How To Support A Partner Who’s Dealing With A Low Sex Drive

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By Vanessa Marin, M.S.

Most couples at some point find themselves in a situation where there’s a desire discrepancy: One partner wants more sex than the other person does. This situation is so common that I regularly have people coming to my sex therapy practice looking for solutions. The good news is that there are many!

Research has found many reasons some people might be or become less interested in sex, from the psychological to the physical to the relational and situational. Most conversations around mismatched libidos focus on helping the partner with less sexual desire find ways to get turned on again, and while that can certainly be part of a couple’s path toward a satisfying sexual life together, that strategy on its own can sometimes add more stress and pressure for that less libidinous partner.

If you’re someone whose significant other or spouse has a lower libido, your focus should go beyond just trying to find ways to turn your partner on. As a sex therapist who supports couples with mismatched libidos, I recommend a more holistic approach. Here are a few key ways to support a partner dealing with a low libido that’s causing them distress:

Be very attentive and considerate of your partner’s insecurities.

It’s really important to know that the person dealing with desire difficulties is probably judging themselves. They may think that something is wrong with them or that they’re “broken” in some way. So the partner who has the relatively higher desire needs to be kind and sensitive. All couples should approach their sex lives as a project that they work on together. They should talk about what they each need out of their sex lives to feel connected.

Use the framework of curiosity.

Oftentimes, the partner with seemingly lower desire is misunderstood. It’s not that they have low or no desire; it’s that the right circumstances haven’t been in place for their desire to be able to show itself. Approach your partner with curiosity. What kinds of contexts do they need to feel desire? What blockages get in the way of them feeling desire? If you don’t know, what dynamics could you experiment with?

It’s OK to keep initiating.

You’re always allowed to ask for what you want from your partner. And your partner is always allowed to say what they want in response. I do encourage partners with the relatively higher sex drive to keep initiating.

The pattern I typically see is that the partner with the higher sex drive will stop initiating. They’re either hurt from being turned down, wanting to feel desired by their partner, or wanting to not pressure their partner. But not initiating feels even more stifling, so the partner with the relatively higher desire starts to feel resentful. The partner with the lower desire can sense that resentment, and it makes them pull away even more.

Remember that your partner doesn’t owe you anything.

I hear various forms of this question being asked: Is the person with the lower libido responsible for agreeing to sex every now and then to satisfy their partner?

We have to be really careful about the word “responsible.” You never have to do anything with your own body that you don’t want to do. You never “owe” your partner anything. That being said, in relationships, we often do things for our partners that we don’t necessarily want to do or love doing. If you feel fully allowed within your relationship to say “no” to sex, you may find that you sometimes have the space to be open to being intimate with your partner, even if you weren’t originally in the mood.

Celebrate and honor your partner’s no.

As I mentioned above, if you give full permission to say no to sex, you’ll find that more space actually opens up for intimacy. One of the best ways to support a partner with a lower sex drive is to truly and fully give them permission to say no. Keep reminding them over and over again that you don’t want them to feel guilty, and you don’t want them to feel any pressure. If you take the teamwork approach to your sex life that I mentioned above, that also really helps. You take the energy you would normally waste feeling guilty and instead turn it toward creative problem-solving, together.

Prioritize your intimate relationship with yourself.

You can handle some of your own sexual needs! We should each have a relationship with our own sexuality, separate from our relationship with our partner. When your partner is the only outlet for your sexual needs, that puts a lot of pressure on them. You having a joyful relationship with your own body and being able to take care of yourself makes a big difference to your partner. They may even be open to keeping you company while you take care of yourself!

Creating an environment of safety, support, and curiosity—rather than pressure, stress, or resentment—will go a long way toward helping you and your partner develop a mutually satisfying sex life.

Complete Article HERE!

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Overcoming intimacy challenges after 50

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By Julie Pfitzinger

Confidence: “The quality or state of being certain.” That’s the Merriam-Webster definition, but for many people who are starting to date again after 50, confidence can falter and it can be difficult to be certain about anything.

For those who have lost a spouse or partner to death, divorce or a break-up, a feeling of being vulnerable may begin to settle in, leading to concerns about finding intimacy, as well as about when and how to fully open up to another person.

In the Dating After 50 series on Next Avenue, we’ve covered several topics including online dating and dating etiquette, which have provided tips and suggestions for the “how” on ways to start dating again.

But there’s another kind of how — how to make yourself emotionally, and physically, available to someone new. Taking a risk to share yourself and everything you have to offer at this stage of your life. Accepting and acknowledging what potential partners are offering you. Being confident about what will happen next. And knowing that even though it might not be easy, you are certain that you are genuinely ready to find fulfillment and happiness with another person.

Are You Ready to Move On?

Experts like Lisa Copeland, an author, speaker and dating coach in her fifties, say the first step to tackling that feeling of vulnerability and to start building confidence is to properly grieve the end of a marriage or relationship, whether through a break-up, divorce or death, before you even think about moving on.

For those who have divorced, Copeland says the best way to tell if you are truly ready to date is to gauge if “you’re feeling fairly neutral about your former partner.” She notes, “If you don’t feel that way yet, you are going to bring that [experience] right into the new relationship.”

The situation is different for widows or widowers. “If they had a good marriage, they are wanting to repeat the same relationship with a different person,” Copeland says. The lost spouse is also often brought into a new relationship, but that person frequently becomes “like a saint,” she says, which can be counterproductive to establishing an authentic connection with another person.

Before opening yourself up to dating, start by building a new social circle. The first step, says Copeland, is “to get out of the house.”

“Make friends. Take classes. Get involved with activities. When you are involved in doing things you love, you will light up,” she explains.

Taking that first step to put yourself out there can be uncomfortable. Copeland is a big fan of Meetups, which she says are “an amazing way to connect with others.” In her view, going into a Meetup gathering with a mindset of simply making new friends is best.

“If you meet someone, that’s just a bonus,” she says.

Different Ideas About Sex

Fast forward a bit: You’ve met someone, the two of you have found common ground and the relationship is progressing well. But what comes next could produce the biggest crisis of confidence you’ve had, well, in years: the thought of a sexual relationship.

“People often approach sex with very different ideas,” says writer and speaker Walker Thornton, who is in her 60s and the author of Inviting Desire: A Guide for Women Who Want to Enhance Their Sex Life. “The basic question most everyone starts with is: ‘Am I going to get naked with this person? And then what do I do?’”

The first roadblock is often body image, which Thornton says is typically more of an issue for women than men, although men are definitely not immune to concerns.

“Women are more concerned about sags and folds,” she says. “But men are worried about getting an erection or about satisfying a woman.”

When it comes to sex, Thornton encourages women “to share the valuable information” they have about what they like and don’t like with a partner.

“What we desired at thirty is different from what we desire at fifty,” she says, adding that she understands that for many women, the conversation about likes and dislikes is uncomfortable.

“But if you can’t even ask [a partner] about sex, how are you going to do it?” Thornton wonders.

The Myth of STDs and STIs

One particular conversation that is vitally important is around the topic of STDs and STIs, explains Thornton, and it really is non-negotiable.

“Here’s the simplest way to couch that conversation: I care about your health, so I will be tested. If you care about my health, I ask you to do the same,” she says. “Offer to send him or her a copy of your test results and ask them to send theirs in return.”

The conversation shouldn’t stop there. Thornton goes on to say that if a partner is unwilling to use a condom, for example, “they aren’t showing you that they respect your health and well-being.” If that is the case, Thornton says, “be prepared to say ‘No’ to sex, and say that this refusal makes you question their commitment to being in a relationship.”

It’s a myth that older adults don’t get STDs or STIs such as syphilis and gonorrhea; condoms can protect from genital herpes, which while not life-threatening, can be very uncomfortable and more so for women than men, says Thornton.

Make a List of What You Need

Other health issues may also come into play in sexual relationships between older adults. “Sometimes, you have to broaden your definition of sex,” says Thornton. “Focusing on pleasure, in ways inclusive of orgasm or not.”

Chronic illness can be an issue, as can cancer treatment, which often results in hormonal changes; other challenges may include fatigue or muscle/movement problems. “That can lead to a discussion about a time of day that’s better for sex, or accommodations that are needed for a bed,” explains Thornton. “Again, the best way to address all of these issues is through conversation.”

Thornton, who most frequently speaks to groups of women, often suggests making a list of just what you are looking for when it comes to a sexual relationship in midlife and beyond.

“If you have sex with someone, do you anticipate that this will be an exclusive relationship? Or if your partner decides he or she doesn’t want a sexual relationship, is that okay? Maybe it is,” says Thornton. “For you, is sex merely a goal or a natural progression of becoming intimate with another person?”

‘You Have More Freedom’

Copeland, who has been divorced twice and is now in a relationship, says there is often healing to be done before people are ready to fully open themselves up to a new person. Still, she adds, it’s vital “to know your value and know that you are worthy of someone.”

“One thing that’s often overlooked when it comes to dating after fifty is that you have more choices. You have more freedom than you did when you were younger,” she says. “You can have companions or lovers, or be in a committed relationship.”

However, Thornton — also divorced and in a relationship — understands how some might not perceive this place in life as a place of freedom.

“If we think our time is limited, we can feel more vulnerable,” she says. “But it’s really all about going into dating with an open attitude. Be willing to take the risk.”

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Not tonight!

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Why men are not always in the mood for sex

By Marjorie Brennan

A leading researcher challenges the belief that all men have higher sex drives than women. Many feel under pressure to initiate intimacy and would prefer greater equality in bed.

