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Talk about ‘it’ with your partner more, say Texas researchers

Conversation helps sexual satisfaction and desire, especially with partners in committed relationships.

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  • A new meta-analysis from the University of Texas at Austin finds that better sexual communication leads to better sex.
  • The survey of 48 studies discovered that communication plays a key role in helping with a number of sexual dysfunctions.
  • Both genders benefit in regard to orgasms and satisfaction, while desire is an important component of female sexuality.

We know communication leads to better results. An entire library of business books discuss the importance of honest and, if necessary, tough conversations to drill down and specify potential problems in the corporate environment. The same holds true for societies and politics — dialogue is better than silence. Yet, for some reason we seem to forget that lesson when we get home to slide into bed.

A new meta-analysis from three researchers at the University of Texas at Austin argues for the importance of frank conversation at bedtime (as well as leading up to it). According to their survey of the literature, better conversation leads to better sexual satisfaction, orgasms, and desire levels.

Looking over 48 studies on sexuality, sexual dysfunction, and conversations about sex, the team of Allen Mallory, Amelia Stanton, and Ariel Handy wanted to know if there is a link between sexual communication and sexual function. Are couples that talk about sex better at it?

First, the researchers opened by discussing two different aspects of avoidance. Sometimes couples with sexual problems dodge the topic out of shame, fear, or uncertainty. Likewise, couples that have difficulty discussing their sexual lives might be more likely to encounter problems down the line. They continue,

“Either way, it is likely that sexual function and sexual satisfaction are both directly impacted by sexual self-disclosure, which may protect against future sexual dysfunction and ultimately enhance future communication.”

The pathways that open up possibilities of better sex include the disclosure of one’s preferences. If your partner knows what you like (or hate), you’re more likely to please them. And if such a discussion is had early on, if either (or both) partner change their preferences over time, they’re likely to feel comfortable discussing that change, leading to further trust and pleasure.

Another pathway leads to better intimacy: Couples that are open enough to share their pleasures are more likely to be intimate with each other. Failure to communicate needs and desires leads to the opposite — that is, discomfort and distrust, fomented by a lack of dialogue.

Both pathways are especially important in long-term, committed relationships. The well-known “honeymoon phase” of every relationship creates an addictive chemical cocktail in the brains and bodies of sexual partners. Yet our biology is not designed for sustaining the intensity of this period. Communication, the authors declare, is an essential key to ensuring both partners are pleased as the dopamine and serotonin surges decrease.

The studies the team pored over, which included more than 12,000 participants in all, looked at a variety of topics related to sexual dysfunction, including desire, emotion, lubrication, arousal, erection, and pain. While communication appears to be helpful to everyone involved, Mallory notes that one sex cherishes dialogue more:

“Talking with a partner about sexual concerns seems to be associated with better sexual function. This relationship was most consistent for orgasm function and overall sexual function — and uniquely related to women’s sexual desire.”

From their literature review, it appears that both genders experience better orgasms and overall sexual function when more talking is involved. For women specifically, desire is greatly enhanced with conversation. These links appear to be strongest in married couples.

The authors note that correlation is not always causation. As with every study, they add that more research is needed. The good news is this field might be the most enjoyable for humans to experiment with.

Complete Article HERE!

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If I Don’t Talk to My Patients About Consent, Who Will?

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Here’s why I bring it up with all my patients.

By Natasha Bhuyan, M.D.

As a primary care physician, a significant part of my job is helping patients better understand and deal with the public health issues that affect our society—whether it’s the dangers of smoking tobacco or the importance of getting a flu shot or the need to get tested for STIs.

But there is one health issue in particular that is impacting so many and yet talked about by so few: consent. Talking about the nuances of consent can be complicated and uncomfortable. The subject has long been dismissed as a “mood ruiner” among sexual partners—and as a result, many choose to ignore these conversations altogether, creating a silence around something that desperately needs to be discussed and unpacked.

Since I know that many of my patients are not having these conversations with their friends, family, or even partners, I make it part of my regular practice to bring up the subject of consent with my patients. I talk to my patients about other necessities when practicing safe sex, such as birth control and STI-prevention, so I’m in a unique position to be able to also discuss consent with them. Even a simple question like, “How do you give and receive consent with your partner?”, can make a huge difference when it comes to starting a conversation and, ultimately, creating a safer, more comfortable environment for sex

When it comes down to it, consent is all about respect for another person’s bodily autonomy: when you want to touch another person or have sex with them, you should ask first (verbally) and continue to give and receive consent in this way throughout a sexual encounter. That doesn’t necessarily mean running through a monotone checklist of “can I…,” but it does mean paying attention to the physical and verbal cues of the person you’re with, while maintaining clear and open communication. Consent also doesn’t have to be sexual. Getting and receiving consent extends to situations such as borrowing your friend’s shirt or using your coworker’s phone. We wouldn’t do either of those things without asking, so of course an act as intimate as sex deserves the same consideration.

It also means being sure that the person is able to give consent. A few important factors to consider: is your sexual partner above the age of consent in your particular state? Are you certain that they are not under the influence of mind-altering substances, and they are in no way being coerced or pressured into saying yes?

The unfortunate reality is that a lack of consent can often be difficult to prove, which is one reason an estimated 80 percent of sexual assault and rape cases go unpreported and around 995 of 1000 perpetrators of rape will avoid prison. This lack of action through the justice system is one reason why it is critical to address the underlying cultural and societal issues as swifty and resoundingly as possible

This is why I talk to all of my patients (and anyone else who will listen, really) about the importance of both giving and receiving enthusiastic consent with all partners. In my work as a primary care physician, I have spoken to many patients about their experiences with sexual assault and consent. It’s a subject I believe all PCPs should broach with their patients if they have the training and resources to do so, since it directly impacts the physical, emotional, and psychological health of the people in our society

The taboo and shame surrounding non-consensual experiences coupled with the physical and mental trauma many survivors experience can cause severe health problems for years to come. Health issues like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and long-term physical challenges are far from uncommon in survivors and can cause irreparable damage, both mentally and physically</a

But, as it currently stands, only eight states require consent or sexual assault to be mentioned as part of public school sex education curriculum. These are typically as pieces of a larger discussion on healthy relationships, which doesn’t always help young people make the necessary associations between safe sexual activity and consent.

So, why should I—a family medicine physician—be the one bringing this up? The number one reason for me is that it ensures that someone does. Too often, other leadership figures for young people, like their parents or their schools, either don’t know how to bring up consent or simply don’t feel comfortable. Unless someone else—like a primary care provider—takes on the subject, sometimes it never gets broached at all.

When talking to patients, I do my best to normalize discussions about sexual activity by asking about things like the body parts they use for sex (vagina, anus, penis, mouth, etc.). In these discussions, I ask patients open-ended questions about how they would describe their communication with their partners, or any tension they feel in those relationships. I also ask them how they typically give and receive consent. Patients are often surprised by these questions. They may expect to be screened for STIs or asked about pregnancy, but they don’t usually associate consent with their overall health.

But the reality is that consent is a hugely important component of a patient’s sexual and overall health. Talking about consent can help me identify other conversations that I should be having with that patient and may lead to a bigger discussion about past experiences, mental and physical health, and sexual practices.

The reality of consent is that it’s not always as cut and dry as “yes” or “no,” which can make it difficult for people to speak up when a non-consensual encounter has occurred. In the past, I’ve had patients open to me about situations such as partners taking off the condom during sex without asking, leading to thoughtful discussions about bodily autonomy that they may not be having otherwise.

In my professional opinion, consent is a public health issue. I believe that viewing the prevention of sexual assault and rape through the lens of public health will help protect the overall mental and physical well-being of our society. But what exactly does treating consent as a public health issue look like—and why does that matter?

First, this would mean funding studies about attitudes toward consent and the long-term impact of non-consensual encounters by qualified researchers, helping advance policy that would advocate for explicit consent in sexual encounters as well as creating and promoting educational materials to introduce the subject to children in school.

Recognizing consent as a public health issue would also shape evidence-based guidelines for clinicians, allowing us to treat it as we would any other widespread health problem—by making it common practice to talk about consent with our patients in the context of their overall health, and by giving our patients a safe place to discuss non-consensual experiences. Smoking tobacco is a good example of a public health issue that both the medical world and general society have made strides towards improving. Many of us can remember watching anti-smoking ads on TV, or being shown an image of a blackened lung in a health class. When we go to the doctor, we’re always asked whether or not we smoke tobacco. It’s not a perfect comparison, but it shows the positive impact a multifaceted approach can have on public health issues.

