Why Is There So Little Help For Women With Sexual Dysfunction

Share

(But Plenty For Men)?

By Natalie Gil

It’s not just that we’re having less sex – problems between the sheets (or wherever you have sex) are common, even among young people, if countless surveys, problem pages and pieces of anecdotal evidence are to be believed. The most recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) quizzed more than 15,000 British people about their sex lives and found that 42% of men and 51% of women had experienced at least one sexual problem for three months or longer in the previous year; and the figures for 16-21-year-olds weren’t much lower (34% of men and 44% of women).

Evidently, women of all ages are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction than men, with symptoms ranging from a lack of interest in sex to painful intercourse and difficulties climaxing – but studies of male sexual dysfunction vastly outnumber those on issues that affect women, whose needs are frequently neglected by the scientific community, many experts believe

Because many of women’s sexual dysfunction symptoms are psychological – such as diminished arousal, a lack of enjoyment during sex, feeling anxious during sex and difficulty reaching orgasm – treatment is often more complex than it is for men, whose issues can often be solved with a single drug: Viagra. This is according to Dr David Goldmeier, consultant in sexual medicine at St Mary’s Hospital and chair of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV’s sexual dysfunction special interest group.

“Up until recently there were no medications for low desire in women,” he explains. “Giving women sildenafil (Viagra) does engorge the genitalia, but this does not translate to increased desire. Desire in women is much more of a primarily cerebral event.” However, hope is on the horizon for women, Dr Goldmeier adds: “There are two candidate medications that may appear in the UK at some time that address this: flibanserin and bremelanotide.”

In the absence of drugs to treat their sexual problems, many women turn to their NHS doctor or sexual health clinics. But government cuts to these services in recent years and a general lack of specialist training among health professionals means that women are left with few places to turn

“There is little money in the NHS [and] treating women’s sexual issues is time consuming. It has been neglected really because of lack of resources,” Dr Goldmeier explains. “Psychological therapies are the mainstay for low desire and other female problems. These are time and personnel expensive and require specialist units. [Whereas] GPs can easily hand out male medications.”

A lack of interest in sex (low libido) (34%), difficulty reaching orgasm (16%), an uncomfortable or dry vagina (13%), and a lack of sexual enjoyment (12%) are the most common issues women experience in the bedroom, according to the most recent Natsal statistics, with over a fifth of women (22.4%) experiencing two or more of these symptoms. Painful sex – which can be caused by conditions such as vaginismus, endometriosis and lichen sclerosus, and hormonal changes – is also an issue for 7.5% of women.

Dr Leila Frodsham, consultant gynaecologist and lead for psychosexual services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, says women who have given birth within six months and those going through the perimenopause, are particularly susceptible to painful sex as a result of reduced oestrogen levels. But these groups can also “feel reluctant to talk about sex with their specialists,” so the issue may be even higher than suspected. “Some say that sexual difficulties are only relevant if they last for six months or longer… In reality, it can take longer than six months for most to access specialist help

Around a fifth of referrals to gynaecology clinics are for sexual pain, Dr Frodsham explains. “Women with sexual difficulties will most commonly be referred to gynaecologists. They are unlikely to have had specialist training in this area.”

Many women with sexual difficulties are learning to adapt their sex lives accordingly – by accepting that they won’t reach orgasm through intercourse because of anorgasmia, or by diverting their focus away from climax as an end goal entirely, for instance. But others are coming up with alternative ways to address the issue and improve understanding on women’s sexual experiences. Twenty-two-year-old Caroline Spiegel, the younger sister of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, last month launched a non-visual porn platform for women after experiencing sexual difficulties during her junior year at Stanford University, which arose from an eating disorder

“I started to do a lot of research into sexual dysfunction cures,” Spiegel told TechCrunch. “There are about 30 FDA-approved drugs for sexual dysfunction for men but zero for women, and that’s a big bummer.” In the absence of adequate medical help for women with problems in the bedroom, Spiegel hopes that Quinn, her platform of erotic stories and sexy audio clips, will inject some fleeting pleasure into their lives.

Others are breaking the taboo with comedy. Fran Bushe’s new musical comedy Ad Libido at London’s Soho Theatre, which runs from 7th-11th May after a sellout Edinburgh run last year, explores Bushe’s own experience of sexual dysfunction through her past and present sexual experiences – including men who offer their ‘magic penis’ to fix her, dubious remarks from medical professionals, dangerous remedies and gadgets, and even a sex camp that the writer attended “after feeling as if there was no help available,” as she told the Guardian recently</a

Some argue that the narrative about women’s sexual health has been hijacked by pharmaceutical companies to sell their products, and that given how common the symptoms of female sexual dysfunction are, the ‘condition’ shouldn’t be classed as a medical issue at all. “In contemporary sexual culture, it seems the line between dissatisfaction and dysfunction is increasingly blurred,” wrote journalist Sarah Hosseini last year.

“Women with any level of sexual decline or discontent have been cleverly convinced they are defective and need treatment. As such, feminists and clinicians have started to question the possibility that [female sexual dysfunction] was constructed by pharmaceutical companies through inflated epidemiology and our culture’s sexual illiteracy.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Netflix’s ‘Special’ Brings Disability and Gay Sex to the Forefront

Share
Ryan O’Connell, the show’s creator and star, discusses internalized ableism, the sex scene that was “his baby” and Grindr.

By Mathew Rodriguez

A simple matter of budget ended up making one of the most revolutionary queer stories on television. Ryan O’Connell, Will & Grace writer and author of the memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, was not attached to star in the show he’d write and create when he first pitched it. But O’Connell, who is gay and living with cerebral palsy, ended up being the cheapest option to star in the show and, thus, Special, which just dropped on Netflix, was born: a show created, written by, and starring a queer person living with a disability based on his own life story.

Disability representation is still pretty abysmal on television. According to GLAAD, though over 13% of Americans are living with a disability, only 2.1% of characters on primetime broadcast shows live with a disability — 18 characters in all. That’s actually the highest percentage GLAAD has recorded in its nine years of tracking, which hopefully points to an upward trend. But there’s still so far to go, and Special not only a pushes the meter in the right direction, it also addresses how queerness intersects..

It’s a point that people like deaf activist and model Nyle DiMarco has made again and again: there is not enough disabled representation when it comes to everything from children’s shows to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In October, DiMarco posted an ad from the CW on his Twitter that touted the network’s commitment to racial, sexual, gender, and ethnic diversity but, as DiMarco pointed out, made no mention of disability representation.

Special doesn’t only put queer people on screen, it centers their interior lives and deals with a host of thorny, complicated issues — all while eliciting big laughs. In the show,  O’Connell plays Ryan Kayes, a 20-something gay guy living with cerebral palsy who gets a job working at a millennial-centered site called EggWoke. (O’Connell himself used to write for Thought Catalog, so take from that what you will.)

In only eight, 15-minute episodes, a first for Netflix, the show tackles internalized ableism, queer disabled sexuality, sex work, gay monogamy, the exploitation of marginalized stories, Instagays, and more. Out caught up with O’Connell ahead of the show’s debut to discuss the disability spectrum, why pool party scenes feel so universal, and whether he feels pressure to represent the entire disabled community in one show.

Spoiler alert: Several plot points of Netflix’s Special are discussed in this interview

Very early in the series, you have a scene talking to your trainer about being on Grindr.  Did you feel like you waited a longer time to go on apps than other gay men?

I definitely looked at the apps. I have had a boyfriend for four years and I’m still on the apps, honey, hello, welcome to the future. But back in my single days, I remember I was on Grindr and I was on Scruff, but I would rarely meet up with someone because I just had anxiety. Are they going to notice I have a limp? Am I doing false advertising? It was a tricky thing to navigate. Because I felt like my disability wasn’t pronounced enough to make a difference. I felt like warning them about a limp was overkill, but I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had been duped. I was on the apps, but it would take a bottle of wine for me to invite someone over.

I really loved a conversation that your character has on the show about being disabled, but not being “very disabled,” like, let’s say, someone who operates with a wheelchair. Obviously, your show is a major step forward for disability representation on TV, but do you feel pressure for the show to represent a large swath of the disabled community?

It’s a lot of pressure because there has not been that much representation of disability, let alone form actual disabled people. I do know intellectually that it’s truly impossible for my show to speak for an entire population of people. It just can’t happen. So I feel like I have to write something that’s authentic to my experiences. And I feel like as you get more specificity, you get more universal. Hopefully Special opens the door for more disabled voices to tell their stories. I can’t speak for an entire population of people.

I don’t know if you’ve watched Shrill on Hulu yet, but just like Special, there’s a pool scene where the main character is confronted with their own body. What do you think it is about a pool setting that can be so emotionally fraught?

Well, I think the setting of the pool party is very relatable. I feel like everyone at some point in their lives has been invited to a pool party and has felt anxiety over taking off their clothes in front of a group of strangers, or even friends. I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling very self conscious about my body, not feeling good enough. All of the feelings Ryan [has] in the pool party episode are things that you relate to. I don’t know if i’ve ever been invited to a gay pool party, [but the idea is] so deeply triggering. I think I’d feel self conscious, especially one full of Instagays because they have these conventional, beautiful bodies and that’s definitely not mine. You can’t help but compare yourself. “Compare and despair,” that’s what they say. It’s hard. The relationship to the body is always evolving. It really depends on the day. Some days I’m like, :I love my body! I’m body positive!” And other days I’m like, “I’m literally a goblin.”