It is one of the most famous phrases in the English language but it is doubtful that Napoleon ever uttered the words “Not tonight, Josephine”.

However, it remains a humorous standby precisely because of its ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ unlikelihood. What man ever turned down sex when offered up to him on a plate?

However, it could be that this isn’t as unlikely a scenario as we think, according to Canadian relationship therapist Sarah Hunter Murray, who has carried out extensive research on the subject of male sexual desire. She has delved beneath the stereotype of the man who is always ready for sex, finding that many men don’t always feel ‘up for it’ and are uncertain and fearful about how to raise the issue with their partners. As a result, relationships and intimacy are at risk.

In her book Not Always in the Mood, Hunter Murray aims to debunk the myths that surround men’s sexual desire. She says that we have been culturally conditioned, through songs, films, television and advertising, to view men as having an insatiable sexual appetite.

“As a sex researcher, I started studying women’s sexual desires, which were complex and nuanced, with so many factors impacting whether women were in the mood or not. I started to notice there was a counterpoint. In the research, there was this implication that men’s desire was always high or they were always in the mood, and would never turn down sex,” she says.

Over the course of 10 years, Hunter Murray interviewed 237 men of all ages and backgrounds in an attempt to discover whether this was really the case.

“I started by interviewing men without knowing what I’d find… it wasn’t long before they showed they wanted to discuss a more complex narrative than the one we had heard.”

While in initial interviews, the subjects would suggest they had higher sex drives than their partners, when Hunter Murray probed deeper, a different story began to emerge.

“With the in-depth interviews, we would talk for an hour, and they started opening up. I’d ask ‘is there ever a time you’d say no?’ and they’d say ‘if I was sick, or tired’, and I felt the more space men had to express their experiences the more I’d hear stories like ‘my wife and I aren’t really on the same page, we’re emotionally disconnected, I’m not always so turned on, sometimes my wife will suggest having sex before we’ve had a chance to talk and I feel pressured to say yes’.

It struck me that those interviews would begin with men following stereotypical descriptions of their desire — and how we rely on those first minutes and those stereotypes.

Hunter Murray’s book is an attempt to change the conversation around sexual desire, from a male and female perspective.

“What I mostly see is that women either presume men’s desire should be high, so that if their partner has lower desire than them — which is quite common — they take it personally, that he’s not attracted to her or there’s an issue with the relationship. They can also feel frustrated if their male partner does have a high level of sexual desire but they feel ‘he’s just a horndog’ and it has nothing to do with attraction, that he just wants to experience the physical pleasure.

“But I also hear from men in my research that sex is a really intimate way for them to connect and when they initiate sex they can feel quite vulnerable. In addition to physical pleasure, they want some emotional connection.”

Sexual politics has become a hot-button topic, with the advent of the #MeToo movement, and an increasing awareness of sexual harassment and violence towards women. The rise of social media has also seen an exponential rise in the availability of often violent porn, as well as the disturbing advent of the ‘incel’ — men who see themselves as ‘involuntarily celibate’, who express their desire in online chatrooms to punish women for their rejection. How does Hunter Murray see such issues as affecting the portrayal of male sexual desire?

“Women have experienced a lot of harm from men, whether through power or sexuality. But I am hearing a lot of men saying ‘that’s not my experience, that’s not how I want to be’. The men I interviewed were all in [heterosexual] relationships, while the incel is all about not having a girlfriend, so that’s a different subset of men.

“With a lot of the men I spoke to, they were aware of the idea of what men should be, this more traditionally masculine approach to sexuality — being in control, providing pleasure, not being the one who’s desirable or receiving sexual advances, being in the dominant position but what I’m hearing from men is that they question how many people that really fits.

“I’ve spoken to men who say ‘how can I refuse sex, isn’t that going to upset my partner?’ or ‘am I a real man if I don’t do this?’. It’s important to put it out there that the idea of what masculinity means can change over time and we can question what fits, what’s healthy and what no longer fits.

“A lot of the men I spoke to said they enjoyed their female partners initiating sex, when she expressed her desire and her attraction to him, when she flirted, when she touched him sexually or romantically. They said they enjoyed this egalitarian approach to sex rather than the pressure being on them to be the initiator.”

Hunter Murray’s research also found that while on a case-by-case basis, there may be men with higher sex drive than women, men are not statistically likelier to be the partner with a higher sex drive. She stresses the importance of men and women challenging sexual stereotypes and norms.

“Women have been brought up in a culture training them to be demure, or gatekeepers, but a lot of women have higher sex drives which they quash because their male partners haven’t as much of an interest — they feel they shouldn’t step into a dominant sexual role.”

While stereotypical attitudes may not reflect the real picture when it comes to sexual desire, Hunter Murray says that lifestyle factors can also affect men’s sex drive in a way that is not acknowledged.

“We’re aware of how motherhood, child-rearing and running a household can take a toll on a woman’s sexual desire. But we also need to take into account the changing role of the father in society,” says Hunter Murray. “In the past, the dad went to work and wasn’t as involved with his children as much, whereas now we see a lot more involvement for the most part and there are more stay-at-home dads. These are normal stresses and distractions but they can have an impact on men the same as women. Men also talk about wanting to support their family, and that’s also a pressure.”

Hunter Murray believes the link between men’s greater role in family life and their decreasing interest in sex is not reflected in research because much of it is based on university [student] samples.

Much of her research, she says, is reflected in her clinical practice as a relationship therapist, where she sees many men who, as they get older, panic that they are suffering dysfunction when in reality, what they are experiencing is normal.

“Men come in, in their midlife, concerned their sex drives are not as high. They have financial responsibilities, they’re taking care of kids, they’re not getting enough sleep, they have ageing parents. It’s about normalising such experiences — it makes sense that sex drive wouldn’t be as strong. But a man may jump to erectile dysfunction just because he’s not in the mood quite as often. That’s what made me want to write the book — it resonated not just in a research context but because quite a lot of men and women are struggling with these issues in their relationships.”

Ultimately, it is about connection and communication with our partners, says Hunter Murray.

“It takes our strongest version of ourselves to say ‘I want us to connect, I want to be close to you, I want sex to feel good’ — that’s a very vulnerable thing to do — ‘I care about you and am putting myself out there, do you care about me too?’.”

Men want to be desired

Hunter Murray found that in relation to levels of desire, about one-third of the time men have higher sex drives, one-third of the time women have higher sex drives, and the rest of the time it’s about even.

She also found that many men wanted to feel desired by their partners, to receive compliments, to be told they were sexy. “The more that happened the more validated they felt, and it wasn’t just sexual, they felt love and affection.”

Men in their late 30s and early 40s were the ones who identified being most aware of (and sometimes the most distressed about) their desire not being what it used to be.

Desire naturally changes and decreases over the course of a relationship. Companionate love, where our partner feels more like a companion and not our sexual partner, is normal and healthy.

One New Zealand study researching the female partners of men who took Viagra, found the women actually preferred the fact that their partners had softer erections as they aged, as they found Viagra-induced ‘rock-hard’ erections painful.

Murray Hunter’s research found that being sick was the main reason for men saying no to sex, with being tired in second place.

Complete Article HERE!

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Audio Porn?

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Women Are Leading In The Multi-Million Dollar Category of Erotic Tech

by Estrella Jaramillo

Audio erotica and porn has been steadily growing on the Internet for years. Just Google the key words and you’ll find various podcasts, YouTube channels and even Reddit threads offering sexy sounds, sometimes crowdsourced from the community.

However, the Aural Honeys and Sounds of Pleasures of the Internet might just not cut it for the highly educated, equality conscious and politically engaged tastes of Millennial women. They expect curated experiences that create a sense of wellness and an opportunity for sexual exploration, while feeling safe and empowered. And they want their wants and needs to be at the center of the show.

From extensive Airbnb descriptions and locations like Tulum to POV audios of feminist boyfriends that want to please you, the new wave of audio erotica startups have hit the spot (pun intended!). In 2019, they have collectively raised over $8 million to build scalable products that are pleasant both to Millenials and VCs alike.

These are the female-founded startups disrupting the audio erotica and sexual wellness category.

Dipsea, Immersive Erotic Stories For Millennials

The bulk of mainstream porn has been largely designed to please heterosexual men and it presents a very limited vision of human sexuality. Women often feel a strong reaction or are less inclined to it. It leaves very little to imagination and empathy plays no role in it, which is fundamental to female arousal. In fact, research shows that 90% of women use “mental framing” (or scenario creation) to get turned on. Yet most of the innovation and investment in female pleasure has so far been focused on the body rather than the brain.

Dipsea was founded in 2018 by Gina Gutierrez and Faye Keegan. This year they raised a $5 million round co-led by Bedrock and Thrive Capital, who were joined by prominent names including the CEO of bra darling Third Love, Heidi Zak. Dipsea will also be available on Android starting August 15.

Dipsea includes categories for hetero, queer, and group situations, as well as different “heat” levels. It’s the Headspace of erotic content. The founding team is very intentional about offering personalized options for all tastes and have built their library with psychological safety and exploration at the center of their core values.

“It’s not just about getting turned on, but allowing people to explore what they like, what communication they want, if they like BDSM… It’s about exploring your boundaries in a safe space,” says Gina Gutierrez, Dipsea cofounder and CEO. “Also, preferences change over time. We want to meet people where they are at every stage of their lives: single, married, divorced and figuring out their sexuality anew…”

The attention to detail stands out: Dipsea stories are plagued with Millennial cultural references, like yoga classes turned spicy, trips to Tulum and uber rides that spark an erotic scenario. “Erotica has been around for a long time but hasn’t been upgraded in innovation and research. We are a startup studio creating original content, not just based on our intuition as females, but actually based on data from users,” adds Gutierrez.

