Just Learning About The Orgasm Gap Improves Women’s Sex Lives

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By Kelly Gonsalves

You’re probably familiar with the concept of the orgasm gap, which refers to the gendered orgasm disparity between straight men and women. A whopping 95 percent of straight men orgasm almost every time they have sex, compared to just 65 percent of straight women. This isn’t the case in non-straight sexual encounters by the way (89 percent of gay men and 86 percent of lesbians get off basically every time they have sex), and 94 percent of women typically climax while masturbating. So clearly this isn’t a biology problem.

A lot of the orgasm inequality between straight men and women can be explained by a combination of (1) lack of knowledge of female pleasure, namely how the clitoris works and why it’s vital to female orgasms, and (2) the male-oriented sexual scripts most heterosexual sexual encounters follow, in which P-in-V penetration is considered the main sex act, men’s pleasure and orgasms are considered mandatory parts of sex (the sex ends when the guy gets off), and women’s pleasure and orgasms are considered optional or incidental.

Researchers wanted to know if knowledge of the orgasm gap and the unequal gender scripts contributing to it could improve women’s sexual experiences. So they surveyed women before and after taking a Psychology of Human Sexuality course that specifically discussed the orgasm gap and inclusive, sex-positive sexual practices. To compare, they also surveyed women before and after taking a Human Sexuality and Culture class (which discussed sex from an anthropological point of view but didn’t mention the orgasm gap or the gendered social dynamics of particular sexual encounters) and a Psychology of Personality class (which didn’t discuss sex at all).

Their findings? Of the 271 women they surveyed in total, those who’d taken the class that talked about the orgasm gap saw a clear improvement in their sexual functioning. Not only did they have more and better orgasms, but they felt more entitled to sexual pleasure during sex and communicated more with their partner during sex. They were more able to advocate for their own pleasure in bed, more confident about how their genitals looked, and less distracted by performance anxiety or anxiety about how they looked during sex.

Those are some serious benefits from just a little more knowledge about sex!

Published in the journal Sex Education, these findings demonstrate that educating ourselves about how our bodies work, what gender dynamics might be in play during sexual encounters, and the importance of being confident communicating your needs in bed can make an actual difference in a woman’s ability to orgasm with ease during sex. Past research has similarly found taking classes about sex improves people’s body image, willingness to try new things in bed, health precautions during sex, and even sexual pleasure.

And by the way, sex education isn’t just for kids and college students. There are tons of excellent sex classes for adults available online and in person with professional sex educators, sex therapists, and other experts. Here are a few to consider and places to look for more:

Complete Article HERE!

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How Better Sex Education Supports LGBTQ Kids’ Mental Health

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By Kelly Gonsalves

We know sex education in America needs a lot of work. Not only do most states lack comprehensive, medically accurate, and pleasure-positive sex ed programs, but they also tend to leave out or outright antagonize LGBTQ kids.

And according to recent research, sex ed that excludes sexual and gender minorities can have a severely damaging effect on these young people’s mental health: A new study published in the American Journal of Sexuality Education found a lack of inclusivity in sex ed was associated with more anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies in LGBTQ people both in high school and later in life.

Current LGBTQ sex education policies.

When it comes to American sex ed, the sorry stats speak for themselves: Just 24 states require sex ed be taught in schools at all, 27 states require abstinence be stressed in any sex ed programs provided, and just 13 states require all school sex ed programs to be medically accurate.

But if that picture looks grim, it’s even worse for LGBTQ kids. According to GLSEN, a national organization that promotes inclusive education, seven states still have laws prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” in classrooms. Three states (Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas) require “only negative information” on sexual orientation be provided in sex ed programs. For example, here’s a snippet of Alabama’s law on the matter: “Classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

There are nine states that require inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly sex education, thankfully. (You can find out more about each individual state’s education policy from the Guttmacher Institute.)

Why LGBTQ sex education is important.

Researchers surveyed 263 people between ages 18 and 26, all of whom identified as sexual minorities (meaning they identified sexually as something other than straight). About 21 percent of them were also trans or nonbinary. They were asked about their experiences in their school sex ed classes, their mental health during high school and after presently, their substance use, and their sexual behaviors.

As expected, the results showed most sexual minority students received “highly heteronormative and exclusive sex education.” The greater the level of exclusion in the program was, the greater their rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide risk were as well. “Many of these associations persisted among the sample even after graduating high school,” the researchers noted. “Although poor mental health outcomes generally lessened over time, those reporting greater levels of exclusion endorsed lingering mental health consequences.” And students who were trans or nonbinary in addition to identifying as a sexual minority reported even worse mental health outcomes compared to cisgender sexual minority students.

But the flip side was also true: LGBTQ people who perceived their sex ed program to have been more inclusive tended to have less anxiety, less depression, and fewer suicidal tendencies.

“More inclusive sex education may fulfill a protective role, providing normalization and visibility of sexual minority orientations in the curriculum,” the researchers write. “These results highlight the potential power of sex education policies and laws at the national, state, and local level on sexual minority youth.”

The study found LGBTQ kids were not more likely to practice safer sex just because a program was inclusive, suggesting comprehensive, medically accurate sex ed is still paramount to protecting young people of all stripes in addition to increasing inclusivity. But in general, research shows inclusive classrooms benefit sexual and gender minority students in many tangible ways, including making them feel safer, encounter less bullying in middle and high schools, be less likely to engage in risky sexual or substance-related behaviors, and have better academic outcomes.

Inclusive sex ed as a mental health issue.

Why would sex ed have such a powerful effect on mental health, in particular?

“The immediacy of sex education during the process of sexual identity formation may help to explain these associations,” the researchers explain. Indeed, the major milestones of sexual identity formation tend to happen during middle and high school, around the same time kids are learning about sex in general and experiencing school sexual education programs. Gay kids, for example, tend to have their first experience with being attracted to someone of the same gender around age 11; by age 18, they’ve usually told at least one non-family member about their sexual orientation.

A large body of research shows denying or invalidating a person’s sexual and gender identity can harm their physical and mental health. These effects might be especially devastating during these vulnerable and formative adolescent years: “Minority stress and internalized homophobia appear to be powerful negative influences on sexual minority youth, and exclusion in education and particularly sex education may contribute to these forces,” the researchers write. “As students develop a sense of social and sexual identity, they receive messaging from their education about the acceptability and normality of their experiences. The connection between perceived inclusivity of sex education and mental health outcomes is unsurprising given these dynamic and powerful influences.”

The effects of an inclusive program were associated with better mental health even after graduation and into their adult years. Considering LGBTQ youth are much more likely to struggle with mental health than their cis and straight peers, often due to the discrimination they experience, the fact that a school sex ed program can have such a lasting impact on their mental health matters a lot.

Clearly, providing quality sex education for kids is a matter of health and wellness, which is why it’s vital that we push our schools to institutionalize better sex ed programs. If you’re a parent, call up your kid’s school and ask about how they do sex ed. Go to school board meetings, rally other parents, and make your voice heard. Parental buy-in can dramatically influence what kinds of sex ed curricula school administrators feel comfortable using.

Sex education classrooms have the potential to become sites of empowerment, both for LGBTQ kids and for everyone, as long as we’re willing to invest in them.

Complete Article HERE!

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Taking back control…

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You don’t owe anyone sex or a relationship

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Movie after movie, scene after scene, we see men and boys refuse to give up on the girl. Had a big fight? Give her a big speech about how she’s the only one! She told you to leave her alone? Go to her house with a bunch of flowers! She broke up with you? Never take no for an answer!

Once you put some music behind it and get Richard Curtis in to direct, of course it all seems unassuming – romantic, even. But real human emotions are much more complex, and coupled with a fundamental misunderstanding of what people want out of relationships, it can all lead to some seriously unwanted advances, or worse.