Watching your show coincided with me watching Shrill and then there was also an episode on Comedy Central’s The Other Two about Instagays. It seems like Instagays are having their cultural send-up moment.

Totally. There’s just a lot to mine there. Let’s be honest. It’s just a very very funny subculture of people. I don’t know any Instagays personally. I don’t know what they do for a living. God bless, but yeah, The Other Two is so brilliant. I love that show. It’s so smart and so funny.

Your character also deals with a season-long arc of internalized ableism and keeps his disability a secret. You lived that experience, then wrote about it in your memoir and now for your show. What is it like to live that experience but then translate it to the screen and have to access those feelings again?

I really enjoyed it actually. Because I think when I wrote the book, I was so unevolved in my  feelings about my disability and the fact that I had been closeted about it for the past six years. While it was cathartic to write about it in my book, I felt I had only scratched the surface and had only begun to understand what I had done to myself. Talking about it in the show was an amazing opportunity because I’ve learned so much about myself and when I was closeted and how it fucked me up on such a deep level.

I didn’t even know about internalized ableism when I wrote the book. And if I knew what it was, I wouldn’t even know that I suffered from it. I was beginning to unpack what being closeted about disability had done to me, I was just not there yet. So doing it in the show was just amazing because I feel like I have grown so much and I understand things much better than I did back then.

In the show, your character goes on a date with another disabled person and you kinda exit stage right. Did you ever find that ableism had stopped you from dating other disabled people?

Yeah, that actually happened to me in high school. There was this really cute deaf gay guy in my high school and he asked me out on Myspace or something. I remember being so grossed out like, “Who does he think he is that he can ask me out on a date and I’d say yes?” Meanwhile, I’m drooling on myself and limping away like “How dare you!?” Like, “I date able-bodied people only please!”

I thought I was justified in feeling that way. I had no idea how fucked up I was in feeling that way. I think it’s so fascinating and specific to the disabled community. But I think it’s specific outside of the disabled community in a larger way with gay men. Sometimes you have internalized homophobia and sometimes someone reminds you of the things you don’t like about yourself and it causes you to reject them.

There’s a conversation in Hollywood right now about people from marginalized communities being able to play themselves on screen. Was it always the plan for you that you would star in Special?

No, never. There was no discussion. When we first went out to the pitch, I was not attached to star. There was no one attached to star. We would talk about “Who do we get to play me?” and initially we went out with the pitch and we went to Stage 13, a digital branch within Warner Bros., but out of financial necessity, it was like, “We have no money, Ryan is very cheap, so welcome to Hollywood, honey!” So I was forced to play myself.

I was so scared of it. I never wanted to act, but now having done it, I’m so glad and I can’t imagine anyone else doing it. Looking back on it, I like performing. I was in high school plays and middle school, but I feel like I never gave myself to really want that. I was ashamed about it, like “I’m just a writer, I’m behind the scenes in Studio City in a writer’s room and that’s my journey.” Now, I feel like I do like to perform and I do like to act and that’s OK.

I really loved the plotline where your character has a positive experience with a sex worker. How important was it to show that kind of interaction, between a person living with a disability and someone who does sex work?

Well, that scene was really really important to me. That sex scene was my baby. I have been really frustrated about the lack of representation of gay sex in film and TV. I don’t understand why anal sex has not been normalized or depicted for what it is. You get Queer as Folk, really porny, or you don’t get anything at all. So I knew when I was starting the season that I wanted to have an honest sex scene and I also had an experience with a sex worker that has been so amazing and I wanted to create a scene that was also pro-sex work.

I also wanted to make sure that Ryan losing his virginity was a nice, tender scene and that I was not traumatized. I felt that that was very important. When something is so common in your life and you don’t see it every in TV or film, I get really frustrated. I’m like, “Why is this so groundbreaking? This is something that tons of people experience!”

And the scene also actually featured lube, which gay sex scenes never feature lube!

Yeah, I think that was actually the addition of my gay producer. I think that was my producer being like, “He should definitely have lube!” Lube is obviously a very essential part of gay sex. Can’t leave home without it!

So, I’ve worked in digital media for a while and I see a lot of the same culture at EggWoke [the fictional site where Ryan works in Special] that I’ve seen in a lot of digital media. They want you to harvest your deepest, darkest parts of yourself for clicks. What advice would you give writers who are living with a disability or marginalized in any way who might be pressured to tell their stories when they’re not ready?

My advice is don’t do it. I know that when I started writing for the internet, I was in such a hungry, desperate place, that I was like, “I’ll write about anything! I have no boundaries! I need a career.” And then over time, like six months, I realized that that was not a place to be, emotionally prostituting yourself for two dollars. You have to really create boundaries and realize what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not ready, you have to say you’re not ready to talk about this. Do something else: sell your sperm, do foot fetish work. That has more integrity than exploiting yourself.

You also try to show the awkwardness that can happen when a disabled person and a non-disabled person try to have sex. What advice would give you non-disabled people who want to talk to someone with a disability on apps?

I don’t know if I’ve ever been in that position. I’m trying to think. I didn’t really date. I need to say that a million times. I was single for many, many years and I think it was because of scenarios like you just said. I was so fearful of talking about my disability. So, what I will say is through my coming out of the disability closet — usually no one cares about the things you care about as much as you do. When it comes to getting laid, in my experience, once you’re there, no one gives a shit. It’s just like, “Let’s do it!” So be comfortable and confident and if for whatever reason the person is not receptive, if anyone has some sort on unsavory reaction to your disability then say, “Goodbye and good luck with your fucking projects!”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Demystifying the internal condom

Share

A guide for anyone whose sex life demands options

By Elizabeth Entenman

Getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be scary. But regular STD and STI testing is an important part of your sexual health. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018, STD rates have continued to increase for four consecutive years. From 2013 to 2017, gonorrhea cases increased by 67% and syphilis cases nearly doubled.

April is STD Awareness Month, and now is a good time to get tested and learn more about your prevention options. When you think of prevention methods, regular latex condoms probably come to mind first. But you should also know about the internal condom (formerly the female condom). It’s an easy-to-use alternative that we think everyone should consider including in their sexual repertoire.

We spoke with Julia Bennett, director of learning strategy for education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, about internal condoms. Bennett explained what internal condoms are, how they help protect against STIs, and how they’re different from regular condoms. Here are answers to some common questions you might have.

What is an internal condom?

“Internal condoms (formerly known as ‘female condoms’) are an alternative to regular (external) condoms. They provide great protection from both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. However, instead of going on a penis or sex toy, internal condoms go inside either the vagina (for vaginal sex) or anus (for anal sex). People of any gender can use them for vaginal or anal sex. To use an internal condom for anal sex, simply take the inside ring out.”

How do internal condoms work?

“Internal condoms are made of nitrile (a type of soft plastic). They create a barrier between people’s genitals during anal or vaginal sex. This barrier stops sperm and egg from meeting, which prevents pregnancy. It also helps prevent STIs from spreading. Internal condoms put up a barrier, so you don’t come in contact with each other’s semen (cum), pre-cum, or genital skin, all of which can spread STIs. But you do have to use them every time you have sex, from start to finish, for them to work.”

Can anyone use an internal condom?

“Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) renamed the internal condom, as it was previously known as the ‘female condom.’ The FDA moved the internal condom from a Class 3 medical device to a Class 2 medical device—the same as other condoms. This change will help make internal condoms easier to access in the future. The reclassification also underscores their versatility—anyone can use them, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

How effective are internal condoms?

“Internal condoms are really good at preventing both STIs and pregnancy. About 21 out of 100 people who use internal condoms for birth control get pregnant each year. If you use them from start to finish every time you have vaginal sex, they can work even better. Keep in mind that you can get even more pregnancy prevention powers by using internal condoms along with another birth control method (like the pill or IUD). That way you’ve got protection from STIs, and double protection from pregnancy.”

What are the benefits of using internal condoms?

“There are a lot of benefits to internal condoms:

They help prevent STIs. Condoms, including internal condoms, are the only method of birth control that also protects against STIs.

They may feel more comfortable. Some people find internal condoms more comfortable than other condoms since they don’t fit snugly around a penis. They may feel even more comfortable (and pleasurable) if you use water or silicone-based lube, too. [Editor’s note: Internal condoms are a great option for those whose penises are larger than standard- or large-size condoms.]

They’re latex-free. This makes them a great option for people allergic to latex.

• They can increase sexual pleasure. During vaginal sex, the internal condom’s inner ring may stimulate the tip of the penis, and the external ring can rub against the vulva and clitoris. That little something extra can feel great for both partners. You can also insert the internal condom before sex, so that you don’t have any interruptions.”

Are there any disadvantages to using them?

“You need to use an internal condom every time you have sex, which may be hard for some people to stick to. You also have to be sure to put them on correctly. They also may take some getting used to, if you/your partner are new to them. Practice inserting them, or even make it a part of foreplay by having your partner insert it.”

Where can you buy an internal condom?

“While the recent reclassification will hopefully lead to easier access in the future, right now internal condoms can sometimes be a little hard to find. Currently, the only brand available in the U.S. is the FC2 Internal Condom. It’s available online at the FC2 Internal Condom website, at many Planned Parenthood health centers, family planning and health clinics, and by prescription in drugstores. Some health centers may provide them for free. Otherwise, internal condoms cost about $2-3 each if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost. They’re usually sold in packs of 12.”

