Americans Were Quizzed on Sexual Health:

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What The Results Say About the State of Sex Ed

by LeAnne Graves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below are the results.

Access To Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STI prevention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contraception misconceptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge by gender

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

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

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

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

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

Defining consent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual rehab could have benefits for men with heart disease

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By Carolyn Crist

A sexual rehabilitation program could help with erectile dysfunction in men who have heart disease, a study from Denmark suggests.

Men assigned to the rehabilitation program had improved erectile function and better exercise capacity after 16 weeks compared to those who just got usual medical care, the study team reports in the journal Heart.

“Sexual problems have a profound negative impact on several aspects such as quality of life, general wellbeing, relationship problems and psychological outcomes such as depression and anxiety,” said lead study author Pernille Palm of Copenhagen University Hospital Rigshospitalet.

For some cardiovascular issues such as ischemic heart disease, erectile dysfunction is a problem in up to 80 percent of men, she said.

“Patients hesitate to seek help because it’s still a taboo,” Palm told Reuters Health by email. “They want health professionals to address the topic, but health professionals in general don’t feel they have the competence or correct intervention to offer.”

In the CopenHeart trial, Palm and colleagues randomly assigned 154 men either to just continue with their normal outpatient follow-up visits or to also take part in a 12-week sexual rehabilitation program that included physical exercise and psychoeducation around sexual health and dysfunction.

The men had either ischemic heart disease – meaning blocked or narrowed arteries – or a heart rhythm disorder that required an implanted defibrillator. Half were older than 62. Those assigned to the rehab program followed a cardio and strength-training regimen, as well as stretching and pelvic floor exercises, plus a tailored counseling program that covered each man’s specific issues and concerns.

The men answered questionnaires about their sexual functioning and their level of wellbeing at the start of the study, and the research team measured exercise capacity at the outset and again after four months and six months. Measurements of erectile function included questions about erection quality, orgasmic function, sexual desire and intercourse satisfaction. Another set of questions gauged quality of life related to having a disease.

The research team found that sexual rehabilitation, as compared with usual care, improved physical sexual function at four months and six months. The rehabilitation program also improved exercise capacity and pelvic floor strength. However, there was no difference between the groups in the psychosocial component of the assessments or in their self-reported health or mental health.

“What stuck out the most was the fact that so many men had this problem for so long and hadn’t sought professional help,” Palm said. “But also, the ones seeking help weren’t able to get sufficient advice.”

As part of the trial, the study authors elicited feedback from the men’s partners regarding erection function, yet only 10 percent of partners responded. Future studies should find other ways to engage partners and build the social aspect of the program, Palm said.

In fact, during the trial, some of the patients “teamed up with peers and met up after training sessions for a beer, thereby creating a special place for discussing their life with heart disease, including sexual issues,” she said.

Palm and colleagues are planninga larger study with different types of patients who may require different treatments, she explained. Other studies are specifically focused on sexual outcomes for women, too.

“Although the clinical guidelines recommend counseling of women and men about sex after a heart attack, women are far less likely to receive this counseling,” said Dr. Stacy Lindau of the University of Chicago, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Lindau directs WomanLab, a website that provides information about female sexuality and health conditions, especially with regard to menopause, cancer and heart disease. This week, WomanLab launched a new resource (bit.ly/2FNxEHj) with questions to ask doctors about sex after a heart attack.

“Both men and women should ask their heart doctor when it’s safe to start having sex again and, if possible, include their partner in the conversation,” Lindau told Reuters Health by email. “A life-threatening illness can be a wake-up call where couples reset their thinking about their life priorities and renew their commitment to caring for and loving each other each day.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Disabled people must be able to express our sexual needs. Our health depends on it

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‘Can you even have sex, Sam? Can you have children?’

By Samantha Renke

Sex. We all know what it is — and when most of us think of it we think of pleasure, love, passion and mostly a darn good time.

However for some, sex can have a huge impact on their entire lives, affecting their wellbeing, confidence, self worth and sense of belonging.

Early last week I joined a panel of experts and influencers for BBC 5 Live’s #SexTakeover, the UK’s largest sex discussion.

I came away with the strangely reassuring knowledge that all of us — no matter who we are — have had a complex relationship with sex at one time or another. We all have hangups and awkward sexual encounters but for me, as a disabled woman, the takeover highlighted how society is grossly failing disabled people in all areas of sex and sexual wellbeing.

So what happens when no one will discuss sex with you, when medical professionals are letting you down when it comes to your sexual health, or when those around you see you more as a child than a sexual being?

I have a rare genetic disorder known as osteogenesis impefecta (brittle bone disease), I am just shy of four feet tall and a full-time wheelchair user. I knew very early on that I was ‘different’, and that my life experiences differed somewhat from my peers.

