What is autosexuality?

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A growing number of people are pledging undying love to themself

A newspaper interview by a woman who is planning to marry herself has triggered fresh debate about this growing phenomenon of self-love.

Talking to the Metro, self-described autosexual Ghia Vitale, a writer from New York, said: “I’ve been attracted to myself for as long as I’ve been cognisant of attraction.”

The newspaper notes that this sexual identification has been “seldom talked about” – so what does it mean?

What is the definition of autosexuality?

In 2013, Psychology Today blogger Leon Seltzer described autosexuality, or autoeroticism, as “one of the ‘fuzziest’ concepts in the entire field of human sexuality”, with “little consensus on what it actually means”.

The Medical Dictionary defines autosexual as “characterised by sexual physical self-contact (e.g., masturbation, erotic fantasies or rituals)”.

According to Seltzer, autosexuals “are attracted primarily – sometimes exclusively – to their own bodies”, and autoeroticism “involves a whole range of sexual behaviours and attitudes”.

“Many individuals fitting this designation might self-stimulate only when other alternatives aren’t feasible,” he adds. “Some might find themselves turned on both by themselves and others. Others might be aroused (or arousable) solely by themselves – whether through sight or touch.”

It may involve “being autoromantic – experiencing the relationship with yourself as romantic”, says Metro.

“It can mean being turned on by your own look and nudity, getting butterflies when you think about yourself, being excited to spend time alone, and masturbating to the idea of yourself. It’s all the feelings we get for a potential new suitor but for ourselves,” the newspaper continues.

Is it a new concept?

No. In his book Freud and Autosexuality, sychoanalysis researcher and professor Michel Herve Bertaux-Navoiseau writes that although “the Greeks didn’t have a word to designate autosexuality”, philosophers of the time “did not make any difference between making love with one’s clitoris or foreskin or with two sexes”.

Psychology Today’s Seltzer also cites the Greeks. “As the original Narcissus of Greek mythology became enamoured of his own image (as reflected in a pool of water), so can pronounced autoerotics be physically attracted to – or titillated by – themselves,” he says.

What else do psychologists say?

Seltzer argues that autosexuality “isn’t a one-dimensional phenomenon”, adding: “Moreover, it cannot be overemphasised that very few individuals do not – to whatever degree – exhibit certain autoerotic elements in their sexuality.”

Dr Michael Aaron, author of Modern Sexuality, tells lifestyle site Refinery29: “It is very common for people to be aroused by themselves [to varying degrees]. Some experience it more like an orientation, in that they feel more aroused by themselves than by others.

“In fact, if you bring a mirror into your sex life, you can transition those feelings of arousal into an experience that you can enjoy with partners. And if you’re really into having sex in front of mirrors, there’s actually a name for that fetish – katoptronophilia.”

Self-outed autosexual Vitale claims that sex researcher Bernard Apfelbaum was the first to coin the term. In an article on blogging platform Medium, Vitale argues that the true number of autosexuals is underestimated and understudied.

She asks: “Is it because it’s still so stigmatised nobody ‘believes’ it’s real and thus, never sincerely studies it? Or is it because autosexuality is actually quite rare and there aren’t enough folks who manifest behaviour in the same way to properly qualify it?”

Complete Article HERE!

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A Dating App for Three, Plus

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Nonmonogamous coupling — and “thruppling” — has been lubricated by the internet.

By Haley Mlotek

Feeld is a dating app with options that put the Kinsey scale to shame.

If you’re single, you can set up an account stating your preferences and curiosities, as you might with any other service. The app lists 20 possibilities for sexuality alone, including heteroflexible (straight-ish) and homoflexible (gay, for the most part).

But couples and partners can sign up, too, in service of finding a third — or a fourth.

The app was released in 2014 by Dimo Trifonov and Ana Kirova, two graphic designers living in London, as 3nder (pronounced “Thrinder”). They hoped to appeal to individuals and partners looking to join or have threesomes. But after Tinder filed a lawsuit and the company rebranded as Feeld (as in “playing the”), the founders said they welcomed the opportunity to expand the mission of the app.

“Feeld is a platform for alternative dating, for people who are beyond labels,” Ms. Kirova said in an interview. “They can meet each other without the necessity of coming from a very defined place with a very defined requirement.”

According to the company, the majority of Feeld users are between the ages of 26 and 32, and they cluster in major cities: New York, London, São Paulo, Los Angeles and Paris. About 35 percent are on the app with a partner, and 45 percent identify as something other than heterosexual. (Gender options include nonbinary, intersex and two-spirit, as well as gender-nonconforming, genderqueer and gender-questioning.)

Feeld facilitates types of sexual attachment that are not exactly novel, but are often described in novel terms. (See “thrupple,” a term sometimes used to describe a romantic partnership for three people.) And it’s certainly popular, or at least, of growing interest to many. The company did not provide the most up-to-date download information (in 2016, it reported 1.5 million downloads), but says there are currently 12,000 connections made on Feeld and an average of 100,000 messages sent on a daily basis.

It’s not just the vocabulary of sex and sexuality that has evolved.

The rhetoric of relationships has become increasingly about labor (a lasting romance takes work), and the rhetoric of labor has become about relationships (each company is a family). Consequently, start-up origin stories are often expressed as love stories — the result of passion and ambition, open communication and ready collaboration. For Mr. Trifonov and Ms. Kirova, who began dating six years ago, those semantics are true in every sense. They made Feeld as much for their users as for themselves.

Mr. Trifonov said that they had been together for two years when Ms. Kirova revealed she also had feelings for a woman. “She felt really bad about it, like she was doing something wrong,” he said.

The two met in London, though they were both raised in Bulgaria, an environment Ms. Kirova described as rigid. “If you’re not straight, you’re not normal,” she said. Ms. Kirova considered herself and Mr. Trifonov to be open-minded — “artistic” is how she put it — but it took her a long time to question her own straightness. “That moment when things started shaking and changing, I was like, I’m losing my identity,” she said.

Mr. Trifonov and Ms. Kirova wanted to stay together while also giving Ms. Kirova space to try other relationships, but they didn’t like the options available to them. (They decided to search as a couple.) They felt unfairly judged by the label “swingers,” and recall users on other dating apps reaching out to say they shouldn’t be in spaces intended for single people.

Thus, Feeld was born.

The company struggled to find funding at first: Mr. Trifonov said many prospective investors considered the app “adult entertainment,” which venture capitalists tend to avoid for reasons as legal as they are moral. (On that, Mr. Trifonov said: “How come you can’t differentiate pornography from sexuality? These are two different things.”) Apps like Tinder and Bumble don’t advertise their utility when it comes to polyamorous exploration, but they can be used to the same end. (OkCupid recently added a feature that allows couples to link their accounts in their pursuit of a third.)

Eventually an angel investor swooped in to save Feeld, but the fact that the business is sex-related has presented other challenges.

An attempt to build a Feeld integration for Slack, which would allow co-workers to anonymously confess their office crushes, was, unsurprisingly, shut down — a human resources complaint waiting to happen (the company told Mr. Trifonov it was a violation of their developer policy). The money transfer app TransferWise temporarily blocked Feeld’s ability to collect money for paid memberships (which offer more privacy) because Feeld was considered “adult content.” Mr. Trifonov also claims he was refused an office rental because the landlord didn’t approve of the nature of their business.

Now, the company is up and running more or less smoothly, with some 20 people employed. In the tradition of small businesses everywhere, all workers do multiple tasks, and titles are given more for the benefit of people outside than those within it. (The company also runs an event series on nonmonogamy and put out a magazine.) Ms. Kirova describes herself as being responsible for general product leadership, long-term conceptual ideas, as well as much of the hiring and personnel decisions. Mr. Trifonov, the founder and head of the operation, believes she’s just being modest: “She’s like the unicorn of the company,” he said.

If they had stayed simply a threesome app, Mr. Trifonov believes it would have died as a threesome app. “When I started Feeld I thought — like every other founder, I guess — this company isn’t going to be like other companies,” he said.

I asked if he thought that there was some overlap between the two expectations: that social mores, from business to the bedroom, are better overthrown than followed. “I guess they overlap somehow, don’t they?” he replied. “When you have the mind-set of questioning things, it applies everywhere. We questioned our relationship. We questioned the way the business will work.”

Complete Article HERE!

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When Sex Workers Do the Labor of Therapists

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BY Carrie Weisman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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When Brooklyn was queer: telling the story of the borough’s LGBT past

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In a new book, Hugh Ryan explores the untold history of queer life in Brooklyn from the 1850s forward, revealing some unlikely truths

The cover of When Brooklyn Was Queer.