If you use an internal condom, should you still use a regular condom, too?

“There’s no need to double up on condoms, no matter what kind of condom it is. One is all you need. Each kind of condom is designed to be used on its own, and doubling up will not give you extra protection.”

What’s a big misconception around internal condoms that isn’t actually true?

“There are so many kinds of condoms to choose from to meet the needs of you and your partner. Trying different kinds can be a fun way to help you find what works best for the both of you. And contrary to popular myth, condoms don’t ruin the mood—people who use condoms rate their sexual experiences as just as pleasurable as people who don’t. Using any type of condom, including the internal condom, is a good way to lower stress and focus more on having a fun, pleasurable sex life. In fact, many people say they find sex more enjoyable when they use condoms because they aren’t worrying about STIs or unwanted pregnancy.”

What should you tell your partner if they don’t want to use a condom?

“If your partner doesn’t want to use a condom, ask why. That can help start an honest conversation about your health. Sometimes it’s about finding the right type of condom, using condoms along with lube, or explaining why you want to use them. Stress that your health (and your partner’s health) is your priority—and that sex without protection is not an option. Then decide who will get the condoms, and make a plan to use them every time, the whole time you’re having sex.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Talking about safe sex is the best foreplay

Share

College students need to prioritize safe sex and educate themselves on STIs

By Payton Saso

Most people learned about the basics of sex education growing up — or at least heard the slogan “wrap it before you tap it.” Yet it seems college students have forgotten this slogan and are not practicing safe sex.

Women, when having male partners, are often expected to be on a method of birth control, and while many women rely on birth control — some 60% — that is not the only concern for both partners when having sex.

For some sexual partners, the idea of safe sex may be directly correlated with being on the pill, and many forget pregnancy isn’t the only risk of unsafe sex. But sexually transmitted infections are a risk for all parties engaging in sexual activities, and college-aged people are at higher risk of contracting these types of diseases.

Since this age group is at the most risk, it is important for them to practice all forms of safe sex, which means consistently using condoms and other forms of contraceptives.

Many people choose not use condoms in long-term relationships because they know their partner’s sexual history and have been previously tested. But in college, sexual experiences are more than often outside of relationships and sexual history is not discussed. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about STIs found that, “Young women (ages 15-24) account for nearly half (45 percent) of reported cases and face the most severe consequences of an undiagnosed infection.”

A study from researchers Elizabeth M. Farrington, David C. Bell and Aron E. DiBacco looked into the reasons why people reject condoms and stated that, “Many reported objections to condom use seem to be related to anticipated reductions in pleasure and enjoyment, often through ‘ruining the moment’ or ‘inhibiting spur of the moment sex.’”

Taking a few seconds to put on a condom is not something that will ruin the experience, especially if it means protecting yourself from STIs, considering some infections are life-threatening.

Protection does not always mean using a condom, and even condoms must be used properly to prevent risk of tear. Planned Parenthood stated, “It’s also harder to use condoms correctly and remember other safer sex basics when you’re drunk or high.”

In same sex relationships, protection is just as important. Research found that, “Among women, a gay identity was associated with decreased risk while among men, a gay identity among behaviorally bisexual males was associated with increased STI risk.”

Condoms might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about protection, but there are many other options for birth control that can help prevent contracting a STI, and it’s important to talk with your partner about which method or methods with which you’re both comfortable.

Dr. Candace Black, a lecturer at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, just finished conducting research on the practices of safe sex and said that often the lack of condom usage comes from a lack of sexual education.

“I don’t have data on this so it is anecdotal, young women are really targeted for sex education when it does occur and so it attributes to ideas like (they are more exposed to ideas like) STIs, condom use and birth control. I think collectively we spend a lot of time teaching young girls about sex education and prevention, which I think is wonderful,” Black said. “I have not observed a parallel effort for young men. And so in my observation, again this is just kind of anecdotal, the young men don’t have the same kind of sex education as far as risk factors, as far as pregnancy as far as all of that. There is a gender disparity as far as access to sex education.”

According to the American Addiction Center, when someone’s inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol, many are “at risk for an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy or for contracting a sexually transmitted (STD) or infectious disease.”

“You have to look beyond the current circumstances of people and consider access to sexual education which is seriously lacking in a lot of places, and in particular Arizona. The sex education isn’t great,” Black said. “There are various nonprofits that try and fill that service gap and provide adolescents and kids with sex education, but there is still a significant need.”

Not properly educating young people on the risk factors surrounding unsafe sex leads to these problems in the future when students are given more freedom in college. This often results in students not prioritizing thorough sexual health, but it should be on the minds of all sexually active students.

In the long run, it’s easier — and safer — to have sex with a condom than to deal with all the repercussions that can come from not using one.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Sex ed video for teens shatters myths about sexuality and disability

Share

The internet has changed how kids learn about sex, but sex ed in the classroom still sucks. In Sex Ed 2.0, Mashable explores the state of sex ed and imagines a future where digital innovations are used to teach consent, sex positivity, respect, and responsibility.

By Rebecca Ruiz

Sex ed in the U.S. is often a hot mess. Teens regularly get medically inaccurate information, learn solely about abstinence, and hear only bad things about LGBTQ identity and sexuality.

Young people with disabilities can feel particularly invisible in classroom sex ed lessons, since the content typically doesn’t reflect their experience. Meanwhile, some teens may assume their peers with disabilities have no interest in sex or sexuality at all.

This new video from AMAZE, a YouTube sex ed series for adolescents and teens, takes on and then shatters the stereotypes and misconceptions about disability and sexuality.

The clip features a young character who uses a wheelchair and the pronouns they/them. They share with an inquisitive friend that yes, they are interested in dating, and yes, their “parts work just fine.” (It’s important to note that while the direct questions help start an educational dialogue in the video, young people shouldn’t similarly quiz their friends with disabilities.)

The candid conversation covers gender identity, sexual orientation, healthy relationships, and the specific challenges people with disabilities can face while trying to date. In just three short minutes, the video scores wins for representation, inclusion, and education.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Sexual satisfaction among older people about more than just health

Share

Communication and being in a happy relationship, along with health, are important for sexual satisfaction among older people, according to new research published in PLOS ONE.

Sexual expression is increasingly recognised as important throughout the life course, in maintaining relationships, promoting self-esteem and contributing to health and well-being. Although are being urged to be more proactive in helping achieve a satisfying sex life, there is a distinct lack of evidence to help guide practitioners.

Led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the University of Glasgow and UCL, the study is one of the first to look at how health, lifestyle and relationship factors can affect sexual activity and satisfaction in later life, and examine how people respond and deal with the consequences.

The researchers carried out a mixed methods study combining from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) and in-depth interviews with older men and women. Out of nearly 3,500 people aged between 55-74, the survey found that one in four men and one in six women reported having a health problem that affected their sex life. Among this group, women were less likely than men to be sexually active in the previous six months (54 percent vs 62 percent) but just as likely to be satisfied with their sex life (42 percent vs 42 percent).

Follow up interviews with a sample of participants revealed that older people found it difficult to separate the effects of declining health from those of increasing age. Ill health impacted sexual activity in many ways but most crucially it influenced whether individuals had a partner with whom to have sex. Some older people were more accepting of not having a sex life than others.

For those in a relationship, was strongly associated with both the quality of communication with their partner and contentment with their relationship. The impact of health issues was not always negative; some men and women found themselves having to experiment with new ways of being sexually active and their sex lives improved as a result.

Natsal-3 is the largest scientific study of sexual health and lifestyles in Britain. Conducted by LSHTM, UCL and NatCen Social Research, the studies have been carried out every 10 years since 1990, and have involved interviews with more than 45,000 people to date.

Bob Erens, lead author and Associate Professor at LSHTM, said: “Looking at the impact of health on sexual activity and satisfaction as we age is important, however few studies have examined the between the two.

“Health can affect an individual’s sex life in various ways, from having or finding a partner, to physical and psychological limitations on sexual expression.

“We identified that not many people who reported experiencing problems or lack of satisfaction sought help. Although this could be an individual choice or because of a perceived lack of support, it is vital that individuals feel able to make enquiries with health care professionals. In particular, discussing problems can often lead to identification of underlying medical conditions.”

Although some individuals the research team spoke to were not affected by not being sexually active, it seemed to be important that health professionals make sensitive enquiries for patients who might want to access help, which can lead to significant improvements in their wellbeing and quality of life.

Kirstin Mitchell, co-author and Senior Research Fellow in Social Relationships and Health Improvement at the University of Glasgow, said: “We’re seeing numerous, interconnected factors influencing sexual activity in older people. Not being in good health can influence mood, mobility and whether a person has a partner, which in turn impact on . Medication taken for health conditions often compounds the problem.

“The study findings suggest that pharmacological approaches, like Viagra, do not always help to resolve sexual difficulties, which need to be seen in the wider context of ‘s lives.”

The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study, including that Natsal had an upper age limit of 74 years, and so the study is unable to describe the sexual health and wellbeing of people at older ages.

Natsal-3 is the largest and most comprehensive study of sexual attitudes and lifestyles in the world, and is a major source of data informing sexual and reproductive health policy in Britain.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Why Pregnant Couples Should Totally Have Sex

Share

(And How To Do It Well!)

By Julia Guerra

A survey issued by the parenting website ChannelMum back in 2017 found that, on average, couples will have sex 78 times in a matter of six months (that’s 13 times per month) before they conceive. But what happens after they score a positive on the stick? Do they stop, for lack of a better word, scoring in the bedroom?