Ferly, Emotional Sexual Wellness In Your Phone

Billie Quinlan and Anna Hushlak launched Ferly this year after speaking with around 400 women about their preferences, fears and concerns around sexual wellness. Most women stated that they lacked the language to assert what they wanted, or had not explored enough on their own due to shame, or had many doubts around their desire being normal.

“We started working together in 2017 with the idea of improving mental and emotional health for women and girls in the developed world,” says Dr. Hushlak, CSO of Ferly. “We realised that there was still so much shame around sex and sexuality, even though it’s such a strong component of wellbeing. We started exploring areas such as objectification, body image, sexual health and pleasure.”

Together they created an app that offers women guided practices combining body and mind, journaling and reflection exercises, contents and affirmation practices. Ferly approaches sexual wellness as a system, instead of isolating the different parts. “We need to understand three interconnected elements: Biology and bodies, emotions and psychology and, also incredibly important, the cultural environment and social world, including media, porn, and social messaging around sex,” adds Quinlan.

The contents in Ferly are curated following this bio-psycho-social model applied to generate behavioral change. Their contents are aimed at affirming good behavior, rewiring negative beliefs, etc. They use an interdisciplinary approach and work with tantra experts, therapists, sexologists, and consent educators, among others, to create the best experience.

“The outcome we want to generate is self-development, and sex is the tool to achieve this. We encourage people to develop healthy habits through a practice of sexual self care,” adds Dr. Hushlak, who states that their mission is to create a robust sexual wellness studio. 

The London-based startup has users in 53 countries, and just closed a $1.5 million pre-seed.

Quinn, The Massive Opportunity Of Crowdsourcing Audio Porn

Caroline Spiegel founded Quinn after struggling with sexual dysfunction herself due to an eating disorder, and frustratingly trying to find resources beyond mainstream porn or vibrators. She soft-launched Quinn earlier this year with cofounder Jaclyn Hanley and says she is integrating user feedback to expand the platform: “It’s a mix between professional and amateur content. Some women like moans recorded on an iPhone, and some like voice actors performing with ocean sounds in the background.” says Spiegel.

Spiegel has established some rules against incest, minors, non consent, and beastiology and feels strongly about the responsibility to create a site where the content reflects a society with healthy intimate values. The CEO also points out that there are other sites specifically aimed at satisfying those preferences. She is in the mission of fighting the stigma around female sexual expression and exploration.

Finally, the founding team emphasized the opportunity for erotic content creators: “Creating audio porn is really cool because you can stay anonymous while you gain a following, make money, and help a ton of people feel really good!” concluded Spiegel.

Emjoy, Creating Healthy Sexual Habits And Ending Female Pleasure Shaming

Andrea Oliver García, Founder and CEO of Emjoy, started her career in the world of venture capital, both in London as well as in Barcelona, where the company is headquartered. Despite her extensive experience and network in VC and the increasing interest in femtech and sextech, she was surprised to learn that raising a seed round was not going to be that easy. Reputation concerns and stigma were getting in the way of securing the financial resources to build Emjoy.

“I have always considered myself a feminist, and as I grew up, I realised that many of my girlfriends lived their sexuality with shame and knew very little about themselves – some even doubting if they had or hadn’t experienced an orgasm,” said Oliver García, CEO of Emjoy. “Then I came across several studies such as the pleasure gap. Shockingly, data shows that over 40% of women struggle to attain an orgasm, and that 30% of women worldwide experience libido issues.”

All of the content is proprietary and mostly audio-based, and it includes some animated video for educational purposes, like genital anatomy. The app offers guided practices from experts in psychology, sex therapy, education and mindfulness and covers topics like how to boost one’s libido, getting to know your body, increasing pleasure and improving sexual communication.

Emjoy is now available on Android and iOS and the team just announced a seed round of $1 million led by VC firm Nauta Capital to double the team and grow in the US and UK markets.

The audio erotica market is heating up, and it’s all made by women with women’s pleasure and safety in mind.

Complete Article HERE!

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The biggest reason older women have less (enjoyable) sex

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Just 22.5% of women over 50 surveyed were sexually active

by

Women are more likely than men to be affected by age-related sex issues — challenges like hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.

Now, a new study by the North American Menopause Society reveals a major reason for women having less sex as they age: the lack of a partner, most often because of widowhood.

In fact, just 22.5% of postmenopausal women surveyed were sexually active. And of the 65% who did have significant others, just over 34% were sexually active in the past 30 days.

The study looked at roughly 4,500 women in the United Kingdom who were enrolled in a trial for ovarian cancer screening. As the trial continued, the women reported having less sex and that it was less enjoyable over time.

Only 3% of participants described positive sexual experiences, whereas only 6% sought medical help for sexual problems, despite the availability of effective therapies, ScienceDaily.com reports.

Most studies look at the physical reasons for a decline in satisfactory sex during and after menopause (usually captured from a checklist of complaints). This one instead examined free-text data to try to understand why women feel the way they do about sex.

“Sexual health challenges are common in women as they age, and partner factors play a prominent role in women’s sexual activity and satisfaction, including the lack of a partner, sexual dysfunction of a partner, poor physical health of a partner, and relationship issues,” NAMS medical director Dr. Stephanie Faubion wrote.

And there are a variety of psychosocial factors that come into play, too: body-image concerns; self-confidence; and perceived desirability, stress, mood changes, and relationship issues. The study also cited how their partner’s physical condition, as well as their own health, played a major role.

The bottom line: Having an intimate partner with whom you share good physical health are key to sexual activity and satisfaction.

Complete Article HERE!

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Bed Death Is Real.

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Here’s How to Keep It from Turning into a Sexless Marriage

by PureWow

If you and your S.O. haven’t done the deed in six months or longer, you are not alone. In fact, you are trending. If you believe recent headlines, tons of married or long-term couples all over the world are in the midst of a full-blown sex strike. Even Pink is talking about it: “…you’ll go through times when you haven’t had sex in a year,” the singer and mom of two recently said of her 13-year marriage to Carey Hart. “Is this bed death? Is this the end of it? Do I want him? Does he want me? Monogamy is work! But you do the work and it’s good again

According to the New York Post, “’Dead bedrooms,’ the buzzy new term for when couples in long-term relationships stop having sex, are on a zombie-apocalypse-like rise.” It cites a study that shows 69 percent of couples are intimate 8 times a year or less; 17 percent of those surveyed hadn’t had sex in a year or more. This is on the heels of research out of the University of Chicago demonstrating that between the late 1990s and 2014, sex for all adults dropped from 62 to 54 times a year on average. And, per Time, “The highest drop in sexual frequency has been among married people with higher levels of education.”

In her cover story on The Sex Recession, The Atlantic’s Kate Julian reports on the many possible causes behind this unsexy ebb: “hookup culture, crushing economic pressures, surging anxiety rates, psychological frailty, widespread antidepressant use, streaming television, environmental estrogens leaked by plastics, dropping testosterone levels, digital porn, the vibrator’s golden age…helicopter parents, careerism, smartphones, the news cycle, information overload generally, sleep deprivation, obesity. Name a modern blight, and someone, somewhere, is ready to blame it for messing with the modern libido.”

Chances are you and/or your spouse are impacted by one (if not several) of the above. So what can you do to break a dry spell? Read on for expert tips.

1. Focus on each other as well as the kids

We could tell you to start putting each other first. But chances are it’s not gonna happen. Parents with children between the ages of 6 and 17 are having less sex than even those with younger children, according to research. Blame co-sleeping, snowplow parenting or “generalized family anxiety” caused by everything from travel soccer to SAT prep. More than past generations, parents are putting kids front and center, and their sex lives are taking a hit. Here’s advice from psychologist and author Dr. Debra Campbell: “Dispense with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ attitude to sex because passion and excitement thrive most on creativity and a bit of novelty. That means, don’t limit yourselves by thinking about sex as purely intercourse, as only happening at a particular time of day or night, or requiring certain circumstances— especially now circumstances have changed.” A weekly date night might not be feasible, but making out in the car after a parent-teacher conference could be. Hug occasionally. Say thank you. Kiss hello and goodbye. As relationship guru Dr. John Gottman says, good marriages thrive on “small things often” as opposed to the single, annual, grand romantic gesture.

2. Check your meds

This one’s complicated. Depression and anxiety inhibit sexual desire. But often, so do the essential antidepressants and birth control pills we take to mitigate both. However, depending on multiple personal factors, from physiology to psychology, you may find that a lower dose or a certain type of birth control impacts your sexual desire differently. You may have a better response to an IUD than to an oral contraceptive, for example. Definitely talk to your doctor. And (here’s an idea) bring your spouse in on the conversation.

3. Banish tech from your bedroom

For many long-term couples, Netflix and Chill evolves into Netflix and Pass Out. We’ve done deep dives into how phubbing can be toxic for romantic relationships. And research shows that sleep deprivation (whether it’s caused by parenthood, work worry or tech use) reduces sexual desire. More sleep = more and better sex. And it turns out all that late-night Instagram scrolling may be eating away at your self-esteem and your sex life as well as your sleep. “A large and growing body of research reports that for both men and women, social-media use is correlated with body dissatisfaction,” writes Julian in her Atlantic story. Feeling hot is key to arousal. Is watching a 26-year-old travel Influencer jog down the beach in Phuket going to help? “A review of 57 studies examining the relationship between women’s body image and sexual behavior suggests that positive body image is linked to having better sex. Conversely, not feeling comfortable in your own skin complicates sex.” Anything healthy and positive you can do for your body—and the less time you spend comparing it to anyone online in a bikini—will probably improve your sex life.