By  

For five years Hugh Ryan has been hunting queer ghosts through the streets of Brooklyn, amid the racks of New York’s public libraries, among its court records and yellow newspaper clippings to build a picture of their lost world.

The result is When Brooklyn Was Queer, a funny, tender and disturbing history of LGBT life that starts in an era, the 1850s, when those letters meant nothing and ends before the Stonewall riots started the modern era of gay politics.

The book grew out of Ryan’s other project, The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, a sort-of travelling museum that creates installations celebrating the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Ryan and his friends had done shows about local queer history in other cities but never in Brooklyn, where many of them lived. When they decided that they should do a Brooklyn event, they put out a call for information and got little reply. “People just didn’t know Brooklyn’s queer history,” says Ryan. “I thought I’d just go to the library, get the book about queer Brooklyn history. It’s probably from the 1970s and all of 10 people have read it. There wasn’t one.”

Ryan started collecting information and then got a grant from the Martin Duberman Fellowship in LGBT studies at the New York Public Library. “They said to me when you are done with this grant you should have your book proposal written.”

One recurring theme in his research that fascinated Ryan was how Brooklyn’s rise from rural backwater to New York’s second city mirrored the rise in interest in sex and gender studies and – sadly – the rise in homophobia, bigotry and abuse.

Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869, the same year that human rights campaigner and journalist Karl-Maria Kertbeny first used the terms homosexual and heterosexual.

Shortly before that, the Erie Canal finally connected the city to the Great Lakes, bringing jobs and the urbanization that allowed queer life to flourish – especially along Brooklyn’s waterfront.

“Brooklyn’s growth runs along the same timeline as the evolution of our modern ideas about sexuality,” says Ryan. “You could chart the two against each other. I used Brooklyn as an example of how things were developing in the world and America generally.”

The poet Hart Crane.

The book is studded with the stories of Brooklyn-based A-list gays of yesteryear: Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Truman Capote. Then there is The February House – a Brooklyn townhouse that was once home to WH Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee and which also hosted Salvador Dalí, his fearsome wife and muse Gala, and the writers Paul and Jane Bowles (a cast that would make the most cerebral Celebrity Big Brother house ever).

But the book also excels in uncovering what life was like for “ordinary” queer folk such as Loop-the-Loop, a trans woman and sex worker from Brooklyn at a time when “trans” was not part of the vocabulary (Loop preferred “fairy”) and Coney Island’s working-class gay bath houses.

Much of the information Ryan gathered was from sources who hated the LGBT community – and increasingly so as it was studied and categorized.

One of those groups was the Committee of 14, a group of morally righteous New Yorkers who drove for prohibition, then against (straight) prostitution and, on discovering the queer community, went after them, too.

“They were crazy,” said Ryan. “On the one hand I am glad they existed because otherwise the records they kept wouldn’t have existed but at the same time it’s shocking. They were a very strange group of people.”

One of the fascinating aspects of the book is how accepted the queer community was in Brooklyn at certain periods (and by certain people). During prohibition, gay and straight bars merged while during the war, queer life flourished as sailors poured into town, categories were looser than today and – again with caveats – there was acceptance.

Hugh Ryan.

“Before World War II, especially in 1920s, there were a lot more spaces where queer and non-queer people mixed,” says Ryan. “There was even this period ‘the pansy craze’ where it was fashionable to have limp-wristed men in movies who may have been gay or trans or entirely outside that in movies.”

But as queer profiles rose, so did the backlash. The repeal of prohibition drove gays and straight apart and the queers went underground where the police – and the mafia – came after them.

America’s love affair with eugenics, the “science” of improving the population by controlled breeding, caught up with the queer community as it had with people of color. Queers were dangerous to the health of the nation, easily blackmailed, not to be trusted. They were driven out of public life, academia, the movies; society turned against them.

By the 1940s, thousands of men would be arrested each year for “degeneracy”. In 1942, Senator David Ignatius Walsh’s career was destroyed in a sensational sex scandal that involved rumours that he had frequented a gay Brooklyn brothel that was being used by Nazi spies. The New York Post, which had fought for the US to join the war against Germany when Walsh was set against it, broke the story which became known as “Swastika swishery”.

Ryan thinks Walsh was probably gay but that the claims he attended the brothel were dubious.

The brothel’s owner, Gustave Beekman, and several others were arrested. Beekman cooperated with the authorities but still received a 20-year sentence in Sing Sing for sodomy and wasn’t released until 1963.

“The legacy of all of this is when we get this turn towards homophobia – 45 to Stonewall or the early 80s – there is this really negative idea that gay life is sad, small, limited, dirty, painful, persecuted. And I think that we have internalized that. Anytime before Stonewall that was what gay life was, when really it was just what gay life was like when gay life was becoming speakable in most of America and was getting its history written,” says Ryan.

“We have this ahistoric idea that what life was like in 1957 was ‘What Life Was Like’ for gay people.

An image from Brooklyn Pride 2015

“Well, it’s not like that now. Today Brooklyn is arguably the epicenter for queer New York culture, vibrant, diverse, out and proud. It’s awesome,” says Ryan. “It’s exciting, it’s more diverse than it’s ever been. More powerful. I think people are paying attention. what happens in Brooklyn sets the tone – and not just in queer culture.”

But is it sustainable? Can we keep the gains we have while we strive for more?

“It’s very hard to tell. There is an amount of retrenchment that happens anytime there is progressive gains. We are always on a pendulum. I worry about that but I do think that some things have changed forever.”

There’s probably no better time for us to relearn Brooklyn’s queer history.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay Sex And Censorship:

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How Gay Spaces Are Being Changed By “Family Friendly” Standards

By Devin Randall

As gay society continues to be accepted into the mainstream, its sexual identity is thinning out.

Gone are the days where a gay man could experience an establishment full of other gay men. Instead, the gay man is losing the place he so greatly needed. Spaces of self-expression where attraction and inclusion were guaranteed.

Now, our gay bars have become mainstream. The place to be. Now, a gay man will enter “the straight man’s gay bar” where female friends will feel comfortable and safe, and straight male friends will complain about having their butts groped.

Of course, some spaces do still exist. The occasional sex shop with a backroom used for unspoken exploration, the remaining bathhouses that pale in comparison to the social hotspots of the past century, and the leather bound clubs stationed in plain sight but covered with a “need to know” front. But these spaces don’t speak for all queer men.

Then there are, of course, gay apps. Apps like Grindr, Blued, and Scruff have become the calling card of gay men. They are the digital spaces where men can converse and, more likely, hunt for their next sexual adventure.

But the distance from our screns has created distance in our hearts. We have devolved into dehumanizing each other in preference of jockstraps and headless torsos. While gay men have always been overtly sexual, this digital age has made us less empathetic than ever before.

And worse of all, even these digital gay spaces are under attack of the mainstream eye. Social media apps like Grindr, Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook are under attack from censorship.

Grindr is fighting a court battle with a man named Matthew Herrick. Herrick’s ex created several fake accounts of him. These accounts then pointed strangers to the man’s home address and place of work. But instead of suing his ex, the man is suing Grindr. He claims the app and company are negligent in monitoring its users.

If found guilty, Grindr’s case could change the face of the tech industry and apps in general. Companies will then increase their monitoring of users in fear of also being sued. While this result might, at first, seem appealing, it ultimately will lead to stricter rules and more oversight on apps.

We’re already seeing how that can be a bad thing with Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Last month, Scruff released an update to its policy on profile pictures. Users are no longer allowed to post pictures of themselves in jockstraps, underwear, or bikini styled swimsuits.

While some may celebrate this change as an effort to humanize and de-sexualize users/the app, the real effort was made to fit in with family friendly standards. Scruff made the change after its app was taken off the Apple app store. They want to appeal to the mainstream program’s regulations and are thus changing this gay space to do it.

Then there’s Tumblr with a very similar story. Tumblr got taken down from the Apple app store because child pornography had slipped through its censors (never mind the fact that the site was riddled with porn bots for years).

To fix this, Tumblr banned all adult content. Their very sloppy way of enforcing this is by flagging any pictures, videos, and gifs that can seemingly appear sexual in nature. If a post or picture includes too many flesh colored pixels, it’s flagged down.

In the process of this NSFW visual crackdown, LGBTQ users have found their accounts and posts flagged for deletion. Some with reason, but many without.

And then there’s Facebook. Ever since the site was used as a tool for influencing US voters, it has been changing its algorithms and policies left and right. Then late last year, the site updated it’s Community Standards Policy.