The fact remains that a man’s behaviour towards women doesn’t have to be violent to be aggressive. If you’ve ever met a boy who thinks he’s the star in a rom-com, you’ll understand the fear and dread that comes with having to confront him when he shows up at your door with a heartfelt poem yet again, after you’ve said ‘no’ more times than you can count on your fingers.

“God, I’m just being nice,” he’ll say – the words that boil my blood. I’ll say it loud for the people in the back: if you do something nice for someone, they don’t owe you anything, and they certainly don’t owe you sex or a relationship.

But well-meaning young men who just won’t get the message aren’t the whole story.

There are real women – and let’s be frank, there are also men as well – out there who face real, physical violence for rejecting unwanted advances. Actress Jameela Jamil has opened up about her personal, harrowing experiences with this, but those of us who don’t have an adoring fanbase and a huge online platform go through it too.

Furthermore, in a society where women still get asked to hide our skin at school and work, for those of us who aren’t in the public eye it’s easy to just shrink away and accept that there’s nothing we can do but cover ourselves up and hope for the best.

But there’s so much we can do! We don’t just have to wait for the world to change around us. You can shout that boys and men need to learn “not to rape” but let’s be honest – most of them bloody well know that already, and the ones who don’t are the ones who never will. So protect each other, stand up for your fellow woman, believe that you deserve better than someone who doesn’t respect you. And most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t have been wearing.

So, to the woman who puts up with leery co-workers; to the teenage girl who doesn’t know she’s allowed to tell her boyfriend “no!”; to any and all of us who’ve had a #MeToo moment – know that you are in control of your destiny.

Regardless of what gender and sexuality you identify as, it is never too much to ask to not face violence for not being interested in someone romantically.

Learn to say no, and learn to protect yourself. Because with a US President who brags about “grabbing women by the pussy,” it doesn’t look like the world is going to change in the forseeable future. It’s time to take control.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Impact of Early Sexual Initiation on Boys

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A survey finds that most boys who had sex before age 13 had not yet had comprehensive sex education in school.

By Perri Klass, M.D.

Every couple of years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks middle and high school students to fill out surveys in class for the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. If students are sexually active, it asks for the age of first sexual intercourse, which is an important milestone.

From a public health point of view, sexual intercourse initiates young people into certain kinds of risk, notably pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. In those terms, what is called early sexual initiation — that is, intercourse before the age of 13 — is well-known as a marker for other kinds of risk, in both girls and boys, including binge drinking and having multiple sexual partners.

These are associations, not cause-and-effect explanations. There are many factors that go into individual trajectories, including the individual child’s physical and emotional development; the home environment and parental supervision practices and the local culture and standards in the child’s community, school and circle of friends.

But kids who start having sex early are kids we should be worrying about, kids at risk.

In April, the journal JAMA Pediatrics published a study of early sexual initiation among males in the United States. The researchers combined data from three different survey years of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, giving them information from 19,916 male students.

The article also reports data from another very large and reputable survey, the National Survey of Family Growth, which gave them information on 7,739 males who had been 15 to 24 years old when they were interviewed.

Of the high school boys in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 8 percent reported sexual initiation before they were 13, and so did 4 percent of the 15- to 24-year-olds in the National Survey of Family Growth. That survey specifically asks about the age of first heterosexual intercourse, while the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System doesn’t specify the gender of the partner.

The researchers found striking geographical variations in the percent of young men reporting early sexual initiation, with some cities, such as Memphis, Milwaukee and Chicago, reporting much higher percentages. Of the males from Memphis, 25 percent reported early initiation, while in San Francisco, only 5 percent did.

They also found higher rates among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic males, and lower rates among those whose mothers had college degrees.

Any survey about sexual behavior raises the question of whether the respondents are answering accurately; Dr. Lee M. Sanders, the chief of the division of general pediatrics at Stanford, suggested that in some communities and neighborhoods, reporting early initiation may be a social expectation, while in others it may be loaded with stigma.

The majority of boys in the United States don’t get comprehensive sex education before they are sexually active, said Dr. Arik V. Marcell, an associate professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, who was one of the authors of the study. If that is true for boys who start sexual activity in high school, he said, the gap is even more significant for those who become sexually active at these young ages.

“I don’t want to perpetuate the double standard that it’s O.K. for boys to start having sex,” Dr. Marcell said. “How can we think about addressing potential vulnerabilities, especially if those experiences were not wanted?”

In fact, of those who were 18 to 24 at the time of the survey who reported having initiated sexual activity before the age of 13, 8.5 percent characterized it as unwanted, choosing the response: “I really didn’t want it to happen at the time,” and 54.6 percent as wanted, responding, “I really wanted it to happen at the time,” while 37 percent “had mixed feelings” about it. Interestingly, those percentages were similar for those who began having intercourse when they were 13 or older.

The study was accompanied by a commentary which pointed out that only 13.9 percent of the adolescents in the latest National Survey of Family Growth cohort reported having had any education about saying no to sex by sixth grade, and called for “medically accurate, developmentally appropriate sex education starting in elementary school,” as is also recommended by the Future of Sex Education Initiative.

Dr. David L. Bell, an associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and the first author on the commentary, said, “Parents and pediatricians need to help our young men navigate their sexual lives by communicating with them, having open dialogues with them about many different aspects of having sexual relationships.” That includes conversations about consent.

In talking about sexual activity with his patients, Dr. Sanders said, “I’ve gotten really careful about using exactly the same language with boys and girls.” He starts with the question, are you dating. And then, whether they say yes or no, “I will ask if they’ve had sex, and whether they were pressured to have sex, and if they’ve had sex I will ask, was it consensual.”

Boys as young as 12 may not have the opportunity to have confidential conversations without their parents in the room, or be asked routinely by their pediatricians about any of this. Dr. Bell’s editorial called on clinicians to start these conversations earlier, not just in asking about activity, but in opening up conversations about “relationships and sexual decision making.”

In his own clinic for young men, many of the youngest come in with their parents, and he starts by asking them what they’ve heard about puberty, and who it is they go to when they have questions, he said, “letting them know that as their pediatrician, I’m also available to have conversations about how to think about their future in that space.”

The average age of first intercourse also gives public health experts (and educators and politicians and pundits) a way to track changes in social norms, and perhaps to look at the effects of sex education and guidance, which tends to recommend waiting and making good decisions, and the countereffects of media and a highly sexualized environment.

And overall, the public health news has been good: for both males and females, that age has actually been moving older in the United States, and is now at about 17, just as teenage pregnancy rates have declined steeply in recent decades.

It’s very hard not to slip into double standards where adolescents and sex are concerned. It’s easy to look at girls as victims and boys as perpetrators.

“We don’t really have a lot of information about what’s the context of these early sexual experiences for young people in general at ages 12 or younger,” Dr. Marcell said. “The next steps involve understanding a bit more about that.” Because some of this is reported by adults reflecting back, he said, research closer in time to the event might help in understanding young people’s feelings and the longer term consequences of early sexual experience.

“Our culture is always afraid that by talking about something, it encourages something,” Dr. Bell said. “It’s not true about sex. It doesn’t encourage them to have sex, it encourages them to be thoughtful.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Educate yourself in the sexiest way

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By Gabrielle Kassel

Finding answers to questions relating to sex and sexuality is easier than ever before. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s likely a sexpert or a podcast or another source to point you in the right direction. There’s even a whole Netflix show, Sex Education, devoted to the filling in the gaps of our knowledge. Still, there’s a (tech-free) resource you’re probably not utilizing to the max that can seriously boost your sex IQ: books.

