What do we really know about male desire?

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Not much, according to Canadian sex researchers

Winnipeg relationships therapist Sarah Hunter Murray found a male desire that’s less voracious, indiscriminate and skin deep, and more emotionally complex – fragile, even.

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Although sex researchers historically gave male subjects centre stage, they paid surprisingly little attention to how men actually desire. Today, contemporary sexologists say our cultural understanding of men’s sex drive remains simplistic and leans on old clichés – that male libido is always sky-high, self-centred and ready to go, with practically anyone. Men who aren’t this way are still treated as exceptions, not the rule.

Canadian researchers and clinicians are starting to push back on these ideas by asking deeper questions about the inner world of male desire. They’re looking at how heterosexual men lust (and don’t) within their relationships, what motivates them to have sex with their partners, what frustrates them in their intimate lives and how they process rejection from the women they love. What they’re finding counters much of what’s been previously assumed about men.

“We’ve got this stereotype about men’s desire being constant and unwavering. More recently, we’ve got #MeToo highlighting stories of men’s sexual desire being dangerous, toxic and about power. But what else is going on?” said Winnipeg relationships therapist Sarah Hunter Murray.

Murray interviewed nearly 300 men and spoke to hundreds more over a decade in her therapy practice – executives, truck drivers, athletes, teachers and dads among them. Their insights are included in Murray’s recent book, Not Always in The Mood: The New Science of Men, Sex, and Relationships, which offers a rare glimpse into a world we think we understand, but possibly don’t at all.

Notably absent from Murray’s book are the usual tales of raging male libido. One husband is too stressed out by the family business to think about sex. A boyfriend turns down his girlfriend’s advances for two months as he dwells on an unresolved argument. Another husband tells Murray his sexual interest piques when he and his wife talk late into the night. In her conversations with men, Murray found a male desire that’s less voracious, indiscriminate and skin deep, and more emotionally complex – fragile, even.

While Murray offers a strikingly new perspective on heterosexual male sex drive, other Canadian researchers are studying men’s sexual problems in long-term committed relationships. In Halifax, clinical psychologist Natalie Rosen is looking at why men experience low desire with their partners. At the University of Waterloo, PhD student Siobhan Sutherland is exploring male and female partners’ sexual complaints, which happen to be the same. And at the University of Kentucky, Canadian researcher Kristen Mark mines “sexual desire discrepancy” in couples, finding it’s sometimes wives and girlfriends who are more interested in sex than husbands and boyfriends – guys who find this scenario particularly troubling because of social expectations about the supposedly more carnal male gender.

Their emerging research suggests serious blind spots around male desire are harming relationships and holding couples back from broaching what they want in their intimate lives.

“If we ignore the nuances of sexual desire in men, we risk continuing to perpetuate stereotypes – that men’s sexual interest is uniformly high and independent of context – to the detriment of the many men whose experiences are multifaceted,” said Halifax’s Rosen. “In enhancing our understanding of men’s sexual desire, we can improve individual and couple sexuality and ultimately promote the quality of intimate relationships.”

The Globe spoke to researchers – and men – about busting the most pernicious myths lingering around male desire.

Not in the mood

Despite stereotypical depictions in pop culture, real-world men aren’t always fired up.

“The myth is that men are a sex toy that you can pull out of your closet and it’s always ready to go when you are. Well, no, that’s not actually the case,” said CJ, a 41-year-old government employee in St. John’s who is divorced and now in a relationship with a woman he’s known for two decades. (In order to protect the men’s privacy, full names are not used). “If your time and energy is spent on the adulting – paying bills, working overtime, trying to keep your energy up for elderly parents or young kids – is there really time to connect emotionally and build that bridge that ends up in the bedroom?” said CJ.

Adam, a Kitchener, Ont., retiree who’s been with his wife for more than two decades, also disputed the notion that the male sex drive runs non-stop, no matter what. “If I’m focused on something or upset about something at work, I just want to be alone or work something out in my head. You don’t want to have any kind of interaction with anybody,” said Adam, 67. “My partner used to talk about the ‘tent time’ or the ‘bear time.'”

In conversation with Murray, the Winnipeg relationships therapist, men pointed out that sex wasn’t at the forefront of their brains when they were sick, tired, stressed out at work or feeling emotionally disconnected. “Men’s sexual desire is not a static trait that never changes and is impermeable to outside influences,” wrote Murray, who holds a PhD in human sexuality. “We’ve gotten used to talking about the complexities of women’s desire being affected by how much sleep they’re getting, how much stress they’re under or by being a parent, but we simply don’t talk about this with men,” she said.

Halifax’s Rosen is currently recruiting couples for one of the first studies to look at men struggling with lowered desire within their relationships. “There’s so much pressure in how men’s desire is supposed to conform to the stereotype of always being ready and interested in sex,” said Rosen, an associate professor in psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University and director of the school’s Couples and Sexual Health Research Laboratory. “The men I’ve seen clinically feel a lot of shame around it, like there’s something wrong with them. Their family doctors don’t bring it up with them and they don’t see representations of themselves.”

Faking it

During their first therapy sessions with Murray, men often boasted about their robust sex drives. Subsequent conversations saw them dialing it back. Numerous husbands and boyfriends confessed that “some of their desire was feigned rather than authentic,” Murray wrote.

Men told her that they agreed to sex they didn’t fully want because they felt they had to. Having been socialized all their lives about high-octane male desire, men were playing the part. They were also faking it for the sake of their girlfriends and wives, who took sexual rejection and lagging male libido personally. “Men talked about this fear that their female partner might not be open to them saying ‘no’ to sex,” Murray said.

In St. John’s, CJ copped to faking sexual interest before. “It’s almost on a scale of 1 to 10. I’m not really there but I’m at a 6 and a half so I can go along with it,” CJ said. “Other times you kind of take one for the team, realizing that she’s probably done the same thing for you.”

Through her first interviews, Halifax’s Rosen is finding that men with low sexual interest are still reporting they regularly have sex with their female partners. Rosen said the men felt guilt and obligation to “please their partner to maintain the relationship.”

The female gaze

The standard thinking still goes in heterosexual dynamics: Men do the complimenting (and the objectifying), the desiring and the pursuing – and are naturally content with the setup. Not exactly, the men interviewed said.

“Men really don’t get checked out very often,” said Alexander, a 22-year-old Toronto student who has been with his girlfriend Mary, 21, for more than a year. “We have better sex when she’s complimented me and encouraged me. …It changes the whole tone of the evening,” Alexander said. “If a woman initiates even just one component of sex, that is the biggest vote of confidence.”

In her conversations with hundreds of men, Winnipeg’s Murray found many wanted their spouses and girlfriends to look at them, compliment them and act on their own urges. “Interview after interview, it started to become very clear that the most salient and important experience that increased men’s sexual desire was feeling wanted by their female partner,” Murray wrote. “A lot of women don’t think to outwardly demonstrate their desire for their male partners.”

Waterloo’s Sutherland asked 117 heterosexual couples in long-term relationships about their problems in bed for a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in March, and found men and women voicing pretty much the same concerns: frequency of sex, initiation and how much their partners showed interest. “We used to think that women just wanted to be romanced and men just care about sex. That’s not true. Men want to feel wanted as well, and for women to show interest in them,” Sutherland said.

Beyond skin deep

Current assumptions about male libido still often go like this: sex for men is about getting off, a practically robotic function.

