Category Archives: Intimacy

Keeping the spark alive in long-term relationships

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by Whitney Harder

It’s a well-known fact that sexual desire ebbs and flows throughout the life of a long-term relationship for a number of reasons. Questions like “What factors increase and decrease desire?” and “How can couples work through those factors?” have long been topics of interest for researchers and clinicians, but dozens of studies respond to those questions with different answers.

Research by University of Kentucky Associate Professor Kristen Mark brings decades of findings together to help researchers, clinicians and couples understand where the science stands in a new issue of the Journal of Sex Research.

First thing’s first: It’s okay to have low or changing desire, and it doesn’t mean your relationship is headed toward a dead end.

“Maintaining desire is complicated and multidimensional, but low desire is not necessarily indicative of relationship issues,” said Mark, director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab and faculty member in the UK College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion.

If relationship issues aren’t causing the drop in desire, what is the cause? Mark and doctoral student Julie Lasslo identified several nonclinical factors in their study and how couples can work past them:

Gendered Expectations

Gender differences are often assumed, with expectations placed on men to always be ready for sex and expectations placed on women to be the gatekeepers of sex. “Women may express having less desire than men, but often that’s because women are not taught to pursue sex or that sexual desire and pleasure should be important to them,” Mark said. “Alternately, men are expected to be the pursuers of sex and to always be ready and willing. When they don’t fit that stereotype, it can be particularly difficult to address within the relationship.” Those expectations are played out across society, especially in pop culture, and can create issues for long-term relationships. What can couples do? Communicate with each other and acknowledge that these societal factors exist and may be contributing to the difficulty around desire—some may be entirely unaware of the influence of societal expectations.

Self-expansion is another important factor. When two individuals try to become one—how many think of a long-term relationship—”that’s a desire killer,” Mark said. It’s important to maintain a level of autonomy, where each individual focuses on expanding themselves, to have space for desire to grow. “Sexual desire is like fire, and fire needs air,” Mark said. “By becoming completely enmeshed with a partner, abandoning all autonomy, the excitement of the unknown is entirely removed from the relationship; and this can be problematic for maintaining sexual desire.”

In fact, individual sexual desire fluctuates over time, no matter what the relationship is like. Sexual desire is not a stable trait, “and if individuals and couples anticipate the fluctuation, there will be much less of a negative impact,” Mark said. For example, desire may decrease when someone experiences a job transition or faces uncertainty about their future, and may increase when children leave for school or college. “There are a variety of factors that impact individual-level sexual desire, many of which may have nothing to do with the relationship,” said Mark. “Having the expectation that these natural fluctuations exist helps to prevent negative influences of sexual desire discrepancy on the relationship.”

Individuals wanting to maintain desire in their long-term relationship can also focus on their own psyche, working to manage stress and improve confidence. “If someone is tired, stressed and lacking personal confidence, it is understandable that they may not want to have sex,” Mark said.

Of course, other factors include sexual compatibility, attraction and attitudes toward sex. So, what does all this mean? It means that desire is no simple issue, and a simple one-size-fits-all approach to the issue, such as medication, can be short-sighted, Mark said.

To help other researchers build on this topic and to help couples think about what impacts their own desire, Mark and Lasslo developed a conceptual model comprising individual, interpersonal and societal components, with individual and interpersonal factors interacting and societal factors serving as the context in which sexual desire is experienced.

“But there are still gaps to fill,” Mark said. “There’s definitely a need for more research on the complexity of sexual desire, particularly the similarities or differences of sexual desire experienced in sexual minority relationships and racial minority relationships.”

Some of Mark’s current research with her interdisciplinary team in the Sexual Health Promotion Lab is aimed at filling these gaps.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual Attraction

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Sexual Attraction

By Driftwood Staff

Have you ever wondered why you are attracted to the people you are attracted to? Despite surface guesses, there are common generalizations of sexual preferences that seem to make sense, or are at least exhibited by the average human male or female.

