Mindful sex: could it put an end to unhappiness in bed?

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Mindfulness has been used to treat depression and encourage healthy eating. Now, with huge numbers of men and women reporting sexual dissatisfaction, it is being applied to our relationships

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So there you are, in bed with your partner, having perfectly pleasant if serviceable sex, when your mind starts to wander: what was it you meant to put on your shopping list? Why didn’t your boss reply to your email? Don’t forget it’s bin day tomorrow.

Many of us feel disconnected during sex some or most of the time. At the more extreme end, sexual dysfunction – erectile problems, vaginal pain, zero libido – can severely hamper our quality of life and our relationships. In many cases, there could be a relatively simple, if not easily achieved, fix: mindfulness.

In essence, mindfulness involves paying attention to what is happening in the present moment and noticing, without judgment, your thoughts and feelings. It can reconnect us with our bodies – stopping us spending so much time in our heads – and reduce stress. It has been used by the NHS as a treatment for recurrent depression and popular books and apps have made it part of many people’s everyday lives. After mindful eating, drinking, parenting and working, mindful lovemaking is starting to be recognised more widely as a way to improve one’s sex life. (Earlier this year, the couples therapist Diana Richardson gave a TEDx talk on mindfulness in sex, which has been viewed 170,000 times on YouTube.)

A survey published in June by Public Health England found that 49% of 25- to 34-year-old women complained of a lack of sexual enjoyment; across all ages, 42% of women were dissatisfied. The most recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, published in 2013, found that people in Britain were having less sex than they once did, with low sexual function affecting about 15% of men and 30% of women. Difficulty achieving orgasm was reported by 16% of women, while 15% of men suffered premature ejaculation and 13% experienced erectile dysfunction. Problems with sexual response were common, affecting 42% of men and 51% of women who reported one or more problems in the last year.

At the time, the researchers said modern life could be affecting our sex drives.
 
“People are worried about their jobs, worried about money. They are not in the mood for sex,” said Cath Mercer from University College London. “But we also think modern technologies are behind the trend, too. People have tablets and smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and Facebook, answering emails.”

Mindfulness is one of the tools that can help people focus in a world full of distractions. Kate Moyle, a psychosexual and couples therapist, says mindfulness is a recognised part of therapeutic work, even if it has not always been given that name. “When people have sexual problems, a lot of the time it’s anxiety-related and they’re not really in their bodies, or in the moment. Mindfulness brings them back into the moment. When people say they’ve had the best sex and you ask them what they were thinking about, they can’t tell you, because they weren’t thinking about anything, they were just enjoying the moment. That’s mindfulness.” Moyle says the techniques involve “encouraging people to focus on their sensations, explore their senses, hone in on what is happening in their body and how they’re experiencing it”.

A simple exercise Moyle recommends is “getting in touch with the senses in the shower – listen to the noise, the sensation of the water on your skin, notice any smells, see what the water tastes like, look around you. You’re really encouraging people to try to stay in their bodies, rather than be in their heads. It’s about refocusing their attention on what they can feel right now.”

Ammanda Major, the head of clinical practice at the relationship support organisation Relate, says mindful sex “is about focusing in the moment on what’s going on for you and making sure all the extraneous things get left behind. For example, if you’re being touched by your partner, it’s really focusing on those sensations. People may find themselves very distracted during sex, so this is a way of bringing themselves into their body and being totally aware of themselves in that moment.” It is now part of the standard advice and support Relate offers to clients, she says. “It can feel clunky to start with, but with practice people realise they’re able to engage in mindfulness without realising they’re doing it.” In short, it becomes a way of life. Other than focusing on sensations, people can bring into sex an awareness of “how nice your partner feels, or how nice they smell, or the sound of their voice – something that will bring you right back into the moment. When you have thoughts that distract you, one of the key issues is not to blame yourself, but just to acknowledge it and cast them adrift.”

At the Jane Wadsworth sexual function clinic at St Mary’s hospital in London, mindfulness is used in almost all sexual problems, says David Goldmeier, a clinical lead and consultant in sexual medicine. These approaches have been used in sex therapy since the 50s, but they were not known as mindfulness at the time. The American researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson used a technique called “sensate focus”, emphasising the exploration of physical sensations rather than focusing on the goal of orgasm.

A mindful approach can help men with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. “If you have a man who has an erection problem and is stressed by it, a lot of his mind [during sex] will be worrying: ‘Have I got an erection or not?’” says Goldmeier. It is also used to help men and women who find it hard to orgasm or have low desire, as well as in sexual problems relating to abuse. “In our clinic, we see an awful lot of people with historical sexual abuse and [mindfulness is] a foundation for the trauma therapy they have. It is useful in sexual problems that are based in large part on past sexual abuse,” he says.

Lori Brotto, one of the leading researchers in this area, agrees. In her book Better Sex Through Mindfulness, she wrote of a study she published in 2012, which noted that “teaching sexual abuse survivors to mindfully pay attention to the present moment, to notice their genital sensations and to observe ‘thoughts’ simply as events of the mind, led to marked reductions in their levels of distress during sex”.

Brotto is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and the executive director of the Women’s Health Research Institute in Canada. Having started sex research during her graduate degree, she began studying mindfulness in 2002. Mindfulness-based treatments had been used effectively for people with suicidal tendencies – these ancient techniques started to be used widely in western medicine in the 70s – and Brotto realised they could also be helpful for addressing the sexual concerns of women who had survived cancer. “What struck me was … how the patients I was seeing with suicidal tendencies, who would talk about feeling disconnected from themselves and having a real lack of awareness of their internal sensations, were very similar to the women with sexual concerns,” she says. “At that time, I thought: ‘If mindfulness could be an effective way of staying in the present and helping them manage these out-of-control behaviours, I wonder if it could also be a tool to help women reconnect with their sexual selves and improve their sexual functioning.’”

Sexual problems can be caused by a huge range of factors. Depression and stress can be triggers, as can the side-effects of antidepressants. Over time, these side-effects can become a psychological factor, as people worry that they are no longer sexually responsive. Problems can also be caused by physical conditions such as vaginal pain, or inhibitions and shame about sexual desire, particularly for some women and people in same-sex relationships. Survivors of sexual abuse, who learned to dissociate during an assault, can also experience distressing sexual problems in a later consensual and otherwise happy relationship. “Mindfulness is such a simple practice, but it really addresses many of the reasons why people have sexual concerns,” says Brotto.

At its most basic, she explains, mindfulness is defined as “present-moment nonjudgmental awareness. Each of those three components are critical for healthy sexual function. For a lot of women who report low desire, lack of response and low arousal in particular, all three of those domains are problematic.” Being “present” is critical. “Then there is the nonjudgmental part – countless studies have shown that people who have sexual difficulties tend also to have very negative and catastrophic thoughts: ‘If I don’t respond, my partner will leave me,’ or: ‘If I don’t have an adequate level of desire, I’m broken.’ Mindfulness and paying attention nonjudgmentally is about evoking compassion for yourself.”

Body image issues come up consistently, she says. “Women will often say they prefer to have the lights off, or they’ll redirect their partner’s hands away from the areas of their body they’re not happy with, or they may be worrying that a partner is perceiving their body in a negative way. All of those things serve to remove them from the present moment.”

As for awareness, Brotto says, “lots of data shows us that women, more so than men, tend to be somewhat disconnected from what’s happening in their bodies”. Her experiments have shown that women can experience physical arousal, such as increased blood flow to their vagina, but it barely registers mentally. “There may be a strong physiological response, [but] there’s no awareness in their mind of that response. We know that healthy sexual response requires the integration of the brain and body, so when the mind is elsewhere – whether it’s distracted or consumed with catastrophic thoughts – all of that serves to interrupt that really important feedback loop.”

It can be the same for some men, she says, but “there tends to be more concordance between the body’s arousal and the mind’s arousal. When men have a physical response, they’re also much more likely to have a mental sexual arousal response.”

While working with a group or a sex therapist can be helpful for people with sexual concerns, others can teach themselves mindfulness techniques using books or any number of apps. In her book, Brotto says mindfulness practice can be as simple as focusing on your breath. An exercise she uses involves focusing on a raisin (this is a well-established practice and there are many tutorials online). First, scrutinise it – its shape, size, smell, feel, its ridges and valleys – then put it to your lips and notice your anticipation and salivary response; finally, bite into it and observe, in detail, the taste and texture. This can teach us to focus on sensations and the moment, rather than mindlessly eating a handful of raisins. The same sort of attention can be applied to sex.