Now, gay users on the social media app have been flagged and outright banned for sharing LGBTQ content. In this case, even the inclusion of certain words and terms can incite a ban.

It’s not just everyday citizens who are getting banned or flagged for sharing gay content. Gay publications and sites are also feeling the pressure. Perhaps even more.

Due to Facebook’s constant tweaking of its algorithm, posts from gay sites get flagged and are shared less. Facebook will make it so fans and page-likers won’t see posts about gay content. This is partially because they are gay in nature, and partially because Facebook wants to avoid the spread of fake news.

In a business where clicks equal pay, the inability to reach your audience is a punch to the stomach.

But speaking of advertisers, there’s another problem here. Advertisers are pushing for more “family friendly” content from gay sites. That means tweaking the way that gay stories are told and presented.

On top of that, mainstream sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have dedicated separate staff and sections for LGBTQ stories. Some believe that gay sites like Instinct, Queerty, and more will soon disappear. Then, queer citizens will have to go to these mainstream sites to find their news.

Clearly, there’s a change in the air. As gay men become more accepted by the mainstream, we are being forced to work under their restrictions. Our spaces, real and digital, are fading into theirs. Meanwhile, our self-expression and sexual exploration are being pressed down or outright banned in order to fit a global standard.

But here’s the thing, is all of this bad news? Not every gay man finds comfort in the gay sex scene. Once idolizing the gay club and sex scene through shows like Queer as Folk and movies like Not Another Gay Movie, I too have found the gay sex scene to be tiring. As I wrote last year, the hyper sexualized spaces no longer excite me but discomfort me.

It appears that specifically for gay men, this mainstreaming of LGBTQ culture is focused on watering down the heightened sexuality that we’ve indulged in for decades and centuries.

And as much as it’s a shame to lose the clubs and the sexual history, we gay men have evolved beyond it. Even further, we are not beholden to sex.

Gay men can be gold medal winning athletes, business men, singers, actors, politicians, teachers, lawyers, construction workers, drivers, and more. Sex is only one factor of what it means to be a gay man.

It’s a difficult issue, because gay men should fight to maintain our existence, our safe spaces, and our right to sexual expression. But, are we still only defined by our love of sex in dark and secluded spaces?

We are under attack by censorship, and we certainly should fight back. But, our pursuit of happiness is not determined by merely our right to sex but by our right to sex, love, and life.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Having Sex With Women Taught Me About Myself

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By Tanya Compas

Until I was 23, I had only ever slept with cis men and always felt conflicted when it came to sex because on one hand, I love it – like, really love it – but equally I was scared to enjoy it because of the stigma attached to being a sexually active woman. From a young age, a woman’s sexual agency is policed by society and I found myself sleeping with men to validate my femininity – often men who would play upon my insecurities. After some unhealthy relationships with men, at 21 I consciously became celibate to find out what I actually wanted from relationships. At 23, I realised Hey, I think I might like women too.

Soon after, I went on my first date with an androgynous woman I met on Tinder. After a few drinks at a rooftop bar, we hit a club and I ended up in an Uber back to hers. My celibacy came to an end that night. From that moment, the way I viewed myself, my sexuality, my body, my sexual agency and gender changed.

The unwritten rules of dating and sex in the hetero world rob women of their sexual agency; I didn’t realise just how little agency I had over my own sex life until I began dating women. I realised I was either abstaining from sex out of fear of being seen as a ‘hoe’ or having orgasm-less sex because I prioritised a man’s pleasure over my own. I’ve since had to spend a lot of time unpacking and unlearning the toxic behaviour and language I inevitably picked up through my years of heterosexual dating, in order to have healthy relationships with women.

One of the biggest things I have learned since sleeping with women is that there is no shame in being a fluid person. My gender expression is both masculine and feminine. Yet when I was dating men, my femininity became a performance because in my head the man already ‘fulfilled’ the masculine role in the relationship, so I felt like I had to hyper-feminise myself and hide my masculinity. This continued to play out as I dated the first woman I slept with. She was androgynous and masculine presenting, so I found myself once again performing my femininity. Every time I saw her, I’d wear tight dresses and makeup, and during sex I became a ‘pillow princess’ – receiving, never giving pleasure. I’m not going to lie, it was a role I was happy to play because shit, I deserved orgasms after my years of having none

It was weird that having sex with a woman felt natural; it didn’t feel awkward and for once I wasn’t squirming to hide my body. But I was still trying to hide my masculinity. Not because I was told by the girl I was dating that I had to fulfil the feminine role or that she didn’t like to receive pleasure, but I couldn’t shake myself from the heteronormative gender roles or realise that relationships could exist outside of this binary, same sex or otherwise.

Having sex with women has also made me feel comfortable enough to explore sex and the various ways of receiving pleasure, from switching between dominant and submissive roles to different positions and the use of toys. While I’m now a proud owner of a plethora of sex toys, when my ex-girlfriend took me on a surprise date to a sex shop to buy my first toy – a strap – I did a double take, thinking Omg what if somebody sees me? I felt so embarrassed going into the shop; evidently, I still carried so much shame around sex. I was avoiding eye contact with absolutely everybody, while my ex was grabbing dildos, asking me which size and colour I wanted. I was just like, “Fam, I do not know”. She asked a shop assistant for help and I swear at that very moment I wanted the ground to eat me up. Which is ironic because here I am writing a very public article about my sex life. What do we call that? Growth.

As I grew more into my queerness and became more comfortable expressing my fluidity, I began to notice how misogyny, sexism and gendered thinking still exists within the LGBTQ+ community and how the way I presented myself dictated my own experience within the community. Now, as a more masculine presenting person, I have found that some women will assume I am the ‘dominant’ person in bed and adopt the role of the ‘man’. While there are women who are happy to play that role, I’m not one of them. A couple of years ago, a girl I was dating asked me to ‘strap’ her (have sex with a strap-on dildo) the first time we slept together. I had a strap but we’d never spoken about it – I’d only ever used it with my ex-girlfriend and to be honest, she strapped me more than I did her – so this girl must have assumed I had one and that I wanted to take the ‘dominant’ role in bed. Wrong. I like to throw it back, too.

Sex with women has shown me intimacy and reciprocity in ways that I never had with men and has given me levels of body confidence I never knew I could reach. I’ve had my naked body described in ways I’d never imagined; my vulva, which I’ve always been embarrassed about because it doesn’t look like the ‘perfect pussy’ you see in porn, no longer brings me shame.

It sounds really cheesy but I’ve never had my body complimented in the way I have had it complimented by women. My unfiltered naked body, appreciated in ways I didn’t know I deserved. Through seeing the beauty in other women, I was able to see the beauty in myself. Women have shown me compassion, intimacy and acceptance. I am my most vulnerable during sex and have seen my fluidity stripped bare. Without clothes, my fluidity is still valid. I’m now at a point in my life where I’m happily in love with a woman who has both affirmed my fluidity and allowed me to explore what it means to me, without shame.

Through sleeping with women I’ve learned that there is no shame in having sex and we should normalise speaking about it. During sex, you need to communicate. The moment I rid myself of shame, I was able to communicate what I liked in bed, how I liked to be pleasured and importantly, what I wanted from the relationship. Without the need to lie, manipulate or shame. Was it just sex? A one-night stand? A relationship? Communication really is key. The more I communicated what I wanted, the more orgasms I had. Sleeping with women not only gave me my voice; it gave me the orgasms I deserve.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Bored Sex

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Women, more than men, tend to feel stultified by long-term exclusivity—despite having been taught that they were designed for it.

The “distracted boyfriend” meme gets reversed.

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Andrew Gotzis, a Manhattan psychiatrist with an extensive psychotherapy practice, has been treating a straight couple, whom we’ll call Jane and John, for several years. They have sex about three times a week, which might strike many as enviable, considering that John and Jane—who are in their 40s—have been together for nearly two decades. Based on numbers alone, one might wonder why they need couples counseling at all.

But only one of them is happy with the state of play. And it isn’t Jane.

“The problem is not that they are functionally unable to have sex, or to have orgasms. Or frequency. It’s that the sex they’re having isn’t what she wants,” Gotzis told me in a recent phone conversation. And like other straight women he sees, “she’s confused and demoralized by it. She thinks there’s something wrong with her.” John, meanwhile, feels criticized and inadequate. Mostly he can’t understand why, if his wife is having sex with him and having orgasms, she wants more. Or different.

