What do we really know about male desire?

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Not much, according to Canadian sex researchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not in the mood

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

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

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

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

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

Faking it

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

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

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

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

The female gaze

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

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

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

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

Beyond skin deep

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

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

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

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

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

Mars, Venus and Planet Earth

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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How Owning My Sexuality Transformed My Career

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The connection has been undeniable.

Andrea Barrica

By Andrea Barrica

My career in the tech world started to take off a few years after I began building my first company, an accounting software for growing businesses called inDinero. I was closing more sales deals, nailing my speaking engagements, and getting feedback that I was positively impacting others on my team. When people asked me what I was doing differently, I would lie, saying something like, “Oh, I started meditating. Totally life-changing.”

The truth was that I was finally having the sex I wanted. My career transformation was the bonus cherry on top.

Taking control of my sex life was a long process. Although I was an early bloomer in some ways—I went to college at 16 and started building inDinero at 20—I was raised in a conservative environment that left me in the dark when it came to my own body and sexuality. I was 24 before I felt comfortable enough to look at my own genitals.

Around that time, I committed to learning about my body, leaning into my identity as a sexual being, and making time for pleasure. The results were powerful. Exploring my sexuality helped me unlearn a lot of harmful thought patterns about bodies and desire, and it helped give me both the sex life and career I’d dreamed about.

Now, I’m the founder and CEO of O.school, a welcoming online resource aiming to educate people on all things sex and sexuality. So, these days my career is obviously influenced by the subject of sex and sexuality—it’s what we do at O.school! But aside from that—and even well before that—I found that tapping into my sexual energy led to enormous growth in my career. Here are a few ways that getting in touch with my sexuality spilled over into my professional calling.

1. I learned to listen to my intuition.

I used to be really uncomfortable even trying to think about my own pleasure. In bed, I was often completely focused on the other person. I would shut down when a partner would say, “Let’s make you feel good. What do you like?” I didn’t know because I didn’t have much sexual intuition, which I view as a connection to what makes me feel good.

Making time for pleasure helped me strengthen this sexual intuition. One thing that really got me there was orgasmic meditation. “OM,” as it’s often called, is primarily focused on exploring where you like to be touched on your clitoris. OM is about being present in how you’re feeling in one precise moment: One day you might like one kind of touch, and another day it could be something different. The key is being willing to listen to your own body, which helped me flex that mental muscle of knowing what feels good and right. This kind of gut instinct became a guiding compass for me at work, too.

In the span of a week, 20 smart investors can recommend I take my business in 20 different directions. I listen to everyone’s advice, but then I listen most to what feels right in my body. I know something is right for me—in sex or at work—when I feel curious, connected, and attentive. I feel calm and can see the pros and cons. When something is a bad fit, I notice that I feel fearful, anxious, and have a lot of spiraling thoughts. Listening to my intuition, no matter the situation, has rarely steered me wrong.

2. I practiced asking for what I want.

I know it seems obvious, but it’s so true that I have to emphasize it: People can only meet your needs if you make what you want clear. Sex has become a safe space for me to practice asking for what I want in a relatively low-stakes situation.

Once, right after taking a shower, a partner asked me to sit down and spontaneously started to blow dry my hair. It was one of the sweetest and, surprisingly, most pleasurable gestures I had ever experienced. I could have kept this quirky delight a secret from other partners, but I’ve chosen to talk about it with various people since then. While a few have declined to engage in this hair-focused foreplay, pretty much all of them have made a beeline for the blow dryer. This has reinforced that being open about what makes me feel good usually leads to me feeling, well, really good.

Experimenting with clear communication in bed built up my confidence to do the same in a professional environment. I’ve learned to be incredibly specific when it comes to asking for what I want at work. In the past, when I’ve expected people to decide on their own to give me what I “deserve,” I’ve been constantly disappointed.

For example, when I worked as a venture partner at a venture capital fund, I learned that a male coworker who joined the exact same week as I did was given a raise. I didn’t wait around hoping to have a commensurate raise land in my lap. Instead, I went to my boss and asked not just for a raise, but also for more travel opportunities to our global offices, introductions to people who could provide me with paid speaking appearances, and the ability to start making investments in international markets. I got all of it. That probably won’t happen every time, but it definitely wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t asked.

3. I realized that connecting with my body clears my mind.

When I’m feeling too uptight, that usually means I haven’t made time for self-care. My sexuality plays a big role in renewing my energy. When I’m more connected to my body, I think more clearly, get more done, and make better decisions. I’m funnier, more powerful, and more relaxed on stage at speaking events. I can tell people read me as more confident and interact with me differently.

Feeling connected to my body is not limited to sex. Sometimes it’s a massage. Sometimes it’s hanging out with my friends and holding their hands while we drink wine, kiss, hug, and flirt.

Restoring myself in this way has become so important that I actually put self-care time on my color-coded calendar. (It gets the honor of being purple.) Self-care is in the mix with my meetings and appointments because it’s just as—if not more—important. If I look at my week ahead and see no purple blocks, I make it a point to change that.

4. I learned to establish firm boundaries.

From a young age, I was taught that my body didn’t fully belong to me. (As are many of us.) Sometimes I had to kiss and hug relatives when I didn’t want to. On the playground, little boys would grab at me, and adults would say, “That’s how you know they like you.” I felt resigned to the fact that others could do what they wanted to my body, and I should stay quiet to avoid “making a fuss.”

This thinking persisted for years. One day in college, a guy in class with me started rubbing my leg under the table. I couldn’t move or say anything because I still didn’t feel in charge of my own body.

I started to unlearn these lessons through kink and role playing. A Kink 101 class taught me that nothing sexual should happen without discussing boundaries and consent. I also realized that “bottoms” (submissive people) are often viewed as the ones actually “in charge” because they can slow down or completely stop a situation with a safeword.

