What Counts As ‘Sex’?

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Why We Should Stop Focusing So Much On Intercourse

By Gigi Engle

In the last several months, lots of research has emerged showing that young people aren’t having as much sex as prior generations. Many people interpret this trend as an indication that people aren’t connecting with one another as much as they did in decades prior.

But one big problem with many of these studies is their definition of the word “sex.” The standard barometer of whether sex is happening is whether there’s a man with a penis inserting it into a woman’s vagina.

That’s not accurate.

Intercourse (i.e., a penis being inserted into a vagina) is not sex. Well, it is—but it’s not the only sex there is. It is one act that is a part of a larger umbrella of “sex.” And there’s a lot of sex that happens that doesn’t involve intercourse at all.

Every sex act is sex.

It’s everything from masturbation to manual stimulation to cunnilingus, breast play, nipple licking, blow jobs—all of it. It is all sex.

Sex is everything we do sexually with one another, involving any acts that make us feel sexual pleasure and that we pursue for that explicit purpose. It doesn’t matter how you “get there”; it matters that you enjoy yourself.

It’s time we stop referring to “intercourse” as sex and start moving into a better, more well-rounded understanding of what constitutes sex. By placing all our eggs in the intercourse basket, we’re not only leaving out people in relationships other than heterosexual cis ones; we’re also robbing ourselves of better, more frequent orgasms.

The false hierarchy of sex.

When we claim that intercourse is sex, we automatically place all other sex acts below it. Intercourse becomes “the big show” and the “main event” of a sexual experience. Every other sex act, such as oral sex, anal sex, and hand sex, are considered “less than” or “not quite sex.” This puts nearly everyone at a sexual disadvantage.

For female-bodied people, it completely ignores the clitoris, a crucial sex organ that is central to the female orgasm. Nearly every woman requires external clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm. This rarely, if ever, happens during intercourse without a hand, toy, or tongue involved in tandem. Yet we call oral sex and hand sex “foreplay,” meaning it is the thing that comes before the “big show.” To add fuel to the fire, it is also widely considered optional, providing yet another damaging effect on female sexually.

The term “foreplay” enforces an unequal gender hierarchy: A female orgasm is secondary to a male orgasm. In sex between men and women, defining sex as “intercourse” makes female orgasms an afterthought.

For male-bodied people, it adds a ton of pressure to “perform.” When “sex” is made to be all about a person with a penis being able to thrust it into a vagina, hard erections that last a long, long time become vital to being a satisfactory partner in bed. What if you tend to orgasm quickly from penetration? What if you have a small penis? Suddenly you’re a lackluster lover. This sets the stage for feelings of inadequacy, performance anxiety, and general discomfort around sex. But these negative narratives are all based around an incomplete picture of what sex really is: After all, a guy with a smaller penis who can use his tongue, hands, or a toy is far better equipped for delivering orgasms than one with zero skills and an enormous penis.

And of course, for same-sex couples, intercourse may not even be on the table. What is sex then if there is no P in the V in the game? It leaves same-sex people out of the equation completely.

Where does this misconception come from?

A lot of the confusion stems from inadequate sex education programs, many of which reinforce tired stereotypes, gender norms, and narratives about sex being inherently “dirty” or “bad.” According to the 2018 SIECUS report, “21 states do not require sex education or HIV/STI instruction to be any of the following: age-appropriate, medically accurate, culturally appropriate, or evidence-based/evidence informed.” Furthermore, 32 states require abstinence-only education if HIV instruction is provided.

Even many more thorough sex ed programs primarily focus on pregnancy prevention and STI prevention through condom use, which reinforces that “sex” means “intercourse.” And you’d be hard-pressed to find many sex ed programs that actually talk about sexual pleasure, which might allow for broader definitions of sex. All of this together means the only sex we ever hear about in an academic setting is heterosexual intercourse.

Additionally, part of our stubborn adherence to making intercourse the definition of sex is in service of the virginity myth. Society wants to maintain a clear-cut definition of what makes someone a “virgin.”

Virginity is simply a social construct we created long ago based on the idea that sex is inherently shameful. It was used to differentiate between the “pure” people who haven’t had sex and the “dirty” people who have, and today many conservative cultures around the world still embrace this harmful and false dichotomy.

Sex is a part of the human experience. All people are born with sexuality. It is as normal and natural as eating and sleeping. By placing emphasis on virginity, it inherently makes us feel ashamed of and uncomfortable with our bodies and feelings. This is objectively not a healthy way to live.

Broadening the definition of “sex.”

Would the results of research on sexual activity trends look different if we specifically asked about sexual acts other than heterosexual intercourse? It’s possible. After all, if our fear is about people connecting, shouldn’t we acknowledge that a couple giving each other pleasure through oral alone regularly is just as connected as a couple that has intercourse regularly?