In Brotto’s eight-week group programme, people practice mindfulness techniques for 30 minutes each day, followed by a maintenance plan of between 10 and 15 minutes a day. For someone doing it on their own, she recommends starting with 10 minutes a day and trying to include a few 30-minute sessions. “The benefit of a longer practice is you get to deal with things such as boredom and frustration, and physical discomfort in the body, all of which you want to be able to work through,” she says. “A body scan is one of our favourites within the sexuality realm – that involves closing your eyes and really tuning in to the different sensations in different parts of your body and not trying to change anything, just observing. If people can start to do that in their life generally, on a regular basis, they strengthen that mindfulness ‘muscle’ and start to become more aware generally and they can take that newfound awareness into their sexuality.”

When we have better sex, we tend to want more of it, so it becomes a satisfying circle. “Desire is not a fixed level that each one of us has, but rather is adaptive and responsive to our situation,” says Brotto. “When sex is not satisfying, it makes sense that the brain adjusts itself and creates less [desire].”

Mindful sex does not have to be an intense, time-consuming session. “It can be very everyday; it doesn’t have to be a different type of sex,” says Moyle. “You might have sex the same way, in the same position, but you’re in a different headspace, so you’re experiencing it differently. People can think: ‘I’m not into mindfulness,’ or: ‘It’s a bit spiritual and I’m not,’ but it doesn’t have to be that. It can just be really straightforward – focusing your attention and fully experiencing sensations.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What It’s Like to Reclaim Your Sex Life After Sexual Assault

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Survivors share their stories.

By Zahra Barnes

When she was 16, Lindsay Marie Gibson was raped. After her assault, life continued, as it does. Years later, in college, she met the man who would become her husband. She fell in love. They got married. Life was good. Yet her assault from years before still wreaked havoc, here and there. If Lindsay, now 34, didn’t flinch when her husband reached for her hand, it was only because she didn’t realize he was touching her in the first place. Her mind-body disconnect, which had come about as what she calls a “self-protection” of sorts after she was raped, was that powerful.

Many people struggle to feel connected with their bodies after experiencing an assault.

Lindsay is not the only survivor to unintentionally rely on this coping mechanism in the aftermath of sexual assault. “It sounds odd, but sexual abuse actually makes you forget that your body is yours and not property or an object,” Lauren*, 26, a survivor who often thought of herself as a “body-less soul” after her rape, tells SELF. “The minute you realize your body is indeed your own, you are instantly reminded that it was forcefully taken from you

This physical numbness stems from an emotional one, and it’s a natural impulse after undergoing something as horrendous as rape. But it is also an intimidating force blocking many survivors from what they say is one of the most empowering parts of reclaiming their lives after rape: Enjoying sex again, or for the first time ever

The yawning chasm between mind and body can make it impossible to fully connect with another person, says Lindsay, who was only able to fall in love with her husband mentally at first: “In my head, I knew I loved him, but I couldn’t feel it in my body.”

Integrating the mind and body is essential for a happy, healthy sex life after assault.

“There needs to be integration,” Holly Richmond, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist who has counseled survivors at the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, tells SELF. “The trauma happened in the past, and a new, healthy, sexual self is moving into future, but it’s all the same person—one body, one mind.”

The goal, says Richmond, is for the survivor to process the trauma so it does not affect her daily life, without compartmentalizing what happened to her to the point of suppression. Attempting to completely stanch the flow of painful memories can contribute to that mind-body disconnect, as well as anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Unpacking that trauma in a healthy way is what helps survivors enjoy many facets of life—including sex, Indira Henard, M.S.W, executive director of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, tells SELF. “Each survivor is different, and it’s a lifelong journey,” she says.

Survivors must navigate various obstacles on the journey towards integration.

For starters, they often struggle with feeling comfortable around men. “If I saw a man in an elevator, I would turn and run the other way,” Lindsay says. “I was fighting anxiety through all my dates—I would sit and stare as they talked, but my head was going, Run, run, run. Get away from this guy.”

When a survivor does eventually wrangle that anxious impulse and start dating someone, she’ll likely disclose what happened at some point. At first, sharing details about her rape would often send men “running for the hills,” Anna*, 36, tells SELF. Now she is in a wonderful relationship with a man who responded to her story with kindness.

Even once a survivor is ready to have sex, issues like anxiety and PTSD can still rear their ugly heads. “When you’re having flashbacks or intrusive thoughts about your assault or rape, it’s very, very difficult to want to have sex,” says Lauren, who has PTSD. “Or worse, if you are having sex when these things arise, sex can become scary and intimidating, not to mention triggering.”

Avoiding triggers after sexual assault can feel like a minefield.

For Jess*, 24, a nickname her attacker called her is now off-limits. When dating after her rape, hearing the nickname during sex could prompt her to “100 percent flip out and start crying,” she tells SELF.

And after being raped from behind, Anna has drawn a line at certain kinds of touch with her husband. “Sometimes, as much as he wants to touch that area, it’s just too much,” she says.

That decision brings Anna a measure of relief while also prompting guilt at times, which experts say is normal but unwarranted. No matter what a trigger is, having one doesn’t mean you’re weak or wrong—it means you’re human, says Richmond.

To manage triggers, assault survivors must regain control over their sex lives, which often includes absolving themselves of any wrongdoing.

In order to heal, it’s vital to set sexual boundaries and hammer out a definition of consent and what is or isn’t OK between two people, says Henard: “Survivors have a right to ask for consent and negotiate what that looks like for them.”

This requires survivors to let themselves off the hook, which many have trouble doing due to persistent feelings of shame, says Richmond.

“It’s about recognizing that you did not do anything wrong, that there’s nothing you could have done to prevent this, and that you are not alone,” says Henard. Richmond adds, “I don’t care if you were sitting naked on a street corner. The only reason you were raped is that you were in the presence of a rapist.”

“When you realize it’s not your fault, it’s kind of like a weight is lifted off of you,” Jennifer*, 44, tells SELF. That self-acceptance often gives survivors the feeling that it’s OK to articulate what they need in order to feel in control of their sexual destinies.

Once survivors have established boundaries, they’re one step closer to truly connecting with someone else, which is an integral part of moving forward.

“This is what so much of my therapeutic practice is about: being able to authentically connect with another human being without going into the shame, guilt, and anger brought up during and after sexual assault,” says Richmond. “There might be some bumps in the road, but when the partner can continue to offer security and safety, it’s an amazing thing

Jennifer recalls how comfortable she felt when she first met her now-fiancé. “He was very compassionate, and he was very patient,” she says. Her fiancé—whom she describes as very focused on helping her to associate sex with good feelings instead of bad ones—is the first person she’s been able to get fully naked in front of since her rape. “I’ve always been very self-conscious of my body, but I don’t feel that way with him,” she says. Now, sex feels freer and is without the tense fight-or-flight mode that marked other encounters after her rape.

For Lindsay, something about her husband’s energy quieted the alarms that would clang whenever she was around men. “The first time he looked at me, I didn’t feel like I needed to run,” she says. “For the first time ever, in my head, I was able to have peace.”

And, of course, pleasure plays a crucial role in this equation.

The best-case scenario, says Richmond, is that a survivor isn’t thinking about the assault when she’s having sex. Instead, the hope is that she feels safe, secure, connected, and is feeling pleasure. But that’s easier said than done

“I got to a point where I was able to be intimate, but I didn’t feel passion,” Lindsay says. “I knew in my head he was safe…I just kind of wanted to get through it and wanted him to be satisfied because I love him.”

Jess would similarly go through the motions, humming songs or making grocery lists in her head to get through sex

But eventually, many survivors realize they deserve pleasure, too, and that seeking it out is essential for healing. “I found the only way to truly move on was to be vocal and to speak up for myself,” Lauren says. Sometimes, she needs to halt all sexual activity. “Other times, I just need a second to re-ground myself and allow my body to remember its present circumstance and realize it is not in danger,” she says.

Having good sex is more than a marker of healing—it’s a liberating step in the process.

Some time after her assault, when Lauren felt ready, she dove eagerly into sexual exploration with her then-boyfriend. “Learning what my body loves and wants has been an exciting journey and one that is incredibly empowering,” she says

But after they broke up, the uncertain world of dating pushed her into more exploration than was ultimately right for her. “I decided to—no strings attached—explore sex just for sex,” she says. “The experience I gained was not worth the emotional toll. I realized sex cannot be, at least for me, something [frivolous] without thought and true emotional connection.”