Meditating on these concepts helped me see how much of my sex life was spent going along with other people’s desires, following scripts I saw in movies and porn, and how little I was focusing on what I wanted. It took years of practice and overcoming occasional discomfort, but now I only have the sex that I want to have, and I stop sex that doesn’t feel good.

This sense of control transferred to my career. I’ve realized that, ultimately, I get to choose how I spend my time. (Granted, this is a privilege that I have due to my being an entrepreneur.) I swiftly decline opportunities that aren’t aligned with my goals, often leave draining events or meetings to take care of myself, and generally feel more empowered and less complacent about how I spend my time and energy.

5. I stopped caring about looking stupid.

Sex is a great chance to practice getting out of your head and seeing what happens when you do something “silly” without judging yourself. When I first tried to explore dirty talk and role play, I struggled with this big time. I wasn’t naturally excited about trying to say sexy things or pretend to be someone else, so I felt dumb when I tried. Then I decided to view it as a game of improv. That got me out of my “this is dumb” thought patterns, and I found myself surprisingly turned on.

That same fear of appearing stupid used to block the creativity my career needs in order to thrive. I’d get an idea in a meeting and hesitate to speak up, only to kick myself when someone else said the exact same thing. Sex helped me realize how freeing it can be to leave that fear of judgment behind, so I started to let go of it at work, too.

To experiment with bringing that mindset into my work life even more, I once hired an amazing business coach who was an ex-clown. She made me mime my talks with really exaggerated gestures. It felt horribly uncomfortable. But the next time I was on stage, I was more aware of my body and felt so much more dynamic. It’s all because I was no longer holding back due to fear.

It might sound unconventional, but for me, sex and work are intimately connected in a way that’s made my life so much better. Having good sex is worth celebrating all on its own. Being able to apply lessons I’ve learned through my sexual experiences to my career is even better.

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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Here’s How To Decide On A Safe Word

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No matter who you’re sleeping with, how long you’ve been sleeping with them, and what type of sex you’re having — if you’re not feeling it anymore, you’re allowed to tap out at any point, for any reason. While it’s important to discuss consent and knowing what you and your partner(s) are comfortable with before turning up the heat, knowing something like how to decide on a safe word can be a great way to keep everyone safe and comfortable during sex.

“A safe word is a word selected by sexual partners together that when used indicates one partner would like to pause sexual activity for any reason,” McKenna Maness, sex educator and former education and prevention coordinator at The Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP), tells Elite Daily. “Perhaps sex got too intense, or the partner is physically uncomfortable or in more pain than they would like to be, or roleplaying crossed into something less desirable for that person, they’re overstimulated— in any of these cases, the partner who would like to stop can say their safe word and the other partner would know that it is time to stop immediately and check in!”

Although having a safe word can be a tool for communicating with your partner(s), it it no way means that partner(s) are allowed to skip the boundary convo or try something new without first getting consent. “It should not be your goal to make someone use their safe word. A safe word exists for reasons of safety. Boundaries are made for a reason and not everyone likes theirs’ pushed. At the same time, it does not make you weak to safe word out,” Lola Jean, sex educator and mental health professional says.

“Safe words” have roots within the BDSM community and are often associated with more kinky types sex. Additionally, expressing when you’re not feeling something or need a time out, can be useful in all types of sexual activity — from bondage and role play, to gentle spooning and basic missionary. Whether you’re going at it and your legs are in a weird position so it kind of hurts, or you want to check to make sure your contraceptive is in place, a “safe word” is nothing more than a signal that you need to stop and check in.

“You always have the right to stop whatever you and your partner(s) are doing to each other for any reason — communication is key and safe words facilitate that!” Maness says. If you just got your IUD replaced or you’ve had the worst day ever and can’t stop thinking about your terrible coworker Shannon, you may not realize that you’re not trying to have sex tonight until you’ve started to have sex. Safe words, then, are like an immediate “eject button” from sex, without feeling pressure to explain what you’re feeling in the moment, before winding down the physical touching or expressing everything on your mind to your partner(s).

When choosing a safe word, it may be helpful to pick a universal phrase — like traffic light colors. “It’s easier to remember the difference between yellow and red even when in the depths of sub space,” Jeans says. “You can add words like ‘Red Stop’ to end completely as opposed to just “Red” to stop what you are currently doing.” If your first grade teacher ever used a paper traffic light as a public-shame discipline system (I’m triggered) or if you’ve ever been in a moving vehicle, it’s easy to remember that “Red means stop.” Words like traffic light colors, that hold deep cultural significance can be great choices for a safe word, as you’re unlikely to forget them.

If you’re not a big talker during sex or a verbal safe word doesn’t feel comfortable, Maness suggests incorporating a physical “safe word” or a physical signal that you need a time out. Yet, like a safe word, a physical tap-out should be a motion you wouldn’t otherwise do during sex. “Maybe tapping your partner’s shoulder or winking, a peace sign or crossed fingers — as long as they will see it and understand it,” Maness says.

If you’re someone who likes to laugh or joke during sex, it may be a good fit for you and your partner(s) to choose a funny safe word. “My safe word is ‘Mike Pence’ because that would make someone stop dead in their tracks during a scene to question what was going on —plus I do like a safe word that makes me giggle,” Jean says. Although humor may play an important role, Jean also speaks to the importance of finding a word that’s memorable and literally easy to say. “When choosing a safe word, it’s important that it is something you can easily remember and say. It should be a word that would likely not come up within play or a word you don’t say very often. (I rarely would use Mike Pence’s name in my sexy times.) Mike Pence is also an easy two syllable punch.”

Maness too agrees that choosing a safe word ideally means picking something unforgettable. “It has to be something you will absolutely be sure to remember during sex. If you are single or non-monogamous, you can choose one just for yourself and communicate it before sex, and if you have a partner you consistently hook up with, whatever that looks like for you, you can decide together what to use,” Maness says. “It could be parachute. It could be persimmon. It could be shovel. Just make sure it’s memorable and you both/all know what it means.”

