Understanding Erotophobia or the Fear of Sex

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By Lisa Fritscher

Erotophobia is a generalized term that encompasses a wide range of specific fears. It’s generally understood to include any phobia that is related to sex. Erotophobia is often complex, and many sufferers have more than one specific fear. Untreated erotophobia can be devastating and may lead sufferers to avoid not only romantic relationships but also other forms of intimate contact.

Specific Phobias

Like any phobia, erotophobia varies dramatically in both symptoms and severity. It is a very personalized fear, and no two sufferers are likely to experience it in the same way. You may recognize some of your own fears in this list.

  • Genophobia: Also known as coitophobia, this is the fear of sexual intercourse. Many people with genophobia are able to begin romantic relationships, and may quite enjoy activities such as kissing and cuddling but are afraid to move into a more physical display of affection.
  • Fear of Intimacy: The fear of intimacy is often, though not always, rooted in a fear of abandonment or its twin, the fear of engulfment. Those who fear intimacy are not necessarily afraid of the sex act itself but are afraid of the emotional closeness that it may bring.
  • Paraphobia: The fear of sexual perversion is itself a complicated phobia. Some people are afraid that they might be perverted themselves, while others fear the perversions of others. Some people with paraphobia are able to enjoy traditional sexual relationships that fit well within their personal moral code, while others are afraid that any form of intimacy might be perverted.
  • Haphephobia: Also known as chiraptophobia, the fear of being touched often affects all relationships, not just those of a romantic nature. Some people recoil from even passing contact by a relative, while others are afraid only of more protracted touching.
  • Gymnophobia: The fear of nudity is often complex. Some people are afraid of being naked, others of people being naked around them. This fear may signal body image issues or feelings of inadequacy, although it may also occur alone.
  • Fear of Vulnerability: Like the fear of intimacy, the fear of vulnerability is often tied to a fear of abandonment or fear of engulfment. Many people are afraid that if they are totally themselves, others will not like them. Fear of vulnerability may affect numerous relationships, both sexual and non-sexual.
  • Philemaphobia: Also known as philematophobia, the fear of kissing may have many causes. It is often tied to physical concerns, such as a concern over bad breath or even germ phobia.

Causes

As a highly personalized fear, erotophobia may have innumerable causes. In some cases, it may be difficult or impossible to pinpoint a specific cause. Nonetheless, some people may be at a higher risk due to past or current events in their lives.

  • Sexual Abuse: Although not everyone with erotophobia has been raped or sexually abused, those who have been traumatized are at increased risk for developing some form of erotophobia.
  • Other Trauma: People who have been through major traumas have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders including phobias. If the trauma was physical, you may be more likely to develop a touch-related erotophobia, while those who have been through psychological or emotional abuse may be more likely to develop intimacy or vulnerability-related fears.
  • Personal, Cultural, and Religious Mores: Although many religions and societies frown on sexual intercourse except for procreation, following these restrictions does not constitute a phobia. However, many people experience difficulty when trying to balance past and current beliefs. If you have moved away from a restrictive background but are afraid to change past patterns of thought and action, you may at be at risk for developing a phobia.
  • Performance Anxiety: Sometimes, it isn’t actually sex that we fear at all. Instead, we may worry about our own ability to please a partner. Performance anxiety is particularly common in those who are young or inexperienced but may occur in all ages and levels of experience.
  • Physical Concerns: Some people worry that sex will hurt. Some wonder if they will be able to perform due to a physiological condition. Fears that have a legitimate medical basis are not considered phobias. However, some people experience fears that are far out of proportion to the reality of the situation. If your fear is inappropriate to the current risks, you might have a phobia.

Treatment

Because erotophobia is so complex, professional treatment is generally required. Sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals who have completed additional training and certification, and many people feel that they are the best choice for treating sexual concerns. However, it is not generally necessary to seek a sex therapist, as most mental health professionals are capable of managing erotophobia.

Erotophobia generally responds well to treatment, although complex erotophobia may take time and effort to resolve. Depending on your therapist’s style and school of thought, you may need to face difficult and painful memories in order to heal and move forward. Because the nature of the fear is so personal, it is critical that you find a therapist with whom you truly feel comfortable.