Everyone benefits from new understandings of what makes sex sex. When we recognize all sex acts as equal—part of a beautiful patchwork of human sexual expression—we open up new avenues for education, exploration, and the ability to secure a less shame-laden future for younger generations.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ways Seniors Can Get Back To Having Great Sex Lives

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Sex is good for your health, and some research suggests it might be particularly beneficial to older people: It keeps your body physically active, keeps the mind sharp, encourages intimate connections with others, and instills a sense of joy and excitement into your life.

Despite the cornucopia of benefits, we don’t talk a lot about seniors having sex. Part of it simply has to do with cultural narratives about sexuality: The dominant image we all carry of what sex “looks like” (as told to us on screens big and small) always involves people who are young, thin, able-bodied, physically fit, and conventionally attractive. The lack of representation or conversation about other types of people having sex contributes to an unspoken assumption that those folks just aren’t doing the deed.

But the truth is, racking up years doesn’t mean your sexual needs automatically vanish into thin air. Sure, your sexual preferences and appetite might shift as you get older, but there’s no reason to believe all people over the age of 60 just suddenly prefer celibacy.

Are 60-year-old, 70-year-old, and older people sexually active?

Yes! They certainly can be, and many are. The 2017 National Poll on Healthy Aging found 40 percent of men and women between ages 65 and 80 are sexually active. Among people in relationships, that rate bumps up to 54 percent. Some studies suggest there might be differences between men’s and women’s sexual interest: One U.K. study found 60 percent of men between ages 70 and 80 are having sex, compared to 34 percent of women in that age group. That said, women over 70 years old report that their sex lives are way more pleasurable now than when they were in their 40s.

Of course, some people as they get older do just become less interested in explorations of the flesh. For many, that has to do with health: Your hormones, sexual responses, and general physical condition may shift with age, making some sexual activities a lot more difficult or just exhausting than they used to be. For others, losing a spouse to death or divorce later in life can also make sex seem less enticing or accessible.

Other than consent and physical safety, there are very few “shoulds” when it comes to sex. If you want to be having sex after 60, 70, 80, or 90 years old, you have every right to pursue an enjoyable and fulfilling intimate life.

The importance of talking about your sexual needs.

A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE found nearly 60 percent of older people are unhappy with their sex lives. One big reason why? They weren’t talking about it. But those who had asked for support from others, from their doctor to their spouse, were much more likely to be sexually active and sexually satisfied.

Here’s the thing: Most things in life get easier the more we talk about them. When it comes to sex—something that carries so much stigma on its own, let alone the added invisibility of seniors having sex—talking becomes especially important. Moreover, if physical ailments, a sense of isolation, or something about your environment is keeping you from having the sex life you want, it’s important to seek help from others. There’s absolutely nothing shameful about advocating for your sexual well-being: It’s a vital part of your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

If you’re of a certain age and looking to reconnect with your sexuality or simply give a little more attention to your sex life, here are a few ways for you to get started:

1. Ask your doctor.

Especially if you’ve got a lot of other health problems to deal with, your sex life might feel like a pretty low priority and perhaps nor worth bringing up at your next doctor’s appointment. But the truth is, your doctor knows your health condition well and can offer up specific suggestions for how to help improve your ability to have sex, whether that’s prescribing medications or adjusting your health plan in a way that keeps your sexual functions thriving.

2. Find a sex therapist or other professional who works with people in your age group.

If talking to your main health care provider doesn’t feel right to you or doesn’t bear a lot of fruit, try a sex therapist or another professional who can help you feel comfortable and safe exploring your sexual needs. You might be surprised what kinds of services exist out there—sex coaches, sex educators, tantra teachers, sexual healers, some doulas, and many other professionals can all guide you and give you support exploring this part of your life.

3. Open up to your friends and romantic partners about sex.

Communication about sex, both with your partner and with others, can lead to a more satisfying sex life. If you have a romantic partner right now—even if it’s someone you’ve been with for decades—consider speaking with them about how they feel about your sex life right now and whether they’d be interested in reprioritizing it. Tell them what you’ve been thinking about, what the health benefits are, and ways that you’d like to start dabbling in this area again.

Additionally, talking about sex with your friends has been shown to improve sexual confidence and sexual self-efficacy. As you develop comfort talking about this intimate part of your life, you’ll also find it easier to talk about your needs and ask for what you want.

4. Find a community or retreat to help you explore.

If you don’t have close friends who you want to share this stuff with, seek open-minded communities of people in your age group with whom you can engage in more dialogue about sex. Intimacy retreats and workshops can be a great way to learn, reconnect as a couple, and find others who are on a similar journey. (Bonus: If you or your partner feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or shy about the idea of exploring sexually, these types of events can be very welcoming, approachable spaces to help you open your mind, get more comfortable, and shed some of your apprehensions.) If you’re not sure which events are right for you, you can always reach out to the organizer to get a sense of the target age groups.