Maness also suggests thinking about a word you wouldn’t otherwise say when having sex. Something completely random like an inanimate object, an inside joke, or something otherwise unfamiliar to the communication you and your partner(s) typically have during sex. Though it may feel right to have your safe word be something silly or totally random, using it is a serious move. “Using a safe word — even with a long term partner — has a certain weight to it that other words do not. A safe word means business. It means slow the f*ck down and check in with your person,” Jean says.

Of course just like finding the right safe word for you, understanding exactly what your safe word will mean is another important conversation. “It’s important to set forth what the safe word or signal means too— usually it means ‘stop now’ but you could also ask your partner to give you physical space when you use it, or tell them you want comfort and aftercare at the point where you use it,” Maness says. “Using a safe word is revoking consent in that moment. Your partner shouldn’t take offense, or be upset or hurt. You aren’t necessarily ending the sex permanently, although if you are that’s fine too.”

If using a safe word means your boundaries were crossed, you may want to further discuss with your partner how you’re feeling and what you need to feel comfortable and safe when having sex. Your safe word could mean anything from, “Your knee is knocking into my hip and it kinda hurts can we switch positions” to “I don’t like where this is going, we need to stop”. Having an open dialogue with your partner about what your safe word means and how it will be used is just as important as choosing the right word for you. “It’s a great tool that just requires honest/open conversation,” Maness says.

If you are thinking about the right safe word for you, take time to ponder your personal boundaries, preferences, and the types of sex you do and (maybe more importantly) do not want to be having. During any sexual encounter — a LTR, one night stand, or super hot orgy with ninety people — the most important thing factor is active consent. When it comes to deciding on a safe word, you get to choose how it’s used, when it’s used, and what it means.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Make Sex More Dangerous

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Refusing to provide children with medically accurate sex education isn’t ideological — it’s negligent.

By Andrea Barrica

I cried the first time I saw a naked man. As a young woman growing up in a conservative Catholic household, I couldn’t even look at my own genitals, and thought I would go to hell for masturbating. The abstinence-only education I received — at school, at home, in the church — left me with years of shame, isolation and fear.

I’ve watched the recent battles over allowing comprehensive sex ed in Colorado, Utah and Idaho, and I know how much is at stake for children. As a sex educator and entrepreneur, I’ve spoken with thousands of similarly miseducated young people, and I know the mental and physiological damage it can inflict.

Americans laugh at the embarrassment parents face in talking to kids about sex. But it’s not a joke. Fewer students now receive comprehensive sex ed in our country than at any time in the past 20 years. Since the late 1990s, conservative activists — often with the help of conservative presidents — have steadily chipped away at sex education by funding and mandating abstinence-only policies in schools.

Only about half of all school districts in the United States require any sex ed at all. Of those that do, most mandate or stress abstinence-only instruction. No birth control. No sexually transmitted infection prevention. No consent

In fact, 18 states require that educators tell students that sex is acceptable only within the context of marriage. Seven states prohibit teachers — under penalty of law — from acknowledging the existence of L.G.B.T.Q. people other than in the context of H.I.V. or to condemn homosexuality. Only 10 states even reference “sexual assault” or “consent” in their sex education curriculums.

And in districts where comprehensive sex education is provided, parents are largely allowed to opt out of such instruction for their children.

Conservatives often frame sex ed as government overreach, arguing that lessons in sexuality and relationships are best provided by parents. But most parents can’t or don’t provide such guidance. Refusing to provide children with medically accurate information about their own sexual development isn’t ideological; it’s negligent.

It’s not even effective. States that place a heavy emphasis on abstinence-only sex ed have seen much higher rates of teen pregnancy, even when studies control for factors like income and education levels.

During the Obama administration, funding for abstinence-only sex education was shifted toward more comprehensive sex education — and teen pregnancy dropped nationwide by 41 percent. The Trump administration, embracing an abstinence-only approach, has reversed course, cutting more than $200 million in funding for the program.

Despite the dreams of social conservatives, few teens actually practice abstinence. Nearly 60 percent of students have sex before they graduate from high school, according to some surveys. Many do so without any instruction from parents or schools on condoms, infections or consent.

Perhaps that’s why one in four American women will become pregnant by the time they turn 20.

Or why a quarter of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur in teenagers — and the number of S.T.I.s has been at all-time highs.

Or why only 41 percent of American women have described their first sexual experience as wanted.

When we refuse to teach students about sex, we don’t stop sex — we just make it more dangerous. And it’s not just because of S.T.I.s.

Kids who lack information and ownership over their bodies are more likely to be taken advantage of. When children are taught that all premarital sex is negative, it’s harder for them to fight, or report, abuse or coercion.

Abstinence education negates the possibility of consent. When I was a teen, I was taught that men would try to get sex from me, and that my job was to say no. That made me feel as if the coercion and violations that happened to me were my fault. All sexual acts are equally wrong, so if a boy went too far on a date with me, it was my fault for letting him touch me at all.

Keeping children in the dark allows predators to set the narrative. They count on the culture of silence and the sense of shame. When virginity is prized as the highest honor, those who are assaulted can feel even more worthless — and may avoid reporting abusive or predatory behavior out of shame and confusion.

For L.G.B.T.Q. children, things can be even more bleak. A lack of inclusive sex education contributes to feelings of isolation and shame, while enabling bullies. L.G.B.T.Q. kids have even fewer resources, and face more drastic consequences — from physical abuse to homelessness — when they attempt to report assaults.
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When we promote abstinence over medically accurate sexual health, it inflicts a lifetime of physical and psychological harm on young people.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In many countries, the right to accurate information about sexual health is deemed essential. Children raised in the Netherlands, for example, begin sex ed in kindergarten. American teens give birth at a rate that is five times higher than that of their Dutch counterparts. Most Dutch teens report their first sexual experience positively.