Although beating erotophobia is never easy, most people find that the rewards are worth the effort. Be patient with yourself, and honest with your therapist. Over time, your fears will lessen and you can learn to enjoy your personal range of sexual expression.

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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Better Sex Starts in your Gut

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By Dr. Edison de Mello

“There’s a Connection Between Your Gut Health and Your Sex Life”

What are the most common causes of low libido?

Libido and sexual arousal is, for the most part, grounded on intimacy involving the interaction of several components, including physical trust, belief system emotional well-being, previous experiences, self-esteem, physical attraction, lifestyle and current relationship.

In addition, a wide range of illnesses, such as thyroid disease, arthritis, diabetes, neurological disorders, hormonal changes and physical changes, such as High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, menopause in women, andropause in men and pain during intercourse can cause low sex drive and/or inability to reach an orgasm. Medications, prescribed or over the counter, can also kill one’s libido.

What’s one cause that’s really surprising?  Great Sex too starts in Your gut!

“All disease begins in the gut.”  Hippocrates

Although most us do not necessarily think of our intestines or bad gut bacteria when we think of possible causes of low libido, an imbalance of Gut bacteria (microbiome) is more often than not, a significant cause of decreased sexual arousal. This is in addition to the more commonly known GI related causes, such as bloating, gas, acid reflux, bad breath, diarrhea, etc. In fact, because the gut contains billions of bacteria, the gastrointestinal tract, also known as the gut system, plays a major physical factor that has many unexpected effects on our ability to respond and perform sexually. The truth is that “gut bacteria is to our digestion and metabolism what a beehive is to honey”: Good working hive = great honey; well balanced gut bacteria = optimized gastrointestinal function and better sex! Gut bacteria are also responsible for producing hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which are essential for sexual health.

And then there is lifestyle…. although a glass of wine can get both men and women in the “mood” for sex, too much alcohol can actually have the opposite effect and not only kill your libido, but make you sleep, which can be devastating to intimacy.

10 Reasons Why you may not have a healthy gut?

  1. Bad diet (sugar and processed food based diet)
  2. Digestive Health: Unbalanced gut bacteria and lack of good probiotics
  3. Overuse antibiotics and other medications
  4. Sedentary life style
  5. Disease, including autoimmune.
  6. Mental Health and Mood.
  7. Low/ unbalanced Hormone.
  8. Vaginal Health/prostate issues
  9. Weight proportionate to height issues
  10. Decreased physical, mental and emotional energy

5 initial Steps to Take to Have Better Sex

  1. Balance your gut health,
  2. Eat a healthy diet and moderate your alcohol intake
  3. Exercise more often
  4. Do you inventory of your relationship: Are you really happy or just pretending that you are?
  5. Work on your self-esteem and body image, if applicable.

5 Ways how your partner can help you get there:

  1. Love you unconditionally
  2. Help you feel that intimacy is more than just having sex
  3. Encourage you to make the changes outlined here –  free of judgment, and instead assuring you that yes, you can.
  4. Be the change that he/she expects of you
  5. Not make sex so serious… have fun with it.

Other 10 possible causes of low libido:

  1. Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
  2. Stress, such as financial stress or work stress
  3. Poor body image
  4. Low self-esteem
  5. History of physical or sexual abuse
  6. Previous negative sexual experiences
  7. Lack of connection with the partner
  8. Unresolved conflicts or fights
  9. Poor communication of sexual needs and preferences
  10. Infidelity or breach of trust

Complete Article HERE!

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The Bored Sex

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Women, more than men, tend to feel stultified by long-term exclusivity—despite having been taught that they were designed for it.

The “distracted boyfriend” meme gets reversed.

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Andrew Gotzis, a Manhattan psychiatrist with an extensive psychotherapy practice, has been treating a straight couple, whom we’ll call Jane and John, for several years. They have sex about three times a week, which might strike many as enviable, considering that John and Jane—who are in their 40s—have been together for nearly two decades. Based on numbers alone, one might wonder why they need couples counseling at all.

But only one of them is happy with the state of play. And it isn’t Jane.