Now, Lauren is in a happy marriage with a great sex life. “My partner encourages me to be vocal, and we spend a lot of time communicating our needs, our wants, and our thoughts and desires about sex,” she says. “Finding out just how sexually compatible we are has been amazing.”

After some time in therapy, Jess gave herself a mission similar to Lauren’s: “My goal was to have as much sex as possible [with my boyfriend] until I felt normal.”

It helped her make leaps and bounds in her recovery. “I can do everything that might be illegal in some states and countries, and I’m fine with that!” she says. “I feel like my body is special now—there’s no one who can tell me otherwise.”

Sometimes therapy, yoga, or even a tragedy is what helps survivors move forward.

Although not for everyone, many survivors cite therapy as a crucial part of the equation. It helped Lindsay cut her panic attacks down from five to six per day to maybe five per month, and Jennifer and her fiancé sometimes go to couple’s therapy to figure out the best way to approach her lingering anxiety and trust issues

Lindsay has also found solace in trauma yoga, which helped her reconnect her mind and body. Part of this involved a focus on clearing negative energy from parts of her body, like her ribcage and neck, that had ached since the rape due to injuries she sustained during the assault. “Once I became aware that’s what my body was holding, I haven’t had a problem since,” she says. The yoga also encouraged her to sit with her pain instead of trying to deny it.

But what helped Lindsay truly mend her mind-body disconnect was actually another tragedy—the pain she endured after a stillbirth of a much-wanted son. “Losing him burst me open,” she says. The visceral pain made it impossible to suppress her feelings. “My body was trying to go back into denial, but this time it was different—I couldn’t deny the fact that I loved him,” says Lindsay, who wrote about the transformative experience in Just Be: How My Stillborn Son Taught Me to Surrender. “I was actually healing for the first time.”

Now, thanks to that combination of factors, Lindsay’s sex life has changed dramatically for the better. “I’m able to be present and let go, and I can feel my desire for [my husband], which is a completely new thing.”

If you’re on this journey, remember: It’s a work in progress, but healing is indeed possible.

<It’s normal to grapple with mixed feelings about sex and sexuality after an assault. “I want to feel like a sexy person, and I want to feel like I can be more vocal about what I like and what I enjoy,” says Anna. “But at the same time, is that me being like the men that attacked me, in a sense? I know it may sound silly, but I don’t want to be that aggressive person

Confronting these feelings is part and parcel of working through the aftershocks of sexual assault. It sounds like an unfathomable burden, but survivors consistently rise to meet the occasion.

“Survivors are the strongest people I’ve ever met,” says Richmond. “Almost across the board, these people come out with more strength, more empathy, and more insight into the human condition.”

Although Anna says reclaiming her life is something she’s “still struggling with,” she’s determined to keep at it. “We have three children. I want them to know their mama is strong, resilient. There can be love, and a family, and more to life than [my assault].”

That focus on a better future, many survivors say, is part of what helps them form bonds with potential partners with whom they can have healthy relationships—and repair their relationships with themselves. “There is hope,” says Lindsay. “The physical pain, the emotional pain—all that stuff is passing clouds. Joy is the sky. It’s always there

Names have been changed.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the 24/7 National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). More resources are available online from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. To find a sexual assault service provider near you, visit RAINN.

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How To Be A Good Partner To A Survivor Of Sexual Assault

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

January 20, 2018 San Francisco / CA / USA – “Me too” sign raised high by a Women’s March participant; the City Hall building in the background.

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[T]he #MeToo movement has banded survivors of sexual assault together and forced a challenging discussion about how women and girls are treated in our society. But one of the toughest conversations still rarely seems to happen: how do you treat a romantic partner who is a survivor of sexual assault?

One in six women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, so it is likely you may have dated, or are dating, a survivor. Still, few people, outside of trained professionals, are receiving an education about how to sensitively help their partners through the healing process.

“I think it can help to just normalize that [sexual assault] is something many people have experienced,” Laura Palumbo, the communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), told A Plus.

The NSVRC, which provides resources and tools for people trying to prevent sexual violence and to help those living in the aftermath of it, also touches on best practices for being a partner to a survivor. Palumbo explained that for survivors of sexual assault, male of female, deciding whether to tell your partner is one of the hardest things to do.

Survivors may fear being criticized for their stories, or simply not being believed. They may also find it difficult to find the right time to confide in a partner, especially if it is a new relationship.

“It’s something that takes a lot of bravery and vulnerability to share,” Palumbo said. “That’s something for someone on the receiving end to consider: how you respond to someone who shares their experience of sexual assault makes a huge impact in how comfortable they are and their perceptions of whether or not you’re a safe person to talk about this with.”

The first step, Palumbo said, is simply believing what your partner is telling you. Do your best to make it clear that you trust their story, that you believe the assault happened, and that you know it wasn’t their fault.

“They may not want to talk about it in great detail either, and those are all normal ways for a survivor to feel,” Palumbo said. “You should follow their cue about what they are comfortable sharing and not press them for any more info or detail than what they have felt comfortable sharing already.”

If you’re in a new relationship, Palumbo says there are no tried-and-true telltale signs that a partner may have been the victim of an assault in the past. Some victims may have visceral reactions to scenes of sexual assault in movies or on television, but plenty of people who aren’t survivors have those reactions, too. The key is doing your best to pick up on certain signals that may repeat themselves, and adjusting your behavior accordingly. If a partner has a strong negative reaction like that to a scene of sexual violence, you should normalize the reaction and make it clear you noticed it — and then do your best to communicate to your partner that you’re happy to avoid that kind of content in the future.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

Ultimately, being a supportive partner is about listening with care and focus. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape says you should avoid threatening the suspect who may have hurt your partner, maintain confidentiality no matter what, and — if the survivor hasn’t yet already — encourage them to seek counseling.

“The other step we can’t emphasize enough is really just about being a good listener,” Palumbo said. “What a good listener means in this context is just listening actively and listening to what your loved one is sharing without thinking about how you’re going to respond to them, if you’re going to be able to say the right thing or if you are going to have advice, because they really don’t need to hear that from you.”

There is no one way to approach this conversation, but the NSVRC’s guidelines provide a general rulebook. Palumbo says it’s also important to consider the misconceptions and stereotypes about sexual assault survivors and move past them, focusing on the individual you’re in a relationship with. Because of these misconceptions, many people believe survivors of sexual violence don’t want touch or physical contact and end up being less sexual. On the contrary, research shows that’s not the case. While some survivors do withdraw from sexual activity, most “continue to be sexual beings,” Palumbo said.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

“People who experience sexual violence are just like the rest of us in terms of having different sexual preferences and needs and their level of sex and frequency,” she added.

One way to be sure about what your partner is comfortable with is asking for consent to physical touch, particularly during conversations about the their past assault.

“There are going to be times where they may be really receptive to being asked for physical support, such as a hug or other physical intimacy, and there are going to be other times where that is not their preference,” Palumbo said. “By asking and always checking in with the person and being aware of their needs, you can make sure you’re respecting their preferences and re-establishing their preferences of security, safety and control.”

Finally, Palumbo said, be aware that a lot of survivors remain sex positive after their assaults. Some are into consensual alternative forms of sexuality like BDSM, others are comedians who joke about their experiences on stage, and some remain angry or upset about their experience for a long time. Some studies have found that certain rape survivors even have sexual fantasies about rape later in life.

All of these, Palumbo said, are normal and common reactions.

“Survivors are, even after they experienced some form of sexual harm, still going to move forward in their life as a human being,” Palumbo said. “There really is no script. That is something that comes up when a person is talking about their values or expectations for a relationship.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Nienke Helder designs therapy tools for women recovering from sexual trauma

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Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Nienke Helder has created a set of sensory objects that can be used to rehabilitate women affected by sexual abuse.

Presented at this year’s Dutch Design Week, Sexual Healing is designed to help women who are suffering from trauma-induced sexual problems, such as pelvic muscle blockage.

According to the designer, current treatment available often focuses on a clinical perspective – putting too much emphasis on physical issues, rather than the psychological aspects of trauma.

From her own experience, Helder recognised the frustration this can cause, which prompted her to develop an alternative therapy which focuses more on the emotional aspects of sexual trauma.