I spent most of my adolescence not knowing if I could even physically have sex or if my body would grow like everyone else’s. At one point I convinced myself that I’d never experience puberty, get my period or have sexual relationships because of my condition.

Intrusive questions asked by those around me, as well as the weird fascination that society seems to have around sex and disabled people, added fuel to my already confusing relationship with sex.

I even became the joke in a dare where a group of guys egged each other on to come up to me in a night club.

‘Can you even have sex, Sam? Can you have children? Can you kiss a boy or would you break your jaw? Can you have a boyfriend?’

It seems to be common practice to perceive people with disabilities as objects rather than complete people.

This leads to the view that they are less human and do not desire, need nor want the same things as everyone else. Even now, I get comments on online forums asking if I can have sex, or people commenting that they find me ‘brave’ for being on dating sites.

These experiences aren’t isolated, as many of my close friends have shared similar stories, like comedian Lila Hart. Like Lila, I too experienced people’s embarrassment about having relations with me, and even became the joke in a dare where a group of guys egged each other on to come up to me in a night club.

The disability charity Scope published dating statistics that show only 5% of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out, or been on a date with, a disabled person, which just highlights that we aren’t seen as sexually desirable.

The stereotypes and misinformation surrounding sex and disabled people goes beyond whether or not we get asked out on a date. It can also impact on whether or not we have proper access to sexual health as Athena Stevens — a playwright and human rights activist who lives with cerebral palsy — found out when she went for a routine pap test.

Athena’s involuntary movements during a standard smear test meant that the doctor eventually gave up. But rather than discuss what they could offer her going forward, they told her in the most cold and insensitive way that ‘lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice’ and that they ‘did not think sex will ever be possible’ for her.

One mother confided in me that she is terrified about discussing sex with her daughter, who has spina bifida. Upon asking her endocrinologist how to discuss periods with her daughter, the doctor replied that she didn’t really know, and that her medical advice was to talk to other parents and see how they managed. The only advice offered by her specialist was for her daughter to wear nappies.

There is a substantial breakdown of communication between medical professionals, parents, care givers and educators when we look at sex and disabilities.

No one actually seems to be taking the time to ask what the person with a disability wants or needs. We can feel awkward and jump around the subject all we want, but the fact remains that no matter what your disability looks like, we are all still sexual beings.

The real danger comes when awkwardness and ignorance causes people with disabilities to not only miss out on meaningful intimate relationships, but in many cases our wellbeing is also put at tremendous risk when we aren’t able to access sexual health treatments or contraception.

I’d like to see better education across the board when it comes to disability and sex. Not talking about it can lead to somebody feeling like a lesser person, feeling less desirable and ultimately dehumanised.

Parents need to have access to a better understanding of sex and disability, so that they don’t feel like they are failing their children and their children, in turn, can then feel comfortable to express their sexual needs.

We also need to see the media better embrace disabled people as sexual beings — where are our disabled lingerie models or steamy sex scenes with disabled actors?

Sex may be an awkward subject to broach for many of us, but not talking about it can be so damaging. Especially for disabled people.

Complete Article HERE!

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Puberty for the Middle-Aged

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Forty-five-year-old women need a version of “the talk,” because our bodies are changing in ways that are both really weird and really uncomfortable.

By Lisa Selin Davis

If only, on your 45th birthday, a doctor would sit you down, look you squarely in the eyes and say, “Here’s what’s going to happen: Eventually, your pubic hair is going to thin out everywhere but on the bikini line, exactly the opposite of what you’ve always wanted. The fat on your body will redistribute so that each of your thighs is the shape of Grimace, the McDonald’s blob monster. You will develop those wings of loose skin below your arms. You just will, no matter what you do. Also: Everything about your periods will change. They may become shorter, more frequent, more painful. And they’ll just get weirder until they desist.”

If only, in other words, someone told you, “You need to really prepare, emotionally and physically, for middle age.”

But of course, no one does.

We put a lot of time and effort into preparing teenagers for what changes puberty will wreak, but for women, midlife brings another kind of puberty — perimenopause, a road that we in our 40s navigate blind, without enough information from our doctors or often other women, wondering in silent shame at the intensity and seeming endlessness of the changes.

What is perimenopause, you might be asking? For one thing, it’s a term so underused that Microsoft’s word-processing program is telling me it’s not a word, a term that was new to many when Gwyneth Paltrow uttered it last month in a Goop video. “Peri” is Greek for “near,” and menopause is the ceasing of menstruation. So perimenopause is all the crazy stuff that happens on the way to that cessation.

We need to have The Talk, but for 45-year-olds. Doctors should speak to their patients about the changes that could lie ahead and how to prepare for them. And we perimenopausal women need to talk to one another, and the rest of the world, about what’s happening. Because a lot of it, to me, is really weird, really surprising and really hard to sit comfortably through, from the stray chin hair — O.K., hairs — to the decreasing bone density. Some 40 percent of women have interrupted sleep during perimenopause. Between 10 percent and 20 percent have mood swings. Some have uterine bleeding or vaginal dryness and even that hallmark of actual menopause, hot flashes.

