Yes, Depression Can Disrupt Your Sex Life

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— But The Reason Is Not What You Think

By Kelly Gonsalves

When a couple finds themselves in a sexual rut, it can be hard to even pinpoint what got them there in the first place, let alone figure out a way to climb out. Oftentimes it’s a series of accumulated factors that have contributed to a slower or stagnant intimate life—a particularly time-consuming project at work, paired with the kids just entering a challenging new grade level, plus residual tension between the two partners after a recent argument, and then add in any health trouble that might be making physical touch difficult.

One other potentially major exacerbating factor? Mental health.

Depression can lower a person’s libido, both as a symptom of the chemical imbalances present in a depressed person’s brain and as a side effect of certain kinds of treatment. But additionally, a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests there might be another explanation for how depression can disrupt a couple’s sex life: a phenomenon that researchers call interference, which refers to the small but consistent ways being in a relationship can affect someone’s daily life.

“Interference focuses on the ways partners can disrupt day-to-day routines and individual goals. It happens because our relationships have interdependence—our lives overlap with our partners’ lives,” Amy Delaney, Ph.D., a Millikin University assistant communication professor and lead author of the study, tells mbg. “The example I always give my students is my husband putting his socks on the floor instead of in the laundry basket (which is right there). Because our lives are interdependent, when he doesn’t get his laundry in the basket, he’s interfering with my goal of not having dirty socks on the floor.”

Past research has posited that relationship turbulence is triggered by two qualities: relational uncertainty (that is, the degree to which each party feels confident or uncertain about the status of the relationship and each person’s investment in it) and interference from a partner.

All this in mind, Dr. Delaney surveyed 106 different-sex couples where one or both people in the relationship had been diagnosed with depression, asking them about their depressive symptoms, their sexual intimacy challenges, their levels of relational uncertainty, and the ways each partner interfered with the other’s daily life. Her findings? People with more depressive symptoms also tended to report more relational uncertainty and increased perceptions of interference. But it was the latter—perceiving interference from a partner—that predicted sexual intimacy challenges.

In other words, even just one partner’s depression was associated with both partners feeling like their lives were being disrupted by the other person, and feeling this interference was associated with more stress on the couple’s sex life.

“For couples with depression, interference could really damage partners’ connection,” Dr. Delaney explains. “First of all, interference means that couples are having trouble coordinating routines and goals. If two partners aren’t working well together to accomplish their day-to-day goals, they probably won’t feel very connected in a way that allows them to connect sexually. Second, the relational turbulence model says that interference prompts negative emotions, like frustration. If, for example, one partner is dealing with a lot of interference because their spouse won’t take their medication, doesn’t clean up their dishes, and keeps bailing on plans for date night, that is likely to cause some frustration! And if frustration is added to the already negative emotional climate of depression, partners probably have lots of barriers to creating a positive emotionally and physically intimate connection.”

Interestingly, this effect was particularly significant for men with depression: Men with more depressive symptoms perceived more interference, as did their partners. Dr. Delaney’s theory posited in the paper: “Perhaps men notice goal blockages when they are cognitively and emotionally taxed by depression, whereas women perceive interference when their partners are limited by depressive symptoms.”

So why is this all important? Dr. Delaney believes these results highlight the relational effects of depression and the relational causes of intimacy challenges.

“Lots of existing research really dismisses sex problems as either a symptom of the depression or a side effect of treatment,” she says. These two things can definitely be true, but her findings suggest the qualities of the relationship itself can also be important contributing factors. “Sex problems aren’t just a lack of interest or difficulties with physical function; they’re more nuanced than that.”

If you and your partner are currently in a sexual slump and one or both of you struggle with mental health difficulties, it might be worth it for each of you to consider how your behaviors, habits, and lifestyle might be affecting the other’s day-to-day life and energy. The effects of mental health difficulties, particularly depression, will not be solved over the course of one conversation, but just opening up that dialogue can be a good way to begin working toward improving your life together and minimizing the feelings of tension, disruption, and discordance between you.

“Approach rather than avoid,” writes sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman at mbg. “I recommend that you come from a positive place, making it clear that you’re interested in creating your best possible relationship. Express how you’ve been feeling about the cycle you’re in and specifically acknowledge your own contribution, in thought and in deed, to keeping the two of you stuck.”

Difficulties in the bedroom can indeed be one step in a frustrating cycle—life’s struggles lead to less sexual energy and less sex, less sex can create turbulence in your relationship, and relationship turbulence just adds to more overall struggles, and then the cycle just spirals on and on. Having a healthy and satisfying sex life, on the other hand, can actually improve your mental health and your overall relationship well-being. That’s an equal and opposite kind of cycle, one with so many ongoing positive benefits that it’s certainly worth trying to set it in motion.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex Toys For Men:

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Are They Taking Over The World?

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The sex tech industry is booming and you’re the last one to know. How do you feel about that? If I were you, I’d feel lame as hell. So, why not do something about it? They’re all gonna laugh at you either way. At least you’ll be having back-to-back orgasms while the nay-sayers snicker behind your back.

Our beloved gods of good sex have bestowed upon us a myriad of perverted pleasure products that pique every nook and cranny of our depraved interests. It’s time we took advantage of that. In today’s world, it’s possible to find a male sex toy that can do just about anything you can imagine. In fact, some manufacturers still know how to surprise me, believe it or not.

As John James, the Sex Toy Expert, I know all about sex tech and the products that have come out of its catacombs in the last few years. I’ve made it my life’s mission to “stay on top” of every sex toy I possibly could (pun most definitely intended). The results haven’t always been pretty but they’ve almost always been fun.

What Is Sex Tech?

I’m a gentleman and a scholar but even I don’t know the actual definition of “sex tech”. My best guess is that is has something to do with sex toys and technology. As far as I’m concerned, they can fuck off with their technical jargon. For our purposes, the term “sex tech” refers to any sex toy or arousal product that utilizes some form of technology in its design, features and/or functionality. Got it?

What Kind of Toys Are We Talking about Here?

One of the first questions I get when introducing someone to sex tech is, “So, what kinds of toys use technology like that?” I suppose it’s because most people only know about the traditional stuff, having little to no experience with the world of luxury brands and tech-savvy features. That’s okay though, because ole J.J. is here to help.
First of all, there are 5 main types of male sex toys that generally have a techie component or two. Know them and find your way to some of the best orgasms you’ve ever had. Ignore them and keep beating your meat like your granddad.

  • Masturbators
    Known for their durability and simplicity, handheld masturbators allow for manual manipulation of your penis and a fully customizable experience for you and/or your lover. Often made with pre-programmed speed or intensity settings and graced with the ability to connect via Bluetooth or internet for a real-time sex session, today’s masturbator isn’t the simple pocket pussy of yesteryear.
  • Automatic Blowjob Machines
    Once I tried an auto-blow device for the first time I started to wonder why the sex toy industry even bothered making anything else. These things are amazing and I’ll tell you why: Not only do they feel almost exactly like a real deep-throat knob-job but they also work without manual manipulation and can (sometimes) link up to other devices. While some masturbators do that too, only automatic blowjob machines simulate the kind of shameless, enthusiastic head you have to pay good money for.

FUN FACT: Many masturbators and auto-blow machine models come with orifices and/or skin-like sleeves that have been molded after famous porn stars.

  • Torsos
    If you want to get REAL nasty, go for a humanoid torso that has tech-friendly features like touch-sensitive controls, sync-motion, vibration and Bluetooth connectivity. Among the most high-tech (and most expensive) male sex toys on the market, torsos are also among the most realistic in terms of visuals and can sometimes be have their hyper-humanistic skins and canals warmed.
  • Prostate Massagers
    There are a lot of p-spot stimulation toys out there that are designed with high-tech features and pleasure-seeking settings. Although usually not as futuristic as the auto-blow machines or the torsos, prostate and perineum massagers come in all shapes and sizes from beginner to pro. The higher-end models can be synced to Bluetooth, smart phone apps or other toys for an interactive or long-distance party.
  • Cock Rings 
    A staple of the modern-day bedroom in my humble opinion, the cock ring is a must-have for any contemporary pervert with something to prove. A good high-tech cock ring can be controlled via wireless remote or smart phone app, plus it’s generally rechargeable and waterproof. Made for discreet guys who like safe restriction and convenient kink, well-made cock rings with high-tech features bring out the animal in any man.

The Final Verdict

Doesn’t it feel so much better to be “in the know” about male sex tech and the options that currently flood the market? I know I feel much better having schooled you on what’s up. If variety is the spice of life, then an existence without several high-tech sex toys must be an extremely bland one. I, for one, have better taste than that.

Complete Article HERE!

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9 New Year’s Resolutions For Exploring Your Sexuality In 2019

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They Will Make You Feel Empowered AF

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After the shimmery dresses come off and the Champagne hangover comes on, you may find yourself looking at your “resolutions” as a means to doubt how amazing you are. So, I’m going to cut to the chase: You’re beautiful and amazing and your weight, your clothes, and your skincare routine don’t need to change. But if you’re feeling stuck in a sexy rut, manifesting some New Year’s resolutions for exploring your sexuality in 2019, can be a fun and empowering way to feel more in tune with your body.

At it’s best New Year’s can be an empowering time to set intentions for the future and cultivate gratitude for the past. Taking a moment to focus on all you’ve made it through in the past year can propel you take the next 12 months head on. Whether you’re single, dating, or on a self-inflicted six month vow of celibacy, exploring your own sexuality can be a cool way to learn about your body, it can also be really fun. Of course, when trying new things, you may find out the stuff you’re not into. And if something’s not floating your sexual boat, you never need to push your boundaries, no matter the month.

Here are nine resolutions aimed at feeling in tune with your sexy side in 2019.

1 I will take time to day dream about what I want.

Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re into because we’ve never thought enough about it. Take some time to fanaticize and daydream about your desires. Think about what makes you feel sexy, and ways you can bring those feelings into the bedroom.

2 I will get it on with myself.

Knowing what physically feels good for your body may mean some self-discovery. Taking time to touch different parts of yourself, in sexual and non-sexual ways can be a great way to sense how and where you like to be touched.

3 I will not be ashamed to read or watch sexual media.

There’s no shame in reading about sexuality, erotica, or even wanting to watch sexual material. If you have questions, urges, or know some things that pique your interest, reading articles or watching videos can be informative and sexy.

