Category Archives: Female Sexual Dysfunction

Women don’t need to ‘switch off’ to climax, orgasm study shows

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Not switching off

By Helen Thomson

The most detailed study yet of orgasm brain activity has discovered why climaxing makes women feel less pain and shown that ‘switching off’ isn’t necessary.

It’s not easy to study the brain during orgasm. “A brain scanner like fMRI is the least sexy place in the world,” says Nan Wise at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. “It’s noisy, claustrophobic and cold.” There is also the problem of keeping your head still – movement of little more than the width of a pound coin can render data useless.

Despite these hurdles, Wise and her colleagues recruited 10 heterosexual women to lay in a fMRI scanner and stimulate themselves to orgasm. They then repeated the experiment but had their partners stimulate them.

Wise’s custom-fitted head stabiliser allowed the team to follow brain activity in 20 second intervals to see what happens just before, during, and after an orgasm.

Pain relief

Back in 1985, Wise’s colleagues Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk, both at Rutgers, discovered that, during self-stimulation and orgasm, women are less likely to notice painful squeezing of a finger, and can tolerate more of this pain. They found that women’s ability to withstand pain increased by 75 per cent during stimulation, while the level of squeezing at which women noticed the pain more than doubled.

Now Wise’s team has explained why. At the point of orgasm, the dorsal raphe nucleus area of the brain becomes more active. This region plays a role in controlling the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which can act as an analgesic, dampening the sensation of pain.

Her team also saw a burst of activity in the nucleus cuneiformis, which is a part of brainstem systems that are thought to help us control pain through thought alone.

“Together, this activity – at least in part – seems to account for the pain attenuating effect of the female orgasm,” says Wise.

Turn on, not off

Wise’s team also found evidence that overturns the assumption that the female brain “switches off” during orgasm.

In 2005, Gert Holstege at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands used a PET scanner to analyse brain activity in 13 women while they were resting, faking an orgasm and being stimulated by their partner to orgasm. While activity in sensory regions of the brain increased during orgasm, activity fell in large number of regions – including those involved in emotion – compared with their brain at rest.

Based on this finding, it was suggested that women have to be free from worries and distractions in order to climax. From an evolutionary point of view, the brain might switch off its emotional areas because the chance to produce offspring is more important than the immediate survival to the individual.

But the new study saw the opposite: brain activity in regions responsible for movement, senses, memory and emotions all gradually increased during the lead-up to orgasm, when activity then peaked and lowered again. “We found no evidence of deactivation of brain regions during orgasm,” says Wise.

The difference between the two studies may be because PET can only get a small snapshot of brain activity over a short period of time, unlike fMRI scanners.

Better understanding

It’s not yet clear why pain sensation decreases during orgasm, or if men experience the same phenomenon. It may be that, in order to feel pleasure in the brain, the neural circuits that process pain have to be dampened down.

Whipple suggests that the pain-dampening effects of the female orgasm could be related to child birth. Her research suggests that pain sensitivity is reduced when the baby’s head emerges through the birth canal. Vaginal stimulation may therefore reduce pain in order to help mothers cope with the final stages of birth, and promote initial bonding with the baby.

The ability to study what happens during stimulation and orgasm could be used to better understand and treat those who have mood disorders like anhedonia – the inability to experience pleasure, says Wise. “We know so little about pleasure in the brain, we are just now learning the basics.”

You might wonder what it’s like to participate in such experiments. Wise says people often think her participants must be exhibitionists, but it’s not the case, she says. “Some women do like that aspect, but most are doing it because it’s empowering to them. Some find it difficult to orgasm, others don’t. One of our participants in this experiment was a 74-year-old lady who had two fabulous orgasms in the machine. I said to her, ‘You go girl!’ ”

Complete Article HERE!

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9 Reasons You Might Not Be Orgasming

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By Sophie Saint Thomas

While orgasms don’t define good sex, they are pretty damn nice. However, our bodies, minds, and relationships are complicated, meaning orgasms aren’t always easy to come by (pun intended). From dating anxiety to medication to too little masturbation, here are nine possible culprits if you’re having a hard time orgasming — plus advice on how to deal.

