talk to GPs because they are embarrassed, and for reasons that go back to an historical lack of sex education when they grew up: the context and eras these patients were born into, they just didn’t talk about sex.

‘So it leads to this Catch-22 situation.’

The SHAPE team wanted to further investigate the reluctance of GPs to raise sexual health issues with older patients, so they conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 GPs and six practice nurses throughout Victoria. The resulting paper, ‘Do you talk to your older patients about sexual health?’ was published in the most recent edition of The Australian journal of general practice (AJGP).

Dr Malta explained that semi-structured interviews allowed the researchers to access richer and more detailed information from their GP respondents.

‘It’s very easy to say ‘“yes, no” in a survey. We don’t really find out people’s underlying or unconscious views and attitudes,’ she said.

Researchers ultimately found many of the GPs feel uncomfortable broaching the subject of sexuality with older patients, and some found it difficult to reconcile sexuality with ageing.

As one GP said, ‘It’s a bit like you don’t really want to know your mum and dad have sex, you know? Because that’s just gross’.

However, as Australia’s ageing population grows, and divorce, online dating and sexually transmissible infections (STIs) become more common among older people, neglecting issues of sexual health can lead to harms.

There’s a whole issue around [the fact that] they’re not practising safer sex, so the STI rates are going up,’ Dr Malta said. ‘It has gone up 50% in five years, but from a low base.

‘But if we continue in this vein, with more and more single older adults coming into the population, this could potentially be more of an issue in the future.’

Furthermore, if GPs and other health professionals are unaware that they should be looking out for sexual health issues in older patients, they may miss important signs.

‘A lot of the symptomology [of STIs] actually mimic diseases of ageing,’ Dr Malta said. ‘So if there is a stereotype of the asexual older person in the GP’s mind, and an [older patient] has a symptom that might or might not be an STI, which side do you think the GP is going to err on? Not the possible STI.’

A vivid anecdote that Dr Malta encountered during her teaching work is a telling illustration of the importance of not making assumptions.

‘One of the registrars at a presentation I gave had a consultation with an older man, a gentleman on a walking frame, who was 90 or so, and presented with what looked like an STI,’ she said.

‘The consultant the registrar was working under said, “No, it wouldn’t be an STI, just look at him, he’s past it. That’s ridiculous.” But the registrar decided she would ask him.

‘So she asked and he said, “Yes, actually, it could be an STI. I went to see a prostitute last week and it was the best thing I’ve done in ages”.

‘So the registrar then had the opportunity to have that discussion about safer sex and give him some treatment.’

Many of the GPs interviewed for Dr Malta’s paper felt they would appreciate interventions designed to help facilitate discussions about sexual health during consultations with older patients.

Dr Malta agrees this would be helpful, but believes it would also be useful to start earlier, with better information about ageing and sexuality provided during general practice (and other medical) training.

‘In training, you learn about ageing, but in the context of disease and dysfunction,’ she said.

‘So the only thing about sex and ageing you might learn is about erectile dysfunction, how beta blockers affect your ability, vaginal dryness, menopause, prolapse. You don’t actually learn about positive sexuality in later life.’

Dr Malta has found that most older patients would like sexual health screening to become a normalised part of routine care in general practice. She also believes it is necessary to make changes in overall health policy to make it more inclusive.

‘There is no sexual health policy targeting older adults,’ she said. ‘They get lumped into general sexual and reproductive health policy, and the only mention that’s made of them is about menopause and the like.

‘There should be a specific sexual health policy for older adults because the issue is more involved than we think.’

Complete Article HERE!

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Encourage teens to discuss relationships, experts say

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BY Carolyn Crist</a

Healthcare providers and parents should begin talking to adolescents in middle school about healthy romantic and sexual relationships and mutual respect for others, a doctors’ group urges.

Obstetrician-gynecologists, in particular, should screen their patients routinely for intimate partner violence and sexual coercion and be prepared to discuss it, the Committee on Adolescent Health Care of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises.

“Our aim is to give the healthcare provider a guide on how to approach adolescents and educate them on the importance of relationships that promote their overall wellbeing,” said Dr. Oluyemisi Adeyemi-Fowode of Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who co-authored the committee’s opinion statement and resource for doctors published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“We want to recognize the full spectrum of relationships and that not all adolescents are involved in sexual relationships,” she said in an email. “This acknowledges the sexual and non-sexual aspects of relationships.”

Adeyemi-Fowode and her coauthor Dr. Karen Gerancher of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, suggest creating a nonjudgmental environment for teens to talk and recommend educating staff about unique concerns that adolescents may have as compared to adult patients. Parents and caregivers should be provided with resources, too, they write.

“As individuals, our days include constant interaction with other people,” Adeyemi-Fowode told Reuters Health. “Learning how to effectively communicate is essential to these exchanges, and it is a skill that we begin to develop very early in life.”

In middle school, when self-discovery develops, parents, mentors and healthcare providers can help adolescents build on these communication skills. As they spend more time on social networking sites and other electronic media, teens could use guidance on how to recognize relationships that positively encourage them and relationships that hurt them emotionally or physically.

Primarily, healthcare providers and parents should discuss key aspects of a healthy relationship, including respect, communication and the value of people’s bodies and personal health. Equality, honesty, physical safety, independence and humor are also good qualities in a positive relationship.

As doctors interact with teens, they should also be aware of how social norms, religion and family influence could play a role in their relationships.

Although the primary focus of counseling should help teens define a healthy relationship, it’s important to discuss unhealthy characteristics, too, the authors write. This includes control, disrespect, intimidation, dishonesty, dependence, hostility and abuse. They cite a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of young women in high school that found about 11 percent had been forced to engage in sexual activities they didn’t want, including kissing, touching and sexual intercourse. About 9 percent said they were physically hurt by someone they were dating.

For obstetrician-gynecologists, the initial reproductive health visit recommended for girls at ages 13-15 could be a good time to begin talking about romantic and sexual health concerns, the authors write. They also offer doctors a list of questions that may be helpful for these conversations, including “How do you feel about relationships in general or about your own sexuality?” and “What qualities are important to someone you would date or go out with?”

Health providers can provide confidentiality for teens but also talk with parents about their kids’ relationships. The committee opinion suggests that doctors encourage parents to model good relationships, discuss sex and sexual risk, and monitor media to reduce exposure to highly sexualized content.

“Without intentionally talking to them about respectful, equitable relationships, we’re leaving them to fend for themselves,” said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, who wasn’t involved in the opinion statement.

Miller recommends FuturesWithoutViolence.org, a website that offers resources on dating violence, workplace harassment, domestic violence and childhood trauma. She and colleagues distribute the organization’s “Hanging Out or Hooking Up?” safety card (bit.ly/2PQfxEM), which offers tips to recognize and address adolescent relationship abuse, to patients and parents, Miller said.

“More than 20 years of research shows the impact of abusive relationships on young people’s health,” Miller said in a phone interview. “Unintended pregnancies, sexually-transmitted infections, HIV, depression, anxiety, suicide, disordered eating and substance abuse can stem from this.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Recovering the Beauty of Sex

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By Joseph A. Barisas and William F. Long

Last week, a group of students hosted Harvard Sex Week, a series of widely-publicized events with titles ranging from “Hit Me Baby One More Time: BDSM in the Dorm Room” and “Bloody Good! An Intro to Period Sex” to “One is Not Enough: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, & Polyamory.” The Undergraduate Council and the Harvard Foundation shared the distinction of sponsoring these talks with, among others, various retailers of exotic sex toys, lubricants, and condoms.