Despite “fears of seeming sex addicted, unfaithful, or whorish” (Gotzis doesn’t like these terms, but they speak to his patient’s anxieties, he explained), Jane has tried to tell John, in therapy and outside of it, what she’s after. She wants to want John and be wanted by him in that can’t-get-enough-of-each-other-way experts call “limerence”—the initial period of a relationship when it’s all new and hot. Jane has bought lingerie and booked hotel stays. She has suggested more radical-seeming potential fixes, too, like opening up the marriage.

Jane’s perseverance might make her a lot of things: an idealist, a dreamer, a canny sexual strategist, even—again channeling typical anxieties—unrealistic, selfish, or entitled. But her sexual struggles in a long-term relationship, orgasms and frequency of sex notwithstanding, make her something else again: normal. Although most people in sexual partnerships end up facing the conundrum biologists call “habituation to a stimulus” over time, a growing body of research suggests that heterosexual women, in the aggregate, are likely to face this problem earlier in the relationship than men. And that disparity tends not to even out over time. In general, men can manage wanting what they already have, while women struggle with it.

Marta Meana of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas spelled it out simply in an interview with me at the annual Society for Sex Therapy and Research conference in 2017. “Long-term relationships are tough on desire, and particularly on female desire,” she said. I was startled by her assertion, which contradicted just about everything I’d internalized over the years about who and how women are sexually. Somehow I, along with nearly everyone else I knew, was stuck on the idea that women are in it for the cuddles as much as the orgasms, and—besides—actually require emotional connection and familiarity to thrive sexually, whereas men chafe against the strictures of monogamy.

But Meana discovered that “institutionalization of the relationship, overfamiliarity, and desexualization of roles” in a long-term heterosexual partnership mess with female passion especially—a conclusion that’s consistent with other recent studies.

“Moving In With Your Boyfriend Can Kill Your Sex Drive” was how Newsweek distilled a 2017 study of more than 11,500 British adults aged 16 to 74. It found that for “women only, lack of interest in sex was higher among those in a relationship of over one year in duration,” and that “women living with a partner were more likely to lack interest in sex than those in other relationship categories.” A 2012 study of 170 men and women aged 18 to 25 who were in relationships of up to nine years similarly found that women’s sexual desire, but not men’s, “was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction.” Two oft-cited German longitudinal studies, published in 2002 and 2006, show female desire dropping dramatically over 90 months, while men’s holds relatively steady. (Tellingly, women who didn’t live with their partners were spared this amusement-park-ride-like drop—perhaps because they were making an end run around overfamiliarity.) And a Finnish seven-year study of more than 2,100 women, published in 2016, revealed that women’s sexual desire varied depending on relationship status: Those in the same relationship over the study period reported less desire, arousal, and satisfaction. Annika Gunst, one of the study’s co-authors, told me that she and her colleagues initially suspected this might be related to having kids. But when the researchers controlled for that variable, it turned out to have no impact.

Many women want monogamy. It’s a cozy arrangement, and one our culture endorses, to put it mildly. But wanting monogamy isn’t the same as feeling desire in a long-term monogamous partnership. The psychiatrist and sexual-health practitioner Elisabeth Gordon told me that in her clinical experience, as in the data, women disproportionately present with lower sexual desire than their male partners of a year or more, and in the longer term as well. “The complaint has historically been attributed to a lower baseline libido for women, but that explanation conveniently ignores that women regularly start relationships equally as excited for sex.” Women in long-term, committed heterosexual partnerships might think they’ve “gone off” sex—but it’s more that they’ve gone off the same sex with the same person over and over.

What does it all mean for Jane and the other straight women who feel stultified by long-term exclusivity, in spite of having been taught that they were designed for it and are naturally inclined toward it? What are we to make of the possibility that women, far from anxious guardians of monogamy, might on the whole be more like its victims?

“When couples want to remain in a monogamous relationship, a key component of treatment … is to help couples add novelty,” Gordon advised. Tammy Nelson, a sex therapist and the author of The New Monogamy and When You’re the One Who Cheats, concurs: “Women are the primary consumers of sex-related technology and lubricants, massage oil, and lingerie, not men.”

Of course, as Jane’s example shows, lingerie might not do the trick. Nelson explains that if “their initial tries don’t work, [women] will many times shut down totally or turn outward to an affair or an online ‘friend,’ creating … a flirty texting or social-media relationship.” When I asked Gotzis where he thinks John and Jane are headed, he told me he is not sure that they will stay together. In an upending of the basic narrative about the roles that men and women play in a relationship, it would be Jane’s thirst for adventure and Jane’s struggles with exclusivity that tear them apart. Sure, women cheating is nothing new—it’s the stuff of Shakespeare and the blues. But refracted through data and anecdotal evidence, Jane seems less exceptional and more an Everywoman, and female sexual boredom could almost pass for the new beige.

It’s not uncommon for women to let their straight partners play in a “monogamy gray zone,” to give guys access to tensional outlets that allow them to cheat without really cheating. “Happy ending” massages, oral sex at bachelor parties, lap dances, escorts at conferences … influenced by ubiquitous pop-cultural cues, many people believe that men need these opportunities for recreational “sorta sex” because “it’s how men are.” It’s how women are, too, it seems.

Women cannot be pigeonholed; the glory of human sexuality is its variation and flexibility. So when we speak of desire in the future, we should acknowledge that the fairer sex thirsts for the frisson of an encounter with someone or something new as much as, if not more, than men do—and that they could benefit from a gray-zone hall pass, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Sexy, Secret History of Leather Fetish Fashion

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From post-war motorcycle groups to modern-day sex apps, this is the story of how leather became a symbol of masculinity and sexuality

By Louis Staples

This article is part of a series on AnotherManmag.com that coincides with LGBT History Month, shining a light on different facets of queer culture. Head here for more.

“When I’m wearing my leathers, I like the way I get to be such a symbol, a trope, of masculinity and sexuality,” explains Max, a 38-year-old gay man from London. Max is a “leatherman” or “leatherdaddy”, two common descriptors for gay and bisexual men who fetishise leather clothes and accessories.

“Fetish fashion” is the term used to describe the intrinsic link between clothing and sexual fetishes, with materials like leather, lace, latex, and rubber holding particular prominence. Dr Frenchy Lunning, author of the 2013 book Fetish Style, writes that fashion has historically been the easiest way to “traverse” from one spectrum of fetish to the other. Lunning gauges that, in the history of fetish fashion, there have been two climaxes – no pun intended – with the first occurring between 1870 and 1900. “The Victorians went crazy over silk and velvet,” writes Pat Califia, author of Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. “As quickly as new substances were manufactured, somebody eroticised them.”

When fetishwear resurged for its second peak a century later, between 1970 and 2000, leather was the material of choice. On the gay scene, an infatuation with leather was alive and well as early as the 1950s. Today, leather fetishwear is worn by leathermen like Max in sex clubs, parties, Pride parades and hook-ups, but some incorporate leather into their everyday lives, too. Common clothes and accessories include leather trousers, boots, jackets, gloves, ties and caps, with harnesses, masks and jockstraps more often worn during sexual encounters.

While leather fetishwear is not exclusively queer, there is a widely acknowledged parallel between the increased visibility of gay and lesbian identities and leather-based fetishes in contemporary culture. Recon – a fetish app for gay and bisexual men – allows leather wearers to connect with others and follow a year-round calendar of global events such as “London Fetish Week” and “Leather Prides” in cities from Los Angeles to Belgium. Paul, a 34-year-old Recon user, tells me that he equates leather with “power, strength and dominance”. He doubts that he could be with someone “vanilla” – a term for someone who doesn’t have any fetishes. “There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity,” he says. Max, who was first drawn towards leather five years ago, also associates it with manhood. “It’s just so fucking masculine,” he explains. “The more masculine I’ve become over time, the more I’ve been into it. When I wear leathers, it feels like my exterior is reflecting my interior. It’s weighty too: the opposite of something light, diaphanous and feminine.”

“There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity” – Paul, 34

These remarks reveal leather fetish fashion’s significance to masculine gay identities, particularly those relating to sadomasochistic (S&M) sexual practices. In Hal Fischer’s seminal photography book Gay Semiotics, which analyses coded gay fashion signifiers in 1970s San Francisco, leather accessories like caps were indicators that the wearer was interested in sadomasochistic sex. Lesbians also adopted leather and, nowadays, female sex workers and dominatrixes often wear the material. Though, traditionally, the gay leather scene centres on “dominant” men wishing to “own”, or exert control over, a “submissive” male partner.