“I was really frustrated with the way we treat these kinds of issues. In my opinion, the treatments that I got only made it worse,” she told Dezeen.

“It was totally taking me away from the sexual context; it became really clinical. It was so focused on this end goal of penetration that I totally lost all fun in my sexuality.”

The designer worked with medical experts and women in recovery to develop a set of five objects which invite users to discover their own sexual pleasure.

The objects encourage women to explore what feels good to them, which in turn, relieves fear and pain, and help them regain a sense of security about their bodies.

The first object is an ergonomically shaped mirror that lights up.

“Research shows that if you look at your own vulva, it increases your body positivity a lot. But if you have a trauma, it can really be confronting to look at your own body,” Helder said.

She made the mirror in such a way that it only shows exactly what you hold in front of it, allowing users to take their time and slowly start exploring their own bodies.

The second object is a brush made from horsehair, which is meant to help users become comfortable with being touched again. It also enables them to invite their partner to the healing process.

“If you have a trauma, it can be really difficult to talk about it. But by giving someone an object and making them part of the therapy, it opens a lot of doors for conversation,” Helder explains.

Two of the objects focus on biofeedback and are designed to help the user detect if they are feeling tense or stressed.

“Trauma creates certain reflexes in your body that comes from your subconscious mind,” the designer said. “To break that cycle, you need to rationally understand what is causing these processes in order to overcome them emotionally.”

One is a sensor that is meant to be placed on the abdomen. The device lights-up when the user’s breathing becomes tense, functioning as a signal to relax again.

A second is an object that measures the pressure in pelvic floor muscles. If the user tenses up, the device starts to vibrate, signalling the need to relax.

The final object is a kimono made of silk jersey, which emphasises the need to feel warm and relaxed in the bedroom.

“I made it because the bedroom is one of the coldest rooms in the house,” said the designer. “As I mentioned in my project video, it is important to keep your socks on when having sex because women could not have an orgasm when they have cold feet.”


 
Mental health is becoming an increasingly explored topic in design, particularly among graduates.

At last year’s Design Academy Eindhoven graduate show, designer Nicolette Bodewes presented a tactile toolkit designed to be used in psychotherapy sessions, while Yi-Fei Chen channelled her personal struggle with speaking her mind into a gun that fires her tears.

Helder’s Sexual Healing project was presented at this year’s Design Academy Eindhoven‘s graduate show as part of the annual Dutch Design Week event, which took place from 21 until 29 October 2017.

Complete Article HERE!

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9 Reasons You Might Not Be Orgasming

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By Sophie Saint Thomas

[W]hile 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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For Veterans, Trauma Of War Can Persist In Struggles With Sexual Intimacy

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U.S. Marines march in the annual Veterans Day Parade along Fifth Avenue in 2014 in New York City.

By

[M]uch has been said about the physical and psychological injuries of war, like traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. But what we talk about less is how these conditions affect the sexual relationships of service members after they return from combat.

Since 2000, service members who were deployed received at least 138,000 diagnoses of PTSD. More than 350,000 have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury since 2000. Evidence suggests the numbers are actually higher because many don’t seek treatment.

These conditions cause their own sexual side effects, such as emotional numbness, loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. And the long list of medications used to treat PTSD, TBI and other medical conditions can worsen those side effects.

‘He would sleep for days’

Chuck and Liz Rotenberry of Baltimore struggled with their own challenges when Chuck returned from Afghanistan in 2011. He’s a former Marine gunnery sergeant who trained military working dogs. He left active duty in 2012.

For Liz and Chuck, sex had never been a problem. They’ve been married for 14 years and they’re still very much in love. Liz says she fell for Chuck in high school. He was that guy who could always make her laugh, who always had a one-liner ready and never seemed sad.

But when Chuck returned from Afghanistan, their relationship would soon face its greatest challenge. Baby No. 4 was just two weeks away; for sure, it was a chaotic time. But Liz noticed pretty quickly, something was terribly wrong with her husband.

“I wouldn’t be able to find him in the house and he wouldn’t be outside, and I’d find him in a separate bedroom just crying,” Liz says. “He would sleep for days. He would have a hoodie on and be just tucked away in the bed, and he wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. He would have migraines that were so debilitating that it kept him in the bed.”

When Chuck was in Afghanistan, an IED — improvised explosive device — exploded 3 feet behind him. Shrapnel lodged into his neck and back.

It would take three years for someone at the Department of Veterans Affairs to explicitly lay out for Liz that Chuck had developed severe post-traumatic stress and suffered a traumatic brain injury — and that she would need to be his caregiver.

The Marine self-image

During that three-year period, there were times Chuck estimates he was taking 15 to 16 different medications twice a day.

Sex was usually the furthest thing from his mind.

“I didn’t think about it. I wanted to be with Liz, I wanted to be near her,” he says. “When the desire was there, it was unique. It was rare, as opposed to the way it was before. And a lot of times, with the mountains of medication I was on, you know, in my head [it was] all systems go, but that message didn’t go anywhere else.”

Liz noticed that Chuck stopped initiating physical affection.

“The thought of him reaching out to me to give me a hug wasn’t existent. It was like I had to give him the hug. I now had to step in and show him love,” she says.

Sometimes months would go by before they would have sex.

“It started off as being pretty embarrassing, pretty emasculating,” Chuck says. “It was like, ‘Really? This too doesn’t work?’ You blame it on, ‘Oh, it’s just the medication,’ or ‘You’re tired,’ or whatever initially, and you don’t realize it’s stress or my brain just doesn’t work like it used to.”

Liz and Chuck had never really talked about sex in any serious way before. So they kept avoiding the conversation — until this year. That’s when Chuck finally asked his primary care provider for help. The doctor prescribed four doses of Viagra a month. Liz and Chuck say the medication has improved things substantially — though they joke about how few doses the VA allots them every month.

But asking for just those four doses took Chuck three or four visits to the doctor before he could work up the nerve. He says it can be especially hard for a Marine to admit he’s having problems with sex because it contradicts a self-image so many Marines have.

“You know, as a Marine, you can do anything. You believe you can do anything, you’ve been trained to do nearly anything,” he says. “You’re physically fit. You’re mentally sound. Those are just the basics about being a Marine.”

If he has any advice for a Marine going through the same thing he and his wife are facing, he says you need to talk about it. Bring it up with your spouse. Bring it up with your doctors.

“Marines always jokingly hand out straws. You got to suck it up. You got to do what you need to do to get it done,” Chuck says. “It’s just a different mission. … Don’t let your pride ruin what you worked so hard for.”

 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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Is this gonna warp me?

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Name: Jake
Gender: male
Age: 23
Location: Omaha
I’m 23, and I’ve been dating 30-year-old chick for nearly a year now. I come from a very conservative Christian upbringing and I love that she is more experienced than me. My girlfriend likes to tie me up. I’m a college gymnast so I have very defined muscles. They are a huge turn on for my girlfriend, which I guess explains why she likes to see me struggle against the rope. I get real turned on too when I’m tied up. Sometimes she teases my penis and testicles with a feather or a piece of leather, which drives me wild. I’m worried though, because I think this is gonna warp me somehow. Do you think this is perverted? Why is it so much fun?

Ahhh yeah Jake, I do think it’s perverted. I think your girlfriend is a big fat pervert and I think you’re still a little tiny pervert, but well on your way to being a big fat pervert, just like your girlfriend. So YAY for that!

bondage236And why is this bondage thing so much fun? It’s such a blast because it’s perverted, nasty and forbidden, silly! One can only guess what your fundamentalist Christian mom and dad would think about their star athlete son trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey while a considerably older dominatrix punishes his family jewels. I fear this apple has fallen a great distance from the tree, right Jake? I absolutely love it!

Bondage is fun for you because you have to relinquish all your male privileged, Christian, preppy frat boy control to this unlikely kinky lady friend of yours. And what’s even better, you let her have her way with you. I have a feeling you’re not telling us everything about what she does to you when you’re all tied up. I’d be willing to guess there is a lot more perversion here than meets the eye. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily. I think it can be very therapeutic as well as amazingly hot to be completely helpless and in the control of another.

For a dominatrix, like your girlfriend, there is, as you say, the visual aspect to bondage. I think she’d agree, there’s nothing sexier then young masculine, muscular male flesh wrapped in ropes while having his cock and balls available for discipline. It’s the ultimate form of objectification. And, I might add, that you guys are turning all of society’s conventions — particularly the sacred “male as top” thing — on their head. YOU GO!