My desire to know the full story goes beyond my health: How am I going to make jokes about these symptoms if I don’t know what they are? (I will always fondly recall Joan Rivers joking about the surprising number of things that sag as you age, starting with your genitals

Recently I asked friends on Facebook what no one had told them about middle age. No post of mine has ever garnered so many responses, so equally divided between sad and funny. Or both.

There are the physical issues — the random acne, the skin tags, the cough that causes a little bit of pee, the long recovery time from minor injuries and how easy it is to get those injuries. “Doing something really banal like reaching for the remote can put my back out and leave me wailing like a child for a day,” one friend wrote.

And then there are the emotional issues: How will I feel differently about myself as my hormonal profile shifts, as I lose estrogen in the years just before my young children surge with it?

The Talk doesn’t have to be all bad. Among the things my Facebook friends noted was that they felt better and stronger than they did in their 20s and 30s, and that they had become much less vain. One friend wrote, “I prioritize the things that are important to me and people I care about.”

She has arrived at the still-mythical (to me) moment when people stop caring so much what others think, the beginning of the upswing of the U-shaped happiness curve, which shows that people get happier as they grow old (often the 40s are the curve’s nadir). Older people are the bearers of wisdom earned by their years, or by the sheer fatigue that has overtaken them, forcing them to pick their battles more carefully. Along with those chin hairs, solace may come.

So your doctor might also say, “You will most likely find that you no longer sweat the small stuff (except at night, when you will sweat uncontrollably), that you care less about the approval of others and feel less attached to an iteration of your life that you haven’t achieved. And invisibility is a superpower that can be used to your advantage.”

If your doctor won’t go there, you can take it from me.

Complete Article HERE!

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Talking sexual health with older patients

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

By Amanda Lyons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Encourage teens to discuss relationships, experts say

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BY Carolyn Crist</a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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How to have the talk with your partner

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

Taking the lead

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

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

Jumping in together

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

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

Sharing results

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Have the Sex Talk During and After Cancer

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

BY Katie Kosko

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex & Accessibility 101:

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

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

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

Disability Sexuality

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

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

Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Down

Setting the scene

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

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

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

Lube & Barriers

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

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

Positioning

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

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

Harnesses

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

Toys

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

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

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

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

After Care

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

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

A few quick references:

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability

Disability After Dark Podcast

Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, & Liberation

Complete Article HERE!

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Can yoga improve your sex life?

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The Internet abounds with wellness blogs that recommend yoga for a better sex life, as well as personal accounts of the practice improving sexual experience — often to an enviable degree. Does the research back up these claims, however? We investigate.

Modern research is only just starting to unpack the numerous health benefits of the ancient practice of yoga.

Some conditions that yoga reportedly helps with include depression, stress, and anxiety, as well as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and thyroid problems.

Recent studies have also delved into the more complex mechanisms behind such benefits.

It turns out that yoga lowers the body’s inflammatory response, counters the genetic expression that predisposes people to stress, lowers cortisol, and boosts a protein that helps the brain grow and stay young and healthy.

On top of all its benefits, we must add, it just feels good. Sometimes — if we’re to believe the hype around the mythical coregasm during yoga — it feels really, really good.

Getting in touch with our bodies can feel replenishing, restorative, and physically pleasurable. However, can yoga’s yummy poses improve our sex lives? We take a look at the research.

Yoga improves sexual function in women

One often-referenced study that was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that yoga can indeed improve sexual function — particularly in women over the age of 45.

The study examined the effects of 12 weeks of yoga on 40 women who self-reported on their sexual function before and after the yoga sessions.

After the 12-week period, the women’s sexual function had significantly improved across all sections of the Female Sexual Function Index: “desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain.”

As many as 75 percent of the women reported an improvement in their sex life after yoga training.

As part of the study, all of the women were trained on 22 poses, or yogasanas, which are believed to improve core abdominal muscles, improve digestion, strengthen the pelvic floor, and improve mood.

Some poses included trikonasana (also known as the triangle pose), bhujangasana (the snake), and ardha matsyendra mudra (half spinal twist). The full list of asanas can be accessed here.

Yoga improves sexual function in men

Yoga doesn’t benefit just women. An analogous study led Dr. Vikas Dhikav, who’s a neurologist at the Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi, India, examined the effects of a 12-week yoga program on the sexual satisfaction of men.

At the end of the study period, the participants reported a significant improvement in their sexual function, as evaluated by the standard Male Sexual Quotient.

The researchers found improvements across all aspects of male sexual satisfaction: “desire, intercourse satisfaction, performance, confidence, partner synchronization, erection, ejaculatory control, [and] orgasm.”