As with any public health crisis, laws won’t be passed overnight and changes to education requirements can take years to go into effect—though we have and will continue to see strides made in these areas. Importantly, individuals also have the opportunity to take action now in small, deliberate ways. Perhaps the most critical thing that an individual can do to address consent is to discuss it in whichever ways we can with those around us—our sexual partners, our friends, and even our children.

While starting with the youngest members of society may sound difficult, parents and schools should introduce the concept of consent in elementary school, in the right way. While some might argue that doing so would expose children to sexual content too young, the truth is that consent can easily be introduced and reinforced in non-sexual contexts from a very early age. Familiarizing children with the idea of bodily autonomy—that no one has the right to touch them without their approval—can go a long way toward applying the concept of consent to their own bodies and those of their peers as they mature. For example, the District of Columbia’s requirements space out this subject over the course of an entire public school education. In the third grade, schools teach the importance of respect for other bodies. In fourth grade, students learn why talking about sexuality can be helpful. And in sixth grade, the curriculum includes a discussion on the repercussions of unhealthy or violent relationships.

When I look at how society has evolved in the last few years, it is clear that progress has been made. We are far more aware of what consent is and why it is important, but this education very often comes too infrequently and too late. Too many of us have long been uncomfortable discussing healthy and consensual sexual activity, but it is critical that we do so in order to set an example for future generations. One way to do this is to start talking about consent with people you trust. And in the meantime, I’m going to continue talking to my patients about the subject to ensure that they have at least one safe space—and a trusted confidant—to share.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Talk About Sex (And Consent)…

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4 Lessons From The Kink Community

Talking about sex and consent can be awkward, but it’s important — learning to do it better can help make sure that everyone is on the same page and also that you have the kind of sex that you want to have, whether that involves handcuffs or not.

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I don’t remember when the concept of consent as it relates to sex became part of my vocabulary, but it shapes how I approach my personal relationships and affects the way I move through the world. I was shaken when the #MeToo Movement exploded, not only by the stories of sexual assault and harassment, but also by the stories of women who had felt pressured or coerced into having sex they didn’t want.

I flashed back to my own similarly uncomfortable experiences, when I was single and new to D.C. I remembered times on dates when I’d expressed my discomfort by simply pulling away or turning my head when a guy tried to kiss or touch me when I didn’t want to be kissed or touched. I was familiar with the sickening feeling of being distressed by something that was happening, while also feeling unable or hesitant to speak up for myself.

It’s been on my mind a lot recently, how I, like so many people, have been socialized not to talk about sex — because it’s uncomfortable or awkward or it might kill the mood. I thought about how that hesitancy to speak can muddy the waters of consent, and I wanted to explore that idea with people who talk about sex a lot: the kink community, or kinksters, as they’re known.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of kink is “unconventional sexual taste or behavior,” and includes a wide variety of behaviors and preferences. That includes BDSM — a subset of kink — which stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. Being tied up or handcuffed (bondage), spanked (discipline), and role playing all fall under BDSM.

To make sure each partner is on the same page, kinksters have to talk about sex in a way that vanilla people — those who don’t participate in kinky activities — often don’t. Julie, a kinkster and sociologist in the Washington DC area, believes that the communication kinksters have with each other distinguishes them from “vanillas.”

“Ultimately, what it seems to come down to more than anything is not how many whips and chains are involved, but rather how openly are you willing to talk about the sex that you’re having in the most blatant of terms,” she says.

Of course, the kink community isn’t perfect, as several kinksters told me. They’ve had some high-profile cases of bad behavior — non consensual or even abusive — and as a community they’re dealing with their own need to root out abuse. The kinksters I talked to stressed the importance of evolving the conversation to be even more thoughtful in navigating sex and consent.

Since this is a community that’s made an art out of talking openly about sex, I sat down with six kinksters in Washington D.C to learn some better ways to think and talk about consent. We aren’t using their full names to protect their current and future employment opportunities. Here’s what I found out.

Consent isn’t a simple Yes/No question … it’s a dialogue.

A core principle of kink is negotiating with a prospective partner before anything happens — if that negotiation is done right, it’s more like a collaboration toward a common goal: each party’s pleasure. That includes discussing what’s about to happen before it happens, hashing out boundaries, and ensuring that everyone involved is on the same page.

For Ren, the kind of consent she’s getting is especially important. She organizes cigar socials — events where kinksters can explore the ritual of smoking cigars in a more sexual context. That could include one partner preparing the cigar for their dominant partner, presenting it, and lighting it in a show of submission. Ren says she’s started only working with what she calls “enthusiastic consent.”

“It’s opt-in consent, as opposed to what the vanilla world works with which is opt-out consent. ‘If you don’t say no, it’s fine’ versus what I go for is, ‘If you say yes, it’s good.’ ” For Ren, that opt-in consent means only doing to a partner what’s already been discussed.

But consent isn’t just something given or received at the beginning — it needs to be ongoing. Julie says: “I’m most sexually compatible with the kinds of people who say, ‘Of course I’ll tell you if something’s wrong.’ I don’t want to be in a situation where I don’t trust you to tell me if there’s a problem.”

Ren adds that there have been multiple times when she’s stopped having sex with a person when they’ve done something to her that she’s specifically told them not to do: “I’ve kindly given them their pants back, and I’ve been like, ‘Well, it’s time for you to go.’ ”

Consent is ongoing, and partners should be talking; if something goes wrong and someone wants to stop, everything should stop.

“Talk about sex before you have sex. Talk about sex during sex. Talk about sex after sex,” says Heather, who works with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group for kinksters.

“It’s okay to have a discussion the next day or the week after and say, ‘I liked this but I didn’t like that or can we try this next time,’ etcetera,” she says.

When you talk about sex acts, talk about what they mean to you.

The kinksters I spoke with said there was not a perfect checklist or script for how to talk about sex. Remy, a lawyer in the NYC area, says that’s because everybody is different.

“People have different minds, and that sounds very simple but what it can mean in practice is that somebody could do everything right and have taken every precaution, and the other person with whom they are doing something can still experience that as a violation of consent,” Remy says.

Which is why it’s so important to kinksters to talk frankly with each other about what they want and about how they want to feel. What does each person want to experience? What do you want to feel emotionally?

“There are so many things that when we get too hung up on specifics of activity, we lose track of some of the meaning — and a lot of times, the meaning is what affects people more,” says Evan.

Heather says she prints out a short checklist on negotiation. “I always tell people ‘this is not a comprehensive list but is a great conversation starter for both sides,” she says.

At the very top of the list is the question “Mood: how do we want to feel.”

Ren says that requires a little bit of self-reflection. “I don’t want to have bad sex anymore, so it’s like how do I want to feel during sex? Well, I want to feel powerless, and then having conversations based on that in order to find compatible people to have that type of sex with.”

“One of the most useful pieces of advice, is not just negotiating what’s going on but negotiating what things mean,” says Evan . “You can say to someone, like, ‘I want to be spanked. I want you to spank me’ but what does that look like? What does it mean, where does it involve touching?”

Make the consent conversation fun and seductive.

Yes, having frank and open discussions about sex can be awkward, but kinksters say they’re able to have fun with it too.

“I think there’s a real failure in the imagination of a lot of the broad public to think that you can’t ask for and even, you know, specifically in a detailed manner negotiate activities, without it also being sexy,” Evan says.

The kinksters’ “negotiation cheat sheet” encourages talking about things like each party’s hard limits and triggers, level of experience, and who is doing what in the scenario (for example: who is being spanked and who is doing the spanking). It also suggests talking about each person’s tolerance of the risk of minor harm, like rope or wax burns, or the potential emotional impacts from play.

And all of it can be sexy to talk about, says Ren.

“There are so many ways you can get consent without going ‘I’d like to kiss you right now’ or ‘I’d like to touch your leg,’ ” Ren adds. “Like begging can be really hot. And if you make somebody beg for the thing they want, you would assume that they want that thing.”

Talking about fantasies is another way to figure out what a partner might want to do in bed.

“A lot of time, when you start from fantasies, you can get a much better picture of how someone wants to feel,” Julie says. “Then at some point, it becomes a question of ‘you fantasize about this thing, are you actually okay with doing it in reality?’ So then it’s a matter of trying to make that feeling happen.”

Get good at describing what gives you pleasure.

Many of us have been socialized to find it shameful to ask for what we want sexually, and Julie thinks that needs to change to make communicating about sex easier.