Sociologist Meredith G. F. Worthen, author of Sexual Deviance and Society, writes that the leather community first emerged after the Second World War, when military servicemen had difficulty assimilating back into mainstream society. For many of these men, their military service had allowed them to explore homosexual desire for the first time. When the war ended, a void was left by the absence of homosexual sex and same-sex friendships. Instead, many found sanctuary in motorcycle communities where leather clothing was popular. The men who rode these bikes were icons of cultural masculinity, conjuring up an image of dangerous rebelliousness that was alluring to many gay men who were weary of seeing themselves depicted as effeminate pansies. Peter Hennen, author of Faeries, Bears and Leathermen, believes that this caused gay men to “invest in leather with a certain erotic power intimately tied to the way it signalled masculinity.” Queer cultural historian Daniel Harris suggests that the “raw masculinity” that leather evokes “shaped a new form of masculinised gay identity among leathermen.”

Leather’s military routes, combined with its significance in hierarchy-driven male social groups, are thought to be behind its importance to sexual practices like S&M, which centre on order, discipline and control. Yet outside the leather fetish scene, artist Andy Warhol famously used garments such as the leather jacket as a device to appear more masculine from the 1950s to 1960s. Transforming his personal style, Warhol sought to present a more macho, aloof persona to the heterosexual male-dominated New York art establishment.

“Tom of Finland ‘set the standard’ for the ‘quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock’”

Max tells me that cultural imagery, such as “Tom of Finland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Marlon Brando and James Dean” contributes to his love for leather. Finnish artist Touko Valio Laaksonen, commonly known as Tom of Finland, is behind leather’s signature homoerotic aesthetic. According to feminist studies professor Jennifer Tyburczy, Finland “set the standard” for the “quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock.” By depicting working-class men like construction workers, bikers and lumberjacks, Finland allowed gay men to feel masculine and strong while maintaining their interest in those of the same sex. His images are the antithesis of the effeminate gay stereotype that was widely circulated at the time, bringing connotations of hyper-masculinity, strength and, of course, sex to black leather. After being circulated in physique magazines such as Physical Pictorial throughout the 1950s, his work quickly became emblematic of the gay fetish community.

Following the popularity of leather in the queer sanctuary cities on America’s coasts, international travel increased its global appeal, with leather kink scenes developing in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and parts of Scandinavia. Imitations of Finland’s images became the customary advertisement of fetish events in these places, which were often disguised as motor sport or biking clubs. For the first time, Finland’s reclamation of masculine imagery provided gay men with what communications professor Martti Lahti describes as an “empowering and affirmative” gay image.

Though after years of resurgence, the leather fetish scene is facing challenges. Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers. Lesbian leather wearers, who have traditionally operated their BDSM club scene separately, have been most harshly impacted by club closures as most gay leather nights purposely ban women from entering. With a full outfit of leathers costing several thousand pounds, it is little wonder that younger kinksters are turning to cheaper alternatives like rubber or sportswear to fulfil their fetish needs.

“Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers”

The extended rights and freedoms won by queer people in recent decades have also resulted in pressure from wider heterosexual-focussed society to assimilate to their norms. Queer historian Lisa Duggan has described how the pressure to comply with what she calls “neoliberal” aims has resulted in a “depoliticised” and “desexualised” gay identity revolving around “domesticity” and heteronormative institutions like marriage. This gay identity can be exclusionary to those that fall outside its “acceptable” norms.

As the visibility of “vanilla” gayness has extended, heterosexual kink aesthetics have moved further into the mainstream, ushered in by pop moments like Madonna’s Justify My Love, Rhianna’s Disturbia and Christina Aguilera’s Bionic era, plus books such as 50 Shades of Grey. Reality star Kylie Jenner even graced the cover of Interview magazine dressed as a “sex doll”, clad entirely in skin-tight black latex. Though despite figure skater Adam Rippon wearing a leather harness once on the red carpet and the occasional performance costume from Jake Shears, the Village People’s Tom of Finland-inspired outfits and Robert Mapplethorpe’s extremely explicit photographs – both almost 40 years old – remain gay fetish fashion’s most visible representations.

With visible mainstream gay identities remaining “desexualised”, the false link between kink, sexual deviance, immorality and even criminality – a trope peddled for decades to depict gay men as “socially wrong” or “sick” – still lingers, even within the LGBTQ+ community. Andrew Cooper, author of Changing Gay Male Identities, suggests that overt sexuality has become less important to gay identities since the AIDS crisis, when sex – and communities like the leather scene that revolve around sex – became associated with death and shame. In Beneath the Skins, a book that analyses the politics of kink, Ivo Dominguez Jr writes that, as gay identities and attitudes become more sanitised, “leatherphobia” remains a significant barrier. Dominguez suggests that those who practice leather are seen by the wider LGBTQ+ community as “poor relatives they wish to hide” or an “albatross around their public relations neck”.

Yet the leather scene could certainly be more inclusive itself. In addition to its exclusion of women, it is overwhelmingly white. When combined with the fact that elements of the leatherman aesthetic have been co-opted by various sub-fetishes and groups that eroticise white supremacist roleplay and Nazi iconography, this paints a particularly objectionable picture. Then there’s the fact that much of the hyper-masculine culture that surrounds leather promotes the idea that feminine men are inferior. Society’s ever-evolving understanding of the effects of entrenched, socially-constructed gender binaries and toxic masculinity has undoubtedly reduced its appeal further.

However, despite its current challenges, the history of leather fetish fashion is as fascinating as the black cowhide is transformative to those who lust over it. Leather can conjure solidarity among those who feel alienated, while acting as a symbol of sexual liberation. Its history tells a nuanced, important story of just how integral fashion can become to communities and subcultures. To its devotees, it represents more than mere aesthetics or the leather-clad bikers of the past. To them, leather fetish fashion is a way of life.

Complete Article HERE!

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How this polyamorous couple makes their marriage work

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‘Just because it doesn’t look or sound ‘normal,’ doesn’t mean that it can’t be wildly beautiful’

Bryde MacLean and Jeremie Saunders, a married polyamorous couple, talk candidly about sex and relationships on their podcast Turn Me On.

Bryde MacLean and Jeremie Saunders have talked about sex and relationships more than most couples.

That’s partly because they co-host Turn Me On, a podcast they describe as “a no-holds-barred conversation about what it is to be a sexual being in the world.”

It’s also because they’re a married, polyamorous couple, and in the last few years they’ve been navigating the rocky terrain that comes with opening up a committed relationship. Polyamory is a form of non-monogamy in which individuals form intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved.

Today MacLean has a long-term boyfriend. Saunders has a long-term girlfriend and casually dates other people.

“Together the four of us have a very platonic and supportive relationship,” said Saunders.

He recognizes that their marriage is not a conventional one.

“I also feel like it’s important to remind people that just because it doesn’t look or sound ‘normal,’ or doesn’t fit inside a particular box that that you’re used to, doesn’t mean that it can’t be wildly beautiful and work really well, and be super valuable to the people involved.”

Here are some of things that have helped keep their marriage on track.

Put it on paper

Bryde MacLean: “[Before opening up our marriage] we wrote up a contract [which is on our website] in as much detail as we could about all the potential concerns we had. Don’t talk about our problems with other people, don’t criticize each other with other people, have lots of respect and no sleep-overs… We pretty much reviewed and edited that, almost every day, if not once a week, for the least the first six months to a year. It really helped us define what we were doing as we went.”

Be trustworthy

Bryde MacLean: “I remember the first time Jeremie told me that he was in love with somebody else. That was really, really challenging. After a couple of weeks of them hanging out a lot, I had to ask him, to ask them both, if they could take it a little slower, if they could limit the number of days per week … Neither one of them wanted to do that, because you’re in the the energy of a new relationship and it’s exciting … But they did and it was really respectful. It’s really important to be trustworthy.”

Work together

Jeremie Saunders: “It was always an experience that we were doing together, not separately, even though we are separately seeing other people, we’re doing this as a team.”

Choose your path

Bryde MacLean: “It doesn’t have to be … one path fits all. And if you choose monogamy, that’s fantastic. You’ve just got to choose it. If it’s something that you just fall into, because that’s all you’ve ever been taught, then you might feel like something’s wrong with you if it’s not working. It’s just important to recognize that there are there are other choices and they don’t have to threaten one another.”

Family matters

Jeremie: “My parents are super cool and they’ve always been very supportive. We struck gold with the people we’ve chosen to surround ourselves with, because they’ve all been extraordinarily supportive and understanding and excited for us.”

Bryde MacLean: “In Jeremie’s family, Bekah (his girlfriend) and I will both be over for Christmas and birthdays… That evolution has been really nice.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why are we so coy about sex education for gay teens?