4. Stop counting

When it comes to sex, it’s quality over quantity. How often you do it matters less than how happy you are with your sex life, according to relationship therapist, author and sex researcher Dr. Sarah Hunter Murray. The average married couple has sex once a week or less, and those who do are just as happy—and perhaps happier—than those having it two to three times a week, per research in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. “The frequency with which we have sex receives a lot of attention because it’s the easiest way to measure and compare our sex lives to our peers,” writes Hunter Murray. “But having lots of bad sex isn’t going to make anyone happy nor is it going to leave you feeling satisfied.” She advises looking at the reasons why you’re not having sex and doing what you can to work on those together. Is it because you approach money differently? He’s critical of your parenting style? Your careers are in different stages? You resent the division of household labor or carry more than your share of the mental load? What can you do to communicate about or change your circumstances? “If we are fighting or falling out of love with our partner, not having sex could be a symptom of a much larger problem,” writes Hunter Murray. “However, if we are simply busy, sick, navigating parenthood, or identify as asexual (and the list goes on) then it may be more circumstantial and nothing to panic over.” The bottom line? Less frequent good sex is better than bi-weekly sex that leaves you cold or not feeling any closer.

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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Women as likely to be turned on by sexual images as men – study

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Neural analysis finds the brains of both sexes respond the same way to pornography

The research casts doubt on the idea men are more ‘visual creatures’, a common explanation as to why they are keener on pornography.

By

The belief that men are more likely to get turned on by sexual images than women may be something of a fantasy, according to a study suggesting brains respond to such images the same way regardless of biological sex.

The idea that, when it comes to sex, men are more “visual creatures” than women has often been used to explain why men appear to be so much keener on pornography.

But the study casts doubt on the notion.

“We are challenging that idea with this paper,” said Hamid Noori, co-author of the research from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany. “At least at the level of neural activity … the brains of men and women respond the same way to porn.”

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Noori and his colleagues report how they came to their conclusions by analysing the results of 61 published studies involving adults of different biological sex and sexual orientation. The subjects were shown everyday images of people as well as erotic images while they lay inside a brain-scanning machine. Noori said all participants rated the sexual images as arousing before being scanned.

Previously studies based on self-reporting have suggested men are more aroused by images than women, and it has been proposed that these differences could be down to the way the brain processes the stimuli – but studies have returned different results.

Now, looking at the whole body of research, Noori and his colleagues say they have found little sign of functional differences. For both biological sexes, a change in activity was seen in the same brain regions including the amygdala, insula and striatum when sexual images were shown.

“A lot of these regions are associated also with emotional information processing and part of it is also connected to the reward processing circuitry,” said Noori.

However, activity was more widespread in the case of explicit pictures than video, and there were some small differences in the regions activated linked to sexual orientation.

The team also analysed more than 30 published studies to explore whether there were differences between the biological sexes in the volume of grey matter in the insula and anterior cingulate – a previous study had suggested this may be linked to levels of sexual arousal. However, the vast majority of the studies considered did not find any difference in the volume of grey matter in such regions between the sexes. The few that did suggested women have a greater volume of grey matter in these regions than men.

The authors say differences in the way the brains of men and women respond to erotic images may have been overstated, with previous research possibly affected by small sample sizes or different attitudes to the material among participants.

But questions remain. The latest study was not able to look at whether the magnitude of the changes of brain activity were the same for both biological sexes.

What’s more, there could be other, social, reasons that one sex might be more likely to seek out pornography, or to report doing so. “Female sexuality has quite a lot of stigma around it,” said Noori, suggesting it may not be that women do not like pornography or are not as visual as men.

“Maybe the main reason is that for the woman there are secondary inhibitory effects that keep them away from expressing what they really feel,” he said. “At least at this moment, our study indicates that men and women are not that much different.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A Big Reason Why Some People Don’t Enjoy Sex As Much

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Some of the biggest things that can get in the way of good sex: performance anxiety, relationship stress, life stress, lack of variety, lack of time, physical conditions that cause pain, sexual dysfunction where certain parts don’t work the way they should, mental health, antidepressants, orgasm focus, clitoris negligence, selfishness, selflessness, lack of communication, lack of lubrication, internalized shame about having sex…and those are just the ones that initially come to mind.

But here’s one that we don’t often hear or talk a lot about: childhood trauma. And that doesn’t include only childhood sexual abuse (although that’s a large and pervasive type of childhood trauma). It also includes being neglected by your parents, seeing aggressive or emotionally abusive behavior between your parents, getting bullied or mistreated by peers, dealing with identity-related discrimination, and more. These early negative experiences can psychologically shape us and the way we behave, think, and move throughout the world. And new research suggests those traumas can actually affect the way we experience our sexuality in a very specific way.

Researchers surveyed 410 people currently in sex therapy about their sex lives, childhoods, levels of psychological distress in the past week, and how mindful they are as people.

The results showed people who’d experienced more instances of trauma throughout their childhood tended to have less satisfying sexual lives than those without childhood trauma.

Why a bad childhood can lead to a less satisfying sex life as an adult.

It has to do with those other two variables: psychological distress and mindfulness. Predictably, the findings showed people with more childhood trauma tended to experience more daily psychological distress (that is, moments of fear, worry, anxiety, or other negative emotions felt throughout the day) than those without childhood trauma. That psychological distress was linked to lower mindfulness (i.e., the tendency to be attentive and aware of what’s happening in the present moment as it unfolds), and that lack of mindfulness was what was making sex less enjoyable. 

“Psychological distress (i.e., depression, anxiety, irritability, cognitive impairments) may encourage the use of avoidance strategies to escape from suffering or unpleasant psychological states, which may in turn diminish attentiveness and awareness of what is taking place in the present moment,” the researchers explain in the paper. “The numbing of experience or low dispositional mindfulness may diminish survivors’ availability and receptiveness to pleasant stimuli, including sexual stimuli, therefore leading to a sex life perceived as empty, bad, unpleasant, negative, unsatisfying, or worthless.”

In other words, people who’ve experienced bad stuff as kids tend to deal with more stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, and because of that, they’ve developed a specific coping strategy that involves distancing themselves from being fully aware of their emotional and perhaps even physical senses. That lack of mindfulness, however, ends up making good things—like sex—also less enjoyable.

How mindfulness affects sexual pleasure.

Plenty of past research has demonstrated how important mindfulness is to enjoying sex. One study earlier this year found people who are more in tune with their senses tend to have more sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, a higher sense of sexual well-being, and even more sexual confidence.

This isn’t just about woo-woo feel-your-feelings stuff—mindfulness is particularly key to physical pleasure. Here’s how the researchers explain it:

A lower dispositional mindfulness may be particularly detrimental to sexual functioning. Namely, individuals who are distracted, less present, less aware, or unmindful might report lower sexual satisfaction because (1) they may show less awareness of sexual stimuli or less capacity to identify and experience pleasant states as they unfold, therefore potentially experiencing less sexual satisfaction; and (2) their lack of self-regulation of attention might preclude psychological distance from anxious thoughts and decrease their contact with moment-to-moment experiences, hence tempering arousal reactions toward sexual stimuli. … A greater disposition to mindfulness has also been related to one’s ability to fully experience the sexual act.

If you’re someone who had a rough childhood for whatever reason, it’s possible that those experiences have shaped your ability to be fully present with your senses, which in turn can make sex just feel less good.

According to the study, the trauma-distress-mindfulness-pleasure connection accounted for nearly 20% of the variance in sexual satisfaction among people—in other words, these variables together were responsible for 20% of the difference between how good sex felt across all the people in the study, from the people with the lowest sexual satisfaction to those with the highest. That means this is something to seriously pay attention to if sex tends to not feel so great for you!

The researchers suggest people with childhood trauma consider spending time working to deal with their negative emotions via mindfulness—that is, learning to sit with those emotions instead of trying to avoid them. That practice, if mastered, can begin to seep into all parts of your life and change the way you tune into any and all experiences, good and bad.

“Higher levels of dispositional mindfulness may help to reroute one’s focus away from negative, critical, or anxiety-provoking cognitions and onto sensations that are happening during sexual activities with their partner, as they unfold from moment to moment, therefore promoting satisfying sexual experiences among partners,” the researchers write. “Partners presenting higher levels of dispositional mindfulness could be more aware of their internal (e.g., arousing sensations, thoughts, emotions) and external cues (e.g., erotic cues such as seeing the partner’s naked body).”

Here are a few of the best meditations for improving your sex life, plus a guide to staying present during sex itself.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Know If You Should Talk to Someone About a Low Sex Drive

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Plus where to get help

By Carolyn L. Todd

Feeling concerned about a low libido can be such an isolating experience. When your psychological drive to have sex isn’t where you would hope it is, you might feel like you can’t even discuss it with a partner—the very person you may normally turn to for basically everything else. But a persistently low libido that bothers you is not something to ignore. Here’s what could be behind a low libido, as well as guidance on who to talk to and how to find them.

Factors that can affect your libido

“There are so many physiological, psychosocial, and environmental factors in a [person’s] life that can have a very strong negative impact on their sex drive,” Leah Millheiser, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and ob/gyn at the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Medicine, tells SELF.