Have you ever noticed that your preferences have changed or change constantly? Well, there’s an answer to that too. “Female preferences are especially interesting because they are dynamic and influenced by the individual menstrual cycle,” said Dr. Simon Lailxaux, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and the Virginia Kock/Audubon Nature Institute Chair in Species Preservation. “Women prefer different things when they are ovulating to when they are not, and women using hormonal contraceptives also show different preferences to those who are not. Additionally, both men and women appear to look for different things in a short-term vs a long term partner.”

Despite the social connotations of sexual preferences in the modern world (e.g., the growing acceptance and understanding that gender, sex and sexuality are all different aspects of the human self), many preferences men and women have for each other come from biological occurrences.

“Evolutionary explanations for human sexual attractiveness have long fallen under the purview of ‘evolutionary psychology,’” said Lailvaux. Though it gained a controversial reputation, “The rigor of evolutionary psychology has improved over the last 20 years, but there is still a lot of misinformation surrounding questions of the evolution of human sexual attraction largely as a result of this period where evolutionary psychologists weren’t really evolutionary biologists and were still figuring out how to approach this topic.”

“Our genetic legacy predisposes us to certain behaviors and preferences but it does not condemn us to them. Culture can play a large role in sexual attractiveness as well, and it’s important to bear that in mind,” mentioned Lailvaux.

That being said, below are some common aspects of sexual selection.

HIP-TO-WAIST RATIO (HTWR)

“The ‘traditional’ explanation for this has to do with childbirth; the reasoning goes that childbirth is traditionally dangerous for both the mother and baby. Women with large hips relative to their waists have a wider pelvic girdle, which means they will have an easier time when giving birth relative to someone with smaller hips,” said Lailvaux.

“It is an innate, honest signal to men about a woman’s age and reproductive status across all human cultures and ethnicities,” said Dr. Jerome Howard, UNO Associate Professor of Biological Sciences. “The male brain has receptors that evaluate HTWR in females, and MRI studies have measured maximum responses to female silhouettes that display a HTWR of about 0.7 compared to lower values or higher values.”

Thinner waists could signify poor nutrition, which lowers fertility, and the HTWR of a woman generally increases as a woman ages and become less fertile.

“Large breasts tend to elevate attractiveness only in combination with narrower waists, and eye-tracking studies have found that men tend to look at either the bust or the waist region first, as opposed to the facial or pubic region,” said Lailvaux.

Nutrition varies due to cultural differences, and larger bodies that indicate more fat storage are sometimes more attractive in non-Western cultures where food availability is a problem.

HEIGHT AND STATURE

Height and shoulder width are signals to women about male health and nutritional status. “Women do prefer men with the traditional ‘triangle’ shape: broad shoulders, narrow waists. Women also tend to prefer men with broad faces; this is interesting because facial broadness in men is linked to high levels of testosterone,” added Lailvaux.

Women also tend to prefer men who are taller than they are, but the reason for this has not been thoroughly researched.

SYMMETRY

Both sexes generally find symmetrical facial features more attractive. There are plenty of studies to show this, but the significance of that attraction has yet to be established.

“The best supported and most widely accepted explanation is that symmetry is a measure of developmental stability, which is related to how well suited an individual’s genes are for the environment in which it lives,” said Howard. “An individual that is well-suited to his or her environment is likely to produce children that are also well-suited, and able to respond robustly to any environmental challenges they might experience in that environment.”

SMELL

Body odor is produced by Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes, which mainly work in the immune system. “We strongly prefer mates with different MHC alleles, because the more similar they are, the more likely that you are genetically related, and we avoid mating with relatives to avoid inbreeding,” said Howard.

HEAD AND FACIAL HAIR

Hair length preference is more culturally influenced than other signals, but in Western cultures, young women have a tendency to wear their hair longer on average than older women. This is less labile than HTWR for mate preference among men; it is not an honest signal of age or quality as a mate.