Below, Well+Good’s go-to sex experts and educators share their favorite sex-education books—including buzzy newer releases and tried and true faves alike—that’ll rock your mind.

Add the following 12 sexpert-approved reads to your TBR pile and boost your sex IQ in the process.

1. The Ethical Slut, Third Edition: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love, by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton

“This was one of the most transformative books for me. I grew up in a community where having many sexual partners, engaging in kinky activities, or having relationships outside of strict monogamy was seen as abnormal, even immoral. The Ethical Slut changed my entire concept about what sex and relationships can be. It validated my sexual desires, encouraged exploration, and valued sex with consent and respect. Its explanation and understanding of jealousy also reframed my perception of the feeling. I would highly recommend this read for anyone who feels outside the sexual norm (whatever that is), who is looking to explore (whether they’re single or partnered), and/or who wants to transform how they think about relationships and sex.”

—Amy Boyajian, co-founder and CEO of Wild Flower, a sexual-wellness and adult-product online store

2. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

“This book played a significant role in my journey of sexual self-discovery. The authors target and explain where many staunchly held oppressive beliefs about sexuality originate. They unravel the ways even scientists are affected by personal bias, social norms, and heteronormativity. The truth of the matter is that we all have to figure out what we think about sex, gender, and love for ourselves…through experience!”

MacKenzie Peck, founder of Math Magazine, a modern pornographic magazine celebrating sex and sexuality

3. Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It, by Laurie Mintz, PhD

“This is is a must-, must-, must- read for all vulva owners, and their sexual partners. Mainstream media has taught us that sex = penis + vagina, and that everything else is “foreplay,” or appetizers to the main course that is penetrative sex. The author explains how we’ve been thinking about sex all wrong, all this time, and how as a result, we’ve created a very real pleasure gap between women and men. The key to closing this pleasure gap? The clitoris.”

—Michelle Shnaidman, founder and CEO of Bellesa, a sex-toy company run by women

4. On Chesil Beach: A Novel, by Ian McEwan

“This isn’t a traditional sex-ed book, but On Chesil Beach is a beautiful depiction of how sexual shame can negatively impact your relationships. The young newlyweds think sex is supposed to be easy and come naturally, but it doesn’t. Even though the story takes place prior to the sexual revolution, I believe many couples still suffer from the inability to talk openly to each other about sex.”

Brianna Rader, founder and CEO of Juicebox, a sex and relationship coaching app

5. The Pursuit of Pleasure, by Lionel Tiger

“This book is my all-time favorite, as it’s really about discovering why pleasure is important and what all the fuss is about. Tiger details our evolutionary entitlement and what we want our pleasure legacy to look like. Sex aside, this book will make you think twice before placing pain as your pathway to gratitude when pleasure is an option (and a far more rewarding one, at that). It’s witty and poignant in explaining that pleasure is impressively normal.”

—Dominique Karetsos, resident sexpert with MysteryVibe

6. Tabú, Kinkly, and O.school

“I wish there were more books that talk about sex education. But since anal sex has always been so taboo, I’ve found that for anal sex and butt-play information, blogs are best. Some of my favorite sex-forward blogs are Tabú (which is super visual) Kinkly (because it’s not afraid to go there and it takes a, well, kinkier approach), and O.school (which uses a more traditional approach, but has a lot of video content).”

Evan Goldstein, MD, CEO and founder of Bespoke Surgical, a health-care provider that specializes in helping patients engage in anal sex acts

7. Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski, PhD

“For those who are more into empirical evidence than abstract theories, Come As You Are offers an excellent exploration of sexuality. This book is a great companion for women who benefit from reassurance that they are perfectly complex and perfectly normal. Dr. Emily Nagoski uses scientific research to prove to women everywhere that they are not defective; there are just some central factors involved for women in creating and maintaining a fulfilling sex life.”

Marissa LaRocca, author of Everyone Is a Freak: Intimate Confessions About Sexuality, Gender, and Desire

8. The Guide to Getting it On, by Paul Joannides and Daerick Gross

“My go-to sex book to recommend is The Guide to Getting it On. It’s on its 9th edition, because our understanding and research on human sexuality is ever-growing and evolving. I bought the 3rd edition when I was 17, and the 7th edition when I was 27. It’s thorough (1200 pages, and literally looks like a phone book) and is just so honest, so insightful, and cleverly written in modern language and helpful illustrations.”

Jill McDevitt, PhD, sexologist and author of Fighting the Crusade Against Sex: Being Sex-Positive in a Sex-Negative World

9. The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment, by Jack Morin

“In this book, the author unfurls the rationality underlying seemingly illogical desires within most human beings. He presents his readers with what he called the Erotic Equation: attraction + obstacles = excitement. Basically, that means that what we may hold as taboo, naughty or frightening is what becomes the engine driving our erotic curiosity and passion. This is a book for folks curious to understand or embarrassed by what they or their partner(s) find erotically compelling.”

—Sari Cooper, sex therapist and founder of Center for Love and Sex

10.Our Bodies Ourselves, by the Boston Women’s Health Collective

“A think a good one for anyone is Our Bodies Ourselves for anatomy lessons and open conversation about sex. It’s a literal bible.”

Remy Kassimir, host of the How Cum podcast

11. Mating in Captivity Reconciling the Erotic + the Domestic, by Esther Perel

“This book challenges the concept of maintaining the sense of security in a love relationship and delves into the psychological implications behind sexual desire, eroticism, fantasies, and certainty and uncertainty. Where certain subjects or ideas might be too taboo, insulting, or uncomfortable for partners or individuals to bring up, Esther pitches the importance of erotic intelligence, the space that creates, and bringing that space to life within even a monogamous relationship. Whether single or in a long-term partnership, anyone who experiences points of insecurity in sex and love, dirty secretive fantasies, or simply desires to grasp a different perspective on the “taboo” boundaries established by society in general should read this book.”

—Grace Ho, leading pleasure expert with Sweet Vibrations, an online adult boutique

12. Jewel in the Lotus: The Sexual Path to Higher Consciousness, by Bodhi Avinasha and Sunyata Saraswati

Recently I’ve been immersed in the book, Jewel in the Lotus: The Sexual Path to Higher Consciousness, which is one of the best books I’ve read about tantric sex. It has excellent breath work instructions and meditations that help relax and free the mind.”

Alexandra Fine, CEO and co-founder sex-toy company Dame

For more sex wisdom, check out what Esther Perel has to say about why sex gets better as you age, and how to bounce back when your sex life becomes “blah”. Oh, and BTW, scheduling sex is actually great for your relationship.

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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Exploring the different sexual orientations

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Gender symbols, sexual orientation: heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality.

By Logan Metzger,

Sexuality and sexual orientation is one topic not often brought up in the average American household.

It’s a taboo, hush-hush subject left somewhere on the fringe of socially acceptable.

“I think in general, America has a really weird relationship with sex,” said nicci port, project director and LGBTQ+ initiative for the office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Things such as television ads are sexualized but as a society people are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, port said.

Twenty-two states require sex education in their schools, and only 12 states require discussion of sexual orientation within those sex education classes.

Three of those states require teachers to impart only negative information on sexual orientation to students.

“I think at the basis we think we have to be a puritanical society and care about purity by viewing sex as procreation instead of realizing we are sexual beings,” port said.

According to reachout.com, sexuality is about who a person is attracted to sexually and romantically, but “is more complicated than just being gay or straight.”

The Kinsey Scale, developed in 1948 by sexologists Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin, organizes sexuality into a gradient scale which demonstrates that sexuality is a spectrum and not everyone fits into one specific definition.

The Kinsey team interviewed thousands of people about their sexual histories.