The internet is also a vast and wonderful resource for finding such communities in your neighborhood: Google around, look through Meetup.com, or post in social media spaces you feel comfortable with. You can also try asking people in real life who are your age to see what resources they know about. While putting this article together, I spoke with several people who run private groups in their own neighborhoods for discussing senior sexuality.

5. Do some reading!

There are many excellent resources that can provide you with endless ideas, inspiration, and resources about exploring your sexuality at any age. Try these for starters:

6. Expand your definition of what sex means.

This one’s important! As we get older, some types of sex that might’ve been exciting in the past are just less feasible—but that doesn’t mean all sex now needs to be off the table. For example, if sex in the past meant a lot of thrusting and acrobatics, consider exploring other types of sexual expression and activities: Focus totally on using your hands, arms, and mouths, for example, to give and receive pleasure. Plenty of sexual acts will still yield those blissful neurochemical rewards. Cuddling is associated with significantly more sexual pleasure and more sexual satisfaction, for example, and even the brain can be a sex organ. Reading, watching, and creating erotica can be excellent ways to stimulate sexual energy.

There are so many ways to share passion, intimacy, and pleasure, both alone and with a partner, that have little to do with making the headboard shake. Find something that fits with your lifestyle, abilities, and interests.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Books About Expanding Your Sexual Horizons

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Spice up your fantasy life without having to interact with another person with these stories of sex and exploration

By Frances Yackel

The theme of education—spiritual journeys, individual enlightenment—pervades much of the literary canon across cultures. Reading the narrative of a protagonist’s heuristic odyssey can open the eyes of the reader as it relates to their own life. Bildungsroman novels allow us to look at our own morals and dispositions, and consider the places in which we can grow. As the hero grows and learns, we grow and learn with them. This is true of novels about sexual exploration. A history of censorship has turned sex into a subject matter only disclosed behind closed doors (or during a 45 minute class in middle school), making it difficult to be comfortable with our bodies and the pleasures for which it lusts. But this prohibition only makes the conversation more relevant.

Written with sincerity and vulnerability, these seven books share the stories, both fictional and non-fictional, of sexual exploration. The characters give us insight into our own journeys; as they learn about their own sexual appetite and biological urges, we make discoveries of our own.

Open Me by Lisa Locascio

In Open Me, high school graduate Roxana, consumed with wanderlust and an awakening sexuality, goes on a study abroad trip to Denmark. Her adventure begins when she meets a beguiling Danish PhD student who woos her and whisks her away to stay with him in a remote town, where he tells her that he has only one key and she cannot leave the apartment while he is out working. Finding herself locked away in a stranger’s apartment in a foreign town, Roxana defies the “princess locked in a tower” trope. Rather than wasting away her time, dreaming of her prince or brushing her long golden locks, she takes the opportunity to explore the intricacies of her body, reflecting on her previous and current sexual experiences, to learn about her desires. Locascio writes about sex (and masturbation) with a vivid realism that no male writer could ever achieve.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

For this hydro-erotic story, Melissa Broder pulls from her own insecurities and idiosyncrasies relating to sex. According to The New Yorker, Broder “could only orgasm when she imagined people vomiting” during her developing years. With the same vulnerability she uses to tell the public about her own sexual pleasures, she develops a protagonist willing to succumb to a lust for marine carnality. An addict to the feeling of being desired and adored, Lucy recognizes the same need in her partner, whose quasi-merman body has made him believe he will never receive love.

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn

Sexual exploration and education goes far beyond adolescence and even young adulthood, it can exist even within the boundaries of a permanent relationship, even within the time honored tradition of marriage. With the changing of bodies and situations, with lives in constant flux, growth can be incessant. When the married couple in Sarah Dunn’s novel recognize this, they make a sincere effort to progress rather than stay in place. The Arrangement tells the story of an open marriage between Owen and Lucy, in their attempt to reclaim their marriage while simultaneously sanctioning one another’s implicit sexual desires. The Arrangement plays with the periphery of what has been long considered, in many parts of the world, the conventional way to live a life alongside one monogamous partner.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Using lyrical prose that bewitches from the first page and poignant references from philosophers, pediatricians, and writers, Nelson writes about her life with a nonbinary partner. Nelson’s style, which vacillates between poetry, theory, and memoir, offers the reader a sincere look into what it means for her to love, and lust after, someone who does not fall within the confines of the binary social construction of gender.