However, a recent study examined why beards became so popular among men in recent years. “They linked beards to male facial attractiveness and to negative frequency-dependent selection, where things that are uncommon are considered attractive, until they become too common and are no longer considered so.” said Lailvaux.

Complete Article HERE!

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No Fetish Required: You Don’t Need A Kink For A Great Connection

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It’s fine not to have a fetish

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There have been times when friends, family and random strangers will ask why I don’t just write about ‘normal sex’.

I’d love to. Believe me, I enjoy it as much as the next person.

It might save that awkward moment on the phone when I have to explain I must dash off in order to finish a blog about small penis humiliation, or have to leave a coffee date because I’ve had a great idea about foot fetishists.

I went on a date recently and had to awkwardly explain what I did for a living.

The reply was a meek: ‘I just like vagina, is that OK?’

Of course it’s OK. It’s absolutely OK. You like vagina all you want, buddy.

Unfortunately, it does seem that unless you have a fetish, your sex life is automatically thought of as somewhat underwhelming.

Not true. Unfair. I call a stewards enquiry on that.

Instead, it’s perfectly fine not to have a fetish.

Not everyone wants to cater a kink, and that’s OK.

We have so many terms for various sexualities these days, but when you’re happy being kink-less, you get lumbered with the term ‘vanilla’, and not even a spot on a rainbow flag.

Vanilla is such a rubbish phrase. Vanilla is boring, it’s plain. It’s the last ice cream in Tesco.

Vanilla shouldn’t mean what it does: that you don’t enjoy kinky sex.

You are not plain, or boring, and the kink community really needs to stop using disparaging words to describe people who aren’t into BDSM (Bondage, domination, sadism, masochism)

On the flip-side, they also need to stop using rather audacious terms to describe themselves.

My red flags go up when I see someone’s dating profile refer to them as ‘interesting, adventurous, or experimental’.

Somehow, they believe a Fetlife account and spreader bars have turned them into Bear Grylls.

I’ve seen enough ‘kink-lover’ profiles in my time to assure everyone out there that no-one is a better human because they like kinky sex. That’s not how life works.

Unfortunately, this use of language seems to put a lot of pressure on people to ‘spice things up a bit’, and their first port of call is kink.

Here are a few of the worst reasons why, if you’re just not into it, you shouldn’t do it.

‘It might spice up our sex life’

Many things will spice up your sex life without BDSM being involved.

Think really hard about what makes you tingle. Is it being tied up? Cool, but consider what the chances of your partner also getting turned on from tying you up are.

What if they like to be tied up too? And after that, what then? I’m afraid you really will have to put some effort in.

Couples seem to jump to kinky sex without stopping at communicating with each other.

One of my most popular requests as a sex worker was ‘tie and tease’, where I would tie someone up and was supposed to tease them with activities they would enjoy.

When I asked them, however, what it was they would like to try, their answer was always, ‘Do whatever you want.’.

This would give me carte blanche to f*** off and watch EastEnders for an hour.

Basically, if you’re not committed to telling your partner what you want to try, and are the kind of person who will say, ‘Just do whatever you want’, then it all seems a little half-arsed.

Do some research, find some beginners’ guides, and try to state what things you would definitely like to do.

‘It’ll make me interesting’

‘Well, it’s OK, I guess’

It won’t.

In my experience, partners who I have met on the kink scene pretty much only talk about the kink scene.

TED have worked out that the best amount of time for someone to talk about a subject and keep people engaged is 18 minutes.

If you go beyond that then I am ready to dig your tongue out with hot knives, no matter how great you are at Shibari.

What makes someone interesting is passion, drive, knowledge – not what they like to get up to in the bedroom.

‘Maybe my partner will like it?

Oh hunny, no.

Don’t ever go doing something because you think your partner will like it.

If they do, what then? You’re stuck doing something you don’t really get much of a kick out of.

If anything, kink and BDSM is about reciprocal appreciation. As a dominant, a lot of submissiveness felt gratification from our activities together because I’m getting off on it, and vice versa.