Also, a comparative trial carried out by the same team of researchers found that yoga is a viable and nonpharmacological alternative to fluoxetine (brand name Prozac) for treating premature ejaculation.

It included 15 yoga poses, ranging from easier ones (such as Kapalbhati, which involves sitting with your back straight in a crossed-legged position, with the chest open, eyes closed, hands on knees, and abdominal muscles contracted) to more complex ones (such as dhanurasana, or the “bow pose”).

Yogic mechanisms for better sex

How does yoga improve one’s sex life, exactly? A review of existing literature led by researchers at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, helps us elucidate some of its sex-enhancing mechanisms.

Dr. Lori Brotto, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at UBC, is the first author of the review.

Dr. Brotto and colleagues explain that yoga regulates attention and breathing, lowers anxiety and stress, and regulates parasympathetic nervous activity — that is, it activates the part of the nervous system that tells your body to stop, relax, rest, digest, lower the heart rate, and triggers any other metabolic processes that induce relaxation.

“All of these effects are associated with improvements in sexual response,” write the reviewers, so it is “reasonable that yoga might also be associated with improvements in sexual health.”

There are also psychological mechanisms at play. “Female practitioners of yoga have been found to be less likely to objectify their bodies,” explain Dr. Brotto and her colleagues, “and to be more aware of their physical selves.”

“This tendency, in turn, may be associated with increased sexual responsibility and assertiveness, and perhaps sexual desires.”

The power of the moola bandha

It is safe to say that stories about releasing blocked energy in root chakras and moving “kundalini energy” up and down the spine to the point that it produces ejaculation-free male orgasms lack rigorous scientific evidence.

However, other yogic concepts could make more sense to the skeptics among us. Moola bandha is one such concept.

“Moola bandha is a perineal contraction that stimulates the sensory-motor and the autonomic nervous system in the pelvic region, and therefore enforces parasympathetic activity in the body,” write Dr. Brotto and her colleagues in their review.

“Specifically, moola bandha is thought to directly innervate the gonads and perineal body/cervix.” The video below incorporates the movement into a practice for pelvic floor muscles.


 
Some studies quoted by the researchers have suggested that practicing moola bandha relieves period pain, childbirth pain, and sexual difficulties in women, as well as treating premature ejaculation and controlling testosterone secretion in men.

Moola bandha is similar to the modern, medically recommended Kegel exercises, which are thought to prevent urinary incontinence and help women (and men) enjoy sex for longer.

In fact, many sex therapy centers recommend this yoga practice to help women become more aware of their sensations of arousal in the genital area, thus improving desire and sexual experience.

“[M]oola bandha stretches the muscles of the pelvic floor, […] balances, stimulates, and rejuvenates the area through techniques that increase awareness and circulation,” explain Dr. Brotto and colleagues, referring to the work of other researchers.

Another yoga pose that strengthens the pelvic floor muscles is bhekasana, or the “frog pose.”

As well as improving the sexual experience, this pose may help ease symptoms of vestibulodynia, or pain in the vestibule of the vagina, as well as vaginismus, which is the involuntary contraction of vaginal muscles that prevents women from enjoying penetrative sex.

How reliable is the evidence?

While it is easy to get, ahem, excited by the potential sexual benefits of yoga, it is worth bearing in mind the large discrepancy between the amount of so-called empirical, or experimental, evidence, and that of non-empirical, or anecdotal, evidence.

The Internet hosts a plethora of the latter, but the studies that have actually trialed the benefits of yoga for sexual function remain scarce.

Additionally, most of the studies mentioned above — which found improvements in sexual satisfaction and function for both men and women — have quite a small sample size and didn’t benefit from a control group.

However, more recent studies — which focused on women who have sexual dysfunction in addition to other conditions — have yielded stronger evidence.

For example, a randomized controlled trial examined the effects of yoga in women with metabolic syndrome, a population with a higher risk of sexual dysfunction overall.

For these women, a 12-week yoga program led to “significant improvement” in arousal and lubrication, whereas such improvements were not seen in the women who did not practice yoga.

Improvements were also found in blood pressure, prompting the researchers to conclude that “yoga may be an effective treatment for sexual dysfunction in women with metabolic syndrome as well as for metabolic risk factors.”

Another randomized trial looked at the sexual benefits of yoga for women living with multiple sclerosis (MS). The participants undertook 3 months of yoga training, consisting of eight weekly sessions.

Importantly, women in the yoga group “showed improvement in physical ability” and sexual function, “while women in [the] control group manifested exacerbated symptoms.”

“Yoga techniques may improve physical activities and sexual satisfaction function of women with MS,” the study paper concluded.