 

 

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Educating yourself on sex and lust is one thing, educating your children is entirely another thing. In Emma Straub’s novel, set in modern day Brooklyn, two families simultaneously explore what it means to be in a relationship, whether it’s a lifelong connection or a newly flourishing one. While Jane, Zoe, Elizabeth and Andrew struggle with their own relationships after the death of a mutual college friend and bandmate, their respective children begin a fling. The juxtaposition of experienced and inexperienced, old and new, offers an interesting perspective on the development of sex and love—of growth from the one into the other.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

One of the first English novels about someone changing gender begins with, “He—for there could be no doubt of his sex…” Long before the public acknowledgement of gender fluidity, Woolf weaves the tale of a woman born in a man’s body—or a man who becomes a woman. Orlando lives hundreds of years, is exposed to centuries of chauvinism, and encounters the mistreatment of the female’s body from the perspective of a person who has lived on the other side of the coin. Orlando illuminates the brutal history of gender politics while recounting the experience of a person who lusts after both men and women.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Lusting after a person can inspire a passion for creation. Edna, a married woman, learns this when her appetite for sex is aroused by a neighbor at the boarding houses on Grand Isle where she is staying for the summer. When autumn sets in and Robert—her muse—is gone, Edna continues her fervency. Now, the object of her fervor is no longer a man, but art. Her romance with Robert catalyzes a desire to create beauty. Edna rides on the high of that inspiration, forgoing the social norms of women of the time to zealously chase after the feeling of bringing something beautiful into existence. A feeling not unlike creating a bond between another person where before there was only unfamiliarity.

She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir

Sexual exploration can be as painful as it can be pleasurable. Simone de Beauvoir, a cited expert on the condition of human suffering and the subjugation of women, wrote this novel loosely based on her relationship with Jean Paul Sartre. She Came to Stay follows the story of Françoise and Pierre as they invite a third person into their lives. Through these three characters, de Beauvoir examines the inherent paradox of love and desire; how can we feel the freedom of individuality that love promises us when we depend on the other to give it to us? As per the deep-rooted existentialism that pervades all of her texts, She Came to Stay is an investigation into meaning through the magnificence and monstrousness of sex and love.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why we need a new philosophy of sex

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A number of years ago, I found myself at a public sex beach in southern France for research purposes. Unsurprisingly, I experienced some ethical dilemmas. Because I was researching the ethics of sexuality, my research involved potentially having sex with men and women at the beach.

The question of whether I “should” or “could” do so was complicated by a number of factors. I am a woman. I am queer. I am an academic. At the time, I was also in an (increasingly) difficult relationship with a man who was a philosopher. Given all of these complex factors, I desperately needed ethical assistance supported by philosophy (that I read and revered) that did not judge, and was aligned to my sexuality. But this philosophy – whichever way I turned to find it – doesn’t exist.

Ethics is a field of philosophy that seeks out the foundations of how we should live our lives. It seeks to provide a framework for doing the “right” thing. This framework is founded on conventional Western philosophical ideas. For instance, conventional ethical thinking finds homosexuality to be an “issue”, rather than an inherent characteristic of bodies. The ethical theorist John Finnis, for example, recently argued that the ethics of homosexuality are still up for discussion.

Most of these philosophies are heavily influenced by Rene Descartes’s concept of dualism, which separates the substances of body and mind. This idea of dualism is at the roots of the philosophical canon, from Immanuel Kant, to Friedrich Nietzsche, to David Hume. Founded in the primacy of knowledge and rationality, these philosophies culminate in the idea at the heart of the liberal philosophy of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin: that for a debate to be moral, it must be capable of being rational. This is so we can use our minds to judge the actions of ourselves and others.

Some Western philosophers were more radical, such as Baruch Spinoza, a contemporary of Descartes. His major work, Ethics, opposed Cartesian dualism by unifying body and mind, God and substance. This also hugely influenced modern Western philosophy, particularly big, fashionable continental thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, John Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida, who all have sought to place the body on equal philosophical terms with the mind. Despite being a leap forward, this philosophy still does not place all women’s bodies on equal philosophical footing with the minds of the men who wrote it.

A white male canon

All of the names listed above are white men. There is, of course, the huge body of (usually white) feminist work, but this is described as feminism, not philosophy. This means that we have a philosophy built by men, put on pedestal of genius, who defined and continue to define philosophy through their rational legacy.

This is despite the fact that Kant and Hume were racist and Aristotle (“the Father of Western philosophy”) was sexist. Heidegger was a member of the Nazi party, and as a professor began an affair with his then student, Hannah Arendt. The argument is that these philosophers were not as socially enlightened as us, given their historical specificity, so we should continue to value their ideas, if not their bodies.

This Cartesian insistence that philosophy can be separate from the body that writes it, can be dangerous. Sexist, racist, powerful (and sometimes abusive) men have been endowed with an authority to create the foundations of how we judge sex. We endow this philosophy with authority over all bodies: women of colour, queer women, trans women, women who like to have sex in all types of ways, women whose oppression and assault maintains the authority of these philosophical geniuses. These philosophers are dangerous since their authority can inform our sexual tastes, and what is “acceptable”. These rules encourage us to disregard the ethical complexities of women’s lives.