4 I will journal.

Journaling about the best sex you’ve had or things you want to try can help you remember what has worked in the past. Having yourself literally sit and write can be a structured way to really dig into your sexy side while strengthening your ability to articulate your desires.

5 I will talk about sex.

Opening up a dialogue with the people you’re sleeping with or even with friends you feel comfy sharing with can be a great way to understand other people’s perspectives and feel validated in your desires. Hearing that others have shared your experiences or desires, even swapping tips and advice can make you feel less alone, and give you some sexy inspiration.

6 I want to take some (healthy) risks.

If you’ve always wanted to go to a bar by yourself, or try having sex wearing a blindfold, the New Year can be a time to roll the dice (within reason.) Of course, your well-being is the most important thing and if something is way out of your comfort-zone or kinda dangerous, there’s no need to feel pressure to perform. But if there’s something fun you’ve always wanted to try, like a new move or a new naughty night club, Jan. 1 may give you the boost you need.

7 I will do more of what feels good.

There is nothing wrong with having a plan or knowing what works. If you’ve found what works for you, it’s also awesome to continue to do that. Routine doesn’t need to be boring. Knowing what makes your sex good and enjoyable sex and doing more of that, is a great way to go into the new year.

8 I will pump myself up.

Your biggest cheerleader should be yourself. Whether it’s looking at your body in the mirror and saying positive affirmations to singing Cardi B songs or spending a little more money on a haircut, doing more of what makes you feel sexy, and puts you in the mood is a great way to explore your body and sexuality.

9 I will cut myself some serious slack.

If you’ve farted during sex, if you’ve tried to sexy talk and ended up laughing, if you’ve set up a sex swing and landed butt first on the floor — you don’t need to feel ashamed. It’s OK for sex to be funny, for it to be awkward, silly, or gooey and romantic. You don’t need to be a ballerina sex-kitten with grace, perfect hair, and no bodily functions. Remembering you cut yourself some slack in the streets and in the sheets can keep you feeling strong and good about trying new things and feeling what works.

As we look to the New Year, may we relinquish all the bad dates, idiot people, and terrible sex we dealt with in the past 12 months. Having empowering resolutions about exploring your body and your sexuality can help when manifesting our future plans. Feeling yourself and knowing what you’re into can really help the New Year come in with a bang.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Here’s Everything Science Discovered About Sex & Relationships In 2018

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I’ll admit it: I was known to doodle in the back of chem class, and I dipped out of physics whenever I could. Simply put, science has never been my thing — except, however, when it involves the dating realm. With each study that’s released, I eagerly read the findings, hoping that I may glean some wisdom from other couples’ lives that may impact mine. And what science discovered about sex & relationships in 2018 is nothing short of groundbreaking. The insightful research conducted this year can not only help us understand what behaviors, traits and qualities make for more successful relationships and healthier sex lives, but also which ones could be detrimental.

Indeed, science has revealed so much about relationships and sex over the decades. It has taught us, for example, that single people spend more on dating than those in relationships do. It has also uncovered which occupations are most popular on dating apps (spoiler alert: nurse, dentist, and photographer get the most right swipes for women, while interior designer, pilot, and physician’s assistant are the most attractive when it comes to men). We’ve also learned that porn viewing can have a negative effect on relationship satisfaction for men.

As they say, knowledge is power. Here are some of the most profound findings science offered up in the realm of dating, relationships, and sex over 2018.

The more you think your partner depends on your relationship, the less likely you are to break up with them.

There are many reasons why someone might put off a breakup, despite feeling unhappy in a relationship. According to a pair of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2018, people often avoid breakups when they feel like it may take a toll on their SO because the relationship is very important to them. In fact, the more dependent on the relationship people perceived their partner to be, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup.

It makes total sense when you think about it: No one wants to hurt someone who has played an important role in their lives, and obviously, breaking off a bond that matters to them will likely be hurtful.

Problematic Facebook use is linked to relationship anxiety.

Ever noticed how some people have a tendency to share a lot of intimate details of their lives, or to make themselves look better? Well, using Facebook in problematic ways is associated with insecurities about one’s close relationships, according to recent research published in BMC Psychology.

It all comes down to your attachment style. People with high attachment anxiety agree with statements such as “I am afraid that I will lose my partner’s love.” And the study revealed that attachment anxiety was associated with comparing oneself to others, oversharing personal information about oneself, and creating a false impression of oneself while using Facebook. Moreover, these people were more likely to use the social network at the expense of other activities. Meanwhile, people with high attachment avoidance agree with statements such as “I get uncomfortable when my partner wants to be very close.” And those people were more likely to use Facebook to create a false impression of oneself as well. Not only that, but researchers discovered that the link between attachment insecurity and these Facebook behaviors was even stronger among people with low self-esteem.

Sharing the dishwashing duties can improve relationship satisfaction.

No one loves vacuuming or taking out the trash. But as it turns out, of every possible chore, washing the dishes causes the most conflict in relationships — only, of course, when the responsibility is mainly left to one partner. A report from the Council of Contemporary Families revealed that when women are often left to clean all the dishes, they tended to argue more with their partner and reported lower sexual satisfaction compared to those who had a partner who helped out.

Ultimately, the study showed that sharing all household chores can improve a relationship. Fortunately, the study also revealed that men have taken on more household chores over the past several decades: in fact, they perform twice as much housework on a weekly basis than they did in 1965.

Relationship gains is a real thing.

It’s long been speculated that there’s a link between one’s relationship status and their weight — and this was confirmed by a recent study conducted at the University of Queensland in Australia. Researchers found that couples in happy relationships weighed an average of 13 pounds more than single people, and that they experienced an average weight gain of four pounds per year. Could it possibly be because once you’re comfortable in a relationship, your self-confidence soars, so you’re less concerned with obsessing over the scale (hooray!)? It’s unclear why this happens, but it’s worth noting that there’s really nothing wrong with it, as long as you’re physically healthy — in fact, note that the study specified it’s happy couples who experience this weight gain.

And here’s another tidbit of good news: The study also found that people in relationships tend to have healthier habits overall than single people, including eating less fast food, and consuming more fruits and veggies.

Feeling obligated to work after office hours can hurt your relationship.

“Let me just make sure that client hasn’t responded,” you think to yourself while anxiously checking your email before you and bae have dinner. Apparently, while this kind of behavior may make you look good to your boss, it can be detrimental to your relationship. New research published in Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings found that being expected to monitor work emails around the clock can take a toll on your mental health and overall well-being. People who felt obligated to check emails outside of traditional office hours reported higher levels of anxiety. Remarkably, that seemed to have a spillover effect, as those people’s partners reported not only decreased well-being but also lower relationship satisfaction.

“Phubbing” is associated with relationship dissatisfaction.

It’s no secret that nowadays, people may ignore their SO while they’re in their presence to use their smartphone instead. Just take a look around next time you’re out to eat, and notice how many people on dates are checking their email or scoping their Instagram feeds. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, this phone snubbing behavior — deemed “phubbing” — actually increases the likelihood of relationship dissatisfaction. How? Phubbing seems to create emotional distance between partners, which then obviously takes a toll on their bond.

The study’s authors concluded that phubbing “violates fundamental human needs” and ultimately results in “negative communication outcomes.”

Talking about sex with friends can boost your sexual well-being.

If watching Sex and the City feels downright autobiographical, you and your besties may be doing something right: A new study published in the International Journal of Sexual Health revealed that discussing sex with friends is associated with greater overall sexual well-being for women.

According to the study, when women had supportive female pals who offered up encouraging or positive advice or feedback, they were more likely to confront a partner to ask for a change in their sex life. They were also more likely to ask their SO if they’d been tested for STDs.

On-again, off-again relationships can negatively impact mental health.

From fictional couples like Rachel and Ross to real-life ones like Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick, we’re all familiar with the on-again, off-again relationship. And as you may have suspected, science has shown that these relationships aren’t exactly healthy. A study published in Family Relations in August 2018 found that the uncertainty that results from breaking up and reuniting over and over again is linked to a higher risk of mental health issues. Both straight and gay couples who engage in these kinds of relationships were more likely to experience depression and anxiety.

Most women would take “amazing food” over sex.

If you’d take a mind-blowing brownie over some below-the-waist action any day, you’re not alone. Everyday Health’s recent Women’s Wellness Survey of revealed that 73 percent of the over 3,000 women surveyed would take an amazing meal over sex when given the option between the two.

It’s not the first time science has shown that some surprising things take priority over getting some, either. One previous survey by Max Borges Agency showed that shopping on Amazon is more important to many millennials than sex.

The more you know, eh? Next time you’re looking to boost your dating or sex IQ, look to science for some seriously thought-provoking knowledge. We may not have all the answers yet, but at the very least, we’re getting a little wiser to what works — and what doesn’t.

Complete Article HERE!

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The 4 Worst Things About Sex After Cancer

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By Annmarieg

After having cancer, a person’s sensitivities to touch, intimacy, and physical activities like sex, can be complicated. The things you wanted before may be different now.

I will not claim to have been a crazy sex kitten before cancer because I was not. My husband and I were a normal married couple of 15 plus years with 4 kids. While we did not have wild sex nightly, we were active and I certainly was not self conscious. I am not going to beat around any bushes here – this post is about trying desperately to get back what was robbed from so many us after cancer: sex.

If you have read anything I write, you know that I am not a doctor, rocket scientist or even a pharmacist so that is not where I am going here. I want to talk mental and why this is such a sexual mind fuck. I hope you don’t mind my use of the phrase, but that’s just the best way I can put it.

1. It’s hard to feel sexy after cancer.
My husband loves me, supports me and cherishes me like the princess I am. Tells me I am gorgeous, even hot. He does not care a freaking damn about my scars or how much weight cancer has made me gain. Why do I have a problem feeling sexy as he touches me? In my head I wonder how can he feel that way when I can not even stand to see myself. I do not even want to touch myself, why on earth would he want to? What does he find beautiful in these extra 15 pounds of scared ragged doll? I just do not see it. I am self conscious as he touches me- even pulling away because I am afraid that if he touches my scars (and there are many) he will realize how ugly and broken I am. I am nervous that he will realize that under the clothes I really am what I see: a mess. Not the women he has created in his eyes. I want to keep my tank-top on and not show him what I see in the mirror. How can he feel sexy when I look like this? Better yet, how can I feel sexy? I want this part of me back.