Over our years at Harvard, we’ve seen our fair share of the extreme and the avant-garde, but this year’s programming managed to shock even us. The idea that a week including BDSM and polyamory could possibly contribute anything to a healthy understanding of sex struck us as entirely backward. Why has our dialogue about sex, something which should be considered intimate and reverent and profound, become simply an outlet for our unrestrained desires and debased passions?

The answer, we suspect, likely has something to do with the fact that Harvard teaches us from our very first week on campus an oversimplified attitude towards sex that we might call the “consensual” philosophy of sex. Each year during Opening Days, freshmen sit through a mandatory theatrical production called “Speak About It” in which, over an hour of sexual reenactments, they learn that as long as they have “consent,” they are free to engage in whatever with whomever they please. What matters is not the act consented to, but the consent itself. While consent is obviously essential to the very nature of sex, there is so much more to it than just a verbal assent extracted from the other party in order to do whatever one desires.

Because there are no other normative guidelines on what true and good sex is, this ambivalence inevitably reduces sex, one of the most powerful and meaningful components of the human experience, to what many young people invariably want it to be: a purely physical act whose primary function is to produce pleasure and satisfy passions. It matters not with whom one engages in it, neither the duration or depth of that relationship, nor yet the further continuance of the relationship. To speak of its emotional and spiritual aspects feels awkward and anachronistic, and discussion of its procreative nature, arguably the most essential characteristic of sex, is avoided like the plague.

But the consequences of this cheapened, hollowed-out view of sex are heartbreaking. They can be seen in a culture of one-night-stands and hook-ups, fueled by alcohol, often ending in indifference and, occasionally, emotional trauma. Young men and women learn to see one another as means to gratification and not ends in themselves, infinitely valuable and unique. A woman who had suffered the emotional toll of being ghosted once too many times asked in a New York Times column whether by consenting to hook-up culture, she had also consented to its premise of detachment and self-centeredness. When we lower our standards of acceptable sexual behavior to merely what is legal, we should not be surprised to see our personal standards of sexual morality drop and unbridled license expand to fill the void.

A sexual ethic that bases its standards solely on what is allowed teaches students that they are being moral by merely staying within the bounds of the law. A robust ethic has positive rather than solely negative norms. Students learn implicitly a definition of sex as allowance, where anything not prohibited is good, instead of realizing that boundaries and reason help make sex the entirely unique and wonderful thing it is. Paradoxically, this prohibitive ethic in which we are currently immersed destroys the possibility of allowing people to see sex as a good and honorable and beautiful thing.

One of the self-proclaimed objectives of Sex Week was to “connect diverse individuals and communities both within and beyond Harvard,” and the group that runs it aims to “open up campus dialogue.” This is an aspiration we can certainly agree with, and we want to begin engaging in this dialogue by rejecting the premise that the ethic of “consent” is sufficient to create a culture of sex that truly empowers and connects.

Couldn’t we all agree that true sex requires genuine care for the other party and to have their best interest at heart? The moment we impose this reasonable requirement, we recategorize a wide swath of sexual behavior — drunken one-night-stands for instance — as instead a sort of glorified mutual masturbation. As we continue to positively construct sex by considering its many natural and valuable facets, we begin to elevate its dignity and purpose and reestablish a philosophy of sexual ethics that we believe benefits everyone. At the Harvard College Anscombe Society, we believe among other things that true sex should be a total and unreserved giving of oneself to another, physically, emotionally, psychologically, biologically, and spiritually. Its primary function is unitive, tying two people in an indissoluble bond, and procreative, wherein the love shared between the two manifests itself in the miracle of human life.

Only when we take every aspect of sex seriously and consider it in its proper framing, can we recover its natural beauty and value. Admittedly, constructing a full alternative vision of sex is not something that can be easily done in an op-ed, and the Anscombe Society — through meetings and public talks, including one with world-renowned moral philosopher Dr. Janet E. Smith this week — hopes to continue this ongoing dialogue about true love.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to have the talk with your partner

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Since the most common symptom is actually having no symptoms, talking to any partners about sexual health is even more important than it is awkward. The good news is talking about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and getting tested leads to more honesty, open communication and better relationships (and health) in the long run. Here’s how to start that particular conversation.

Taking the lead

“Just so you know, I got tested for STIs last month…” is a strong start. Taking the initiative yourself to get tested, get treated if necessary and know your status keeps you and your partner safer. Then, when you’re ready to have the conversation, you can open by sharing your results and normalizing getting tested for your partner.

If they respond that they haven’t been tested or it’s been a while since their last appointment, encourage them to do it, too, so you can be on the same page. This also is a good time to remind them that getting tested doesn’t mean they do have an STI, and if they do, most are curable and all are treatable (and having one doesn’t say anything about them).

Jumping in together

If you haven’t been tested recently either, start a conversation with your partner about both of you getting tested. You can even introduce it as something uncomfortable if that’s where you are, i.e., “This is awkward, but I care about our health and I think it’s time for us to get tested for STIs. Would you want to go get tested together?”

This kind of conversation lets you share an awkward experience while empowering you both to take care of yourselves and each other, creating stronger communication in the long run. It’s also a quick way to hear from your partner if they have recently been tested, and if so, they can serve as your support system in taking on your health.

Sharing results

Talking about an STI you had or have, or hearing about one from your partner, can be a stressful situation. A few things to keep in mind: STIs don’t define people or behaviors, many are curable and all are treatable, millions of people contract STIs every year and even in monogamous relationships an STI doesn’t necessarily mean someone cheated (in some cases, it can take years for symptoms to show up, if at all).

Start a conversation like this one in a safe place where you won’t be interrupted and practice what you’d like to say ahead of time. “I had chlamydia and took medicine, so I don’t have it anymore, but it made me realize we should be getting tested more…” or “I was just diagnosed with gonorrhea and my doctor said you can also get a prescription for the antibiotics…”

Sometimes people need time to process this information, and that’s okay—let them know you’d like to continue talking about it when they feel ready.

If your partner is disclosing an STI to you, remember these facts and consider how you’d want to be treated on the other side. Be compassionate, avoid judgment and take on your health as a team. If you have questions or would like to get tested, Medical Services offers STI testing by appointment with a health care provider and on a walk-in basis through the lab.

Free safer sex supplies (condoms, lubricant, etc.) are available through Health Promotion on the first floor of Wardenburg Health Center. For general information on sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, visit beforeplay.org

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ways to Be More Sexual…

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Even When You’re Not in Bed

By Amy Stanton & Catherine Connors

Getting in touch with your erotic self can help you feel more authentic, and confident too.

This may seem counterintuitive in a culture that celebrates the Kardashians and made 50 Shades of Grey a bestseller, but female sexual power has always been controversial.