We joke about sex because it’s difficult for us to talk about. And in part because our parents weren’t able to talk with us about it, we’re unable to talk with our kids. We can break the cycle for the next generation of young people by fighting for accessible and comprehensive sex education.

Their safety is more important than our shame.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Healthy Relationship Boundaries You Should Set From The First Date

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

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

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

1 Clarify Your Communication Styles

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

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

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

2 Share Your Personal Space Requirements

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

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

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

3 Get On The Same Page About Future Dates

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

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

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

4 Be Clear About Commitment And What You Want

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

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

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

5 Know Where You Stand On Physical Intimacy

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Age Doesn’t Determine Whether A Person Is Ready For Sex.

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Here’s What Does!

By Nichole Fratangelo

First-time sex has a lot of logistics attached to it—like where it happened, when it happened, and who it happened with. For most of us, it’s the “when” that holds a ton of weight. As a society, we tend to place so much importance on how old we were when we first shared that intimate moment with someone else. We rarely even consider if we were mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to do it. Now, new research shows your age really isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to sexual readiness; there’s much more in-depth criteria that includes physical, emotional, and psychosocial well-being.

A study published in the journal BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health questioned 2,825 people between ages 17 and 24 about their first sexual experience, including the nature of their relationship with the person they had their first sex with, both of their ages, and how much sexual experience their partner had. The researchers also asked about their socioeconomic status, their education level, family structure, ethnicity, and how and when they’d been taught about sex.

What does it mean to be “ready” for sex?

Rather than focusing on age as a key factor, the researchers used four distinct points to gauge how ready each person was based on the World Health Organization’s standards for sexual health. WHO defines sexual health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality,” which includes a “positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

Only those who met all four criteria were considered “sexually competent”—that is, ready to have sex—at the time they first did it.

“The concept of ‘sexual competence’ represents an alternative approach to timing of first sexual intercourse, considering the contextual attributes of the event, rather than simply age at occurrence,” the researchers wrote in the paper. “This departs from the traditional framing of all sexual activity among teenagers as problematic, and recognises that young age alone does not threaten sexual health, any more than older age safeguards it.”

Here are the four main criteria:

1. Contraceptive use

Are you using birth control of some sort? A person who isn’t willing and prepared to use contraception during sex is not mature enough to be having sex. That’s why researchers included it as such a major point, especially for those doing it for the first time. Of those surveyed, most people did use reliable contraception, but around one in 10 did not.

2. Autonomy

Are you having sex because you truly want to do it, or does it have to do with peer pressure or drunkenness? Sex should always be on your own accord and not because it’s something everyone else around you is doing.

3. Consent

Here’s a crucial one: Did both parties verbally and physically agree to have sex? If not, neither party was ready to do the deed—one person was forced into it and experienced sexual assault, and the other person assaulted someone, which is the furthest thing from sexual competence. The researchers excluded instances of forced sex from their study, but they noted that almost one in five women had reported not being in charge of the decision to have sex for the first time.

4. The “right” timing

Do you feel like this is the “right time”? Participants reported whether they personally felt like they’d picked the appropriate time in their lives to start having sex. Though the study didn’t specify, there are many personal reasons why it is or isn’t a good time to start having sex; they weren’t ready to have sex—you might be struggling with stress or insecurity and don’t want to complicate it by introducing intimacy in your life, or you might be very erotically charged and have a lot of free time, so why not? Other factors like finding a partner they feel attracted to and comfortable with could factor into this question.

More women than men felt their first sexual experience did not happen at the right time—40 percent versus 27 percent, respectively. This was the most commonly reported negative feature of first-time sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Encourage teens to discuss relationships, experts say

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BY Carolyn Crist</a

Healthcare providers and parents should begin talking to adolescents in middle school about healthy romantic and sexual relationships and mutual respect for others, a doctors’ group urges.

Obstetrician-gynecologists, in particular, should screen their patients routinely for intimate partner violence and sexual coercion and be prepared to discuss it, the Committee on Adolescent Health Care of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises.

“Our aim is to give the healthcare provider a guide on how to approach adolescents and educate them on the importance of relationships that promote their overall wellbeing,” said Dr. Oluyemisi Adeyemi-Fowode of Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who co-authored the committee’s opinion statement and resource for doctors published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“We want to recognize the full spectrum of relationships and that not all adolescents are involved in sexual relationships,” she said in an email. “This acknowledges the sexual and non-sexual aspects of relationships.”

Adeyemi-Fowode and her coauthor Dr. Karen Gerancher of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, suggest creating a nonjudgmental environment for teens to talk and recommend educating staff about unique concerns that adolescents may have as compared to adult patients. Parents and caregivers should be provided with resources, too, they write.

“As individuals, our days include constant interaction with other people,” Adeyemi-Fowode told Reuters Health. “Learning how to effectively communicate is essential to these exchanges, and it is a skill that we begin to develop very early in life.”

In middle school, when self-discovery develops, parents, mentors and healthcare providers can help adolescents build on these communication skills. As they spend more time on social networking sites and other electronic media, teens could use guidance on how to recognize relationships that positively encourage them and relationships that hurt them emotionally or physically.

Primarily, healthcare providers and parents should discuss key aspects of a healthy relationship, including respect, communication and the value of people’s bodies and personal health. Equality, honesty, physical safety, independence and humor are also good qualities in a positive relationship.

As doctors interact with teens, they should also be aware of how social norms, religion and family influence could play a role in their relationships.

Although the primary focus of counseling should help teens define a healthy relationship, it’s important to discuss unhealthy characteristics, too, the authors write. This includes control, disrespect, intimidation, dishonesty, dependence, hostility and abuse. They cite a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of young women in high school that found about 11 percent had been forced to engage in sexual activities they didn’t want, including kissing, touching and sexual intercourse. About 9 percent said they were physically hurt by someone they were dating.