In life, and in pregnancy, it’s important to listen to your body and honor its needs. This includes any sexual desires that may (and usually do) arise. Of course, if you aren’t comfortable having sex while you’re pregnant, that’s perfectly fine. But while pregnancy is a lot of things, it doesn’t have to be a celibacy sentence.

The stigma around pregnant sex.

It’s one thing to put physical intimacy on pause if it’s uncomfortable or harmful to the mother, or if someone in the relationship feels genuinely uncomfortable having pregnant sex. However, there’s nothing inherently “dirty” or “wrong” about having sex while pregnant. But according to Sofia Jawed-Wessel, Ph.D., MPH, sex researcher and co-director of the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the taboo pitted on pregnant sex isn’t directed at the sex itself but rather at pregnant women having sex. 

“Our culture has a difficult time juxtaposing motherhood and sexiness without fetishizing—without objectifying the pregnant person,” Jawed-Wessel explains in an interview with mbg. “We have a difficult time seeing the pregnant person as a whole person beyond their pregnancy.”

It all comes back to the “why,” she says. In other words: Why is a pregnant woman having sex?

If it’s to meet her own sexual needs, a pregnant woman pursuing sex is often seen as an “aggressor,” as selfish. If it’s to meet the man’s needs, that’s another story, Jawed-Wessel says. “If [a pregnant woman is] having sex not for her own pleasure but for her partner’s, because nine months is a long time for men to be celibate, then we understand. If she’s partnered with a woman, well, we won’t even acknowledge that!”

How attitudes about pregnant sex can affect an expecting couple’s sex life.

In her most recent study, Jawed-Wessel and her team of researchers followed 116 couples in which one partner was between eight to 12 weeks pregnant. Researchers asked participants to complete four surveys over the course of three months, with questions focusing on their attitude toward sex before pregnancy, their attitude toward sex during pregnancy, how often they were having sex (with their partner and/or solo), sexual activities that gave them the most and least satisfaction, and so on.

The cross-sectional study, published last month in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that a couple’s attitude toward pregnant sex could actually affect their overall sexual satisfaction. Partners who shared a positive attitude toward pregnant sex were more satisfied overall than couples who went into the experiment with reservations toward pregnant sex.

Jawed-Wessel says a negative attitude toward pregnant sex can be a reflection of one or all of the following:

1. They’re choosing to believe pregnant sex myths over their doctor’s advice.

Jawed-Wessel says experts are seeing a “disconnect” between what the doctor prescribes and the negative attitudes couples have about pregnant sex because of myths about the potential risk of either compromising the pregnancy or harming the fetus directly.

For the record, there is little evidence to prove sex can induce a miscarriage, and experts say it’s highly unlikely. Doctors do suggest patients with very specific medical issues—such as placenta previa (when the placenta covers all or part of the uterus), and cervical insufficiency (when a woman’s cervix is weak and dilates too early in the pregnancy)—abstain from sex during their pregnancy. For the average pregnant person who isn’t experiencing a high-risk or abnormal pregnancy? As long as your doctor says it’s safe, you’re good to go.

And yet many couples are still apprehensive or just unable to shake off the fear of doing damage to their future baby.

2. Societally speaking, women are desexualized when they become pregnant.

As Jawed-Wessel points out, most cultures—definitely America’s—view motherhood as a kind of pure, moral, and exclusively family-oriented state, whereas having sex still carries overtones of being immoral or selfish. Even if they don’t recognize it, some men buy into this sexist dichotomy and struggle to find their partner sexually desirable during pregnancy, seeing their partner transitioning from “lover” to “mother.” It’s not about the physical bump or even the baby per se (though it may be the case for some men); it’s more about that psychological shift taking place in how they’re viewing their partner.

3. They’re viewing vaginal intercourse as the end-all-be-all of physical intimacy.

Most straight people tend to think sex needs to involve vaginal intercourse. Of course, there are numerous sexual behaviors and experiences that a couple can explore that have nothing to do with penetration, but because couples fall into a routine, they lose that sense of adventure and mystery in the bedroom. Then when pregnancy comes along and makes P-in-V intercourse perhaps less accessible or comfortable, they assume that means sex can’t happen.

What should sex look like for pregnant couples?

According to the team’s findings, sexual satisfaction during pregnancy was extremely contextual for each couple and for each individual partner. The paper outlines that kissing, intercourse, and using sex toys as a couple all led to more sexual satisfaction. But some sexual acts didn’t bring as much joy: For instance, men experienced high levels satisfaction using toys alone (likely while masturbating) and low levels of satisfaction from vaginal fingering (maybe because they couldn’t get off from it, the researchers posit). Women reported the opposite: They were most satisfied through vaginal fingering and actually less satisfied when they used sex toys on their own (perhaps because it was a last resort when they weren’t being satisfied by their partners, the researchers say).

Clearly there wasn’t one overarching solution to being sexually satisfied while pregnant, and more sex didn’t necessarily correspond to being more sexually satisfied. Specific sex acts were more enjoyable for some partners than for others. That being said, the researchers’ model showed one common thread: The more positive of an attitude a couple had toward pregnancy sex, the more sexually satisfied they felt overall.

Sexual satisfaction is important for a healthy relationship—yes, even for soon-to-be parents.

“Pregnancy does not suddenly leave a couple void of sexual needs,” Jawed-Wessel and her team write in their paper. “Sex is important to individuals and their relationships, and pregnant people and their partners are no exception. Relationship satisfaction has been frequently linked to sexual satisfaction among the general population, and pregnant individuals follow a similar pattern.”

They add that pregnant women also experience unique benefits from being satisfied with the state of their sex life and relationship: “Pregnant women with higher relationship satisfaction have also been found to be more positive about their upcoming role as a mother and experience less maternal emotional distress.”

In a recent edition of her newsletter, sex researcher and educator Dr. Zhana Vrangalova emphasized why it’s so important for couples not to lose sight of their sex lives due to a pregnancy: “I know that sex during and post-pregnancy may feel strange, or different, or awkward. But I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the health and quality of your relationship to maintain your sexual connection during this time. The longer you go without it, the harder and weirder it’s going to be to come back to it and reconnect in that way.”

Her advice?

“If you’re the one pregnant, give yourself the right to be a sexual being, and revel in your new body. A lot of women report that pregnancy sex was the best sex they’ve ever had!” she writes. “And if you’re the partner of someone who’s pregnant, please work on overcoming the harmful myths and negative feelings about pregnancy sex you’ve internalized, and make your partner feel beautiful, sexy, sexual, and desired.”

Communication is key.

Of course, this isn’t meant to put pressure on couples to do what they’re just not feeling. If a couple or partner just doesn’t want to have sex for whatever reason, Jawed-Wessel says there is nothing wrong with pushing pause. But she stresses: Communication is key.

“We see partners making assumptions or jumping to conclusions on what the other is thinking, and this is never good,” Jawed-Wessel explains. “[Pregnancy] can be a time to really explore each other’s sexuality and come to a closer understanding of one another so that when both partners are ready to push play again, it is easier to navigate and relearn each other’s needs and wants.”

As long as both partners have an open line of communication flowing and are being honest about their needs, Jawed-Wessel tells mbg, “there is no reason for sex or lack of sex during pregnancy to be harmful to either partner.” It’s only if either partner feels unsatisfied, or if the woman feels as though her partner does not find her sexually desirable, that may cause an issue.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., sex researcher and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University–Bloomington, tells mbg that ultimately the importance of sexual intimacy during pregnancy will depend on the couple. For some, keeping things fresh in the bedroom during pregnancy is a priority. For others, sex is put on the back burner. “[New parents] have bigger fish to fry, focusing on staying and feeling healthy, caring for their pregnancy, getting things for their baby, napping more, doctors’ appointments, etc.,” Herbenick says. But she does suggest pursuing physical closeness in other ways: “Those who abstain [from penetrative sex] might find [satisfaction] connecting to kiss and cuddle to nurture intimacy.”

Overall, navigating the ways in which you and your partner can stay sexually satisfied during pregnancy is a personal process. As long as your medical provider gives you the OK, try your best to home in on how this experience can enhance your sex life and bring you closer, not only as new parents but as a couple. By keeping the communication flowing and maintaining a positive attitude, satisfaction will come—in and outside the bedroom.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

How to Talk to Your Partner About Getting Tested With Minimal Weirdness

Share

It’s possible! (And smart.)

By Kasandra Brabaw

You’re pressed against the wall of a new date’s apartment as they kiss your neck and reach to undo your pants. Every atom in your body is ready for more, but then your brain kicks in: Shit. We haven’t talked about STIs yet.

Or perhaps it happens when you’re on cloud nine after defining your new relationship. You’ve gone over whether or not you want kids, proper toilet paper orientation, basically everything except sexually transmitted infections. It’s the only nagging thought dampening your excitement.

As much as you’d like to tell your brain to shut up in these moments, discussing STIs with sexual partners is essential for taking care of your health, even if it does seem incredibly awkward.

Here’s why you need to have the talk.

Ideally, you’d talk about STIs before having sex with any new partners. But we live in the real world and we know that that’s not necessarily the norm. So why is that? You might tell yourself it’s fine to skip this talk. Who wants to talk about your last STI test or that time five years ago that an ex gave you chlamydia? Can’t you just assume that this person would mention it if there was something to bring up? Your last STI check was all clear. You have condoms. It’s all probably fine, right? Listen, we understand the urge to completely ignore this topic.