2. Cancer stole my sex drive.
I should fall his arms and be thrilled to have sex with my adoring husband…but I have no drive. None. I cannot even feel his hand under my shirt. I have no idea what part of my breast he is touching and it makes me mad. I try hard to push that anger aside and focus on how it used to feel but I want to cry. Tears of sadness and anger mixed together while I should be feeling lust and desire to be with the man I love so much. FUCK YOU, cancer. You did this to me and took my sense of feeling along with everything else. My nipples are gone too. Now I am a clean slate with no erotic zone- it makes me feel empty and for lack of creative terms: plain.

3. It hurts like hell.
Now I am honest to a fault, I had a little filter once but cancer broke it right off. When you mess with a women’s hormone’s you then take not just her desire but her lubrication. Vaginal dryness is a HUGE factor. The pain of sex is massive – like grabbing the sheets, “OMG when is this over” type of pain. Yes we have tried different gels but the issue is that you have check and make sure they are safe – some contain estrogen in them, which is a no no. So, now on top of all of the mental pain, there is physical pain too. I know what you are thinking reading this, “there are other things to do”. Tell me would you want to do any of it after everything I just wrote? He does not want to hurt me so I mask the pain and push through. I miss orgasms so terribly bad. This is not something I lost with old age – I am 43 not 93. Cancer took this from me too. We need to be discussing this with our doctors to get help, don’t you think? But talking to them can be embarrassing and make you feel even more broken. It is a vicious cycle.
 

4. Sometimes I hate being touched.
Wanting human touch is in our DNA but after all the poking, testing, prodding and surgeries, it almost makes me flinch now. At doctors appointments I feel like I am in a straight jacket and I need out of this body that I now have to live in. Every time I am touched it reminds me that I am in it with no way to get out.

I miss the touch so bad yet at the same time I hate it because I can not feel it. I want to shove my husband’s hand away like he is violating me which makes no sense but all the sense in the world. To see him touch me but not feel it is mentally painful. And to tell him breaks his heart and mine. This part is just not fair.

Learning how to embrace this body is new and figuring out how to adjust is a challenge. It takes adults years to be self confident right? So how can we expect someone who just went through all this shit cancer gives us to adjust to this body over night? Cancer happens fast. After the treatment, surgeries, and the dust settles you are left staring in the mirror trying to understand this new you. There seems to be lack of support on how to proceed and cope with the aftermath. All the while your spouse just wants to get their groove back, wanting you to “get over it”. It is not as easy as sexy lingerie (and for the record that is HARD to find) and high heels. It is about getting outside your own head and grasping the reality of where you are now, who you are now and how you feel in this new changed body.

I just want to straighten my tiara, get into bed, have my husband hold me and feel it. Is that too much to ask?

Complete Article HERE!

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The case for a new term that describes all sexual minorities

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It’s Time to Drop the ‘LGBT’ From ‘LGBTQ’

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Frank Kameny, the last century’s greatest gay-rights activist, filed the first-ever Supreme Court petition challenging discrimination against homosexuals. He led some of the first gay-rights demonstrations. He was the first openly gay congressional candidate. He spearheaded the challenge to the psychiatric establishment’s categorization of homosexuality as a mental illness. He fought tirelessly against sodomy laws. He did a lot more than that. But there is one thing he never did—at least to my own recollection and that of associates of his whom I consulted. He did not use the term LGBTQ, or any of its variations.

This is partly because he was a creature of his era, born in the 1920s and active in an age when the whole argot was different. But he lived until 2011, well into the age of LGBTQ. He had plenty of time to make peace with the term, but his friends say he abjured it. “My recollection is LGBT or its derivatives were expressly disliked by Frank,” one of them told me. “He would use gay to cover the full range; or gay and lesbian.” Another said: “Frank was quite indignant about the alphabet soup. When it started in the ’80s with gay and lesbian, he correctly predicted that there would be no end of it.”

Kameny especially prized, among his many accomplishments, his slogan “Gay is good!”—a proud claim that homosexuals are heterosexuals’ moral as well as legal equals. He wasn’t excluding anyone by using the word gay. He didn’t mean that gay is good but lesbian, bisexual, and transgender are not. He believed he was fighting for the values that define all Americans—the values he had fought for in combat during World War II. Gay rights, to him, meant American rights. Human rights.

A generation younger than Kameny, I came of age accustomed to the phrase gay and lesbian. Later, when LGBT arrived, it seemed cumbersome and artificial, but its inclusive aspirations struck me as honorable. So I learned to live with it.

In the past couple of years, however, I have come to believe, at long last, that Kameny was right. The alphabet-soup designation for sexual minorities has become a synecdoche for the excesses of identity politics—excesses that have helped empower the likes of Donald Trump. It’s time to retire the term and find a replacement. I propose a single letter: Q.

Like a lot of historical wrong turns, LGBTQ means well. As gay people fought the stereotype of brokenness, homosexual came to be seen as clinical and pathologizing. Gay, by contrast, had a long linguistic history and no pseudoscientific baggage. In Kameny’s heyday and my youth, that seemed just fine. But the male and female homosexual populations differed in some ways, and so gay became gendered to complement lesbian. By the early 1990s, when some of us founded a group for homosexual journalists, we didn’t think twice about calling it the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Meanwhile, as recognition grew that trans people faced discrimination and ignorance comparable to what homosexuals endured, the addition of T made gradual inroads. By 2007, when gay-rights advocates decided to make their support for a federal antidiscrimination bill conditional on the inclusion of protections for transgender people, it was clear that the gay-and-lesbian and trans movements had become politically joined at the hip; including the T made undeniable sense. Bisexual people, concerned that their issues would be overlooked, also sought acknowledgment, and their initial was stapled in too.

And so the unwieldy four-letter acronym reigned. It had its advantages. It signaled factional inclusion to those inside the movement, and factional solidarity to those outside the movement. In that sense, it was good politics and good symbolism. But it wasn’t stable. Factionalism rarely is. As activists and theorists sought to cover every base, they recognized asexuality and intersexuality and various other identities by coining LGBTQIAA+, LGBTTIQQ2SA, and other telescoping designations. Lately LGBTQ seems to have become the norm, on the assumption that Q, for queer, can stand in for all the rest.

To some extent, the very artificiality and awkwardness of the acronymic acrobatics speak to their ecumenical aspirations. Unlike designations popularized by oppressors (Negro, Oriental) or based on national or ethnic particularism (Italian, Jew, wasp), LGBTQ is pointedly coalitional and inclusive, and we chose it ourselves. In that respect, its intended message is admirable. But it carries an unintended message as well: an embrace of the identity politics and group separatism that have soured millions of Americans on progressivism and egalitarianism.

Once activists started listing identities and groups, they realized that anyone not specifically included might feel specifically excluded. Their solution has been to keep expanding the list. But no matter how many letters are added, one group is still pointedly excluded: the cisgender heterosexuals who make up the vast majority of the U.S. population. Not surprisingly, many members of that group resent civil-rights claims that are presented as a succession of carve-outs for minorities, to the benefit of everyone except themselves. Imagine if the religious-liberty movement instead styled itself the CJMHBSBA+ (Catholic-Jewish-Muslim-Hindu-Buddhist-Sikh-Baha’i-Animist-plus) movement. The symbolism ceases to be about equality for all Americans and becomes instead about naming particularistic claimants. And the very act of asking ordinary Americans to drag themselves through a list of initials is redolent of special rights, not equal rights.

For me, the ugliness and unwieldiness of LGBTQ add insult to injury. As does the fact that it is not a label that accurately describes me or any other American. It describes a coalition, yes, but not any actual person. Even as it seeks to explicitly include groups, the concatenation of initials implicitly blots out individuals.

In his 2017 book, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, Mark Lilla, a humanities professor at Columbia, makes a powerful case for returning to an earlier, more broadly inclusive vision of citizenship and civil rights. “Identity liberalism banished the word we to the outer reaches of respectable political discourse,” he writes. Lost was the vision of civil-rights leaders, like Kameny and Martin Luther King Jr., who always insisted that they were fighting for the equality, and the benefit, of all Americans. In Kameny’s 1961 Supreme Court petition (challenging the federal government’s ban on the employment of homosexuals), he built his argument on the Declaration of Independence’s promise that the pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right. He insisted that “our government exists to protect and assist all of its citizens,” and he rested his claim on “the interest of the public at large and of the nation as a whole.” By contrast, writes Lilla, “in movement politics, the forces are all centrifugal, encouraging splits into smaller and smaller factions obsessed with single issues and practicing rituals of ideological one-upmanship.” It is hard to think of a clearer instance of that sort of balkanization than a string of initials like LGBTQ, much less an absurdity like LGBTQIAA+.

None of this would matter much if today were, say, 2015, when identity politics seemed like a low-cost enterprise. Now, however, we see its price. So long as the libertarian right and the progressive left fail to speak to the country’s yearning for a transcendent identity, and majorities feel they are being ignored or disfavored, someone is bound to fill the resulting political vacuum. Political analysts and researchers find that resentment of political correctness and identitarian excess drove a lot of voters, including a lot of nonbigoted voters, toward Trump’s toxic version of national identity. When Steve Bannon, one of the Trump movement’s leading strategists, said, “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats,” he knew what he was talking about.

No, I am not blaming Trump’s presidency on LGBTQ (or even LGBTQIAA+). Trump himself uses LGBTQ. But the term has become symptomatic of the parochialism that is alienating white, straight, male America from the claims of the civil-rights movement. Every time lesbian and/or gay and/or bisexual and/or transgender and/or QIAA+ activists demand the recitation of a string of initials, they implicitly tell a story about seeking equality and betterment for groups, not for individuals, and not for that other set of initials, U.S.A.

In short, if there ever was a time when sexual minorities were served by reminding the world of their factionalism, that time is past. Kameny’s preference for a single, simple, overarching designation was well founded. It deserves to be rediscovered.

Today, however, that designation can no longer be gay, which, apart from being gendered, won’t do for transgender people. Queer is inclusive, but its radical baggage and derogatory undertones have precluded its mainstream acceptance. And so, herewith, my modest proposal: Q.