Their research showed that sexual behavior, thoughts and feelings toward the same or opposite sex were not always consistent across time.

Instead of assigning people to three categories of heterosexual, bisex0ual and homosexual the team used a seven-point scale. It ranges from zero to six with an additional category of “X.”

A person’s sexuality can manifest in many ways and forms that only the identifier truly understands, but there are quite a few umbrella terms that encompass the currently defined sexual orientations.

The most common and widely recognizable sexual orientation within the United States is heterosexuality, with an estimated over 90 percent of the population not identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to Gallup.

Heterosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attractions to persons of a different sex than themselves. More commonly referred to as “straight” in everyday language,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

On the opposite end of the Kinsey scale is homosexuality, with an estimated 4.5 percent of the United States population identifying as lesbian, bisexual or gay.

Homosexuality is when “a person has emotional, physical, spiritual and/or sexual attraction to persons of the same sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

The term is often considered outdated and potentially derogatory when referring to LGBQ+ people or communities.

Within the homosexual umbrella lies at least two sexual orientations, these being gay and lesbian. Gay is used to refer to men who have an attraction to other men, but not all men who engage in sexual behavior with other men identify as gay.

Lesbian is used to refer to women who have an attraction to other women, but not all women who engage in sexual behavior with other women identify as lesbian.

Under the homosexual umbrella “about 4 to 6 percent of males have ever had same-sex contact.”

For females, the percentage who have ever had same-sex contact ranges from about 4 percent to 12 percent,” according to the Kinsey Institute.

In between homosexuality and heterosexuality on the Kinsey Scale are at least two sexual orientations. The most heard of and talked about of the two is bisexuality.

Bisexuality is when “a person is emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to both men and women,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

The other orientation is pansexuality.

Pansexuality is “a term used to describe a person who can be emotionally, physically, spiritually and/or sexually attracted to people of various genders, gender expressions and sexes, including those outside the gender binary,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

Though both pansexuality and bisexuality are similar in that identifiers have attractions to those of multiple sexes, they are inherently different — but are often confused and assumed to be the same sexual orientation.

The “X” on the Kinsey Scale refers to either those who have not yet had sexual contact with another person or those who identify as asexual.

“In its broadest sense, asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction and the lack of interest in and desire for sex,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website. “However, some asexual people might experience emotional attraction or other non-sexual attractions.”

Asexuality is one of the less-heard of sexual orientations and the smallest group within the LGBTQIA+ community, with the CDC finding in 2014 about one percent of the population identified as asexual.

Homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality and asexuality all fall under the umbrella term of queer, which essentially is anyone who identifies as not heterosexual in the broadest sense.

Queer is “an umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual desires, identities and expressions of the not-exclusively-heterosexual and/or monogamous variety,” according to the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success website.

Complete Article HERE!

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What’s A Dom?

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This BDSM Term Is All About Perception

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Like being born with brown eyes or being right-handed, some traits are naturally dominant. When it comes to the sexy stuff, a dominant trait can mean more than what you learned in ninth grade biology. Whether you’re just starting to learn about BDSM or if the idea of being the boss in the bedroom seems pretty exciting, knowing what’s a Dom can be super important in uncovering all the sexy stuff you may be into. “A dominant is a person who likes to have the perceived power in a situation,” Amy Boyajian (they/them), co-founder and CEO of Wild Flower tells Elite Daily. “Usually, they’re the one controlling the experience, directing a partner and delivering sensations and stimulation. Some people might like engaging in these dynamics during BDSM play or sex only, while others like to incorporate them into their relationship and overall lifestyle.”

As BDSM takes on so many forms, it can be challenging to fully unpack what it really means to be a Dom. “Most dominants in media are portrayed as cruel and unreasonable, or troubled and insecure, Boyajian says.I don’t think there has been a healthy representation of what a loving, caring dominate can be! If you’re out to cause real harm to people, exploring dominance is not for you. Power play is about exploring safety within boundaries, in a mutually beneficial dynamic. It is never about simply doing whatever you please with someone.” Since so many misconceptions about Doms exist in the media, learning the real tea, can be super helpful in learning about BDSM, in all its forms.

According to Boyajian, there are a myriad of ways to navigate a Dom experience. However, whatever role or dynamic is unfolding, the most important aspect to keep in mind is consent. “People exploring Dom/sub dynamics and BDSM play have some of the most involved conversations about consent and include many safety measures to ensure everyone is happy and taken care of,” Boyajian says. “There is a huge misconception that dominant and submissive dynamics do not include consent — one person simply gives all power to the other. This couldn’t be further from the truth.” Prioritizing consent and healthy boundaries is super important in fully understanding Dom play and activities.

Although it can sometimes seem as if a Dom wants complete control over their partner(s), oftentimes, Dom sex or play is about perceived control in a roleplaying or dynamic. “People who explore dominance are rarely wanting to actually control another person completely. Rather, play that incorporates power dynamics is about roleplaying scenarios and subverting societal norms, like traditional gender roles,” Boyajian says. “Someone who enjoys being dominate is exploring their fantasies of control and what it would be like to have authority over someone.” From subverting gender norms to exploring control fantasies, being a Dom or incorporating dominance into your sex or romantic life can be a super empowering way to recreate societal power dynamics.

Apart from consent and control, there are several crucial behind-the-scenes conversation to have playing with dominance. “Both dominant and submissive roles require a solid amount of non-judgmental communication before, during, and after exploring,” Boyajian says. “Much like any sexual encounter, it’s vital that both dominant and submissive partners share any boundaries, limits, or hard no’s they may have.” These conversations can also be a great time to establish a safe word or action, a phrase or physical motion that signals stop, if a scene is making someone uncomfortable, or if for whatever reason a parter wants to take a break or fully stop. “Since consent is an ongoing thing, it crucial that everyone is able to indicate their consent or refusal at all times,” Boyajian says. If you and your partner(s) may have previously discussed trying something new, or may have all been on the same page at the beginning, it’s still important to check in consistently throughout the sex or scene, to make sure everyone is continually feeling comfortable and good.

If you’re thinking of experimenting with Dom/Sub activities, there may be some personal ideas to reflect on. “It’s important to assess, to the best of your abilities, if something maybe upsetting or triggering to you and be understanding in a situation where you and your partner may not feel comfortable,” Boyajian says. “Different people have different affinities for power play during sex and some may not find it as rewarding as others.” Experimenting in the bedroom and trying new things can be a super fun and totally hot way to learn about your own desires. Still, it’s important to keep yourself safe and protected in all you do, and getting clear on your boundaries is very important before jumping into Dom-play. “While your skills on expressing yourself will expand with experience, it’s important to enter into power play dynamics with a firm understanding of consent and set of communication abilities,” Boyajian says.

When it comes to exploring Dom/Sub dynamics, there may be restorative post-thing practices to factor in as well. “Aftercare is also a factor to consider. Since you may be exploring practices that are physically and/or emotionally draining, plan some activities that will provide some relief to these feelings,” Boyajian says. “That could be physical care like rubbing lotion into bruises or sore sports or emotional comfort like cuddling or talking through the experience afterward.” Aftercare can be necessary in winding down and processing after an intense BDSM scene to provide comfort and support to all parties involved.

There are many ways to dip your toes into BDSM if you or your partner(s) are dying to try to sexy Dom-play. “Start small with some commanding dirty talk or directing your partner to get yourself comfortable with being in an authoritative role,” Boyajian says. “A little spanking session can be great foreplay and things like gentle biting and hair pulling can be an exciting new inclusion.” From commanding dirty talk to a light spanking, there are plenty of ways to experiment with dominance that you can really make your own. If you want to try being a Dom, but don’t know where to start, Boyajian suggests some sexy pretend play. “Roleplaying is essentially the gateway into exploring power dynamics. Playing the role of a sexy dominant is the pathway to becoming an IRL sexy Dom!”