Ultimately, having this conversation is about sexual health, but there’s a cultural bias that feels like you’re in some way accusing someone if you bring up STIs,” Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist in New York, tells SELF. “There’s still a lot of stigma.”

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you are not accusing someone of being promiscuous or dishonest by asking them about their STI status. Anyone can get STIs and many come with absolutely zero symptoms. Assuming “Oh, he would tell me if he had an STI” assumes that they got tested recently, which may not be something you’ve discussed yet. Likewise, assuming “I’m sure she doesn’t have an STI” is most likely completely baseless—you cannot infer STI status from anything other than an actual test

So, yes, you need to have this talk—even if you’ve already had sex with this person. The rates of many sexually transmitted infections are on the rise for various reasons. And while medications can clear up STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, others, like herpes and HIV, are incurable.

That doesn’t mean getting an STI has to devastate your life. Even STIs that aren’t curable are often manageable with the correct treatment, and people with these conditions can still lead full, happy, sex-filled lives. But trying to avoid STIs, especially those transmitted via bodily fluids, is generally easier than dealing with them after the fact. That’s why talking about STIs with your sexual partner (or partners) is so critical.

The way you bring up STIs depends largely on the status of your relationship. Of course, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how you do this. All the advice in the world doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be a little awkward. But here are some tips that may help.

If it’s at the moment before sex with a new person:

can pause that up-against-the-wall moment to ask if your partner has been tested for STIs and what the results were. But at this point, you don’t really know them well enough to do much with that information.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. The way they respond to this question can be a great litmus test. But unless you know for sure that your partner recently got tested and hasn’t had sex with anyone else since then, operate under the assumption that they might have an STI and that you should have the safest sex possible. That may mean using a condom, a dental dam, or both. (Remember that these barrier methods don’t protect against all STIs, since some, like herpes and HPV, can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact.)

You can ask your partner if they have these barrier methods around or pull one out yourself. If they question you or protest, Fleming suggests saying something like, “Since we haven’t gotten tested together, we definitely need to use a [barrier method].”

This is also a great way to lay the groundwork if you think you’ll have sex with this person again. “The assumption is that you’re going to be tested eventually,” Fleming says.

If you’ve been seeing someone and want to get tested before having sex:

Tosin Goje, M.D., an ob/gyn at the Cleveland Clinic, says that she often sees women who want to be screened before having sex in a new relationship. “You should have a conversation with your partner and have them screened also,” Dr. Goje tells SELF.

Although bringing this up at all is great, it might be best to do it in a non-sexual context when both of you are thinking clearly. If you’re a little freaked out to mention it, admit that. You can say something like, “I’m nervous to talk to you about this, but it seems like we might have sex soon, and it’s important to me that we get tested for STIs first

As an alternative, you can get tested and kick things off by sharing your results. This can make it clear that you’re not judging or shaming your partner by bringing up STI testing. It’s just a normal part of having sex with a new person. Fleming suggests saying something like, “Since it seems like we’re going to have sex soon, I decided to go get tested. When did you last get tested?”

If you’ve had sex with them already:

Maybe you’ve been using condoms and/or dental dams up until this point, but now you want to stop. If you don’t know what to say, keep it simple: “If we’re going to stop using condoms/dental dams, we need to go get tested. Just to be safe

Perhaps you got caught up in the moment, had unprotected sex, and are wondering if it’s OK to just make that your M.O. with this person. In that case, try, “I know we haven’t been using protection, but if we’re going to keep doing that, we should get tested so that we can really enjoy it safely.”

Again, it might be easiest to have these kinds of conversations when you’re not right on the brink of sex. And if you’re going to be having unprotected sex with someone, you should talk about not having unprotected sex with other people, too.

What if they aren’t receptive?

We’d hope that everyone would be open to discussing sexual health with someone they’re about to have sex with. But since STI stigma is real, even someone who’s otherwise a total catch might be confused or offended. Hopefully they’ll come around quickly once you discuss why it’s important to you.

“If you ultimately explain that this is non-negotiable and they still say no, then you may want to question if this is the right partner for you,” Fleming says. “If they’re not thinking about…what you need to be comfortable, that’s a red flag.”

Katie M., 32, knows this all too well. Soon after she graduated from college, she started dating someone new. The first few times they saw each other, they made out, but eventually things got more heated, Katie tells SELF. When they were on the verge of having sex, she said, “I’m fine with sex, but we both need to get tested before that happens.” But her partner pushed back, saying that they should just trust each other.

If you find yourself in this situation, Fleming suggests saying something like, “I’ve never received this reaction before. Can you tell me why you’re so against getting tested?” You can also explain that trust has nothing to do with it if you haven’t been tested recently, and that you’re trying to look out for their health, too

For various reasons, Katie stopped seeing that partner soon after their STI discussion. Seven months later, she met the man who eventually became her husband. They were dating long-distance and hadn’t yet had sex when he made plans to stay with her over Thanksgiving. “I told him that if we were going to have sex while he was there, we both needed to get tested,” she says. He had an STI report from his doctor in his suitcase the day he got off the plane.

What if either one of you tests positive?

You may expect to have celebratory sex immediately after you both get your test results. But if one of you tests positive for an STI, you should ask your doctor what the diagnosis means for your sex life. You might need to abstain while completing a round of antibiotics, for instance. If you’ve already had sex with this person, it would be worth having a conversation about whether or not they should be tested and treated, too.

Opening up to your partner about having an STI can be unnerving, but it won’t necessarily be the disaster you might imagine. Carly S., a 26-year-old with genital herpes, has been there. Herpes never fully goes away, even if you take antiviral medications to help prevent outbreaks and lower the odds of spreading the virus.

When Carly started dating after breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, she knew she’d have to tell potential partners about having herpes. She worried that it would torpedo budding relationships, but the first guy she told simply responded “Okay,” and that was that.

“I know it’s not a big deal [to have an STI], but it was kind of like validation [that] not everyone is going to think I’m gross,” Carly tells SELF.

When Carly stopped seeing that partner and brought up her STI status to a different man, he also didn’t judge her. He said, “That sucks that that happened to you.” They’re still dating today.

Bottom line: An STI does not need to ruin your life, sexually or otherwise. “It’s not who you are; it’s just a thing you have,” Fleming says. “You need to take care of yourself and your partners, but it in no way defines you, who you are, or what you can offer as a partner.”

Also keep in mind that if you and a new partner get tested together, the prospect that one of you has an STI is already on the table. That might make it even more likely that you’ll receive the nonchalance Carly encountered. So might sharing enough medical context to explain why your specific STI isn’t the end of the world, like how long treatment will last or what medications you’ll be starting to lower the chances of spreading the infection.

Remember: You got this.

Anyone who treats you poorly for talking about STIs (or having one) probably isn’t worth it. Whether you are bringing up STI tests or the fact that you have an STI, there’s always a chance that someone might respond cruelly, ghost you, or do something else along those rude lines.

It’s their right to decide who they do and don’t want to have sex with. But if someone treats you poorly over taking responsibility for your sexual health, they’re likely not a great partner to have in the first place.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

How to Reignite Your Sex Life After Going Through Cancer

Share

Your body will feel different. These tips can help.

By

After cancer, bodies and relationships change. In fact, many men find their sex lives look and feel different from their pre-cancer days. Although you may feel embarrassed or nervous to open up to your partner about sexual changes, talking about post-cancer intimacy can help you re-envision your body and your relationship. These tips can help pave the way for establishing a new sex life after a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Start talking early

Although it seems like physical contact is one of the most important parts of intimacy, the truth is that communication is essential for establishing and igniting closeness. Remember, there’s no one way affection should look, and previous relationship expectations can be difficult to maintain during cancer recovery.

For men in particular, sexual function changes can manifest as shifts in desire, the impacted ability to get or maintain an erection, or even delayed or dry ejaculation. Instead of withdrawing and avoiding intimacy or affection, I advise my patients at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) to talk with their partner right when they’re diagnosed to start the dialogue about possible changes in your sex life. Before you go into surgery or start therapy, have a conversation about your sexual self-esteem and identity as a sexual person. You and your partner can check in with each other a few months later to see how you’re both feeling about your sexual self-identity and work on identifying a new vision of intimacy in your relationship.

And it’s not just your partner you should be talking to—communication is equally important between you and your doctor. Going through cancer can change your sex life, but that doesn’t mean your doctor has covered all the sexual function differences you may notice. If you notice sexual functioning changes, talking with your doctor can open up the possibilities of personalized treatment options. By speaking up and asking questions, you can better establish a healthy approach to reclaiming your sexual identity.

“Date” your partner again

Partnership is a key part of any relationship, and should be just as important after diagnosis. During cancer, relationships can transition from partner/partner to patient/caregiver, and returning to old “norms” can be challenging. A good way to approach this is to continue to date your partner throughout treatment. By dreaming together or going out to eat, you can help refocus your relationship around things that aren’t related to cancer. You can also try scheduling time for intimacy and affection, which can help rekindle intimacy found in partnership. Try to take your time and get to know each other again.

Redefine intimacy

After treatment, sexual desire can wane. A lot of things can impact desire including hormonal changes, pre-occupation/focus changes, decreased self-esteem/confidence, and mental health issues (e.g., anxiety or depression). Remember, intimacy might not happen spontaneously and might not involve sex at all. Try playing to other strengths and learning to perfect new types of intimacy—not every sexual interaction requires an erection or an orgasm. If your goal is satisfaction, it’s important to note that men can still reach orgasm without an erection and the penis itself can still experience sensation. There are many ways to feel pleasure, these just might not look the exact same as they did before diagnosis. Remember you’re in charge of defining what you want intimacy to be—it can even be as simple as connection.