Women who own their erotic power have, for pretty much all of human history, been seen as dangerous and disruptive. (Who is Eve, after all, if not a brazen woman who tempts an otherwise innocent man? And she, apparently, caused humanity to be kicked out of paradise as a result!) History and theology are full of tales of women whose sexual power caused the downfall of nations and peoples. From the Hindus’ Mohini to the Greeks’ Sirens to the Old Testament’s Jezebel, Delilah, and Salome to Stormy Daniels—sexually confident women have been long characterized as capital-T Trouble.

It’s not hard to figure out why: women’s sexual power has long been directly associated with men’s sexual weakness. Delilah’s cutting of Samson’s hair is a figurative castration: a sexually powerful woman can rob a man of his strength and will and render him vulnerable. Other cultures viewed a man’s falling under the influence of a woman as so disempowering that it could only be the work of demons or other supernatural forces. And we all know the tragedy of the cuckold (who persists to the present day in the idea of the “cuck”): sexually duped by a woman, the cuckolded man can’t know who his real children are, and so is effectively impotent. (That this became the basis for The Maury Povich Show is arguably a compounded tragedy.)

The idea that women shouldn’t be sexually empowered runs so deep that we often don’t realize how much it influences us. Take the notion of the “slut” and the double standard it purveys. According to author and journalist Peggy Orenstein, “A sexually active girl [or woman] is a slut while a similar boy [man] is a player.” Apart from “player,” we don’t really have words to describe the sexually active boy or man. Girls and women are called “sluts,” “whores,” “slags,” “slatterns,” and (for older women) “cougars,” to name a few. And although we shame unabashedly sexual women (think of how much vitriol gets aimed at Kim Kardashian), we also vilify the so-called prude who suppresses her sexuality. To say that these double standards and contradictions create a confusing landscape for girls and women is an understatement.

It’s not only confusing… it’s also a dangerous landscape. In the era of #metoo, #BelieveHer, and #WhyIDidntReport, we are more aware than ever that our confidence—sexual or otherwise—won’t protect us from the risk of assault. And even though we know that the arguments about constraining women’s sexual freedom for our own protection are completely bogus–even dangerous—it’s hard to not absorb the chill of those messages. So how do we claim and own our sexual power? How can we use it in a way that promotes our emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being?

We think the starting point is to get in touch with your erotic self. Explore your sexual identity so that you can get to know it better. As Amy discusses in our book, The Feminine Revolution, one of the ways she does this is by embracing her love of lingerie—a love that started for her, because it made her feel great and then if men appreciate it, even better. For Catherine it’s been a process of embracing sensuality in all its forms—not just sexual—and getting to know what moves and inspires her senses. For you, it could be something completely different—what matters is only that you get started. Ask yourself, What makes me feel good? What makes me feel sexually and sensually gratified—and confident? And consider trying a few of these tricks:

Practice the skill of erotic observation

Explore what it feels like to “love” a sunset or the curve of smoke above a fire—and cultivate connection to beauty everywhere you find it. Your erotic self is defined by its connection to beauty and spirit in all forms, so being in touch with your erotic—and, by extension, sexual—power requires practicing appreciation of those things outside the sphere of sex and romance.

Use your senses

Sexuality is a power of the mind, but also, of course, of the body, and so the practiced exercise of sexual power requires connection to the senses. But this isn’t restricted to the sexual experiences of the senses—on the contrary, honing your senses more broadly can only enhance more, um, specific sensual experiences. Pay attention to what delights your senses. Is it the taste of fine wine or great chocolate? Is it the warmth of crackling fires, the feel of wind in your hair, the tingling of your muscles after a run? Do more of that. Find more of that.

Own your physicality

The way you sit, the way you walk—every movement plays into your sexual power. How can this work to your advantage? How can you express yourself intentionally through your movement? Pilates is a great way to get really specific with your various body parts and learn how to move and control them. Dance allows you to free and express yourself. Bring attention to how you’re walking down the street and how you feel.

Experiment

Try different ways of expressing and feeling your sensuality and sexuality. See how it feels. Play with it—visit extremes and fantasies. What feels right? Perhaps you’ll find you’ve been playing it too safe, and there’s room to indulge. Or maybe you’ll find that you want to dial it back. No matter what, the result is clarity and power.

Find inspiration in others

Look to sexual/sensual/erotic role models as a way to find your own approach to sexuality. Consider people across the gender spectrum: Whom do you find sexy? Why? What about that person is sexually or erotically compelling? Is it his or her physical beauty or sense of style, intelligence, or charisma? Understanding what we find erotic—what we desire—can help us find our own sexual being.

As we explore our femininity, our feminine power and, as part of that, our sexuality and sexual power, let’s not forget it’s a journey. A journey of freeing ourselves, learning what makes us feel our best and most confident and moving towards true authenticity. Towards a better world for us and for those around us.

Complete Article HERE!

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The XConfessions app

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Erika Lust’s new app is making it easier to talk about kinks and fantasies

By Marianne Eloise

The XConfessions app lets users swipe left or right on sex acts they’re willing or not willing to try

Erika Lust is currently making five films at once – no small undertaking, especially as her erotic films are cinematically beautiful; often feature-length, with professional crews who work on styling, location, cinematography, and everything else to make it visually arresting.

But that’s just a small part of the filmmaker’s mission to promote and create feminist pornography that centres women’s experiences and desires. Lust believes the most important thing with sex is communication and consent; clear rules that many people seem to skim over. She’s serious about promoting those values, too – she is determined to maintain an ethical work environment where all actors are comfortable, which she tells me goes from “feeding everyone on set” to “performers being able to stop shooting anytime they feel uncomfortable”.

Lust’s series XConfessions, which saw her win a Feminist Porn Award in both 2014 and 2015, is based on crowd-sourced erotic stories and fantasies from confessions that viewers can leave on her website. Now, she’s released the XConfessions app, an app which presents users (either playing alone or in a couple) with kinks: each person swipes left or right depending on whether they’re willing to try it. It’s billed as an inclusive app, taking into account all genders, sexualities, and types of relationships.

The XConfessions app takes the most awkward and complicated part of kink – the fear that your partner mightn’t want to try what you do; the fear of exposing yourself only to be embarrassed – and makes it disappear. We speak to Lust about the app, her work, and the ever-evolving porn industry.

One of the options on Erika Lust’s XConfessions app

I think the best thing about XConfessions is that – with trying new things sexually – there’s always the fear that your partner won’t want the same thing and it’ll get awkward. Was that your primary motivation?

Erika Lust:
It was designed for exactly that – to open up conversation and take away some of the pressure of broaching the topic of fantasy with your partner. I think the fear of embarrassment is really common. It can be very difficult to open up about your fantasies, even to someone you’ve been with for a long time, but these conversations can potentially take your sex life to the next level and intensify your bond and relationship with your partner. It’s really important in a relationship to have strong, open communication and I believe that this is part of it. Sexual fantasies are perfectly healthy and normal, and sharing them can be a really fun experience.  

Where do you think that embarrassment comes from?

Erika Lust: I think a lot of it stems from the shame tied up with sexuality. Unfortunately shame is cultivated in the society we live in and the sex education (or lack of) we receive growing up. We’re also taught to view sex in a very narrowly defined heteronormative way, which makes it seem that anything outside of this is deviant or weird. Women especially have to confront shame within their sexuality because they’re fed the message from a young age that they shouldn’t enjoy it too much.