Although BDSM can look different for everyone, healthy Dom/Sub dynamics are always built on consent and communication. From enjoying the perceived control to wanting to subvert gender roles, Doms can take on many forms. And while Doms may be the ones calling the shots, Dom/sub sex ins’t all about them. So, if you’re thinking about experimenting with Dom play, remember it’s not about being bossy, it’s about being the boss.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ways Seniors Can Get Back To Having Great Sex Lives

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Sex is good for your health, and some research suggests it might be particularly beneficial to older people: It keeps your body physically active, keeps the mind sharp, encourages intimate connections with others, and instills a sense of joy and excitement into your life.

Despite the cornucopia of benefits, we don’t talk a lot about seniors having sex. Part of it simply has to do with cultural narratives about sexuality: The dominant image we all carry of what sex “looks like” (as told to us on screens big and small) always involves people who are young, thin, able-bodied, physically fit, and conventionally attractive. The lack of representation or conversation about other types of people having sex contributes to an unspoken assumption that those folks just aren’t doing the deed.

But the truth is, racking up years doesn’t mean your sexual needs automatically vanish into thin air. Sure, your sexual preferences and appetite might shift as you get older, but there’s no reason to believe all people over the age of 60 just suddenly prefer celibacy.

Are 60-year-old, 70-year-old, and older people sexually active?

Yes! They certainly can be, and many are. The 2017 National Poll on Healthy Aging found 40 percent of men and women between ages 65 and 80 are sexually active. Among people in relationships, that rate bumps up to 54 percent. Some studies suggest there might be differences between men’s and women’s sexual interest: One U.K. study found 60 percent of men between ages 70 and 80 are having sex, compared to 34 percent of women in that age group. That said, women over 70 years old report that their sex lives are way more pleasurable now than when they were in their 40s.

Of course, some people as they get older do just become less interested in explorations of the flesh. For many, that has to do with health: Your hormones, sexual responses, and general physical condition may shift with age, making some sexual activities a lot more difficult or just exhausting than they used to be. For others, losing a spouse to death or divorce later in life can also make sex seem less enticing or accessible.

Other than consent and physical safety, there are very few “shoulds” when it comes to sex. If you want to be having sex after 60, 70, 80, or 90 years old, you have every right to pursue an enjoyable and fulfilling intimate life.

The importance of talking about your sexual needs.

A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE found nearly 60 percent of older people are unhappy with their sex lives. One big reason why? They weren’t talking about it. But those who had asked for support from others, from their doctor to their spouse, were much more likely to be sexually active and sexually satisfied.

Here’s the thing: Most things in life get easier the more we talk about them. When it comes to sex—something that carries so much stigma on its own, let alone the added invisibility of seniors having sex—talking becomes especially important. Moreover, if physical ailments, a sense of isolation, or something about your environment is keeping you from having the sex life you want, it’s important to seek help from others. There’s absolutely nothing shameful about advocating for your sexual well-being: It’s a vital part of your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

If you’re of a certain age and looking to reconnect with your sexuality or simply give a little more attention to your sex life, here are a few ways for you to get started:

1. Ask your doctor.

Especially if you’ve got a lot of other health problems to deal with, your sex life might feel like a pretty low priority and perhaps nor worth bringing up at your next doctor’s appointment. But the truth is, your doctor knows your health condition well and can offer up specific suggestions for how to help improve your ability to have sex, whether that’s prescribing medications or adjusting your health plan in a way that keeps your sexual functions thriving.

2. Find a sex therapist or other professional who works with people in your age group.

If talking to your main health care provider doesn’t feel right to you or doesn’t bear a lot of fruit, try a sex therapist or another professional who can help you feel comfortable and safe exploring your sexual needs. You might be surprised what kinds of services exist out there—sex coaches, sex educators, tantra teachers, sexual healers, some doulas, and many other professionals can all guide you and give you support exploring this part of your life.

3. Open up to your friends and romantic partners about sex.

Communication about sex, both with your partner and with others, can lead to a more satisfying sex life. If you have a romantic partner right now—even if it’s someone you’ve been with for decades—consider speaking with them about how they feel about your sex life right now and whether they’d be interested in reprioritizing it. Tell them what you’ve been thinking about, what the health benefits are, and ways that you’d like to start dabbling in this area again.

Additionally, talking about sex with your friends has been shown to improve sexual confidence and sexual self-efficacy. As you develop comfort talking about this intimate part of your life, you’ll also find it easier to talk about your needs and ask for what you want.

4. Find a community or retreat to help you explore.

If you don’t have close friends who you want to share this stuff with, seek open-minded communities of people in your age group with whom you can engage in more dialogue about sex. Intimacy retreats and workshops can be a great way to learn, reconnect as a couple, and find others who are on a similar journey. (Bonus: If you or your partner feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or shy about the idea of exploring sexually, these types of events can be very welcoming, approachable spaces to help you open your mind, get more comfortable, and shed some of your apprehensions.) If you’re not sure which events are right for you, you can always reach out to the organizer to get a sense of the target age groups.

The internet is also a vast and wonderful resource for finding such communities in your neighborhood: Google around, look through Meetup.com, or post in social media spaces you feel comfortable with. You can also try asking people in real life who are your age to see what resources they know about. While putting this article together, I spoke with several people who run private groups in their own neighborhoods for discussing senior sexuality.

5. Do some reading!

There are many excellent resources that can provide you with endless ideas, inspiration, and resources about exploring your sexuality at any age. Try these for starters:

6. Expand your definition of what sex means.

This one’s important! As we get older, some types of sex that might’ve been exciting in the past are just less feasible—but that doesn’t mean all sex now needs to be off the table. For example, if sex in the past meant a lot of thrusting and acrobatics, consider exploring other types of sexual expression and activities: Focus totally on using your hands, arms, and mouths, for example, to give and receive pleasure. Plenty of sexual acts will still yield those blissful neurochemical rewards. Cuddling is associated with significantly more sexual pleasure and more sexual satisfaction, for example, and even the brain can be a sex organ. Reading, watching, and creating erotica can be excellent ways to stimulate sexual energy.

There are so many ways to share passion, intimacy, and pleasure, both alone and with a partner, that have little to do with making the headboard shake. Find something that fits with your lifestyle, abilities, and interests.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Books About Expanding Your Sexual Horizons

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Spice up your fantasy life without having to interact with another person with these stories of sex and exploration

By Frances Yackel

The theme of education—spiritual journeys, individual enlightenment—pervades much of the literary canon across cultures. Reading the narrative of a protagonist’s heuristic odyssey can open the eyes of the reader as it relates to their own life. Bildungsroman novels allow us to look at our own morals and dispositions, and consider the places in which we can grow. As the hero grows and learns, we grow and learn with them. This is true of novels about sexual exploration. A history of censorship has turned sex into a subject matter only disclosed behind closed doors (or during a 45 minute class in middle school), making it difficult to be comfortable with our bodies and the pleasures for which it lusts. But this prohibition only makes the conversation more relevant.

Written with sincerity and vulnerability, these seven books share the stories, both fictional and non-fictional, of sexual exploration. The characters give us insight into our own journeys; as they learn about their own sexual appetite and biological urges, we make discoveries of our own.