Look deeper and many men balk at that assumption. For Kitchener’s Adam, intimacy is how he connects with his wife. “I may touch my partner … I’m not intending to be crude, but sometimes she reacts in a way that [suggests] this is the only motive I would have,” Adam said. “There are times when men are struggling to find a way to show intimacy. A touch is presumed to be a claim on the body, instead of just a way to connect and make some contact.”

Toronto’s Alexander expressed frustration with literature and pop culture that depict sex as solely about physical gratification for men. “If we’ve just had sex, I don’t want to go to sleep,” he said of his girlfriend. “I want to reflect on what just happened with her.”

In research interviews and therapy sessions with Murray, husbands and boyfriends described feeling their sexual-interest spike on date nights, long walks and during close conversations – the stuff of rom-coms. “To hear men talking about romantic and sweet things about their partner that turn them on, it challenged my own assumptions,” Murray said.

The therapist argued that women who are constantly cynical about the nature of their partners’ sexual desire might be missing the bigger picture. “When we have a limited belief about what turns our partner on, we unfortunately miss the more complex, nuanced, and meaningful ways that he feels desire for us,” Murray wrote. “Many of men’s emotional bids for connection go unnoticed.”

Mars, Venus and Planet Earth

Waterloo’s Sutherland found that women and men voiced virtually all the same desire-related problems in their relationships. Here, she hit on something sexologists increasingly note: When it comes to intimacy, there is often less difference between the genders than there is between individual people. “There used to be this idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus,” Sutherland said. “We find more and more in our research that it’s just not the case.”

Winnipeg’s Murray found gender norms were limiting couples’ experiences in bed, particularly the sexual scripts that tell men they need to pursue and women they need to be the gatekeeper. CJ agreed: “If you’re conforming to the same roles, if you’re not stepping outside a little bit, it has a detrimental effect. It becomes a flow chart: I initiate. You respond. If yes, then bedroom. If bedroom, then missionary.”

Speaking to distraught couples, Murray noticed that false assumptions about raging male libido left both men and women feeling inadequate: Some women questioned whether their own lower desire was dysfunctional, while some men who didn’t experience near-constant sexual urges told Murray they felt broken.

The author wants relationships to become a place of respite from gendered expectations about desire that have little, if anything, to do with individual couples.

“These misconceptions hold us in antiquated boxes about what men and women should be, and don’t leave room to have a new discourse around what we actually want to experience,” Murray said. “It doesn’t let us be our authentic selves.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Is there such a thing as ‘normal’ libido for women?

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Drug companies say they can “fix” low sex drive in women.

By Caroline Zielinski

Ever wished you could reciprocate your partner’s hopeful gaze in the evening instead of losing your desire under layers of anxiety and to-do lists? Or to enthusiastically agree with your friends when they talk about how great it is to have sex six times a week?

Perhaps you just need to find that “switch” that will turn your desire on – big pharma has been trying for years to medicalise women’s sex drive, and to “solve” low libido.

One US company has just released a self-administered injection that promises to stimulate desire 45 minutes after use.

In late June, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approved Vyleesi (known scientifically as bremelanotide), the second drug of its kind targeting hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a medical condition characterised by ongoing low sexual desire.

Vyleesi will soon be available on the market, and women will now have two drugs to choose from, the other being flibanserin (sold under the name Addyi), which comes in pill form.

Many experts are sceptical of medication being marketed as treatment for HSDD and the constructs underpinning research into the condition.

Yet many experts are highly sceptical of medication being marketed as treatment for HSDD, and also of the scientific constructs underpinning the research into the condition.

What is female hypo-active sexual desire disorder?

Hypo-active sexual desire disorder (or HSDD) was listed in the DSM-4, and relates to persistently deficient (or absent) sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity, which causes marked distress and relationship problems.

“The problem is, it is very hard to describe what this medical condition actually is, because its construction is too entangled with the marketing of the drugs to treat it,” says Bond University academic Dr Ray Moynihan, a former investigate journalist, now researcher.

His 2003 paper, and book, The making of a disease: female sexual dysfunction,  evaluates the methods used by pharmaceutical companies in the US to pathologise sexuality in women, focussing on the marketing campaign of Sprout Pharmaceuticals’ drug flibanserin, an antidepressant eventually approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for women experiencing sexual difficulties.

“This campaign, called Even the Score, was happening in real time as I was working as an investigative journalist and author.

“I got to see and document the way in which the very science underpinning this construct called FSD – or a disorder of low desire – was being constructed with money from the companies which would directly benefit from those constructs.”

The campaign was heavily criticised, mainly for co-opting  language of rights, choice and sex equality to pressure the FDA to approve a controversial female “Viagra” drug.

During his research, Dr Moynihan says he found “blatant connections between the researchers who were constructing the science, and the companies who would benefit from this science”.

“The basic structures of the science surrounding this condition were being funded by industry,” he says.

What does the science say?

The biological causes of the condition have been widely researched. A quick search comes up with more than 13,000 results for HSDD, and a whooping 700,000 for what the condition used to be called (female sexual dysfunction).

Some of these studies show that women with the condition experience changes in brain activity that are independent of lifestyle factors, and other research has found that oestrogen-only therapies can increase sexual desire in postmenopausal women.

Others look into the effectiveness of a testosterone patch increasing sexual activity and desire in surgically menopausal women. Most say there is little substantive research in the field, and even less conclusive evidence.

“Oh, there are … studies galore, but mostly they are done by the industry or industry supporters – that’s one problem,” says Leonore Tiefer, US author, researcher and educator who has written widely about the medicalisation of men’s and women’s sexuality.

“There is no such thing as ‘normal’ sexual function in women,” says Jayne Lucke, Professor at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University.

“Sexual function and desire changes across the lifespan, and is influenced by factors such as different partners, life experiences, having children, going through menopause.”

Using the word ‘normal’ is very powerful, because it puts pressure on women about our idea of what is a ‘normal’ woman’.
Professor Jayne Lucke

Professor Lucke has studied women’s health and public health policy for years, and believes our need to understand female sexuality and its triggers has created a rush to medicalise a condition which may not even exist.

“Using the word ‘normal’ is very powerful, because it puts pressure on women about our idea of what is a ‘normal’ woman’,” she says.

The studies submitted by AMAG (Vyleesi) and flibanserin (Sprout Pharmaceuticals) for approval from FSD have been criticised for their connection to industry, as well as the small differences between the drugs effects and those of the placebo.

For example, Vyleesi was found to increase desire marginally (scoring 1.2 on a range out of 6) in only a quarter of women, compared to 17 per cent of those taking a placebo. A review of flibanserin studies, including five published and three unpublished randomised clinical trials involving 5,914 women concluded the overall quality of the evidence for both efficacy and safety outcomes was very low.

Side effects were also an issue with both medications.

Flibanserin never sold well, partly due to problems with its manufacturer and partly due to its use terms: that women would have to take it daily and avoid alcohol to experience a marginal increase in their sexual experiences.

“I’m just unsure of the mechanism of action with these drugs – they seem to be using the model of male sexual desire as a baseline,” Professor Lucke says.

“In the heterosexual male model of sexuality, the man has the erection, then there is penetration, hopefully an orgasm for both: that’s the model this is targeting”.

That said, it doesn’t mean that women don’t suffer from authentic sexual difficulties – the preferred term by many physicians, including the head of Sexual Medicine and Therapy Clinic at Monash Health and a sex counsellor at The Royal Women’s Hospital, Dr Anita Elias.

“I don’t use terms like ‘dysfunction’, or worry about the DSM’s classification system,” she says.

“Clinically, I wouldn’t waste too much time reading the DSM: we’re dealing with a person, not a classification.”