Do you think that’s the most important thing in both kink and sex – communication?

Erika Lust: I think there are two equally important things, communication and consent. When we don’t communicate about sex, our wants and our needs aren’t met. A lack of communication means that we don’t try things that interest us and we will go along with things that we may not necessarily want to. We must always be aware of consent when having sex – ongoing conversation or clear non-verbal cues.  

It baffles me that the kink community has a bad reputation in ‘mainstream’ circles when they have such a strong model of what it means to obtain consent and speak about what they’re comfortable doing. It’s the norm in kink situations to speak about what sexual activities you want to do. I’m not saying that the kink community is perfect or that boundary violations don’t exist, but I think there is a lot we can learn. I think it’s also important to remember that consent and communication are not one-time conversations.

The app takes away something that can be common in kink – a perceived pressure to comply. If your partner says ‘I want this’ and you say ‘well, I don’t’, you can feel ‘boring’ or like you’re depriving them of something they want. This makes the conversation more positive and takes away that fear, while prioritising pleasure.

Erika Lust: I wanted to make the app in a way that users can play individually, as well as with their partner. In part, to take away some of the pressure to comply, specially when fantasies are spoken about during sex, there can be a pressure to say yes to avoid making things uncomfortable.

I think it’s a good idea to first have the conversation of fantasy with your clothes still on with a fun app. This is where the app works well, by going through the cards individually, and thinking about them alone you can decide if the fantasy is something that interests you. This also allows you to develop your sexuality and fantasies independent from your partner.

What is it like for you looking back on your career?

Erika Lust: I often tell people about the book that influenced me which was Linda Williams’ Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’. It gave me my lightbulb moment and I realised that pornography was a genre, a specific cinematic trend with its own history. It wasn’t just ‘porn’ to me anymore, it was part of a discourse on sexuality making a statement and expressing ideologies and values on sex and gender.

I shot The Good Girl when I moved to Barcelona, which was a humorous take on the classic pizza delivery boy porn trope. To be honest I can’t really watch it now without cringing but it was a start and it changed my life! That’s when I realised there were other people out there looking for alternatives to mainstream pornography, and I decided to start making adult films that reflected my own ideas.

What drives you to make these films?

Erika Lust: My mission was, and always will be, to show that women’s pleasure matters. I want to show that women have their own sex drive and desires, and are not passive objects exclusively focused on pleasuring the men. XConfessions is adult cinema that is smart, sex positive and respectful to women. It offers a representation of women’s pleasure and sex on screen that challenges the unchecked misogynistic attitudes, racist categorisations, and degrading narratives of mass-produced porn. Gagging, slapping, vomiting… some women may like it. But it is not a niche, it has become mainstream. That is extremely problematic. Studios produce it as it is the alpha and the omega of sex while it is content made with a very misogynist male-centric standard. It seems it is not arousing unless it is degrading to women. In my cinema, I show women enjoying themselves while receiving and giving pleasure in relatable scenarios. Women have their own sexual agency and take ownership of their bodies.

I also want to fight the fetishising and categorising that the mainstream industry does. Performers are categorised by their race, age or body type. I am really concerned with such ‘othering’.

What else are you doing to change the industry?

Erika Lust: With my ongoing guest directors open call I also have that community of new filmmakers. There are more female filmmakers in the industry who have loud voices and who stand by their work, and it’s great to be able to get more depictions of sex and sexuality, and more people doing something different to a lot of the mass produced stereotypical porn on the free tube sites. 

What sets your work apart?

Erika Lust: I think working with a female team really shapes my films. From the moment I created Erika Lust Films I knew I wanted to get more women in positions of power in all aspects of the business. I have a mostly female crew when I’m working on set, it can vary slightly but it’s usually 80 per cent women, with women working as camera people, producers, editors, runners. The female viewpoint is vital for me and to really get that I need to have a predominantly female team. With tube sites and the vast majority of studios, you don’t know who made those films. We should be asking ourselves who is making the porn that we watch.

You can download the XConfessions app and find out more about it here

Complete Article HERE!

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The early-20th century German trans-rights activist who was decades ahead of his time

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Magnus Hirschfeld, on the right, sits with his partner, Tao Li, at the fourth conference of the World League for Sexual Reform in 1932.

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The Trump administration continues its assault on transgender rights.

In July 2017, Trump sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military. Then, this past October, The New York Times obtained a memo indicating that the administration was considering narrowly defining gender “as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” Anyone wishing to challenge their officially-assigned sex would have to have the matter resolved by genetic testing.

Those opposed to recognizing gender identity sometimes call it a form of “radical gender ideology” or “political correctness” gone too far.

But recognition of transgender identity is no recent phenomenon: Some doctors acknowledged gender nonconforming people far earlier than most might realize. Perhaps the most important pioneer was German physician Magnus Hirschfeld, who was born 150 years ago, in 1868. As a historian of gender and sexuality in Germany, I’m struck by how he paved the way for the legal recognition of gender nonconforming people.

Hirschfeld’s ‘sexual intermediaries’

In recent years, the medical and psychological professions have come to a consensus that sex assignment at birth is inadequate for understanding individuals’ sexual and gender identity – and that failure to recognize this fact can have a devastating impact.

Magnus Hirschfeld was the first doctor to openly research and advocate for people whose gender did not correspond with their sex assignment at birth.

He’s often remembered today as an advocate of gay rights, and in the early 20th century, his activism played a major role in nearly overturning Germany’s law criminalizing male same-sex relations.

But Hirschfeld’s vision extended much further than homosexuality. He defined his specialty as “sexual intermediaries,” which included everyone who did not fit into an “ideal type” of heterosexual, cis-gendered men and women.

According to Hirschfeld, sexual intermediaries included many categories. One type was cis-gendered people who were gay, lesbian or bisexual. Another consisted of transvestites: people who comfortably identified as their assigned sex but who preferred to dress in the clothing assigned to the other sex. Yet others were “trans” in a more radical direction, like those who wanted to live fully as their non-assigned sex or longed for sex-change surgery.

A relentless advocate

As a gay man, Hirschfeld was aware of the legal and social dangers sexual intermediaries faced.

Since sexual intermediaries often turned to their doctors for help, Hirschfeld worked to educate the medical community. He published medical journals including the “Yearbook on Sexual Intermediaries” and the “Journal of Sexual Science.” In 1919, he founded the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin to promote further research.

A German cartoon depicts Hirschfeld with the caption ‘The first champion of the third sex.’

In court he gave expert testimony on behalf of men who had been accused of violating Germany’s law banning male same-sex relations.

He even co-wrote and made a cameo appearance in the world’s first feature-length movie featuring a gay protagonist: the 1919 silent film “Anders als die Anderen” (“Different from the Others”).

Nor did Hirschfeld shy away from political engagement. In 1897, he founded the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” to advocate for gender and sexual rights.

Then, from 1897 to 1898, Hirschfeld worked to decriminalize male same-sex relations in Germany. He collected over 5,000 signatures from Germans willing to be publicly identified with the effort, including such luminaries as Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. A bill decriminalizing male homosexual acts gained only minority support when it was introduced in Parliament in 1898, but a new bill was reintroduced after the First World War. In the more progressive environment of the Weimar Republic, the bill advanced to parliamentary committee, only to stall when the Great Depression hit in 1929.