For obstetrician-gynecologists, the initial reproductive health visit recommended for girls at ages 13-15 could be a good time to begin talking about romantic and sexual health concerns, the authors write. They also offer doctors a list of questions that may be helpful for these conversations, including “How do you feel about relationships in general or about your own sexuality?” and “What qualities are important to someone you would date or go out with?”

Health providers can provide confidentiality for teens but also talk with parents about their kids’ relationships. The committee opinion suggests that doctors encourage parents to model good relationships, discuss sex and sexual risk, and monitor media to reduce exposure to highly sexualized content.

“Without intentionally talking to them about respectful, equitable relationships, we’re leaving them to fend for themselves,” said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, who wasn’t involved in the opinion statement.

Miller recommends FuturesWithoutViolence.org, a website that offers resources on dating violence, workplace harassment, domestic violence and childhood trauma. She and colleagues distribute the organization’s “Hanging Out or Hooking Up?” safety card (bit.ly/2PQfxEM), which offers tips to recognize and address adolescent relationship abuse, to patients and parents, Miller said.

“More than 20 years of research shows the impact of abusive relationships on young people’s health,” Miller said in a phone interview. “Unintended pregnancies, sexually-transmitted infections, HIV, depression, anxiety, suicide, disordered eating and substance abuse can stem from this.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s why having sex gives you meaning in life, according to scientific research

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Just another reason why sex is wonderful… 

By Rosie Fitzmaurice

There are a number of health benefits that have been associated with having sex, both physical and mental. And new research suggests having sex could also give you a greater sense of meaning in life.

A team of researchers at the George Mason University set out to explore the relationship between sex and wellbeing, which included mood and sense of meaning in life, in a small study that was published in the scientific journal Emotion.

They conducted a three-week study involving 152 college students who were told to keep a daily diary of the frequency and quality of their sexual activity, along with their moods and feelings.

The results of the study suggested that sex on a given day predicted an enhanced mood and improved meaning in life for the participants the following day.

David Ludden, professor of psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College, says in a Psychology Today blog post that this finding is “consistent with other research which have found that the ‘afterglow’ of sex extends for a day or two after the act.”

Interestingly, the time-lagged analysis suggested that the reverse was not the case: feeling happy one day did not predict sexual activity or intimacy the next day. The researchers conclude that it’s the sexuality activity – which respondents were allowed to define themselves as anything from passionate kissing to intercourse – that is making people feel happier.

Todd Kashdan, lead author of the study, is quoted in TIME as saying that it’s probably down to our natural desire to belong and that sex can translate as a sign of acceptance and inclusion.

“There is something profound about someone else giving you access to their body and accepting access to yours,” he said.

Those of the participants in relationships (a little over 60 per cent) who said that they felt close to their partners also predicted a greater sense of meaning in life and positive mood afterwards. Kashdan said that this is down to the feeling of reaffirmation that a person in a close relationship feels after having sex with their partner.

Sex, he said, is a remedy for loneliness and isolation, a “therapy without therapists.”

Ludden writes in his blog post that when you think about sex not only as sensual pleasure, but as a social act “we can understand why it boosts our mood and sense of fulfilment beyond the gratification of the moment.

“After all, what could be more affirming to another person than to willingly engage with them in the most intimate acts of human experience?”

The study is limited in its sample size, but also in that it examines the relationship behaviours and sexual activity of students, which is likely to differ to those of older people, psychologist Christian Jarrett points out. It nevertheless provides a snapshot into the relationship between sex and wellness, a topic the authors believe warrants further research.

“To understand the full scope of human flourishing, research on well-being needs to incorporate more rigorous scientific inquiries of sexual behaviour,” the authors are quoted as saying.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘If We Want To End Sexual Violence, We Need To Talk About Female Desire’

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“Good sex is about more than lack of violence or fear.”

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[I]t might seem strange to be talking about pleasure and desire when we are surrounded by stories of rape and harassment. Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves? Shouldn’t we concentrate first on stopping those crimes before we ask for sex that might actually work for us?

I don’t think so. The worst men—and the worst lovers—I have known were the ones who didn’t understand that women, too, want things from sex. That sex is not simply something we give to men—or something men take from us.

These were the men who commented, with a mixture of surprise and revulsion, on how much I actually seemed to enjoy the sex we had, how I acted as though we were sexual equals, as though my own desire mattered—and how unusual that was. I’ve never known what to say to that. I’ve never known whether to pity their ignorance or worry about the other women they have been with, about how those women may have felt forced to deny their desire, to keep their sexual agency secret, even in bed.

Study after study shows that women want sex just as much as men do—but they’re often afraid of the consequences of saying so. The story we tell about how women should behave sexually is one of hesitancy, of submission, of waiting for the man to make the first, second, and last moves. Cajoling a woman into sex is considered normal, hence much of the confusion about women who are now complaining, often for the first time, about men who pressure us into sex we don’t want to have.

Good sex is about more than lack of violence or fear. But there are still too many people out there who believe that it is enough for sex to not be painful or frightening for a woman. One recent study showed that 32 percent of college-age men said they would commit or had committed acts of violence against women that courts would describe as rape, but when asked if they would ever rape a woman, most said no. This is rape culture; nonconsensual sex is normalized and, as long as we don’t call it rape, tolerated.

There are still very few societies that are truly comfortable with women having sexual and reproductive agency—in other words, the right to choose when and if and how we have sex, and when and if and how we have children. All over the world, including in the United States, the basic assumption made about women by their governments and employers and families is that we do not deserve to decide what happens to our bodies—and we cannot be trusted to tell the truth about our experiences. This is sexual repression, and we must fight it.

