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

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They Will Make You Feel Empowered AF

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

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

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

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

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

2 I will get it on with myself.

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

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

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

4 I will journal.

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

5 I will talk about sex.

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

6 I want to take some (healthy) risks.

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

7 I will do more of what feels good.

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

8 I will pump myself up.

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

9 I will cut myself some serious slack.

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

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

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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The 5 Most Common Sexual Complaints That Couples Have

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By Jessa Zimmerman

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

“We disagree about how often to have sex.”

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

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

What to do

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

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

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

“I do all the initiating.”

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

What to do

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

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

What to do

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

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

“My partner masturbates and/or watches porn.”

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

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

What to do

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

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

“We find ourselves avoiding sex.”

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

What to do

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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What the BDSM community can teach us about consent

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By Olivia Cassano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Make Consent Sexy, According To A Dominatrix

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By Kasandra Brabaw

When Mistress Velvet, a BDSM dominatrix in Chicago, spanks a client, she demands that they tell her how much it hurts on a scale from 1 to 10. “I have to be careful and not just ask them, ‘Do you like this?’ Because I need them to feel submissive to me,” she says. That means she’s continually asking clients for their consent to hit them and tie them up, which can be tricky when the whole point is that they feel submissive to her. “When I ask for a scale, I’m gauging where they’re at so I know how to play with them next time.”

Mistress Velvet calls covert questions of this sort “consent training,” because even though people seek her out to dominate them in a sexual manner, getting consent from her clients is paramount to everything that she does. People who don’t engage in BDSM may assume that consent isn’t a huge part of bondage and masochism. How much can you really care about what a person feels if you’re intentionally causing them pain, the thinking may go. But purposely inflicting pain is a delicate task, especially when struggles, shouts, yelps, and begging someone to stop are all part of the experience. That’s why dommes and their submissives establish safe words before a BDSM scene even gets started, and why consent is so vital to the work Mistress Velvet does. It ensures that both she and her clients have a safe and satisfying experience. The argument that asking for consent “ruins the mood” is infuriating to her. There’s never a reason to risk someone’s bodily autonomy, she says, and it’s 100% possible to ask for consent while keeping the sexy mood alive — in fact consent can heighten the erotic energy in both BDSM and non-BDSM exchanges in ways you might not expect.

Just because someone let you put your hands up their shirt, doesn’t mean that they want you to put your hands down their pants.
Mistress Velvet, BDSM Dominatrix

In both Mistress Velvet’s work and personal life, she’s a huge proponent of affirmative consent, the idea that you should be asking for a verbal “yes” at every step (from kissing to caressing to penetration) of intimate and sexual encounters. “Just because someone let you put your hands up their shirt, doesn’t mean that they want you to put your hands down their pants,” she tells Refinery29. “Just because my client is okay with me spanking them in some ways doesn’t mean they’re okay with me spanking them in other ways.”

Similar to sex, consent should be fun, even if you’re not into BDSM. Asking someone, “Can I kiss you?” isn’t a mood killer, it’s an important step for intimacy to continue in a way that confirms everyone is on the same page, comfortable, and safe. You can also get creative with how you say it by lowering your voice or throwing some sexy eyes your partner’s way. As long as you remain clear and give the person you’re being intimate with the space to object or say “no,” asking for consent shouldn’t be much different from other communication during intimacy.

You can use the same kind of language throughout a sexual experience — saying things such as, “I’m going to rip your clothes off now, okay?” or “What do you want me to do to you?” — so you don’t have to stop having sex in order to obtain ongoing consent.

“If I was having sex with someone for the first time, I wouldn’t want them to assume that I like to be choked,” Mistress Velvet says. “But there’s a way to ask when they’re pounding me and they’re like, ‘Do you like to be choked? And then I can be like, ‘Yes, choke me daddy.'” The same scenario works in the reverse if you want to offer consent. So, if you like to be choked, but aren’t sure that your partner will ask, then you can say, “Can you choke me?” during sex. Asking for what you want — whether it’s choking, oral, or a simple ass grab — won’t ruin the moment, it’ll make things even more steamy.

If I was having sex with someone for the first time, I wouldn’t want them to assume that I like to be choked.
Mistress Velvet, BDSM Dominatrix

Of course, you might feel as if you’re being thrown out of your sexy headspace at first if you or your partner aren’t accustomed to asking questions before, during and after sex. But practice makes perfect, and eventually you’ll not only get used to it, but also come to appreciate the benefits of getting exactly what you want, and being able to give someone else exactly what they want.

Mistress Velvet says that she struggled to make consent sexy at first, too. “Definitely at times [in my vanilla sex life], people would say, ‘Why are you asking me so many questions?’ and it would sometimes pause things,” she says. In those moments, she would explain that she has a history of sexual trauma, and so it’s important to her that her needs are being heard.

Maybe there’s no trauma in your past, but it’s still important to ask for and give consent regardless of your sexual history. When you’re first starting to have these conversations, you’re likely not going to be good at it. And there’s a chance that starting the consent convo will take you out of the mood, or that someone might no longer want to have sex with you because they feel that you’re making it too complicated. Those are moments to ask yourself: Is it more important to have sex or more important to learn how to stand up for my needs?

“If someone doesn’t make the space to have that kind of conversation with you, I would question if they’re a person that you feel safe with,” Mistress Velvet says. “A conscious and aware person would be like, ‘Yeah, this feels really awkward and I don’t have experience with this. Let’s just try it out.'”

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Amazing Women Who Made It Easier For You To Have Sex

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By Kasandra Brabaw

Sunday, August 26, marked the 98th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which officially granted women the right to vote. And as we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, which August 26th is known as now, we think about those incredible women who fought for our right to vote and won. Often, we also think of women who fought (and are continuing to fight) for women’s equality in the workplace. But, there’s another kind of equality that we can thank brave women for: sexual equality.

Without the tireless work of some badass women in history, single women would still be expected to be celibate. We wouldn’t have access to the birth control that makes it safe for us to have sex without fear of pregnancy. And we’d probably still think women can only orgasm when someone sticks a penis inside of them (although, some people really do still think that). So, let’s raise a glass to the women who made it okay for us to have as much (or as little) sex as we want.

Ahead, we celebrate 7 of the women who pioneered conversations about sexuality and sexual health.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940)

Emma Goldman

In 1917 a U.S. Attorney General wrote, “Emma Goldman is a woman of great ability and of personal magnetism, and her persuasive powers make her an exceedingly dangerous woman.” Goldman gained a reputation for being “exceedingly dangerous” partly for spreading the idea that women should have access to birth control. She was also a hardcore anarchist who spoke with such firey passion that the man who assassinated President William McKinley in 1901 credited one of Goldman’s lectures as the inspiration. So, you know, that could also be part of it.

Perhaps because her lectures were so “inspirational,” Goldman was frequently harassed and arrested while speaking about radical reform. So, she worked with the first Free Speech League to insist that all Americans have a right to speech, no matter how radical or controversial.