Importantly, Hirschfeld’s advocacy extended well beyond the decriminalization of gay male sex.

Like most European countries, Germany had – and still has – an “internal passport,” a government-issued ID that citizens are expected to carry with them. Germans whose passport indicated “male” but who dressed in female clothing were subject to police harassment or arrest for disorderly conduct.

Together with a colleague, Hirschfeld in 1910 convinced the Berlin police to accept a “transvestite certificate,” signed by a doctor, to nullify such charges. After World War I, he convinced the Prussian judiciary to permit legal name changes from gender-specific names to gender-neutral names, which enabled trans people to present as the gender that was most true to themselves.

Not all sexual minorities in Germany endorsed Hirschfeld’s views. Early twentieth-century Germany was a politically and culturally diverse place, and that diversity extended to same-sex and gender-nonconforming people.

Some gay men, for example, argued that far from being an “intermediary” sexual type, they were the most masculine men of all: After all, they didn’t form close bonds with women. The vision of these “masculinists” had little room for lesbians, bisexuals, or trans people.

A life’s work goes up in flames

By contrast, Hirschfeld’s approach was all-inclusive. In his view, all “sexual intermediaries” – whether L, G, B, T, Q, or I in today’s parlance – were worth recognizing and protecting. He once calculated that there were 43,046,721 possible variants of human sexuality. That was simply another way of saying that the human species was infinitely diverse.

“Love,” he said, “is as varied as people are.”

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hirschfeld, who was Jewish, was on tour lecturing on sexual science. From abroad, he watched newsreels of his Institute for Sexual Science set aflame by Nazi Storm Troopers. Thousands of unique medical records, publications, photos and artifacts were destroyed.

Students organized by the Nazi party parade in front of the building of the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin prior to pillaging it on May 6, 1933.

Hirschfeld died two years later, and materials confiscated by the Nazis became evidence against gender and sexually-nonconforming people in the Third Reich. Male same-sex relations weren’t decriminalized in East Germany until 1968, and in West Germany until 1969. Full legal equality had to wait even longer.

Nearly a century after Hirschfeld’s institute burned, only tentative progress has been made in ending discrimination based on gender identity. And that progress is at risk.

Yet no bureaucratic definition of “sex” will change what Hirschfeld so clearly demonstrated over 120 years ago: Trans people exist.

Complete Article HERE!

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Time to stop being coy about sex – and give young people the truth

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The government’s draft curriculum on sex education falls short on LGBT experiences, sexual violence and pornography

Why is there such a reluctance to arm young people with the information and discussions they need to go on to have healthier sexual relationships?

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I had just turned 11 when Salt-N-Pepa released a track that made my ears burn on first hearing: “Let’s talk about sex baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be. Let’s talk about SEX.” It was quickly recorded on to a cassette and listened to surreptitiously. God forbid my parents should hear and think I wanted to talk about sex with them. But of course, as a preteen and then teenager, it was a conversation I did want to have. One I hoped would make me feel normal amid the swirl of overwhelming hormones.

My parents were, for their part, ordinary in their attitude towards “the talk”. They could be best described as squeamish, preferring to be vague on details but with a huge dollop of fear because … PREGNANCY. They were, and are, not alone. Ineptitude sits close to denial; both act as effective weapons for those who’d rather shirk a tricky responsibility. On this matter our schools have proved no different. Deemed best placed to curate discussions around sex, they have done so with an incompetence that has left young people unable to talk about the good and bad of s-e-x.

Britney Spears was dressed in a school uniform demanding “Hit me baby one more time” when the current sex education curriculum was first published. That year Monica Lewinsky was pilloried by public opinion that was too sexist to recognise that the 22-year-old intern might be a victim in the grim spectacle. Our schools largely ignored these teachable moments and were silent on such milestones. No wonder then that it is a curriculum feminists have long criticised for inadequately meeting the needs of today’s young. Where is talk about consent, sexting and the explosion of online pornography? Nowhere. Why is there such a reluctance to arm young people with the information and discussions they need to go on to have healthier sexual relationships?

Thankfully in the government’s new relationships and sex education (RSE) draft curriculum there is now explicit mention of these issues, and on Wednesday the Department for Education (DfE) closes its consultation on it. Yet there is still a danger it could fail many of our young by repeating old mistakes – and by ignoring the issues young people want to talk about.

It’s clear from the draft curriculum that violence against women and LGBT experiences are still issues seemingly difficult to broach – best handled with the language of ambiguity or outright silence. There is talk about coercion, but no room to place that in the context of gender inequality.

There is, too, a repeated return to the centrality of marriage, admittedly with an acknowledgment that this includes same-sex marriage. Yet this jars with making the teaching of LGBT relationships discretionary. It is why the feminist organisation Level Up is calling for people, especially the young, to have their say and respond to the government’s draft consultation. The aim is to let the government know that LGBT experiences should be an integral part of sex education rather than a tacked-on optional extra. To ignore this would be to let down the thousands of LGBT young people grappling with their sexual identity, who are already made to feel out of place. A survey by the government itself found that for 31% of young people, it is a priority that they are taught about gender and sexual identity.

We all have stories of that one sex ed class where a teacher, usually barely able to contain their own discomfort, instructs a class of giggling teenagers on how best to place a condom on a cucumber. It tells us much that the memory of sex education for so many is one of awkward tittering – and a very clear sense that sex is something to be feared if not avoided.

But even in that scenario, most could at least say they found their sexual identity reflected in the content of discussion. The same could not be said for LGBT students whose teachers were legally bound under section 28 to desist from teaching “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Fifteen years on from the repeal of the act, and despite proposed changes to the curriculum, RSE in many schools might be more accurately described as heterosexual sex ed. If schools can decide to opt out of teaching LGBT experiences, the government must accept that those relationships will not be normalised and LGBT young people will be made vulnerable as a result.

That LGBT students would be given sex ed without seeing themselves reflected is a repudiation of their sexual identity. It is the type of silence that can easily breed self-doubt and loathing, not to mention bullying and coercion. This new curriculum is supposed to be a step forward. Instead it feels like we are stuck in the past.

Complete Article HERE!

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6 things I wish I knew about sex as a teen

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It’s up to you to define what constitutes losing your virginity

By Olivia Cassano

Growing up we receive so many problematic messages about sex that it’s no wonder we still consider it such a taboo.

Although I consider myself a very sex-positive person now, it took years to unlearn most of what mainstream society taught me about doing the deed.

There’s a lot to be learned about the nuanced experience of sex and I full-heartedly believe that we can never stop learning.

But here are the things I think everyone, young women especially, should know in order to foster a healthy, fulfilling relationship with sex.

Virginity is a heteronormative myth

Almost everything we know about virginity is either wrong or misogynistic.

First of all, it completely excludes same-sex experiences and focuses only on hetero PIV (penis in vagina) sex, alienating gay sex and turning it into the ‘other’.

If we were to take virginity for how it’s taught, technically gay people are all virgins.

See? It makes no sense.

All sex is sex and, ultimately, it’s up to you to define what constitutes losing your virginity, because it’s nothing more than a concept.