How could a canon of white men do justice to the complexities of women

The pleasure of women

These philosophies were not helpful for me in my ethical dilemmas, since they were not written for me, my body and my sexuality. Thankfully, in the world outside of philosophy, core assumptions about women’s sexuality are being dismantled.

The academic Omise’eke Tinsley writes to empower the sexuality of black women generally, and against “misogynoir”, a specific sexism against black women. The writer Wednesday Martin, meanwhile, is systematically dismantling the myth that women are the monogamous ones, compared to men’s inherent sexual restlessness.

The movement to “correct” dominant ideas is not only about the sociology of women’s desire, but also the science. The OMGyes project is using research and women’s experiences to redefine a science of women’s pleasure. The Vulva Gallery is doing revolutionary work in sex education and representing women’s vulvas and their owner’s stories.

Sadly, we are not closer to finding a philosophical ethic that fits these growing understandings of women’s sexuality. There is the practical philosophy put forward by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy in The Ethical Slut, but this is geared towards polyamorous people. And such an explicit code could be seen as unsexy, not to mention that some people might think of themselves as monogamous sluts, or something in between. Maybe some of us don’t want to be called sluts. And maybe there are those who prefer to be unethical. In the present philosophical landscape, who can blame them?

Future sexual ethics

So philosophically, we have not moved on. Psychoanalytic philosopher Alenka Zupančič’s What IS Sex aims to tell us what sex is in modern psychoanalytic and philosophical terms. But this does not help us discover a new kind of sexual ethics in light of what we have discovered and continue to discover about women’s practical sexual experiences. To do so, I argue that we need to move beyond the authority of even the male continental “radical” philosophical canon.

In my own ethical dilemmas, conventional ethics did not help me. In fact, they became part of the dilemma, since somehow I valued the perspective and empowered the words of my partner, because he was a philosopher. I also sat on that beach thinking that my desires were wrong, since they did not fit within a particular category, which meant I was not entitled to ethical treatment.

Also, as an academic, not only was I supposed to be objective and non-desiring, I was supposed to value ideas over bodily sensations. I was supposed to be rational and operate ethically while having my sexuality abused. Western ethics was not in favour of the strength of my body, but its destruction.

All this is to say that conventional philosophy and research is not going to develop a new ethics for women’s sexuality. Instead, as I argue in my story of finding my own sexual ethics, we need an ethic of vivid kindness, to ourselves and others. And it needs to be founded on a wholesale, orgasmic attack: on Western philosophy.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s How To Decide On A Safe Word

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No matter who you’re sleeping with, how long you’ve been sleeping with them, and what type of sex you’re having — if you’re not feeling it anymore, you’re allowed to tap out at any point, for any reason. While it’s important to discuss consent and knowing what you and your partner(s) are comfortable with before turning up the heat, knowing something like how to decide on a safe word can be a great way to keep everyone safe and comfortable during sex.

“A safe word is a word selected by sexual partners together that when used indicates one partner would like to pause sexual activity for any reason,” McKenna Maness, sex educator and former education and prevention coordinator at The Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP), tells Elite Daily. “Perhaps sex got too intense, or the partner is physically uncomfortable or in more pain than they would like to be, or roleplaying crossed into something less desirable for that person, they’re overstimulated— in any of these cases, the partner who would like to stop can say their safe word and the other partner would know that it is time to stop immediately and check in!”

Although having a safe word can be a tool for communicating with your partner(s), it it no way means that partner(s) are allowed to skip the boundary convo or try something new without first getting consent. “It should not be your goal to make someone use their safe word. A safe word exists for reasons of safety. Boundaries are made for a reason and not everyone likes theirs’ pushed. At the same time, it does not make you weak to safe word out,” Lola Jean, sex educator and mental health professional says.

“Safe words” have roots within the BDSM community and are often associated with more kinky types sex. Additionally, expressing when you’re not feeling something or need a time out, can be useful in all types of sexual activity — from bondage and role play, to gentle spooning and basic missionary. Whether you’re going at it and your legs are in a weird position so it kind of hurts, or you want to check to make sure your contraceptive is in place, a “safe word” is nothing more than a signal that you need to stop and check in.

“You always have the right to stop whatever you and your partner(s) are doing to each other for any reason — communication is key and safe words facilitate that!” Maness says. If you just got your IUD replaced or you’ve had the worst day ever and can’t stop thinking about your terrible coworker Shannon, you may not realize that you’re not trying to have sex tonight until you’ve started to have sex. Safe words, then, are like an immediate “eject button” from sex, without feeling pressure to explain what you’re feeling in the moment, before winding down the physical touching or expressing everything on your mind to your partner(s).