Although she was active during the time of first-wave feminism, Goldman shunned the suffrage movement and instead called herself an anarchist. She held lectures on politically unpopular ideas like free love, atheism, capitalism, and homosexuality. After Margaret Sanger, who coined the term “birth control,” printed information about contraceptives in a pamphlet called Family Limitation, Goldman took it upon herself to make sure people had access to the information. She distributed the pamphlet and in 1915 went on a nationwide speaking tour to raise awareness about birth control options. In 1916, she was arrested outside of one of her lectures under the Comstock Law, which prohibited the dissemination of “obscene, lewd, or lascivious articles.” She spent two weeks in prison.

Goldman was deported back to her native Russia in 1919.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

Margaret Sanger

In addition to creating the birth control pamphlet that got Emma Goldman arrested, Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood, along with her sister Ethel Byrne and fellow-activist Fania Mindell.

Sanger’s mother died at 50-years-old, partly due to complications from delivering 11 babies and having 7 miscarriages. Inspired by her mother’s pregnancy struggles, Sanger went to Europe to study contraceptive methods, even though educating people about birth control was illegal in the U.S. at the time.

When she came back to the U.S., Sanger was frequently arrested under the Comstock Law for distributing “obscene, lewd, or lascivious articles.” In 1912, she wrote What Every Girl Should Know, in which she argues that both mothers and teachers should clearly explain sexual anatomy in order to rid children of shame about sex. She wrote: “Every girl should first understand herself: she should know her anatomy, including sex anatomy.” (Preach.)

Two years later, Sanger wrote Family Limitations, an instructional pamphlet in which she coined the term “birth control.” And two years after that, Sanger, Byrne, and Mindell opened the country’s first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which the police shut down only nine days later. Sanger spent 30 days in jail after the Brownsville clinic was raided (where she instructed the inmates about birth control).

In 1923, Sanger opened the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau to distribute birth control to women and to study the long-term effectiveness and side effects of contraceptives. She also incorporated the American Birth Control League, an organization that studied global impacts of population growth, disarmament, and famine. Eventually, the two groups merged to become what we now know as Planned Parenthood. Sanger continued to fight for contraceptive rights and sexual freedom along with other birth control activists, and in 1936 their efforts led to a court ruling that using and talking about birth control would no longer be considered obscene. Legally, birth control information could be distributed in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. It took another 30 years for those rights to be extended to the rest of the country (but birth control was still only legal for married couples until the 1970s).

Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012)

Helen Gurley Brown

In 1962, when birth control was still illegal in most states for anyone who wasn’t married, Helen Gurley Brown wrote Sex And The Single Girl, a book that argued for single women’s right to have as much sex as they wanted. (The book later inspired a 1964 movie.) At the time, many publishers rejected the book for being too provocative, because it did such scandalous things as encouraging women to pursue men, and suggesting that women actually enjoyed sex (gasp!). When the book eventually was picked up, the publishers omitted a chapter dedicated to birth control. So unmarried women at the time could have sex, they just couldn’t know how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies.

Three years after her book published, Gurley Brown became Editor-In-Chief of Cosmopolitan. But the magazine many now associate with brazen sex advice wasn’t so risque back then. And although the staff at the time was not thrilled with her message, it was Gurley Brown’s influence that turned Cosmo into the go-to mag for learning how to please your man.

Virginia E. Johnson (1925-2013)

If you’ve watched Masters Of Sex, then you’re already familiar with Virginia Johnson’s story. Johnson was first the research assistant for and later wife to William H. Masters, a gynecologist and sex researcher. Together, the two studied sexual responses in hundreds of men and women and published groundbreaking studies that transformed how people understood sexuality.

Many of their participants credited Johnson’s warm and encouraging nature as the reason they felt comfortable enough to participate in Master’s studies (which often required them to masturbate or have sex while hooked up to machines that registered heart rate and other bodily functions). Although Johnson never finished her degree, she’s considered a sexologist for her help in Master’s work. Often, it was her who collected patients’ sexual histories and recorded data as they became sexually aroused.

Masters and Johnson made several important discoveries in their work, many of which broke negative assumptions about how women experience sex. In their 1966 book Human Sexual Response, they established that the clitoris is essential for women to have orgasms and that women can have multiple orgasms during a single sexual experience. After their book was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, it became a bestseller, making it common for people to say words like “clitoris,” “orgasm,” and “masturbation,” for the first time.

In 1964, Masters and Johnson founded the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (later the Masters and Johnson Institute), where they treated sexual dysfunction until the institute closed in 1994.

Joani Blank (1937-2016)

Anytime you pass a sex toy shop with large glass windows that proudly displays dildos, vibrators, and butt plugs instead of hiding them under seedy lighting, you can thank Joani Blank. In 1977, she founded the first Good Vibrations store, a feminist-leaning sex toy shop and one of the first to be run by a woman.

Blank had noticed that all of the sex toy shops she’d encountered reeked of men. The windows were covered, as if you should be ashamed of the products inside, and often, there would be men watching porn at quarter-operated booths once you got inside. It was a hostile space for women. “Over and over, women would say they were afraid to go into one of those places,” Carol Queen, the staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, said in Blank’s obituary.

Prior to opening Good Vibrations, Blank was working at UCSF’s medical school with women who struggled to have orgasms. She encouraged them to try vibrators. And her experiences with these women also informed her plans for the sex toy shop. In addition to having a place that felt safe for women, she wanted to train her staff to be able to answer questions about sex and sexual health. She wanted her customers and her staff to be able to have frank conversations about sex. It was all in an effort to take some of the shame and stigma out of having sex, especially for women.

Loretta Ross (1953-present)

Anytime you’ve ever used the term “reproductive justice,” that was because of Loretta Ross. Ross coined the phrase in 1994 following the International Conference on Population and Development.

Ross is co-founder of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, which organizes women of color in the reproductive rights movement. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of social justice and on building a human rights movement that includes everyone. She was co-director of the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, the largest protest march at the time, which saw 1.15 million people gather to advocate for abortion rights, birth control access, and reproductive healthcare.

Ross also started the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s, where she brought delegations of women of color to international conferences on women’s issues and human rights. In the 1970s, she became one of the first African American women to direct a rape crises center.

Complete Article HERE!

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Brands Are Dipping Into Life Coaching and Sex Advice

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Lola tampons, Coach, and more are offering life advice with your purchase.

An ad for Lola’s hotline.

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In a calm voice, Dr. Corina Dunlap gave me a short overview of the meaning of low libido. “One thing I really want women to know is that many factors can impact libido,” she said. “These interests and desires can be impacted by a number of internal as well as external factors, ranging from anxiety, relationship conflict and stress to vaginal infections, hormone imbalances, and common medications.”

I had called a sexual advice hotline created by reproductive health company Lola and, after weighing my options, selected a recording of Dunlap — a naturopathic doctor based in Portland, Oregon — who gave a short spiel and then requested that listeners leave a message after the beep for “a chance I’ll be calling you back.” It was a little thin on helpful information, but it did advise me to consult a professional with any questions.

On July 11, Lola (which started off selling tampons but expanded into a broader reproductive health products line in May) launched its month-long “Let’s Talk About It” campaign, including the new temporary call service (supported by dedicated phone booths set up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) aimed at encouraging open conversations about sexual health. The service, which ended the weekend of August 11, was described as a “one-of-a-kind national hotline that features Lena Dunham, Bethany C. Meyers, Shan Boodram and other thought-provoking women” on a variety of topics, from the right to orgasm and sex after surgery to opening up about your sexuality and period sex as great sex.