This has got to turn your crank, on some base psychological level too. I would so love to know how you and your girlfriend met. How she introduced you to all this pervy stuff. And more importantly, how you came to submit so unequivocally. That’s the real story here.bondage237

Jake, you are on the cutting edge. I think you have some sense as to how radical your play really is, don’t you? And I think it’s the radical nature of your play that gives you pause, right? It’s not the actual bondage, discipline, and possible humiliation that concerns you as much as you feel like you are losing your moral moorings. Nothing about what you are currently experiencing at the hand of this woman has any connection to the life you were brought up in. That has to be a bit of a jolt, which makes it all the more enticing. And there is virtually no turning back, is there? Once you’ve tasted the sweetness of surrender, vanilla will never again be enough.

Trust me, none of this makes you a bad person. On the contrary, if you embrace and integrate all this new information about yourself and live your life with authenticity and integrity, it will make you exemplary.

I do have one fear, however. I fear that one-day you will begin to second guess your harmless submissive eroticism and cave to the dictates of the popular culture. The worst case scenario would be for you to continue to enjoy your BDSM lifestyle on Saturday nights, then rush off to church on Sunday morning to join the choir of sanctimonious hypocrites who do one thing in private, but who publicly endorse and promote a sex-negative message of repression and denial. That, my friend, would be criminal…and a real perversion.

Good luck

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The Dreaded Lesbian Bed Death

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Name: Karen
Gender: Female
Age: 36
Location: Portland
I have a really big problem. I can’t keep a girlfriend because once I’m in a committed relationship I lose my desire for sex. I don’t mean it slacks off; it just totally stops. I’ve always been this way. I can have casual sex with women, but when things get serious sex goes out the window. This has been the demise of every relationship I’ve ever had. I’m currently dating this really great woman, but I’m afraid my problem will drive her away too. Is there anything I can do to stop this from happening?

Whoops, looks like another case of dreaded LBD…Lesbian Bed Death.

Lesbian Bed Death

Ya know it’s pretty common for lovers in long-term relationships to gradually lose interest in sex with each other. But lesbiterians are particularly susceptible to this malady. Some couples, but lesbians in particular, end all sexual expression between them; yet stay very committed and loving toward each other. Thus the somewhat humorous term, “lesbian bed death.”

You Karen, apparently suffer from a particularly nasty case of LBD. May I ask, is this an issue for you because, and only because, it kills off all your relationships way too soon? Or are you concerned about this because you yourself are uneasy about the complete cessation of sex once you nest? The reason I ask is, if your only reason for changing is to please someone else, even someone you like a lot, the likelihood that you’ll actually change is considerably less than if you yourself desire a change.

Let’s say you really want to change for yourself, but you just don’t know how. I’d advise working with a sex positive therapist. If you and I were working together, for example, I’d want to get to the bottom of what triggers your attitude shift toward sex when you nest. Is there some disconnect for you between sex and intimacy? If there is a disconnect for you, you’re not alone. People with self-esteem issues, or body issues, people with extreme scruples about sex, the kind that translates into guilt and shame often have a similar disconnect. And gay and lesbian people who have not resolved their internalized homophobia will frequently have a sex and intimacy rift.

Lesbian Bed Death2

Sound familiar? I would guess so. Reversing this is unhappy trend is not an insurmountable task. But it will take a concerted effort to heal the rift that you may have between your sexual expression and intimacy needs.

You say you’re met this really great woman and you want this relationship to last. FANTASTIC! Is it safe to assume that she has a healthier appreciation of sex then you? If she does, I suggest you engage her in your healing process. However, you gotta be totally up front with her about your past pattern of disconnect. Marshal her sex-positive energy to help you resolve your issues. She will need a heads-up on the impending sex shut down so she can help you resist it. With her help, the two of you could move through this.

Good luck

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Shaming Men Doesn’t Build Healthy Sexuality

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By David J Ley Ph.D

StandingNudeMaleTorso

Male sexuality is intensely under attack, in the increasingly vitriolic social dialogue related to pornography. Though women watch and make pornography, most of the current debates focus on aspects of masculine sexual behaviors. These behaviors include masturbation, use of pornography, prostitutes or sexual entertainment like strip clubs. Promiscuity, sex without commitment, and use of sex to manage stress or tension are all things that are frequently a part of male sexuality, whether we like it or not. But, male sexuality is not a disease, not a public health crisis, it is not evil, and it does not overpower men’s lives or choices. Shaming men for these behaviors isolates men, and ignores powerful, important and healthy aspects of masculinity.

There is a common perception of male sexuality as intrinsi­cally selfish, overly focused on “scoring” and sexual conquests, on anonymous, “soulless” sex, and on the outward manifestations of virility.  But there are other, oft neglected sides of male eroticism. Straight men are far more focused upon women’s needs, and upon closeness with women, than we give them credit for. Nancy Friday wrote that “Men’s love of women is often greater than their love of self.” Men give up friends and male camaraderie and accept a life of economic support of women, even leading up to an earlier death, all in order to be with women. More than half of all men describe that their best sexual encounters came when they “gave a woman physical pleasure beyond her dreams.” Men redi­rect their selfishness away from their own satisfaction, and toward a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, by giving sexual satisfaction. Male sexuality often involves an intense focus on the needs of their partners, and men gain great pleasure, even a strong sense of manliness, from giving their lover sexual pleasure.

In fact, men’s desire to sexually satisfy their partners comes at the price of their own satisfaction. When a man is unable to make his partner orgasm, many men report incredible frustration, disappointment, and self-doubt. Women even complain that men put so much pressure and intent upon helping the woman achieve orgasm that the act ceases to be pleasurable and starts to feel more like childbirth. In such cases, women fake orgasms, not for themselves, but to satisfy their partner’s needs. Until a woman has an orgasm, a man doesn’t think he’s done his job, and his masculinity hangs in the balance.

Franz_Von_Stuck_-_SisyphusMen are taught from a young age that they must be sexually competent and sexually powerful with exaggerated and impossible ideals. Surveys of sex in America find that, compared to women, men are far more insecure and anxious about their sexual performance. Nearly 30 percent of men fear that they ejaculate too soon, most men sometimes experience erectile dysfunction connected to anxiety, and one man in every six reports significant worries about his sexual abilities to satisfy his partner. These are huge burdens that men carry, and are just one reason why many men pursue other forms of sex such as masturbation to pornography.

Compared to women, men actually experience greater pain and psychological disruption from the ups and downs of romantic relationships. Not only do the negative aspects of a romantic relationship hurt men more than women, but the positive aspects and benefits of that relationship have greater impact upon the man than the woman. Because women are better able to access outside support from friends and family, they often fare better than men. Men are often isolated and burdened with the expectation that they shouldn’t feel pain, or if they do, they must suffer alone.

For men, physical affection and sex is one of the main ways we feel loved, accepted, and regarded. For many men, it is only through physical love that we can voice tenderness and express our desire for togetherness and physical bonding. Only in sex can we let down boundaries and drop our armor enough to be emotionally vulnerable.

Sex plays a greater role in the lives of men as a form of acceptance and mutual regard than it does for women. Women touch each other all the time, with hugs, holding hands, closer body contact, and smaller “personal space.” Men shake hands. Really good friends might, at best, punch each other in a loving way, do a careful “man hug,” or even swat each other’s buttocks, if it’s during an approved masculine sporting event. (Many homosexual men experience this differently, when they come out and are part of the LGBTQ community) So the body-to-body contact that sex offers feeds an appetite, a craving, one that is often starved near to death in men.

Male sexuality is portrayed as something that men must guard against, and describe it as though it is a demonic force, lurking within our souls, which must be constrained, feared and even rejected. Men are portrayed as powerless to control themselves, in the face of sexual arousal that is too strong. Men are painted as weak, harmed and warped by sexual experiences such as pornography. As a result, men are told to be ashamed of the sexual desires that society has called unhealthy, and told to forego those condemned sexual interests. But an essential part of man is lost when we encourage men to split them­selves from their sexuality.

Unfortunately, as we teach men to be men, to understand, accept, and express their masculinity, we rarely attend adequately to the loving, nurturing, and amo­rous side of men. The most positive way that society and media currently portray male sexuality is when it is depicted as bumbling and stupid-making, a force that turns men into fools, easily led by our penises. But more often, male sexuality is depicted as a force that hovers just on the edge of rape, rage and destruction.