If you like, you can think of it as short for queer. Or, if you don’t like, just Q. Give it any etymology you wish. Regardless, the term would be understood to encompass sexual minorities of all stripes. When we speak of ourselves as individuals, we would use gay or lesbian or transgender or whatever applies. When we need a blanket term, we would simply call ourselves Q. As in: the Q population and Q equality. Q is simple and inclusive, and carries minimal baggage. When we speak of Q equality, we are saying that discrimination against sexual minorities—or for that matter sexual majorities—is not the American way.

In that respect, although I am not LGBTQ, I am certainly Q. I think Frank Kameny might have been, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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Think teens need the sex talk?

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Older adults may need it even more!

By &

Humans are sexual beings. This urge does not stop when the clock strikes 60. Or even 90.

Young adults may deny older relatives are having sex, but sexual activity is a strong indicator of healthy aging and vitality. In fact, sexual activity is roughly equal to climbing two flights of stairs.

Sex education and research use a medical model of sexual health focusing mainly on pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and sexual dysfunctions. However, sexuality is complex. Beyond genitals and Kama Sutra-like positions, it considers sexual and gender identity; sensuality; sexual response; intimacy; and positive and negative ways we use our sexuality.

Our research has explored sexuality among older adults experiencing healthy aging and also aging with health challenges. We found that older adults who routinely talk with health care providers about sexual matters are more likely to be sexually active, despite sexual dysfunctions or other health issues. These conversations become more important considering high HIV/AIDS and STI rates, even among older adults in the U.S.

Sexuality is complex

As we age, the complex interplay among biological, psychological, cognitive, socioeconomic, religious and even societal factors, contribute to changes in our roles and responsibilities. For example, changes in physical or cognitive health over time can create differences in analytical thinking, mobility, and health care needs. We also experience changes in work, social and family roles and responsibilities over time. Examples include transitions from working to retirement, parenting to empty-nesting, child-rearing to caring for aging parents or partners.

These changes may alter our sexual desires, expression and the frequency in which we engage in sexual activities with partners. For example, sexual functioning and activity may decrease over time, but having open communication with a partner who is responsive to our needs can increase our feelings of intimacy and desire, and in turn stimulate sexual activity.

Evolving social support and activities may change opportunities for sex and intimacy. Partners may disappear through death or moving away, or appear, such as when meeting new people after moving to an aging community. Over one-third of adults over age 65 use social media or internet technologies. These tools may expand sexual interest or activities by increasing access to sexual aids and partners.

Sex after 60

There are myths, misconceptions and stigma associated with aging and sexuality that hinder older adults’ ability to openly communicate with family, friends and health care professionals. This misinformation limits their access to sexual education, health care, and ultimately, their sexual rights.

The first myth is that older adults are not as sexually attractive or desirable as their younger counterparts. While an 80-year-old may not be as appealing to an 18-year-old, he or she may be very desirable to peers. More importantly, he or she may feel more sexually desirable and confident than their younger self.

A second myth is that older adults lack interest in and desire for sexual activity – and that they are somehow asexual. Research from ongoing national surveys support the ideas that sexual interest, desires and behaviors can decrease over the life course. For example, among women ages 57 years and older, over 80 percent of participants expressed interest in having sex, but less than two-thirds of women surveyed perceived sex as “important,” and fewer than half reported having sex in the previous year. However, the reality is that these trends are not universal among older adults. Results from another recent survey found that 39 percent of men and 17 percent of women ages 75 to 85 years are sexually active.

Another myth is that older adults are so medically fragile that sexual activity is dangerous. This is simply not true in many cases. Recent studies have shown that healthy older adults are more likely to have sex. Even when chronic illnesses are present, sexual abstinence is not a foregone conclusion. For example, a 2012 American Heart Association statement contains evidence-based recommendations about sexual activity among patients with specific cardiovascular conditions. The recommendations generally advise assessing risks with a doctor and disease management, rather than abstention.

There are well-documented relationships between common medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes and treatment-related effects on sexual functioning. Yet, older adults and their health care providers are not discussing sexual concerns during routine care. Missed opportunities during visits deprive older adults of access to newer treatments and other best practices in sexual medicine, which can impact their mental and physical health.

A bigger problem may be ageist attitudes among providers and internalized ageism in their patients that may interfere with sex education and application of newer standards. The result is that many believe older adults are uninterested in, or lack desire for, sexual activity and cannot engage in these activities.

Love has a lot to do with it

There is more to sexuality than physical acts. While much of the existing research focuses on sexual activity and intercourse as predictors or outcomes, most older adults also desire companionship, intimacy and closeness. Non-intercourse-focused activities, such as hand-holding, cuddling and massage, have not been studied as much as intercourse. Yet, there is reason to believe that they can enhance intimacy. Research about physical and mental health outcomes resulting from older adult sexual activity reveals additional benefits, including reduced cognitive decline, loneliness and depression, and improved reported health status, physical functioning, and other aspects of quality of life.

Recent studies also reveal that sexually active older adults are more likely to communicate needs and concerns with health care providers and have them addressed. Providing high-quality sexual health care requires providers to take comprehensive sexual health histories from older patients and engage in direct, positive communication concerning gender and sexual identity, and sexual knowledge, beliefs and practices.

Discussions should promote understanding about sexual risk behaviors for STIs and effects of physical and cognitive or psychological aging on sexual health and sexuality. To maintain or improve older adults’ sexual health and well-being, health care providers should provide safe and welcoming environments for patient-provider collaboration, resources and interdisciplinary referrals to clinical social workers, sex therapists, physical therapists and other allied health specialties.

Complete Article HERE!

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17 reasons you might not be enjoying sex

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  • When you’re not enjoying sex, you might be wondering why, but the truth is that our sex drives are impacted by so many things.
  • Both your physical and mental health can be the cause of a low libido.
  • Stress, certain medications, and a feeling of shame could all be reasons you may not be enjoying sex.

Your sex drive is determined by so many factors and it can constantly change depending on what’s going on in your life, as well as your physical and mental health. Whether you’re dealing with short-term or long-term sexual dissatisfaction, it’s normal to wonder why you’re not enjoying sex.

According to experts, here are some reasons you may not be enjoying sex.

Editor’s note: This post contains some information that may be triggering to those who have experienced sexual assault or trauma.

You’re engaging in sexual activities before you’re adequately aroused.

Taking extra time for foreplay can help.

Preparing your mind and body for sex can be crucial to actually enjoying it and taking time to get aroused may help prepare your body for sex.

“Foreplay gets the ‘blood flowing’ to the genitals and helps with lubrication and the ability to climax during sexual activity,” Michael Ingber, MD, Board-certified in Urology and Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery at the Center for Specialized Women’s Health, division of Garden State Urology/Atlantic Medical Group told INSIDER.

“Many people get caught up in the idea that sex is equivalent to intercourse,” added Melissa Coats, psychotherapist and owner at Coats Counseling, LLC. “Foreplay is sex and by taking the pressure off of the thought that there must be one outcome in a sexual experience, you can free yourself up to enjoy foreplay and focus on your own pleasure rather than the worry.”

You’re not mentally or emotionally ready to have sex.

Your body and mind should both feel ready.

As important as it is for your body to be ready for sex, your mind also needs to be ready, too. “Context is everything,” said Coats. “For example, If you come home from a long day of work feeling anxious, upset, and overwhelmed and your partner tries to make sexual contact, you will most likely not be able to access your [feelings of] desire and pleasure easily.”

She said context includes a variety of things including your environment, level of stressors, or even the state of your relationship with a sexual partner.

You’re dealing with anxiety about your body or appearance.

Focusing on negative thoughts about your body and self could make sex less pleasurable.

Sex can be an extremely vulnerable situation, so if you’re not feeling comfortable in your own skin, you may find it more difficult to enjoy sex.

“Anxiety is the enemy of desire and pleasure,” Coats told INSIDER. “In order to experience sexual pleasure, we need to be present in the moment and with our bodies. If you are experiencing negative self-talk about your body, your mind is not on how much you are enjoying your body and what it is experiencing.”

You’re uncomfortable about past sexual experiences.

If you don’t feel safe, it can be tough for your body to relax.

Whether you’re dealing with a past sexual trauma or worrying that your experience level is different from your partner’s, these feelings can understandably creep up before, during, or after sex, making it tough for you to find enjoyment in a sexual experience.

Coats said that communicating with your partner can help you to feel more comfortable during sex.

You’re not comfortable around your partner.

Sex could make you feel vulnerable.

Since sex oftentimes involves so many layers of intimacy, if you’re not fully comfortable with your partner, you’ll likely have a difficult time fully enjoying your experience.

“By expressing these aspects of your sexuality with someone, you are trusting them with that vulnerability,” said Coats. ” If you are not comfortable with your partner, feeling vulnerable will not seem appealing and may even feel physically or emotionally unsafe.”

You feel shame or stigma about your sexual needs or wants.

Having a conversation with your partner about what you want and what you’d like to try might help.

Sexuality exists on such a wide spectrum and everyone has different wants, needs, and desires. Opening up about what you like and don’t like can feel intimidating, even if you’re with a long-term partner. And, feeling like you cannot express your wants or needs can be making sex less pleasurable for you.

“Shame and stigma are attacks on identity,” Coats told INSIDER. “Whether the shame is related to a sexual identity, fantasy, kink, (or something similar,) feeling attacked either by your own thoughts or someone else’s thoughts or actions, you may automatically feel unsafe and want to retreat.”

You’ve been given false or sex-negative messages about sex or sexuality.

Not everything you were taught in sex education is necessarily accurate.

Similarly, it can be easy to believe things you’ve heard about sex, from how much you should be having to stereotypes about the kinds of sex people have, and these can seep through to your own sexual experiences, likely without you even realizing it.

“There is an abundance of misguided, harmful, and plainly false messages about sex that people take at face value as fact. If something doesn’t feel right, allow yourself to question that message, whether it is from yourself or someone else,” said Coats. In these cases, she suggested exploring sex-positive resources to help you to feel more comfortable with sex.

You’re on a medication that impacts your libido or physical sensations during sex.

Antidepressants commonly cause a decrease in sexual desire.

You might not link your medications to your sex drive, but plenty of over-the-counter and prescription medications can impact your sex drive, including birth control, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, blood pressure medications, and even allergy meds and antihistamines.