She says she prefers to talk about “sexual difficulties” rather than sexual “dysfunction” because often a sexual problem or difficulty is not a dysfunction, but just a symptom of what is going on in a woman’s life (involving her physical and emotional health, relationship or circumstances, or in her beliefs or expectations around sex).

She prefers ‘sexual difficulties’ rather than ‘dysfunction’ because often … (it) is a symptom of what is going on in a woman’s life.

“It’s the reason you don’t feel like having sex that needs to be addressed rather than just taking medication,” she says.

Dr Elias believes silence and shame that surrounds the topic of female sexuality is impacting how these conditions are being dealt with at a medical and societal level.

“Sexual pain and issues just don’t get talked about: if you had back pain, you’d be telling everyone –but anything to do with sex and women is still taboo”.

Dr Amy Moten, a GP based in South Australia who specialises in sexual health, says sexual difficulties are not covered well enough during medical training.

“While training will include a component of women’s sexual health, this tends to refer to gynaecological conditions (such as STIs) rather than sexual function and wellbeing.”

She says many GPs won’t think to ask a woman about sexual issues unless it’s part of a cervical screen or conversation about contraception, and that many women are reluctant to have such an intimate conversation unless they trust their GP.

“We need to think more about how to have these conversations in the future, as we’re living at a time of general increased anxiety, a lot of which can relate to sexual health.”

As for medication? It may be available in the US, but the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has confirmed no drug under that name has been approved for registration in Australia – yet.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Questions Adults Still Ask About Sex

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By Gigi Engle

As an educator who writes and teaches about sexuality, sometimes I still get questions from readers and clients that surprise me.

The most shocking thing isn’t the slew of downright strange questions (of which there are many) but the fact that most of the questions that find their way into my inbox and practice are very common sex questions that I assume most adults know by now. Will a vibrator damage my clitoris? How do I make my partner stop watching porn? Does penis size matter? Is an uncircumcised penis normal? There is no end.

For an educator, it can be frustrating. I put so much information out there only to have the same questions asked again and again.

While it can be maddening, it highlights how deeply sexual shame is ingrained in our minds and culture. People have the information at their fingertips, right there on the internet, but it still doesn’t land.

The fact that these questions are still being asked isn’t the fault of the people asking them. In fact, I’m sure you’ll read some of the examples below and realize you yourself don’t know the answer to at least one. This lack of knowledge into the most basic of sex questions says much less about the people asking them and much more about the state of sex ed. We’re doing ourselves a great disservice as a country by making comprehensive sex ed impossible to access. It’s not your fault you’re confused; it’s our culture’s fault.

With that being said, here are five of the most surprising questions adults still ask me about sex:

1. How do I know what I like in bed? I don’t think I’ve ever had an orgasm.

The short answer: Masturbate. So many of us have this intense fear of self-pleasure, as if touching ourselves could make us dirty, slutty, or unworthy of love. (Note: There is nothing wrong with being a slut, FYI.)

These deep-seated puritanical views of sexuality are extremely pervasive and among the main reasons people don’t enjoy sex. While it spans across genders, this is true for female-bodied people, especially. The clitoris is so key to experiencing pleasure and orgasm. If you’ve never touched your own body, you’re going to have a lot of problems communicating your desires to a partner.

Explore your body. See what feels good for you. You can do this in bed, in the bathtub with a showerhead, using a hand or a vibrator—whatever works for you. Finding out how to bring yourself pleasure is the key to unlocking your sexuality.

2. Why don’t I get wet enough during sex?

This is a question that I get regularly. In these instances, “sex” refers to intercourse. People with vaginas want to know why they need to use lube (or spit, yikes), why intercourse doesn’t feel good or is painful, and why they aren’t having orgasms during sex.

The answer? Because intercourse just doesn’t produce orgasms for most vulva-owning people.

The vaginal canal has very few touch-sensitive nerve endings. The key to female orgasm is the clitoris. While the internal clitoris expands deep into the body, the clitoral glans (the bud at the top of the vulva) is where most of the nerve endings are clustered.

Most of us require clitoral stimulation with adequate foreplay in order to become aroused enough to have intercourse. When the clitoral network is engaged, the clitoris and vulva swell while the vagina lubricates itself. Without this foreplay, sexual intercourse can be uncomfortable or even painful.

“Foreplay” itself is a misnomer, as it places all of the importance on intercourse, when intercourse isn’t even a prerequisite for sexual satisfaction.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter how wet you get. You should really always be using lube. Lube helps with friction, comfort, and even aids you to have more orgasms. (Here’s mbg’s guide to picking the right lube.)

3. Why can I orgasm with my vibrator but not during sex?

This question often goes hand-in-hand with queries such as: Is it normal to prefer masturbation to intercourse? And: Can I get addicted to my vibrator?

Vibrators were designed to bring clit-owning people to orgasm. They offer intense sensation that can give you pleasure like nothing you may have experienced before. With that being said, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that you can become addicted to vibration. 

We have to stop thinking of orgasms as a finite resource. We need to open ourselves to experiencing and embracing our full potential for pleasure. You may “need” a vibrator to experience an orgasm, and you know what? That’s totally OK. Some clit-owning people need more intense stimulation to have orgasms.

As I’ve mentioned, intercourse very rarely stimulates the clitoris, the key player in female orgasm. It’s not surprising that you’d prefer a vibrator or oral sex. You’re not weird or broken. You’re a normal sexual being. I promise.

4. If I want to try butt play; will it make me gay?

The “will putting something up my butt make me gay” question is extremely popular among cis men. It seems like no matter how many times I write about the joys of prostate play, this question appears in my email a few times a year.

Here is the truth: No, putting something in your butt will not make you gay. If you put something in your butt and then decide that you are into men now, well, it wasn’t because you put anything in your butt.

If you’re gay, you’re born gay. No amount of butt play is going to “make you” anything.

That being said, butt play is accessible for any and all people, regardless of gender. The first few inches of the anus are packed with nerve-rich tissue. Male-bodied people have a prostate, a walnut-size gland located a few inches inside of the butt. When stimulated, it can offer intense and pleasurable sensation.

If you’re interested in butt play, there is no reason you shouldn’t explore it!

5. What do I do about mismatched libidos?

This question, while very common, has no easy answer. The most important thing we can do about mismatched libidos is to communicate with one another. This is a difficult feat for most couples. Talking about sexual issues or concerns is not something we’re taught how to do.

With strict gender roles set in place by society, it is easy for people to become defensive when their partner raises concerns about sex drive. If you’re a man who doesn’t want sex as much as your partner, it’s considered “unmanly.” If you’re a woman who wants more sex than her male partner, you must be some kind of harlot or crazed sex demon.

Yet, these stereotypes are not at all true. Women, men, queer folks, and beyond all have differing libidos that have nothing to do with gender or sex. To get around differences in libido, we need to talk about it with our partners to find workable solutions. The person with the higher libido often caters to the person who has the lower libido, stifling themselves because they’re sick of being “turned down” for sex. This is not good. Both people are responsible for the sex in a partnership. Everyone deserves to feel satisfied and sexually fulfilled.

Sex is part of relationships. You are in a partnership, and both people need to be willing to compromise to keep the relationship healthy. If we knew how to talk about sex, we’d be able to have these conversations much more freely and without fear of judgment.

If you’re dealing with mismatched libidos, working on more effectively communicating about it is step one.

We need to talk more about sex. 