Women typically look to tampon companies to fulfill utilitarian purposes like comfort and absorbency, but Lola has also been thinking about what value it might add when it comes to overall sexual health and fulfillment. And Lola isn’t alone in its effort to provide consumers with life advice related to its core product line. A number of brands are starting to offer a new twist on the idea of retail therapy.

Stole My Heart, a lingerie shop in Toronto, recently hosted a “Ladies’ Night” on the topic of “dating in 2018,” where a panel of female experts (including relationship columnist Jen Kirsch and Bumble representative Katryna Klepacki) tackled sex and love in the contemporary age. Marks & Spencer, the UK-based department store, recently launched mental health drop-in sessions at several of its store cafes, noting that the brand aimed to provide a space “where people can talk openly with others who understand how they are feeling.” In June, Coach launched Life Coach, a new interactive NYC pop-up designed to encourage self-discovery through tarot card readings and sessions with the AstroTwins, identical twin sister astrologists. And the online sex toy vendor Unbound started a temporary promotion in April that offered free sessions with a sex coach.

Hotels are also adding a range of personal betterment options: The William Vale in Williamsburg has a course on “applied empathy” and the art of building better relationships, and the Hoxton in Amsterdam has launched the “Motherhood Project,” which covers everything from eating for improved energy to attaining balance in a hectic world.

Encouragingly, a lot — though not all — of these brands have partnered with experts with some degree of legitimacy, which means much of the advice being dispensed is through referral to a knowledgeable organization rather than a customer service rep expected to dispense answers about low libido in addition to facilitating returns. Collectively, they underscore a key point: the idea that their customers are ravenous for certain conversations, whether it’s about sexual or mental health, work-life balance, or building confidence.

Earlier this year, the womenswear brand Tuxe — perhaps best known for making polished bodysuits, including one famously worn by Meghan Markle — launched a Coaching + Clothing program, which offered a free life coaching session with every purchase. Tuxe is presently revamping its coaching offerings, but it’s working on a series of pre-recorded sessions with an all-female cast of performance coaches on topics including dealing with setbacks and building confidence, and setting achievable goals.

Tamar Daniel, the founder and CEO of Tuxe, refers to this program as “part of addressing the whole woman.” She says her business model has been heavily influenced by a 2011 Northwestern University study that suggested that how you dress affects not only how others perceive you but your actual behavior. “As a team, we got really excited about this whole idea and felt that it speaks to the core of what we had been trying to express,” she says. “I never liked the idea of just selling product. I want to put our money where our mouth is and delivering on more than just what you wear.”

Daniel says she launched the Tuxe coaching program in response to customer feedback. “We were getting a lot of emails from people telling us that they bought Tuxe to boost their confidence before an interview or a big presentation, or from mothers who bought them for their daughters on their first day of college or other big milestone events,” she says. The emotional connection between their clothing and the hopeful ambitions of their consumers created an opportunity to tighten the weave.

Daniel sent me a sample video being prepared for their late summer relaunch in which career coach Katie Fogarty talks about building a strong personal brand (Martha Stewart is cited as a role model) and offers practical tips for getting there. There’s nothing revolutionary about this advice, of course. But it’s the kind of thing you might watch to get fired up just before you head into an important pitch meeting while wearing your new Tuxe bodysuit. “It’s very TED talk-y but these positive messages can make a difference,” says Daniel. “It can get your blood pumping.”

Getting your blood pumping — especially when it creates a positive brand association — is a big part of the goal. Peter Noel Murray, a consumer psychologist based in New York City, says these programs tie into a very current self-care trend that says to the customer, “We care about you and we care about your mental health.”

“It’s a way for retailers to say, ‘We’re good people and we’re not just after your money,’” says Murray. “A brand is just a mental image of something; from a psychological perspective, this is just a way to enrich that mental association the customer has with whatever brand. We are naturally attracted to things that are positive and make us feel good.”

This feel good, self-empowerment-oriented Goop-ification of a spectrum of businesses speaks to a some very contemporary issues: rising concerns about mental health and accessible care, the pervasiveness of the self-care movement, our obsession with self-improvement, and the increasing lengths retail and hospitality brands will go to cultivate a “lifestyle” persona in order to create perceived intimacy and drive customer loyalty.

“Programming like this allows us to offer a space for our customers to talk about these intimate things that they care about,” says Amy Pearson, co-owner of Stole My Heart in Toronto. “You take out the impersonal business aspect and connect on a more personal level.”

Connecting on a more personal level can be tricky, depending on the angle. Mary Pryor, a digital marketer based in New York City, visited Life Coach in June and thought the pop-up served as an interesting introduction to the metaphysical or paranormal world. “Coach is in the business of leather handbags, not crystals, so I’m glad they brought in programming by people who know what they’re talking about,” she says. “It was the kind of thing that might leave some bread crumbs in your brain.” She also noted that there wasn’t a heavy push on product but rather overall brand awareness. “It would be hard to push self-reflection with a leather bowler bag. That would be a stretch.”

But the promise of authentic engagement and subsequent customer loyalty is a powerful incentive for brands to keep building platforms for engagement in the self-care space. Pryor’s sense as a consumer is that many of these associations are being driven by a particular sense of vulnerability — especially among women. “I think people are really looking for tools and answers to find their way,” she says.

Brands are seemingly happy to light a path. Polly Rodriguez, the co-founder and CEO of Unbound, says her company’s partnership with Maven (an online sexual health clinic) was based on a conversation vacuum. “The government and public education system should be addressing sexual health and wellness, but over and over, we’ve seen these institutions walk away from that role,” she says. “So there’s a place for us to provide that value for our customers. We want women, femme-identifying, and nonbinary people to be able to find these resources and tools that they need. And when you offer your customers genuine solutions and help, it builds customer loyalty in a way that’s authentic.”

Unbound is also planning to expand on this idea — though it’s looking to build online tools to connect women who need support. Rodriguez says she hopes the program will launch in the early fall. “We’re seeing a really organic community emerging on Instagram and at events,” she says. “There’s palpable demand for women to feel less alone.”

Jordana Kier, a co-founder of Lola, says that their recent initiative is also part of a broader effort to build community. “In this day and age, so much of our lives and interactions are online,” she says. “But people like that IRL interaction and they want to feel connected.” Lola was inspired, she says, by concerns related to continuing stigma surrounding sex. “We wanted to find a way to use advertising to drive a touchy conversation. We’re providing women an opportunity to ask questions and feel supported.”

There’s an interesting duality to these new offerings: On one hand, they’re clearly feeding a need from a group of consumers hungry for information about how to be a woman in today’s world; on the other, there’s an undeniably cynical rationale behind this kind of programming, drawing a customer or potential customer closer while engaging in a form of emotional manipulation — even when intentions extend beyond a company’s bottom line.

San Francisco psychotherapist Daphne de Marneffe says there’s a risk that in attempting to create positive associations, some brands might inadvertently present the idea of a quick fix to sometimes serious mental or sexual health problems. “Sitting with strangers in a closed cafe is not going to resolve your psychotic break or addiction issues,” she says.