The sexual side effects that you may experience from cancer can happen to anyone—cancer treatment just speeds up the process. Normalizing and understanding issues of intimacy after cancer is just one step you can take to acknowledge habits or preconceptions that may be harmful. Sex doesn’t have to be a certain way to be fun and exciting. With these guidelines, you can work on re-establishing intimacy and gaining newfound confidence post-cancer.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

When Sex Workers Do the Labor of Therapists

Share

BY Carrie Weisman

Sky is a professional escort. She’s been working at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel located in Pahrump, Nevada, for a little under a year. A few months back, a man came in asking for a group session with Sky, who prefers to be identified by her professional name, and one of her colleagues. He had come around a few times before. He made it a point to keep in touch through Twitter. This time, however, the session took a dark turn. He came in to tell them he was planning on killing himself.

“We see a lot of clients who have mental health issues,” she tells In These Times. Though, this experience was markedly more dramatic than her usual run in with clients who going through a depressive episode. She and her colleague were eventually able to talk the guy down. They sent him home with a list full of resources that specialize in matters of depression. They asked that he continue to check in with them through social media. 

Research suggests that upwards of 6 million men are affected by depression every year. Suicide remains the seventh leading cause of death among men in America. While it’s impossible to gauge exactly what percentage of that demographic frequents sex workers, the experiences of those in the field can offer some insight. During Sky’s last tour at the Ranch, she scheduled about seven appointments. Out of those bookings, only one involved sex. “We do a lot of companionship and intimacy parties,” she says. “The clients who sign up for those bookings are the ones struggling with loneliness.” 

And people with depression aren’t the only neurodivergent individuals sex workers encounter on the job. Those suffering from anxiety, a common accompaniment to depression, show up frequently. They also see a lot of people who fall on the autistic spectrum. In fact, Sky says she sees men who fall into the latter demographic relatively often. 

Sky first got her start in the industry working as a professional dominatrix. While she has since pivoted her position in the industry, she’s found ways to incorporate that expertise into life at the brothel. Sure, she offers standard escort services, but she also books sessions dedicated to BDSM, an acronym that can be broken down into three sub categories: Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission and Sadism/Masochism. Each dynamic refers to a specific form impact play that participants can find deeply pleasurable. That kind of tactile experience, she suspects, might offer a certain special appeal to men with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). And she might be right.

Among the many symptoms of those diagnosed with ASD is a resistance to physical contact. According to the CDC, early signs of the disorder may present in the form of an aversion to touch. At the same time, touch is an important sensation to experience. A lack thereof can lead to loneliness, depression and even a more secondary immune system. Researchers have determined that therapies designed to nurture regular sensory integration can help in this regard. 

Goddess Aviva, who also prefers to be referred to by her professional name, is a lifestyle and professional dominatrix based in New York City. Like Sky, she sees a good amount of clients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and also men dealing with depression and anxiety. She takes certain measures to screen clients. After all, violence against sex workers is an ongoing issue in the United States, and the wavering legality of the trade doesn’t exactly help combat the issue. In the wake of new federal legislation that has largely kicked sex workers offline, and with them, the ability to vet clients from afar, sex workers must be more vigilant than ever about whom they decide to take on. The clients who are neurodivergent or live with mental health conditions don’t seem to be the ones sex workers are worried about.

“You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to be a shitty person, and some of my clients who do deal with mental illness are wonderful, kind people with good intentions,” says Aviva. “I’ve never felt unsafe with a client that makes it all the way to a session. What matters most to me is that someone is respecting my boundaries, time and protocol.”

Sky, too, has encountered a number of undesirable clients throughout her career in the industry. But, similar to Aviva, these experiences don’t seem to be driven by those suffering from mental health or neurodivergent conditions. “My most uncomfortable moments in the industry have always come from men who would be told by a professional that they were completely sane,” she explains.

Fortunately, for Sky, it’s much easier to weed out problematic clients in places where prostitution is legal. According to her, the brothel has a security team monitoring the property. She also says there’s a sophisticated screening mechanism in place. Before booking a session, all clients have to provide ID and agree to an intimate screening to rule out immediate potential health risks. These aren’t typically privileges those operating independently have access to.

Throughout her career, Sky has encountered clients who have been pointed to the brothel by concerned friends, or family. She even knows of a few who have come by at the suggestion of a therapist. Though, not all mental health professionals would advise that kind of thing.

“Certainly, there are individuals that struggle with social anxiety, which prevents them from finding a real-life partner, and in those cases engaging with a sex worker can be both therapeutic and pleasurable,” says Dr. Michael Aaron, a sex therapist, writer and speaker based in New York City. “But the best option for a therapist that is looking to provide a patient with real-life experience is to seek out surrogates, who are trained and certified by the International Professional Surrogates Association.” The organization he’s referring too, also known as IPSA, operates around a triangular model of therapy involving a patient, a surrogate and a trained therapist. Together, the three work to improve the patient’s capacity for emotional physical intimacy through a series of structured, sexual experiences. The legal status of the practice is largely undefined in most of the United States. 

And maybe it’s not just in the interest of clients to see someone trained to provide the level emotional support they may be after. “It can be heavy,” says Sky. “I’ve had days where I have to take a minute for myself and get myself back together.”

Still, it seems as though few in the field shy away from providing the emotional labor that clients demand. “There’s this huge misconception that at the brothel we just have sex all day,” Sky explains. “But there are a lot of people who come in to work out some serious emotional issues. It’s really a good chunk of what we do.”

“I love my job,” she adds. “But there are certain parties that make us feel like we’re actually making a difference in the world – that we’re actually doing good things and not just providing a good time. And that can be super fulfilling.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Better Sex Starts in your Gut

Share

By Dr. Edison de Mello

“There’s a Connection Between Your Gut Health and Your Sex Life”

What are the most common causes of low libido?

Libido and sexual arousal is, for the most part, grounded on intimacy involving the interaction of several components, including physical trust, belief system emotional well-being, previous experiences, self-esteem, physical attraction, lifestyle and current relationship.

In addition, a wide range of illnesses, such as thyroid disease, arthritis, diabetes, neurological disorders, hormonal changes and physical changes, such as High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, menopause in women, andropause in men and pain during intercourse can cause low sex drive and/or inability to reach an orgasm. Medications, prescribed or over the counter, can also kill one’s libido.

What’s one cause that’s really surprising?  Great Sex too starts in Your gut!

“All disease begins in the gut.”  Hippocrates

Although most us do not necessarily think of our intestines or bad gut bacteria when we think of possible causes of low libido, an imbalance of Gut bacteria (microbiome) is more often than not, a significant cause of decreased sexual arousal. This is in addition to the more commonly known GI related causes, such as bloating, gas, acid reflux, bad breath, diarrhea, etc. In fact, because the gut contains billions of bacteria, the gastrointestinal tract, also known as the gut system, plays a major physical factor that has many unexpected effects on our ability to respond and perform sexually. The truth is that “gut bacteria is to our digestion and metabolism what a beehive is to honey”: Good working hive = great honey; well balanced gut bacteria = optimized gastrointestinal function and better sex! Gut bacteria are also responsible for producing hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which are essential for sexual health.

And then there is lifestyle…. although a glass of wine can get both men and women in the “mood” for sex, too much alcohol can actually have the opposite effect and not only kill your libido, but make you sleep, which can be devastating to intimacy.

10 Reasons Why you may not have a healthy gut?

  1. Bad diet (sugar and processed food based diet)
  2. Digestive Health: Unbalanced gut bacteria and lack of good probiotics
  3. Overuse antibiotics and other medications
  4. Sedentary life style
  5. Disease, including autoimmune.
  6. Mental Health and Mood.
  7. Low/ unbalanced Hormone.
  8. Vaginal Health/prostate issues
  9. Weight proportionate to height issues
  10. Decreased physical, mental and emotional energy

5 initial Steps to Take to Have Better Sex

  1. Balance your gut health,
  2. Eat a healthy diet and moderate your alcohol intake
  3. Exercise more often
  4. Do you inventory of your relationship: Are you really happy or just pretending that you are?
  5. Work on your self-esteem and body image, if applicable.

5 Ways how your partner can help you get there:

  1. Love you unconditionally
  2. Help you feel that intimacy is more than just having sex
  3. Encourage you to make the changes outlined here –  free of judgment, and instead assuring you that yes, you can.
  4. Be the change that he/she expects of you
  5. Not make sex so serious… have fun with it.

Other 10 possible causes of low libido:

  1. Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
  2. Stress, such as financial stress or work stress
  3. Poor body image
  4. Low self-esteem
  5. History of physical or sexual abuse
  6. Previous negative sexual experiences
  7. Lack of connection with the partner
  8. Unresolved conflicts or fights
  9. Poor communication of sexual needs and preferences
  10. Infidelity or breach of trust

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Let’s Talk About (Depressed) Sex

Share

What to do when you have trouble maintaining a healthy romantic life while dealing with depression

By

For people who have depression, even the most basic activities can seem daunting—and that includes sex. But because both depression and sexual problems are things that are difficult to talk about, even with intimate partners, the issues surrounding having sex while dealing with depression often wind up being ignored. As mental health advocate and writer JoEllen Notte puts it: “It’s the intersection of two taboo topics.” And it can lead to even more problems relating to a person’s mental and physical well-being.