When choosing a safe word, it may be helpful to pick a universal phrase — like traffic light colors. “It’s easier to remember the difference between yellow and red even when in the depths of sub space,” Jeans says. “You can add words like ‘Red Stop’ to end completely as opposed to just “Red” to stop what you are currently doing.” If your first grade teacher ever used a paper traffic light as a public-shame discipline system (I’m triggered) or if you’ve ever been in a moving vehicle, it’s easy to remember that “Red means stop.” Words like traffic light colors, that hold deep cultural significance can be great choices for a safe word, as you’re unlikely to forget them.

If you’re not a big talker during sex or a verbal safe word doesn’t feel comfortable, Maness suggests incorporating a physical “safe word” or a physical signal that you need a time out. Yet, like a safe word, a physical tap-out should be a motion you wouldn’t otherwise do during sex. “Maybe tapping your partner’s shoulder or winking, a peace sign or crossed fingers — as long as they will see it and understand it,” Maness says.

If you’re someone who likes to laugh or joke during sex, it may be a good fit for you and your partner(s) to choose a funny safe word. “My safe word is ‘Mike Pence’ because that would make someone stop dead in their tracks during a scene to question what was going on —plus I do like a safe word that makes me giggle,” Jean says. Although humor may play an important role, Jean also speaks to the importance of finding a word that’s memorable and literally easy to say. “When choosing a safe word, it’s important that it is something you can easily remember and say. It should be a word that would likely not come up within play or a word you don’t say very often. (I rarely would use Mike Pence’s name in my sexy times.) Mike Pence is also an easy two syllable punch.”

Maness too agrees that choosing a safe word ideally means picking something unforgettable. “It has to be something you will absolutely be sure to remember during sex. If you are single or non-monogamous, you can choose one just for yourself and communicate it before sex, and if you have a partner you consistently hook up with, whatever that looks like for you, you can decide together what to use,” Maness says. “It could be parachute. It could be persimmon. It could be shovel. Just make sure it’s memorable and you both/all know what it means.”

Maness also suggests thinking about a word you wouldn’t otherwise say when having sex. Something completely random like an inanimate object, an inside joke, or something otherwise unfamiliar to the communication you and your partner(s) typically have during sex. Though it may feel right to have your safe word be something silly or totally random, using it is a serious move. “Using a safe word — even with a long term partner — has a certain weight to it that other words do not. A safe word means business. It means slow the f*ck down and check in with your person,” Jean says.

Of course just like finding the right safe word for you, understanding exactly what your safe word will mean is another important conversation. “It’s important to set forth what the safe word or signal means too— usually it means ‘stop now’ but you could also ask your partner to give you physical space when you use it, or tell them you want comfort and aftercare at the point where you use it,” Maness says. “Using a safe word is revoking consent in that moment. Your partner shouldn’t take offense, or be upset or hurt. You aren’t necessarily ending the sex permanently, although if you are that’s fine too.”

If using a safe word means your boundaries were crossed, you may want to further discuss with your partner how you’re feeling and what you need to feel comfortable and safe when having sex. Your safe word could mean anything from, “Your knee is knocking into my hip and it kinda hurts can we switch positions” to “I don’t like where this is going, we need to stop”. Having an open dialogue with your partner about what your safe word means and how it will be used is just as important as choosing the right word for you. “It’s a great tool that just requires honest/open conversation,” Maness says.

If you are thinking about the right safe word for you, take time to ponder your personal boundaries, preferences, and the types of sex you do and (maybe more importantly) do not want to be having. During any sexual encounter — a LTR, one night stand, or super hot orgy with ninety people — the most important thing factor is active consent. When it comes to deciding on a safe word, you get to choose how it’s used, when it’s used, and what it means.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexually Submissive Men Have Something to Say

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Learn About the Complex and Varied Experiences of Sexually Submissive Men

by Aysha White

It’s pretty much unquestionable that BDSM is having its 15 minutes of fame culturally.

The massive popularity of the book 50 Shades of Grey and it’s inevitable, on-screen adaptation prove that the public is eager to learn more about the world of BDSM, which commonly stands for bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, though there are variations under that moniker.

It’s not surprising that BDSM is enjoying more mainstream success; a study revealed that 51 per cent of men and approximately 39 percent of women were sexually aroused by the idea of having a dominant or submissive sexual partner. These results also reveal that more men than women are attracted to the idea of having someone be sexually submissive to them.

What is lacking about the mainstream depictions of BDSM is variety. 50 Shades of Grey centres around the love/sex story of two characters, the naive/innocent student journalist Ana and the mysterious and damaged businessman Christian Grey (the namesake of the movie).

A lot of cultural dialogue around the subject, including mainstream media sources, have imposed a heterosexual idea that reinforces existing gender binaries, where the man is the dominant partner and the woman the submissive.