Still, de Marneffe acknowledges that creating spaces to have these conversations is valuable. “Some of these programs acknowledge that people are feeling emotionally stressed out and that they can’t always talk about things with their spouses or friends. There’s a question of whether there’s a false promise in here, but it could serve as a gateway for people to get help.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Christopher Sherman’s Sex Positive Nudes

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By Ryan Cahill

Photographer Christopher Sherman has just woken up in Toronto. It’s lunchtime in London, where I’m currently trying to connect a transatlantic FaceTime. Storm clouds overhead mean that only fragments of Sherman’s voice are audible through our phone, which isn’t ideal when we’re here to discuss his provocative nude photography — the interrupted line means I’m just hearing words like “butt,” “sex” and “cock” being yelled down the line without much context. After the storm finally clears, we reconvene our conversation. I’m here to dissect Sherman’s work, to scratch the surface of his awe-inspiring personal film photography, which often depicts men in their most intimate moments; pre, post and during orgasm.

Sherman started his foray into photography in his pre-teen years. He first picked up a camera at the age of 8 after finding it in a McDonald’s Happy Meal. He says the neon pink toy provided a Summer-worth of fun for him and his sister, and together they would take turns to photograph Barbie naked in their backyard. Unbeknownst to him, his adolescent play was a pre-cursor for his career later in life. Upgrading from a plastic play-thing to real life subjects, the guys that Sherman shoots are real people; friends and acquaintances that he’s amassed over the years — and whom feel comfortable enough to let him capture them entirely naked, and often in the throes of passion.

“To me sex is one of the greatest forms of human expression,” Sherman tells me. “Sex is art, sex is funny, sex is clever, sex is intelligent, sex is joy.” He first started shooting nudity and sexuality as a way of answering a question; could pornography be turned into an art form that people would want to hang on their walls? After years of shooting and regular commissions, it’s safe to say he’s answered that question. Sherman’s style of photography has gained attention from the varying industries, and he’s now brought his use of light, 35mm film, rawness and intimacy to the fashion landscape, regularly working with brands and publications to produce work featuring both male and female subjects — sometimes clothes, sometimes nude.

“Sex is art, sex is funny, sex is clever, sex is intelligent, sex is joy.”

Unlike most photographers specializing in nude photography, Sherman’s personal subjects are wide-ranging; an array of ethnicities, body shapes and sizes. They’re often relatable figures, and not the conventional “porn” ideal that many of us are accustomed to seeing in sexual situations via porn materials and in film, television and more often than not, music videos. “The male body is incredibly beautiful in all its forms, in all its sizes, colors and shapes. It’s a very conscious decision to explore and tell the story of a diverse group of bodies,” Sherman says of his casting choices. But why does he feel it’s important for everyday people to be seen through a sexualized lens? “Well, I think we should all see ourselves as sexual beings, I think we should all see ourselves as bodies of sexual fantasy and sexual exploration. It’s not safe when the idea of sex and sexuality is associated with one body type.”

In today’s photographic landscape, shooting nudity is arguably more revered than ever, and requires caution. We’re rife with stories about sexual assault and unprofessionalism; major photographers have had their careers destroyed overnight with allegations of misconduct. I ask Sherman about how he ensures that he’s creating a safe space for his subjects, and to him, it comes as second nature. The people are so relatable and recognizable because they’re people in his everyday life, friends and acquaintances that he’s established relationships with over the course of weeks, months and even years. “When you see a photograph, I’ve already been either engaging in conversation or dialogue with this person,” Sherman shares. “The naked moment captured by the camera is literally one per cent of the relationship, friendship or the conversation that I’m having with that person.”

The result is something raw, explicit and all-encompassing. His photography transcends taboo topics and breaks barriers when it comes to conversations regarding sex and sexuality. His imagery provides a viewer with the opportunity to see oneself in his work via his everyday subjects and their relatable sexual situations. Through his imagery, he tells us that sex doesn’t have been something we’re embarrassed about — it fills every one of our lives and is something we should address head-on, rather than shying away from.

In today’s photographic landscape, shooting nudity is arguably more revered than ever, and requires caution. We’re rife with stories about sexual assault and unprofessionalism; major photographers have had their careers destroyed overnight with allegations of misconduct. I ask Sherman about how he ensures that he’s creating a safe space for his subjects, and to him, it comes as second nature. The people are so relatable and recognizable because they’re people in his everyday life, friends and acquaintances that he’s established relationships with over the course of weeks, months and even years. “When you see a photograph, I’ve already been either engaging in conversation or dialogue with this person,” Sherman shares. “The naked moment captured by the camera is literally one per cent of the relationship, friendship or the conversation that I’m having with that person.”

The result is something raw, explicit and all-encompassing. His photography transcends taboo topics and breaks barriers when it comes to conversations regarding sex and sexuality. His imagery provides a viewer with the opportunity to see oneself in his work via his everyday subjects and their relatable sexual situations. Through his imagery, he tells us that sex doesn’t have been something we’re embarrassed about — it fills every one of our lives and is something we should address head-on, rather than shying away from.

Complete Article HERE!

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Celebrating Magnus Hirschfeld, the Einstein of Sex

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[D]ecades ago, wandering a ramshackle German flea market, an old book caught my eye. Emblazoned in gold on its brick red cover was the beckoning title Sexualkatastrophen. In its inevitably German way, the title (in English, obviously, Sexual Catastrophes) said it all and that alone was worth the few dollars price. Little did I know I had purchased a 1926 first edition of a collection of sexual studies including several written by the father of modern LGBTQ liberation, Magnus Hirschfeld.

Like his other works on the subject, his contributions to Sexualkatastrophen present scientific biographies of individual trans (he invented the term “transvestite” in 1910 that would evolve into today’s transgender and its variants), gay and lesbian subjects. Reading it at the time, I was struck by Hirschfeld’s candid and natural embrace of sexuality that helped confirm my own sense of being of another identity that was as valid as any other. And, as it still does today, the book made clear how we are so predisposed to ignorance and denial that our whole social structure continues to suffer as a result.

May 14 marks the 150th anniversary of Hirschfeld’s birth in 1868. The significance of the occasion is recognized in his native Germany where 2018-2019 has been declared “Hirschfeld Anniversary Year.” In July, the German Federal Post Office will issue a postage stamp in his honor. Throughout the jubilee, arts events, seminars, exhibits, conferences and concerts will celebrate the “Einstein of Sex” or, as he was affectionately known within his gay Weimar circle, Tante Magnesia (“Aunt Magnesia”).

Hirschfeld’s work in the field of sex was groundbreaking and visionary. Basing his theory of sexuality and gender on the “born this way” principle, he argued the case for fluidity and that all sexual expressions and their characteristics were part of a spectrum from masculine to feminine. He believed that homosexuality was, in fact, a third sex and practiced universally. As early as the 1890s he advocated the legalization of abortion and the decriminalization of homosexuality. In 1919, he helped produce a film, Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others). It depicts the plight of a gay man subjected to blackmail (it still exists today only as a restored reconstruction). His work, he hoped, would help fight prejudice and provide justice through knowledge for those “hostages of morality,” the victims of an invented system that condemned their natural deviations from the norm as deviance.

But given the politics of the times, whether in conservative Imperial Germany or, later, under the Nazi

Magnus Hirschfeld

regime, particularly as a Jewish gay liberal, Hirschfeld was considered revolutionary in its most subversive sense. A year after his film’s release, it was banned. The Nazis burned his books and his Institute for Sexual Science was ransacked and razed. Hirshfeld managed to escape to Switzerland and, later France, where he died in 1935.