It should be a lovely Fibonacci spiral where you’re both feeling pleasure from each other’s enjoyment, not an abyss you fall into because you both think that’s what each other wants.

That, right there, is a black hole.

Know who else like vanilla sex?

Christian Grey. Yep, I said it. If you actually watch the films – because god knows I’m not reading the books – he doesn’t actually do very much in the way of BDSM.

He ‘likes to f***. Hard’, but everything else is just gilding the lily.

Sure, he might tie Anna up sometimes, but otherwise he’s as vanilla as custard.

It’s not hard to discover if something turns you on or not, but don’t launch into something because you think the other person might like it or because you think it will add a new and interesting dimension to your personality.

At the end of the day, I’m super happy with my dates giving my vagina a thumbs-up.

If anything, that’s pretty integral to the whole shebang.

I’m happy for anyone to have a fetish, or a kink, but the main thing I want, and I think I speak for most people here, is to be able to have a great conversation, easily won laughter, and a connection that will survive an onslaught of bad puns.

Complete Article HERE!

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What is good sex?

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Here are six sexual health principles to follow

by Silva Neves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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The Best Sex Takeaways From 2017

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By Leigh Weingus

In 2017, the trends surrounding sex were focused on having an open mind. What does a “normal” sex life look like? And can we redefine virginity for ourselves? There was also a decent amount of science surrounding gender equality in the bedroom (yes, we are talking about the complex nature of the female orgasm here).

While there was more than enough sex advice to go around this year, here are the most valuable bits from 2017.

Thanks to an uptick in social media use and a decrease in face-to-face interactions, new research finds that teenagers are now having sex later than ever. As a result, more people than ever are dealing with anxiety surrounding “late-in-life virginity.” And if you ask sex and relationship experts about it, they’ll tell you “virginity” as a concept is outdated.

“We really must speak more broadly about sex as a whole range of intimate possibilities, not just penetrative sex,” says Debra Campbell, couples therapist and author of Lovelands. “The idea of being a ‘virgin’ is really a bit outdated. It’s something that used to be important for the same socio-economic and religious reasons as marriage, but times have changed.”

How much sex should you actually be having? Studies show that having sex once a week is the “magic” number if you want to get all the benefits (overall well-being and relationship satisfaction), but if the real women we polled are any indication, “normal” doesn’t actually exist.

“Usually the frequency with which we do it comes in ‘spells,'” said one 29-year-old woman. “We’ll do it a bunch for a few weeks and then not as much for a few weeks. I’d say it’s changed since we first started dating. Truthfully, it took a while to actually get to the sex part, so we’d get more creative with what we did. That was really fun, actually. Now that we’re married, we try to find new ways to be adventurous.”

You can sleep in a separate bedroom from your partner—or have different sleep schedules—and still have a great relationship and sex life. Because let’s face it: There’s no bigger turnoff than losing a night of sleep because your partner was snoring or making a lot of noise when they came into your bedroom at 2 a.m.

“This is a fascinating dilemma because the research on sleep and couples clearly shows that we think we sleep better when we’re with our partner, but we actually sleep better when we sleep alone,” says David Niven, Ph.D. and author of 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships. “So there’s a very natural tension between the person who feels deprived when their partner stays up four hours later and the person who feels deprived when they are expected to come to bed four hours before they feel ready.”

The female orgasm has long been a mystery, and for years scientists didn’t care to spend time or resources trying to understand it. But the tides have changed in 2017, and a study on over 1,000 women between the ages of 18 and 94 shed some interesting light on what works and what doesn’t.

We learned a lot from that study, but here are some highlights: When it comes to manual and oral sex, about 64 percent of women said they enjoy an up-and-down motion on the vulva, and 52 percent also enjoyed circular movements. Just under a third of women said they liked “side-to-side movements.”

As for the clitoris, three-fourths of women were big fans of a circling motion, switching between different types of motions, and varying the intensity of touch.

Complete Article HERE!

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