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For novelist Lev Rosen, school sex ed involved putting condoms on fruit. We need to be much more creative – and fun, he argues

By Lev Rosen

When I was 13 years old, when I knew I was queer but wouldn’t be saying so for a year, I remember some boys at school during lunch talking about gay sex. They called it “gross”, they laughed about it. That’s what I heard from my peers about the topic. I heard nothing from my teachers; I wasn’t about to ask my parents; and the gay people on TV never did more than peck each other on the lips.

Sex education for teens is one of those topics we tend to dance around. No one wants to talk to them about sex. It sounds pervy to tell kids how to have sex – as if you’re ruining their innocence or, worse, grooming them. I don’t know what your sex education was like, but I remember mine: it was putting condoms on bananas.

Fun fact about bananas: they’re all genetically identical. Every banana you’ve eaten is the same as every other banana you’ve eaten. And many of the sex-education classes taught today are exactly the same as the one I attended more than a decade ago. Condoms on bananas, STDs, reproduction – no talk of pleasure or consent, much less gay sex.

So, I wrote a novel for teens that features guides to oral sex, anal sex, and basic BDSM. I didn’t do this just so people had someone new to send hate mail to; I did it because teens have heard all this already from TV, playground talk, and online porn. Even sheltered teens already have some idea about how sex works; pretending they don’t isn’t going to help anyone. And while not all of them want to try these things, those who do, need to know how to do it safely, and with consent. Instead, they learn all of that from the media.

In most media aimed at teens, queer men tend to be sweet and sexless. You’ve seen or read the gay best friend character who talks about how hot guys are but never touches one. Or you’ve experienced mainstream gay romance – with gentle kissing, hand-holding, maybe a hug (fully clothed). Even when they get to say what they want, these boys on TV or in film rarely long for more than a kiss and a cuddle. We never see the mimed, under-the-covers sexy-and-shirtless making-out that our straight peers are treated to. Straight teens get to have sex on TV. Gay ones, not so much.

There’s this thing I call the glass closet: the idea that liberal-minded, well-meaning folks who genuinely don’t think they have a problem with queer people tend to confine them to a rigid definition of “good” queerness. For women, this means not going too butch, usually. For men, it means not going too femme, and also, not being too slutty. “I love gay people, but do they have to be so in-your-face about it?”; “I love gay people – but not being ‘too gay’, OK guys?”

And gay sex? That’s way too gay.

Society likes to keep gay teens sexless. It likes to maintain that gay content (even something non-sexual, like the representation of gay parents) is inappropriate for children’s TV or books. Those who complain say it’s too adult – implying that queerness, essentially, is all about sex, while straightness is just what a normal relationship looks like. It’s a weird dichotomy: straight people holding hands are non-sexual, while queer people holding hands is somehow the same as broadcasting pornography. The message is clear across all media: gays have to be kept sexless because they’re already too much about sex.

And so, if all the gay teenagers on our screens are portrayed as “good” gays, kept safely in the confines of the glass closet, and sex-ed doesn’t discuss more than bananas and STDs, then real queer teens turn to the one place they can see their desires: porn.

If you haven’t seen any gay (male) porn, let me describe most of it: everything is clean and polished (yes, even most of the dirty stuff). Everyone has lots of vocal fun. No one ever flags until they finish.

Of course, porn is fantasy, and the men in these videos do massive prep for these scenes. It looks much easier than it is – that’s half the fantasy. And as fantasy, it’s fine. But as a primary source of education, gay porn leaves young queer men with an idealised, routine set of acts that suggest a (wrongly) regimented set of requirements for “real” queer sex. Standardised sexual imagery, it turns out, is just bananas with abs.

I’ve also spoken to queer women about their sexual education. They didn’t always go to porn for their sex-ed, but they didn’t find it at school or home either. Those who did look for it in porn had the additional problem that the fantasy being presented wasn’t even being presented for them.

“Many young women will encounter lesbian sex through mainstream porn,” says Allison Moon, sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101. “This means everyone, not only girls, can get some very wrong ideas about lesbian sex, because the lesbian sex in mainstream porn is designed for male visual pleasure. So queer women have to navigate male sexuality whether or not it interests them.”

And that leaves queer teens in sex-education classes in an awkward place. Straight teens can ask about things they’ve seen on TV, they can apply condoms-on-bananas to what they learn from the media, and come away with a basic framework of sex. Queer teens can only turn to porn.

The good news is that, in some places, things are changing. When I contacted my old high school to find out how the condom bananas were going, I spoke to the director of health and wellness about how the sex-education curriculum has changed, and how it’s about to change even further.

“We can do better, and we’re on the cusp,” she told me, before going into future plans: a curriculum that covers the usual safe-sex issues, but also talks about consent, healthy relationships, porn literacy and queer sex. I was thrilled to hear it. I may have even become a little teary, thinking about a class of young queer people who get a real sexual education that applies to them.

But not every school does this. And they need to, because queer people are everywhere. We’ve made strides in acceptance, but today I still see gay men in their 20s and 30s online saying they don’t know how things work. I get emails from men saying my book taught them things they wish they had learned as a teen. Teens today tell me that it’s so nice to hear someone talk about gay teens having sex, about how they feel, as though, even if they’re out, they’re still not allowed to act on their desires – or are unsure how.

Right now, teenagers’ choices for learning are two extremes (the “good gay” or the “bad gay”) – neither of which is helpful. Either way, these teens end up feeling as if they’ve done something wrong. And we can fix that so easily. Just start talking about it, teaching it. We do it with straight sex. We can fix this the way we can fix most things in life: just gay it up.

What gay teens should watch and read

Another Gay Movie (2006) A raunchy teen sex comedy about four gay guys trying to lose their virginity before graduating. There are gross sex gags, some nudity, and the pressure to lose one’s virginity is problematic, but if you wanted a queer male version of the American Pie movies (or the more recent Blockers), this is it.

I Killed My Mother (2009) A French-Canadian film that features young gay men having fun, sexy sex without being porn – like many of the straight teens you see on TV today.

Release, by Patrick Ness There are plenty of graphic, but beautifully wrought sex scenes in this book about a queer teen trying to find some freedom for himself in a small American town and with his deeply religious family.

Under The Lights, by Dahlia Adler This fun romp on the set of a Hollywood television show has explicit lesbian sex behind the scenes, as the character deals with who she’s playing on TV, and who she is when she’s with her publicist’s daughter.

Princess Cyd (2017) In this quiet and beautiful film about a teen girl (Cyd) spending the summer with her aunt, there’s one great scene between Cyd and Katie, who is a “little bit boy” (and played by a non-binary actor). It’s exactly the sort of sex we should be seeing everywhere.

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by LC Rosen is published in paperback by Penguin on 7 February at £7.99.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why So Many People Ignore LGBTQ Dating Violence

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These people shared their experiences.

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Talking about dating violence is complicated, particularly when it can take many different forms, some far more subtle than others. When we think about domestic or relationship abuse, we often think of physical violence. That’s certainly one component, but it’s not the only one. We tend not to think about other symptoms of abuse, like the debilitating impact of gaslighting, constant check-ups, and financial control. Misunderstandings surrounding abuse and the ways it can manifest means that it can be difficult for the person being abused to identify it when it’s happening, but it’s sometimes harder when these abusive behaviors are taking place within an LGBTQ person’s relationship.

In 2012, a Stonewall report found that one in four lesbian– and bisexual-identifying women experienced domestic abuse in a relationship, two thirds of which say the perpetrator was a woman. It also stated that nearly half of all gay and bisexual men have experienced “at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.” Published research focused on the experiences of trans and non-binary people remains extremely limited, however, in 2010, findings from the Scottish Transgender Alliance indicated that 80% of trans people have experienced “emotionally, sexually, or physically abusive behavior by a partner or ex-partner.” Despite these staggering figures, misconceptions surrounding queer people in relationships persist, including the myth that abuse doesn’t exist in relationships in which both people identify as LGBTQ.

Galop, a leading LGBT+ anti-violence charity in the U.K., notes that stereotypes also include ideas that “abuse in same-sex relationships is not as serious as heterosexual abuse,” “women cannot perpetrate violence,” and “sexual abuse doesn’t happen in same-sex relationships; a woman cannot rape another woman and men cannot be raped.” With this kind of prevalent misinformation, it’s no wonder that someone in an abusive queer relationship may feel unable to talk about the harm they could be experiencing.

Michelle*, a black, lesbian, cisgender woman, was with her ex-partner for two years and says she experienced physical and emotional abuse. She felt unable to disclose the violence taking place with friends and family, particularly because of the way she presents and how it could be perceived by others.