“When we’re too ashamed to do it when we’re sober, and [think] that anyone who’s had sex with too many people isn’t worthy of marrying, you make it impossible for people to have a context for open and honest sexual communication,” she says.

For kinksters, it’s not just about ensuring that all parties involved are comfortable, and consent to what’s happening. It’s about having good sex. It’s about feeling empowered to ask for what you want out of sex — without being shamed for it — so you can have the sex that you want to have with the people you want to have it with.

“I think the vanilla society are missing out on a lot of feelings and emotions and satisfaction that they could get if they would be more open and honest with each other and more willing to communicate about these things,” Heather says.

And for Ren, that’s one of the biggest changes she’s found since joining the kink community.

Getting better negotiation skills led to better sex,” Ren says. “A lot of my experiences with my partners are a lot better now because I’m a lot better at communicating the things I want out of our interactions, and I’m also able to give them more of the things they want.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual Chemistry Isn’t Built In Bed

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— Here’s What Couples Should Do Instead

By Jennifer Guttman, Psy.D.

When couples start experiencing dissatisfaction and dysfunction with the quality of their intimacy and sexual interaction, they tend to focus almost entirely on what happens in the bed. The problem is, by the time you’re in bed, it’s already too late. You’re doomed, just like when you face a big life challenge, test, or exam, and you haven’t put in the hard work and time to study and prepare adequately.

A loving, intimate, and happy sex life takes time to manifest, and most of the real work and “emotional foreplay” needs to happen before the sex occurs. When that doesn’t happen, one or both partners can become resentful about the lack of intimacy, potentially interpreting the behavior correctly or incorrectly as a function of attraction. This can lead to a negative spiral of self-confidence in the relationship and an even deeper negative feedback loop in the bedroom. But the truth is, many dips in a couple’s sex life have little to do with being attracted to each other or not.

If you’re finding there’s not a lot of heat in your relationship these days, it’s important to think about what you’re doing outside of the bedroom to facilitate more intimacy. Here are a few ideas:

1. Foreplay doesn’t start in the bedroom.

Be creative and start setting the tone and warming up to each other throughout the day. Foreplay is about the connection—really feeling “seen” by each other. This can start over a quiet dinner at home or in a restaurant where communicating helps with connecting, or you can use an activity that loosens you both up and brings you both together—a concert, watching a thriller in theaters, hiking, or whatever else you both enjoy. It can also start with playful texting throughout the day, communicating about a suggestion for a planned night out together.

When intimacy becomes more about the “connection” than just the physical act, it shows your partner that you want to have sex with them, not just anyone. Sex begets sex, so having intimate sexual encounters will also make room for opportunities for quicker physical sexual connections with your partner to flourish as well.

2. Find ways to connect about the private—in public.

Reminding each other throughout the following day or week about an intimate encounter that you experienced together is a great way to keep it alive. You can do this by taking a few seconds to send suggestive texts or quick phone calls. The message is “I haven’t forgotten about what we shared together,” and it also subliminally sets the stage for “more to come.” Even a wink at a dinner party can set the stage for a private moment shared between a couple. It may serve as a reminder of something shared the night before or something they’re anticipating.

3. Shower appreciation on each other in your normal lives.

We don’t often connect gratitude and domestic chores to sexuality, but in truth, they can be deeply linked. Most people appreciate follow-through because it indicates that they’re on their partner’s mind. People like to feel appreciated for the acts of kindness they do and all they provide in a relationship. That helps them feel “seen,” which in turn allows people to feel more vulnerable, open, and confident—feelings that are necessary for a healthy, energetic sexual connection. Remembering to follow-up with a question about your partner’s day or a comment of gratitude, for example, can go a long way toward making people feel seen, appreciated, and connected to the relationship.

4. Schedule dates, not sex.

Scheduling dates is much more important than scheduling sex. Scheduling sex can feel robotic, and when sex becomes robotic as opposed to organic, it becomes harder to ensure that on a given day and time, each of you is in a head space to “connect” on an intimate level. If the sexual encounter becomes purely physical on prescribed days, it may feel forced and drive a wedge between the partners. When one partner has an expectation on a certain night that another may not be able to provide, it will inevitably cause a disconnect. Performance anxiety or insecurity may follow, leading to sexual avoidance.

Schedule the date, and try to connect with each other as human beings that love and care about each other. If that leads to a sexual encounter, great! If it doesn’t, the more meaningful the connectedness continues to be, the more likely the sexual encounters will follow.

5. Have a real talk.

Pick a night on which you both agree you’re not having sex but want to come together to talk about it—and I mean really talk about it. Get into the details about what you want and what you’re feeling: Are you bored? Do you feel overwhelmed by your partner’s overtures? Does sex just not feel good or exciting to you right now? Is it hard to have sex when you have other ongoing problems in your relationship or in your life?

These aren’t easy things to talk about, and even if they’re about sex, they’re by no means “sexy.” (Which is why I recommend setting a night aside to talk about this that is separate from date night.) But if you ignore and don’t address uncomfortable issues, you are at risk of not being equipped to confront more challenging topics later. If one partner or the other is feeling resentful about too much or too little sexual contact, a conversation, albeit difficult, is necessary to understand what is in the way of a synergistic sexual relationship. Once the partners have a better understanding of each other’s needs, it’ll be easier to discuss solutions to find the right balance that accommodates both people’s personal preferences.

Consistent and reciprocal communication is imperative. You might want to set aside a specific night for this initially; then over time, hopefully you can develop a rhythm where it’s easy and comfortable bringing these topics up organically as necessary. In order to maintain a healthy sexual relationship, it is critical to reach a reasonable comfort level of communication with each other. Having these mindful albeit challenging discussions about how to break through barriers of boredom to meet each other’s needs is essential.

6. Nurture, nurture, nurture!

Healthy sexual relationships need to be nurtured on an ongoing basis like you would care for all other important aspects of your life. Getting it back on track is one thing; keeping it on track is another. Even as you do begin to build new energy in your intimate life, make sure to keep putting in the work and effort to prevent you from detailing again.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Things Straight People Can Learn from Queer Sex

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By Ariana DiValentino

Being queer, in some ways, is a blessing. If there’s one thing the queer world is good at, it’s having really, really good sex.

Of course, there’s no such thing as “the” queer world — it’s a multitude of communities, localities, subcultures, and identifications. Within queer spaces, there tend to be prevailing attitudes of sex positivity and adventurousness that are hard to come across elsewhere.

While things like consent, communication, and kink have entered conversations about sex on a grand scale, some aspects of these things are just baked into queer sexuality. When there’s no set script for a standard sexual encounter — who does what and to whom — it’s liberating. And it makes communication, exploration, and mutual comfort absolutely fundamental.

The first time I had sex with a woman, my partner asked if I enjoy penetration. I was taken aback, because I realized I had literally never thought about it. No previous partner had ever asked me. It had never occurred to me that as a woman, I couldn’t like penetration.

Simply being asked about the very basics of what you like can be powerful, because it centers your actual preferences and experience over the assumptions that go along with whatever social categories you’ve been assigned due to your gender identity, presentation, or having certain body parts. It gives you permission not to like whatever it is you’re supposed to like, and to like whatever you’re not supposed to.

But these moves shouldn’t be exclusive to queer sex by any means — anyone, including cishet (cisgender heterosexual) people — can learn a lot from queer sex. Here’s some advice from queer folks* that’s good for everyone.

*Some last names have been omitted in the interest of privacy.

Sex doesn’t have to follow the same basic hierarchy of acts

If you’ve been through middle school, you’re probably familiar with the baseball metaphor for sex: First base is kissing, second base is feeling up (usually boobs) or sometimes handjobs or fingering, third base is oral sex, and a home run — going all the way — is vaginally penetrative sex — typically with a penis.

But if both partners have a vagina or a penis — or they don’t ascribe to the gender roles typically assigned to those parts — the script sort of goes out the window. For queer people, going all the way can mean whatever we want it to.

“Sex doesn’t always have to happen a certain way,” Isaac Van Curen, an artist based in New York City, says. “You should check in on how you’re feeling that day, what will give you pleasure in that moment. I first and foremost think sex should be for pleasure.”

The main event doesn’t need to be vaginal penetration, or any kind of penetration at all. If oral sex or digital stimulation gets you there, perfect! A sexual encounter isn’t any less valid if it doesn’t follow an arbitrary progression of acts. Just focus on doing whatever gives you and your partner(s) pleasure.