Open Me by Lisa Locascio

In Open Me, high school graduate Roxana, consumed with wanderlust and an awakening sexuality, goes on a study abroad trip to Denmark. Her adventure begins when she meets a beguiling Danish PhD student who woos her and whisks her away to stay with him in a remote town, where he tells her that he has only one key and she cannot leave the apartment while he is out working. Finding herself locked away in a stranger’s apartment in a foreign town, Roxana defies the “princess locked in a tower” trope. Rather than wasting away her time, dreaming of her prince or brushing her long golden locks, she takes the opportunity to explore the intricacies of her body, reflecting on her previous and current sexual experiences, to learn about her desires. Locascio writes about sex (and masturbation) with a vivid realism that no male writer could ever achieve.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

For this hydro-erotic story, Melissa Broder pulls from her own insecurities and idiosyncrasies relating to sex. According to The New Yorker, Broder “could only orgasm when she imagined people vomiting” during her developing years. With the same vulnerability she uses to tell the public about her own sexual pleasures, she develops a protagonist willing to succumb to a lust for marine carnality. An addict to the feeling of being desired and adored, Lucy recognizes the same need in her partner, whose quasi-merman body has made him believe he will never receive love.

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn

Sexual exploration and education goes far beyond adolescence and even young adulthood, it can exist even within the boundaries of a permanent relationship, even within the time honored tradition of marriage. With the changing of bodies and situations, with lives in constant flux, growth can be incessant. When the married couple in Sarah Dunn’s novel recognize this, they make a sincere effort to progress rather than stay in place. The Arrangement tells the story of an open marriage between Owen and Lucy, in their attempt to reclaim their marriage while simultaneously sanctioning one another’s implicit sexual desires. The Arrangement plays with the periphery of what has been long considered, in many parts of the world, the conventional way to live a life alongside one monogamous partner.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Using lyrical prose that bewitches from the first page and poignant references from philosophers, pediatricians, and writers, Nelson writes about her life with a nonbinary partner. Nelson’s style, which vacillates between poetry, theory, and memoir, offers the reader a sincere look into what it means for her to love, and lust after, someone who does not fall within the confines of the binary social construction of gender.

 

 

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Educating yourself on sex and lust is one thing, educating your children is entirely another thing. In Emma Straub’s novel, set in modern day Brooklyn, two families simultaneously explore what it means to be in a relationship, whether it’s a lifelong connection or a newly flourishing one. While Jane, Zoe, Elizabeth and Andrew struggle with their own relationships after the death of a mutual college friend and bandmate, their respective children begin a fling. The juxtaposition of experienced and inexperienced, old and new, offers an interesting perspective on the development of sex and love—of growth from the one into the other.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

One of the first English novels about someone changing gender begins with, “He—for there could be no doubt of his sex…” Long before the public acknowledgement of gender fluidity, Woolf weaves the tale of a woman born in a man’s body—or a man who becomes a woman. Orlando lives hundreds of years, is exposed to centuries of chauvinism, and encounters the mistreatment of the female’s body from the perspective of a person who has lived on the other side of the coin. Orlando illuminates the brutal history of gender politics while recounting the experience of a person who lusts after both men and women.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Lusting after a person can inspire a passion for creation. Edna, a married woman, learns this when her appetite for sex is aroused by a neighbor at the boarding houses on Grand Isle where she is staying for the summer. When autumn sets in and Robert—her muse—is gone, Edna continues her fervency. Now, the object of her fervor is no longer a man, but art. Her romance with Robert catalyzes a desire to create beauty. Edna rides on the high of that inspiration, forgoing the social norms of women of the time to zealously chase after the feeling of bringing something beautiful into existence. A feeling not unlike creating a bond between another person where before there was only unfamiliarity.

She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir

Sexual exploration can be as painful as it can be pleasurable. Simone de Beauvoir, a cited expert on the condition of human suffering and the subjugation of women, wrote this novel loosely based on her relationship with Jean Paul Sartre. She Came to Stay follows the story of Françoise and Pierre as they invite a third person into their lives. Through these three characters, de Beauvoir examines the inherent paradox of love and desire; how can we feel the freedom of individuality that love promises us when we depend on the other to give it to us? As per the deep-rooted existentialism that pervades all of her texts, She Came to Stay is an investigation into meaning through the magnificence and monstrousness of sex and love.

Complete Article HERE!

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Talking about safe sex is the best foreplay

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College students need to prioritize safe sex and educate themselves on STIs

By Payton Saso

Most people learned about the basics of sex education growing up — or at least heard the slogan “wrap it before you tap it.” Yet it seems college students have forgotten this slogan and are not practicing safe sex.

Women, when having male partners, are often expected to be on a method of birth control, and while many women rely on birth control — some 60% — that is not the only concern for both partners when having sex.

For some sexual partners, the idea of safe sex may be directly correlated with being on the pill, and many forget pregnancy isn’t the only risk of unsafe sex. But sexually transmitted infections are a risk for all parties engaging in sexual activities, and college-aged people are at higher risk of contracting these types of diseases.

Since this age group is at the most risk, it is important for them to practice all forms of safe sex, which means consistently using condoms and other forms of contraceptives.

Many people choose not use condoms in long-term relationships because they know their partner’s sexual history and have been previously tested. But in college, sexual experiences are more than often outside of relationships and sexual history is not discussed. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about STIs found that, “Young women (ages 15-24) account for nearly half (45 percent) of reported cases and face the most severe consequences of an undiagnosed infection.”

A study from researchers Elizabeth M. Farrington, David C. Bell and Aron E. DiBacco looked into the reasons why people reject condoms and stated that, “Many reported objections to condom use seem to be related to anticipated reductions in pleasure and enjoyment, often through ‘ruining the moment’ or ‘inhibiting spur of the moment sex.’”

Taking a few seconds to put on a condom is not something that will ruin the experience, especially if it means protecting yourself from STIs, considering some infections are life-threatening.

Protection does not always mean using a condom, and even condoms must be used properly to prevent risk of tear. Planned Parenthood stated, “It’s also harder to use condoms correctly and remember other safer sex basics when you’re drunk or high.”

In same sex relationships, protection is just as important. Research found that, “Among women, a gay identity was associated with decreased risk while among men, a gay identity among behaviorally bisexual males was associated with increased STI risk.”

Condoms might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about protection, but there are many other options for birth control that can help prevent contracting a STI, and it’s important to talk with your partner about which method or methods with which you’re both comfortable.

Dr. Candace Black, a lecturer at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, just finished conducting research on the practices of safe sex and said that often the lack of condom usage comes from a lack of sexual education.

“I don’t have data on this so it is anecdotal, young women are really targeted for sex education when it does occur and so it attributes to ideas like (they are more exposed to ideas like) STIs, condom use and birth control. I think collectively we spend a lot of time teaching young girls about sex education and prevention, which I think is wonderful,” Black said. “I have not observed a parallel effort for young men. And so in my observation, again this is just kind of anecdotal, the young men don’t have the same kind of sex education as far as risk factors, as far as pregnancy as far as all of that. There is a gender disparity as far as access to sex education.”

According to the American Addiction Center, when someone’s inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol, many are “at risk for an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy or for contracting a sexually transmitted (STD) or infectious disease.”

“You have to look beyond the current circumstances of people and consider access to sexual education which is seriously lacking in a lot of places, and in particular Arizona. The sex education isn’t great,” Black said. “There are various nonprofits that try and fill that service gap and provide adolescents and kids with sex education, but there is still a significant need.”

Not properly educating young people on the risk factors surrounding unsafe sex leads to these problems in the future when students are given more freedom in college. This often results in students not prioritizing thorough sexual health, but it should be on the minds of all sexually active students.

In the long run, it’s easier — and safer — to have sex with a condom than to deal with all the repercussions that can come from not using one.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex ed video for teens shatters myths about sexuality and disability

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The internet has changed how kids learn about sex, but sex ed in the classroom still sucks. In Sex Ed 2.0, Mashable explores the state of sex ed and imagines a future where digital innovations are used to teach consent, sex positivity, respect, and responsibility.