In Germany today, his legacy was the complete repeal in 1994 of the infamous Paragraph 175, the anti-gay law in the German penal code and the founding of the Magnus Hirschfeld Federal Foundation.

Hirschfeld Anniversary Year should be recognized here as well. It seems, after all, we are still, a century later, fighting for the same cause.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ways Self Care Can Help You Have Better Sex

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Show yourself some love before you get some love.

By Jessica Migala

[N]o matter how excited you are to hit the sheets, sometimes it’s just hard to turn it on for sex. Your brain might be crazy distracted, for example, or it’s been a long day and you feel exhausted. Somehow, you’re just not in the right head space for that closeness and pleasure you crave.

That’s where self care comes in. You know self care; these are moves you do to treat your mind and body to some TLC, from sleeping in to doing a digital detox to signing up for mindful meditation. Whatever self-care moves you do, the goal is to unpack stress and feel more joy.

That means joy in the bedroom as well, says psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini, a sex and relationship expert in Houston. Whether you need to dial back anxious thoughts or prime yourself to feel more sensual, these five self-care moves to do before the action begins will make it happen.

Slip into a hot bath

Even if you only have 15 minutes, locking the bathroom door and soaking in a warm tub will get rid of stress and prime your body for pleasure. “Research has shown that how a woman feels about her body is the most important factor when it comes to her libido,” says Rapini. Taking time to do things that put you in a sexy state of mind can go a long way.

Add bath oil to revive your skin, close your eyes and imagine stress dissolving, and then dry off with a luxuriant fluffy towel. Rapini also recommends lightly massaging yourself while in the tub (or afterward as you put on lotion) to get comfortable with your naked body.

Arouse your senses

Maybe you pump yourself up during a workout with a motivating playlist, or you light a few candles in your living room to burn away anxiety after a long day. The same kind of sensual moves can get you ready for great sex too.

Before you’re planning to hit the bedroom, Rapini advises turning on whatever sexy music speaks to you (she suggests D’Angelo Radio on Pandora). As for scent, go with fragrances that have notes of amber, vanilla, or green tea, which can charge your sex drive. Spritz on a perfume or add a couple drops into a diffuser as you get ready for the evening.

Touch yourself

If masturbation isn’t already part of your self-care routine, this is a reason to add it in. When you’re alone and you feel comfortable, take matters into your own hands; if you prefer a vibrator, break it out. Solo sex (whether you reach orgasm or not) will increase lubrication and amp your desire.

“Some women just need that time to be alone to get heated,” says Rapini. Plus, consider this: Research from 2013 found that female masturbation was associated with feeling sexually empowered, in part because it helps women learn what turns them on.

Dress so you feel sexy 

Wearing revealing outfits isn’t just about visually turning on your partner; it can help turn you on too. “I encourage women to wear something that flaunts the part of their body they like the most,” says Rapini. That may be a camisole to show off your shoulders, for instance, or short short cutoff jeans that highlight your legs. You can wear nothing at all—or put on your most comfy sweats and a tee. “Do what feels good for you,” she says. Wearing clothes you think are sexy will get your mind to a sexy place.

Break out your yoga mat

If there’s anything yoga can’t do for you, we haven’t found it yet. Before you plan on getting busy, do a series of downward dogs. Not only is it a super way to stretch your hips, but being upside down gets blood flowing into your brain to clear your head and boost your energy. Says Rapini: “A bad day will crush your libido. This move brings you back into the mood.” And the body awareness and mindfulness that yoga promotes will give you an extra sensual boost too.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Bad Girls’ say no

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Women who value their sexual pleasure are less likely to engage in unwanted sex

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[S]o-called “bad girls” who acknowledge themselves as sexual beings may be more likely to turn down unwanted sex, according to new research on college students.

The study in Sexuality & Culture found that women who valued their own sexual pleasure as much as their partner’s pleasure were less likely to have engaged in unwanted sexual acts to please their partners.

“Drawing on the work of psychologists such as Deborah Tolman and Sharon Lamb, I was inspired to explore the presumed ‘dangers’ of young women’s sexual desire,” said Heather Hensman Kettrey, a research associate at Vanderbilt University.

Dominant cultural scripts tell young women that their sexual desire is unimportant at best and can invite victimization at worst. These scripts perpetuate the stereotype that young men have strong sexual desires that they try to fulfill through their less desiring female partners.”

“The belief that sex is all about fulfilling male desire may set women up to engage in undesired sex for the sole purpose of pleasing a partner. If a young woman’s desire is not sufficient justification for engaging in sexual activity then her lack of desire in a given situation will not be sufficient justification for refusing sexual activity. I explored this hypothesis with a large sample of college women from across the United States.”

Kettrey analyzed data from 7,255 students who participated in the Online College Social Life Survey, which collected data from 22 colleges and universities between 2005 and 2011.

She found that a majority of women — nearly 9 in 10 — said they had performed undesired sexual acts to please their partner. Additionally, roughly 8 in 10 prioritized their partner’s pleasure over their own.

Kettrey was particularly interested in the answers to two survey items: “I try to make sure that my partner has an orgasm when we have sex” and “I try to make sure that I have an orgasm when I have sex.”

She found that female students who prioritized their own orgasm equally with their partner’s orgasm were less likely to report having engaged in unwanted sexual activity.

“I want the average person to question the ways we, as society, talk about masculine/feminine gender roles in sexual relationships. Stereotypes about men’s (presumed) strong desire and women’s (presumed) lack of desire are not helpful,” Kettrey told PsyPost.

“In my study, I found young women who equally value their own pleasure with their partner’s pleasure (whether equally high or equally low) were less likely to engage in undesired sexual activity than those who value their partner’s pleasure over their own.”

“Interestingly, I did not observe this same pattern for young women who value their own pleasure over their partner’s pleasure. This suggests there needs to be a place for equality (rather than female desire alone) to be integrated into discussions about gender and sexual desire,” Kettrey said.

The study, like all research, does have some caveats.

“The main caveats to this study are that it does not rely on a random sample and the data are retrospective. Young women were asked about their sexual attitudes and their experiences with their most recent male hookup partner at a single point in time. This does not allow one to draw conclusions about causality or directionality,” Kettrey explained.

“That is, one cannot say with certainty that young women who equally value their partner’s pleasure and their own pleasure at one point in time are protected from engaging in undesired sexual activity at a later point in time. Longitudinal research in which women are asked about their sexual attitudes and then followed over time could address this limitation.”

“I would like to see young men more fully integrated into the scholarly work on sexual desire,” she added. “Sexuality scholars have become critical of cultural scripts that prioritize young men’s desire over young women’s desire. However, we implicitly reify these messages by empirically exploring assumptions about women’s desire more frequently than we explore assumptions about men’s desire.”

The study was titled: ““Bad Girls” Say No and “Good Girls” Say Yes: Sexual Subjectivity and Participation in Undesired Sex During Heterosexual College Hookups“.

Complete Article HERE!

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What is good sex?

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Here are six sexual health principles to follow

by Silva Neves

Sex is one of those topics that everybody talks about and everybody has opinions about.