Notte breaks the negative sex experience that comes with depression into two categories: loss of interest and side effects of medication. Notte says about the former: “I tend to reinterpret [it] as ‘everything seems incredibly hard and not worth doing’… Not wanting to be touched, and not wanting to deal with people.” While that applies to people who have depression and both are and aren’t on medication, the side effects specific to medication are a significant problem, too, and include, Notte says, “erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, genital numbness, delayed orgasm, and what’s usually referred to as ‘lost libido.'”

This loss of libido is symptomatic of a larger problem of depression: anhedonia, which Dr. Sheila Addison, a licensed marital and family therapist, tells me is “a loss of pleasure in ordinary things.” One of the things people with depression do to combat anhedonia is try to self-medicate and force pleasure, including through sex. Addison explains, “People with depression sometimes wind up chasing ‘peak’ experiences, little bursts of endorphins that seem to cut through the depression for a moment, but it’s a short-term fix for a long-term problem. And if it turns into having sex that they don’t really want, hoping to feel better, it can contribute to feelings of emptiness and self-loathing.”

The best thing to do when dealing with depression is to seek out a doctor, but even if you are comfortable seeking out help for depression, it can be difficult to broach the topic of sexual health, without feeling anxious. As Notte points out, “So many people have had bad experiences with doctors not wanting to deal with [sex] or prioritizing it as a topic.” My own doctor’s flippancy toward the subject was enough to shut me down for months, and it seems like this is all too common, leading to further stigmatization of this sensitive topic. Notte says, “All of the data that says these [sexual] side effects don’t happen is skewed, because people aren’t reporting them.”

Nevertheless, each person I talked to stressed that even though it’s difficult, if you are having issues with sex and experience depression, talk to a doctor first. Addison says that online forums can be the source of “a lot of unsolicited advice, pseudoscientific ‘cures,’ and supposed remedies that will lighten your wallet more than your mood.” And if you find the first doctor to be unsympathetic to your problems, then look for another one.

But how to find the right doctor? Notte recommends looking for keywords like “sex-positive” and “trauma-informed,” as it often means they’ll be more willing to discuss sexual issues or at least be able to point you in the right direction to someone who could. Addison herself is a member of LGBTQ Psychotherapy organization GAYLESTA and listed amongst kink-friendly professionals. These keywords tend to suggest the doctor has a more nuanced, whole-body approach to understanding and treating mental illness, but, of course, it may take a bit of searching to find someone whose methods you are comfortable with.

Once you find a doctor with whom you’re comfortable talking, you can also utilize them when you want to talk with your partner about any problems you might be having with regards to sex. “People often don’t know that you can bring anyone with you to your doctor visit if you want,” Addison points out. “Sometimes it’s easier to have the doctor talk directly to your partner because it’s not so personal.” Addison advises that the partner who isn’t experiencing depression seek care as well, saying, “Get support for yourself, from a therapist or from a group for partners of people with mental illness. Take good care of yourself, physically and emotionally

The main theme here, as with any taboo topics, is that talking about them is key, and the only way to remove the stigma. It’s particularly apt in this situation, though, as conversation, and communication in general, are also at the core of maintaining healthy romantic and sexual relationships no matter what your mental state.

But even though we know we should communicate openly, it can be difficult to get started. That’s why Allison Moon, sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101, recommends beginning conversations with “I statements” when breaching the topic of sexual issues. “It’s easy for people to catastrophize when partners bring up sexual issues, and they may be tempted to take responsibility for the issues of their partners,” Moon says. “It’s a good idea to use extra care when explaining one’s own experience, and be clear that the partner isn’t at fault or causing anything.” When considering the problem as a whole, Notte advises a team mentality for couples. She says, “What happens a lot is it gets treated as an issue of the healthy partner versus the other partner and their depression, and if we can be couples who are working on one team while the depression is on the other team, it’s a much healthier dynamic.”

Moon also recommends “speaking in concretes” when describing the ways depression affects your life and sexual experience to your partner. “Because mental health is so individuated, saying something like, ‘I have depression’ doesn’t always convey what one intends. Instead, I suggest discussing how something like depression manifests in a way the partner can understand. For instance, rather than saying ‘Depression makes me insecure,’ you could say, ‘Sometimes I need extra verbal validation from you. Can you tell me you find me sexy and wonderful? Can you remind me that I’m a good person?'”

Describing symptoms associated with depression can be difficult, though, and Notte often advises individuals to use what she refers to as “accessible” resources (“things that are not scary, that are not medical journals”) to work on coming to a mutual understanding of what you are going through. “Find things that are the language you and your partner speak,” she says; she sends her own partner comic strips and had them play Depression Quest, a role-playing game in which you navigate tasks as a person with depression.

We treat mental health very different than physical health,” Notte points out, adding, “If I were dating somebody and I had diabetes and wanted them to know I’d have to inject myself with insulin at some point, I wouldn’t have to be embarrassed to tell them that.” As with any disease, depression shouldn’t be treated as a liability in dating, and people who would treat it as such are not worth your time. Addison tells me, “Anybody who’s going to make you feel bad or weird about how your body works, does not deserve access to it. Disability rights folks have taught me, don’t apologize for how your body works or feel like you need to make someone else feel okay with you. If they can’t handle you, they can’t get with you.”

But that doesn’t mean it will always be easy—for either of you. So being present with your feelings and communicating them to your partner is vital. Moon says, “When you notice something coming up for you, whether it’s an emotion, a sensation, or a memory, practice giving it attention and letting it give you information.” Perhaps there is a “need attached to the emotion that you can turn into a request,” like needing more lube, or a moment to process your feelings before hooking up, etc. “If you notice that you’re going to cry, for instance, you can mention that so it doesn’t scare your partner,” Moon suggests. “Saying something like, ‘I’m having a great time, but I’m noticing some sadness come up. So if I start to cry, that’s okay, you’re not doing anything wrong. I’ll let you know if I want to stop, but I don’t want to right now.'”

Likewise, Addison recommends acknowledging the experience in the moment in a way that reassures your sexual partner that you don’t blame them for what’s happening. You can do this, she suggests, by saying something like: “This is just a thing my body does sometimes, and I”m not worried about it, so you shouldn’t worry about it either. Thanks for understanding. And I’m really enjoying [kissing you] so let’s do more of that.”

While the physical manifestations of depression in sexual relationships cannot be solved by medication, Notte recommends “workarounds” to address your specific sexual issue. Notte recommends using lubricants and not shying away from toys if experiencing anorgasmia, genital numbness, or erectile dysfunction. Exploring these types of options are especially great for people whose depression-related sexual problems manifest as specifically physical.

While all of this information is important for people with depression, it’s also essential for the partners who don’t have depression to understand how to respond in these situations. Addison tells me the best way is the simplest—nothing more than a “thanks for letting me know.” She explains, “Viewing someone as broken, or suffering, or in need of special treatment, is actually a poor way to approach sexual intimacy. If someone trusts you enough to let you know what’s going on with them, appreciate the gift that has been given to you, and treat it accordingly, with respect. [If your partner says,] ‘I don’t come through intercourse, and I might or might not finish myself off afterward,’ it is not an invitation for you to try to complete the Labors of Hercules to prove what an awesome lover you are. It’s information for you to let you know how this person’s body works, so be grateful that they trusted you enough to share something private with you, and act accordingly.”

And, she points out, “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your climax when you’re with someone who’s said, ‘I probably won’t get off, but it’s still fun for me.'” Above all, Addison states, “Treat them like the expert on their own body, and you’ll be on the right track.”

Of course, finding people who will do that, especially at the beginning of a relationship or when dating around, can be difficult, but Addison advises to “decide what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to do or not do in order to get it… then screen your dates accordingly.” Finding someone who is comfortable with and respectful of your depression and sexual issues is a trait that can be filtered right in with your usual set of dating criteria. Addison says, “If you say, ‘Hey, I have medication that means I probably won’t come, and I’m looking for a partner who won’t be hung up about it—are you cool with that?’ and they try to inform you about how they’re going to be the one who makes you scream down the rafters, that’s a good reason to swipe left.” After all, she explains, “You can’t fuck somebody out of depression with your Magic Penis or Magic Vagina.”

If you or a loved one are seeking out further information about experiencing the sexual side effects of depression, seek out a psychologist or psychotherapist near you, and remember, as Addison says, “The only people who deserve to get close to you are people who can understand your needs and treat you with appropriate respect and care.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

How To Navigate 6 Common Sexual Health Conversations With Your Partner

Share

By Jen Anderson
The pillar of any good relationship is open communication — and that doesn’t stop at being honest about whose turn it is to do the dishes. Opening up about sex with your partner, whether it’s about your birth control options, the positions that make you feel best, or the need to take emergency contraception, is essential to truly enjoying your sex life.

That’s why, in partnership with Plan B One-Step, we created a handy guide to the most common sex conversations you might encounter, tapping Katharine O’Connell White, MD, MPH, and Rachel Needle, PsyD, for their best advice on how to navigate each. No matter if it’s a new Hinge fling, a veteran booty call, or a long-term relationship, you should feel empowered to have these conversations — especially when they help ensure safe sexual health practices and more enjoyment to help you reach that O. Read ahead to see how Dr. White and Dr. Needle break it all down. A better sex life awaits you

The Birth Control Conversation

Before you engage in sex at all, it’s crucial that you and your partner are transparent with each other about what contraception you plan to use to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and unintended pregnancies. This means talking about the methods you might already be using, like the pill or the IUD, plus barrier methods like condoms or a diaphragm. Be open and honest about your prior experience so that you’re both on the same page.