We must also fight against internalizing it. The consequences of capitulating to what our bodies seem to want—whether it be an orgasm or another slice of cake—are made very clear to girls long before puberty turns up the dial on desire. We must not be too hungry, too horny, too greedy for anything in life, or we will become ugly, unlovable. Women who eat too much, talk too much, shag too much—women who want too much—will face shame, stigma, and ostracism. We must not lose control.

When you’ve learned to be suspicious of your own appetites, it takes time to treat yourself and your body with more kindness. How can we be honest with anyone else about our desires when “slut” is still one of the worst things you can call a woman, when women who openly enjoy or seek out sex are shamed for it, and men who do the same are celebrated?

For women and queer people, for anyone whose sexuality has been treated as abnormal and punished, and particularly for those who’ve survived sexual violence, it can be very hard to be honest about what we might want in bed, even with ourselves. That’s alright. It’s okay not to know what you want, as long as you know that the wanting itself is okay. This isn’t going to change overnight. But I know I’ve had more positive experiences than negative ones when I insisted on making my desires clear. Being able to ask for what you want is the first step toward real sexual liberation. The sort that works for everyone.

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How to close the female orgasm gap

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Studies show sexual pleasure, self-esteem and satisfaction profoundly impacts our wellbeing. That’s why increasing our ‘sexual IQ’ matters

By

[I]n this moment of brave truth telling and female empowerment, it’s time to address one topic that’s been missing far too long from our conversations around sex: female pleasure.

Study after study show that sexual pleasure, self-esteem and satisfaction have profound impacts on our physical and mental wellbeing. It is a natural and vital part of our health and happiness.

As a society, we accept this premise fairly easily when it comes to men and they learn it at a young age. When discovering how babies are made, male ejaculation (ie his pleasure) plays a featured role. Men feel entitled to pleasure and our culture supports that. There are endless nicknames for male anatomy and jokes about masturbation; and TV shows, movies, advertisements and porn all cater to their fantasies.

Women, on the other hand, appear mostly as the object in these fantasies rather than as subjects. In middle school sex ed classes, drawings of female anatomy often don’t even include the clitoris, as if women’s reproductive function is somehow separate from their pleasure. Female pleasure remains taboo and poorly understood. There is little scientific research on the topic and even doctors shy away from discussing it: according to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, less than 30% of gynecologists routinely ask their patients about pleasure and sexual satisfaction.

This silence has real consequences. Almost 30% of college-age women can’t identify their clitoris on an anatomy test, according to a study from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Another survey by the UK gynecological cancer charity, Eve Appeal, finds that women are more familiar with men’s bodies than their own: while 60% could correctly label a diagram of the male body, just 35% of women correctly labeled female anatomy. (For the record, men scored even worse.)

Lack of sexual health knowledge is associated with lower rates of condom and contraceptive use. It also contributes to pleasure disparities in the bedroom. While gay and straight men climax about 85% of the time during sex, women having sex with women orgasm about 75% of the time and women having sex with men come last at just 63%, research from the Kinsey Institute shows. The reasons for this “orgasm gap” are surely multifaceted, but we can start to address it by talking more about the importance of women’s pleasure.

Let’s talk about what women’s sexual anatomy really looks like, so that we can normalize differences, reduce body shame and improve self-care. We should encourage self-exploration from an early age so that women (and men) learn what feels good to them and how that changes as we move through the different stages of our lives.

Knowing our own bodies can promote our own health and wellbeing, and empower our relationships. The Kinsey study showed that compared to women who orgasmed less frequently, women who experienced more pleasure were more likely to ask for what they want in bed, act out fantasies and praise their partner for something they did in bed, among other things. We can’t talk about what we like or don’t like with our partners if we don’t know ourselves.

In order to cultivate a culture of true gender equality, we need candid conversations and accurate, sex-positive information. Without this, pop culture, pornography and outdated cultural institutions fill in these gaps with unhealthy stereotypes and unrealistic expectations that center on male pleasure and leave women in a supporting role.

Through our willingness to speak openly about sex and to seek out empowering information, we can increase our “sexual IQ” and make more informed choices that will improve our sexual satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing throughout our lives.

As author Peggy Orenstein says “We’ve raised a generation of girls to have a voice, to expect egalitarian treatment in the homes, in the classroom, in the workplace. Now it’s time to demand that ‘intimate justice’ in their personal lives as well.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Take a Little Look-See

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

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

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

 

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9 Sex Resolutions Every Woman Should Make for the New Year

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By Danielle Friedman

For those of us who make New Year’s resolutions, we too often focus on doing less—eating less sugar, drinking less booze, spending less time in pajamas binge-watching The Crown. And while those goals may be worthy (though, really, The Crown is pretty great), this year, we’d also like to encourage women to do more—when it comes to pleasure.

As research consistently shows, the “orgasm gap” between men and women is real. A study published this year in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found that, while 95 percent of heterosexual men said they usually-to-always orgasm when sexually intimate, only 65 percent of heterosexual women said the same. Meanwhile, along with simply feeling good, orgasms bring an impressive list of health benefits, from decreased stress to better sleep. “There’s freedom in pleasure,” Kait Scalisi, MPH, a sex educator and counselor and instructor at the Institute for Sexual Enlightenment in New York City, tells Health.

Convinced yet? We culled sexual health research and called on Scalisi’s expertise to bring you nine tips for getting the pleasure you deserve in 2018.

Carve out time for solo pleasure

If masturbation feels self-indulgent, that’s because it is—in the best way possible. Still, in a recent national survey out of Indiana University, one in five women said they had never masturbated in their lifetime—and only 40.8% said they had masturbated in the past month. In the year ahead, consider devoting more time exclusively to solo sexual satisfaction.

“The more you learn about your body and what feels good—and what doesn’t feel good—the more you can bring that into partner sex,” says Scalisi. And if you aren’t having sex with a partner, well, “the more you are able to bring yourself oodles of pleasure.”