If we want people to stop floundering on the topic of sex, we need to talk about sex. If we had pleasure-based sexual education in schools, young people would go into the world much more equipped to deal with relationships and communication around sex.

If you’re interested in getting more sex ed in your life, check out Planned Parenthood’s website for starters. They have super-informative up-to-date information on sexual health and wellness. They even have super-digestible short sex-ed videos. Inform yourself. We all have to.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ridiculously Common Worries Sex Therapists Hear All the Time

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For anyone asking, “Am I normal?”

By Anna Borges

Fun sex things to talk about: enthusiastic consent, pleasure, sex toys, kink, orgasms, positions, intimacy. Less fun sex things to talk about: insecurity, inadequacy, unwelcome pain, dysfunction, internalized stigma, embarrassment. Understandable. No one wants to sit around chatting about their deepest sexual anxieties. But when you rarely see people having these less sexy conversations, it’s easy to assume you’re the only one who might have a complicated relationship with sex. You’re not.

“The sex education standard in North America is fear-based, shame-inducing messages that erase pleasure and consent,” sex therapist Shadeen Francis, L.M.F.T., tells SELF. “Because of this, there is a lot of room for folks to worry. Most of the insecurities I encounter as a sex therapist boil down to one overarching question: ‘Am I normal

To help answer that question, SELF asked a few sex therapists what topics come up again and again in their work. Turns out, no matter what you’re going through, more people than you might think can probably relate.

1. You feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Listen, good sex takes practice. It’s not like sex ed often covers much outside the mechanics: This goes here, that does that, this makes a baby. For the most part, people are left to their own devices to figure out what sex is actually like. A lot of the time, that info comes from less-than-satisfactory places, like unrealistic porn that perpetuates way too many myths to count. So if you’re not super confident in your abilities and sometimes feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re not the only one.

This is especially true for people whose genders and sexualities aren’t represented in typical heteronormative sex ed. “Intersex people, gender non-conforming people, and trans people rarely have been centered in sexual conversations and often are trying to navigate discovering what pleases them and communicating that with partners outside of gender tropes,” says Francis.

People also worry that they’re straight up bad in bed all the time, Lexx Brown-James, L.M.F.T., certified sex educator and the founder of The Institute for Sexuality and Intimacy in St. Louis, tells SELF. “The most common question I get is, ‘How do I know if I’m good at sex?’” This, Brown-James emphasizes, isn’t the right question to be asking. Not only is everyone’s definition of “good sex” different, but it’s not going to come down to something as simple as your personal skill set. It’s about consensually exploring and communicating about what feels good, emotionally and physically, with your partner or partners.

2. You’re embarrassed about masturbation.

Depending on a few different factors, you might have a lot of internalized shame and self-consciousness around masturbation. Maybe you grew up in an environment that told you it was dirty or wrong, maybe no one talked to you about it at all, or maybe you’ve always felt a little nervous about the idea of pleasuring yourself. According to Francis, a lot of people have masturbation-related hangups.

If that sounds familiar, it’s important to remember how common masturbation is and that there’s no “right” way to do it. Not only do people of all ages, abilities, races, genders, religions, sizes, and relationship statuses masturbate, but there are tons of different ways to go about it, too. “People masturbate using their hands, their body weight, their toys, and various household or ‘DIY’ implements,” says Francis. Same goes for how people turn themselves on—people masturbate to fantasies, memories, visual and audio porn, literature, and a lot more. Some masturbate alone, while others also do it in front of or with their sexual partner or partners. Sex therapists have heard it all.

Basically, if your way of masturbating feels good to you and does not create harm for yourself or others, then it is a wonderfully healthy part of your sexuality and you should embrace it, says Francis. (Just make sure you’re being safe. So…don’t use any of these things to get yourself off.)

3. You worry that you’re not progressive enough.

You’ve probably noticed that lifestyles like kink and polyamory are bleeding into the mainstream. It’s not unusual to stumble across phrases like “ethically non-monogamous” and “in an open relationship” while swiping through a dating app.

According to sex therapist Ava Pommerenk, Ph.D., this increased visibility is having an unfortunate side effect: Some people who aren’t into the idea of polyamory or kink have started to feel like they’re…well, boring or even close-minded. Which is not true! But plenty of people equate alternative sexual practices with progressiveness when it’s really about personal preference. If you’ve been thinking your vanilla nature makes you old-school, just keep in mind that it’s totally OK if any kind of sexual act or practice isn’t your thing

While we’re on the topic, it’s worth noting that both non-monogamy and kink can be wonderful but require a lot of trust and communication. Some people who aren’t educated on the ethics involved are taking advantage of these practices as buzzwords to excuse shitty behavior.

“I get a lot of people, particularly women in relationships with men, whose [partners are] making them feel guilty for not opening up their relationship,” Pommerenk tells SELF. At best, that kind of behavior means there’s been some serious misunderstanding and miscommunication, but at worst, it can suggest an unhealthy or even emotionally abusive dynamic, says Pommerenk. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s worth unpacking, possibly with the help of someone like a sex therapist. You can also reach out to resources like the National Dating Abuse Helpline by calling 866-331-9474 or texting “loveis” to 22522 and the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 800-799-SAFE (7233) or through email or live chat on the hotline’s contact page.

4. You feel pressured to have sex a certain way or amount.

“One aspect of this that I see a lot—and this is true for all genders—is pressure to perform,” sex therapist Jillien Kahn, L.M.F.T., tells SELF. “[That] can include things like the pressure to have sex at a certain point in dating, feeling expected to magically know how to please a partner without communication, and/or fear of sexual challenges and dysfunctions.”

Kahn likes to remind her clients that sex isn’t a performance. “The best sex happens when we forget the pressure and are able to connect with our bodies and partners,” she says. “If you’re primarily concerned with your own performance or making your partner orgasm, you’re missing out on so much of the good stuff

Pommerenk also says it’s not uncommon for her clients to worry about the consequences of not being sexually available to their partners. For example, they feel like they’re bad partners if they’re not in the mood sometimes or that their partners will leave them if they don’t have sex often enough. A lot of this is cultural messaging we have to unlearn. It’s not difficult to internalize pressure to be the “perfect” sexual partner. After all, people in movies and porn are often ready and available for sex at all times. But much like worrying that you’re not open-minded enough, if this is how your partner is making you feel or something that they’re actually threatening you about, that’s not just a sexual hangup of yours—it’s a sign of potential emotional abuse.

5. You’re freaked out about a “weird” kink, fetish, or fantasy.

“Many of my clients seem to have a fantasy or enjoy a type of porn they feel ashamed of,” says Kahn. Some of these clients even feel ashamed to mention their fantasies or preferred porn in therapy, she adds. “The thing is, the vast majority of your fantasies have been around far longer than you have. The porn you look at was developed because a lot of people want to watch it. Even in the rare exception of unique fetishes or fantasies, there is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Kahn.

It can help to remember that just because you have a fantasy or like a certain type of porn doesn’t necessarily mean you want to do any of it IRL. According to Kahn, that’s an important distinction to make, because people often feel guilty or panicked about some of the thoughts that turn them on. For example, rape fantasies aren’t unheard of—in fact, like many fantasies, they’re probably more common than you’d expect, says Kahn—and they don’t mean that a person has a real desire to experience rape.

“I try to make sure my clients know that the fantasy doesn’t necessarily mean anything about them, so it is not necessary to try and analyze it,” says Kahn. “Whatever you’re fantasizing about, I can confidently tell you that you’re far from the only person excited by that idea.”