“Several medications can affect not only libido, but also the sexual experience in men and women,” said Dr. Ingber. “Antidepressants are notorious for this, causing a decrease in sexual desire and often interfering with the ability to orgasm.”

If you think a new or existing medication is causing a dip in your libido or ability to orgasm, check with your doctor.

You’re dealing with a medical condition that makes sex painful.

Endometriosis can cause intense cramps and make sex painful.

Even though it’s incredibly common, experiencing pain during sex can be the quickest way to put the brakes on your enjoyment in the moment. There are several medical conditions that can contribute to pain, dryness, or irritation during or after sex, as Jessa Zimmerman, a certified sex therapist and author of “Sex Without Stress,” previously explained to INSIDER.

“There are some medical causes of sexual pain, including skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, pain conditions due to overgrowth of nerves, endometriosis, and vaginismus, an involuntary clenching of the vagina that develops in anticipation of pain and is painful in itself,” said Zimmerman.

Other medical conditions that might cause painful sex include prostatitis, dyspareunia, and even skin allergies.

If you suspect a medical condition is causing you to feel pain during sex, check with your doctor, who can help you to find treatment options and ways to help ease your pain or discomfort.

You may be trying positions that make you feel uncomfortable or pained.

If certain positions cause you pain, your body could be trying to tell you something.

Pain or discomfort during sex isn’t always due to a chronic medical issue — some positions may not be enjoyable to you.

“If you have sought medical attention with no clear answers, try using different positions, lubricant, or talking to a pelvic floor physical therapist to help figure out what your body is trying to tell you,” said Coats

Dr. Ingber agreed, adding that everyone is different and what’s comfortable and enjoyable for one person isn’t necessarily pleasant for another.

You’re not prioritizing sleep, eating well, or exercising regularly.

If you’re feeling constantly hungry or moody, your body might be trying to tell you that you need more sleep.

As Coats told INSIDER, “Physical, mental, emotional, and sexual health are all connected. When one is being neglected, it is like trying to drive a car with the emergency brakes on. It will go, but it will slow you down a lot and it’s not great for your engine. Engaging with your sexuality when you feel physically un-aligned can be stressful and difficult.”

Taking care of your entire body by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise will help give you the energy your body needs to not just have sex, but thoroughly enjoy it, too.

You’re not sure what feels good for you and your body.

Figuring out what you like and don’t like can make sex more enjoyable.

Sexual desire and preferences are different for every person. And, according to Coats, popular misconceptions about sex being a “task to be mastered instead of an activity to enjoy” could make it tough for someone to figure out what they like.

Taking time to explore your own body by way of masturbation or trying new things that you’re comfortable with, whether with new toys, positions, or other sexual stimuli, can help you learn what feels enjoyable for you.

You’re skimping on water intake.

Being dehydrated can also cause you to feel dizzy or pass out.

Believe it or not, being dehydrated can lower your libido and even make sex painful. If you’re not drinking enough water, you might experience headaches, fatigue, and irritability, which can definitely hinder your ability to get in the mood.

But the same way that your cells need water to remain adequately hydrated, dehydration can cause dry, irritated skin, potentially leading to pain and irritation down below.

Similarly, Healthline notes that there’s a link between dehydration and erectile dysfunction, and your body needs sufficient oxygen to help maintain an erection. When you’re not getting enough water, you might not get adequate blood flow throughout your body, which includes your sex organs.

You’ve recently given birth.

Postpartum is a different experience for everyone.

For those who have recently given birth, Dr. Yvonne Bohn, OB/GYN at Los Angeles Obstetricians & Gynecologists told INSIDER that postpartum tearing and healing can cause intercourse to be painful.

She said doctors typically recommend abstaining from sex for six weeks or longer post-delivery, but it depends on the patient’s body and their healing process. She also added that breastfeeding can decrease one’s estrogen levels, causing one’s vagina to be less lubricated and less elastic, thus making sex more painful.

You’re afraid of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.

You’re afraid of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.

Even if you’re taking precautions for safe sex, it’s natural to worry about pregnancy or STIs. “Any fear that exists while engaging in a sexual encounter is going to impact how you feel about your experience,” Coats told INSIDER. “If you are afraid of getting pregnant, remember, sex does not [have to] equal intercourse. There are plenty of ways to express and experience pleasure and eroticism other than intercourse.”

You’re stressed about other things.

If you’re stressed about work, you may find it hard to focus on enjoying sex.

Few things can kill the desire for sex quite like stress. From an emotional standpoint, Coats said mental energy plays an important role in enjoying sex.

“If that mental energy is being used to assess what is going on anywhere but within your own body, it is competing with your pleasure for your brain space. Creating a context where you can put other things aside and allow yourself to focus on you, also known as self-care, is crucial in sexual satisfaction.”

Your mental stress could even cause sex to be more painful. “All of these issues will impact your natural ability to relax, get aroused, lubricate and prepare the [body] for sex,” Dr. Bohn told INSIDER.

You’re just not interested in sex, either at the moment or in the long-run.

If you find yourself never really feeling sexual attraction or desire, you may identify as asexual.

The truth is that not everyone is interested in having sex and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

“If sex is not that interesting to you, you are not abnormal. If you would like to become more interested in sex and your sexuality, there are plenty of ways to spark curiosity,” Coats told INSIDER. “But it must come from your own desire and not someone else’s expectation in order to be pleasurable.”

Complete Article HERE!

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3 Easy Sex Games For Couples To Try Tonight

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By Laken Howard

When you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s perfectly normal to develop a sexual routine with your partner. After all, the more often you have sex with someone, the better acquainted you become with their body, their turn-ons, their erogenous zones, their fantasies, and more. But while that level of sexual comfort with a partner can be advantageous in plenty of ways — like knowing exactly how to get each other to orgasm — having a “predictable” (or worse, “boring”) sex life can also be a source of frustration for many couples.

Although refreshing your sex life might sound like a daunting task, rest assured that it doesn’t have to be. In fact, finding new and exciting ways to enjoy sex in your relationship can actually be a fun way to connect with your partner, build intimacy, and experience pleasure. Besides, making an active effort to diversify your sexual routine doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dissatisfied with your current sex life; it simply means that you and your partner are open-minded and willing to grow even closer by sharing new sexual experiences.

If things are starting to feel a little blah in the bedroom, all it takes is a little creativity to heat things back up — and playing a few fun, easy sex games with your partner is the perfect low-pressure way to do so. Whether it’s naughty truth or dare or naked Twister, trying out some flirty and frisky sex games is a lighthearted way to switch things up in the bedroom without feeling like you’re doing a complete overhaul of your sex life.

Here are three easy sex games you can play with your partner that are pretty much guaranteed to make everyone feel like a winner.

If you and your partner are in the habit of breezing through foreplay in order to get to the “main event,” you might be surprised by how much slowing down and focusing on foreplay can transform your sex life. By elongating your foreplay sessions and savoring every touch, you can build all kinds of sexy tension before moving on to intercourse — or maybe you’ll get so caught up that you skip intercourse entirely (after all, penetration is not a prerequisite for great sex).”

“Start a timer and agree for there not to be penetration until the timer runs out,” says Danyell Fima, co-founder of adult pleasure company Velvet Co. “The anticipation makes it all worth it. This is best if you use a random timer, and set it between 10-20 minutes. To go even further, don’t touch each other, just tease each other with a feather.”

You might have the most comfortable bed on Earth, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only worthwhile place to get your freak on. Whether you live in a tiny studio apartment or a multi-suite mansion, there are plenty of opportunities to get creative with where you have sex: a bathtub, a kitchen counter, atop a washer… the list goes on. Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to make the whole experience feel brand new — even if you’re not technically changing the way you have sex all that much.

“Make every time you have sex [in] a different place and position,” says Fima. “Alternate which partner has to come up with the location between every time. Pretty soon, you’ll have touched every piece of furniture in your apartment in a new and exciting way.”

When you’re in the mood for a little extra stimulation in your sex life, using sex toys with your partner is an easy way to raise the stakes and experience even more feel-good sensations during sex. If you own a toy or two that can be controlled remotely, try making a sexy game out of allowing your partner to take total control of your pleasure.

“Have sex toys? Hand the controls to your partner,” says Fima. “It’s best when each person has a toy they can use. Last as long as you can! Have multiple sex toys? Pick which ones you’ll use blindfolded to keep things interesting

Complete Article HERE!

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Erectile dysfunction: exercise could be the solution

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Men with erectile dysfunction can improve their sexual function with 40 minutes of aerobic exercise, four times a week, according to our latest review of the evidence.

We reviewed all international studies carried out over the past ten years where inactive men with erectile dysfunction received professional help to become physically active. The results showed that most of the time it is possible to reduce erection problems with exercise.

Erectile dysfunction is the most common male sexual dysfunction. It is defined as a consistent or recurring inability to get and maintain an erection sufficient for sexual activity. In other words, persistent problems in getting it up or keeping it up during intercourse or masturbation.

Erectile dysfunction, including weakened night and morning erections, may be an early sign of health problems and, sometimes, a symptom of early-stage atherosclerosis (stiffening and narrowing of the arteries).

We know that erection problems are more common in smokers and in men who are physically inactive or overweight. It is also more common in men with high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. So erection problems may be the first sign of vascular disease.

About 23% of inactive men and about 23-40% of obese men suffer from erectile dysfunction, as do 40% of men receiving treatment for high blood pressure and 75% of men with cardiovascular disease. By comparison, 18% of men in the general population have, or have had, erectile dysfunction.

Hardening of the arteries

When a man becomes sexually aroused, blood flows to his penis and the increased blood in the erectile tissue results in an erection. But in men with atherosclerosis the penile artery walls become thick and lose their elasticity. Three-quarters of erection problems are linked to atherosclerosis, a condition typically triggered by lifestyle factors, such as obesity, physical inactivity and smoking.

We already knew that lifestyle modifications, including physical activity, improved vascular health, sexual health and erectile function. Exercise is the lifestyle factor most strongly associated with erectile function and widely recognised as the most important promoter of vascular health, as physical activity improves blood circulation in the body, including the penis. We also knew that there is strong evidence that frequent physical activity significantly improves erectile function.

For our study, we wanted to know how much physical activity is needed to improve erectile function. We saw that physical activity of moderate to high intensity for 40 minutes, four times a week for six months resulted in an improvement or even a normalisation of the person’s erection. After six months of physical activity, men who could not masturbate or have sex for a long time were able to resume sexual activity.