Some of the most common libido-killers include stress and fatigue, says Dr. Millheiser. Relationship issues like mismatched expectations about sex or a lack of emotional intimacy can also contribute. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations can sway a person’s libido, including the changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause, as SELF previously reported. Several common prescription drugs, like some hormonal contraceptives and antidepressants can also affect your libido, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While tons of situational factors can affect your libido, this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you’re currently single, crushing it in like three different areas of your life, and honestly, sex and intimacy just aren’t top of mind for you right now. If you don’t really feel any type of way about that, carry on!

Conditions that can cause chronic low libido

So, we know there are situational factors that can impact libido, but health conditions can play a role too. Virtually every aspect of health can impact the physiological and psychological aspects of desire, which in turn can influence each other, Madeleine M. Castellanos, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in sex therapy and author of Wanting to Want, tells SELF.

That includes numerous conditions that dampen desire by causing pain during sex, including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, vulvodynia (terrible chronic pain surrounding the vaginal opening), and vaginismus (muscle spasms that make penetration uncomfortable). Circulatory issues caused by conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes can result in a lack of sufficient blood flow to the genitals that hinders physical sexual arousal (which can impact the mental portion), according to the Cleveland Clinic. Then there are mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, which can make sex feel like the last thing you want to do.

So what happens if you’re experiencing chronic low libido without any of the aforementioned risk factors? If your libido has been absent for more than six months and you really can’t pinpoint why, you may have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which some experts think is linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

In sum, there are plenty of reasons why you might be dealing with a low sex drive. Figuring it out on your own can be confusing. That’s where experts may be able to help.

When to see someone about a low libido

The expert wisdom here is pretty simple: If you’re distressed about your libido or it’s causing issues in your relationship, it’s time to talk to a pro, Dr. Millheiser says.

Not only could low libido be a sign of an underlying health concern, but enjoying sex regularly can be good for you. “It’s a wonderful connection with another human being, but it’s also an important piece of your health,” Dr. Castellanos explains. In some people, sexual activity can help do things like make you feel great and less stressed, take your mind off menstrual cramps, and maybe even help you get to sleep, as SELF previously reported. Being satisfied with your libido and having a fulfilling sex life can have a positive impact on your psychological well-being as well.

“Don’t put [low libido] on the back burner if it persists,” Dr. Castellanos explains. “The earlier you address it, the easier it is to correct the problem.”

But keep in mind: You should only consider seeing someone about your libido if you view it as a problem. If someone like your partner is trying to make it seem as though your libido isn’t “high enough,” that doesn’t necessarily mean anything’s wrong with you or your sex drive. Your partner might be making assumptions based on their own libido, or maybe your libido really has changed over time but it’s a change that you’re mentally aligned with. While it couldn’t hurt to talk to someone about a change in your libido, you should never feel pressured to do so.

Who you can talk to about libido issues

The person best equipped to help you depends on what’s causing your low libido and your access to care, Dr. Castellanos explains.

If you have no idea where to start: See your primary care provider (PCP) or a general internist. “Any physical condition can affect your desire, so it’s always worthwhile to get that checked first,” Dr. Castellanos says.

This type of doctor can discuss your symptoms, order tests to help you uncover potential underlying medical issues, and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

If you’re having vaginal health issues: See an ob/gyn. Symptoms like pain with intercourse merit an exam and discussion with a specialist, Dr. Castellanos says.

If you’re having mental health issues: See a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. They can help you figure out which mental health condition may be contributing to your low libido and potentially provide a treatment plan.

If you suspect the problem is a medication you’re taking: See your prescribing doctor. They can talk to you about how likely it is that your low libido is a side effect of the drug and possibly recommend potential alternatives.

If no underlying medical condition is at play: Consider seeing a sex therapist. Sex therapists have the interpersonal training and depth of expertise to “get into the nuance and the nitty gritty of the psychology of sexual desire with you the way other clinicians don’t,” Dr. Castellanos explains.

The Mayo Clinic recommends looking for a certified sex therapist with a certification from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). Here’s more help for finding a sex therapist in your area.

If you’re having problems with your partner: You may not be sure whether relationship wrinkles are to blame for your low libido. Ask yourself if you still feel desire when you think about somebody else (like your celebrity crush) but not your partner, Dr. Castellanos says. If you do, that could point specifically to your relationship as your issue

In that case, you might want to see a sex therapist or couples’ counselor. They can help you dig into dynamics that could be affecting your libido, such as poor communication in or outside the bedroom. (Not all couples’ counselors cover sex issues, though, Dr. Castellanos notes, so check about that before you make your first appointment.)

If you think you have HSDD: See any kind of clinician specializing in women’s or sexual health, Dr. Millheiser says. That includes a PCP, nurse practitioner, licensed counselor, or psychiatrist. Diagnosis involves taking a medical history, ruling out any other factors, and, ideally, using a five-question screener based on diagnostic criteria developed by the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), Dr. Millheiser says.

How to talk to someone about your libido

Discussing sex in a medical setting isn’t always easy, and doctors know this. “I tell all my patients that I know talking about your sex life is very personal, especially if it’s not going well,” Dr. Castellanos says. “You might be anxious, but remember that only by saying what the issue is [can you] get help.” Here’s how to start the conversation.

1. Bring it up right off the bat.

“It’s very important to actually say why you’re there. If you don’t start off by telling them what the problem is, they don’t know what questions to ask,” Dr. Castellanos says.

Don’t wait until the last minute to see if your doctor brings it up. Unless this is their specialty, they may not. “That doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate to talk about with them. It just means that they’re busy thinking about other aspects of your health,” Dr. Millheiser says.

2. Be straightforward and specific.

It benefits both of you to be as open and honest as possible here, Dr. Castellanos says. Try something like, “Over the last three months, my sex drive has really dropped off and I’m not sure why. My partner and I used to have sex about twice a week, but now it’s more like once a month. We’re pretty happy otherwise.” And, of course, if you are having other symptoms, like fatigue or pain with intercourse, bring those up too.

3. Get a referral if necessary.

Some caregivers are more informed about libido or feel more comfortable talking about it than others, Dr. Castellanos says. If you’re not sure whether yours is the right person to help you or you’re not getting the care you want, Dr. Millheiser recommends asking your provider to connect you to someone else. Try something like, “If you don’t treat these things, can you refer me to somebody who does?”

“They probably know someone or can at least point you in the right direction,” Dr. Millheiser says.

And remember, your doctor has heard it all before. As Dr. Millheiser explains, “There is very little that could shock a clinician, and sexual function concerns are so common.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Wondering About Your Libido?

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Libido intel awaits.

By Carolyn L. Todd

You’ve probably wondered more than once if your relationship to sex is normal. Do you think about it enough or too much? Are you having more or less sex than everyone else? And, more importantly, should you care?

When broaching the subject of libido, it’s hard not to immediately question how “normal” your thoughts, habits, and preferences are. But, like most concepts having to do with our bodies, libido is a lot more complicated than many of us think. So, we asked sexual health experts to walk us through Libido 101, delving into the common questions and the fascinating nuance that surrounds this subject. Hopefully you’ll come away from this with a better understanding of what’s “normal” and what to do if you still have questions.

1. What is libido, exactly?

You might have heard this term used as a catch-all to describe a few different sexual phenomena. “It’s one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, and [people can have] a different idea of what it means,” Madeleine M. Castellanos, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in sex therapy and author of Wanting to Want, tells SELF.

Experts, however, typically use the term “libido” to refer to the psychological aspect of sexual desire.

“It’s that feeling of drive or motivation to engage in sexual behavior,” sex and relationships researcher Kristen Mark, Ph.D., M.P.H, director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab and an associate professor of health promotion at the University of Kentucky, tells SELF.

2. Is it the same as sexual arousal?

Not really, but they can be related. As Dr. Castellanos explains, libido is about what’s going on in your mind (like when you’re lost in a hot fantasy) while sexual arousal is about what’s happening in your body (like getting wet if you have a vagina or getting an erection if you have a penis).

The confusion comes in because libido and sexual arousal often rise and dip together, says Mark, who is also an affiliate faculty member at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University. This is why difficulty getting physiologically aroused can inhibit psychological desire and vice versa.

But arousal and libido aren’t always connected. You may experience high levels of libido without the physical signs of arousal (like when you feel really turned on but aren’t getting wet). Or you may experience physical signs of arousal (like increased lubrication or erection) even if you’re not really mentally in the mood.

This is known as arousal non-concordance. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just something that can happen sometimes when you have a body. It’s typically thought that people with vaginas who identify as women tend to have less coordination between their physiological sexual arousal and psychological desire than people with penises do, Mark says. But, like many other things when it comes to sex, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.

3. Is it weird if I don’t feel turned on until things get going?

Not at all. That’s called responsive desire, and it’s the primary type of libido for many people, Mark says. Responsive desire doesn’t arise until someone begins engaging in sexual activity, Dr. Castellanos explains. Maybe you were theoretically open to having sex with your partner but didn’t really feel the urge until they started rubbing your back.

This is as opposed to spontaneous desire. In this case, you pretty much want sex out of nowhere, like if you look at your partner and realize their hair is falling in that swoopy way you love.

Both forms of desire are perfectly natural. It’s also normal to experience both forms at various points or in different contexts. In our society and in common examples in the media (think: romantic comedies, erotica, etc.), spontaneous desire is often portrayed as the ideal kind, or even the only kind, so you might feel weird if you’re more of a responsive type. Trust us, you’re not.