So, while we need more scientific evidence to support yoga’s benefits for our sex lives, the seeds are definitely there. Until future research can ascertain whether “yogasms” are a real, achievable thing, we think that there’s enough reason to incorporate yoga in our daily routines.

Trying it out for ourselves could prove tremendously enriching — and our pelvic muscles will definitely thank us for it.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex, technology and disability – it’s complicated

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Media portrayals of sexuality often focus on a visual and verbal vocabulary that is young, white, cisgender, heterosexual and…not disabled.

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People living with disability are largely excluded from conversations about sexuality, and face overlapping barriers to sexual expression that are both social and physical.

Media portrayals of sexuality often focus on a visual and verbal vocabulary that is young, white, cisgender, heterosexual and … not disabled.

My research into inclusive design explores how design can – intentionally or unintentionally – exclude marginalised or vulnerable people, as well as how design can ensure that everyone is included. That might mean design of the built environment, everyday products, or even how information is presented.

UTS has been collaborating for over a year with Northcott Innovation, a nonprofit organisation based in NSW that focuses on solutions for people with disability, to understand the barriers people face, and how inclusive design can help break them down.

When it comes to sexuality, new technologies have a role to play – but we need to look at both the opportunities and risks that these developments bring.

Starting the conversation

David* is a young man living with cerebral palsy who expresses a deep frustration about being unable to have his sexual desires met. He revealed his thoughts during discussions around sex and disability.

I can’t get into a lot clubs in my wheelchair – or restaurant or cafés for that matter. So where do I go to meet someone? Or go on a date? Let alone if we wanted to be intimate!

Northcott Innovation’s executive director Sam Frain isn’t surprised by what these conversations are revealing:

People with disability want to date, fall in love, or even fall out of love. They want to be recognised as the adults they are. In acknowledging their capacity for meaningful relationships, we must also acknowledge their sexuality – in whatever form that takes.

David faces complex social barriers too. Because it’s hard to for him to discuss his sexuality at all, coming out to his mother feels particularly fraught:

My mum doesn’t really know that I want to meet a future husband, not wife. I want to go on more dates. I don’t just want to meet other men with disability either. I want to meet lots of guys – but where can I go and how do I do this?

Inclusive sex toys

People living with disability have diverse physical and social support needs when it comes to expressing their sexuality. That means there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Rather we need a design approach that allows for customisation.

A new research project at RMIT, led by industrial design lecturer Judith Glover, is investigating the design of customised, inclusive sex toys.

Aside from some engineering research undertaken earlier this year at the University of São Paulo into the neurodildo – a sex toy operated remotely by brain waves – inclusive sex toys are an under-explored area of design research.

Glover feels strongly that designing sexual health products or services – whether for therapy or for recreation – should be treated as any other area of design. She acknowledges that the sex toy industry has barely started to address sex toys for an ageing population, let alone solutions for people with various disabilities:

Some of the people I meet, who are physically incapable of holding and moving objects, may have trouble communicating verbally – yet who really yearn to be able to develop their own sexual practice. Plus who doesn’t need to just get off every once in a while?

David agrees:

I really want to explore the option of sex toys more, but I don’t know what to try, or how to use it.

Social media and intellectual disability

Connecting communities together is an important strategy to overcome marginalisation and amplify the voices of people with disability.

Social media is a space where technology brings like-minded people together. But creating safe online spaces for people to express their sexuality can create unforeseen challenges – particularly for people with intellectual disability.

Deakin University and the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) set up a closed Facebook support group earlier this year for people with intellectual disability who identify as LGBTQI. Jonathon Kellaher, an educator with IDRS, says:

Group administrators quickly realised that people who were not “out” and did not understand that group members can be viewed publicly were at risk of accidentally “outing” themselves when requesting to join the group.

To address this issue, the group privacy setting was set to “secret”. But this meant new members had to wait to be added, so it became a barrier to the group’s potential as a social connector. Deakin is now working on a project with GALFA to learn more about how people connect in this space.

Technology must promote inclusion

Then there is the elephant in the room: sex robots.

Manufacturers claim sex robots provide health and social benefits for people with disability, but researchers have been quick to point out that there’s no evidence to support the range of claims that have been made.

While it’s possible to see the introduction of sex robots as a form of assistive technology – a new way to experience pleasure, or to explore preferences and body capabilities – there’s another, more tragic, side.

Viewing sex robots as a solution to the loneliness of people with disability (or anyone for that matter), or as a remedy for a lack of available dates, risks perpetuating and exacerbating the social and sexual exclusion of people with disability.

Technology can’t replace human connection, so it’s critical that new technologies support greater inclusion for people living with disability. It’s a human right to be able to safely express and enjoy sexuality, and have the choice to live a life with pleasure.

For David, that fits in to his ideal world very clearly:

One day I really want a husband to love me, two children, and to own my own restaurant.

Complete Article HERE!