It ignores the experiences of sexually submissive men and dominant women, arguably because they flout social customs. We live in a sexist patriarchal culture that promotes and profits off the physical and emotional submission of women.

Men who are sexually submissive are essentially giving the finger to social norms, and that isn’t comfortable to people who promote a mainstream, church-on-Sundays, mashed-potatoes-every-Wednesday kind of existence.

Pseudonyms have been used for the people interviewed, to protect their privacy, as well as their current and future employment opportunities.

Calvin Hobbes

Hobbes is a submissive latex-loving man,] who loves to serve his Mistress. “I feel complete when I’m submissive—whether that’s in a sexual context or in terms of being obedient to my partner in day-to-day life,” said Hobbes.

He views his sexuality as kinky or submissive, though he can often enjoy vanilla sex. Vanilla, in the context of the kinky community, is meant to describe sex that doesn’t have any BDSM elements to it, but it can also be used to describe people who don’t practice BDSM.

Hobbes described himself as essentially straight, but does experience occasional attraction towards other men.

“I think a lot of submissive people, of whatever gender, find that being submissive is a release from responsibility in other aspects of their life—whether it’s work, family, or just being responsible for your own behaviour and emotional state,” he said.

Hobbes began to realize he was interested in being dominated by a woman around the age of 16 or 17. “I think that from a fairly early point in my adolescence, I felt that women were more in touch with their sexuality than men. That awareness came across to me as a type of power that I found very appealing,” he said.

As a teenager, he felt confused about all of the new things he was feeling, and by the conflicting societal messages he received about how to behave. “The idea of a woman who knew what she wanted and unambiguously asserted that was delightful.”

“For over a year now I’ve been in love with a beautiful dominant woman who loves having me as her slave. The connection there, and how happy and proud she makes me feel to be her slave, makes me want to be completely open about the nature of our relationship,” he said.

Catiya Kass, his Mistress, described being a female dominant as an empowering kinda of experience. She said the intimacy it created between her and Hobbes led her to fall in love with him quicker.

“We’re socialized to defer to a man’s needs, and this relationship style flips that on its head. Through prioritizing my pleasure together we’ve discovered my body is capable of more than I ever thought possible—hands-free orgasms, orgasms from inflicting pain, multiple orgasms (current record is 54 in one day!). This has made me appreciate and love the body that I live in, and given my slave even more reason to worship it,” said Kass.

Believing in destiny is a personal choice, but if you do believe in it, you might see these two as an example.

Kass reached out to two online profiles in one week, one kinky and one vanilla. Long story short, they both belonged to Hobbes, which he subsequently revealed to her. The two have built a successful sexual and romantic relationship, built on open communication about their interests, needs, wants, and boundaries. The full-time domination that they engage in together has been a new experience for both of them.

“I like challenging and pushing my sub to explore boundaries, such as wearing his collar or latex in public.”

Hobbes likes employing latex in his sexual practices, describing it as the most sensual material he knows. “I find that the way it stretches as you move makes it feel almost like wearing a lover that caresses you all over at once. It’s sublime,” said Hobbes.

Hobbes noted that the process of getting dressed in it, including the application of polish to make it shine, can be a be a sensual form of foreplay as people run their hands over each other’s bodies. “I find that wearing latex makes my sense of stimulation less penis-focused and more of an all-over bodily experience,” he explained.

Hobbes pointed out that while for women being objectified is a form of misogyny, for men, not used to being seen for their appearance, the experience can create the opposite feeling. He feels like in the context of sexual submission, being treated like an object, “to be used and admired,” and the feeling of being completely and totally wanted provide him with an ego boost.

“I feel that being submissive is really part of how I was born. But I do think there’s something to the idea of submission being a release from being smart all the time, and from overthinking things.”

“There’s definitely a threshold one crosses into ‘subspace,’ where you stop thinking about what’s happening to you and how it could go next, and reach this mindful or meditative state of complete acceptance, let go of responsibility, and just enjoy existing for your partner’s pleasure,” said Hobbes, pointing out that the feeling can be especially strong if his Mistress is flogging or pegging him, or else having him placed in full body, restrictive bondage.

Flogging means being whipped. Pegging is a gender flipping sexual act, of a woman penetrating a man anally, usually with a strap-on.

Afterwards, he explained that the dominant will release the submissive, a practice known as aftercare. It’s meant to ensure they are physically recovering from the scene, as well as emotionally supporting their process of re-attaching to responsibility and being in charge of themselves again.

“Mistress and I don’t have a relationship where we ‘play’ occasionally. I’m always submissive to her, she’s always dominant over me, sometimes it just becomes more intense. I find that the more intense the dynamic between us becomes at any given time, the more I crave for it to become even more intense, and I slip deeper into submission,” explained Hobbes.

“Women who are self-assured, smart, know that they’re capable of taking care of themselves, and know what they want have always made me melt,” he continued.