The figure below shows, on a scale of 0-30 points, the average erectile function of men in different studies before and after the intervention (exercise). In all studies, men had improved erectile function.

Take-home message

If you are physically inactive and in bad shape, it’s important to not push yourself into a fitness regime that is beyond you, otherwise, you risk injury, which could make exercising difficult and reduce your motivation to continue.

The best approach is to start with simple aerobic activity. Walk every day, swim or cycle, and increase the pace and distance week by week. After a few weeks, you could add jogging, dancing, tennis or football into the mix. Or, if you prefer, you could join a gym.

To strengthen blood circulation – throughout the body and also the penis – exercise intensity must be moderate to high. This means that you warm up your body and produce sweat, your face turns red, your pulse increases and you become slightly breathless – breathless enough to make it difficult to have a conversation.

If your erectile dysfunction is caused by early stages of atherosclerosis, 160 minutes of physical activity weekly for six months will probably improve your ability to get an erection.

A physically active lifestyle should be considered as the beginning of more permanent lifestyle changes. If you are overweight, the effect of the physical activity can be further increased by losing weight. And if you smoke, the effect of physical activity becomes even stronger by quitting.

But changing your lifestyle from being physically inactive to being physically active is easier said than done, so it is best to seek professional help. Physiotherapists can help to evaluate your fitness level and potential. Also, they can provide you with a personalised training programme and guide and support you as you gradually increase your level of physical activity.

And exercise is much more enjoyable when you do it with others. So why not invite your partner or friends to join you? After all, training is healthy, but it should also be fun.

Complete Article HERE!

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Forget couples counselling,

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it’s all about sex therapy now

More couples are going straight to sex therapy to support the relationship.

By Thomas Mitchell

A friend recently told me that he and his girlfriend had been seeing a sex therapist. Their sex life had been sliding, and they were struggling to connect, so they booked in for a few sessions. Fast forward to our conversation, and it had worked wonders for their relationship.

“It was the best thing we’ve ever done,” said Scott*, with the obvious glow of someone having top-shelf sex again. “But you should’ve seen my dad’s shocked face when I told him.”

For context, Scott is close to his dad and had wanted to share this development with him.
While he hadn’t predicted his dad’s disbelief, I was less surprised. Scott’s father was the kind of man who would say things like, “Come on now, that’s enough” if the conversation drifted towards sex at the dinner table.

But rather than focus on his old man’s failure to appreciate the value of sex therapy – that would be akin to being shocked by the sun rising each morning – I was delighted.

In the last six months, I’d heard many tales of people I knew employing sex coaches, attending seminars, working with sex therapists.

Adding Scott’s story to this pile, I was convinced I had (anecdotal) evidence of a pattern. As it turns out, I wasn’t too far off the mark.

“We certainly notice that people are more comfortable talking about their sex lives and that has been reflected in people using different sexual services,” says Fiona Barrett, a counsellor with Relationships Australia.

“I put it down to a cultural shift, Masters and Johnson did their groundbreaking sexual research in the late 1950s, but it takes a generation or two for people to get comfortable.”

“My parents wouldn’t have gone to a sex therapist,” adds Fiona.

“But today we’re finding middle-aged and young adults seeking out these services because sexuality is in the media, it’s talked about at dinner, people are open about their desires and needs.”

It’s a trend that Lisa Torney, a practising sex therapist with more than twenty years in the field, has witnessed.

“We’ve seen a cultural shift, people are aware that pleasure and intimacy are important aspects of their relationships,” says Lisa.

“And if that’s missing, they don’t want to just get help, they want to get specialised help.”

While some people still hear the words “sex therapy” and picture candles, blindfolds and soft music, the reality couldn’t be further from it.

“Sex therapy typically involves getting history on the couple or individual, to understand what their relationship with sex is like,” explains Lisa.

“We’re looking to decipher what factors are impacting on them – things like lack of confidence, having kids, age, illness, disability, previous negative experiences – and realising how that might affect their intimacy levels and how we can improve and work through that.”

As well as being a sex therapist, Lisa is the national chairperson of the Society of Australian Sexologists, a body that is growing as supply attempts to keep up with demand.

“Our membership keeps increasing, and we now offer two Masters degrees in Australia in sexology,” she says.

Meanwhile, sex education and intimacy coaching is also becoming popular, as couples and individuals look to prioritise pleasure. It differs from sex therapy in that there is less of a focus on counselling and more on coaching, to help people achieve the fulfilling sex lives they want.

Organisations catering to the carnally curious are popping up all around the country offering individual classes, group sessions or weekends away.

“More people than ever are looking for a better connection with their sensual self, they want to get back into their bodies because they have felt out of touch for far too long,” says Georgia Grace, a Sydney-based sex educator and coach.

At the mention of the ‘sensual self’, I can’t help but think of Scott’s disapproving dad frowning his way through a session.

But while he may not find anything useful in being coached, others do.

“Couples need education and training in how to relate, increase pleasure, ask for consent, practice boundaries and understand who they are as sexual individuals,” she says.

Now everyone knows there’s nothing sexier than statistics, so let’s heat things up with a little data.

The Australian Study of Health and Relationships is our most important study of sexual and reproductive health, only carried out once-in-a-decade, it delivers a snapshot of where we’re at sexually.

The most recent study, completed in 2016, found that while Australians are more experimental and open than ever, the frequency of sex in relationships has dropped. Perhaps that explains our desire to seek out help from therapists and coaches.

“We’re more at ease with sex, but there are also more intrusions now, even in the past two years since that study,” explains Georgia.

“People take their devices to bed, we’re living vicariously through our phones and it becomes hard for people, and couples, to switch off, so they can turn on.”

Both Lisa and Georgia admit that – “what’s a normal sex life?” – is one of the most common questions they hear from clients and both also agree, there is no such thing.

But in light of our increasing desire to explore, improve, understand and enjoy sex, it’s clear that
what’s not normal is the reaction of Scott’s father.

Eventually, I asked Scott what he said to his dad and his response was priceless – “come on now Dad, that’s enough.”

  • Scott’s name was changed to protect his privacy.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Have Fantastic Shower Sex

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By GiGi Engle

There seems to be a never-ending quest to conquer shower sex, and the number of tips are almost endless. That’s probably because, while sex in the shower looks so hot and easy on television, it’s harder than it seems.

To be fair, there are a couple of reasons why penetrative shower sex is objectively difficult: It’s dangerous and there is no lubrication. You think that one-legged standing sex position is going to work out for you and then … it really doesn’t. You wind up with this awkward, dry humping and grinding situation that often ends in frustration and general angst.

So is having good sex in the shower even worth trying? The answer: Yep! Fantastic and wonderful shower sex is possible, you just have to know what you’re doing.<

Intercourse is hard, so do other things instead

Fact: The shower is slippery. With all that soap and water on tile or linoleum, you’re very likely to take a tumble if you decide to have penetrative sex. How can you expect to have an orgasm with one leg in the air, praying to the high heavens that you won’t fall and break your leg? It’s just not practical.

Instead of making P in the V sex the end-all-be-all of shower sex success, do other things instead. Have your partner stand with his back to you and reach around for a handy. The dominance is intoxicating. Bend down and suck on her nipples and touch her clitoris with your hand.

We have to stop putting pressure on ourselves to “get it in.” This makes shower sex less fun and ultimately a lot less satisfying.

Don’t rush it.

Enjoy the shower itself. Wash each other. Shampoo your partner’s hair and give them a head massage. Let them wash your back and shoulders. Showering can be very sensual even without sex so lean into that romantic aspect of the experience. There is a kind of primal urge that comes from cleaning your partner. Just look at monkeys picking bugs out of each other’s fur.

Listen to the sound of the water, smell the lovely soaps, and take your time to simply be with your partner. Showering together is basically foreplay with zero effort on your part.

Get comfortable with making out under the water

It should come as no surprise that, in the shower, there is going to be water everywhere. It’s going to run down your face and over your eyes, and probably into your mouth when you start kissing. Don’t let this deter you, let it be fuel for a steamy, wet makeout session.

Haven’t you ever heard of making out under waterfalls and all that other romantic movie stuff? It’s like that. These are going to be wet kisses so, get down with it. Yes, you might have to spit out water occasionally, but this just comes with the territory.

Feel the water running over your body. Lick it off of each other’s chests. Long showers are the best. Kiss and enjoy.

Try some standing sex positions if you’re brave enough

If you insist on having intercourse, there are definitely some positions that are better than others. We have a complete guide right here. Most comfortable for shower sex-ing are a three-legged stand and the 90 Degree Angle. For the 90 Degree Angle, if you’re on the receiving end, be sure your partner has something to hold onto with one hand. Again, slippery = dangerous.

Remember, this is not the only thing that makes shower sex valid. If you start having intercourse only to realize it isn’t working for you, have some hand-sex, oral sex, or any other kind of sexual play you feel like. Don’t force it. That isn’t fun for anyone.

Silicone and oil-based lube are your best friends

There are plenty of amazing (and not so amazing) lubes out there. You want to be sure whichever you choose is paraben, petrochemical, and glycerin free. When in doubt, water-based lubes are your best bet for sex. But, in the shower, water-based lubes don’t have the staying power you need.
Opt instead for a silicon or oil-based lube. These lubes hold up against the water test and will keep things smooth and slippery during shower friskiness.

If you go for silicone, we love Babelube Silicone from Babeland. If oil-based is more your style, you can use something all natural like 100 percent organic coconut oil or almond oil. If you’d prefer an oil-based brand, we’re big on Boy Butter in the original formula.

Just keep in mind that if you’re using condoms, oil-based lubes are a no-go. Oil is incompatible with latex and can break down the material, leading to breakage. With condoms, stick to silicone lube.

Don’t forget the toys

The golden rule of sex toy owners used to be: If it has a motor, don’t submerge it in water. Luckily, this is no longer the case for many a vibrator. Many companies have waterproof sex toys that are not only bomb for shower sex, but can even be taken into the bathtub and dipped under the water completely. It’s pretty revolutionary.

We have a bunch of favorites, but we love the We-Vibe Nova for a combination of G-spot and clitoral stimulation and the Lelo Lily for palm-sized, clitoral fun.

Complete Article HERE!