1. You expect vaginal sex alone to do it for you.

One more time, for the cheap seats in the back: Only about 25 percent of people with vaginas come from penetration alone. If you’re not one of them, that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you or your body. As licensed psychotherapist Amanda Luterman has told Allure, ability to come from vaginal sex has to do with the distance between the vaginal opening and the clitoris: The closer your clit is to this opening, the more vaginal sex will stimulate your clit.

The sensation of a penis or a dildo sliding into your vagina can be undeniably delightful. But most need people need that sensation paired with more direct clitoral stimulation in order to come. Try holding a vibrator against your clit as your partner penetrates you, or put your or your partner’s hands to good use.

2. Your partner is pressuring you.

Interest in your partner’s pleasure should be non-optional. But when you’re having sex with someone and they keep asking if you’ve come yet or if you’re close, it can throw your orgasm off track. As somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist Holly Richmond points out, “Being asked to perform is not sexy.” If your partner is a little too invested in your orgasm, it’s time to talk. Tell them you appreciate how much they care, but that you’re feeling pressure and it’s killing the mood for you.

It’s possible that they’re judging themselves as a partner based on whether or not you climax, and they may be seeking a little reassurance that they’re making you feel good. If they are, say so; if you’re looking to switch it up, this is your opportunity to tell them it would be so hot if they tried this or that thing next time you hop in bed.

3. Your antidepressants are messing with your sex drive.

As someone who continues to struggle with depression, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to seek treatment and take medication if you and your care provider decide that’s what’s right for you. Antidepressants can be lifesavers, and I mean that literally.

However, certain medications do indeed affect your ability to come. SSRIs such as Zoloft, Lexapro, and Prozac can raise the threshold of how much stimulation you need to orgasm. According to New York City sex therapist Stephen Snyder, author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long Lasting Relationship. “For some women, that just means you’re going to need a good vibrator,” says New York City sex therapist Stephen Snyder, author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long Lasting Relationship. “For others, it might mean your threshold is so high that no matter what you do, you’re just not going to be able to get there.”

If your current medication is putting a dramatic damper on your sex life, you have options, so talk to your doctor. Non-SSRI antidepressants such as Wellbutrin are available, while newer medications like Viibryd or Trintellix may come with fewer sexual side effects than other drugs, Snyder says. I’m currently having excellent luck with Fetzima. I don’t feel complete and utter hopelessness yet can also come my face off (a wonderful way to live).

4. Your birth control is curbing your libido.

Hormonal birth control can also do a number on your ability to climax, according to Los Angeles-based OB/GYN Yvonne Bohn. That’s because it can decrease testosterone levels, which in turn can mean a lower libido and fewer orgasms. If you’re on the pill and the sexual side effect are giving you grief, ask your OB/GYN about switching to a pill with a lower dose of estrogen or changing methods altogether.

5. You’re living with anxiety or depression.

“Depression and anxiety are based on imbalances between neurotransmitters,” OB/GYN Jessica Shepherd tells Allure. “When your dopamine is too high or too low, that can interfere with the sexual response, and also your levels of libido and ability to have sexual intimacy.” If you feel you may have depression or an anxiety disorder, please go see a doctor. Your life is allowed to be fun.

6. You’re not having sex for long enough.

A good quickie can be exciting (and sometimes necessary: If you’re getting it on in public, for example, it’s not exactly the time for prolonged foreplay.) That said, a few thrusts of a penis inside of a vagina is not a reliable recipe for mutual orgasm. Shepherd stresses the importance of foreplay, which can include oral, deep kissing, genital stimulation, sex toys, and more. Foreplay provides both stimulation and anticipation, making the main event, however you define that, even more explosive.