Hobbes said that he derives a lot of fulfillment from serving women and knowing he’s making someone he loves happy. He feels that being submissive removes some of the guesswork out of relationships, as he’s comfortable following orders, trusting that his Mistress wouldn’t abuse her power over him.

“Dominance isn’t about abuse, or manipulation. It’s about care, and earning authority. And submission isn’t about weakness, it’s about confidence, dependability, and trust,” said Hobbes.

He pointed out that many people who are not a part of kinky society may not understand the amount of time, effort, and negotiation of boundaries that gets put into establishing a healthy kinky relationship.

Hobbes doesn’t believe in the idea of divine powers influencing life on Earth. “There is no cosmic judge who wants us to avoid certain foods, wear certain clothes, or gets angry if we fuck or fall in love in certain ways.”

He said that having an open-minded yet rational attitude has made him more open to alternative life choices, like BDSM and polyamory. “We’re on our own, but we’re free to live our lives how we see fit, and find meaning and value in our relationships, our work, and our communities,” Hobbes explained.

“Letting someone else be in charge is really nice. It’s a strange irony I suppose, that politically I identify as an anarchist—the pacifist type, not the Molotov cocktail type—and believe very strongly in egalitarianism and individual freedom. But I feel so happy being owned, commanded, restrained, and objectified by the woman I love, where that power imbalance is consensual,” he said.

Logan Roland

“I’ve never been a leader or anything. I like following a lot more” said Logan Roland, a cross-dressing submissive man who works at a John Deere factory where the overt masculinity contrasts with his private and overly feminine desires.

Roland describes himself as a straight man. “I like it in the back for sure [but] I don’t think I’d let a guy do me,” he said “I’m straight but also really feminine. I don’t mind plugs and toys with [male genitalia], but wouldn’t want to be with a man.”

He likes using toys such as butt plugs to give him that feeling and likes to leave them inside his rectum, experimenting with different lengths of time, or vibration. He also really loves being restrained.

Roland explained that he had always been curious about the act of cross-dressing since childhood, when he first started to try on women’s clothes.

He began understanding how he was aroused by BDSM practices. He enjoyed seeing girls tied up in cartoons and movies. He began to experiment with touching himself and tying up his ankles with belts or long socks, until “I got better things like actual ropes and cuffs.”

He began to understand more about BDSM and the way his own sexuality fit into that by watching related porn on the internet.

Roland is a practitioner of self-BDSM, meaning he experiments with putting himself in bondage positions. He describes the feeling of being tied up as being very comfortable and natural for him, even relaxing enough to fall asleep in.

So far, actually having a Mistress and being her slave remains a fantasy to Roland, but one he is eager to make a reality.

“I would definitely consider being a full-time slave as long as I got to see my family and friends,” said Rolland. “I’ve definitely been getting more into it and wanting a dominant partner.”
“[Following] excites me a lot more. I’d like to not be in control and have someone else controlling everything.”

He is open to the idea of trying to find one on a site like Fetlife—consider it Facebook of the BDSM community—but he lives in small town in Tennessee, meaning he doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of options in close proximity.

“I try to be careful about who I tell about it honestly. I’ve slowly been opening up to more people about BDSM and [my] girly side.”

He thinks that if more people were aware of his interest in submission and cross-dressing, they wouldn’t accept it, and pointed out that dominant men are seen as more acceptable in the mainstream than submissive ones.

Roland has a fondness for women’s skirts and capri pants. He recently tried shaving his legs, which was a positive experience as he continues to experiment with his sexuality in relation to cross-dressing.

He said his ideal outfit to cross-dress in would be “capri pants, a cute top with flip flop sandals, or flats.”

“I honestly love how girl clothes feel. They are so much more comfortable than guy clothes, and it’s also exciting, kind of like a forbidden fruit in a way because of it not being accepted really in the norm of our society now, but I do really love how they feel honestly and I love how cute they are and how [many] more [styles of clothing] girls have over guys.”

Some of Roland’s friends know he likes to cross-dress and are supportive of it. No one in his family, apart from a cousin and his brother, know about his feminine side. When his parents leave town for the weekend, he’s able to dress up in women’s clothes while hanging around the house.

“It definitely sucks hiding my girly side but I’m happy with the time I get to be myself, like at my friends houses or my cousin’s. They both let me dress girly and I’ve done self-BDSM around both. So it’s definitely a nice escape from hiding it a lot and it feels amazing when I get to let it out,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

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

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They Will Make You Feel Empowered AF

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

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

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

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

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

2 I will get it on with myself.

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

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

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

4 I will journal.

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

5 I will talk about sex.

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

6 I want to take some (healthy) risks.

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

7 I will do more of what feels good.

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

8 I will pump myself up.

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

9 I will cut myself some serious slack.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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