Mutual safety, comfort, and enthusiasm come before all else

This one point was echoed by everyone I spoke to for this piece. Because sex isn’t necessarily expected to happen one particular way, communication is extremely necessary to find out what each of you likes and definitely dislikes.

Sam Smith, a storyboard artist based in NYC — and my partner — explains that his transness makes boundaries crucial to intimacy for him, even in relationships.

“I don’t like to remove my shirt, with or without a binder. I’ll only allow you to put your hand on my chest if I’m wearing a binder,” Smith says.

“In the heat of the moment, people think that anything is up for grabs, like literally up for grabs, but that’s not true.” When he explains to other people that these lines remain even after being with a partner for any amount of time, he says, they often express disbelief.

“They’re like, ‘What do you mean? Why not?’ Because that’s my boundary.” Many trans people have firm rules regarding where they do and don’t like to be touched and which clothing articles they don’t want to remove during sex, often because they experience dysphoria pertaining to sexualized body parts. Talking about these boundaries before sex is necessary to having a good time.

But by no means should this respect for boundaries and tendency to ask questions — not make assumptions — be exclusive to trans and queer folk. Any individual may need to put boundaries in place for any multitude of reasons, ranging from past traumas to simply feeling uncomfortable with certain parts of one’s body.

Absolutely everyone should feel secure in setting limits to protect themselves from emotional distress. Knowing your partner’s preferences and boundaries — not guessing them — is the foundation of any good sexual experience.

“There should definitely be a level of trust between partners. I should be able to stop in the middle of sex and say hey, this isn’t for me, and not feel weird trying to communicate that I’m uncomfortable,” says Van Curen.

In addition to consent, safety and comfort pertain to other factors involved in sex as well. Van Curen points to the existence of medications like PreP, which can prevent the transmission of HIV, as something that a person might require to feel safe during sex. For others, that might mean one or more other tools, like condoms, dental dams, or oral contraceptives.

Good communication creates room for trying new things

BDSM, when practiced properly, involves lots of boundary setting and advance communication, for the sake of the physical and emotional well-being of everyone involved. All that talk might seem exhaustive, but it shouldn’t feel that way — limits and terms are as important as pleasure.

Tina Serrano, an art director based in NYC, describes her first experience with a femme domme: “She asked if I was into BDSM and I said yes without thinking — so we sat and talked about it. She asked me a lot of questions, we talked about consent and limits, about our lives, who we’d loved, she talked about her field research,” Serrano says. “We didn’t even have sex that night, we sat and drank and talked until we fell asleep on the couch.”

Communication shouldn’t feel an obstacle to sex — it’s a kind of intimacy that happens before clothes come off. Talking openly and genuinely caring about your partner’s limits, even in a casual context, can be romantic and sexy.

Claire and Katja, a newlywed couple who have been together for six and a half years, iterate that feeling safe and comfortable enough to talk with your partner means not only avoiding bad experiences, but laying the groundwork for interesting, new, good ones.

“Provide space for your partner to bring up things they might want to try sexually with you. Listening doesn’t mean you have to do or try anything, but it does mean that you are building trust,” they tell Greatist.

It’s easiest to voice your desire to try out new toys, positions, or kinky behaviors in a situation that feels safe and comfortable for experimentation. And if things don’t go porno perfectly? No sweat.

“Embarrassing things happen. Laugh about them,” the couple says.

Don’t be constrained by gender or appearance

Just like men are so often positioned to be dominant and women to be submissive, even non-heterosexual pairings can sometimes be subjected to gendered assumptions. Van Curen emphasizes that his appearance, down to whether or not he has facial hair at a given moment, leads people to make assumptions about his preferred sex positions — i.e, whether he’s a “bottom” or a “top.”

In sapphic or lesbian settings, the butch-femme dichotomy can function similarly. Katja and Claire point out the tendency of other people to identify them as the butch and the femme, respectively, when in reality they don’t feel that this binary describes them very well.

Attached to both of these scenarios is the assumption that the more masculine partner “performs” the sex act while the more feminine person “receives” it. But here’s the secret that queer people know: Gender doesn’t have to mean anything more than you want it to.

Gender doesn’t have to determine what you do in bed — but it can function as a sex toy in and of itself. Gender play can involve heightening or swapping typically gendered roles and behaviors.

“Performing gender roles during sex is a kind of kink,” according to Claire and Katja. Lots of queer people strongly identify with labels like butch or femme, twink, bear, sub, dom, and so on — Isaac mentions having friends who proudly call themselves dom bottoms, sub tops, bratty tops, and more — and some people think of themselves as verses or switches. Sometimes dabbling in behavior you otherwise wouldn’t, in life or in the bedroom, can be sexy.

And finally, don’t neglect the basics of having a body

Whenever, wherever, and however you’re having sex, stay in touch with your body — not just what it likes, but what it needs. “Sex is a physical activity,” Van Curen advises. “I take water breaks. Sometimes I make sure I have a snack on hand.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Couples Should Talk More During Sex, According To Science

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Do you talk during sex?

And I don’t mean before the sex starts or after it ends (although both are great things as well). I mean during the actual sex.

If you’re indeed a talker in bed, you’re probably a lot happier with your sex life than the rest of us zipped-lipped fornicators. A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy just found that people who communicate in bed tend to be more satisfied both sexually and in their relationships.

To clarify, you can certainly talk with your body: Nonverbal cues, including moving someone’s hand where you want it to go, moaning when they do something you like, or shaking your head when something makes you uncomfortable, all count as forms of communication. Both verbal and nonverbal communication were associated with more communication satisfaction and thus more sexual satisfaction.

“Our findings suggest that use of verbal or nonverbal communication, specifically, is less significant to one’s sexual satisfaction when individuals are satisfied with their sexual communication,” the researchers wrote in the paper on their findings. “In other words, trying to ascribe to a particular communication style may be less important than simply being satisfied within a relationship with a particular communication style.”

To reach these conclusions, researchers surveyed about 400 people about how often they communicated during sex, how they communicated (verbally and nonverbally), and how and how often their partner communicated. The partners also reported how happy they were with their sex lives, their relationship, and the sexual communication within their relationship. More communication of all kinds during sex (whether verbal or nonverbal and whether it was you talking or your partner talking) was associated with people being more satisfied with the levels of sexual communication in the relationship. And being satisfied with the communication was associated with being satisfied with the sex.

In other words, the more people communicate in bed, the better the sex is.

That might seem obvious, but think about it: How often do you speak actual words during? How often do you directly convey to your partner what you do and don’t want while you’re actually in the middle of the romp?

The researchers point to past studies that have suggested people can be really uncomfortable about ruining the mood or getting shut down if they speak up during a sexual encounter:

Some people believe that talking about sex will cause embarrassment or ruin a sexual mood. And some people may be concerned or fear their partner’s reaction to verbally communicating about sex. This fear, in turn, can inhibit open communication. In response to these fears, people may prefer more ambiguous communication in order ‘to test partner responses and save face if the partner does not respond positively.’ Indeed, couples report intentionally engaging in communication tactics to help ‘save face’ and avoid discomfort or embarrassment associated with direct verbal sexual communication. This may be particularly true during a sexual encounter. Given that individuals may be especially vulnerable when engaging in partnered sexual activity, the consequences of a negative partner reaction may have more impact than a negative reaction in a less vulnerable situation.

It’s so important for us to move past these fears of negative reactions. The results of this study prove that everyone tends to be more pleased with sex when the communication is better, both with oneself talking and with one’s partner talking. And there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ nonverbal cue if that better suits you and helps keep you both in a sexual mood: “Nonverbal communication during sex is often perceived to be less awkward or less threatening than verbal communication,” they write. “It may be less awkward or threatening for a woman to guide her partner’s hand to her genitals rather than directing her partner verbally: ‘Please touch my genitals.'”

Not that a direct ask is ever bad. Having a person you find attractive ask you to touch their anything can be a big turn-on if phrased the right way and spoken seductively. It can give both of you a little bit of confidence.

Clinical sexologist and sex therapist Cyndi Darnell tells mbg that communicating during sex is just a good way to tell your partner what you’re into: “The silence means it’s hard to read what their partner is experiencing, and while it needn’t be a porno soundtrack, a little aural feedback is a great thing!”

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Learn to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ for better sex…

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and to improve your whole life

‘Boundaries and consent issues cause a huge amount of confusion and unhappiness in many people’s lives.’

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Conveying our deepest desires, likes and dislikes, to our most intimate partner is essential. Here’s how…

“Yes,” I say, surprisingly firmly, to the man I have never met before, whose name I do not even know, who is massaging my back and shoulders. “Yes. Yes, please.”