“As a 5’6” masculine-presenting woman dating a 4’11” feminine-presenting woman, I was always very vague when explaining the issues that I had in my relationship,” Michelle tells Teen Vogue. “Being masculine-presenting, I sometimes felt that I was supposed to be her protector, despite the fact that she was physically stronger than me.”

Additionally, Michelle, like many other black women in abusive relationships, faced a host of unique problems. According to Domestic Shelters, “Black women experience domestic violence at rates 30-50% higher than white women,” yet are often deterred from reporting or speaking about the abuse due to fears of adhering to stereotypes, such as the “strong black woman” narrative and not wanting to engage with police.

Oftentimes abuse can be characterized as just another rough patch in a relationship, making it difficult to determine certain behaviors as harmful or violent. This is further heightened when much of the information and resources around abuse relates to the experiences of cisgender, heterosexual women. David*, a white, gay, cisgender man, says he experienced emotional and mental abuse from his former partner who would purposefully ignore him and isolate him from other people. It wasn’t long before his former partner kicked him out of his home after accusing David of making arrangements to sleep with other men. Maya*, a black, queer woman, says she was financially and emotionally abused by her ex-partner who would manipulate her into giving her money, but then would make Maya feel that it was her fault for being bad with her finances. Naomi*, a queer, cisgender, mixed-race woman, says she didn’t realize that she was in an abusive relationship until she started directly working in domestic violence services. She thought that her experiences didn’t count as abuse because, she says, she “was never physically hit or strangled,” despite being spat on, having her possessions taken away if she didn’t act in an amenable way, and being threatened with rape. All three interviewees expressed that they weren’t aware they were experiencing abuse or that they had never known that such abuse was possible.

The assumptions made about LGBTQ relationships might act as another barrier to reporting abuse. Sadie*, a queer, black, cisgender woman, found people she told of her abuse to be dismissive: “Other people didn’t view my abuse as authentic because it came from another woman. They thought I should be able to overpower her or fight back.” Galop notes that the idea that abuse is about strength is another common misconception; according to the report, the reality is that abuse is about gaining power and control over another person, regardless of age, size, appearance, or any other physical factor.

Another unique form of abuse used against people who identify as LGBTQ is using their sexuality or identity against them in order to isolate and deter them. Domestic Violence London notes that women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, and queer can be threatened with being “outed” and having their sexual orientation or gender identity disclosed without their consent, or criticized for not being a “real” lesbian or bisexual woman if they’ve have had a previous heterosexual relationship.

Ruby*, a bisexual, non-binary/questioning woman, says she was in an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship with a man for three years. She says she often felt isolated and without community in the straight world and in LGBTQ spaces. “I think my ex could sense my vulnerability and saw that as an opportunity to abuse. I actually started [identifying] as bisexual during the period of time I was with my abusive ex, and it was something he used against me to increase my isolation,” Ruby says. “I couldn’t be friends with anyone of any gender, as I might cheat. He also sexualized my identity which [was] very difficult [for me] when it was something I was really struggling to express and understand.” Even after the relationship ended and people found out Ruby was bisexual and an abuse survivor, they would assume that the trauma had led her to be attracted to women, again leading her to question her identity and feel invalidated.

Rachel*, a mixed-race, cisgender woman who also identifies as bisexual, was in a relationship in which her ex gaslighted her and used physical violence during the relationship. She says she knew that they were not sexually compatible but also believed that she owed him sex for being with her. “I put up with the abuse because he was willing to stay with me, and I needed that because I was insecure. I would cry after we had sex every time. Deep down I knew that I didn’t want to be with him in that way, but I could never put my finger on what made me cry when we were intimate. I later figured out I hated it. I hated sex with a man; I felt so used.”

These stories illustrate that there are so many barriers to seeking help as a queer person in an abusive relationship, many of which point to the fact that some people simply don’t acknowledge that abuse is real between LGBTQ people. All these stigmas can also contribute to LGBTQ people not knowing where to turn if they do want to report abuse, particularly if the victim doesn’t want to disclose their sexuality or gender identity to organizations and agencies like the police, according to Domestic Violence London. End The Fear also notes that such agencies may “misunderstand the situation as a fight between two men or [two] women, rather than a violent intimate relationship, and therefore LGBT people may be discouraged from disclosing if service providers use language which reflects heterosexual assumptions.” The truth is, there is help available if you’re an LGBTQ person in an abusive relationship. Organizations like LGBT Domestic Abuse Partnership, Love Is Respect, the Anti-Violence Project, and many more are here to help you, because as the numbers show, you’re definitely not alone.

Looking back, Ruby says she believes that if more support for bisexual survivors had existed at the time, it would’ve made a big difference. “More awareness of the statistics about intimate partner violence and sexual assault against bisexual people would’ve helped me feel validated in my experiences and confident taking up space as an LGBTQ survivor.”

*All names have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you can call the Loveisrespect hotline at 1-866-331-9474, the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or text ‘loveis’ to 22522. The One Love Foundation also provides more resources, information, and support.

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Age Doesn’t Determine Whether A Person Is Ready For Sex.

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Here’s What Does!

By Nichole Fratangelo

First-time sex has a lot of logistics attached to it—like where it happened, when it happened, and who it happened with. For most of us, it’s the “when” that holds a ton of weight. As a society, we tend to place so much importance on how old we were when we first shared that intimate moment with someone else. We rarely even consider if we were mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to do it. Now, new research shows your age really isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to sexual readiness; there’s much more in-depth criteria that includes physical, emotional, and psychosocial well-being.

A study published in the journal BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health questioned 2,825 people between ages 17 and 24 about their first sexual experience, including the nature of their relationship with the person they had their first sex with, both of their ages, and how much sexual experience their partner had. The researchers also asked about their socioeconomic status, their education level, family structure, ethnicity, and how and when they’d been taught about sex.

What does it mean to be “ready” for sex?

Rather than focusing on age as a key factor, the researchers used four distinct points to gauge how ready each person was based on the World Health Organization’s standards for sexual health. WHO defines sexual health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality,” which includes a “positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

Only those who met all four criteria were considered “sexually competent”—that is, ready to have sex—at the time they first did it.

“The concept of ‘sexual competence’ represents an alternative approach to timing of first sexual intercourse, considering the contextual attributes of the event, rather than simply age at occurrence,” the researchers wrote in the paper. “This departs from the traditional framing of all sexual activity among teenagers as problematic, and recognises that young age alone does not threaten sexual health, any more than older age safeguards it.”

Here are the four main criteria:

1. Contraceptive use

Are you using birth control of some sort? A person who isn’t willing and prepared to use contraception during sex is not mature enough to be having sex. That’s why researchers included it as such a major point, especially for those doing it for the first time. Of those surveyed, most people did use reliable contraception, but around one in 10 did not.

2. Autonomy

Are you having sex because you truly want to do it, or does it have to do with peer pressure or drunkenness? Sex should always be on your own accord and not because it’s something everyone else around you is doing.

3. Consent

Here’s a crucial one: Did both parties verbally and physically agree to have sex? If not, neither party was ready to do the deed—one person was forced into it and experienced sexual assault, and the other person assaulted someone, which is the furthest thing from sexual competence. The researchers excluded instances of forced sex from their study, but they noted that almost one in five women had reported not being in charge of the decision to have sex for the first time.

4. The “right” timing

Do you feel like this is the “right time”? Participants reported whether they personally felt like they’d picked the appropriate time in their lives to start having sex. Though the study didn’t specify, there are many personal reasons why it is or isn’t a good time to start having sex; they weren’t ready to have sex—you might be struggling with stress or insecurity and don’t want to complicate it by introducing intimacy in your life, or you might be very erotically charged and have a lot of free time, so why not? Other factors like finding a partner they feel attracted to and comfortable with could factor into this question.

More women than men felt their first sexual experience did not happen at the right time—40 percent versus 27 percent, respectively. This was the most commonly reported negative feature of first-time sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Psychological Benefits of Sex Toys

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There is no doubt that sex is great. However, it can use something to make it more passionate and wild from time to time. The best thing to achieve that is to find the right “hardware” for your games and let it all play out really really well.

Besides making sex better, sex toys can bring many different benefits to the table, or into the bed, however you like it (this is a judgment-free zone). But among all the physical benefits, there are some psychological ones, too.

Eliminating shyness

Some people are shy about their sexual lives or talking about sex in general. What is more, at the very mention of sex toys even they can get all giggly and blood rushes to their cheeks like they are teens again. However, what not many of us know is that if you get over it and talk about sex toys, you can actually feel more confident to talk about sex.