“The problem is not that they are functionally unable to have sex, or to have orgasms. Or frequency. It’s that the sex they’re having isn’t what she wants,” Gotzis told me in a recent phone conversation. And like other straight women he sees, “she’s confused and demoralized by it. She thinks there’s something wrong with her.” John, meanwhile, feels criticized and inadequate. Mostly he can’t understand why, if his wife is having sex with him and having orgasms, she wants more. Or different.

Despite “fears of seeming sex addicted, unfaithful, or whorish” (Gotzis doesn’t like these terms, but they speak to his patient’s anxieties, he explained), Jane has tried to tell John, in therapy and outside of it, what she’s after. She wants to want John and be wanted by him in that can’t-get-enough-of-each-other-way experts call “limerence”—the initial period of a relationship when it’s all new and hot. Jane has bought lingerie and booked hotel stays. She has suggested more radical-seeming potential fixes, too, like opening up the marriage.

Jane’s perseverance might make her a lot of things: an idealist, a dreamer, a canny sexual strategist, even—again channeling typical anxieties—unrealistic, selfish, or entitled. But her sexual struggles in a long-term relationship, orgasms and frequency of sex notwithstanding, make her something else again: normal. Although most people in sexual partnerships end up facing the conundrum biologists call “habituation to a stimulus” over time, a growing body of research suggests that heterosexual women, in the aggregate, are likely to face this problem earlier in the relationship than men. And that disparity tends not to even out over time. In general, men can manage wanting what they already have, while women struggle with it.

Marta Meana of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas spelled it out simply in an interview with me at the annual Society for Sex Therapy and Research conference in 2017. “Long-term relationships are tough on desire, and particularly on female desire,” she said. I was startled by her assertion, which contradicted just about everything I’d internalized over the years about who and how women are sexually. Somehow I, along with nearly everyone else I knew, was stuck on the idea that women are in it for the cuddles as much as the orgasms, and—besides—actually require emotional connection and familiarity to thrive sexually, whereas men chafe against the strictures of monogamy.

But Meana discovered that “institutionalization of the relationship, overfamiliarity, and desexualization of roles” in a long-term heterosexual partnership mess with female passion especially—a conclusion that’s consistent with other recent studies.

“Moving In With Your Boyfriend Can Kill Your Sex Drive” was how Newsweek distilled a 2017 study of more than 11,500 British adults aged 16 to 74. It found that for “women only, lack of interest in sex was higher among those in a relationship of over one year in duration,” and that “women living with a partner were more likely to lack interest in sex than those in other relationship categories.” A 2012 study of 170 men and women aged 18 to 25 who were in relationships of up to nine years similarly found that women’s sexual desire, but not men’s, “was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction.” Two oft-cited German longitudinal studies, published in 2002 and 2006, show female desire dropping dramatically over 90 months, while men’s holds relatively steady. (Tellingly, women who didn’t live with their partners were spared this amusement-park-ride-like drop—perhaps because they were making an end run around overfamiliarity.) And a Finnish seven-year study of more than 2,100 women, published in 2016, revealed that women’s sexual desire varied depending on relationship status: Those in the same relationship over the study period reported less desire, arousal, and satisfaction. Annika Gunst, one of the study’s co-authors, told me that she and her colleagues initially suspected this might be related to having kids. But when the researchers controlled for that variable, it turned out to have no impact.

Many women want monogamy. It’s a cozy arrangement, and one our culture endorses, to put it mildly. But wanting monogamy isn’t the same as feeling desire in a long-term monogamous partnership. The psychiatrist and sexual-health practitioner Elisabeth Gordon told me that in her clinical experience, as in the data, women disproportionately present with lower sexual desire than their male partners of a year or more, and in the longer term as well. “The complaint has historically been attributed to a lower baseline libido for women, but that explanation conveniently ignores that women regularly start relationships equally as excited for sex.” Women in long-term, committed heterosexual partnerships might think they’ve “gone off” sex—but it’s more that they’ve gone off the same sex with the same person over and over.

What does it all mean for Jane and the other straight women who feel stultified by long-term exclusivity, in spite of having been taught that they were designed for it and are naturally inclined toward it? What are we to make of the possibility that women, far from anxious guardians of monogamy, might on the whole be more like its victims?