4. What counts as a “normal” libido?

Great news: “There is no normal,” Leah Millheiser, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and ob/gyn at the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Medicine, tells SELF.

Each individual has their own baseline of what feels good, natural, and satisfying libido-wise, Dr. Millheiser explains. You might have no noticeable libido to speak of and feel perfectly fine with that. You might feel some level of sexual attraction every day and be fine with that. Both are fine. Libido can fluctuate due to various factors we’ll get into later, but our point still stands.

Also, keep in mind that increasingly outdated assumptions about sex and gender play a huge part in our conception of “normal” libido, Mark says. Many of us have been fed the lie that men think about sex 24/7 and that women can basically take it or leave it (consider the old stereotype of a woman using a headache as an excuse to not have sex with her partner). This kind of reductive thinking is oppressive to people of all genders. Yes, it’s true that certain hormones typically thought of as “male,” like testosterone, are linked with increased libido and typically found in higher levels in people with penises. But to use that reasoning to claim that every person with a penis experiences high levels of libido at all times is ridiculous, not to mention scientifically unfounded. The important thing to remember is that there’s a ton of room for what counts as a “normal” libido, no matter your sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

5. Is there such thing as too low or too high libido?

This goes back to that whole no-normal thing. Your libido can be too high or low for you if it’s persistently deviating from your norm or bothering you in some way.

A person whose sex drive has plummeted may be experiencing low libido due to a health issue like depression, which can sap a lot of the pleasure from normally enjoyable activities. Also, even if you do mentally want to have sex when you have depression, you might have trouble getting physically aroused or having an orgasm. An imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain can make it difficult for brain cells to coordinate blood flow to the sex organs, the Cleveland Clinic explains.

Another common issue that can lead to a lower libido is dyspareunia, the medical term for pain during sex. Many conditions can cause it, like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, vaginismus (when the vaginal muscles reflexively tighten, making penetration hurt), and vulvodynia (chronic pain surrounding the vaginal opening). In addition to the physical discomfort, dyspareunia can contribute to feelings of distress around the mere thought of sex, further reducing libido, Dr. Millheiser says.

There’s also a lot of medical interest around what has come to be known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). If you’ve been disturbed by a chronically low or absent libido for at least six months and you’re able to rule out other factors, then you could have HSDD. “These are people who typically feel fine in every other area of their life except their sex drive,” Dr. Castellanos says. “It just evaporates, and there’s no other cause we can find.” Researchers are investigating whether or not neurological differences could be seen in those experiencing HSDD, Dr. Millheiser explains.

Then there are issues that can cause a sex drive that feels too high for you, such as compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD), which only became a recognized condition in the mental health field in 2018. This is characterized by an inability to control strong, repetitive sexual impulses despite negative consequences, like an impact on your relationship or job

Another example: For some people, manic episodes of bipolar disorder manifest as having more-than-normal amounts of sex or reckless sex. During a manic episode, a person typically experiences a heightened mood in addition to at least three symptoms suggesting a drastic, elevated shift in behavior, and that can include engaging in way more sex than usual.

6. How normal is it for my libido to yo-yo?

Extremely. “If you’re human, you’re going to have fluctuations in your sexual desire,” Dr. Castellanos says. Like energy and appetite, your libido can be in constant flux as it responds to the many variables in your brain, body, relationships, and environment, she explains. Dr. Castellanos thinks about libido as a scale that can be tipped in either direction—towards desiring sex or not—at any moment as various factors pile up.

7. How do my hormones influence my libido?

Various hormones can affect libido throughout a person’s monthly cycle (if they have a vagina) and lifespan, Dr. Castellanos says. Experts don’t fully understand how this works yet. Here’s how the three sex hormones produced by the ovaries are thought to influence libido, plus a few caveats afterwards.

Estrogen: Some experts believe that higher levels of circulating estrogen may play a role in increasing libido. This is put forth as one possible reason why sex drive can dip after menopause, when the ovaries no longer create as much of this hormone. This can also be part of why sex drive can go down right after childbirth, when higher levels of this hormone suddenly taper off. (In addition to that whole sustaining a new life thing.)

Progesterone: This hormone appears able to inhibit libido to an extent, though experts aren’t totally sure how or why. A 2013 Hormones and Behavior study on 43 women found that heightened progesterone levels (like those that occur right after ovulation) consistently predicted reduced sexual desire.

Testosterone: As mentioned above, testosterone is a pretty major player in this game. In fact, if you’re not on ovulation-suppressing birth control and your libido tends to peak mid-cycle, that could be your testosterone’s doing. As SELF previously reported, when your estrogen rises in preparation for ovulation, so does your testosterone, the goal being that you might want to have sex the most when you’re most fertile.

If you’re on birth control that suppresses ovulation (like the combination birth control pill), you may not experience that mid-cycle testosterone spike the way someone would off birth control, so it’s possible you’d notice a libido change on the pill.

8. What if my partner’s libido is higher or lower than mine?

This is called a sexual desire discrepancy, Mark explains, and it’s not inherently a problem. Think about how you and your partner likely need or desire different amounts of sleep, food, and exercise. But it can create relationship tension when one person gets blamed or pathologized for having what the other perceives as a too-low or too-high libido. (You never/always want to have sex, what’s wrong with you?) It can also become a problem when one person takes the imbalance personally. (He doesn’t want to have sex because he doesn’t find me attractive</em

It’s important for couples with sexual desire discrepancies to talk openly about it, try to meet in the middle, and find ways other than sex to satisfy each other’s intimate needs, Mark says.

9. Can I increase my libido?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Any herbs or supplements claiming to increase libido do not legally have to prove they do what they promise before they hit the market. And, spoiler alert, none of these “natural aphrodisiacs” have solid scientific evidence to back them up

Beyond that, increasing your libido really depends on why it was low in the first place. If you have a medical issue impacting your desire, such as depression or painful sex, talking to a doctor may put you on a path to treatment that changes your libido. Or if you feel like you and your partner have fallen into a rut, you can definitely work to amplify your closeness.

“Because sexual desire is related to satisfaction in the relationship, it can be really helpful to improve the parts of the relationship where something’s missing,” Mark explains. “You might see that sexual desire will follow.”

If your spontaneous desire has been low, you can try to feed your responsive desire, like with physical intimacy that doesn’t involve sex but might lead to it. It can be healthy for some people to consciously choose to engage in sex with the aim of increasing intimacy in the relationship or meeting each other’s needs, Mark says. What’s less healthy is feeling like you need to have sex to “get it over with,” avoid a fight, or fulfill a duty to someone else that doesn’t make you satisfied or happy. This produces a negative sexual experience that “can actually further decrease desire and satisfaction in relationships,” Mark explains.

10. Who should I talk to if I’m unhappy about my libido?

If your sex drive is causing you distress, seeking professional help is important given how complex libido is. “This usually isn’t really something you can just diagnose yourself,” Mark says.

The best provider depends on your underlying issue and the kind of care to which you have access. Not all doctors are well-informed about libido, but most are equipped to help you start ruling out basic causes or refer you to someone else. If you think something physical might be going on or don’t know where else to start, bring it up with your primary care physician or any kind of clinician who focuses on sexual health (like an ob/gyn), Dr. Millheiser says

Although therapy can be cost-prohibitive and hard to find, seeing a sex therapist or couples counselor can be a fantastic option if it’s within your means, Mark says. They have the specialized knowledge to help you explore issues like a sexual desire discrepancy or lack of communication

No matter the case, remember that it’s normal to want to have great, satisfying sex, and there are people out there who can try to help if you’re having trouble achieving it.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Couples Can Deal With Mismatched Sex Drives

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By Kelly Gonsalves

One of the most common problems faced by long-term couples is desire discrepancy—one partner wants more sex than the other. It’s a frustrating place to be for both parties: One person doesn’t feel sexually satisfied or desirable in their relationship, the other feels pressured to have sex they don’t really want, and both usually feel guilty for putting their partner in this position.

One excellent way couples can deal with the issue is to see a sex therapist, who can work with them in building a new, mutually satisfying intimate life together. How does sex therapy work? A new paper published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy gives us a pretty good picture, describing one treatment approach for desire discrepancy developed by certified sex therapist and clinical psychologist Barry McCarthy, Ph.D.

Here are the most important steps for dealing with mismatched sex drives, according to McCarthy. Don’t worry—you can get through this.

1. Team up.

One of the most important steps of dealing with desire discrepancy is to stop viewing each other as representatives of opposing sides.

“In the first session, the task of the therapist is to confront the self-defeating power struggle over intercourse frequency and replace it with a new dialogue about the roles and meanings of couple sexuality,” write McCarthy and Tamara Oppliger, M.A., co-author of the study and clinical psychology Ph.D. student at American University, in a draft of the paper shared with mbg. “No one wins a power struggle; the fight is over who is the ‘bad spouse’ or ‘bad sex partner.'”

Stop trying to make one person out to be the enemy. You’re a couple—you’re on the same side of the table, looking over a shared problem that’s hurting your relationship. Come together to make an agreement that this is a journey you’re going to undertake together.

And by the way, your goals for this journey should be clear—and it should not be about making sure you have sex a certain number of times a month. Sexuality is about much more than how often you do it. “The goal of couple sex therapy for desire discrepancy is to reestablish sexuality as a positive 15 to 20% role in their relationship,” the authors write. “It is not to compensate for the past, to declare a ‘winner,’ or to reach a goal for intercourse frequency.”