What if you do want to carry out a fantasy you’re worried is weird? Again, as long as you’re not actively harming yourself or anyone else, chances are pretty good that whatever you’re into sexually is completely OK—and that you can find someone else who’s into it, too.

If you’re still feeling embarrassed about any of your sexual practices, desires, or feelings, Kahn has these parting words: “Sexual anxiety and insecurity [are] such a universal experience. There’s constant comparison to this continually changing image of sexual perfection. [People should] discuss sex more openly for many reasons, and if we did, we would see how incredibly common sexual insecurity is.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Kavanaugh allegations show why we need to change how we teach kids about sex

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By Sarah Hosseini

When I was 13 years old, I met a guy at the gas station right outside my suburban neighborhood in Upstate New York. Other neighborhood kids and I would go there to buy sodas and smoke cigarettes behind our parents’ backs. He was a friend of a boy I went to school with. He flirted with me and said I looked “so mature.” He was 20 years old.

He started regularly showing up at my house after school while my mom was at work. I don’t remember ever inviting him there. I told him my mom didn’t allow boys in our house. “But I miss you. It will just be for a few minutes,” he pleaded.

I shared a red metal bunk bed with my sister. We had matching comforters and stuffed animals neatly placed next to our pillows. He crouched under the low beams and jerkily groped me up and down, including beneath my underwear and training bra. I implored him to stop and pushed his hand away, but he whined, “A few more minutes.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer. And so, these encounters continued for weeks. I never told anyone until typing it for this article.

There were more violations of my body, with different boys and men, in varying situations. One was when I was as young as 7, and they continued all the way up through adulthood. Some were more terrifying than others.

While watching and listening to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, my own sexual attacks played in my head. The harrowing details she recounted are familiar to many women: nonconsensual groping, mouth-covering, the fear of rape, the fear of death and the laughing. The indelible memory of laughter.

This is the sexual landscape faced by girls and women in our country, but it doesn’t have to be. We have unprecedented access to information about sex thanks to the Internet, yet sex is still a taboo topic, especially with children. As a mom of two daughters, ages 7 and 8, I used to cringe thinking about sex talks with them. Now, I can’t think of anything worse than not starting the conversation.

“Parents sometimes think they’re ‘protecting kids’ innocence’ by avoiding sexual topics and questions when they come up. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t mean kids don’t get sexual information; it means they get it from less reliable sources like peers and unhealthy sources like pornography,” Connecticut-based marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney says in an email. Whitney also writes for the website Keep the Talk Going, which provides “talk starters” and tips for parents.

One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). One in five women in college experience sexual assault, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“When young people are taught by omission that prowess on the sports field is more valuable than negotiating a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship, we realize we have our priorities wrong and women bear the brunt of such disorienting tactics,” New York City-based therapist Cyndi Darnell says in an email.

Many experts have ideas on how to combat sexual violence, but one particularly compelling option is the call for more comprehensive sexual education. A 2014 study from Georgetown University shows that starting sex education in primary school reduces unintended pregnancies, maternal deaths, unsafe abortions and STDs. Several psychologists, clinicians and educators also believe early sex ed could perhaps help reduce sexual assaults and rapes.

So where do we start?

Fundamentally, we must believe access to sexual health information is a basic human right, as outlined by the World Health Organization. We must also believe that sexual health extends beyond reproduction and disease. It needs to encompass the physical, emotional and social construction of sexuality. And it has to start when kids are young.

“The power and majesty of human sexuality must be respected and taught with the same reverence we use to teach children about how electricity works. It can be used to power our homes or destroy lives, it’s the user that determines its outcome,” Darnell writes. She believes that in our culture, the burden is unfairly placed on the individual to know better, rather than on society to support, care and educate.

“This is a systemic problem that must be changed,” she adds.

The current standards for sexual education in America leave much to be desired. Only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and the curriculums are highly variable. Many programs are abstinence-only and omit crucial information about contraception, sexual orientation and consent. They don’t even touch the topic of pleasure.

“Unfortunately, sex education is largely approached in a fear-based, sex-negative way in U.S. schools, and the curricula are rarely honest with children about the reasons people have sex,” says Brianna Rader in an email. She’s a sex educator and founder of the sex and relationships advice app Juicebox. “We teach young girls that they are more responsible for sexual mistakes and that men are going to one day give them their sexual pleasure instead of empowering them to claim it for themselves. We don’t even discuss the clitoris,” she writes.

The United States has a long way to go toward establishing an all-encompassing model. In the meantime, there are great private sector and nonprofit resources to help parents fill in the gaps. Scarleteen is a website providing inclusive sex information for parents and teens, including message boards where users can anonymously ask questions and seek advice. The site is also highly dedicated to gender identity and sexual orientation topics. Our Whole Lives, or OWL, is a sex education program founded by the Unitarian Universalist Association, which operates under the belief that informed youth and adults make better and healthier decisions about sex. Their curriculums and workshops start in kindergarten and continue to adulthood.

Preparation is great, but what if you get caught off guard by a curious little one?

“When little kids ask about something sexual, they’re just trying to learn about the world. They’re curious about how bodies work, just as they’re curious about everything. We adults may freak out — omg! this is about sex! — but for young kids, it’s just a matter of fact,” Whitney writes.

She suggests answering their questions with simple but honest facts. Which is really the basis of all sex talks, no matter the age.

I can’t say for certain whether more comprehensive and honest sex education would’ve prevented what happened to me. But I can say that I wish I had been empowered with self-knowledge, because it would’ve given me what I didn’t have in those moments: assertiveness, alternatives and options. I deserved more, and our kids do, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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Men And Women (But Especially Men) Are Confused About How Much Sex Everyone Is Having

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By Aliyah Kovner

Psychologists and social theorists are well aware of the fact that popular culture has been perpetuating myths about human sexuality since, well, forever. But given that we are living in an era of increasing sexual liberation, at least in Western nations, and social media oversharing, this has gotten better in recent years – right? Maybe not.

According to a survey by polling firm Ipsos, both men and women in the UK and US are wildly out of touch with reality in regards to the intimate activities of the opposite sex. But (some) men are particularly clueless.

The research data – collected from online queries given to between 1,000 and 1,500 people, aged 16-64 or 18-64, in each country – reveals that the average guess among men for how often a typical young woman (18 to 29 years old) has sex is 23 times per month in the US and 22 times a month in the UK. However, the women of this age group who were polled reported having sex an average of five times per month – a more than four-fold difference in expectation vs reality.

“It’s interesting that this misperception is so profound. It really illustrates the extent to which men really don’t understand female sexuality,” Chris Jackson, a spokesperson for Ipsos, told BuzzFeed News. “Men just don’t seem to have a good understanding of the reality for women. I guess that’s not actually news.”

Guesses about young men’s sexual frequency were also far off the mark, but not as dramatically. The overall average estimate (from both men and women) was that 18 to 29-year-old males are doing it about 14 times per month, whereas the average self-reported number was four.

And demonstrating that women are not free from misunderstanding, the Ipsos survey showed that the average guess among females of all ages for the frequency of young women’s sexual encounters was 12 times a month.

Of course, because the survey assessed a broad group of people, likely with large differences in lifestyle, and didn’t account for differences in sexual activity between those in relationships or single, the “real” figures listed must be taken with a massive grain of salt. In addition, relying on people’s self-reported numbers leads to dubious accuracy, and it is important to note that this survey is not peer-reviewed research and focused only on heterosexual encounters.