“The condom discussion is paramount, for the safety of all involved,” Dr. White says, and she suggests always having a supply of condoms on hand. This way, both parties can feel more comfortable going into sex knowing that you’re taking precautions to reduce the risk of STIs and STDs.

The Frequency Conversation

While you may feel like you’re the only couple that struggles with differing opinions on how often you want to have sex, the truth is that it’s very common. The key here is to bring up your feelings about frequency when you’re not hot and heavy. “Start off with something positive about your relationship, including your sexual relationship,” Dr. Needle advises. Then, “use feeling words and ‘I’ statements, [so you don’t put] your partner on the defensive.” Use the conversation to establish the factors that are contributing to either party’s decrease in sexual desire, and make plans to work on them, either on your own, together, or with a professional. Just remember: “There is not really a ‘normal’ amount or an amount of sex that is good or correct to have. Each couple is different.”

The Emergency Contraception Conversation

So the condom broke during sex, or it never got used. There’s no need to skirt around the issue. Dr. White suggests bringing up the emergency contraception conversation by saying something like, “Whoops, I think we forgot something,” if you and your partner forgot to use your preferred birth control method. If it broke, just say so, point blank. It’s likely that your partner is thinking the exact same thing as you are — someone just needs to break the ice and bring it up.

Make arrangements to buy Plan B One-Step for emergency contraception together, or, in the case of a fleeting one-night stand or a FWB-gone-awry, the conversation might not be necessary, and you should still feel empowered to get your emergency contraceptive on your own. It’s easier than ever, with Plan B available on the shelf at all major retailers without a prescription, age restriction, or ID. Just keep in mind: You have 72 hours after unprotected sex to take it, and the sooner you take it, the more effective it will be at helping prevent pregnancy.

The Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) & Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Conversation

When it comes to asking your partner to get tested, Dr. White advises keeping the convo friendly and factual. Try telling them your plans to get tested, and suggest they do the same. “That way, getting tested is a joint venture and not a one-way request,” she explains. If you already have an STI or STD, it’s important to chat about this prior to any sexual encounters — your partner has a right to know about their own risks. “Pick the right time and place for a serious conversation, and try [saying something like], ‘I like you a lot, so there’s something you need to know.'”

The Period Sex Conversation

Period sex isn’t for everyone. But for some, it can be just as enjoyable as non-period sex and even bring couples together in a new way. According to Dr. White, the best way to approach this topic is with a casual conversation that signals you’re not embarrassed and allows your partner to follow your lead. “Mention [upfront] that you’re on your period, so [you can] throw down a towel on the bed to protect the sheets,” she says — especially those white cotton sheets. Not only is this conversation important to have for transparency, but it could introduce a favorite new time of the month to get intimate. “Sex during your period has a lot of advantages,” she adds. “The blood can act as a [secondary] lubricant, and the endorphins released with orgasm can help soothe period cramps.”

The Painful-Sex Conversation

Plain and simple, painful sex isn’t good sex for anyone. “Any decent human will not want to cause you pain and will work with you to make it more comfortable,” Dr. White says. So use your voice to tell your partner immediately if something isn’t feeling quite right — even if this means stopping sex early. If the pain persists, “Trust your body… You should not keep doing the same thing that hurts. This will only teach your body to associate pain with sex, which can be a brutal cycle to break,” she adds.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

For survivors, breast cancer can threaten another part of their lives: sexual intimacy

Share

By Barbara Sadick

Jill was just 39 in July 2010 when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Her longtime boyfriend had felt a lump in her right breast. Two weeks later, she had a mastectomy and began chemotherapy. The shock, stress, fatigue and treatment took its toll on the relationship, and her boyfriend left.

“That’s when I began to realize that breast cancer was not only threatening my life, but would affect me physically, emotionally and sexually going forward,” said Jill, a library specialist in Denver who asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy.

When someone gets a breast cancer diagnosis, intimacy and sexuality usually take a back seat to treatment and survival and often are ignored entirely, said Catherine Alfano, vice president of survivorship at the American Cancer Society. Doctors often don’t talk with their patients about what to expect sexually during and after treatment, and patients can be hesitant to bring up these issues, she said.

Among the common problems that the cancer treatment can cause are decreased sex drive, arousal issues and pain when having sex, and body image issues (if there has been such surgery as a mastectomy), Alfano said. Many of these problems are treatable, but only if a patient speaks up. That way, the clinician can refer the person to specialists versed in physical or psychological therapy for cancer survivors or health specialists familiar with the useful medications and creams.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 15.5 million cancer survivors live in the United States. Of those, 3.5 million had breast cancer.

Sharon Bober, a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute psychologist and sex therapist, said the biggest problems couples and single women face after breast cancer are the surprises that unfold sexually. She said chemotherapy and hormone suppression therapy can send women abruptly into menopause or exacerbate previous menopausal symptoms, such as vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse and stinging, burning and irritation. Many women are also surprised to discover that breasts reconstructed after a mastectomy have no sensation.

Betty and Willem Bezemer. Betty, 72, had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50. Throughout her treatment, her husband kept her spirits up. The couple maintained their intimacy by continuing their habits together, such as dancing and soaking in bubble baths.
Couples, Bober said, often can benefit from working with a sex therapist trained in breast cancer issues. “It takes time and practice, especially in the face of permanent changes such as loss of sensation or body alterations,” she said. “Women need to become comfortable in their bodies again.”

Amber Lukaart, 35, was diagnosed in 2016 with invasive ductal carcinoma in her right breast. She had no family history of the disease and found the lump herself. She had been working at the Center for Women’s Sexual Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., helping survivors navigate their sexual issues — work that turned out to help her, too.

Her treatment was 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a partial mastectomy of her right breast, 20 rounds of radiation that left the skin on her chest raw and inflamed, and six months of a hormone blocker to protect her ovaries so she could have children in the future.

These treatments affected her sexuality and marriage. The first time she and her husband had sex after the treatments was horribly painful because of dryness. The pain, plus fear of cancer recurrence and death, put a halt to their attempt to reconnect emotionally. At the same time, the partial mastectomy and radiation left her breast looking malformed. She said she felt self-conscious and uncomfortable about it.

She turned to people she knew from her work and felt lucky to have the support.

“I understood immediately that I was in a unique position to help myself and my husband understand and communicate to each other the questions and concerns we both had about our sexual relationship,” Lukaart said.

Yet even with access to sex therapists, sex counselors and treatments, Lukaart said she still felt frustrated with the relative lack of data regarding hormone use for someone like her with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer — which about 80 percent of all breast cancer patients have, according to the National Cancer Institute. This type of the disease causes cancer cells to grow in response to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Hormone treatments that are standard for dryness usually cannot be used after this time of cancer. And over-the-counter remedies didn’t seem to help Lukaart.

She and the co-founder of the women’s center, Nisha McKenzie, researched nonhormonal options. They came across a laser therapy that increases the thickness and elasticity of the vaginal walls. It took three sessions but eventually Lukaart said it gave her back the ability to have a sexual relationship with her husband. Three treatments cost about $3,000 and are not covered by insurance. (Lukaart’s work at the center, which now provides laser treatment, allowed her to get the therapy for free.).

McKenzie and Lukaart are focusing their efforts to help survivors recognize that they may need to do more than just ask their doctors for advice if they want to find ways to get their lives back on track sexually.

McKenzie said several organizations can provide the names of experts who can help, including the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists and the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.

“Women need to know,” said Lukaart, “that they have to advocate for themselves and that it’s okay to want more than just to survive cancer — it’s ok to thrive, too.”

In Jill’s case, after exhausting the help of her oncologist and other physicians, she joined a clinical study run by Kristen Carpenter, director of Women’s Behavioral Health at Ohio State University, that looks at ways of improving sexual and emotional health after breast cancer.

The study of 30 women used mind-body techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation to help with sexual intimacy, Kegel exercises to improve pelvic floor muscle tone and cognitive behavioral therapy to help them rethink negative, self-directed thoughts.

The group also had discussions about assertiveness training, communication techniques to use with partners, sexual positions, and aids that may improve comfort and pleasure.

“We laughed, cried and learned from each other’s struggles and stresses in a warm and understanding environment,” Jill said. “and it helped give me the tools for communicating my needs and challenges and to be aware that psychological and physiological interventions are available.”

A supportive partner can ease the problems of breast cancer survivors.

Betty Bezemer, 72, had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50. Throughout her treatment, her husband kept her spirits up. The couple maintained their intimacy by not only discussing what was happening but also continuing their habits together, such as dancing and soaking in bubble baths.

Bezemer said their relationship never suffered. And, with the help of lubricants and other remedies, they found ways to be closer sexually and otherwise.

“My husband always made me feel that he had fallen in love with my head and heart and not just my breasts,” said Bezemer, who now serves on the Houston board of the breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen.

“Obstacles may not be easy to overcome, but women need to understand and accept that problems of intimacy and sex will often follow breast cancer treatment,” said Julie Salinger, a clinical social worker at Dana Farber. “But there are solutions, and the sooner people start to ask about them, the better, as they will only get worse by waiting.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share