In other words, your goal is simply to make intimacy a positive force in your relationship, something that feels good to both people.

2. No pressuring another person to have sex, ever.

“Sexual coercion or intimidation is unacceptable,” McCarthy and Oppliger write. That kind of behavior can be terrifying for the person getting intimidating and can lead to someone saying yes to sex they don’t want. Any sex that’s only agreed to because of pressure is going to feel more like a violation than anything else. There’s no faster way to kill desire and make sex feel toxic.

3. Prioritize desire, not intercourse or orgasms.

When a relationship involves a man and a woman, couples often fall into the trap of using intercourse (i.e., putting a penis in a vagina) as the definition of sex. They believe sex is only sex when intercourse happens, and how often you have intercourse becomes a pass-fail measure of your sex life. One of McCarthy’s key points: “When it is intercourse or nothing, nothing almost always wins.”

No matter what genders you and your partner are, stop trying to use any one act like intercourse or penetration as the only marker of whether you’ve had sex—and while you’re at it, forget about having orgasms too. All these things can be great parts of a healthy and satisfying sex life, but they’re by no means the most important or crucial parts. All kinds of touch can be pleasurable and connective.

If not intercourse or orgasms, what exactly should you be striving for in your intimate life? “Desire is the most important dimension,” McCarthy and Oppliger write. Desire is the key to sexual energy and excitement, and it’s often what we’re truly seeking when we pursue sexual gratification. “Satisfaction means feeling good about yourself as a sexual person and energized as a sexual couple.”

4. Not all sex needs to be earth-shattering for both parties.

“The best sex is mutual and synchronous,” the authors write. “Yet, the majority of sexual encounters are asynchronous (better for one partner than the other). Asynchronous sexuality is normal and healthy as long as it’s not at the expense of the partner or relationship.”

For example, sometimes one partner might just go down on the other so she can have a good orgasm, and then the two cuddle as they fall asleep. Both people don’t need to get off every time, as long as the pleasure balances out and is satisfying for both parties over time.

5. Start with touch.

Not sure where to start? After assessment, one of McCarthy’s first suggestions is for couples to begin with getting reacquainted with touching each other again. Those touches don’t need to be a whole sexual act—they can be as simple as holding each other in bed or rubbing each other’s backs. “The focus is using touch as a way to confront avoidance and build a bridge to sexual desire,” he and Oppliger write.

In other words, the more you get comfortable with touching each other and sharing skin-on-skin contact, the more your desire will eventually build up. (Past research shows desire is indeed buildable, with having a spark of erotic energy one day leading to more of it the following day, even if you didn’t have actual sex.)

Complete Article HERE!

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This Might Be Why You Struggle To Get Turned On

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By Kelly Gonsalves

For those who struggle with sexual desire and arousal—i.e., they just don’t get turned on that easily, that often, or when they want to be—sex can be a pretty frustrating affair. Even if you’re in a loving relationship and like the idea of physical intimacy, for some reason you just can’t get yourself in the mood for it.

A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy offers some clues as to what’s going on with your libido: Apparently women who have difficulties with sexual desire tend to have stronger sexual concordance, meaning their mental and genital arousal levels generally tend to align.

Researchers had 64 women individually come into a lab and watch a series of erotic videos while their vagina and clitoris were hooked up to a device that monitored physical markers of arousal: pulsing in the vaginal canal and increases in blood flow to the clit. The women also continuously indicated their subjective level of arousal (i.e., how aroused they felt in their heads) throughout the video by pushing a button to indicate when they were feeling more or less turned on. Later, each woman’s sexual concordance was measured based on how much their physical arousal levels matched up with their subjective, self-reported arousal levels.

All of the women also completed a questionnaire to determine their sexual functioning, which refers to a person’s ability to experience sexual desire, get aroused, lubricate, have an orgasm, and engage in pleasurable, pain-free sex. As far as sexual functioning, the researchers specifically homed in on women who struggled with desire versus those who didn’t.

The mind-body connection may be stronger with some women.

Here’s what the researchers found: Women with lower sexual functioning tended to have more alignment between their genital arousal and their mental arousal (i.e., sexual concordance). In other words, for women who had more trouble with sexual desire, their bodies and minds were actually more synced up than for other women.

What exactly does that mean? It means your body doesn’t get turned on without your mind also in the game, and vice versa. The two work in tandem.

Of course, this is true for most people. (“Your brain is your most important sex organ,” self-love guru and mbg Collective member Melissa Ambrosini tells mbg. “If it’s not in the game, you’re going to struggle to experience anything close to bedroom bliss.”)

But these findings suggest this mind-body connection might be especially important for women who have trouble accessing sexual desire. One theory the researchers posited in the paper is that women with higher concordance might be more likely to be very aware of all the physical sensations in their body and thus be less able to specifically focus on sexual sensations around the clitoris and vagina. Likewise, the body might be hyper-sensitive to unrelated thoughts buzzing in the mind and thus not respond to sexual stimuli because of all the other mental information it might be engaging with.

Importantly, the study also found sexual functioning and concordance were particularly linked when mental arousal predicted changes in genital arousal. In other words, when the body got aroused as the mind got aroused.

“These results coincide with previous research suggesting that the subjective experience of arousal may be particularly important in influencing genital responses in women with sexual desire and arousal difficulties,” the researchers write in the paper. “Therapeutic approaches that enhance women’s emotional or subjective experiences of sexual arousal may therefore be beneficial for improving sexual functioning.”

How to kick the desire system into gear.

If you struggle with desire, these results suggest it’s likely your body and mind’s sexual responses are more closely connected than in other people. And your mind may be particularly important for getting your body on board.

That suggests your road to tapping into your sexual desire isn’t going to be about initiating physical acts and waiting for your body to feel a spark before you’re able to feel mentally turned on. It’s going to be about first getting mentally stimulated and then letting your body follow your mind’s lead.

How do you get mentally stimulated? Consuming good erotica alone or with a partner can be a great way to whet the mind’s appetite, as can sending each other racy messages by text or email. Relationships expert and mbg Collective member Esther Perel advocates for the power of fantasy and even suggests exploring a little role-play in her mbg course on erotic intelligence.

If you’re looking for something simpler that you can tap into in the moment, master confidence coach and host of the UnF*ck Your Brain podcast Kara Loewentheil recommends reflecting on some of your most heated moments of the past and looking within for inspiration: “Think about a time you felt really sexy—what was going on? What were you thinking about yourself? There’s always a thought even if you weren’t aware of it at the time. Wearing something that makes you feel sexy or putting on a slow jams playlist can help, but fundamentally it’s thinking about yourself as a sexy and sexual person that will really light the fire within.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Not That Kind of Girl

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In her influential 1959 Atlantic article, “Sex and the College Girl,” Nora Johnson predicted that young, educated women pursuing expansive new opportunities would likely end up disappointed. She spent the rest of her life finding out what could happen instead.

High-school students graduate in 1960. Nora Johnson’s articles, novels, and memoirs followed women as they matured from infatuated teenagers to aging lovers.

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Every few years, new concerns bloom about the changing ways young people are approaching relationships, from the stigmatized early years of online dating in the 1990s and 2000s to the panic over campus hookup culture in the early 2010s to the dawning concern that rather than having too much sex, Millennials aren’t having enough. Many young people are now experiencing a sex recession, my colleague Kate Julian wrote for the cover of this magazine in December.

But long before Tinder or Match.com were founded, and even before most universities went coed, the seeds of these ideas were planted in another Atlantic article: Nora Johnson’s influential “Sex and the College Girl.” Written in 1959, the article captured a snapshot of college romance on the lip of the sexual revolution and the second-wave feminist movement: Young women were pulling back from romantic commitment and domestic life to explore their options; young men were left bewildered and resentful as their relationships shifted in turn.

Johnson framed the moment not as one of ecstatic liberation, but rather as an uncertain and sometimes overwhelming introduction of possibility for female students. She observed educated women navigating a convoluted path of desire, respect, security, and shame in pursuit of the dream of a full life: “a husband, a career, community work, children, and the rest.” Only an exceptional few could achieve that life without sacrificing personal or professional goals along the way, she predicted. For many of the rest of them, this pursuit would end in “an ulcer, a divorce, a psychiatrist, or deep disappointment”; and for some of them, those who were put off by the apparent futility of trying to balance all the expansive possibilities, “the most confining kind of domestic life.” Without the “moral generalizations” of her grandmother’s era, Johnson’s college girl was left to forge ahead toward those difficult choices with more subjective, and personal, judgment—carrying “her belief in herself,” or what she calls the “modern version” of herself, forward into the unknown.
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Johnson wrote “Sex and the College Girl” when she was 26, just five years after graduating from Smith. Though young, she was already beginning to establish herself as an author. She’d grown up as the daughter of a Hollywood filmmaker, surrounded by “an encampment of storytellers,” as she later recalled, and had published her first and ultimately most successful novel, The World of Henry Orient, a year earlier. Like “Sex and the College Girl,” the book drew on her own experiences as a student, fictionalizing the crush she and a friend had nursed for an actor-musician while they were in high school.

As Johnson grew older, the subjects of her writing generally did too, maturing as the decades wore on from students navigating the college dating scene to married couples to divorcées to aging lovers. But though the characters changed, the sense of uncertain possibility she described in “Sex and the College Girl” remained—sometimes joyful, sometimes dutiful, sometimes onerous, but never entirely gone. Johnson’s love stories, told in an era of expanding female choices, were weighted with the consciousness of them.