Keeping these limitations in mind, it is still amusing to look at the outcomes of the next section of the study, which asked participants to guess how many sexual partners the average man and woman in their country have had by age 45 to 54. Men and women in the US, UK, and Australia (where another ~1,500 people were polled) were pretty good at guessing the average man’s number (between 17 and 19), as you can see in the chart below. But American men did an appalling job at guessing for women – estimating an average of 27 compared to the reported 12 – and both men and women in the UK and Australia were also far off.

When guessing why men’s numbers are so much higher than women’s considering that heterosexual sex involves one of each, the Ipsos pollsters report that such findings are common in sex polls.

“There are a number of suggested explanations for this – everything from men’s use of prostitutes to how the different genders interpret the question (for example, if women discount some sexual practices that men count),” they wrote.

But it seems most likely to be a mix of men’s rougher and readier adding up, combined with men’s conscious or unconscious bumping up of their figure, and women’s tendency to deflate theirs. It seems that the most reasonable conclusion is that men up their number a bit, women downplay theirs a bit more, and we actually reveal something close to the truth when guessing for ‘other people’”

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Compulsive sexual behaviour’ is a real mental disorder, says WHO, but might not be an addiction

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Global health body not yet ready to acknowledge ‘sex addiction’, saying more research is needed

The World Health Organisation logo at the headquarters in Geneva.

The World Health Organisation has recognised “compulsive sexual behaviour” as a mental disorder, but said on Saturday it was unclear whether it was an addiction on a par with gambling or drug abuse. 

Dr. Geoffrey M. Reed

The contentious term “sex addiction” has been around for decades but experts disagree about whether the condition exists.

In the latest update of its catalogue of diseases and injuries around the world, the WHO takes a step towards legitimising the concept, by acknowledging “compulsive sexual behaviour disorder”, or CSBD, as a mental illness.

But the UN health body insisted more research is needed before describing the disorder as an addiction.

“Conservatively speaking, we don’t feel that the evidence is there yet … that the process is equivalent to the process with alcohol or heroin,” said WHO expert Geoffrey Reed.

In the update of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), published last month, WHO said CSBD was “characterised by persistent failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges … that cause marked distress or impairment”

But it said the scientific debate was still going on as to “whether or not the compulsive sexual behaviour disorder constitutes the manifestation of a behavioural addiction”.

Maybe eventually we will say, yeah, it is an addiction, but that is just not where we are at this point

Geoffrey Reed, World Health Organisation

Reed said it was important that the ICD register, which is widely used as a benchmark for diagnosis and health insurers, includes a concise definition of compulsive sexual behaviour disorder to ensure those affected can get help.

“There is a population of people who feel out of control with regards to their own sexual behaviour and who suffer because of that,” he said pointing out that their sexual behaviour sometimes had “very severe consequences”.

“This is a genuine clinical population of people who have a legitimate health condition and who can be provided services in a legitimate way,” he said.

It is unclear how many people suffer from the disorder, but Reed said the ICD listing would probably prompt more research into the condition and its prevalence, as well as into determining the most effective treatments.

“Maybe eventually we will say, yeah, it is an addiction, but that is just not where we are at this point,” Reed said.

But even without the addiction label, he said he believed the new categorisation would be “reassuring”, since it lets people know they have “a genuine condition” and can seek treatment.

Claims of “sex addiction” have increasingly been in the headlines in step with the so-called #MeToo movement, which has seen people around the world coming forward and claiming they have been sexually abused.

The uprising has led to the downfall of powerful men across industries, including disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has reportedly spent months in treatment for sex addiction.

[Film producer Harvey Weinstein arriving at Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday, July 9, 2018. Photo: TNS]

Reed said he did not believe there was reason to worry that the new CSBD listing could be used by people like Weinstein to excuse alleged criminal behaviours.

“It doesn’t excuse sexual abuse or raping someone … any more than being an alcoholic excuses you from driving a car when you are drunk. You have still made a decision to act,” he said.

While it did not recognise sex addiction in the first update of its ICD catalogue since the 1990s, the WHO did for the first time recognise video gaming as an addiction, listing it alongside addictions to gambling and drugs like cocaine – but only among a tiny fraction of gamers.

The document, which member states will be asked to approve during the World Health Assembly in Geneva next May, will take effect from January 1, 2022 if it is adopted.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex myths create danger and confusion

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[S]tigmas around discussing sexual behavior often prevent vital information from being shared accurately, if at all. With all of the rumors and myths floating around about sexual health, trusting these myths can be misleading at best, and dangerous at worst.

Terms like “always” and “normal” can be particularly misleading when discussing sexual health and behavior. Because everyone’s body is different and everyone’s sexual experiences will be personal, no two people’s “normal” is exactly alike. Normal, healthy and common are not all the same thing. There are very few sex facts that are black-and-white. Some rules, however, are pretty universal. Some common sexual misconceptions deserve to be addressed openly and debunked once and for all.

Is using multiple condoms at once more effective?

Not at all. In fact, using more than one condom increases chances of them breaking. Because of the amount of friction during sex, two condoms will rub against each other and wear each other down. Doubling up on the same type of condom is inadvisable, just as using a male condom and female condom at the same time increases the chance of them both failing.

Are all condoms the same?

No, there are multiple options for condoms to fit various needs. In addition to different sizes, condoms are made of different materials. The most common is latex, but various plastics and animal skin options are also available. It is important to note that while all types of condoms prevent pregnancy when used correctly, animal skin condoms do not protect against STDs.

Is lube actually important?

Not only can lube be a vital tool for having comfortable sex, but it can also make sex safer. Because lube eases friction, it can significantly reduce the chances of irritation. It also helps prevent small cuts that increase chances of transmitting STDs between partners. However, the ingredients in some lubricants may not be compatible with the materials in the condoms. Oil-based lube makes latex condoms more likely to tear. Always check the label before using it.

Can you use saliva as lubricant during sex/masturbation?

While the consistency of saliva is similar to many personal lubricants on the market, it isn’t an ideal option. The bacteria that live in the mouth may irritate delicate genital skin. Not to mention residual compounds in the mouth from food or toothpaste may throw off the chemistry or, in some extreme cases, cause infections. Lube is specially formulated to be used on genitals, whereas saliva is not.

Is bleeding supposed to happen during the first instance of penetrative sex?

The vagina is never supposed to bleed. While the hymen, a thin and stretchy membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening, is often expected to tear during intercourse, it certainly isn’t required. Many people never notice their hymens during intercourse.

Some bleeding can also occur from small cuts in the genital skin due to intense, repeated friction. Blood and pain are not guaranteed, nor are they necessary, during a first sexual experience. If aroused, comfortable and protected, someone’s first sexual activity doesn’t have to be less enjoyable than future instances.

Are hymens indicative of virginity?

No! A hymen can tear or stretch in a multitude of ways over someone’s lifetime. Using tampons, athletic activities and penetrative masturbation are common ways of stretching the hymen. While sexual activity can stretch a hymen, it is not the only way it happens. The presence or absence of a hymen is not an accurate representation of someone’s sexual behavior.

Are condoms still necessary for safe anal sex?

Unprotected anal penetration isn’t any safer than unprotected vaginal penetration in terms of STD prevention. Anal sex, particularly unlubricated, comes with increased risks of certain STDs because the likelihood of exchanging bodily fluids is higher. It also doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of conceiving for male-female partners, due to unintended fluid exchange. However, condoms with spermicidal lubricants should not be used during anal sex.

Is oral sex always a safe alternative? 

Not at all. The mouth and throat are highly sensitive areas and are susceptible to many STDs that also infect genital skin.

Is it possible to get pregnant during your period?