7. You’re recovering from sexual trauma.

Someone non-consensually went down on me as part of a sexual assault four years ago, and I’ve only been able to come from oral sex one time since then. Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among survivors of sexual trauma; so are anxiety and orgasm-killing flashbacks, whether or not the survivor in question develops clinical PTSD. Shepherd says sexual trauma can also cause hypertonicity, or increased and uncomfortable muscle tension that can interfere with orgasm. If you’re recovering from sexual trauma, I encourage you to find a therapist to work with, because life — including your sex life — can get better.

8. You’re experiencing body insecurity.

Here’s the thing about humans: They want to have sex with people they’re attracted to. Richmond says it’s important to remember your partner chooses to have sex with you because they’re turned on by your body. (I feel confident your partner loves your personality, as well.) One way to tackle insecurity is to focus on what your body can do — for example, the enormous pleasure it can give and receive — rather than what it looks like.

9. You’re shying away from masturbation.

Our partners don’t always know what sort of stimulation gets us off, and it’s especially hard for them to know when we don’t know ourselves. If you’re not sure what type of touch you enjoy most, set aside some time and use your hands, a sex toy, or even your bathtub faucet to explore your body at a leisurely pace. Once you start to discover how to make yourself feel good, you can demonstrate your techniques to your partner.

Complete Article HERE!

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Caught in the modesty bind: Why women feel shy to consult doctors for their sexual well-being

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By Aditi Mallick

“I was 17, when I first got sexually intimate with my boyfriend,” says Kriya (name changed), a 23-year-old IT professional from Hyderabad, while speaking to The News Minute.

“Later we were very scared, as it was the first time for both of us,” she recalls. She missed her periods that month. The 17-year old who had never once been to hospital alone, was scared and unsure of what to do next.

Trying to glean more information online just added to her worry over getting pregnant. Finally she discussed the issue with her boyfriend, and both of them decided to consult a gynaecologist.

“I was already very scared. After I told the receptionist my age, she kept staring at me. It made me so uncomfortable. While other patients were called by name, when it was my turn, she said ‘Aey, hello.…go!’ I felt so bad.

I expected at least the doctor to act sensitive. She first asked me what happened. When I told her, she started lecturing to me about our culture, and how young I am. It was a horrible experience. After the check-up, once I reached home, I burst out crying,” she shares.

From then on, Kriya has always felt too scared to discuss any sexual health problem with a gynaecologist. She is now 23, but in her view, nothing much has changed.

“Last month, I had rashes all over my vagina right up to my thigh. I just could not walk. It was painful. In the beginning, I used anti-allergic medication and antiseptic cream. But I was finally forced to go to a doctor. But even this time, I was ill-prepared for those weird looks.

The receptionist first asked for my name, then my husband’s name. For a moment, I panicked. After a pause I said, I am unmarried.”

Kriya feels that such unnecessary queries have nothing to do with a particular health problem and should not be asked: “We are adults and should not be judged for such things. After all, it is my decision. But society does not think so.”

Dr Kalpana Sringra, a Hyderabad-based sexologist agrees:“Doctors should not interfere in a patient’s personal life. But sadly, some do. A few are open-minded. They do not care whether the patient is married or not. We do at times have to ask about how frequently they have sex to ascertain the cause.”

Kalpana believes the rigid cultural restrictions and undue secrecy about anything related to sex are what makes patients uncomfortable sharing sexual health issues with their doctors.

Prapti (name changed), a 21-year old second year engineering student says: “Ï had  quite a few relationships, and faced initial problems like bleeding and pain during sex. I sometimes lose interest while having sex, due to this immense pain in the vagina.”

But she does not want to consult a doctor: “I prefer advice from friends. At least, they will not judge me.” She remembers the time she had to consult a doctor two years ago, when after having sex, the pain persisted for a whole day.

“The doctor did not even try to explain the reason. I kept asking her whether it was anything serious. But she deliberately chose to ignore me. Later I heard her murmur ‘this generation….uff’! When I shared this with my friends, I realised they too had been in similar situations.