I am lying on a mat on the floor of a conference room in a London hotel and around me three people – complete strangers – are rubbing my back. “Zero,” I say suddenly, which is the code word for stop. It’s not because I want the massage to end – in truth, it feels rather soothing – but because we have been encouraged to try saying “no” as well as “yes”. That, after all, is the point of the exercise. According to the leader of this workshop, intimacy and relationships expert Jan Day, we find “no” extremely difficult to say, and our lives would be better if we could bring ourselves to say it more readily. Instantly, the people surrounding me draw back, and I revel in the afterglow of both having articulated the difficult message I wanted to convey, and having it acted upon.

Around 40 of us have signed up to Day’s workshop, more or less equal numbers of men and women, spanning a wide age range from 20-something to 50-something. The topics under discussion are boundaries and consent, issues, Day tells us, that cause a huge amount of confusion and unhappiness in many people’s lives. While the #MeToo movement has focused attention on these in a societal setting, she believes we are as all-at-sea as ever over how to convey our deepest desires, likes and dislikes, to our most intimate partner.

Day’s own life story, with two unhappy marriages behind her, and the therapeutic practice she did to overcome the fallout, led her to this work. A qualified coach who has been a relationships specialist for 20 years, she says the crux of the matter is that most of us are either unable or unwilling, or both, to say “no”, even when “no” is what we mean.

There are several reasons for this, the first being empathy. “You don’t want to feel the feelings your ‘no’ will provoke in the other person,” she explains. “And then at other times, you’re simply embarrassed. Or another reason is that, as a child, you learned to associate the word ‘no’, uttered by the adults around you, with ‘bad’. And what your subconscious tells you is that if you’re responsible for something ‘bad’ in your partner’s life, you’ll no longer be loved.”

All of this is entirely logical. But failing to say what we mean, particularly in our sex life, has repercussions. “If we can’t say what we want to say, we learn instead to numb our feelings, to zone out, both physically and emotionally.” Some people – and this describes as many men as women – simply shut themselves down sexually. “They blank it out, say they’re not interested any longer, feign headaches, push it away completely. Or they go with whatever is suggested, but they zone themselves out from it – go through the motions, but fail to connect it properly with who they are inside.”

The fallout is more than just the obvious, says Day. Of course on the one hand it means a failure to live out a fulfilling sex life, but just as damaging is the effect on an individual’s power to enjoy and shape the wider world. “Our sexual energy isn’t only about sex,” she says. “In fact it’s not even mostly about sex. Your sexual energy is your life energy: it’s the centre from which your interest in life, your joie de vivre, arises. It’s the kernel of your aliveness.” It can also, she acknowledges, be very scary to give yourself intimately to someone you love. Sharing your deepest self with the person you spend most time with leaves you vulnerable in all sorts of ways. No wonder, says Day, that there are people who feel more comfortable with the idea of keeping sex and love, carnal pleasure and heart, entirely separate. “You’d be surprised by how many people are with a partner they very much love, but don’t have sex with, while their sex life is part of an affair.” It’s a way of keeping things “safer”. But they miss out on all the ways a 360-degree relationship can enhance a life.

A starting-point in Day’s workshop is the idea that we need to be grounded in our sexuality, knowing what we like and don’t like, and being able to do what we need to do to achieve it. And that means, in the first instance, being properly connected not with another person, but with ourselves. As with the business of being able to say no, this goes back to our earliest learned behaviour – because the vast majority of us were taught as children to denigrate our sexual urges as shameful, or dirty, or disgusting. What her day-long workshop does is give participants the chance to begin to rethink how they incorporate their sexuality into themselves. “Usually sexuality is denied or played down in our lives, and so we don’t get a chance to work out how it influences us holistically, and how to work it alongside the other parts of our being,” says Day. Throughout the event, she stresses that no-one is at any point required to do anything they don’t want to do. Indeed, speaking up about what you don’t want is, if anything, more important than saying what you do, for reasons already described.

The exercises – one involves holding a partner’s hand and, with their permission, massaging it gently – are simple and straightforward, but some of the 40 or so faces around me are tear-stained when we sit back in a circle to listen to more input from Day. In tracing our fingers across another person’s hand, in caring about whether it feels good to them or not – and then vice versa, with our own hand being massaged – we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable; and for some, that brings sensations of pain. One woman is sobbing after being touched. She says she hasn’t had a relationship for many years, hasn’t felt another person’s loving touch for so long. For Day, what we’re experiencing is about allowing feelings to arise and not being afraid of them. This isn’t about hiding pain but feeling it and working through it as the key to the better self awareness she hopes we will gain from the workshop.

The point to which Day keeps returning is the need to work out what we want ourselves – and then to learn to convey it to another person. Too much of what happens in intimate relationships, she believes, is guesswork. We haven’t worked out what we want, we’re too worried or embarrassed about conveying it clearly, so all we can do is attempt to mind-read our partner’s deepest desires. “And the trouble with that,” she says, “is that you can’t mind-read on all this stuff, so you make assumptions that are wrong.”

Day’s assistant at the workshop is her husband, Frieder. They have put all her wisdom into play in their own relationship, she tells me. “He really likes it that I say no as well as yes. The thing is that if you know someone is able to say no, you can completely trust them when they say yes. And that means your partner can in turn enjoy himself or herself more, and can be more playful during sex, because they’re not taking responsibility for how you’re feeling, now they know you’re going to be clear about it.”

Day’s workshops are held at a variety of venues, with some a day long, others across a weekend or even a week. Participants come alone or with a partner – on my course, there were three couples. Either way is fine, says Day. Where people attend solo and have a partner, she hopes the energy and ideas of the workshop can help recalibrate a couple’s sex life. Certainly the exercises aren’t remotely complicated.

The one we keep repeating throughout the day is about signalling when we don’t like something and when we do, and knowing the other person won’t be offended by our “no” or “zero”.

“It’s incredibly simple,” says Day. “Anyone can do it, in the privacy of their own space. You just need to talk about it beforehand and agree on what you’re going to signal and how you’ll do it. And it really can revolutionise not only your sex life, but your wider life as well.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What Is Sex Therapy?

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And What Is It That Sex Therapists Do?

By Rita DeMaria

Here’s how to tell if sex therapy is right for you.

How many people have you known who confided in you that they went to a sex therapist or were considering sex therapy for intimacy problems in their marriage?

For many people, talking about sex with a partner is not always easy, so reaching out to a sex therapist might actually be a more comfortable way to address any concerns you have about your sex life.

So what is sex therapy, and how can working with a sex therapist help you create a stronger, healthier sexual relationship with your partner or spouse?

Sex therapy is defined as “a strategy for the improvement of sexual function and treatment of sexual dysfunction.” Sex therapy addresses a wide range of clinically described sexual behaviors and difficulties that create sadness, fear, frustration, and disappointment for people who want to explore and enjoy their sexuality.

Sex therapists provide focused and personal attention, typically in a private office setting, where couples — or individuals — can talk about their sexual relationship and any differences or problems they’re experiencing relating to physical intimacy.

Individuals often contact a sex therapist with very specific concerns. In contrast, many couples often look first for a couples therapist and then see if sex therapy is offered, too. Sometimes it’s very difficult for couples to decide which direction they want, especially if one or both of them aren’t so sure how sex therapy will go.

Sex therapists typically begin with an assessment of each person’s sexual history. Then, they’ll explore other experiences within the current relationship or address ongoing sexual problems like premature ejaculation or inhibited sexual desire.

In addition to sex therapists, there are also sex educators and sex counselors who can become certified by a national organization, the American Association for Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). There is also an international non-profit organization, the Society of Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR). SSTAR provides a forum for sex research and treatment, exploring many facets of human sexuality.

Most people don’t know what they don’t know about sex, which is why working with a sex therapist can help.

Some people aren’t sure if love is a necessary and important aspect of sex, but the truth is love and sex do go together.

Yes, people have sex with people they don’t know well. But generally, people prefer having good to great to sex with someone when they feel affection toward their sexual partner(s). Given the chemistry of romantic love, a sexual bond came become much greater than a friendship and go beyond affection.

Positive sex education, knowledge, and awareness are essential for men and for women (and for children, too).

Sexual counseling is also very important, though it differs from sex therapy. This type of counseling is often offered by a wide range of medical people (nurses, doctors, midwives), as well as in sexual health clinics and educational classes, where very important information and misinformation can be talked about individually or in groups.