What is necessary for a healthy man, for complete masculinity, is the in­tegration, consolidation, and incorporation of ALL the varied aspects of our sexuality. When we try to externalize our desires for love and sex, excising them from ourselves as something external and dangerous, we run the real risk of creat­ing men without compassion, without tenderness, and without the ability to nurture. It is easy to suggest that what we are trying to excise are the base, primitive parts of men’s eroticism, those desires to rape, dominate, and sat­isfy oneself selfishly. But in truth, those desires, as frightening as they can be, are integrally linked to male emotional desires for safety, acceptance, protection of others, and belonging.

A_ShipwreckThose things that make men admired and respected—their strength, courage, independence, and assertiveness—are the same things which contribute to the differences in male and female sexuality. By condemning these characteristics, we run the real and frightening risk of abolishing qualities that are essential to healthy masculinity.

A healthy sexual male is one who accepts and understands his erotic and sexual desires, along with his drive for success, dominance (and often submission as well) and excellence. Healthy sexual choices come from internal acceptance and awareness, not rejection and shame. Research has shown that all men have the ability to exercise control over their levels of sexual arousal and sexual behavior, but no men can fully suppress their sexual desire. Healthy men can be men who go to strip clubs, visit prostitutes and watch pornography. They are men who make conscious sexual choices, accepting the consequences of their actions.

Our culture needs a sexual ethic focused on personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts. All persons have the right and responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent and pleasure. Grounded in respect for the body and for the vulnerability that intimacy brings, this ethic fosters physical, emotional and spiritual health. It accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status or sexual orientation. The Religious Institute

We need to begin encouraging personal integrity, responsibility, self-awareness and respect, both for oneself and one’s sexual partner(s). This is, I think, the goal for all men – to make their sexual choices an integrated part of who they are, and the kind of man they desire to be. Unfortunately, as long as we continue to shame and condemn men in general, and specific sexual acts, we are merely isolating men. Further, we are exacerbating the problem, because removing porn or shaming men for their desires or fantasies, does not teach men how to be a sexually healthy man.

Complete Article HERE!

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“That’s ICKY!”

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Name: Marti
Gender: female
Age: 27
Location: Seattle
Is there such a thing as an asexual? The reason I ask is that I think I am one. I’m happy and well adjusted, but sex does nothing for me. I can’t orgasm. My genitals are icky. My marriage seems fine. I love my husband; we share the same values. And even if there’s nothing in it for me, I’m apparently pretty good at fellatio. We don’t do intercourse. Is this normal for some people? Are some people simply not wired to be sexual? I have no problems with love. I’m passionate about my husband and my friends, but it’s more of a cerebral thing.

Yeah, Marti, I do believe there is such a thing as an asexual. But I don’t think you’re one. Ya know why I say that? It’s because an asexual has an indifference toward sex. You, dear lady, exhibit disgust toward sex and things sexual…including your very own pussy. And that tells me you have an aversion to sex, which is completely different from what an asexual feels about sex.

frustrationI’d also have to challenge you on your statement that you are happy and well adjusted. I just don’t buy it, darlin’! And here’s a tip, if you have to go out of your way to tell someone you are happy and well adjusted, you’re probably neither.

In my estimation, a young married, albeit preorgasmic, woman who denies her hubby the old in and out, but begrudgingly blows him when absolutely necessary is NOT happy or well adjusted. SORRY! I don’t fault you for this, mind you. It’s just that since you have never known the joys of sex, you can hardly dismiss them as unimportant.

If we had access to your long-suffering husband I think he would tell a different tale than you, Miss Marti. I’ll betcha he’s withering on the vine for lack of nookie — the odd semi-obligatory blowjob he gets doled out to him on occasion not withstanding.

Listen darling, you got issues…big fuckin’ issues that need to be addressed ASAP. Don’t go trying to cover your shit with a happy face like asexuality. You’ll give all those real sexual ascetics a bad name if ya do.

Begin by resolving your anorgasmia, or as other call it preorgasmia. Because that, my dear, is the root of your sexual aversion. Work with a qualified sex-positive therapist. Learn to masturbate in a way that will bring you sexual satisfaction. Once you and your trusty vibrator slams yourself your first screamin’ meme of an orgasm, I believe you will change your tune about the rest of sex and your much maligned pussy too. I’ve written on this topic a lot.  Use the search function in the sidebar, search for “preorgasmic,” and you’ll find it all.  My posting:  Hey, Where’s My Big “O”?, is one fine example.

We can only hope that your deprived spousal unit will stick around during this remedial period. But you’re gonna have to level with him. Tell him you’ve finally accepted the fact that you have a problem that you need to get to the bottom of it, so to speak. With his help and support and that of your therapist, you’ll find your way to real happiness and being an authentically well-adjusted person, not just someone who says she is.shade

Anything short of this kind of honesty will continue to rob your husband of the full-fledged sex life he ought to be enjoying with you his wife. If ya don’t you can be sure ‘ole hubby will find his satisfaction in a more welcoming pussy than yours…if he hasn’t already.

Good luck

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What Happens To Men Who Stay Abstinent Until Marriage?

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by Sarah Diefendorf

Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara arrive at a White House State Dinner in April.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend, the singer Ciara, recently announced plans to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.

It was a vow that came as a surprise to many. After all, sexual purity is a commitment that is historically expected of, associated with – even demanded of – women. However, sexual abstinence is not something assumed of men, especially men like Russell Wilson.

Wilson, an accomplished, attractive athlete, embodies contemporary ideals of masculinity, which include style, wealth and, yes, sexual prowess.

So how does a man like Russell Wilson navigate a commitment to abstinence while upholding ideals of masculinity? Wilson’s status as an athlete and heartthrob is likely giving him what sociologist CJ Pascoe calls “jock insurance.” In other words, due to his celebrity status, he can make traditionally nonmasculine choices without having his masculinity questioned.

But what does it mean for a man who isn’t in the limelight, who makes a similar type of commitment to abstinence? And what does it mean for the women they date, and might eventually marry?

I’ve been researching men who pledge sexual abstinence since 2008, work that comes out of a larger scholarly interest in masculinities, religion and sex education.

While men make this commitment with the good intentions for a fulfilling marriage and sex life, my research indicates that the beliefs about sexuality and gender that come hand in hand with these pledges of abstinence do not necessarily make for an easy transition to a married sexual life.

Who’s Pledging “Purity?”

Comedian Joy Behar recently joked that abstinence is what you do after you’ve been married for a long time. Here, Behar makes two assumptions. One is that sexual activity declines both with age and the time spent in a relationship. This is true.

The second is that abstinence is not something you do before marriage. For the most part, this is true as well: by age 21, 85% of men and 81% of women in the United States have engaged in sexual intercourse.

purity ringIf we compare these numbers to the average age of first marriage in the United States – 27 for women, and 29 for men – we get the picture: most people are having sex before marriage.

Still, some in the United States are making “virginity pledges,” and commit to abstinence until marriage. Most of the data that exist on this practice show that those who make the pledges will do so in high school, often by either signing a pledge card or donning a purity ring.

Research on this population tells us a few things: that those who pledge are more likely to be young women, and that – regardless of gender – an abstinence pledge delays the onset of sexual activity by only 18 months. Furthermore, taking a virginity pledge will often encourage other types of sexual behavior.

Virgins In Guyland

But little is known about men who pledge and navigate this commitment to abstinence.

I was curious about how men maintain pledges in light of these statistics, and also balance them with expectations about masculinity. So in 2008, I began researching a support group of 15 men at an Evangelical church in the Southwest. All members were white, in their early to mid-20’s, single or casually dating – and supporting each other in their decisions to remain abstinent until marriage.

The group, called The River, met once a week, where, sitting on couches, eating pizza or talking about video games, they’d eventually gravitate toward the topic that brought them all together in the first place: sex.

On the surface, it would seem impossible for these men to participate in what sociologist Michael Kimmel calls “Guyland” – a developmental and social stage driven by a “guy code” that demands, among other things, sexual conquest and detached intimacy.

Rather, the men of The River approach sex as something sacred, a gift from God meant to be enjoyed in the confines of the marriage bed. At the same time, these men struggle with what they describe as the “beastly elements” – or temptations – of sexuality. And it is precisely because of these so-called beastly elements that these men find each other in the same space every week.