Ironic as it may seem, menstruating doesn’t completely prevent pregnancy. It’s less common, and it depends on the details of an individual’s menstrual cycle. Sperm can survive around three to five days in the body, on average. For those with shorter cycles, ovulation may occur soon enough after menstruation for pregnancy to occur after unprotected sex, even during their periods.

Should women all be able to orgasm from vaginal sex?

No, in fact the majority of women do not orgasm exclusively from penetrative sex. Planned Parenthood reports that up to 80 percent of women do not orgasm without the aid of manual or oral stimulation.

Does drinking pineapple juice improve the taste of oral sex?

It’s true that diet has a direct effect on the taste and odor of genitals, both in men and women. However, the effects aren’t immediate or direct enough to be influenced by a glass of pineapple juice. A balanced diet and adequate hydration does more than drinking any amount of juice before oral sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Take a Little Look-See

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[J]essica Biel and Chelsea Handler are getting up close and personal with their bodies for a good cause. In “Look See,” a hilarious new short, Biel and Handler finally answer the question “What is a vulva?” and encourage women everywhere to become more familiar with their bodies. The NSFW video aims to de-stigmatize the vagina, and, most importantly, encourage women to take a look down there every now and then.

“Look See” opens with Handler walking in on Biel using a hand mirror to look at her vagina (tampon instructions style), and things only get more open and wild from there. “Is it weird?” Biel asks Handler. “No! You have to check in with your vagina. How else are you going to know what’s going on down there?” Handler responds. And then, the debate begins: was Biel looking at her vagina, or was she looking at her vulva? “The vagina is in, so, technically, we’re just looking at our vulva,” Biel says.

For the record: Biel is correct, the vulva is the word for exterior female genitals, but Handler also has a point when she says, “Let’s just say vagina, because vulva’s gonna confuse people.” But, while language is important, the main message of the video isn’t so much that one has to know the scientific terms, it’s that a woman should feel no shame in getting to know their bodies. Because after all, women should be familiar enough with their own vaginas to know if theirs looks like “a smug, young Burt Reynolds — with the mustache,” like Biel’s.

 

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What a leather convention can teach everyone about sex and consent

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I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

“Hotel is closed for private event” read the signs affixed to the front of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last weekend. A steady stream of people, mostly men, many in leather harnesses, some in collars and on leashes, and some simply in jeans and sweaters, walked in and out in an almost continuous stream.

Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL), now in its 48th year, is a three-day long celebration of the leather community, a subculture that celebrates various sexual kinks, many centered around leather and toys. Bears, daddies, pups and others identifying with various subsets roam the Hyatt Regency, participating in conference-like demonstrations about suspension (BDSM where you’re bound and hung) and electro (BDSM involving electric shocks), buying handcrafted leather goods and sex toys, and, of course, partying. (Actual sex was not part of the convention but no doubt took place in private.) It’s a predominantly LGBTQ centric space, although look closely enough and you’re sure to find people on every part of the gender and sexuality spectrum.

My first MAL was in the winter of 2016. I’d just gone through a breakup and my friend had suggested that perhaps it would be good for me to explore life beyond my comfort zone. “Just get ready,” he’d said, “it may be more than your little vanilla heart can handle.” And he wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

That first year I met Adam, a dentist in town from Texas just for MAL. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said back in a hotel room he was sharing with a friend of mine.

“Do I look that out of place?” I asked. I’d put on a leather jacket to try to blend in.

“Not out of place,” he said, “just kind of shocked.”

And shocked I was. Not necessarily at anything that was going on at the hotel that night, but more so at the fact that for the better part of my life I’d allowed myself to believe that this kind of sexual openness was only available to a certain kind of person.

“Where I grew up, there wasn’t really anything like this,” said Anthony, a 30-year-old living in Arlington, Va., who grew up in Portsmouth. (The sources for this story preferred that only first names be used, for privacy reasons). “There was no kink culture, and I really wanted to explore it. Everyone here was super welcoming, and that’s why I keep coming back.”

This was a common sentiment. “It’s a different part of the gay family,” said Garret, 28, who lives in Washington. “We all have different interests … and if nobody else respects that, come to MAL because they do here.”

Respect, as it turns out, is a dominating theme throughout the course of the weekend. You might expect that when many attendees are walking around in only a jockstrap and a harness, but it is pleasantly surprising to see how strictly they adhere to that principle. In the era of #MeToo, when more and more queer folks are being vocal about the role consent plays in queer spaces, perhaps the leather and kink communities have something to teach the general public about active and enthusiastic consent.

Ask for permission before petting. Hold out your hand and let the pup come to you first. If the pup doesn’t, or turns or growls, let them be as they may not want to or have permission. This is rule No. 5 as listed on the board outside the 10th anniversary mosh at the MAL Puppy Park, a yearly tradition in which individuals who participate in pup play — a BDSM role-play wherein one participant acts as the “pup” and one as the handler — have an opportunity to interact with other pups. Other rules include: Nudity is not permitted in public spaces, genitals cannot be exposed and DO NOT pull on a pup’s tail or collar. It can cause injury and is disrespectful. Change some of the verbiage and perhaps these would be appropriate guidelines to post at the Academy Awards.

“It’s where I met my current roommate,” said Allyn, a 31-year-old originally from Wisconsin who now lives in Washington, of his first MAL experience. “It was exhilarating. I’d never seen anything like it. It make me feel brave and nervous at the same time.” He didn’t speak to his would-be roommate the first night they met, however. “I mean, I had a ball gag in at the time,” he recounted.

Zack, 23, from Baltimore, also used the world “exhilarating” when describing his first MAL experience. “I got chills coming down the escalator into the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to Folsom I’ve ever been too,” a reference to the San Francisco street fair that’s the world’s largest leather celebration.

Everyone I spoke to talked about descending that escalator on the evening of the opening party. It is truly a complete sensory experience. The sight, sound and smell of wall-to-wall leather and latex on every kind of body, not just seen but celebrated and appreciated.

While I was talking to Garret about the weekend, someone he appeared to know approached him, whispered something in his ear and, after he nodded yes, lifted Garret’s arm and began to sniff his armpit. Garret continued to answer my questions without pause. “There may be something over here that’s not your thing, but then you’ll look over there and see something going on that you’re totally into,” he explained “Don’t be shy, don’t judge other people for something you don’t understand. And above all, come and have a good time. No one is here to be spectacled. It can be a learning and cultural experience.” The sniffer had moved on to his other armpit by the time he finished talking.

Although I have yet to be brave enough to buy and wear a harness to MAL myself, each year I attend I move closer toward that goal. At the very least, the event has highlighted for me the fact that there is an exciting world beyond the “vanilla” one I’d relegated myself to — and has given me a better understanding of the queer community as a whole. At one point, in the leather market, a man who had recently undergone top surgery was trying on a new harness next to a group of folks signing to one another, while feet away a $1,400 bejeweled pup hood was on sale. Only at MAL.

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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Should Shame Be Used to Treat Sexual Compulsions?

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The concept of “sex addiction” has become deeply embedded in our culture — people toss the term around pretty easily, and it’s the subject of TV shows, documentaries, and a profitable cottage industry of treatment centers. The problem is, as Science of Us has noted before, the scientific evidence for sex addiction being similar to alcohol or drug addiction is very, very thin, and it may be the case that people who believe or are told they have sex addiction actually have other stuff going on.

And yet, it’s undoubtedly the case that many people show up at therapists’ offices worried about sexual behavior that feels compulsive. How do therapists who are skeptical of the idea of sex addiction deal with these patients? That’s the question at the center of an interesting article in SELF by Zahra Barnes.