Sex therapists provide intensive attention to difficulties and fears that individuals or couples experience and have knowledge and expertise in exploring their sexual desire and negotiating their sexual relationship.

Sexual problems and mismatches are common in committed and marriage relationships.

Even when couples have been together for a long time, you could be surprised to know that having a passionate and loving sex life can also last a lifetime.

Yet sadly, sex is often surrounded by secrecy and insecurity. Talking openly with your partner about your sexual thoughts and feelings, as well as sharing your fantasies, is an important key to a pleasurable relationship.

The root of sexual ignorance, shame, and embarrassment can be deep. Although there is so much information available, marriage, couple, and family therapy were interconnected with sex therapy in the early years with a focus on marital difficulties around sex. Premarital counseling, which also included attention to sex, began in the early decades of the twentieth century.

The evolution of sex therapy has been very important in helping individuals and couples with often complicated sexual experiences. These can include sexual traumas, sexual abuse, and a wide range of diagnoses from sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and pain disorders, and many more sexual problems, like healing from infidelity.

Sex therapy can and will help you.

Sex is no longer a taboo subject, and it can last a lifetime for committed, loving couples. Both sexuality and sensuality can be an amazing personal experience.

Suffering from guilt, shame, misunderstandings, trauma, misinformation, and silence can be overcome with the help of a certified sex therapist. One of the most important aspects of having a healthy sexual relationship is the benefit of emotional and physical well-being.

Passion begins with your own sexual desire and fantasies, and so many people struggle and ignore the unique and amazing potential of what can happen when love, affection, desire, and sex expression combine. Your sexuality is a gift and if you’re worried that you’re not enjoying yours, don’t be afraid to reach out to a sex therapist for help.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Healthy Relationship Boundaries You Should Set From The First Date

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When you first start seeing someone new, the thought of setting healthy relationship boundaries might slip your mind. It’s easy to get caught up in all the butterflies when your date walks in and seems to be every bit as cute and charming as you hoped they’d be, but setting clear boundaries from the beginning is a great dating habit to have. Talking about what you want and need and figuring out where you stand helps set you up for success with a person you might want to enter into a relationship with. And at the very least, it helps you weed out people who aren’t as compatible with you.

“The first few dates can set the foundation for your reading your potential partner accurately,” psychotherapist, author, and relationships specialist LeslieBeth Wish tells Elite Daily. “But you need to be sure to use the best building blocks. The goals of your first few dates are to test your initial intuitive assessments about this new person. And the smartest way to do that is to ask effective questions and to set clear boundaries.”

So, what kind of boundaries should you be setting from the beginning of a budding new relationship? From communication to intimacy, here are some things you might consider discussing from the first date.

1 Clarify Your Communication Styles

From the beginning, you should both make it clear how you prefer communication to be. This means mentioning things like texting styles and talking about how you feel about social media. Do you want to text all day, every day? Or would you prefer to touch base once a day and maybe share the occasional meme on Instagram?

“[Both people] should identify what their communication styles are going to be so that one is not either offended or overwhelmed by the communication,” author and relationships expert Alexis Nicole White tells Elite Daily.

You just want to make sure that you’re both on the same page about how you want to communicate and how often from the get-go. And of course, if you end up in a relationship, things might change as you get more serious, so make sure you think about your needs and talk about them as they evolve.

2 Share Your Personal Space Requirements

Personal space encompasses a lot of things, so make sure you really think about your needs. How much time do you need to yourself? How private do you prefer to be? (Would you share your phone password with a partner?) Ask yourself questions like this so that, when you find yourself on a date that’s going well with someone you want to keep seeing, you can talk about what’s important to you.

“Individuals should address their space requirements immediately in the beginning of the relationship so that it is clear,” White says.

This is another thing that will likely change over time, as more and more things come up over the course of a relationship. On the first date, it might just be a discussion of how much time you like to spend with a partner, for example. In a serious relationship that’s moving toward living together or getting married, on the other hand, you’ll definitely want to talk boundaries in terms of finances.

3 Get On The Same Page About Future Dates

You can tell a lot about how you’re really going to click with someone by trying to make plans for future dates. You want to be on the same page in terms of what sorts of things you’re interested in and what activities suit both of your lifestyles. Wish suggests talking about what kinds of dates you both like going on and setting boundaries that way — with an emphasis on making your dates “resemble real life.”

“Most of healthy, long-term relationships spend their time doing ordinary things!” Wish says. “Take charge to set a boundary for how you would like your next few dates to be. Go for walks, attend free local events, meet at your favorite breakfast or lunch spot. And, yes, even add a few errands.”

This will help set the course for how your (potential!) relationship goes, and as a bonus, will help you get to know your date better.

4 Be Clear About Commitment And What You Want

White also points out that it’s important to address commitment head-on.

“[Both people] should be clear about what their expectations are in a relationship as far as commitment is concerned,” White says.

If, for example, you’re looking for a serious, monogamous relationship, but the person you’re on a date with is looking for something more casual or open, it doesn’t really matter how much chemistry you have — it’s just not going to work out. This is definitely something you want to be up front with about from the beginning, so that neither person gets hurt or feels like they’ve wasted their time.

5 Know Where You Stand On Physical Intimacy

And last but not least, if physical intimacy comes up on the first date, it’s best to address it before anything happens. If, for example, you don’t like to kiss on the first date, mentioning it before it happens ensures that you both feel more comfortable. Or, if you can’t tell if your date is OK with a first date kiss or even something like holding hands, the best thing you can do is just ask! “Can I kiss you?” is both a great way to get consent and an opportunity to start a conversation about how you both want to move forward.

It’s OK to be intimate or even have sex on the first date (though Wish does suggest setting a “sex-pectation boundary”) so long as you both are into it. White brought up an important reminder, which is that “no one should feel entitled to having sex” when dating new people. (And really, that goes for every scenario!)

The important thing to remember in any dating situation is that you want to make sure you and the other person are on the same page. Whether it’s when you want to text each other or if and when you want to take things to a more physical level, it’s all about communication. Setting healthy boundaries from the beginning can only help.

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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The 5 Most Common Sexual Complaints That Couples Have

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By Jessa Zimmerman

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

“We disagree about how often to have sex.”

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

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

What to do

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

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

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

“I do all the initiating.”

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

What to do

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

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

What to do

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

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

“My partner masturbates and/or watches porn.”

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

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

What to do

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

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

“We find ourselves avoiding sex.”

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

What to do

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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The XConfessions app

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Erika Lust’s new app is making it easier to talk about kinks and fantasies

By Marianne Eloise

The XConfessions app lets users swipe left or right on sex acts they’re willing or not willing to try

Erika Lust is currently making five films at once – no small undertaking, especially as her erotic films are cinematically beautiful; often feature-length, with professional crews who work on styling, location, cinematography, and everything else to make it visually arresting.

But that’s just a small part of the filmmaker’s mission to promote and create feminist pornography that centres women’s experiences and desires. Lust believes the most important thing with sex is communication and consent; clear rules that many people seem to skim over. She’s serious about promoting those values, too – she is determined to maintain an ethical work environment where all actors are comfortable, which she tells me goes from “feeding everyone on set” to “performers being able to stop shooting anytime they feel uncomfortable”.

Lust’s series XConfessions, which saw her win a Feminist Porn Award in both 2014 and 2015, is based on crowd-sourced erotic stories and fantasies from confessions that viewers can leave on her website. Now, she’s released the XConfessions app, an app which presents users (either playing alone or in a couple) with kinks: each person swipes left or right depending on whether they’re willing to try it. It’s billed as an inclusive app, taking into account all genders, sexualities, and types of relationships.

The XConfessions app takes the most awkward and complicated part of kink – the fear that your partner mightn’t want to try what you do; the fear of exposing yourself only to be embarrassed – and makes it disappear. We speak to Lust about the app, her work, and the ever-evolving porn industry.

One of the options on Erika Lust’s XConfessions app

I think the best thing about XConfessions is that – with trying new things sexually – there’s always the fear that your partner won’t want the same thing and it’ll get awkward. Was that your primary motivation?

Erika Lust:
It was designed for exactly that – to open up conversation and take away some of the pressure of broaching the topic of fantasy with your partner. I think the fear of embarrassment is really common. It can be very difficult to open up about your fantasies, even to someone you’ve been with for a long time, but these conversations can potentially take your sex life to the next level and intensify your bond and relationship with your partner. It’s really important in a relationship to have strong, open communication and I believe that this is part of it. Sexual fantasies are perfectly healthy and normal, and sharing them can be a really fun experience.  