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Men, like women, can have post-sex blues

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By Cheryl Platzman Weinstock

After sex, men can sometimes experience a myriad of confusing negative feelings, a phenomenon called post-coital dysphoria (PCD), which can interfere with relationships, researchers say.

The research team analyzed responses from over 1,200 men to an anonymous international online survey that asked whether they had ever experienced symptoms of PCD, which can include tearfulness, sadness or irritability following otherwise satisfactory consensual sex.

The men, aged between 18 and 81 years, were primarily in Australia and the U.S., but the sample also included men in the UK, Russia, New Zealand, Germany and 72 other countries.

The study team, led by Joel Maczkowiack, a master’s student at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, found that 41 percent of the men reported having experienced PCD in their lifetime, with 20 percent saying they had experienced it in the previous four weeks. Between 3 percent and 4 percent of the men reported experiencing PCD on a regular basis.

“I would like to think that this study will help males (and females) reflect on their experience of sex, as well as encourage communication between partners about their experience,” Maczkowiack told Reuters Health by email.

“In addition, we hope that this type of research will help people whose experience of sex is dysphoric (or dysphoric at times) to know that they are not the only ones who feel this way. In this sense, we hope this study normalizes a variety of human experiences following sex,” he said.

Past research has found that PCD is common among women. This is the first time it has been documented in men, Maczkowiack said.

PCD can occur despite satisfying and enjoyable sex. One man in the study reported that PCD made him feel “self-loathing.” Another reported, “I feel a lot of shame.” One participant said, “I usually have crying fits and full on depressive episodes following coitus that leave my significant other worried . . . .”

The study, published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, found that PCD may be related to previous and current psychological distress and past abuse, including sexual, emotional and physical abuse in childhood and adulthood.

Emotional abuse was the most common form of abuse reported by the men both before and after age 16, researchers found. Sexual abuse in childhood was reported by 12.7 percent of the men and sexual abuse in adulthood was reported by 3.5 percent of the men. Their most common reported mental health concern was depression (36.9 percent), followed by anxiety (32.5 percent) and bipolar disorder (3 percent).

Current psychological distress was the strongest variable associated with lifetime and four-week PCD. Higher levels of psychological distress were more strongly associated with PCD.

The data for this study was collected from February to June 2017 and drawn from a larger questionnaire that examined the post-coital experience of men and women.

“While this research is interesting, the study of PCD needs psychometrically valid instruments, said Rory Reid, an assistant professor of psychiatry and research psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.

The study used a few questions to measure PCD, but there is ambiguity in those items, Reid said in a phone interview. “They lack precision and there was no specificity about frequency in responses as to exactly how often was ‘a little’ or ‘some of the time’,” he noted.

“Future studies of PCD need to utilize qualitative approaches where participants are interviewed about their PCD experiences so we can further understand this phenomenon, why people might experience it, the extent to which it is causing individuals psychological distress, and whether it is negatively impacting their romantic relationship,” Reid added.

One of limitations of the study was that the men self-reported their emotional response to previous sexual experiences. “This information can be difficult for participants to recall,” Maczkowiack, said.

“The findings of this study could influence marital therapy by normalizing different responses. In addition, it may open up communication between partners,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

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Yes, we can.

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And we can also change the way we talk about disability and sex

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There are major barriers for disabled people who want to pursue sex and relationships. They are real and deeply felt. Yet the stigmatising tone of public conversation makes me wary, writes Henrietta Bollinger

“Um … advice? From me? Yes, we can,” was my cautious, then tongue-in-cheek answer. “As Obama would say!”

The others laughed. It was a joke. But I’d just been asked what advice I might have for young people like me who were exploring sex and sexuality. It was also a pithy summary of what 16-year-old me had needed to know.

As a disabled woman this was not something I’d been sure of: could sex be part of my life? When I later conducted research on the experience of young disabled people in sexuality education the question repeated itself. Being unsure if sex and relationships would feature in their lives meant they were unsure if any of the information about safe sex or healthy relationships applied either. They largely disregarded what they had learnt as irrelevant , increasing the risk of abuse. So, I know how important it is to clearly say: “Yes. As a disabled person sex is for you, too.”

This sentiment in the piece headlined “The reality of having sex when you live with a disability” I had to agree with. I also agree that there are major barriers for disabled people who want to pursue sex and relationships. These range from a lack of affirmative education, to the inaccessibility of places where people usually meet potential partners, disabled people’s social isolation and stigma towards disabled people, including assumptions that may come from their own families or the people who support them. There are related issues too, like people’s rights to marriage, fertility or to have children. In this country, it is still legal under the Adoption Act for children to be removed from their parents’ care on the grounds of parental disability. Disabled people are also still far too frequently subjected to sterilization.