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Tumblr’s adult content ban means the death of unique blogs that explore sexuality

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Creators and readers alike don’t believe there’s another website like Tumblr

By Shannon Liao

Tumblr recently announced that it would ban all adult content from its platform and said any user who was hurt by the decision could simply migrate to another site. But creators and readers alike don’t believe there’s another website that fosters the same kind of sex-positive spaces that Tumblr has. It’s as though Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio has failed to understand his own platform, how unique these communities are to Tumblr, and how unlikely it is for them to survive beyond the shutdown.

“Sex wasn’t this separate, shameful thing. Tumblr allowed it to exist right next to every other facet of our messy, millennial experience,” says Vex Ashley, who runs the blog Vextape that’s inspired by her work as a cam model and making DIY porn. “We shared it, discussed it, debated it, and curated it.” Porn, she says, was as appropriate on Tumblr as song lyrics.

Tumblr is home to a myriad of sex-positive and body-positive blogs, in additional to indie porn blogs and curated archives that provide something not found on Pornhub, YouPorn, or any of the other mainstream adult portals. It’s also been relatively unique among social media sites for allowing nudity and sexually explicit content to be posted. Most sites, like Facebook and Instagram, prohibit nudity and regularly remove posts that are flagged. With Tumblr gone from the equation, creators and readers fear their hubs of sex-positive and body-positive content will vanish.

“There is a lot of value in being able to share images of and information about sexuality. This change will erase years of content from countless Tumblr users,” says the anonymous author behind Bijouworld, which curates photos of vintage gay porn, old magazine covers, and newspaper clippings. They believe that other blogs focused on the history of erotica will also suffer. “This was a good spot for us all to exchange and combine our info and knowledge, so I hope we can find a new way to do that.”

Bijou Classics, the gay adult company behind the blog, also posts regularly to Pornhub and maintains an extensive web presence across multiple platforms that allow adult content. But Tumblr, the blogger says, filled a void when the company wanted to explore the archival and historical aspects of gay porn.

“I do think Tumblr is unique … [it] was one of the few platforms that is broadly open to the public where we could share explicit photos in any sort of organized fashion.” The anonymous person behind the blog says that since 2011, Bijou Classics has “used our Tumblr presence to post images from our archives, written blogs, trivia, and more.” The purpose is to “keep information circulating about the history and evolution of erotica and gay culture.”

Many sexuality blog authors don’t see a way forward without Tumblr. That includes lawyer and journalist Maddie Holden, who runs Critique My Dick Pic, a blog that’s received attention from sites including The Hairpin, Jezebel, and The Daily Dot.

Holden takes a media that’s often considered a nuisance to receive and approaches it satirically as an art form, going in depth about the shadows and positioning of each photo. She ends her reviews with: “thank you for submitting to critique my dick pic” and a grade ranging from A to F. The latest lyrical review of a dick in the shower, posted on November 30th, reads, “your photo is certainly not coy but it avoids being dick-centric, and apart from minor flares of distraction — a green towel in the bottom-left corner and a blue razor in the windowsill — the background is uncluttered and effective.”

Critique My Dick Pic has been described by its followers as “hilarious and useful,” says Holden. She says a trans woman recently told her that the trans-inclusive nature of the blog factored into helping her decide to come out and transition.

The blog has been around since 2013, but Holden says she’s not sure if she’ll move to another platform after Tumblr hides her content from public view on December 17th. Holden tells The Verge, “I mean, it will be the end of the blog as far as I can tell. I receive a portion of my income from CDMP, which will end, and the site has been pretty beloved for years now, so it’s a shame for its followers.”


 
The operator of another quirky, body-positive blog, called Things My Dick Does, says he plans to keep his Tumblr open after the ban, but only to share safe-for-work posts to keep in touch with his readers.

Started by an anonymous man in 2015, the blog’s creator draws mustaches and smiley faces on his dick, often placing props around it in amusing situations. He tells The Verge, “I know it’s a silly dick blog, but I’ve gotten to know some pretty amazing people through here. (My girlfriend included!)” He says that as he continued to post pics of his dick sipping coffee, dressed as Batman, or just smiling cheerily, he received positive feedback and even had a woman reach out to him because they lived in the same city. She later became his girlfriend. “People say they’ve overcome some serious rough spots in their lives because of the laughs I brought them.”

The man says he can migrate to other platforms, but his presence on YouTube and Instagram is distinctly different. It’s covered up and less NSFW, obscuring the very quality of his blog that disarmed audiences — a charming, dressed-up dick that more resembled a cartoon than graphic porn. “It’s definitely a loss to the adult content creators out there,” the man behind Things My Dick Does says. “Seems like it’s getting more and more difficult to express yourself.”

There just isn’t anywhere else to go. Other than Tumblr, there aren’t many mainstream, well-acknowledged platforms that allow unique adult communities to grow. Facebook and Instagram both prohibit sexual content and nudity; Twitter allows it, but it’s not exactly known for its positive, supportive communities.

Ashley, who runs the curated, often DIY porn blog, explains that Tumblr was a livelihood and a home for people who didn’t necessarily conform to mainstream porn sites’ ideas of what is sexy. “As our lives move increasingly online, spaces that are safe for sex are becoming smaller and smaller,” she says, in words that are now published on Medium. “If we continue to push our depictions of sexuality into the shadows, we allow them to continue to be defined and co-opted by the status quo — whatever is on the first page of a porn tube site.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The 5 Most Common Sexual Complaints That Couples Have

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By Jessa Zimmerman

As a sex therapist, I see an amazing breadth of presenting issues and concerns in my practice. Despite the fact that I talk about sex all day, there is an incredible diversity in the people I work with, the stories they share, the goals they want to achieve, and the ways in which sexual difficulties show up and affect them. However, there are themes that emerge in my work. While every couple is different and their path to my office unique, there are several common problems people encounter in their sexual relationships. Here are five of the ones that appear the most, as well as ideas about how you might approach the situation if this is where you find yourself:

“We disagree about how often to have sex.”

For most of the couples that come to therapy, sexual desire discrepancy has become an issue. When a couple is counting how often they have sex, treating their intimate life as a math problem, that’s my clue that they have been having the wrong conversation. The answer is not about finding an average or creating a quota; it’s about creating a sex life that can be truly engaging for both people.

In every relationship, there is one person who wants more sex and one who wants less. That isn’t a problem by itself, but it can become one when people don’t know how to manage that tension and don’t know how to handle their part well. The person who wants more sex tends to take their partner’s level of desire personally. They tend to feel rejected, undesirable, and unimportant. The person who wants sex less feels pressured. They can either feel like something is wrong with them (that they are missing a “natural” sex drive) or resentful that their partner can’t accept them for who they are.

What to do

The more desirous person needs to stop treating sex as an affirmation of their worth. They need to separate their own sense of worth from their partner’s level of desire. If sex has become something that needs to happen to make you feel better, it’s lost its appeal. It’s not sexy to have sex out of neediness rather than an authentic desire to connect with each other. It’s also important that the more desirous partner continue to advocate for what they want. So many higher desire partners start avoiding the topic or waiting for the other to volunteer sex. Keep talking about the importance of sex and your desire to share that experience with your partner. At the same time, handle a “no” graciously.

The less desirous partner should start by identifying obstacles that are in the way of the desire they may otherwise have. Identify and address each barrier you find. Resolve the relationship issues that keep you feeling distant. Manage the environment to help you relax and shift gears into sex, whether that’s cleaning up or putting a lock on your door. Speak up about what you need in sex itself, especially if you haven’t been getting it.

It’s important to understand that you may also have what I call “reactive desire.” This means your sexual desire doesn’t show up until after you’ve started. This means you need to create opportunity to get aroused and interested. Instead of saying no out of instinct, consider saying “maybe.” Start talking, kissing, touching…whatever you like. And if you end up turned on and interested in sex, great! If not, that’s OK too. Either way, the less desirous person should take an active role in creating a sex life that they can embrace.

“I do all the initiating.”

There are two basic reasons one person ends up doing all or most of the sexual initiation. First, the desire discrepancy I described above tends to result in the higher desire partner being the one to suggest sex. The lower desire person often ends up accepting or rejecting the other’s invitations. Second, the more desirous of you also tends to be someone who experiences what I call “proactive desire.” This is the spontaneous desire that most of us think of as libido. This person thinks about sex, experiences spontaneous arousal or interest, and wants to seek it out and make it happen. This makes it easy to initiate. If your partner has “reactive desire,” though, they may almost never think about sex. It legitimately doesn’t cross their mind. This makes it more challenging to initiate sex.

What to do

The two of you need to accept that no amount of sexual desire is “correct” and that reactive desire is normal. Nothing is broken. You have to find a way to work together and collaborate on your sex life. To achieve more balance in your sex life, the person who struggles to initiate may need to do it on purpose. If you have reactive desire, you aren’t going to initiate sex because it’s on your mind and you’re horny. You can do it from a more intentional place, thinking about the value of your sex life in general and the importance of taking a more active role in your relationship. It’s OK to start with an engine that’s cold; take your time, get going, and see if the engine turns over. If you end up turned on and interested, you may want sex—when you couldn’t have imagined that just a few minutes ago. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. At least you connected with your partner and took some responsibility to tend to your intimate relationship.

We each have sexual preferences and desires that interest us and turn us on. Early in a relationship, we tend to migrate toward the common ground, the things we both enjoy and that don’t make either of us uncomfortable. Later in a relationship, though, this can become a problem. One or both of you may want to explore some of the sexual behaviors or activities that were held back or neglected early on.

What to do

It’s worth trying to get out of your comfort zone and experimenting with some of the things that interest your partner. If you think about it, everything we’ve done sexually started off as uncomfortable. We have to develop comfort with things over time, whether it’s French kissing or oral sex. So experiencing some discomfort or anxiety can be OK, if you’re able to approach it as a willing partner and as an experiment. Of course, it’s OK to have some hard no’s (or to discover some), too. You do need to take care of yourself and not violate your own integrity or bottom line. You’ll want to find a balance of saying no when you need to and yes when you can.

There are other ways to incorporate some sexual desires, too, if you determine that you can’t do them with your partner. You may be able to talk about them and bring them into your experience in imagination. You may find a “lite” version that works for both of you. If nothing else, you can use that erotic material in solo sex, fueling your fantasies and arousal there.

“My partner masturbates and/or watches porn.”