According to Kalpana, only ten percent women come forward to consult a doctor for sexual well-being, of which the majority are planning to get married soon and want to get themselves checked for infection and related advice.

No woman ever goes to the doctor for this, unless it is absolutely avoidable. Not just unmarried women, but even married ones are ignorant in this regard. Young unmarried women are only more hesitant to ask or seek medical help, fearing society and parents, she says.

“Both married and unmarried women are not comfortable. They mostly come with their partners. To make them feel comfortable, we talk to the women alone. After a while, they open up about their problems.”

She also claims that 20% of women who suffer from vaginal infection like UTI and rashes after marriage too feel shy to discuss it with the doctor: “Men seem more comfortable discussing their sexual problems. 90% of our patients are men. But they tend to come alone.”

That was not the case with Jayesh (name changed), a 27-year old. He used to earlier hesitate to talk about his sexual health: “It was only a year back that I consulted a doctor for premature ejaculation, something that I suffered from the age of 23. I used to think if my friends get to know, they would make fun of me.”

The common issues that men in the age group of 18-80 are premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. “Most men confess that they force their wives to use contraceptive pills, as they do not want to wear condoms,” Kalpana says.

Gaurav (name changed), a 29-yearold unmarried man insists that he has never forced his girlfriend to use contraceptive pills, but they do sometimes prefer pills over condoms.

Gaurav who is sexually active does not feel ashamed or uncomfortable consulting a doctor, but that is not the case with his girlfriend: “Four years back, she once started bleeding after we had sex. Honestly, I was clueless how to handle the situation and whom to contact. We did not go the doctor, fearing prejudice.

My girlfriend is not at all comfortable consulting a doctor. She usually avoids going to a gynaecologist, as they ask whether we are married or not. It makes her uncomfortable. It happened a few times with us in Hyderabad. That’s why sometimes she prefers to use emergency contraceptive pills rather than consult a doctor.”

“Sex jokes are allowed, but people are otherwise shy talking about sex. Parents do not talk freely on the topic. It is still a taboo for Indian society,” Gaurav remarks.

When Preeti (name changed) -who is now doing an event management course- was in her final BCom year, she led an active sex life:

“I went for a party and got drunk. That night my friend and I had sex. I did not then realise that we had forgotten to use a condom. After missing my periods, I freaked out. I was confused and went to see a doctor. They first asked if I was married. I lied.”

She also admits to feeling uncomfortable while buying I-pills, condoms or pregnancy test devices: “Once a medical shopkeeper asked whether it was for me, with those around giving me judgmental looks.”

Fearing societal disapproval, several unmarried women tend to take medications, after consulting the internet.

“They go to medical stores or send their partners to buy medicines without consulting a doctor. Emergency contraceptive pills have several side-effects like, dizziness, vomiting etc. Some even try to abort through pills, which is life-threatening and can affect their health in the long run,” warns Kalpana.

Complete Article HERE!

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Heightened Awareness: Anxiety Can Lead to Pain During Sex

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Clearly anxiety can be an obstacle to a healthy sex life and needs to be talked about.

By Carrie Weisman

clenched-fists

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Are you getting any closer? A pocket-sized primer on female sexuality

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By Clarissa Fortin

Stay curious between the sheets, friends.

Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality
by Sarah Barmak
(Coach House Books, 2016; $14.95)

If it weren’t for Sarah Barmak’s Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality I might have gone for years of my life without ever finding out what my clitoris actually looks like.

“Illustrations of it resemble a swan with an arched neck,” Barmak writes. “When I saw an closerillustration of the clitoris’s true shape for the first time I felt like a blind man finally seeing a whole elephant when all he’s ever known was the tip of it’s trunk.” I realized while reading those sentences that no one in my Catholic high school health class ever bothered to show me such an image and I’d never thought to seek one out.

I consider myself a feminist and a sexually liberated woman. Yet, there are still surprising gaps in my understanding of my own body. And that’s why a book like Barmak’s is important. Closer tackles its subject with eloquence, intelligence and humour.