By Rebecca Ruiz

Sex ed in the U.S. is often a hot mess. Teens regularly get medically inaccurate information, learn solely about abstinence, and hear only bad things about LGBTQ identity and sexuality.

Young people with disabilities can feel particularly invisible in classroom sex ed lessons, since the content typically doesn’t reflect their experience. Meanwhile, some teens may assume their peers with disabilities have no interest in sex or sexuality at all.

This new video from AMAZE, a YouTube sex ed series for adolescents and teens, takes on and then shatters the stereotypes and misconceptions about disability and sexuality.

The clip features a young character who uses a wheelchair and the pronouns they/them. They share with an inquisitive friend that yes, they are interested in dating, and yes, their “parts work just fine.” (It’s important to note that while the direct questions help start an educational dialogue in the video, young people shouldn’t similarly quiz their friends with disabilities.)

The candid conversation covers gender identity, sexual orientation, healthy relationships, and the specific challenges people with disabilities can face while trying to date. In just three short minutes, the video scores wins for representation, inclusion, and education.

Complete Article HERE!

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Five things I wish I’d known about sex and relationships in university

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By Simone Paget

Fun fact: During my first year at the University of Toronto, I was in a student film appropriately titled, Sex and the University. Before your mind travels too far down the gutter, it was a sweet romantic comedy that parodied the famous HBO show of a similar name. The irony being that the film didn’t contain a single sex scene. However, the title of the film couldn’t have been more on-point for that era of my life.

Like many people, my late teens and early twenties were a time when I was exploring my sexuality, all the while trying to get a grip on relationships and other adult responsibilities, often with confusing, painful results. The university years are an emotional minefield. Whether you’re wrapping up first year or your collegiate days are long behind you, there are probably a few things you wish you’d done differently.

Here’s what I wish I’d known about sex and relationships when I was a university student.

1. Prioritize people who prioritize you.

One of my favourite quotes by Maya Angelou is, “never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” I had this taped to my mirror in university, but I often failed to take heed. I spent a lot of time chasing after partners who (in retrospect) didn’t prioritize my feelings or time. People who really want you in their life, will make it happen. Letting go of lopsided relationships will give you more time to hang out with your friends and allow for better, more deserving people to walk into your life.

2. The only person keeping track of how many people you’ve slept with is you.

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about my “number.” I was always worried that I was having too much sex, while my male friends were concerned they weren’t hooking up with enough girls. Hello, sexist double standards. Long story short: none of us were truly living our best sex lives.

When it comes to the number of people you’ve hooked up with, there’s no right or wrong answer. As long as you’re protecting your health, engaging in consensual encounters and treating the people you hook up with respect, the number doesn’t matter.

3. If you have a bad experience, help is available. Take it.

Within the first two months of university I was sexually assaulted. Six months later, I had another bad experience with someone I was dating. I honestly can’t explain why I didn’t get help at the time (it took me until I was in my thirties to finally see a therapist). I think part of me thought I could handle all of the feelings on my own. As a result, the aftershock of these experiences seeped into nearly every area of my life over the next decade. Even if you don’t think what’s happened to you is that serious, go talk to someone. It’s worth it.

4. You can have a safe, healthy, satisfying sex life.

The underlying theme of the sex education I received in high school echoed what the gym teacher says in the movie Mean Girls: “Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die.” The fear associated with sex held me back and caused a lot of undue anxiety. However, if you use safer sex methods and get tested regularly (which is essential for your health and peace of mind), you can protect yourself and still have a healthy, fun sex life.

5. It’s okay to experiment.

In my early 20s, I had several opportunities to date and experiment with other women (gorgeous, smart, cool women), but I never followed through. Now I wish I had. I think at the time I was scared, but of what I’m not really sure. Once again, it took me until my thirties to explore this part of my sexuality. Stop worrying about what other people think. Whether you’re gay, straight or somewhere happily in between, you’re not required to define your sexuality for other people. You deserve pleasure. Give yourself permission to explore.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Surprising Facts About Vaginas From The ‘Gynae Geek’

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By Esther Newman

From advice about popping jade eggs down there to steaming our lady parts, we’re inundated with information about what to do with our vaginas. Unfortunately, much of this – the supposed merits of jade eggs and steam baths included – is false, headline-grabbing nonsense.

Someone who knows the importance of women truly understanding their bodies is Dr Anita Mitra, a gynaecologist and self-confessed “Gynae Geek” (as she is better known to her 45k+ Instagram followers). Her recently published book – The Gynae Geek: Your No-Nonsense Guide To ‘Down There’ Healthcare – is a bible for hard vagina facts and dispelling misguided, internet “wellness” theories.

Taking the reader from the basic anatomy of the vagina through their first period, sexual health, contraception, fertility and pregnancy, Dr Mitra explains in a straight-talking, friendly tone, how women should best look after their bodies. She shares her own experiences along the way, stories of her patients and her friends (one particular laugh-out-loud moment describes how a friend believed her cervix scab had fallen off “thanks to the most energetic dancing at the Pyramid Stage” at Glastonbury festival.

Here at Refinery29, we consider ourselves pretty knowledgeable when it comes to vulvas, vaginas and women’s sexual and reproductive health, but even we were surprised by how much we didn’t know after reading The Gynae Geek. Read on for the five most surprising things we learned from Dr Mitra.

Use an IUD and menstrual cup at the same time with caution

As Dr Mitra explains, everyone seems to have a different answer to whether or not this is advisable – some say it’s okay, some say it could be harmful. “This is because theoretically you could dislodge your coil with the… vacuum effect,” Dr Mitra explains in chapter 3, the section of the book dedicated to periods. This “suction” experience, she continues, is something that she has had confirmed by a number of “SOS message[s]” from women via social media, many of which beg her to help reinsert the saved coil. “[W]hile I’m all for recycling, you can’t reuse a coil,” Dr Mitra states, advising that if this happens to you, it is important to use a fresh coil in its place.

“If you do choose to use a cup with a coil,” she continues, “I would advise checking the strings at the end of your period. If you feel they are lower than normal, you can feel the rod of the coil or you can’t feel any strings at all, I would use condoms until you’ve had it checked by a doctor to ensure it’s still in the right place to give you full contraceptive protection.”

When you smoke, so does your vagina

“Smoking is most often associated with lung-related diseases, but nicotine and its metabolites have been found in the vaginal discharge of smokers, as well as that of women exposed to passive smoking,” Dr Mitra explains. “Smoking is known to have anti-oestrogenic effects, which can cause women to go through an early menopause, have osteoporosis, as well as vaginal dryness and higher rates of bacterial vaginosis.”

There is such a thing as a “retroverted uterus”

Also known as a “tipped/tilted uterus”, a retroverted uterus means that “the uterus points backwards (retroverted) instead of forwards (anteverted).” Dr Mitra explains that between 20–30% of women have this and often, it is just how a woman is born and many find that it never impacts their health. “In some women, however, it may be due to conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, or the presence of scar tissue that pulls the uterus backwards,” Dr Mitra clarifies.

Though it sounds scary, Dr Mitra says a retroverted uterus – no matter its position – does not affect a woman’s chances of pregnancy because “sperm is able to swim in all directions”. “As the uterus increases in size in pregnancy, it will gradually flip forward, and by twelve weeks – when most women are having their first scan – a retroverted uterus may have corrected itself, so that many women never even find out they had one.”

A retroverted uterus can make smear tests a little trickier and uncomfortable as the cervix is harder to locate, but Dr Mitra promises that doctors know “plenty of tricks to make it easier and less painful”.