The barriers are real and deeply felt. They absolutely need addressing as part of realising equitable and full lives for disabled people. I would absolutely advocate for the removal of all barriers that inhibit us from exploring sexuality or entering sexual relationships as equals to non-disabled people. Yet the tone of public conversation makes me wary. On the rare occasions we do talk about disability and sex it is either to highlight the barriers or to equivocate about sex work. Advocacy which claims the act of sex as something we are entitled to often misses the fact that good sex should be a negotiation, a social interaction. Nobody – including those who work in the sex industry – owes it to anyone.

Sex work as a way for disabled people to access sex has been brought to popular attention by films like The Sessions or Touching Base. The Sessions was a dramatization of Mark O’Brien’s life; a man with polio who decided he wanted to have sex before he died. Touching Base is a documentary about an Australian sex worker who visits disabled clients. Stories like these have a lot of value in terms of amplifying the “Yes we can” message. For many disabled people working with sex workers provides intimacy they may not have and the opportunity to explore their own bodies, take “safe-risks”. But these stories are told into a context where sex workers continue to be stigmatised and so do disabled people.

When this is made the dominant narrative, it allows the rest of “able” society off the hook in terms of examining its own prejudices. Instead of asking hard questions about attitudinal, social, educational and physical barriers that exist to all people being full sexual citizens – we outsource. We tell sex workers that there are morally more and less acceptable ways of doing their jobs, instead of constantly supporting them in their choice of work.

Disabled people, we say to ourselves, are entitled to sex as a service, the uncomplicated meeting of a need. But as partners, lovers in their own right?

There is another story, too, a story that we tell less often – maybe because it is more mundane.

This is the idea that disabled people can and do have sex – without the help of any support or sex workers. We are straight, queer, alone, together. We are partners, lovers, parents and all the rest. It is the kind of conversation that is happening privately, or being just lived. It is the mundane story we need to make sure people know is out there too.

Because after we understand that “Yes we can” we ask: how? And we have to know there is not one reality of sex and disability but many. The more varied the stories we tell, the more will seem possible to the disabled kid in their sex ed class, as well as to their potential partners.

Complete Article HERE!

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The first app to get approved as birth control in Europe has now been green-lit in the US, despite controversy

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  • Birth-control app Natural Cycles has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration — the first app to be approved for contraception in North America.
  • The app uses an algorithm to tell women when they have the highest and lowest chances of getting pregnant, but it ultimately relies on men and women changing their behavior.
  • The app recently came under fire in Sweden when 37 women reported getting pregnant while using it.

A birth-control app called Natural Cycles has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, marking the first time an app has been approved for contraception in North America.

Designed by physicist couple Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwitzl, the app doesn’t involve a pill and contains no medication. It works by giving heterosexual couples recommendations about when to avoid sex or use protection, based on a woman’s daily temperature measurements and the regularity of her period.

“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” Terri Cornelison, assistant director for women’s health at the FDA’s Center for Devices, said in a statement. “But women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”

Natural Cycles only helps prevent pregnancy if people using it behave in the way it prescribes. The app also recently gained regulatory approval in Europe — the first app to do so there as well — but it came under fire in Sweden several months later when 37 women reported getting pregnant while using it.

Those pregnancies ignited a small controversy about how the app works and what it can — and can’t — do. But Scherwitzl told Business Insider in January that he was not surprised women had become pregnant.

“We give red and green days and clear recommendations on which days to abstain and which days we consider the risk of pregnancy to be negligible,” he said.

The problem with saying ‘as effective as the pill using only math’

Natural Cycles was initially portrayed by multiple news outlets — including Business Insider — as being “as effective as the pill using only math.”

When is used properly, Natural Cycles may be comparable in effectiveness to the pill. But that doesn’t always happen, as the controversy in Sweden revealed.

So the problem with these types of statements is that the app relies on couples to change their behavior and either not have sex or use protection based on the app’s recommendations.

“Just like with the pill, you have scenarios where women take the pill everyday” and it’s as reliable as possible, Scherwitzl said, and then there are “scenarios where they don’t take it every day” and the reliability decreases.

How Natural Cycles compares with simply using a calendar

Natural Cycles’ approach puts it in a larger category of birth control known as fertility awareness, which is similar to the calendar-based approach people have used for decades.

The company’s founders published a study on the app’s effectiveness in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care in 2016. The research involved 4,000 women between the ages of 18 and 45, and the results showed that out of every 100 women who used the app in a “typical” way for a year (meaning certain common slip-ups were accounted for), seven of them got pregnant.

That rate is and significantly lower than the traditional calendar method, which has an average fail rate of 24%, according to the CDC.

The “typical use” scenario for the pill leads to about nine out of 100 women getting pregnant within a year, so the study suggests Natural Cycles is on par with an oral contraceptive. But the app still leads to more pregnancies than would be seen among people using injectable birth control or an IUD. The typical use fail rate for an IUD is 0.2-0.8%, or less than one out of 100 women getting pregnant each year.