Sex toys are not a taboo anymore and everyone uses them; either with their partners or by themselves. So, if you are able to talk about them in any way, be sure you will be more free to talk about sex with your partner, for example. You will eliminate that shyness, guilt or embarrassment you might be feeling, and your sex life will get better and more satisfactory in no time.

“Cure” for sexual dysfunction

There are both men and women who can have sexual dysfunction, and sex toys are something that can aid in that. For example, there are women who suffer from anorgasmia, which means they can hardly reach orgasms while having sex. That is why vibrators and relaxing sex toys, are recommended. As far as men are concerned, a helping hand of sex toys can make them climax without having to get an erection. There is no harm in trying kinky toys like Hustler Hollywood has, for example, and giving it a shot.

Plus, if you manage to finally get that orgasm, there is no doubt that your confidence will rise. Another positive thing is that they will take the pressure off of you because you won’t be overthinking what you’re doing in bed. You just need to relax and let the toys do their thing. And, at the end, you will feel confident about your relationship, things will get back on track sex-wise and you will relieve stress!

Great sex equals a great relationship

You might have that spark with your partner, but things are bound to get boring sometimes. That is why you need to communicate. Surprisingly or not, sex toys will lead to better communication with your partner. Even a simple visit to the sex shop with your partner will make you communicate better. You do need to be open about what you want, like and dislike, so it is a great way to get to know each other better.

Furthermore, you will learn how to “navigate” your partner better. Without the toys, you might feel shy about telling him “a bit to the left” or her “to use less teeth”, but with sex toys, things can change. If you’re using vibrators you will be more relaxed and open about where he or she needs to go in order to hit the spot. Plus, some toys can reach places no man or woman has ever touched.

According to Bustle, you can say that sex toys can improve your honesty and communication because they will spark the conversation and make your relationship even better.

They just make you feel good

The mental benefits of using sex toys are almost the same as the benefits of sex. But double the dosage! Sex boosts your confidence, but with the use of sex toys, you are even more confident because you managed to go pass that stigma and taboo.

Sex leads to increased intimacy, love and trust in a relationship, but with the toys, you two can get even closer. This is because your aforementioned communication is better, you made that special bond when buying sex toys and you learned new things about each other and your bodies. Plus, a lot of oxytocin is released after each passionate, sweaty and successful round in the bed, which only leads to stronger relationships and more respect towards each other.

After all this, we can say for sure that sex toys are beneficial. Forget about all that kink-shaming and go a little wild. Your relationship can use a little something new and fun, and your partner will be happy about it, too! Not to forget about that confidence boost and more happiness in your lives. So, take your partner’s hand, find the toys you both like and go on an adventure of kinky fantasies and plenty of fun.

Complete Article HERE!

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LGB people face higher risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse

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By Chrissy Sexton

Researchers at Penn State are reporting that individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are at a higher risk for several different health problems. The experts found that sexual minorities were more prone to anxiety and depressive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Study co-author Cara Rice explained that stress associated with discrimination and prejudice may contribute to these outcomes.

“It’s generally believed that sexual minorities experience increased levels of stress throughout their lives as a result of discrimination, microaggressions, stigma and prejudicial policies,” said Rice. “Those increased stress levels may then result in poor health in a variety of ways, like unhealthy eating or excessive alcohol use.”

Professor Stephanie Lanza said the findings shed light on health risks that have been understudied.

“Discussions about health disparities often focus on the differences between men and women, across racial and ethnic groups, or between people of different socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Professor Lanza. “However, sexual minority groups suffer substantially disproportionate health burdens across a range of outcomes including poor mental health and problematic substance use behaviors.”

It has been previously documented that sexual minorities have an increased risk of substance abuse or anxiety disorders, but Rice said that studies have not yet established whether these health risks remain constant across age.

“As we try to develop programs to prevent these disparities, it would be helpful to know which specific ages we should be targeting,” said Rice. “Are there ages where sexual minorities are more at risk for these health disparities, or are the disparities constant across adulthood?”

The investigation was focused on data from over 30,000 participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, who were between the ages of 18 and 65. The survey collected information about alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, as well as any history of depression, anxiety, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or cardiovascular disease.

To analyze the data, the researchers used a method developed at Penn State called time-varying effect modeling.

“Using the time-varying effect model, we revealed specific age periods at which sexual minority adults in the U.S. were more likely to experience various poor health outcomes, even after accounting for one’s sex, race or ethnicity, education level, income, and region of the country in which they reside,” explained Professor Lanza.

Overall, sexual minorities were found to be more likely to experience all of the health outcomes. For example, these individuals had about twice the risk of anxiety, depression, and STIs in the previous year compared to heterosexuals.

The experts also determined that risks for some health problems were higher at different ages. An increased risk for anxiety and depression was highest among sexual minorities in their early twenties, while an increased risk for poor cardiovascular health was higher in their forties and fifties.

“We also observed that odds of substance use disorders remained constant across age for sexual minorities, while in the general population they tend to be concentrated in certain age groups,” said Rice. “We saw that sexual minorities were more likely to have these substance use disorders even in their forties and fifties when we see in the general population that drug use and alcohol use start to taper off.”

Rice said the results of the study could potentially be used to develop programs to help prevent these health problems before they start.

“A necessary first step was to understand how health disparities affecting sexual minorities vary across age,” said Rice. “These findings shed light on periods of adulthood during which intervention programs may have the largest public health impact. Additionally, future studies that examine possible drivers of these age-varying disparities, such as daily experiences of discrimination, will inform the development of intervention content that holds promise to promote health equity for all people.”

The study is published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

Complete Article HERE!

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Couples Who Do THIS Have Better Sex

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By Georgina Berbari

It’s no secret that there’s enjoyment in feeling desired. In fact, a new study just revealed that how much you think your partner loves your body can have a significant effect on your sexual satisfaction—even more than your own appreciation for your body.

The study, published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, studied 244 women between ages 18 and 30, all of whom were in a committed relationship for three months or longer and sexually active within the last month. (Most of the women were white and straight.) The scientists assessed the participants’ own body appreciation by asking them to rate how much they related to statements like “I respect my body” and “I feel good about my body.” The women were also asked to complete the survey from their partner’s perspective, to assess their perceived view of their partner’s appreciation of their body (i.e., “My partner feels good about my own body”).

The researchers also asked questions about the women’s sexual functioning in the past four weeks, which includes how often they felt sexual desire, their level of arousal, lubrication, number of orgasms, sexual satisfaction, and pain during sex. Finally, women also reported their overall relationship satisfaction, including how pleasant, positive, satisfied, and valued they felt.

The findings showed the more you think your partner appreciates your body, the better your sex life tends to be—that is, more desire, arousal, lubrication, and orgasms—and the more satisfied with your relationship you are.

There was also a significant relationship between how much women appreciated their own body and how much they thought their partner appreciated it. In other words, having a more positive body image was associated with your partner loving your body more too. Interestingly, however, a woman’s own body image was much less of a predictor of her sexual functioning than how she perceived her partner’s view of her body. That suggests that there’s an element of being seen as attractive that’s uniquely important when it comes to having a satisfying sex life.

In the paper, the researchers theorize that this need to be seen as desirable and worthy might have to do with trust: When we’re having sex, we’re incredibly vulnerable—literally, we’re baring it all. So when we know our partner recognizes and even takes pleasure in our bare bodies, we feel more secure, confident, and able to let loose and enjoy ourselves.

Of course, the point here isn’t that we should all care a ton about what other people think about our bodies. When you’re confident in your own body, you’ll inevitably enjoy sex more because you feel less self-conscious and more inhibited.

“Our internal experience is mirrored back to us in our relationships,” marriage and family therapist Shelly Bullard tells mbg. “Therefore, the best thing you can always do is find love within. When in doubt, love yourself.” The same goes for body image—as you cultivate more and more love for your own body, there’s no doubt that you’ll see that body love radiating from your partner.

“As I began to feel full, beautiful, and magnificent internally, I experienced others feeling these things for me in a greater way than ever before,” Bullard writes.

In short, having the sense that your partner is obsessed with your body undoubtedly leads to great sex, and treating yourself with that unconditional adoration and acceptance is a great place to start. Of course, being comfortable and accepting of all aspects of your body is a journey—that you and your partner are both likely on. So, don’t be shy when it comes to being vocal about how much you’re sexually attracted to each other. Neither of you are mind-readers, and creating a healthy, open dialogue will have wonderful effects on both your sex life and your overall confidence.

Complete Article HERE!

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