Where do you think that embarrassment comes from?

Erika Lust: I think a lot of it stems from the shame tied up with sexuality. Unfortunately shame is cultivated in the society we live in and the sex education (or lack of) we receive growing up. We’re also taught to view sex in a very narrowly defined heteronormative way, which makes it seem that anything outside of this is deviant or weird. Women especially have to confront shame within their sexuality because they’re fed the message from a young age that they shouldn’t enjoy it too much.

Do you think that’s the most important thing in both kink and sex – communication?

Erika Lust: I think there are two equally important things, communication and consent. When we don’t communicate about sex, our wants and our needs aren’t met. A lack of communication means that we don’t try things that interest us and we will go along with things that we may not necessarily want to. We must always be aware of consent when having sex – ongoing conversation or clear non-verbal cues.  

It baffles me that the kink community has a bad reputation in ‘mainstream’ circles when they have such a strong model of what it means to obtain consent and speak about what they’re comfortable doing. It’s the norm in kink situations to speak about what sexual activities you want to do. I’m not saying that the kink community is perfect or that boundary violations don’t exist, but I think there is a lot we can learn. I think it’s also important to remember that consent and communication are not one-time conversations.

The app takes away something that can be common in kink – a perceived pressure to comply. If your partner says ‘I want this’ and you say ‘well, I don’t’, you can feel ‘boring’ or like you’re depriving them of something they want. This makes the conversation more positive and takes away that fear, while prioritising pleasure.

Erika Lust: I wanted to make the app in a way that users can play individually, as well as with their partner. In part, to take away some of the pressure to comply, specially when fantasies are spoken about during sex, there can be a pressure to say yes to avoid making things uncomfortable.

I think it’s a good idea to first have the conversation of fantasy with your clothes still on with a fun app. This is where the app works well, by going through the cards individually, and thinking about them alone you can decide if the fantasy is something that interests you. This also allows you to develop your sexuality and fantasies independent from your partner.

What is it like for you looking back on your career?

Erika Lust: I often tell people about the book that influenced me which was Linda Williams’ Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’. It gave me my lightbulb moment and I realised that pornography was a genre, a specific cinematic trend with its own history. It wasn’t just ‘porn’ to me anymore, it was part of a discourse on sexuality making a statement and expressing ideologies and values on sex and gender.

I shot The Good Girl when I moved to Barcelona, which was a humorous take on the classic pizza delivery boy porn trope. To be honest I can’t really watch it now without cringing but it was a start and it changed my life! That’s when I realised there were other people out there looking for alternatives to mainstream pornography, and I decided to start making adult films that reflected my own ideas.

What drives you to make these films?

Erika Lust: My mission was, and always will be, to show that women’s pleasure matters. I want to show that women have their own sex drive and desires, and are not passive objects exclusively focused on pleasuring the men. XConfessions is adult cinema that is smart, sex positive and respectful to women. It offers a representation of women’s pleasure and sex on screen that challenges the unchecked misogynistic attitudes, racist categorisations, and degrading narratives of mass-produced porn. Gagging, slapping, vomiting… some women may like it. But it is not a niche, it has become mainstream. That is extremely problematic. Studios produce it as it is the alpha and the omega of sex while it is content made with a very misogynist male-centric standard. It seems it is not arousing unless it is degrading to women. In my cinema, I show women enjoying themselves while receiving and giving pleasure in relatable scenarios. Women have their own sexual agency and take ownership of their bodies.

I also want to fight the fetishising and categorising that the mainstream industry does. Performers are categorised by their race, age or body type. I am really concerned with such ‘othering’.

What else are you doing to change the industry?

Erika Lust: With my ongoing guest directors open call I also have that community of new filmmakers. There are more female filmmakers in the industry who have loud voices and who stand by their work, and it’s great to be able to get more depictions of sex and sexuality, and more people doing something different to a lot of the mass produced stereotypical porn on the free tube sites. 

What sets your work apart?

Erika Lust: I think working with a female team really shapes my films. From the moment I created Erika Lust Films I knew I wanted to get more women in positions of power in all aspects of the business. I have a mostly female crew when I’m working on set, it can vary slightly but it’s usually 80 per cent women, with women working as camera people, producers, editors, runners. The female viewpoint is vital for me and to really get that I need to have a predominantly female team. With tube sites and the vast majority of studios, you don’t know who made those films. We should be asking ourselves who is making the porn that we watch.

You can download the XConfessions app and find out more about it here

Complete Article HERE!

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If You’re Not Talking About Sex, You’re Not Good At It

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Good sex can’t happen without good communication. Here’s how to talk the talk with your partner.

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Good sex is hard to find. Maybe it’s a chemistry thing. Maybe it circles back to attraction. Or, maybe, it has more to do with our inhibitions around talking about what we like and want in bed with the people we like and want in bed. That’s at least where Stella Harris has landed.  A sex educator, intimacy coach and BDSM instructor, Harris unpacks this argument in her book, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink and Relationships. Within it, she discusses the prevalence of American non-communication and the reasoning behind it. She also provides insights and exercises designed to steer audiences away from this unsatisfactory standard. We spoke to Harris about how, exactly, couples can up the intimacy by way of communication.

Why is it so essential to talk about sex regularly with your partner?

All bodies are different. And there’s only so much you can figure out through trial and error. There’s no way to guess what someone is going to be into or what fantasies they have. When you aren’t talking about sex, you’re only scratching the surface of what experiences you could be having and the amount of pleasure you could be experiencing. We aren’t mind readers, and honestly, that’s probably for the best.

Was there anything, in particular, that inspired you to write this book?

People so badly want that quick fix, or that “one move” that will blow their partner’s mind. And they hate it when I tell them they have to talk to the person they’re touching. There’s nothing I can teach you that will get you out of having to talk to the person you’re having sex with. People are just so horrified by that. They think it’s going to “ruin the mood.” Other folks will come into my office and tell me about a secret fantasy they’ve been sitting on for 20 years but they won’t tell their partner. It’s too high stakes. If someone you’re partnered with rejects you or thinks you’re weird after you’ve told them about your fantasy, well, that’s really hard to live with. So much so that telling a stranger feels easier.

How can partners help each other find comfort in communication?

Part of what the book talks about is not just communicating your own interests but how to hear about other people’s desires in a way that is full of compassion; in a way that won’t shame them, even if you’re not into what they’re into. If you want someone to be vulnerable and upfront with you about their interests, you have to listen and answer compassionately. You have to think about what you’re putting out there. You have to figure out your own biases so you know what you have to work on before you accidentally hurt someone’s feelings. If you’re making fun of things, like, say Trump and his urine play, and it turns out that’s something your partner is into, they’re never going to mention it to you. We do a lot of offhand shaming. Sex makes for an easy punch line. Sometimes, I have to remind clients that certain behaviors are okay.

You do a lot with the kink community. What do you think more mild audiences can gain from the way they conduct themselves around sex?

I like to bring in some examples from the kink community when dealing with folks who think talking “ruins the mood.” Think about planning play-parties, for example. It’s not ruining the mood; it’s like planning a vacation. It’s part of the excitement. I try to bring them away from the mindset that anything that isn’t entirely spontaneous is “boring” or “unsexy.”

How can couples in long-term commitments benefit from better communication?

The best way to keep a long-term relationship strong is by experiencing novelty together. Sex is an amazing place to keep adding novelty. It doesn’t have to be kink or anything you might consider weird. Adding sex toys, adding role-play, even just adding a new position can help. There are so many ways to change things up. But you can’t surprise somebody with that stuff. You have to make sure they’re up for it.

What about parents?

Communication is especially important after having kids. Bodies change. Even if you thought you knew what you’re partner was into before, there’s a good chance what they’re body is up for has changed. This is really the time where you need to talk about maybe doing new things. You’re not going to stumble into it by accident.

How can people get the ball rolling? Where is a good place to talk about, well, talking?

I suggest people schedule conversations. Tell your partner you want to talk to them about some fun, new and sexy thing you want to try.  You want to make sure they’re in a receptive place before you open up that conversation. Sometimes it helps to be in a more neutral environment than at home. I often suggest people go out to dinner and discuss things. There’s a saying, “don’t negotiate naked.” And I think that works really well here. The idea is that, if sex is imminent, you’re not going to have as clear a head going into the conversation, as you should. If you’re in the moment you’re not going to think of all the questions and all the caveats that you might want to cover. It really helps to do it outside of a sexual setting.