The book is split into five essays that tackle the “fear of pleasure,” the history of female sexuality, the science and psychology of the orgasm, the “female sexual underground” and the politics of acknowledging female desire.

While each essay has its own strengths, I think the most effective chapter is “A History of Forgetting.” This section aligns the historical “discovery” and “loss” of the clitoris with the individual experience of a woman named Vanessa — an actual interview subject.

We first meet Vanessa on the table at the doctor’s office filming herself masturbating in order to prove to the doctor that she can indeed ejaculate. We learn that Vanessa has been having a series of problems — pain after sex, recurring yeast infections and so on — that no doctors can figure out.

From here Barmak momentarily leaves Vanessa’s story behind and turns her attention to the clitoris itself, noting that “the mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003, years before we got around to doing an ultrasound on the ordinary human clit.”

While the tendency is to see history as ever moving forward and progressing, Barmak counters that “women’s sexuality began by being celebrated, then was feared as too potent, before being downplayed and denied in the scientific era.”

The Christian church, the scientific revolution and various other factors resulted in a demonization and rejection of female bodies. It’s a generalized historical account to be sure, but Barmak does point readers in the direction of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, a much more comprehensive book on the subject.

What makes this essay so powerful is the way it revisits and concludes with Vanessa and her struggle. Her story held up against the larger history of the clitoris itself demonstrates all too well an overall contempt for and neglect of the female genitalia.

Along with research and anecdotes, Barmak amasses a diverse collection of interviews with doctors, researchers and sex educators. I was excited to learn many factoids that I will surely whip out at dinner parties in the future — for instance, vaginal self stimulation actually blocks pain in women, and even women who are paralysed can sometimes still feel sexual pleasure because of nerves which bypass the spinal cord and communicate directly with the brain!

Barmak combines this research and traditional journalistic writing with first-person narration, bringing her own experience into the story. This means attending seminars and workshops, watching a demonstration of a female orgasm at Burning Man, and getting a vaginal massage.

Barmak is open about her own skepticism and trepidation during these investigations. “I like to consider myself open to new things,” she writes. “Yet, the idea of a strange lady’s gloved fingers all up in my jade palace falls somewhat outside my personal boundaries.” She goes through with it and the personal account makes for a richer narrative overall.

A note about the term “woman”: Barmak uses it throughout the book to generally refer to the cisgendered female experience. If I have any strong critique of the book it is that by celebrating the distinctly female anatomy, the book sometimes verges on unintentionally emphasizing a gender binary. This is something Barmak herself seems aware of. She notes on pg. 21 that “the word woman can refer equally to cisgender, intersex, genderqueer and transgender women all representing varied shades of experience.” While it’s good that the acknowledgement is there, I think a declaration like this belongs even earlier on as a note for readers to keep in mind before the book even begins.

That said, Barmak does make an effort to include the experiences of typically marginalized women such as trans women and women of colour in her narrative. “Being white affords privileges even in non-mainstream spaces of revolt such as sexuality,” she notes.

The topic is something “that requires far more depth and attention than this little book can offer,” Barmak says and while this seems like a partial cop-out for having only a few pages devoted to women of colour and trans women specifically, Barmak makes a valid point. Issues regarding sexuality faced by marginalized women warrant entire books altogether, preferably penned by a writer who has lived those experiences.

Nevertheless, I think this book would have been more complete with a sixth section devoted specifically to these issues.

At its core this book is compassionately optimistic, celebrating the innate complexity of sexual pleasure itself and arguing in favor of orgasms for all, something I can definitely get behind.

Sex educator and vlogger Lindsay Doe has a motto she repeats at the end of each of her videos: “stay curious.” Closer isn’t the definitive book about female sexuality and it doesn’t claim to be. But it made me curious about my own body, and even more curious about the wonderfully vast array of experiences we humans have between the sheets.

I recommend it to my friends of all genders, my boyfriend, my sisters, and especially the woman who started it all, my mother.

Complete Article HERE!

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