Losing your virginity is also somehow simultaneously romanticised and made out to be this horrific, traumatising, painful milestone.

It’s an oxymoron, but your entry point to sex will most likely be unremarkable.

It doesn’t have to hurt and you might not bleed (I didn’t), because another fallacy is that losing your V-card is all about the hymen breaking.

We’re taught that the hymen is like a fleshy roadblock that needs to be crashed into to officially lose your virgin status, but none of that is true.

The hymen is a thin, perforated membrane most, not all, women have, and it can be torn from pretty much anything, like tampons, masturbation and even some types of sport. It’s not proof of your virginity or lack thereof because, newsflash, women don’t come with a freshness seal.

The first time can be uncomfortable and the pain often associated with it most likely comes from nerves and a lack of lubrication.

Relax, lube up and enjoy (once you’re ready of course).

Had I known this before my first time, I wouldn’t have looked forward to it with such dreaded anticipation.

All sex is sex

As mentioned above, society has a tendency to think of sex as intercourse.

Again, this alienates same-sex experiences and trivialises other sexual activities like oral, anal and masturbation.

This way of thinking is so embedded in how we understand and talk about sex that it took me a while to dismantle this way of thinking, but it’s crucial to abandon this hierarchy.

And – lazy, straight men – foreplay is sex. Stop acting like it’s a nuisance you have to quickly get rid of before sticking your dick in us.

Which brings me to my next point.

Sex is not a race

Orgasms feel incredible and provide a wide range of mental and physical benefits, but, that being said, they’re not the only reason we have sex. Sex should be a whole experience and should be enjoyed even though it doesn’t end in climax, especially since the sad reality is that most hetero women don’t come from intercourse alone. Slow down, savour the experience and stop trying to hit a home run straight away. Masturbating is awesome

Women do it too.

It doesn’t make you desperate.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

It’s healthy. It’s amazing.

DIY sex is more than just satisfaction, it’s an act of self-love that reinforces your own pleasure and agency in sex.

Knowing how to please yourself means knowing what you want out of a sexual experience with a partner, if you wish to have one.

STIs don’t make you dirty

Although I was lucky enough to attend a school that offered a sex ed class, all it consisted of was our teacher showing us a slide show of disease-ridden genitalia.

The aim wasn’t so much to spread awareness but rather disgust us into not having unprotected sex.

It reinforced the stigma that people with STIs are dirty and stupid for catching them in the first place, most likely from having sex with a lot of different people.

Yes, we should teach kids to use a condom and get regularly tested – this advice applies to adults too – but we should also be taught how to talk about STIs without judgement or shame.

The easier it is to talk about them without wanting to recoil, the easier it is to approach the subject with a partner should you find out you caught something.

I didn’t get my first sexual health test until six years after being sexually active because I was terrified of knowing if I had anything.

Now I get a routine check every six months even though I am in a committed relationship, and it’s something I look forward to because it’s a way to make sure I’m being safe and keeping my partner safe too.

STIs aren’t something to be happy about, but they’re also not the end of your sex life.

Literally anything about consent

It’s 2018 and most people still don’t have a clear grasp on consent.

Growing up, I had never even heard of consent, because no one taught me.

Consent isn’t just the absence of a ‘no’, it’s a voluntary, explicit and enthusiastic verbal and non-verbal ‘yes’. It can be withdrawn at any point and consenting to one activity does not mean consenting to any future activities.

Sex without consent is abuse or rape, so it’s probably the first and most important thing we should be learning when it comes to sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Get the Sex Education You Never Had With These 9 Books

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It’s not too late to learn something beyond the keep-your-legs-closed approach. Virginity not required.

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Chances are, if you had sex ed in America, your sexual IQ is suffering. To help get you up to speed, we asked top experts to weigh in on their fave books on sex and sexuality, from newer releases to tried-and-true classics. Consider this your actually good resource on what to read.

A playbook for your vagina problems

Our Bodies, Ourselves, by the Boston Women’s Health Collective

“This classic belongs on every woman’s bookshelf. It is a very comprehensive guide to most sexual-health issues that you are likely to encounter in your life and frequently connects critical medical information to its cultural context.” —Laci Green, online sex educator and author of Sex Plus 

An LGBTQ “instruction manual”

This Book Is Gay, by Juno Dawson

“Growing up, it’s common to have lots of questions about sexuality, attraction, love, and relationships. Being LGBTQ can add an additional layer to those questions and sometimes it’s hard to know who to talk to or where to get information. This book is filled with great info about sexual health, as well as stories from LGBTQ youth.”  —Nora Gelperin, director of sexuality education and training with Advocates for Youth 

A true story about sexual assault

Missoula, by Jon Krakauer

“I’m recommending this book to highlight sexual assault and rape on college campuses. This story stresses the need for sexual-assault education at the college campus level but provides insight on the need to provide this education at an early age. And it also sheds light on the need to address the justice system on college campuses.” —Jennifer Driver, state policy director for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) 

An almost sci-fi take on female anatomy

Woman: An Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier

“An OG guide to the female body. Natalie Angier does a great job dissecting stereotypes while outlining research (and lack of research) on the exact anatomy that life comes from. Twenty years later and this is still a go-to guide.” —Eileen Kelly, editor-in-chief and founder of Killer and a Sweet Thang 

A refreshing brushup on periods, relationships, and consent

GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You, by Karen Rayne

“I chose this story because Karen runs one of my favorite sex-ed organizations, Unhushed. It’s similar to my book, Sex Plus, for those looking to expand their perspective.” –Green 

An illustrated explainer on “sex stuff”

It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

“This read provides comprehensive information about how bodies work, how pregnancy happens, various attractions, and sexual orientations. My go-to sexual-health book with fantastic, inclusive content and wonderful illustrations that help explain all this complicated sexuality stuff.” —Gelperin

The textbook you should’ve had

Changing Bodies, Changing Lives, by Ruth Bell

“Ruth Bell was part of the team that wrote Our Bodies, Ourselves, which revolutionized sex education in 1976. In this book, she includes poems and cartoons from real teenagers, making it feel more lived-in and more realistic than many others. We desperately need more options for sex-ed books that have an intersectional feminist lens—especially ones that prioritize transgender kids—but Bell’s updated work is sex-positive and LGBTQ-friendly.” —Samantha Dercher, federal policy director for (SIECUS) 

Gen Z giving their take on sex

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, by Peggy Orenstein

“Peggy Orenstein traveled the United States interviewing more than 70 young girls between 15 and 20 to figure out what it’s like for girls growing up in today’s day and age. This is a highly insightful read into how the digital landscape is changing everything around us, shaping the way society views women and how girls and women view themselves. It’s a necessary read.” —Kelly

A classic about the angst of girlhood

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

“Judy Blume’s 1970s novels are iconic for a reason—the world has changed, but preteen anxieties don’t. Although today’s kids have probably never heard of a sanitary belt (recent editions of the novel have updated the text to more modern menstrual products, but I prefer the original book!), Margaret still serves as a representation of that universal tween feeling of not belonging. It might not feel as modern as it once did, but Judy Blume—and Margaret—revolutionized how preteen girls view themselves and their bodies and made the terrifying unknowns of puberty seem a little less scary to me.” —Dercher

Complete Article HERE!