“When couples want to remain in a monogamous relationship, a key component of treatment … is to help couples add novelty,” Gordon advised. Tammy Nelson, a sex therapist and the author of The New Monogamy and When You’re the One Who Cheats, concurs: “Women are the primary consumers of sex-related technology and lubricants, massage oil, and lingerie, not men.”

Of course, as Jane’s example shows, lingerie might not do the trick. Nelson explains that if “their initial tries don’t work, [women] will many times shut down totally or turn outward to an affair or an online ‘friend,’ creating … a flirty texting or social-media relationship.” When I asked Gotzis where he thinks John and Jane are headed, he told me he is not sure that they will stay together. In an upending of the basic narrative about the roles that men and women play in a relationship, it would be Jane’s thirst for adventure and Jane’s struggles with exclusivity that tear them apart. Sure, women cheating is nothing new—it’s the stuff of Shakespeare and the blues. But refracted through data and anecdotal evidence, Jane seems less exceptional and more an Everywoman, and female sexual boredom could almost pass for the new beige.

It’s not uncommon for women to let their straight partners play in a “monogamy gray zone,” to give guys access to tensional outlets that allow them to cheat without really cheating. “Happy ending” massages, oral sex at bachelor parties, lap dances, escorts at conferences … influenced by ubiquitous pop-cultural cues, many people believe that men need these opportunities for recreational “sorta sex” because “it’s how men are.” It’s how women are, too, it seems.

Women cannot be pigeonholed; the glory of human sexuality is its variation and flexibility. So when we speak of desire in the future, we should acknowledge that the fairer sex thirsts for the frisson of an encounter with someone or something new as much as, if not more, than men do—and that they could benefit from a gray-zone hall pass, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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The pansexual revolution…

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How sexual fluidity became mainstream

Rigid definitions of sexuality are on the way out, as a younger generation embraces a ‘never say never’ approach to sex and gender

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Nick Meadowcroft-Lunn has a girlfriend, whom he has been seeing for three years. Jezz Palmer has a girlfriend, too, and they have been together for five. You might assume therefore that Nick is straight and Jezz is gay; or, if not, that both must be bisexual. But you would be wrong.

“I always describe my sexuality as: ‘If you’ve got nice hair and pretty eyes, I’m down for it,’” explains Jezz, a 26-year-old editor working in historical publishing. “It’s not that gender doesn’t matter, because it can be important, but it’s a bit of an afterthought. It’s just like: ‘Oh, hello.’” For a while, she wasn’t sure what to call this, but eight years ago she settled on “pansexual” as the closest word. “It took me a while to figure it out. [The TV series] Torchwood was about the only thing I’d heard of. I was talking about maybe being pansexual and someone said: ‘Oh, like Captain Jack in Torchwood.’”

Nick, a 22-year-old physics and philosophy masters student at the University of York, initially thought he was bisexual as a teenager, but also now feels “pansexual” better fits his view that attraction isn’t really about gender. “I just find characteristics generally about people attractive. Pan is simply easier to understand, and much closer to the truth for me. It’s not specific to any gender.” He often explains it, he says, by talking about height: a bi person might find tall guys attractive, and short girls. But he tends to fancy tall people, regardless of whether they are male or female.

Last year, “pansexual” briefly became the online dictionary Merriam-Webster’s most searched word of the day after the singer Janelle Monáe defined herself as a pansexual and “queer-ass motherfucker”. The Panic at the Disco frontman Brendan Urie and the singer Miley Cyrus both also identify as pan, with Urie explaining that, to him, it means: “I really don’t care … If a person is great, then a person is great. I just like good people, if your heart’s in the right place.” The singer Demi Lovato, meanwhile, identifies as “sexually fluid”, or “having a shifting gender preference”, while other labels for being neither exclusively straight nor gay include “heteroflexible” and “questioning”.

For bisexual activists who have long felt erased from the picture, many of these new identities can sound suspiciously like elaborate ways to avoid the word “bisexual”. But Meg-John Barker, psychology lecturer and author of The Psychology of Sex, argues that, while “bisexual” is a useful and widely understood umbrella term for being attracted to more than either gender, labels such as “pansexual” do capture a specific sense that fancying someone isn’t just about gender. And if all this seems confusing, the all-purpose “queer” is increasingly used to mean anything other than plain-vanilla 100% straight, a visibly expanding category.