[W]hat I mostly hear in my consulting room is that people don’t have good sex education and they compare themselves to what they think others do in bed.

In the absence of good sex education, what we have left to rely on is pornographic films, which is entertainment and not an accurate depiction of everyday sex, or your friends lying about their sex life being amazing.

Deep down, many people are confused about what good sex really is, and many people wonder if their sex life is good enough.

Some people criticise their sex life as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. Some people ask me questions like: ‘Am I normal for having a fetish?’, ‘Am I unhealthy for having lots of sex?’, ‘Do I masturbate too much?’, ‘Should I feel more sexual?’, ‘Am I strange for not liking penetration?’ And so on and so forth.

When we talk about sex, we tend to focus on the particular acts rather than on the broad view of sexuality: human sexuality is rich and varied and there are thousands of ways to have sex and be sexual. One person’s favourite sexual activity can be another person’s repulsion. How can we even begin to identify what is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy without falling into the trap of being opinionated, judgemental, critical and shaming?

I invite you to think about your sex life differently. If you want to know if the sex you’re having is good or bad, stop focusing on sexual acts and instead think about sexual health principles. There are six of them:

1. Consent: Consent can only be expressed from a person aged 16 or over, with a fully functioning brain. Consent cannot be expressed from a person who has impaired thinking under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example. Consent to exercise your sexual right to have sex with whomever you choose should be unambiguous. If there is doubt, take some extra time to have a conversation with your sexual partners to make sure the cooperation between you is clear.

2. Non-exploitation: This means to do what you and your partner(s) have agreed to do without any coercion using power or control for sexual gratification.

3. Protection from HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancy: It is your responsibility to make sure that you are at low risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Often it requires a honest conversation with your partner, and an explicit agreement on how you are going to protect each other. If you have a STI that is infectious, it is your responsibility to put protection in place that won’t knowingly infect your partner(s).

4. Honesty: Being honest and upfront with your sexual desires and sexual needs is important. Everybody is different, and human sexuality is diverse. It is likely that your partner may not know all of what you like, need or want sexually. In fact, some people are not in touch with their own sexual landscape and all the parts of their body that is erogenous. Being able to express to your partner what you want or need is important. It can be difficult and it is a courageous conversation to have, because you can risk hearing your partner saying that they don’t like what you like. When couples stay in a place of honesty and truth, often they can work some things out between them to achieve a fulfilling sex life.

5. Shared values: It is important that you and your sexual partner are ‘on the same page’ about what is acceptable and what is not. Our values are important to us because it informs us on what specific sexual acts means to us and contributes to our motivation for having sex. Conversations about values can clarify important aspects of your sexual health which will help with giving consent to have sex.

6. Mutual pleasure: Pleasure is an important component of sex. For good sexual health, it is crucial that you make sure that what you do bring you pleasure and at the same time, to be able to hear what your partner finds pleasurable. It is a good idea to talk about it with your partner because it is not possible to assume. We usually feel good when we bring pleasure to our partners and we also feel good when we feel pleasure ourselves.

You can stop thinking about being a ‘good bottom’ or a ‘good top’. You can stop worrying about your kinky sex life being healthy or not. If you move away from opinions about specific sexual acts, there is no judgments to be made and you can ensure your sexual life to be good by meeting the six principles of sexual health.

Complete Article HERE!

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Japanese macaques grinding on deer can teach us to be more open-minded about sex

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So if macaques do it, dolphins do it, birds and probably even bees do it, why do humans still have so much difficulty talking about sexual pleasure?
by Lux Alptraum

[I]f you grew up in America, there’s a good chance that you learned that sex is, first and foremost, a reproductive act. Sure, it feels good, but that’s just a way for our bodies to trick us into breeding. Many church doctrines will inform you that any sexual experience that doesn’t stand a chance of resulting in pregnancy is sinful, perverse, and unnatural.

But someone might want to tell that to nature.

A recently released study documented multiple instances of adolescent female macaques in Japan having “sexual interactions” with sika deer – or, not to put too fine a point on it, macaques humping the backs of deer like a pre-teen girl with a pillow. Researchers are still trying to figure out why the monkeys are doing this, as NPR explains: “It might be a way for a less-mature monkey to practice for future sex with other monkeys,” or an option for a monkey that doesn’t have any other sexual partners at the moment. It’s also possible that the monkeys, which hitch rides on deer for non-sexual reasons, too, simply discovered by accident that grinding on the deers’ backs felt good.

The discovery has prompted a lot of marveling from the media. But if you’re surprised to learn that animals like to pleasure themselves, you’re not paying attention. There are numerous documented instances of animal masturbation, a habit enjoyed by primates as well as creatures including dolphins, elephants, penguins, and bats. (Although the role of the sika deer adds a layer of complexity: Can a deer consent to interspecies frottage? “Most deer were nonchalant, continuing to eat or stand passively during the thrusting,” Quartz observes.)

It’s impossible for us to know exactly what the deer think about all this. That matter aside, there are a lot of animals out there who are, if you will, spanking the monkey. So if macaques do it, dolphins do it, birds and probably even bees do it, why do humans still have so much difficulty talking about sexual pleasure?

Even those of us who’ve gotten past the idea that sex outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage is a one-way ticket to hell still have difficulty talking about pleasure. Sex education curricula rarely venture beyond discussions of condoms, birth control, and puberty (if they even cover condoms and birth control); for many of us, the idea of discussing masturbation seems particularly prurient and unseemly. It’s been twenty-three years since Jocelyn Elders was forced to resign from the post of surgeon general in the US after daring to suggest that young people be taught to think of masturbation as a form of safer sex. And in spite of all the progress we’ve made since the early 1990s, it’s still hard to imagine a government official coming out in favor of masturbation. (Not that I necessarily want to hear a member of the Trump Administration talking about double-clicking the mouse.)

Our reticence on the subject of masturbation is particularly damaging for women. Copious amounts of ink have been spilled about the gender orgasm gap, with lots of hand-wringing about how straight men are letting their female partners down in bed. But it’s not just straight male selfishness that fuels the orgasm gap. One of the main reasons why women are less likely to find pleasure in bed is that we rarely discuss the tools to access our own pleasure, or even an understanding that pleasure can, and should, be a primary goal in our sex lives.

When sexual pleasure is discussed, it’s almost always from a straight male perspective, rationalized as an added bit of biological incentive intended to encourage men to spread their seed. As Peggy Orenstein writes in her recent book Girls & Sex, American culture teaches girls that men pursue sex and pleasure, while women passively provide it. “When girls go into puberty education classes, they learn that boys have erections and ejaculations and girls have periods and unwanted pregnancies,” Orenstein told Quartz in 2016. And when women do experience orgasms, it’s frequently positioned as the result of a partner’s skill, rather than something we’re naturally wired to actively pursue, all by ourselves, for our own selfish reasons.

These macaques throw all of these assumptions into disarray. Not only are they animals getting off just for fun, they’re female animals going to unusual lengths in pursuit of their own sexual pleasure. What we should take away from this is that sexual pleasure isn’t an also-ran to reproduction; it’s an essential part of many animals’ life experiences—regardless of our species, sex, or gender.

So instead of getting Puritanical on the macaques, let’s use them as a jumping-off point for discussions about just how natural it is to pursue sexual pleasure. Whether we’re monkeys or men—or women!—we’re all wired to seek out sensations that feel good.