The men of The River grappled with pornography use, masturbation, lust and same-sex desire, all of which can potentially derail these men from their pledge.

It raises an interesting dilemma: to these men, sex is both sacred and beastly. Yet the way they navigate this seeming contradiction actually allows them to exert their masculinity in line with the demands of Guyland.

Group members had an elaborate network of accountability partners to help them resist temptations. For example, one had an accountability partner who viewed his weekly online browsing history to make sure he wasn’t looking at pornography. Another accountability partner texted him each night to make sure that he and his girlfriend were “behaving.”

While these behaviors may seem unusual, they work in ways that allow men to actually assert their masculinity. Through what sociologist Amy Wilkins calls “collective performances of temptation,” these men are able to discuss just how difficult it is to refrain from the beastly urges; in this way, they reinforce the norm that they are highly sexual men, even in the absence of sexual activity.

The River, as a support group, works largely in the same way. These men are able to confirm their sexual desires in a homosocial space – similar to Kimmel’s research in Guyland – from which Kimmel notes that the “actual experience of sex pales in comparison to the experience of talking about sex.”

A ‘Sacred Gift’ – With Mixed Returns

The men of The River believed that the time and work required to maintain these pledges would pay off in the form of a happy and healthy marriage.

Ciara, in discussing her commitment to abstinence with Russell Wilson, similarly added that she believes such a promise is important for creating a foundation of love and friendship. She stated that, “if we have that [base] that strong, we can conquer anything with our love.”

So what happened once after the men of The River got married? In 2011, I followed up with them.

All but one had gotten married. But while the transition to married life brought promises of enjoying their “sacred gift from God,” this gift was fraught.

Respondents reported that they still struggled with the beastly elements of sexuality. They also had the added concern of extramarital affairs. Furthermore – and perhaps most importantly – men no longer had the support to work through these temptations.

There were two reasons behind this development.

First, respondents had been told, since they were young, that women were nonsexual. At the same time, these men had also been taught that their wives would be available for their pleasure.

It’s a double standard that’s in line with longstanding cultural ideals of the relationship between femininity and purity. But it’s a contradiction that leaves men unwilling to open up to the very women they’re having sex with.

These married men and women were not talking to each other about sex. Rather than freely discussing sex or temptation with their wives (as they had done with their accountability partners), the men simply tried to suppress temptation by imagining the devastation any sexual deviations might cause their wives.

after marriage
After marriage, the men felt left to their own devices.

Second, these men could no longer reach out to their support networks due to their own ideals of masculinity. They had been promised a sacred gift: a sexually active, happy marriage. Yet many weren’t fully satisfied, as evidenced by the continued tension between the sacred and beastly. However, to open up about these continued struggles would be to admit failure as masculine, Christian man.

In the end, the research indicates that a pledge of sexual abstinence works to uphold an ideal of masculinity that disadvantages both men and women.

After 25 years of being told that sex is something dangerous that needs to be controlled, the transition to married (and sexual) life is difficult, at best, while leaving men without the support they need. Women, meanwhile, are often left out of the conversation entirely.

So when we urge abstinence in place of healthy conversations about sex and sexuality, we may be undermining the relationships that are the driving goal of these commitments in the first place.

Complete Article HERE!

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A Story With A Happy Ending

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Name: Nathan
Gender: Male
Age: 37
Location: Dallas
I’m a married guy with a great wife and 3 beautiful kids. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a masseuse I found on Craigslist. I don’t have a lot of experience with massage and thought I would be safe going to a guy instead of a woman. The guy was really nice and did a good massage, but somehow I popped wood near the end of the massage. I was really embarrassed, but he was like totally ok with that. Then he asked if I wanted a happy ending. I didn’t even know what that was till he started to massage my ass and blow me. I have to admit it was totally amazing. I never felt anything like it before in my life. My wife sometimes will give me oral sex, but nothing like this. I blew a load like nothing I ever did before. I though my insides were coming out of my cock. I was amazed and scared and confused and I could hardly sit up. Then the guy said I had a real healthy prostate. I said, WHAT? And he said he was massaging my prostate while he was sucking me off. I can’t stop thinking about this. I want more but I feel really guilty and I’m afraid this is going to make me gay.

What a great story, Nathan. But we need to clear up a few things. A masseuse is a female practitioner of massage. A masseur is a male practitioner. This is a common enough mistake, but I thought you should know the proper usage for further reference. Because you can see how a little unintended slip like this will make all the difference in the world. If you say a masseuse gave you a blowjob that’s totally different from getting a blowjob from a masseur, don’t ‘cha know.massage_butt.jpg

I’m gonna also guess you never had a prostate massage before this encounter with the masseur. A prostate massage coupled with your first blowjob from a guy…hell, you are lucky your insides didn’t shoot out your dick along with your spooge. I’m joking of course, but it does stand to reason that you had such an intense and explosive orgasm and ejaculation. That’s precisely what a prostate massage does, honey.

Now, let’s see if we can figure out why you can’t stop thinking about this. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to analyze that either. This was a peak sexual experience for you. I mean, beside the mind-blowing release, the means by which you had this orgasm — the guy’s finger in your ass and the guy’s mouth on your dick were both unexpected and apparently unprecedented. So I figure you had very little time to cognitively respond to the stimuli before things came to their explosive climax, so to speak, as it were. And you did say you were already relaxed and aroused by the massage, right?

I’d be willing to bet that if you had some emotional distance from the experience you would realize your body was simply responding to the stimulus it was receiving. Your dick and your prostate weren’t able to distinguish the gender of the person diddlin’ your ass and suckin’ your dick. And since your brain was occupied with all these new sensations you had little time, if any to process and possibly protest. And maybe you wouldn’t have protested even if you could. Maybe you wanted to take this little walk on the wild side. Trust me, lots of guys do.

come as you areNow that the event has passed, you have plenty of time to process. And process you are…to within an inch of its life…if ya ask me. This experience looms so large for you because it is forbidden fruit, so to speak. It upsets the apple cart of your cozy and predictable heterosexuality. I mean it’s one thing to pop wood on a massage table. It’s something totally different to blow a wad while a guy is givin’ you head.

And now that you have all this time on your hands to keep pouring over and over this in you head, the event has taken on a proportion it probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Let me put your mind to rest, one blowjob from a guy…even an earth-shatterin, prostate-massagin’ blowjob, like the kind you got from this fabulous masseur…won’t make you gay. Nor does wanting to repeat the experience make you gay. All this experience really tells us is that you like a good blowjob and you now know where to get a really fantastic one when next you want one.

Think about it this way. Say you went to a Chinese restaurant and, to your great surprise, had the best dim sum ever. You were so impressed with the food that you’ve been eager to return to this particular eatery for another go at those tasty vittles. Does this desire for yummy dim sum make you Chinese? I don’t think so…that is unless you were Chinese before you went to the restaurant.

Finally, the guilt you’re experiencing, where might that be coming from? There are so many sources one would be hard-pressed to come up with an exhaustive list. But let’s look at the top contenders.hands & butt

  • You’re married with a family. You had a sexual experience…unplanned as it might have been…with someone other than your wife. BINGO!
  • Our culture’s buttoned-down sex and gender stereotypes — who can do what to whom. BINGO!
  • The dictates of our sex-negative society about what is proper and what is not in terms of sexual exploration and experimentation. BINGO!
  • The shame of possibly being labeled a fag. BINGO!
  • The fear of your own desires and where they might lead you. BINGO!
  • The allure of the forbidden and the explosive charge the illicit. BINGO.

The experience you had with that masseur, Nathan, is so highly charged, both culturally and sexually, that it will take some while for you to find your balance once again. In the interim, my I suggest that you postpone any judgments about yourself or what the incident might imply about you until you’ve have some emotional distance and the time to calmly process all of this. In the final analysis, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that this is a relatively harmless sexual outlet. The masseur is providing you a service…I mean beyond the obvious. He is providing you a safe, secure non-judgmental environment to exercise and expand your sexual repertoire. Think of it like a place you go to learn about the wonders of sexual dim sum.