Try a vibrator

Thanks to lingering stigmas around sex and pleasure, many women still feel too shy to purchase a vibrator. But research shows this is changing: In the same Indiana University survey, about half of women said they had used a sex toy. And that’s a good thing!

“Vibrators give us one more way to explore what feels good and what doesn’t,” says Scalisi. And the more methods we experiment with, “the more flexible we’ll be in terms of our ability to experience pleasure.” If you haven’t given one a whirl, why not start now?

Focus on foreplay

For the majority of women, research has shown that intercourse alone isn’t enough to orgasm—but a little bit of foreplay can go a long way. “One of the most common things I hear from clients is that [sex moves] too fast, from kiss kiss to grab grab,” says Scalisi. “Most women need time to transition from their day to sexy time. And that’s really what foreplay allows.”

Foreplay can start hours before the act. “When you say good-bye in the morning, have a longer, lingering hug,” she says. Send flirty texts during the day, or read or listen to erotic novels on your commute. As for in-the-moment foreplay, make time for kissing, touching, and massaging. “That allows the body to really experience a higher level of pleasure, and then satisfaction.”

Resolve to never fake an orgasm

If you’ve faked it during sex, you’re not alone. But chances are, if you’re feigning an orgasm, whether to avoid hurting a partner’s feelings or to hurry sex along, you’re missing out on having a real one. And if you want to be having a real one, that’s a situation worth remedying. “If [your partner isn’t] stimulating you in the way you enjoy, have that conversation,” says Scalisi. Maybe not in the heat of the moment, but at a later time when you’re feeling connected.

Don’t apologize for body parts you don’t like

When we’re self-conscious about our bodies during sex, we’re distracted from the act itself—and when we’re distracted, research shows, the quality of sex can suffer.

“So much of what impacts sex has nothing to do with the mechanics of sex,” says Scalisi. A very worthy goal for sex in 2018 is to “learn to be with your body as it is. You don’t necessarily have to be totally in love with it, but just be with it as it is. That allows you to be present, and to process sensation in a more pleasurable way.”

Try a new move or position

Changing up your sexual routine can feel daunting if you’re not especially sexually adventurous, but a tiny bit of risk can bring big rewards. Just the act of trying something new together can help you feel more connected to your partner, “no matter how it turns out!,” says Scalisi. “It can be a tweak to a position that you already know and love or an entirely new position. It can be as big or as small, as adventurous or as mundane, as you and your partner are comfortable with.”

Discover a new erogenous zone

Women’s bodies are filled with erogenous zones—some of which you may only stumble upon if you go looking! (Did you know the forearm ranks among women’s most sensitive parts?) “Have a sexy date night in,” says Scalisi. “Strip down and take the time to explore your partner’s body from head to toe. … The goal here is not orgasm. The goal is to answer the question: What else feels good? What else turns me on?”

Watch woman-directed porn

When women call the shots in porn—literally and figuratively—the final product tends to be “a bit more realistic and a bit more body- and sex-positive” than male-directed porn, says Scalisi, “and that means you can see a bit more of yourself of it.” Not only is women-directed porn excellent for stoking desire and arousal, but it can also inspire new ideas for your IRL sex life.

Speak up if you’d like your partner to touch you differently

It doesn’t have to be awkward! And even if it is, it’s worth it in the long run. “If you’re in the moment, rather than focus on the negative stuff, focus on what would feel good,” says Scalisi. “So rather than say, ‘I don’t like that you’re doing this,’ say ‘It would feel so good if you stroked me softly.’” Then, later, consider having a conversation about your likes and dislikes.

Complete Article HERE!

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I’m not that sexually experienced. How can I be more confident in bed?

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Buck up, champ: Feeling a little anxious about your sexual history (or lack thereof) is totally normal. Here are 10 ways to improve your sexual performance without having to have sex first.

by Vanessa Marin

[E]veryone has anxiety about being great in bed, but when you don’t have much sexual experience that anxiety can feel sky high. For some guys, that concern about experience turns into a horrible cycle: You don’t feel confident about your sexual experience, so you end up not having sex, and your experience level remains the same.

Here’s the good news: Experience is a good teacher, but you can still learn how to be great in bed without it. Here’s how.

1. Put it in context

As a sex therapist, I can tell you that just about everyone has self-confidence issues when it comes to sex—even people with a lot of experience. The insecurities are different from person to person, but they’re insecurities nonetheless. And keep in mind that many of the women you’re intimate with may be inexperienced or insecure as well. You’re certainly not alone.

2. Do your research

You can school yourself on how to have great sex without having any experience whatsoever. I also recommend Guide To Getting It On: Unzipped by Paul Joannides or The Big Bang by Nerve for general sex education topics like STIs and pregnancy prevention, anatomy, communication, and consent. She Comes First by Ian Kerner is a fantastic guide to the art of pleasuring a woman, and I recommend it to almost every man in my sex therapy practice. Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski is a great book about female sexuality in general.

One caveat: Don’t get your sex education from porn! Porn is meant to be entertainment, not education. Porn sex has very little resemblance to real sex. It’s all about angles, lighting, and editing. Most of the moves you see in porn simply won’t go over well in the real world.

3. Take care of your body

One of the best things you can do to improve your confidence is to take great care of your body. Sex is a physical act. Not only do you need endurance, but you also have to feel comfortable and confident in your own skin. You already know what you should be doing—eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Exercise, in particular, can also have added sexual benefits, like increasing your sex drive and improving your erections and your orgasms.

Grooming is important too. Wear clothes that flatter your body and make you feel good. Get your hair cut and your beard trimmed. The better you feel about yourself and your body, the more confident you’ll feel in bed.

4. Masturbate

Yes, masturbation can improve your partnered sex life! Most men masturbate pretty thoughtlessly, zoning out to porn while they try to get the job done as quickly as possible. This actually serves to disconnect you from your body, and decreases your control over your erection and orgasm.