How and when you use contraception should change when you’re on holiday

Helpfully, we also learned from The Gynae Geek that how and when we take our contraception should change as we travel. If you take the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) – the most commonly used contraception in the UK – and are changing time zones, Dr Mitra suggests that you “adjust the time you take it to be similar to when you are at home”. For example, if you usually pop your pill at 7am when your alarm goes off at home in London, the corresponding time in a different country might not be appropriate (such as the middle of the night). If this is the case, Dr Mitra advises that it is “better to take it earlier rather than later”, such as the night before.

If you’re on a long-haul flight and need to take your pill, she notes that it is important to “keep mobile, wear compression stockings and stay well hydrated on the flight to reduce the risk of blood clots.”

If you take the progesterone-only pill (POP), which works to thicken the mucus produced by your cervix so it is harder for sperm to penetrate, Dr Mitra says it is important to “[b]e mindful of the three- or twelve-hour time window for taking it,” something that can be tricky when contending with jet lag. “Don’t forget about the chance of getting a tummy bug if you’re going somewhere exotic,” she continues. “If you’re going somewhere remote, or don’t want a ‘Bridget Jones in the pharmacy’-type scene, you may want to think about taking some emergency contraception in the form of the morning-after pill.”

If, like many millennial women, you use a fertility awareness app or method, Dr Mitra strongly suggests considering a different type of contraception, just “while you’re travelling and for some time after you get back until you think your cycle is back into the swing of things”. This is because the “timing of ovulation may be incredibly difficult to predict when you’re working with jet lag, or even just a change of schedule”.

The only contraceptive methods Dr Mitra does not consider affected by travel include the two types of coil (the Mirena coil and the copper coil), the contraceptive injection, the implant, condoms and sterilisation.

There’s an STI we’ve never heard of

Thought to infect approximately 1% of under-45-year-olds in the UK, mycoplasma genitalium is an STI not commonly known or talked about. The symptoms are similar to those of many other STIs: “abnormal vaginal discharge, pain on urinating and bleeding after sex or between periods” and “it can cause long-term health complications including pelvic inflammatory disease and premature delivery if present in pregnancy”. Dr Mitra tells us that the infection is “detected most effectively using a vaginal swab rather than a urine test and is treated with antibiotics”. Admittedly not a cheery note to end on, but we’ll bet you learned something too.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why we need a new philosophy of sex

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A number of years ago, I found myself at a public sex beach in southern France for research purposes. Unsurprisingly, I experienced some ethical dilemmas. Because I was researching the ethics of sexuality, my research involved potentially having sex with men and women at the beach.

The question of whether I “should” or “could” do so was complicated by a number of factors. I am a woman. I am queer. I am an academic. At the time, I was also in an (increasingly) difficult relationship with a man who was a philosopher. Given all of these complex factors, I desperately needed ethical assistance supported by philosophy (that I read and revered) that did not judge, and was aligned to my sexuality. But this philosophy – whichever way I turned to find it – doesn’t exist.

Ethics is a field of philosophy that seeks out the foundations of how we should live our lives. It seeks to provide a framework for doing the “right” thing. This framework is founded on conventional Western philosophical ideas. For instance, conventional ethical thinking finds homosexuality to be an “issue”, rather than an inherent characteristic of bodies. The ethical theorist John Finnis, for example, recently argued that the ethics of homosexuality are still up for discussion.

Most of these philosophies are heavily influenced by Rene Descartes’s concept of dualism, which separates the substances of body and mind. This idea of dualism is at the roots of the philosophical canon, from Immanuel Kant, to Friedrich Nietzsche, to David Hume. Founded in the primacy of knowledge and rationality, these philosophies culminate in the idea at the heart of the liberal philosophy of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin: that for a debate to be moral, it must be capable of being rational. This is so we can use our minds to judge the actions of ourselves and others.

Some Western philosophers were more radical, such as Baruch Spinoza, a contemporary of Descartes. His major work, Ethics, opposed Cartesian dualism by unifying body and mind, God and substance. This also hugely influenced modern Western philosophy, particularly big, fashionable continental thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, John Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida, who all have sought to place the body on equal philosophical terms with the mind. Despite being a leap forward, this philosophy still does not place all women’s bodies on equal philosophical footing with the minds of the men who wrote it.

A white male canon

All of the names listed above are white men. There is, of course, the huge body of (usually white) feminist work, but this is described as feminism, not philosophy. This means that we have a philosophy built by men, put on pedestal of genius, who defined and continue to define philosophy through their rational legacy.

This is despite the fact that Kant and Hume were racist and Aristotle (“the Father of Western philosophy”) was sexist. Heidegger was a member of the Nazi party, and as a professor began an affair with his then student, Hannah Arendt. The argument is that these philosophers were not as socially enlightened as us, given their historical specificity, so we should continue to value their ideas, if not their bodies.

This Cartesian insistence that philosophy can be separate from the body that writes it, can be dangerous. Sexist, racist, powerful (and sometimes abusive) men have been endowed with an authority to create the foundations of how we judge sex. We endow this philosophy with authority over all bodies: women of colour, queer women, trans women, women who like to have sex in all types of ways, women whose oppression and assault maintains the authority of these philosophical geniuses. These philosophers are dangerous since their authority can inform our sexual tastes, and what is “acceptable”. These rules encourage us to disregard the ethical complexities of women’s lives.

How could a canon of white men do justice to the complexities of women

The pleasure of women

These philosophies were not helpful for me in my ethical dilemmas, since they were not written for me, my body and my sexuality. Thankfully, in the world outside of philosophy, core assumptions about women’s sexuality are being dismantled.

The academic Omise’eke Tinsley writes to empower the sexuality of black women generally, and against “misogynoir”, a specific sexism against black women. The writer Wednesday Martin, meanwhile, is systematically dismantling the myth that women are the monogamous ones, compared to men’s inherent sexual restlessness.

The movement to “correct” dominant ideas is not only about the sociology of women’s desire, but also the science. The OMGyes project is using research and women’s experiences to redefine a science of women’s pleasure. The Vulva Gallery is doing revolutionary work in sex education and representing women’s vulvas and their owner’s stories.

Sadly, we are not closer to finding a philosophical ethic that fits these growing understandings of women’s sexuality. There is the practical philosophy put forward by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy in The Ethical Slut, but this is geared towards polyamorous people. And such an explicit code could be seen as unsexy, not to mention that some people might think of themselves as monogamous sluts, or something in between. Maybe some of us don’t want to be called sluts. And maybe there are those who prefer to be unethical. In the present philosophical landscape, who can blame them?

Future sexual ethics

So philosophically, we have not moved on. Psychoanalytic philosopher Alenka Zupančič’s What IS Sex aims to tell us what sex is in modern psychoanalytic and philosophical terms. But this does not help us discover a new kind of sexual ethics in light of what we have discovered and continue to discover about women’s practical sexual experiences. To do so, I argue that we need to move beyond the authority of even the male continental “radical” philosophical canon.

In my own ethical dilemmas, conventional ethics did not help me. In fact, they became part of the dilemma, since somehow I valued the perspective and empowered the words of my partner, because he was a philosopher. I also sat on that beach thinking that my desires were wrong, since they did not fit within a particular category, which meant I was not entitled to ethical treatment.

Also, as an academic, not only was I supposed to be objective and non-desiring, I was supposed to value ideas over bodily sensations. I was supposed to be rational and operate ethically while having my sexuality abused. Western ethics was not in favour of the strength of my body, but its destruction.

All this is to say that conventional philosophy and research is not going to develop a new ethics for women’s sexuality. Instead, as I argue in my story of finding my own sexual ethics, we need an ethic of vivid kindness, to ourselves and others. And it needs to be founded on a wholesale, orgasmic attack: on Western philosophy.

Complete Article HERE!

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