Good luck

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I’m just along for the ride

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Dear Dr Dick,
My husband (34) and I (31) are coming up of ten years of marriage, and for the most part our sex life has been what I would consider average. He’s pretty much been the aggressor in our relationship, which has worked out fine until now. I guess after ten years my husband would like it if I occasionally expressed interest and initiated and told him what I like/don’t like etc. I really have no idea how to do that! I told him that and his comment was that maybe I wasn’t even sure what I liked/don’t like and that I’ve pretty much just been going along for the ride all these years. He’s probably right.
We used to kiss and cuddle etc. to work up to sex and now it’s, “hey, you wanna have sex?” which completely turns me off (which he knows). I’m sure this is partly due to his work schedule and having a four year old so by the time we get to bed we’re wiped out most of the time, but I’m so not into the, “hey, you wanna…” approach.
Anyway, I guess my question is how do I get started in figuring out what I like and don’t like, how do I work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize it and especially verbalize or show him that I’m in the mood, and then how do I tell him I don’t like something without shutting him down. There are times, I know I don’t like something but I go along with it because I don’t want to shut him down.
I should preface by saying I’m not a very confident person and tend to be a people pleaser?
Thanks,
Brandi

You’re husband’s right. It is fuckin’ time you started lifting your share of the sexual initiation load. I mean come on! Most women would kill for a man in their life that would show an interest in what they like and don’t like. This going along for the ride stuff has got to end, darling.

female nude159How do you get started in figuring out what you like and don’t like? Masturbation! That’s the shortest and most to the point answer I can think of. Once you discover what turns your crank through masturbation you will have loads of very important information to share with you man. And hey, don’t forget toys, vibrators in particular.

How do you work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize what turns you on and verbalizing or showing him that you are in the mood? The answer to this question is as simple as the previous question. You masturbate for him.

Now I know that a lot of people, and that includes most women, have been socialized to think that masturbation is wrong, or at least it’s a private affair that one should keep to herself. But I’m her to tell you that’s just bull-hockey. And this is true for both women and men, gay and straight and everyone in between.

How do you tell him you don’t like something without shutting him down? Well, it’s probably much easier to tell him what you like and how you like it rather than approaching the tutorial from the negative. If he’s not completely brain dead, he WILL get the message. If, however, he starts to do something that is rubbing you the wrong way, so to speak, simply tell him as calmly as possible that he will get a much bigger and better rise out of you if he did it THIS way. And then show him…again.masturbation001

That fact that you sometimes don’t like something but that you often if not always go along with it tells me that you’ve socialized your man into thinking he’s an adequate lover when he perhaps isn’t. Its time for a confession, girlfriend! Be as gentle as you can, but for god sake, it’s time to come clean.

Take responsibility for keeping him in the dark about his lack of sexual prowess. Then tell him that there’s a very easy and fun fix for the problem and show him what you need and how you need it.

If you indeed lack the confidence you need to be honest with the one you love and who loves you back, then frankly Brandi, you deserve what little you get. But if you can muster up the gumption to throw off the tyranny of that whole people pleasing bullshit you’ve been laboring under all these years, then you have a real shot at some happiness and sexual fulfillment. It’s gonna be up to you to make this happen. If you need some support find a sex positive therapist who will help you grow some balls.

Good luck

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Review: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner

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Hey sex fans!

I have another swell sex-positive book to tell you about today. Anyone who frequents this site will already be familiar with my dear friend and esteemed colleague, Cheryl Cohen Greene. If ya don’t believe me type her name into the search function in the sidebar to your right and PRESTO!

Not only will you find the fabulous two-part SEX WISDOM podcast we did together, (Part 1 is HERE! And Part 1 is HERE!) you will find a posting about the movie The Sessions. You’ve seen it right? It’s the award-winning film staring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy. It’s the story of a man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity.  He contacts a professional surrogate partner with the help of his therapist and priest. Ms. Hunt plays Cheryl, the surrogate partner in the movie

Cheryl also contributed a chapter on sex and intimacy concerns for sick, elder and dying people for my book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying.

With all that as a preface, I now offer you Cheryl’s own story: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner. The first thing I want to say is this book is it’s not a clinical or technical tome. It is an easily accessible memoir. And that, to my mind, is what makes it so fascinating.

She writes in the Introduction:An Intimate Life

I started this work in 1973, and my journey to it spans our society’s sexual revolution and my own. I grew up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, a time when sex education was—to put it mildly— lacking. As I educated myself, I found that most of what I had been taught about sex was distorted or wrong. The lessons came from the playground, the church, and the media. My parents could barely talk about sex, much less inform me about it.

What follows is a candid and often funny look into the personal and professional life of a woman on the cutting edge of our culture’s movement toward sexual wellbeing.

Cheryl comes out of her conservative Catholic upbringing and her often tortured family dynamics with what one would expect—her own sexual awakenings as well as the conspiracy of ignorance and repression that wanted to stifle it. This is a common story, the story of so many of us.

Starting when I was around ten, I masturbated and brought myself to orgasm nearly every night. … If my nights began with anxiety, my days began with guilt. I became convinced that every earache, every toothache, every injury was God punishing me. … I couldn’t escape his gaze or his wrath. Sometimes I imagined my guardian angel looked away in disgust as I touched myself and rocked back and forth in my bed.

The miracle here is that this troubled tween would blossom into the remarkable sexologist she is today.

rsz_1greenecherylSome of the chapters in her book describe one or another of her hands on therapeutic encounters as a surrogate partner, but equally important and compelling are the chapters that describe Cheryl’s own sexual struggles as she moved to adulthood and beyond. Cheryl’s acceptance of her own sexuality enables her to build a career out of helping others do the very same thing.

Everyone has a right to satisfying, loving sex, and, in my experience, that most often flows from strong communication, self-respect, and a willingness to explore.

Despite the frank discussion of sexual topics within the book, there is no prurience or sensationalism. For the most part, Cheryl’s clients are regular people, mostly men, who have pretty ordinary problems—erection and/or ejaculation concerns, dating difficulties, as well as self-esteem, guilt and shame issues. Cheryl helps each of her clients with the efficiency and confidence of the world-class sex educator she is. Most of her interaction involves her supplying her clients with some much-needed information, dispelling myths, and giving them permission to experiment. As she says;

I continue to be amazed at how solid education delivered without judgment can eradicate much of the guilt and shame that turns life in the bedroom into a struggle instead of a pleasure.

Her most famous client, Mark O’Brien, the 36-six-year-old man who had spent most of his life in an iron lung after contracting polio at age 6, was the author of How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence, in which he writes about his experience with Cheryl. This, of course, was adapted into a film, The Sessions, which I mentioned above. For her part, Cheryl delivers a most poignant remembrance of Mark early in her book.

I explained Sensual Touch to Mark. Although he was paralyzed, he still had sensation all over his body, so he would feel my hands moving up and down. … I encouraged him to try and recognize four common reactions: feeling neutral, feeling nurtured, feeling sensual and feeling sexual.

An Intimate Life chronicles Cheryl’s life-long interest in human sexuality. Her life and sometimes-turbulent loves are on display, but in the most considerate fashion. She teaches by example. She’s even able to speak with great compassion of her time living with and through cancer.

As I inch toward seventy, I appreciate more and more how much I have to be grateful for and how fortunate I’ve been. I was lucky to find a wonderful career and to be surrounded by so many smart, adventurous, caring people. My personal sexual revolution auspiciously paralleled our culture’s, and in many ways was made possible by it. I am eternally grateful to the pioneers, rebels, and dreamers who made our society a little safer for women who embrace their sexuality.

There is so much I loved about this book, but mostly it’s the humanity I found in abundance. Cheryl’sdr.-cheryl-cohen-greene enlightened soul shines brightly from every page. Her no nonsense approach to all things sexual is an inspiration. And her perseverance to bring surrogate partner therapy into the mainstream is laudable.

…what separates surrogates from prostitutes is significant. When people have difficulties grasping [that], I turn to my beloved and late friend Steven Brown’s cooking analogy that I’ve so often relied on to help me through that question: Seeing a prostitute is like going to a restaurant. Seeing a surrogate is like going to culinary school.

Finally, An Intimate Life is the culmination of Cheryl’s life as a sex educator, her surrogate partner therapy practice being just part of that mission. I highly recommend you read this book. You will, I assure you, come away from it as I have, a better person—enriched, informed, as well as entertained.

Cheryl, thank you for being in my life and being such an abiding inspiration. Thank you too for this marvelous book; now you can be in the lives of so many others who need you so that you can inspire them along their way.

Be sure to visit Cheryl on her site HERE!

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