In “Sex and the College Girl,” the choices were myriad, novel, and full of potentially far-reaching consequences. Female students faced decisions about who to date, what to offer physically and emotionally, and how much to hold in reserve for how long. Beyond that immediate horizon stretched a broader array of opportunities and potential pitfalls: children, careers, and all of the self-betterment and intellectual rigor their educations were preparing them for. Commitment and marriage, in a sense, presented an out—a sense of certainty, a solid support system. “Joe has a future,” Johnson wrote. “He knows exactly what he is going to do after graduation … The decision about [the college girl’s] life keeps her awake at night, but when she is with Joe things make more sense.”

Two years later, in “The Captivity of Marriage,” Johnson described the constrained choices of the women who stuck with their Joes. Now juggling the responsibilities of raising children, keeping a house, and engaging in “community or P.T.A. work of some kind,” married women “feel … like a pie with not enough pieces to go around,” Johnson wrote. But the new responsibilities and family and community ties did not put the “undefined dreams” of their younger years to rest; instead, the wife and mother “vaguely feels that she is frittering away her days and that a half-defined but important part of her ability is lying about unused.” That feeling of dissatisfaction, Johnson observed, was coupled with the lingering “quality of excitement that comes from strangeness and the idealization of still-unknown experience” that made the concept of sex with an unfamiliar partner attractive. But those choices, which would take women away from their husbands and children, were now taboo. In their place were new choices, more limited but still unfamiliar and consequential. “Choosing a house and everything that goes into it, and a school, and a competent doctor are decisions that the young mother makes without adequate knowledge,” Johnson wrote, “and she can ill afford mistakes.”

She described the fallout from one error in judgment a year later in “A Marriage on the Rocks,” an article published in the July 1962 issue of The Atlantic. “The moment when it first becomes apparent that one’s marriage was a mistake,” she opened the piece, “is the beginning of probably the longest, darkest period in the human lifetime.” She chronicled the slow fracturing of a union that, to the college girl, had carried a promise of lifelong certainty in an otherwise unknown future. Unhappiness settled in and grew unbearable as the relationship devolved into “the endless opening of wounds … capitulating one’s beliefs … [and] adjusting oneself to the dismal and baneful workable compromise.” But choosing to break free of  that unhappiness meant exchanging it for a new, unknown one, defined by a sudden and “terrible feeling of having no one around on whom to blame everything.”

Johnson expressed the frustration of seeing a marriage fail while knowing that, with the newly available options for women to marry for love and to define more aspects of their life and work, “all of us … have the potential to become the greatest lovers on earth.” She wondered: “All this freedom and opportunity are breathtaking. Do we deserve them, and can we possibly live up to their obligations?”

Divorce loomed large in Johnson’s life. Her parents’ marriage ended when she was 6 years old, and they moved to separate coasts, leaving Johnson to shuttle back and forth between her mother’s New York home and her father’s star-studded Hollywood life for much of her childhood and adolescence. “My heart begins to tear, a long ragged rent which I have spent my life trying to mend,” she reflected in her 1982 memoir You Can Go Home Again, looking back on the dissolution of her family. She recalled how her mother’s attempts to become “an elegant divorced lady in a lovely house in the most exciting city in the world” transitioned into a second marriage to a possessive man who resented Nora when she returned home for a time as an adult after her own first marriage failed.

By the time she turned 32 in 1965, Johnson had already been married, divorced, and married a second time herself. In The Atlantic’s June 1961 issue, in which “The Captivity of Marriage” was published, she was introduced to readers as “happily married and the mother of two daughters.” When “A Marriage on the Rocks” was printed in the July 1962 issue,those details were omitted from her introduction. By the time she published You Can Go Home Again at the age of 59, her second marriage had also ended in divorce. In that sense, she fulfilled the melancholy predictions of “Sex and the College Girl” twice over.

But she had also built a successful career as a writer of novels, memoirs, articles, and, once, in collaboration her father, a movie based on The World of Henry Orient. Decades later, in an essay for The New York Times, she wrote about something she hadn’t predicted: finding love again. Johnson “was a long-divorced 71”; George was 83 and “recently widowed.” He became her third husband. “What astonished us,” she wrote, “was that the electricity we generated was as strong and compelling as love had been 50 years before, that it scrambled the brain every bit as much. Yet more surprising was that we had a rousing and delightful sex life.”

They still faced daunting choices and disappointments. At first they lived together in Florida, but they grew bored and moved to New York, only to grow bored there too, and be cold, and miss Florida. They dealt with natural disasters and health problems. They had difficult conversations. And then, seven years after they met, George died.

All Johnson’s stories resist the neat closure of the happily ever after. The security that Joe seems to present in “Sex and the College Girl” proves illusory; love degrades, fractures apart, or abruptly ends. “Marriage, entered upon maturely, is the only life for most women,” Johnson wrote in 1961. “But it is a way of life, not a magic bag of goodies at the end of the road.” Even old age, retirement, and George, who she said “brought joy and magic to my life,” don’t put the uncertain possibility of other paths to rest or stave off the sting of disappointment.

But her stories also resist the closure of a final failure. The college girl grows up, gets married, gets divorced, gets married again. She makes the wrong choices and then gets to make new ones. “This, then, is what the result is for a girl who has been brought up in a world where the only real value is self-betterment,” Johnson concluded in 1959. “She has had to create her own right and wrong, by trial and error and endless discussion.”

This is the story that Johnson wrote again and again, for several decades, until she died in 2017: There’s no happily ever after, or any ever after at all, but there’s happiness. Heartbreak. Regret. Magic. Surprise. Her extraordinary work was also a life lived, and recorded in pieces, over decades of love stories.

Complete Article HERE!

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Rev up your libido to the *most* satisfying heights

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By Jessica Estrada

Since everyone is different, there’s obviously no norm for sex-drive intensity. What is normal, however, is for your libido to fluctuate, says Emily Morse, sex expert and host of the Sex With Emily podcast. So, if you’re currently going through a dry spell of your own making, there’s no need to be alarmed—it happens!

Still, the sich can be über-frustrating, especially if your partner is ready to go at all times despite knocking boots being the last thing on your mind. To help you get your mojo back, here, Morse shares seven ways to seriously rev up your libido.

1. Seek a professional opinion (seriously)

As a first point of entry, Morse suggests checking in with your doctor because a low libido can be a symptom or a side effect of a number of different medical conditions: unbalanced hormone levels, medications you’re taking, depression, anxiety, thyroid imbalances, or arthritis. So, to be safe, go see your MD for a chat and potentially some tests.

2. Reconnect with your body

If your health checks out, the issue is may skew more psychological. “Women get aroused through thoughts,” Morse says. “If your brain is not onboard for sex, then your body is not going to follow.”

One solution? Get down with yourself (yes, that means masturbating). Doing so will help you reconnect with your body again, and it will help keep sex at top of mind. Think of it like exercise—or any other healthy habit for that matter: the more you get your sweat on, the more and more your body starts to crave it.

3. Give your relationship with sex a tough audit

A stagnant sex drive might not actually have to do with your libido at all: It could be about your relationship with your significant other. If you’re constantly fighting, or you’re growing apart for one reason or another, of course it’ll affect what’s happening (or not happening, in this case) between the sheets.

“Whatever challenges you’re having with your partner outside the bedroom are going to absolutely impact your relationship when you’re inside of the bedroom,” Morse says. She recommends taking an honest look at your relationship and focusing on fixing the non-sex-related  issues. It’s totally possible these resolutions could reignite that bedroom fire.

4. Stop being samey in the bedroom

Your libido might have taken a nosedive simply because you’re bored of the type of sex you’ve been having. Hey, you might even get sick of avocado toast (which has itself been tied to a revved up sex drive, BTW) if you have it every. single. day. So, consider changing things up a bit. “Variety is the spice of your sex life,” Morse says. “It’s the novelty and the newness that enhances intimacy and will make you want to connect.”

So try out new positions. Buy some toys. Do the deed in a surprising location. Do whatever you have to do to make things fun and interesting again. 

5. Implement a healthy lifestyle

If you’re not feeling so hot, of course you’re not going to be in the mood for love making, Morse says. That’s exactly why implementing healthy habits that make you feel sexy inside and out are an important part of maintaining a fired-up sexual appetite. Consider incorporating some libido-boosting foods into your diet, like avocado and honey and penciling in workouts that will help supercharge your love life.

6. Do your kegels

Not only do kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles (which can translate to better orgasms—score!), they also force you to connect with yourself and your lady parts. And again, the more you think sexy thoughts, the more and more you’ll want to get it on.

And since kegels are so easy to do inconspicuously (doing mine now at my work desk!), it’s hard to find a reason not to abide by Morse’s prescribed two-a-day regimen. Just squeeze the muscles in your nether region, as if you’re trying to hold your pee, for five seconds. Then release and repeat for an effect of having things tightened up down there. Wondering how you’re possibly going to remember to do your kegels twice a day? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that.

7. Engage your senses

Another way to help you get your groove back is to entice your five senses, because when you do this, “you’re no longer in your head and automatically you feel very in touch with your body,” Morse says. So the next time you plan on getting lucky, create a full-on sensory experience.

Set the scene. Put some jasmine essential oil in your aromatherapy diffuser. Play some Marvin Gaye. Bust out the coconut whipped cream. Yes, it sounds totally cliché, but what do you have to lose other than another sexless night? 

Complete Article HERE!

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