Instead, you can use masturbation to help increase your stamina. First, think of how long you’d like to last with a partner. That becomes your new masturbation session length. During that time, really pay attention to your body. Notice what it feels like when you start getting close to orgasm, and train yourself to back off when you’re on the edge.

You can also practice purposefully losing your erection, then getting it back again. This will help decrease anxiety about losing your erection with a partner.

5. Go slow

When you’re feeling anxious about sex, you’re more likely to rush. Lots of inexperienced men have the tendency to jump right to intercourse, but it’s so much more fun to take your time and go slow. Spend plenty of time on kissing, touching, and performing oral sex, and even slow down your physical movements. A slower pace will help dramatically decrease your anxiety levels.

Plus, keep in mind that most women feel more physical pleasure from oral sex and fingering than from intercourse, and a lot of women love being teased. She’ll appreciate your pace, too.

6. Focus on her pleasure

Being fantastic in bed means genuinely caring about your partner’s pleasure. It’s arguably the most important quality in a great lover. If you spend time specifically focusing on her body—taking your time with her, kissing her all over, fingering her, going down on her—you’re going to impress her way more than the guy who has a ton of experience but is selfish in bed. Plus, seeing the pleasure that you bring her will naturally help you feel more confident.

7. Treat her like an individual

I’m all about sharing sex tips and techniques, but the reality is that every woman likes different things. No one technique is going to work for every woman. This is great news for you because it shows that experience only goes so far. We’re all beginners when we have sex with someone brand new. Try to explore her body with openness and curiosity. Pay attention to how she responds to your touch. Does she moan? Does she start breathing more heavily? Does she arch her body toward you? Don’t be afraid to ask her what she wants or likes! One super-simple way to ask for feedback is to try two different things on her, and ask her, “Do you like it better when I do this or this?”

8. Keep it simple

So many men overly complicate sex, especially when they’re feeling anxious. Technique is important, but you don’t need to go crazy trying out a million different things on her. The key to female orgasm is actually consistency, not complicated tongue maneuvers or finger gymnastics. Switching things up usually throws her off and distracts her. Find something simple that seems to be working for her, and stick with it. Increase your pace and pressure gradually, but stick to the same basic technique.

9. Don’t think of it as a performance

One of the biggest mistakes that sexual newbies make is thinking of sex as a performance. They get overly fixated on the idea of maintaining a perfect erection, having the utmost control over their orgasms, and mastering their technique. But the truth is that no one likes feeling like they’re having sex with a robot. She doesn’t need you to perform for her like a circus animal. She wants to feel connected to you, and she wants to have fun. You can do that, even without any prior sexual experience.

10. Have a sense of humor

Sex is never perfect, no matter how much experience you have. Sex can be awkward, weird, and sometimes downright hilarious. You’re bound to try out a position that doesn’t work, bump foreheads, or get a cramp in your leg. Having a sense of humor is so important in those moments. If you can laugh it off, you’ll get back to the fun much faster.

Complete Article HERE!

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This Is How Masturbating Can Transform Your Sex Life

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A relationship expert explains what it means to own your pleasure.

By Wendy Strgar

[F]or many of us, taking responsibility for our pleasure begins with healing our relationship with our body. We may think that we can experience true pleasure only when we look a certain way. When I lose ten more pounds, I’ll deserve a little pleasure. If my tan gets a little deeper, then I’ll really be able to feel good. <

Actually, the reverse is true: Opening yourself up to more sexual pleasure will make you recognize the beauty in your body as it is, and inspire you to treat it better. And here’s the thing: If you sacrifice your access to pleasure to the false belief that sexual satisfaction will find you when you are fitter or more beautiful, you will miss out on your own life. Make a decision now to stop comparing yourself to the myriad Photoshopped images of models that even models don’t look like. Instead, dedicate yourself now to finding ways to live more deeply in your body.

Sex is something you do with your body, so how you feel about and treat your body is a direct reflection of the respect you hold for your sex life. Resolve to treat your body with a little more attention and loving kindness, and it will reward you by revealing its capacity for pleasure—sexual and otherwise.

If your body needs coaxing, there is something very simple you can do to deepen your relationship with it and explore your pleasure response: masturbate. Even with all the benefits masturbation can bring to a couple’s sex life, it is still a behavior that many people are not comfortable sharing with their partners or even talking about.

In addi­tion to the religious condemnation that has long been associated with self-pleasure, the practice was not long ago considered an affliction that medical doctors used the cruelest of instruments and techniques to control. So it’s not surprising that self-reporting of this behavior still hovers at 30% to 70% depending on gender and age.

Yet there are many benefits to a healthy dose of solo sex. First and foremost, it teaches us about our own sexual response, and personal experience is an invaluable aid when communicating with our part­ner about what feels good and what doesn’t. The practice of solo sex is helpful for men who have issues with premature ejaculation, as it familiarizes them with the moment of inevitability so that they can better master their sense of control. Masturbation can also be a great balancer for couples with a disparity in their sex drive, and solo orgasm can serve as a stress reliever and sleep aid just as well as partnered plea­sure can.

A 2007 study in Sexual and Relationship Therapy reported that male masturbation might also improve immune system function­ing and the health of the prostate. For women, it builds pelvic floor muscles and sensitivity and has been associated with reduced back pain and cramping around menses, as it increases blood flow and stimulates relaxation of the area after orgasm.

The one caveat is that masturbation, like anything else, serves us well in moderation. Becoming too obsessed with solo sex play, often enhanced by visual or digital aids, has been known to backfire and lead to loss of interest in the complexity and intensity of partner sex. There are also some forms of masturbation that can make partner sex seem less appealing because the form of self-stimulation is so different from what happens in the paired experience. If you are experiencing less desire or ability to respond to your partner, ask yourself what you can do to make your solo experience more compatible with your partner’s ability to stimulate you.

Complete Article HERE!

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