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Fire & Ice:

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A How-To Guide To Temperature Sex Play

By Kasandra Brabaw

Temperature play might sound kind of intense, but working hot and cold into your sex life is actually pretty easy. All you need to get started is a bowl of ice or a glass of hot water. But why play with temperature at all? Besides the obviously sexy thought of rolling an ice cube around your lips and then down your partner’s body, what does adding heat or cold to your sex life actually do? It’s all about the psychology of it.

“When temperature play is negotiated and consented to, the brain starts preparing for a sexy and exciting experience, and basically puts nerve endings in the body — erogenous zones, but also everywhere else — on high alert for new sensations,” says Dulcinea Pitagora, a sex therapist known as the Kink Doctor.

Of course, not everyone is going to be interested in temperature play. And if you’re not into it, don’t feel like you have to be, says Holly Richmond, PhD, a somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist (CST). Temperature play can be fun, but not wanting to play with ice or heat doesn’t make you boring in bed. “My husband absolutely detests cold,” Dr. Richmond says. So he wouldn’t find it sexy if she pulled out a bowl full of ice, and that’s totally fine.

If you are intrigued, using cold or heat can be a fun way to mix up your usual sex routine. Pro tip: Consider blindfolding the partner on the receiving end of the temperature play. Restricting their sense of sight can make the feelings of hot and cold more intense.

But like many kinks, temperature play can range from harmless to potentially dangerous. So if you’re a beginner, start slowly. You don’t want to dive in with the more edgy forms of temperature play like fire play or branding, Pitagora says. Instead, try the tips listed below

1
Put your dildo in the freezer, or stick it in a cup of hot water

Certain sex toys, like those made from glass or metal, are great for temperature play because they hold the heat or the cold really well. Put your toy in the freezer for a while or warm up a glass of water and dunk it in for a few minutes to heat it up.

Be careful: You don’t want to stick either a scalding or a totally frozen sex toy inside of your body. Place the dildo against your wrist to check that it’s a comfortable temperature before you start using it.

2
Drip ice cream (or whip cream, or another tasty treat)

Why not combine food play and temperature play — all you need is some ice cream or whip cream. Drip or spray the treat over your partner’s body. They’ll get to feel a fun cold sensation as it hits their skin and then a nice warm up when you lick it off. Sure, playing with food can be sticky, but it’s also sweet.

Be careful: If either partner has a vagina, be careful not to get ice cream too close to their vulva. Sugar can cause yeast infections, and no one wants that.

3
Warm your mouth before oral sex

Before you go down on someone, it can be fun to warm up your mouth. How do you make your mouth hot, you ask? With hot tea, coffee, or any other hot thing you want to drink.

Be careful: Again, sugar near a vagina can cause yeast infections. So if you’re planning to go down on someone who has a vagina, maybe drink your coffee or tea black.

4
Play with ice

This is maybe the most obvious tip, but it’s also one of the most versatile. With an ice cube, you can cool you mouth down before performing oral sex, drip melted ice water over your partner’s body, rub the ice around their nipples, and lots of other things if you know how to get creative.

Be careful: It might sound counter-intuitive, but there’s a chance your ice could be too cold. Like that scene in A Christmas Story when the kid sticks his tongue to a metal pole, a too-cold ice cube could stick to your partner’s skin. But it’s an easy fix: Either take some ice out and let it warm up in a bowl for a bit or stick the cube in your mouth and warm it with your body heat.

5
Try wax play

Think of it like dripping cold ice water over your partner’s body, except instead of freezing water it’s melted wax. With the right kind of candle, you can turn temperature play into a sexy massage.

Be careful: Don’t just use any old candle from your cupboard. Melted wax from regular candles can be so hot that it causes burns, Pitagora says. “When playing with hot wax, it’s important to use the right kind of wax, as some candles burn hotter than others and vary in terms of toxicity,” they say. Instead of a regular candle, use a massage oil candle that you can buy in any sex toy shop (or online, like this one). Candles made for sex burn at cooler temperatures, so they’re less likely to burn your skin.

6
Warm up your lube, or cool it down

If you’re a fan of lube (and really, why wouldn’t you be?), then you can use your favorite lube for temperature play. “If lube is at body temperature, we’re not feeling it. All we’re feeling is the penetration or the vibration,” Dr. Richmond says. “But if you add that extra layer, that extra element of warmth or cool, that takes things to another sensory level.” Stick your lube in the fridge for a few minutes to cool it down, Dr. Richmond suggests. Or, get a lube warmer, such as a Touch or a Pulse.

Be careful: Just like with your sex toys, you don’t want to get your lube too warm or too cold. Test a few drops on your wrist before using the lube if you’re concerned.

Complete Article HERE!

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4 Sexy Ways to Use Sensation in the Bedroom

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Sex is all about sensation and sensual touch. So whether you’re hitting the sack with a one night stand or spicing things up with a longterm bae, bringing new sensations into the bedroom will make for a night neither of you will forget. Read on for SlutBox Blog’s tips for adding unforgettable sensation to you next hookup!

By Amber Rose

1. Do More With Your Lube

Lube is super important for solo and partner play. Any time there’s friction, add in some lube to protect your skin, increase sensation and sensitivity and multiply those O’s. Now, why settle for any ol’ lube when you can slather on some extra sensation?

Warming or buzzing lubes are a super simple way to try something new in the bedroom, without fussing with a new toy or trying to set up a crazy sex swing apparatus! A warming lube we love is the Ignite Lubricant from Kush Queens (as found in our June Sluts 4 Love SlutBox).

This cannabis lube is 100% natural coconut oil based, and totally compatible with latex barriers so you can stay safe and sexy. Another fave is the ON Arousal Gel for Her from Sensuva (featured in our very first SlutBox!). ON Arousal Gel is a water-based blend of essential oils that jumpstart natural arousal and increase natural lubrication in folx with vaginas. No further explanation needed!

2. Amp Up The Foreplay

Take your time, baby! Build the excitement with sensation-building massage gels. Our recommendations? Sizzle Lips Edible Warming Gel and HandiPop Edible Handjob Massage Gel from Sensuva (as seen in our first SlutBox).

Sizzle Lips is a warming massage gel that heels hot when you blow on it. Massage Sizzle Lips into a sensitive area on bae’s body, and gently blow to get them all hot and bothered. Kiss and lick it all off – the more you rub it in the warmer it’ll feel.

HandiPop is a super sweet edible massage gel for the slipperiest, longest-lasting handjob. Getting a hand cramp? Finish the job with your lips and tongue.

Speaking of lips: want to give bae a kiss they’ll never forget? Slather on some Doctor Lip Bang’s Lip Freak Buzzing Lip Balm (found in our June Sluts 4 Love SlutBox) and lay one on ’em. The buzzing, tingling sensation will bring them to their knees! 

3. Try A Sexxxy Massage

What’s more intimate than a massage? Indulge your sensuous side with the Lelo Flickering Touch Massage Candle, made from all-natural soy wax, shea butter and apricot kernel oil in luscious scents like Vanilla & Creme de Cacao, Snow Pear & Cedarwood, and Black Pepper & Pomegranate.