Barnes does a good job laying out the strong majority view that “sex addiction” shouldn’t be viewed in the same way as other, more scientifically validated forms of addiction, and she also contrasts the way different sorts of therapists deal with sexually compulsive behavior. As she explains, therapists who hew to the majority view often take a “harm reduction” approach to patients who are complaining of compulsive behavior.

“It’s humanistic, meaning it privileges the subjective experience of a person and doesn’t try to apply some external model on what they’re describing, and it’s culturally libertarian, meaning as long as they’re not hurting anyone, you allow people to behave the way that they want and give them the space to do it,” said Michael Aaron, Ph.D., a sex therapist in New York City and author of Modern Sexuality.]

This method can work for people troubled by their sexual urges and those with compulsive sexual behavior. “Rather than trying to change something, we need to acknowledge it and embrace it,” Aaron says. He offers the example of someone who has fantasies of traumatizing children sexually or being sexually violent toward women: “The harm reduction approach asks, can you play out some of these themes with a consenting partner?” The aim is to satisfy these desires with a willing partner instead of suppressing them, which can just make them stronger, he explains.

Therapists who do believe in the addiction model work differently, and where this difference manifests itself most strongly is in their approach to shame. While Aaron and other harm-reduction researchers try to stay away from shaming their patients, which they say can worsen compulsive behaviors, believers in the sex-addiction model see things differently:

“Sex addicts need to feel some shame about what they’re doing, because they are shameless. When people are shameless, they rape and murder and steal and pillage and get into politics,” [says Alexandra Katehakis, clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex.]. But this is different from shaming someone, she says. “Shaming in an unprincipled way is out of bounds [for a mental health professional],” she explains. That would include saying or even implying that someone is disgusting based on what they’re doing. Rather, she asks questions designed to make someone reflect on what their actions have wrought, like, “What do you think that feels like for your partner?” It’s helpful, not damaging, she explains, because, “It challenges them to see what they’re doing, and it brings them into the reality of their behavior.”

It seems like one of the key philosophical differences here is the question of the extent to which people can control their most primal sexual urges. The therapists who don’t believe in sex addiction appear to view people’s sexual preferences (for lack of a better term given they probably aren’t preferences) in a holistic context — if people are “acting out” sexually in a way that harms others, it could be because of other stuff going on in their lives. You address the behavior by addressing the root causes. The believers, on the other hand, focus more on the urges and finding ways to address the behavior and urges in and of themselves.

These approaches aren’t fully compatible, so it’s no surprise there’s tension between the majority of sex researchers who don’t believe in the addiction model and the minority who do.

Complete Article http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/01/should-shame-be-used-to-treat-sexual-compulsions.html!

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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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Experts: Sex and Porn Addiction Probably Aren’t Real Mental Disorders

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It isn’t just Anthony Weiner: There is a big, noisy conversation going on about sex and porn addiction, as a couple quick Google searches will readily reveal. Naturally, that conversation has brought with it a growing market for counselors and even clinics specifically oriented toward treating these problems.

The problem is, many sex researchers don’t think sex and porn addiction are useful, empirically backed frameworks for understanding certain compulsive forms of sexual behavior. This has led to a rather fierce debate in some quarters, albeit one the average news consumer is probably unaware of.

Last week, the skeptics won an important victory: The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, which is the main professional body for those professions, has come out with a position statement arguing that there isn’t sufficient scientific evidence to support the concepts of porn and sex addiction. “When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexual education and health care,” begins the statement, which was sent out to the organization’s members last week, “AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.”

It continues:

AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual problems. AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.

AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for consumers seeking treatment for problems related to consensual sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.

David Ley, an Albuquerque clinical psychologist whose whose book The Myth of Sex Addiction likely gives you a sense of his views on the subject, and who reviewed the statement for AASECT prior to its publication, described this as “kind of a big deal.” “It hits the credibility of sex-addiction therapists kind of between the legs frankly,” he said in an email. “These are clinicians who claim to [work on] sexuality issues, and the main body of sex therapist says that they are not demonstrating an adequate understanding of sexuality itself.”

Back in August, after the latest Weiner scandal broke, Ley laid out in an email why, even in such an extreme case, describing the disgraced former representative as a “sex addict” isn’t a helpful approach:

Ley’s basic argument is that that “sex addiction” isn’t well-defined, is quite scientifically controversial, and in recent decades has been increasingly used to explain a broad range of bad behavior on the part of (mostly) men. But in a sense, this robs men of their agency, of the possibility that they can control their compulsions and put them in a broader, more meaningful psychological context. “Sex addiction,” in this view, is a lazy and easy way out. […] Someone like Weiner, Ley explained, could obviously “benefit from learning to be more mindful, conscious, and less impulsive in his sexual behaviors. But those are issues resolved by helping him, and others, to become more mindful, conscious, and intentional in his life as a whole.” When you single out sex addiction as the source of the problem rather than taking this more holistic approach, Ley argued, it “ignores the fact that sex is always a complex, overdetermined behavior and that sex is often used by men to cope with negative feelings. Is Weiner getting the help he needs in his career, personal life, and relationship? Does he have other ways to try to make himself feel attractive and valued? Those are the questions that this latest incident raises. Sadly, calling him a sex addict ignores all of these much more important concerns.”

Weiner might not be the most sympathetic figure, but if Ley and the AASECT are correct, many sex-and porn-addiction clinics and clinicians are taking a lot of money from vulnerable people and their families, despite not offering a science-based approach.

Unfortunately, this fits in neatly with a longstanding problem in the broader world of addiction-treatment services: As journalists like Maia Szalavitz have pointed out, this is an under-regulated area of treatment that is rife with pseudoscience and abuse. To take just one example, Science of Us, drawing on reporting by Sarah Beller, noted in June that one court-ordered addiction-treatment regime draws heavily from nonsensical Scientology ideas. If AASECT’s statement is any indication, the world of sex-addiction “treatment” isn’t all that much better.

Complete Article HERE!

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Interested In The Future Of Sex? Check Out This Report

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With technology continually developing and changing how we live our lives, have you ever thought about how it will change human sexuality? FutureofSex.net, a publication site founded in 2011 dedicated to understanding the possibilities and implications of sexual evolution, has recently released a 25-page report about where our erotic future lies.

The report highlights the technology of today and what we can expect in the future of five major fields: remote sex, virtual sex, robots, immersive entertainment, and augmentation. “Technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, including our sexuality,” says leading futurist and publisher of FutureofSex.net Ross Dawson. “How we connect with our loved ones, the intimacy of our relationships with technology, and even our identities are swiftly moving into uncharted territory.”

The report makes nine surprising predictions about what changes our sex lives will experience and how these changes will help sexuality reach new elevations in the next few decades. “Sexual relationships are no longer limited to geographic space, and breakthroughs in the medical field are opening and re-opening erotic possibilities in the face of human biology,” says editor of FutureofSex.net Jenna Owsianik. “Research into making sex safer—and more pleasurable—has also gained significant financial support, paving the way for an exciting sexual future.”

Some of the predictions the report makes are pretty shocking, like the fact that one in ten young adults will have had sex with a humanoid robot by 2045, or that by 2024 people will be able to enact impossible fantasies in a photo-realistic world. These predictions may seem far-fetched, but thinking about the amount of technology we have today, those forecasts don’t seem that far off.

future-of-sex

If you want to have your mind blown, read the full report here.

Complete Article HERE!

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