It’s perfectly normal to masturbate, whether you’re single or in a relationship. Solo sex and partnered sex are really apples and oranges. Sex with a partner is a collaboration, a give and take between two people. Solo sex is an opportunity to have a simpler experience, a quick release, or an exploration of your own eroticism. As long as masturbation is in addition to your sex life, not instead of, it is not a problem.

It may challenge you to think that your partner finds sexual arousal in anything besides you. We don’t stop finding other people attractive just because we’re in a relationship. And we don’t stop finding sexual behaviors interesting just because our partner doesn’t enjoy them. We don’t own the thoughts in each other’s minds, and it is futile to try to police what our partner is thinking about.

What to do

As long as the sex life you share is fulfilling and enjoyable, let go of the worries about what your partner finds arousing. And if your sex life needs work, focus on that rather than controlling their sexual thoughts.

Now, actually talking about the viewing of pornography and how you each feel about it can be a difficult and loaded conversation. For some, pornography is just another erotic medium that provides stimulation and fodder for the imagination. For others, it can become a compulsive and problematic behavior. Some people can enjoy watching porn; others cannot accept it at all based on moral, social, or ethical complaints. It’s not that viewing porn is either “right” or “wrong.” It’s about having a conversation where you can truly be curious about each other’s perspective and then coming to an agreement and understanding that works for you both.

“We find ourselves avoiding sex.”

If you and your partner have struggled with sex, with any of the problems I’ve already described or any of the many others, it’s likely you’ve started to avoid sex. It’s natural to avoid things that make us feel bad. Once sex has become loaded, stressful, disappointing, or negative, of course you aren’t looking forward to the next encounter. In fact, sex may feel like a test or an ordeal—one that you expect to fail.

What to do

You can take a two-pronged approach to addressing sexual avoidance: Deal with the things that make sex seem negative, and address your sex life together rather than avoid it.

The first step in dealing with what makes sex negative is to challenge your expectations. If you have the idea that sex should be easy, that sex should go a certain way, or that you have to perform, then you set yourself up to be disappointed. But if you adopt a view that sex is just about experiencing pleasure and connection with your partner, that anything you share sexually is a win, and that there is no way to fail at sex, then you set yourself up for success. Second, you can take steps (many that I’ve outlined in this article) to improve the sex you’re sharing with your partner.

The more you can treat sex as a collaborative process and endeavor, the more enjoyable you’ll find your sex life. Communicate openly with your partner about what’s working and what isn’t. Keep talking about what matters to you in sex and what would make it more engaging for you. Resist any urge to hide and avoid rather than deal with your issues.

It’s normal and common to struggle in your sex life. A long-term, committed relationship takes work—in the bedroom and out. If you’ve encountered any of these issues in your relationship, take heart in the knowledge that they’re common—and totally workable.

Complete Article HERE!

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Americans Were Quizzed on Sexual Health:

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What The Results Say About the State of Sex Ed

by LeAnne Graves

There’s no question that offering consistent and accurate sexual health information in schools is important.

Providing students with these resources not only helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but it can also help to ensure the overall well-being of an individual.

Yet the state of sexual education and awareness in some areas of the United States ranges from medically inaccurate to virtually nonexistent.

At present, only 20 states require that sex and HIV education be “medically, factually, or technically accurate,” (while New Jersey is technically the 21st state, it’s been left out since medical accuracy isn’t specifically outlined in state statute. Rather it’s required by the NJDE’s Comprehensive Health and Physical Education).

Meanwhile, the definition for what’s “medically accurate” can vary by state.

While some states may require approval of the curriculum by the Department of Health, other states allow materials to be distributed that are based on information from published sources that are revered by the medical industry. This lack of a streamlined process can lead to the distribution of incorrect information.

Healthline and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), an organization dedicated to promoting sexual education, conducted a survey that looked at the state of sexual health in the United States.

Below are the results.

Access To Education

In our survey, which polled more than 1,000 Americans, only 12 percent of respondents 60 years and older received some form of sexual education in school.

Meanwhile, only 33 percent of people between 18 and 29 years old reported having any.

While some previous studies have found that abstinence-only education programs don’t protect against teen pregnancies and STIs, there are many areas in the United States where this is the only type of sexual education provided.

States like Mississippi require schools to present sexual education as abstinence-only as the way to combat unwanted pregnancies. Yet Mississippi has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies, ranking third in 2016.

This is in contrast to New Hampshire, which has the lowest rate of teen pregnancies in the United States. The state teaches health and sex education as well as a curriculum dedicated to STIs starting in middle schools.

To date, 35 states and the District of Columbia also allow for parents to opt-out of having their children participate in sex ed.

Yet in a 2017 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 40 percent of high school students had already engaged in sexual activity.

“When it comes to promoting sex education, the biggest obstacle is definitely our country’s cultural inclination to avoid conversations about sexuality entirely, or to only speak about sex and sexuality in ways that are negative or shaming,” explains Jennifer Driver, SIECUS’ State Policy Director.

“It’s hard to ensure someone’s sexual health and well-being when, far too often, we lack appropriate, affirmative, and non-shaming language to talk about sex in the first place,” she says.

STI prevention

In 2016, nearly a quarter of all new HIV cases in the United States were made up of young people ages 13 to 24, according to the CDC. People ages 15 to 24 also make up half of the 20 million new STIs reported in the United States each year.

Which is why it’s concerning that in our survey — where the age bracket 18 to 29 made up nearly 30 percent of our participants — when asked whether HIV could be spread through saliva, nearly 1 out of 2 people answered incorrectly.

Recently, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a study that states comprehensive sex education (CSE) programs not only increased the overall health and well-being of children and young people, but helped to prevent HIV and STIs as well.

Driver cites the Netherlands as a prime example of the payoffs from CSE programs. The country offers one of the world’s best sex education systems with corresponding health outcomes, particularly when it comes to STI and HIV prevention.

The country requires a comprehensive sexual education course starting in primary school. And the results of these programs speak for themselves.

The Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of HIV at 0.2 percent of adults ages 15 to 49.

Statistics also show that 85 percent of adolescents in the country reported using contraception during their first sexual encounter, while the rate of adolescent pregnancies was low, at 4.5 per 1,000 adolescents.

Though Driver acknowledges that the United States cannot simply “adopt every sex education-related action happening in the Netherlands,” she does acknowledge that it’s possible to look to countries who are taking a similar approach for ideas.

Contraception misconceptions

When it comes to contraception, and more specifically emergency contraception, our survey found that there are a number of misconceptions about how these preventive measures work.

A whopping 93 percent of our respondents were unable to correctly answer how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is valid. Most people said it was only effective up to two days after having sex.

In fact, “morning-after pills” such as Plan B may help stop unwanted pregnancies if taken up to 5 days after sex with a potential 89 percent reduction in risk.

Other misunderstandings about emergency contraceptives include 34 percent of those polled believing that taking the morning-after pill can cause infertility, and a quarter of respondents believing that it can cause an abortion.

In fact, 70 percent of those surveyed didn’t know that the pill temporarily stops ovulation, which prevents the releasing of an egg to be fertilized.

Whether this misconception about how oral contraception works is a gender issue isn’t clear-cut. What’s understood, however, is that there’s still work to be done.

Though Driver cites the Affordable Care Act as one example of the push for free and accessible birth control and contraception, she’s not convinced this is enough.

“The cultural backlash, as exemplified by several legal fights and an increase in public debates — which have, unfortunately conflated birth control with abortion — illustrates that our society remains uncomfortable with fully embracing female sexuality,” she explains.

93 percent of our respondents were unable to correctly answer how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is valid.

Knowledge by gender

When breaking it down by gender, who’s the most knowledgeable when it comes to sex?

Our survey showed that 65 percent of females answered all questions correctly, while the figure for male participants was 57 percent.

Though these stats aren’t inherently bad, the fact that 35 percent of men who participated in the survey believed that women couldn’t get pregnant while on their periods is an indication that there’s still a ways to go — particularly when it comes to understanding female sexuality.

“We need to do a lot of work to change pervasive myths, specifically surrounding female sexuality,” explains Driver.

“There is still a cultural allowance for men to be sexual beings, while women experience double standards regarding their sexuality. And this long-standing misconception has undoubtedly contributed to confusion surrounding women’s bodies and female sexual health,” she says.

Defining consent

From the #MeToo movement to the Christine Blasey Ford case, it’s clear that creating dialogue around and providing information about sexual consent has never been more imperative.

The findings from our survey indicate that this is also the case. Of the respondents ages 18 to 29, 14 percent still believed that a significant other has a right to sex.

This specific age bracket represented the largest group with the least understanding as to what constituted as consent.

What’s more, a quarter of all respondents answered the same question incorrectly, with some believing that consent is applicable if the person says yes despite drinking, or if the other person doesn’t say no at all.

These findings, as concerning as they might be, shouldn’t be surprising. To date, only six states require instruction to include information on consent, says Driver.

Yet the UNESCO study mentioned earlier cites CSE programs as an effective way “of equipping young people with knowledge and skills to make responsible choices for their lives.”

This includes improving their “analytical, communication, and other life skills for health and well-being in relation to… gender-based violence, consent, sexual abuse, and harmful practices.”

Of the respondents ages 18 to 29, 14 percent believed that a significant other has a right to sex.

What’s next?

Though the results of our survey indicate that more needs to be done in terms of providing CSE programs in school, there’s evidence that the United States is moving in the right direction.

A Planned Parenthood Federation of America poll conducted this year revealed that 98 percent of likely voters support sex education in high school, while 89 percent support it in middle school.

“We’re at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy in this country and a historic low for pregnancy among teenagers,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood.

“Sex education and access to family planning services have been critical to helping teens stay safe and healthy — now is not the time to walk back that progress.”

Moreover, SIECUS is advocating for policies that would create the first-ever federal funding stream for comprehensive sexuality education in schools.

They’re also working to raise awareness about the need to increase and improve the access of marginalized young people to sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

“Comprehensive school-based sex education should provide fact and medically-based information that complements and augments the sex education children receive from their families, religious and community groups, and healthcare professionals,” explains Driver.

“We can increase sexual health knowledge for people of all ages by simply treating it like any other aspect of health. We should positively affirm that sexuality is a fundamental and normal part of being human,” she adds.

Complete Article HERE!

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