This gorgeously-designed candle melts into a pool of decadent massage oil. Never greasy, this massage oil is easily absorbed into the skin for a smooth, buttery touch. With a burn time of 36 hours, you have plenty of time to enjoy. Use alone, for a romantic night in, or invite a few friends. Netflix and Chill just got a major upgrade.   

4. Ease Into Impact Play

Tickles don’t seem so silly now! Ticklers are an amazing, safe introduction to impact play and BDSM, especially when combined with a sexy blindfold! The Bijoux Indescrets Tickle Me Tickler (featured in the June Sluts 4 Love SlutBox) has a super cute retro look, but don’t be fooled: use this tickler can be used to tease and thrill your entire body.

Stimulate every inch of your lover’s bod with the tickler’s delicate feathers. Trust me, after just a few moments their skin will be super sensitive and they’ll be relishing a whole new world of unique sensation.

Complete Article HERE!

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What it really means to be in a dominant/submissive relationship

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Real D/s relationships go beyond ‘Fifty Shades.’

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When it comes to understanding BDSM, non-practitioners generally equate the kinky lifestyle with the chains, ropes, whips, and handcuffs found in Christian Grey’s “red room of pain” in Fifty Shades of Grey. And among the different elements included in the BDSM portmanteau (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism), the middle portion (a dom sub relationship) may be the most difficult to understand for those outside the kink community.

Often equated with sadism and masochism (SM), dominance and submission plays with the concepts of power and control rather than physical sensation. In a Dominant/submissive, aka Dom/sub or simply D/s, relationship, the power dynamic between the participants is the kink. Essentially, the person in the dominant role takes partial or total control over the person in the submissive role.

What defines a dom sub relationship?

Types of dom sub relationships

While the D/s relationship can be physical and/or sexually intimate, physical contact is not necessary for domination and submission, which may be conducted digitally or over the phone as well. For example, financial domination (findom) doesn’t require any physical contact, just monetary transactions. There is no singular way to be in a D/s relationship. People in D/s relationships can also be romantically involved with one another or not, monogamous or not (as in polyamorous or open), and of any gender or sexuality.

 

Some dominants and submissives (doms and subs) only remain in their roles during play scenes; a “switch” can play either role and may even negotiate swapping in the middle of a session. The ones that take on their D/s roles full-time are often in what is called a Total Power Exchange (TPE) relationship. In the BDSM community, the participants in these types of relationships are typically referred to as a “master/mistress” or a “slave,” depending on their role. Master/slave relationships (M/s) must always be consensual, and sex is not necessarily involved in these relationships. 

D/s relationships can be between BDSM lifestyle practitioners, or with a professional dominator/dominatrix (pro-domme) or a professional submissive (pro-sub).

Taking on the Dominant role

Also referred to as a “top,” the dom exerts power over the sub in a D/s relationship. This dynamic is made obvious even in the capitalization of the letters, as members of the BDSM community intentionally leave the “s” in D/s lowercase to easily denote the lower hierarchical position.

Subs are usually required to address their doms by a specific title—for example ”sir” or “mistress.” Doms can wield their power in various ways, in and out of the bedroom. There are different play scenes they can perform with their subs, from whipping and bondage to humiliation and forced chastity. Doms must have received consent from their sub to carry out any of these acts.

There are many misconceptions about doms. “Women who take on the dominant role are stereotyped as cruel and bitchy,” dominatrix and BDSM practitioner Yin Q. said in an interview with Apogee. “But to be a responsible dominant or top, one must embody humility and mercy.” Contrary to the optics, there is a lot of care and labor that goes into being a dom, from getting proper training on how to tie ropes and use toys to providing aftercare following a scene.

Two popular categories of domination are “femdom,” in which the dom is female, and “maledom,” in which the dom is male. However, a quick Google search reveals that the search term “femdom” has over 20 times more search results than “maledom” (309 million vs. 14.5 million)—it was also searched far more frequently by users, according to Google Trends.

How to be a sub

Even as femdom imagery becomes more popular online, the archetype of the feminine submissive (i.e., Anastasia Steele from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy) remains ever-prevalent, though there are subs of all genders.

A sub, or “bottom,” releases some or all control over to the dom in a D/s relationship. In the case of male submission (malesub), scenes can take the form of forced feminization, cuckoldry, and more. Because gender is inexplicably entangled with sex and power, it often—though not always—plays a major role in scene playing. Once again, the sub must consent everything that occurs during a play scene or session with a pro-domme.

The necessity of consent ensures the sub is never truly powerless during D/s play. The sub is also playing out their own kinks and fetishes in a D/s relationship. While less common than pro-dommes, pro-subbing also exists for those seeking to play the dom role in a more professional setting.

“A pro-submissive session is similar to what’s happening when you go to see immersive theatre or performance art,” pro-sub Louisa Knight told Dazed. “You go into this space that has been created, it’s very atmospheric, and you’re able to lose yourself in the experience, because you know it is a held space.”

Taking on submission as a lifestyle can lead to more than just satisfying one’s kinkiness; D/s or M/s relationships can even lead to self-improvement in other areas, including improving one’s diet and health

Consent is key

In case you haven’t caught onto the recurring theme yet, consent is vital to a functional D/s relationship. While the Fifty Shade of Grey misses the mark on consent, it at least introduced the masses to the concept of a D/s contract, which those beginning a D/s relationship can draw up to negotiate and define their arrangement. Contracts can be drawn up per play scene, as well as when entering a longer-term TPE or M/s relationship.

A safeword can also be used if a player gets uncomfortable during a scene—”mercy” is a commonly used safeword.

There is a massive difference between D/s relationships and abusive relationships, and that distinction is consent. Without consent, BDSM acts—such as sexual humiliation and caning—would be considered immoral and likely felonious.

Demystifying dom sub relationships

Being in a D/s relationship doesn’t mean you’ll start dressing up in latex and bondage gear 24/7 all of a sudden. People in D/s relationships do many of the same things as those in “vanilla” relationships—which is what those in the kink community call couples who engage solely in normative, kink-free sex—like fart in front of each other or get the flu.

Though some lifestyle slaves or subs may choose to sport a collar to signify their D/s relationship, others may be wearing more covert accessories, like labeled underwear, or otherwise appear completely vanilla. While sex positivity has allowed some to be more open about their kinks, including BDSM, there are still many who choose to keep this part of their lives private due to the stigmatization of non-normative sexuality.

Sarah, a lifestyle practitioner who has been in different types of D/s relationships for 10 years, didn’t want to share her last name, as she has yet to come out publicly about her kink. “I have not shared it with my parents, because as immigrants and as people of color, I don’t think they would appreciate the appeal or value of something that appears akin to slavery,” Sarah said.

The benefits of D/s relationships

While BDSM and/or kink cannot substitute real psychotherapy, sex therapists and practitioners have suggested that playing out these fantasies can have therapeutic benefits and can help some heal from trauma.

“I also don’t think that people would understand the spiritual or therapeutic way in which I approach D/s.” Sarah elaborates, “When I was a 24/7 slave, I really feel like it helped me stay grounded and attached to the world. The stability of that relationship did a lot for my feelings of abandonment and desire to be heard. My master had a singular commitment to me, my well-being physical and mental. I am no longer in that relationship, but we are still in touch over five years later.”

Complete Article HERE!

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