So, ideally, how should people communicate during sex?

I actually quote Dan Savage’s formula in the book. He says the best way to ease people into dirty talk is by telling your partner what you’re going to do, what you’re doing, and what you did. I basically encourage people to narrate. Coming up with what to say seems to be the most terrifying thing for people. It’s easier when you simply narrate what’s happening. Say how attractive your partner looks, or how good they look against the sheets, how they look under the light, how they feel against your body… Take your imagination out of the equation, at least at first. Just throwing out positive affirmations can go a long way.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Have More Intimate Conversations

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This Simple Shift Will Immediately Spark Intimacy In Your Conversations

By Danielle Dowling, Psy.D.

We’ve all been in a situation where we’re uncomfortably asking questions of the person we want to impress or connect with, only to find ourselves running the conversation into a brick wall.

Connecting through conversation is an integral part of any healthy relationship. But while we all talk with other people nearly every single day, that doesn’t mean each and every one of our conversations is a quality, connective, engaging experience. Far from it. We all have conversations with people who are not gifted in connecting—and we all at times struggle ourselves to create that intimacy.

You’d think the proliferation of social media technologies and seemingly more and more ways to communicate with anyone at any time would help alleviate this issue, but instead the opposite is true. With research showing that only 7 percent of communication is based on the written word (and 93 percent on nonverbal body language), social media actually makes us less social and likely to truly connect. Without that true communication and intimate connection, it’s no wonder that feelings of loneliness have reached epidemic levels in America (and no doubt, throughout the rest of the world too)—with at least 46 percent of Americans reporting they always feel alone and 43 percent feeling like their relationships are not meaningful.

With communication being so closely correlated to relationship satisfaction (and to long-term compatibility in romantic relationships), this is one relational concern you won’t want to let slip. But don’t worry! Connecting through conversation doesn’t have to be hard. There’s one simple shift you can make to immediately pique your partner’s (or anybody’s!) interest and have meaningful conversations that build deeper connection and intimacy:

Ask better questions.

Here’s the thing: “Did you have a good day?” just isn’t going to cut it anymore. While it’s always valuable to check in with your partner and indicate your interest in their lives and well-being, not asking the right questions can shut down a conversation before it even starts. The questions you ask (and field) in conversation often determine the quality of your engagement.

So, what sorts of questions should you ask—and how should you handle the answers?

The straightforward strategy that will enhance your ability to create better, more intimate conversations—especially with your partner—is to ask open-ended questions.

What exactly does that mean?

Start with no end in mind.

You should begin your conversations with no end in mind—don’t presume you know how your partner’s day went or how they’re feeling or even what they want for dinner. That’s where open-ended questions come in: They’re the types of questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” so they open up the conversation and welcome in any number of possible answers from you or your partner. They’re your best bet for sparking truly inviting conversation.

Open-ended questions usually begin with words or phrases like:

  • How did you…?
  • Why…?
  • Can you share…?
  • Tell me about…?

…or some variation thereof.

They open the door for your partner, giving them the opportunity to truly think about their response and share with you on a deeper, more honest level.

Offer them that invitation—and ask for it in return if need be—and witness the added intimacy and connection that comes from holding space for their true thoughts.

Importantly, you’ll also have to hold space for any answer.

When you open up your conversations with open-ended questions, you create space for answers and topics you might not have anticipated—and may not even like.

While you don’t have to agree with everything your partner says, does, or believes, it’s important to hold space for them to respond to your question with openness, honesty, and authenticity (and for them to offer you space to do the same). That means their response may not always be pretty, it may not always be happy, and it may even trigger something deep in you.

That’s OK. Intimacy springs from this vulnerability—from your partner’s ability to share openly and honestly with you, and from your ability to witness that.

It can feel safer to have more surface-level conversations—those conversations where you ask, “Did you have a good day?” and leave out the deeper, tougher answers that you may not want to hear. But true connection—the intimacy we seek to spark in our relationships if we want them to be truly meaningful—can only be found in this more engaging and honest way of communicating.

Struggling to connect through conversation is natural (very few of us are ever taught to do it well!), but it doesn’t have to be your reality forever. Expand your relationship by expanding the content of your conversations and deepening your connection through your communication. You’ll be so glad you did.

Complete Article HERE!

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What even the most vanilla among us can learn from the BDSM community

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by Natalie Benway

“Sex is not what you do, it’s a place you go.” —Esther Perel

Americans carry a lot of anxiety about having an exciting sex life. This anxiety inspires Cosmopolitan, Redbook and the like to publish a steady stream of articles flouting “100 ways to spice up your sex life!” and “The top six ways to add more color to vanilla sex!” Shame about having “boring” sex is used to sell magazines as well as drive sales of sex toys, fluffy pink handcuffs and sexy nurse costumes, bought in half-hearted attempts to “spice things up.”

But these articles and products usually fall short of providing real avenues for change because they don’t address the mindset we need to have a fulfilling sexual experience. Many of us are afraid to ask our partner for what we are interested in exploring, or don’t know how. We need to feel safe in order to have a positive sexual experience, and sometimes “safe” can be limiting to sexual expression.

Insecurity around sex is a common issue I see in my psychotherapy practice. My friend Alison Oliver (sex educator and all-around epic woman) and I discussed the results of an exercise she has asked her students to complete in which they describe an average sexual encounter from start to finish. The formula was most often as follows: touching, kissing, light petting, heavy petting, oral sex, penile/vaginal contact, coitus, orgasm.

A common frustration among more vanilla folks is the pressure felt to spice up a basic or “boring” sex life. There is absolutely nothing wrong or pathological about wanting a vanilla sexual experience, but if you’re not satisfied, don’t have the skills or feel pressured to get kinky, what do you do?

“The frustration of vanilla — this constant quest to kinkify normative sexual relationships — seems to be the result of people’s actual sexual practices and desires butting up against the idea that there is one unified, normative way that ‘most’ people have sex,” Gawker’s Monica Heisey wrote in the 2014 article “Vanilla Sex: A Perfectly Fine Way to Fuck.” “If I’m supposed to be the default, the married man wonders, why do I want my wife to peg me sometimes? If I’m not kinky, a 22-year-old straight woman who only watches lesbian porn asks, why am I so interested in the idea of a threesome? The danger of vanilla is seeing it as ‘default’ when it’s as amorphous as any individual kinky person’s sexual preferences.”

How do we reframe our expectations so we are not constantly critical of ourselves or our partner? Let’s move away from who-does-what-to-whom and towards a curious and honest exploration of guiding principles that impact mindset. How do I get into the mindset of sex being a place we go, instead of what we do to each other? How do we explore our sexual appetite without anxiety or the pressure of an outcome?

It starts with pondering what we like — what brings us pleasure, and what mood we must be in to explore it — and being open about this with our partner or partners. When we reframe the erotic experience to focus on presence as opposed to performance, we can draw on erotic communication tools within the kink/BDSM community.

The guiding principles of kink/BDSM make no assumptions about what your appetite might be and are not limited in the menu of possibilities. Kink culture is grounded in safe, sane and consensual communication.

Oliver draws on kink/BDSM principles by supporting her students in communicating their sexual boundaries, interests and erotic preferences with an exercise in which they divide sexual menu items into three columns:

  • Yes, please — Favorable activities you’re always or often in the mood for in a sexual/erotic encounter.
  • No, thank you — Activities that are out of bounds for whatever reason, and are off the menu.
  • Maybe? — Activities that have conditions necessary, or you would enjoy under specific circumstances. These are menu items you are curious about and might be open to trying.

These erotic communication tools allow us to express, negotiate and explore our appetites. We can also access the tools of mindfulness to explore presence as opposed to performance. In mindfulness, we are not eating to get to the end of the meal, but to enjoy and experience the food. This can easily be translated to an erotic or sexual experience.

During a mindful eating exercise I do with clients, they are asked to eat a raisin or a nut and act as if they are an alien from another planet and have never seen or experienced the object in their hand. They are prompted to explore it with all their senses and notice not only what they see, hear or smell but also what they think. If their mind wanders, as it often does, they are prompted to gently bring their awareness back to the object of attention. Then they are asked to put the food in their mouth and explore it without biting it, then chew and swallow it and notice how many stages of the experience are automatic or intuitive.

What if we had this kind of presence of mind during a sexual encounter, instead of being distracted wondering if the other person is looking at the size of our ass or critiquing our performance? What if we could be brave and vulnerable in expressing our yes, no or maybe interests to our partners?
Sounds kinky.

Complete Article HERE!

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