Complete Article HERE!

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“The Alternative Is Awful”

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Sexual Justice Pioneer Carol Queen on Why Sexual Justice Needs to Evolve

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“As Wilhelm Reich believed, if a state can control peoples’ sexuality, it can control them — politically, culturally. This is a huge challenge for organizers, theorists, justice advocates,” Dr. Carol Queen, founder of the sexual justice movement (and my queer fairy godmother since I interned for her at the Center for Sex and Culture), tells me.

As a pivotal figure of the sexual justice — formerly sex positivity — world, Dr. Queen is no stranger to that challenge. “The deeper definition of sex positivity — way more than just enthusiasm about sex, which was never intended to be the definition of that phrase — is about social justice: access to information, resources, freedom from shame, a focus on consent, diversity and more,” she says.

Dr. Queen has decades of experience uniting social justice and sexuality through advocacy, education, and community development. She has written extensively on topics ranging from bisexuality to queer kink; co-developed sex education resources to combat the AIDS crisis; and mentored up-and-coming activists, artists and educators. One of her key accomplishments is founding the Center for Sex and Culture along with her partner Robert Morgan Lawrence in 1994 after they noticed the lack of spaces for sexuality workshops in the Bay Area. The center has become especially important for subcultures and marginalized communities in the world of sexuality and gender: queers, leather and kink communities, sex educators, sex workers, erotic artists and more. “[The Center] tries to make space for multiple needs: giving diverse people a space to gather, collecting cultural materials in the library and archive and making them available to researchers, etc., [and] presenting creative work about sex/gender, which is the way more people develop their understandings about sex more than any sex ed class,” says Dr. Queen. In other words: the centre gives people the chance to learn from and build connections with each other, pointing us towards the future.

“I want more conversations that help us connect and unite across identity barriers.”

“I want more conversations that help us connect and unite across identity barriers. This is an era when we must, must revive alliances. I came out in Eugene, Oregon, in the 1970s, and the importance of alliances was one of the first lessons I learned. It has never seemed so relevant to me as it does now,” says Dr. Queen.

Carol Queen

She would know. Key to her work in sexual justice is understanding the diversity of identities and “sexual possibilities” through education and advocacy, especially in “respect[ing] each person where they are and helping them appreciate their own point in the diversity mix.” “This is important because too many people have been taught there is only one way to be, and honestly don’t understand they may have their own unique sexuality,” she explains.

As a bisexual woman and longterm LGBTQ rights activist, Dr. Queen believes that sexual justice is especially important for queer women, and that queer women are in turn a key part of sexual justice movements. “Queer women have the gift given to all queers: we must wrestle with cultural notions of normativity to be able to live our lives, find our people, create our alternative relationship variants. Sure, we can marry now, but many queer women don’t want to and wish to connect in different ways. This intersection makes us really important stakeholders in sexual justice and sex positivity,” she says.

Bisexual women, for instance, were key to work changing sexual attitudes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In a 2000 paper co-written with Lawrence for the Journal of Bisexuality, Dr. Queen documents the importance of bisexual people in the fight against AIDS via their contributions to the Sexual Health Attitude Restructuring Process (SHARP), a safer-sex-oriented program that exposed participants to accurate sexual health information and the possibility of diverse sexual experiences that Dr. Queen worked on directly for several years starting in 1987. SHARP’s active and hands-on education was part of the acclaimed “San Francisco model”: “community-based effort to educate, prevent infection, and provide services that does not primarily rely on governmental or medical direction and intervention” that inspired other work around HIV/AIDS across the United States and worldwide in the 1980s.

Dr. Queen has observed significant shifts in the discussions around sexual justice and sexual diversity since SHARP. “I don’t see the basic underlying activism or kinds of sex as fundamentally different, mostly, but discourse about sex is out of the box and so many issues have been more or less mainstreamed that it’s striking,” she says. “It means more and more people potentially are exposed to the idea that sex, relationship and gender possibilities are many and varied; communities exist; normative ideas can be oppressive and sex/gender/relationship are not ‘one size fits all’ constructs. This is mildly interesting for some people and a matter of life and death for others.”

“[Sexual justice] has to adapt. The alternative is awful.”

“I think many people in the world of sexual justice activism believed that the path forward would only grow more progressive,” she explains. “The reality is way more fraught, and more entwined with tons of other issues: electoral politics, civility and respect on the internet, reactionary responses to identity politics, educational policy, racial justice, feminist issues, so much. And [sexual justice] has to adapt. The alternative is awful,” she says.

To look forward, for Dr. Queen, the long arc of sexual justice requires more deeply examining the healthcare matrix for reproductive rights and gender confirmation; reexamining consent and its intersections with the criminal justice system; more comprehensive sex education that incorporates consent, pleasure, and media literacy especially around pornography; the removal of laws that penalize sex workers as well as certain consensual sexual behavior and relationships; and more respect and understanding around diversity and intersectionality. It also requires looking backward. “I’m sick of all discussions that revolve around the notion that people who came before didn’t know as much as people who are setting the terms of the discourse now. That is, to me, so disrespectful. And it’s my belief that the internet age has made understanding our history, ironically enough, more difficult,” she explains.

Looking backwards to look forwards, what’s her best advice for following in her footsteps? “To do something like I’ve done, one would have to be entrepreneurial, have help from other people who want the project/s to find their audience or community and who help broaden perspective, get as much education as you can manage, realize your own experience is significant but not the marker of everyone else’s, be an ally for other peoples’ genius and identities, and consider it a gift whenever you learn more about other peoples’ perspective and struggle,” she says. The work has never been more urgent.

Complete Article HERE!

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Female sex tech pioneers are turning pleasure into empowerment

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Women are founding startups to design sex toys and wearables that appeal to female sensuality and increase representation in the tech industry

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[T]he percentage of female leaders working in technology is notoriously low and the sex tech industry fares no better. But there has been a surge in the number of sex tech businesses founded by women in recent years – so much so that 2017 has been hailed the year of the ‘vagina-nomics’ by the intelligence agency JWT. But how is the rise of female sex tech disrupting the industry and empowering women?

For years sex toys have largely been designed around the idea that they can only be effective for women if they’re penis-shaped.

“It’s a misconception that largely stems from the fact we’ve mostly had men designing sex toys and, well, God forbid women would find anything other than penises pleasurable,” says Alexandra Fine, clinical psychologist and co-founder of sex tech company Dame Products.

“In this same vein, there are design flaws – like on-off buttons facing the wrong direction or small quirks that give away the fact that women haven’t been designing these toys.”

Because gaudy sex toys aren’t for everyone, they’re now being joined by delicate, intuitive products that wouldn’t look out of place in an Apple store. These are lifestyle products that are customisable and personalised, rather than simply bigger and faster because technological advances allow it.

“Women are driving a huge increase in demand for sex toys which are ergonomically designed and beautiful,” says Stephanie Alys, co-founder of Mystery Vibe, the company behind Crescendo, the world’s first completely bendable smart vibrator.

Wisp, a sex tech start-up run by Wan Tseng, is designing wearables that recognise, for women, sexuality is not black and white.