Apps can ‘provide encouragement,’ but still have key limitations

As far as the women who got pregnant while using the Natural Cycles app are concerned, the same European study found that more than half of them had unprotected sex with men on the days when the app advised against it. Those instances are evidence of a longstanding human reality: behavioral control is difficult, especially when it comes to sex, and not a guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy.

“While smartphone apps may provide encouragement, they can’t stop [men and women] from … sex altogether,” Susan Walker, a professor of sexual health at Anglia Ruskin University, wrote in an article for The Conversation.

A handful of other factors can also get in the way of the app working correctly, including having multiple sex partners and having a partner who is not equally committed to birth control.

So if you’re planning on using the app — or one of the dozens like it that have not been approved as medical devices — experts say you should have a predictable sex schedule, regular periods, be willing to check your temperature every day, and have the ability to abstain from sexual activity on consecutive days every month.

If you can do all that, the app could work for you.

“In the end, what we want to do is add a new method of contraception that women can choose from without side effects,” Scherwitzl said. “I think there are many women who this will be great for.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What Do You Do If You Have An STI?

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Stay Calm, Here Are 3 Steps To Take

By Laura Moses

Years ago, a friend raged into my apartment with bad news: the guy she had been hooking up with had given her an STI. She knew he was seeing other people, but he had just written her a lovey-dovey email from his business trip, asking about her upcoming schedule, and saying how much he missed her. She was gobsmacked about what to do. I mean… what do you do if you have an STI? Like a good friend, I made her a drink and then we made a plan. She wrote a nice email back to him saying she’d check her schedule, hoped he had a nice trip, and ended with “P.S. We have gonhorrea.” Boom.

Although we still laugh about that to this day, your sexual health is something to take very seriously. If you think you might have an STI, you probably feel anxious, scared and pretty physically uncomfortable. I connected with Dr. Gillian Dean, Senior Director of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, about this topic. She observes, “The reality is that there are 20 million new STI cases each year. Getting an STI or having a partner with an STI is extremely common — it’s the result of intimate contact with other people and not something to be embarrassed about. It doesn’t make you any less valuable or worthy of love, and your STI status doesn’t make you “clean” or “dirty.” So take a deep breath, you got this, and read on for steps to take to address what might be going down… down there.

Step One: Get Tested

It’s important to note what your specific symptoms are and when they first occured. While a girl’s gotta pay attention to everything going on below her belt, keep in mind that not every itch or sore spot is caused by an STI. Dr. Dean explains, “painful or frequent urination could be a symptom of an STI — or it could be caused by a urinary tract infection or vaginitis. Both yeast infections and pubic lice cause itching. Is that bump a wart or a pimple? It can be hard to tell sometimes.”

While noting and keeping track of your symptoms is important, most common STIs out there — chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV — often don’t have any symptoms, Dr. Dean says. That’s why there’s no accurate way to tell if you have an STI without being tested. STI testing is quick, easy and painless. All STIs are treatable, while many are curable — but you have to know your status before you can get treated. So go.

Step Two: For Real, Get Tested

Let’s say you feel fairly fine, just a little irritation down south, but you would rather wait it out and hope it goes away than trek to your gyno’s office and do the whole pelvic exam thing. Most of the time, STIs have no symptoms or may be so mild that they don’t bother you, but that doesn’t mean they’re not harmful.

Dr. Dean cautions, “Just because you don’t have physical symptoms doesn’t mean you can’t pass it [an STI] to a partner or that it can’t lead to more serious health problems in the future. If you’ve had vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners, you should talk with a nurse or doctor about getting tested.”

Now, if you have physical symptoms such as sores or bumps on and around your genitals, burning or irritation when you pee or flu-like symptoms like fever, body ache, and swollen glands… then please put your phone in your bag and go right to the doctor. (You can finish reading this later!) You can also get rested — often for a reduced rate or even for free — at Planned Parenthood or a sexual health clinic.

Once you’ve been tested and you know exactly what you’re dealing with, the treatment your doctor prescribed to you will get to work. Going forward, be sure you take all precautions to protect your precious health, like using protection and getting tested regularly. Dr. Dean explains, “At a minimum, sexually active people should get tested once a year — but it also depends on your personal risk factors, such as if you use protection or if you have a new sexual partner since you last got tested.” She suggests talking with your doctor about what makes sense for your life.

Also, you should talk to your sexual partner or partners about this. If you’re unsure how to have this super fun talk with a sexual partner about STI testing and protection, or that you have an STI, Planned Parenthood created a set of videos to help you out. If you truly don’t want to have a face-to-face chat, you can always do it in an email postscript, like my dear friend once did. Your sexual health is part of your physical, emotional and mental health, so being able to communicate with your sexual partners is key.

Complete Article HERE!

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