“Our products don’t resemble things that go in holes, it just feels a bit too male,” says Tseng. Instead Wisp’s products are designed to be worn like jewellery and tap into the arousing sensations of touch, breath and smell.

“For lots of women, a good sexual experience is not just about orgasming, but everything up until orgasm. We want to empower women and help them relax and get into the mood.” It’s a concept that some men have struggled to grasp, according to Tseng. The first collection will release arousing scents, while another product in development simulates the warm sensation of breath blown gently into the ears.

Last year Alys co-founded a collective for women in the UK sex tech industry, to complement the New York-based Women of Sextech group. “The women in the industry are really up for collaborating and supporting one another.” She adds they are driven to “close the orgasm gap” – referring to the fact that men tend to climax more than women – and “help create a more sex-positive and equal society”.

The wealth of data that can be collected from smart sex tech should mean the offering will continue to improve. Mystery Vibe plans to incorporate sensors into its products that learn what stimulation methods work best, unveiling more data about the often elusive female orgasm.

Having a woman behind the creation of sex products means the stock is more relatable to other women – something that Fine believes has been missing. The company was the first to successfully fund the Fin sex toy on Kickstarter, bringing sex toys closer to being treated like any other consumer product.

Women-led companies are recognising that, just as not all women are turned on by toys that are flesh-coloured and phallic, not all women see simultaneous orgasming with their partner to be the holy grail of sexual fulfilment.

Fine, of Dame Products, adds: “I think our culture sometimes promotes orgasms over factors like intimacy and overall pleasure. Most people aren’t trying to attain the rare simultaneous climax – they want to share pleasure with their partner in a more general, less goal-oriented sense.”

Women are also harnessing sex tech to create products with women’s sexual fitness in mind. Tania Boler is co-founder of Elvie, which has created the Elvie Trainer – a mint-coloured, pebble sized kegel trainer that connects to a smartphone app to track and improve a woman’s pelvic floor muscles.

She argues the more traditional offering of kegel trainers have not been designed from the perspective of the user; they’re hard, clinical, cumbersome. Boler, who has a PhD in women’s health, was dismayed to discover there are only a few recognised scientific studies about the anatomy of the human vagina, despite half the population of the planet being in possession of one.

“Pelvic floor is the most important but most neglected muscle group in a woman’s body – a stronger pelvic floor means higher levels of arousal, more lubrication and stronger orgasms for women – and yet the product has been accused by some in the past of being anti-feminist because it means men enjoying tighter sex,” says Boler.

“This is about breaking taboos and realising pleasure and sensuality can be enjoyed for both sides.”

Stories about sex robots which allow men to act out rape fantasies have sparked outrage from women’s rights activists. It is not just heartening but essential that women are part of the sex tech movement if it is to be maximally beneficial, responsible and healthily balanced, says sex educator Alix Fox. “That’s not to say that left to their own (vibrating, thrusting) devices, all the sex tech men create would be damaging – not at all,” she adds.

“But in this era of technological boom, when the digitised and the mechanised is infiltrating almost everything from our boardrooms to our bedrooms, we must include women – lots of women, diverse women – in every conversation and at every stage.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Exploring the controversial fetish of race play

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[H]aving spent a lot of my life writing about sex, and exploring all the millions of ways in which people have sex, I can say that very little has ever shocked me. 

One of the few things to ever leave me slightly open mouthed is the concept of race play.

For the uninitiated, race play is a subset of BDSM where the focus of the imbalance in the role play stems from the races of the people in question.

In practice this often presents as people of colour role playing as slaves, or people of Jewish heritage role playing as prisoners.

We did warn you this was controversial stuff.

But it’s also popular. On the kinky dating site and forum Fetlife, the fetish has hundreds of groups dedicated to it and thousands of users who openly subscribe to being a fan.

Yet even in the fetish scene, where most things are fair game, race play is controversial.

Sophia*, 34, told Metro.co.uk that she felt ostracized on the fetish scene: ‘I have friends who are open about doing rape play or age play, but race play is a hard limit.

‘I feel like I’m not even allowed to talk about it, like it’s somehow this line we’re not allowed to cross. As a Jewish woman, I do feel ashamed of the types of role play I enjoy, but I can’t help it. It’s something that is deeply ingrained in me.’

Race play is a complicated and confusing area. The idea that someone might reenact genuine traumas that their ancestors experienced, but for sexual gratification, is a confusing one to anyone who isn’t that way inclined.

My stance on sex and sexuality is always, and will always be, that what you do in your bedroom is no one’s business but your own. As long as it’s consensual, why would anyone need to have any kind of opinion on your sexual fantasies?

In my experience, BDSM can be a way of working out some issues. Having been called bossy, argumentative and controlling for my entire life (thanks for that, society!) I found that being sexually submissive helped to soothe the concern that maybe I was all of those things.

I talked to Master Dominic, a professional dominant and sexual education expert about this complicated but compelling area of fetish, specifically why people enjoy it.

‘It’s always hard to definitively explain why people are into something specific,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Everyone has their own spin on it.’

‘The taboo nature of it is certainly a big aspect, but that can come from a few different places. It can be a relatively simple “pushing the envelope is sexy” sort of thing, or it can come from a place of internalised racism.

‘The latter takes much more consideration, empathy and communication to navigate.

Master Dominic echoed my own sentiment – that sex and fetishes can be used to explore ingrained issues. He explained:

‘People turn to sex and fetish to process and own something traumatic or troubling, and whilst I absolutely think that you are completely within their rights to do so, you do need to try to dissect it a little so there’s an understanding of the context and the need.’

What Master Dominic hits on here is something to be aware of when dealing with more niche fetishes. Those that make us uncomfortable, or that feel out of kilter with an otherwise politically correct outlook on life, can be the hardest to navigate.

‘It can be tough, for sure, especially when one of you is not part of an ethnic minority’ says Dominic.

‘It’s been one of the toughest learning curves in my career, as a middle class white man, to understand.

‘So yes, it is part of the BDSM spectrum in a lot of ways and it shouldn’t be gasped at or judged. Nobody should be policing how anybody else relates to and expresses their race, heritage, gender identity, or sexuality. It’s theirs to own and express as they wish.’

Negotiating race play from the side of the person of colour is fraught enough, but what happens if you’re a white person who has a race fetish? Is it okay to find it arousing? Or is it just your racism adopting a different guise?

Therapist Sarah Berry, who specialises in sex and sexuality explains: ‘We all have different preferences of what we find arousing and may well be more judgmental than political correctness dictates, for example hair colour, height, weight, salary.

‘If someone only goes for a certain race it could be part of this. Or it could be that someone has ideas based around stereotypes or that person being perceived as more “exotic”. If someone is having a hook-up or relationship and is finding it hard to have these stereotypes challenged then this could be troubling.

‘I think, as with many things, it is nuanced and complicated – certainly not a black and white issue.

‘It’s important, if you do exhibit this tendency, to be challenged or to see that race isn’t the only defining factor of the rounded human that they are with. If someone wanted to exert power over someone else that they do not respect because of their race or any other reasons then this is not healthy.

‘Likewise if someone felt they needed to punished for race or other reasons by someone they perceive as superior then this is also not healthy.’

No kinky person wants to refuse their sexual desires on the basis of politically correctness, but no decent person wants their partner to feel fetishised for their race.

Complete Article HERE!

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