Pansexual performer Demi Lovato (left) live in Lisbon.

When YouGov asked people to place themselves on a sliding scale where zero equals exclusively straight and six equals exclusively gay, more than a quarter of Britons polled identified as something other than 100% heterosexual. But strikingly, 54% of people aged 18 to 24 did. That arguably makes them the most sexually liberated, least socially repressed group of adults in British history.

Baby boomers saw homosexuality decriminalised, if not destigmatised. Their children grew up with Brookside’s celebrated lesbian kiss and the scrapping of Section 28. But it is their grandchildren who have grown up taking the idea of gay rights almost for granted. “The working assumption is that’s because we have progressed as a society in the last 30 years. We’ve become much more accepting and that’s allowed people to explore their sexuality,” says Paul Twycock of the LGBT rights group Stonewall.

And yet, for all that, heterosexuality is hardly dead yet. According to the Office for National Statistics, 93.2% of Britons still call themselves heterosexual, although that figure is down slightly from 94.4% in 2012. So how did YouGov get its headline-grabbing figures? It changed the question, which turns out to change the answer significantly.

It is well over half a century since Alfred Kinsey, who was himself bisexual, published his conclusion: “Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual … The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats.” His successors are still arguing over whether the godfather of research into human sexuality was broadly right to describe it as a sliding scale with numerous stopping points along the way, or whether that is overly simplistic. But in popularising the idea that same-sex attraction was far more common than acknowledged, Kinsey’s work was a landmark moment for gay rights nonetheless.

When YouGov asked its respondents whether they were straight, gay, bisexual or something else, 89% identified as heterosexual and 6% as gay. But when asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale, that fell to 72% straight and 4% gay. The more choices people are given, the more shades of grey they acknowledge. But does that mean heterosexuality is genuinely rarer than we think, or is sexuality more multifaceted than was previously accepted?

According to one US study, half of male college students and eight out of 10 female ones have fantasised about someone of the same sex. (Evidence is divided on whether women are more sexually fluid than men or just more willing to admit it.) More than a quarter of British 25- to 39-year-olds told YouGov they had had some kind of same-sex experience. But Generation Z are not necessarily having more adventurous sex than anyone else; they are more inclined to what might be called a “never say never” approach, with a quarter of those identifying as straight saying they couldn’t rule out a gay relationship if the right person came along.

“This suggests that being attracted to more than one gender is becoming a majority, not a minority, position,” says Barker. “But wider culture is taking a long time to catch up to that fact, still tending to assume that people are either straight or gay, and presenting non-binary attraction as confused, a phase, or somehow suspicious.” The gradual easing of those assumptions, however, has implications for more than one generation.

Andrea Hewitt has known since her schooldays that she was attracted to girls. But growing up in the US south in the 1970s, she didn’t dare think too hard about what that meant. “I didn’t really know any gay people until I was an adult. I didn’t understand a lot of the feelings I was having, so I put them on a shelf,” she recalls. “It just wasn’t an option. Nobody spoke of it.”

So, she duly got married and had two children; when that marriage broke down, she married again. It was only after her older daughter left for college that she finally plucked up courage to come out as lesbian and ask for a divorce.

Hewitt’s children and her wider family were supportive, but it was, she says, an isolating time. “I Googled ‘coming out’, but it was all geared towards teenagers coming out to their parents, and here I was a 40-year-old woman with two kids. I truly thought I was the only person who had ever done this.” It was only when she started her blog, A Late Life Lesbian Story, that she realised she was very far from alone.

Two years ago, the author Elizabeth Gilbert revealed she had left her husband Jose Nunes – the man she described travelling halfway round the world to meet in her bestseller Eat Pray Love – for a female friend, Rayya Elias. The British retail expert Mary Portas famously fell in love with the fashion writer Melanie Rickey after an amicable divorce from the father of her two children. Hewitt now runs a Facebook group for women coming out in later life with more than 1,100 members worldwide; while some identify as lesbians, others prefer not to define their sexuality or swear they were straight until the moment they fell for a woman. But one common thread, says Hewitt, is having parked their own lives on a back burner while they were raising children. “I’d say a lot of the people in my group have a very similar personality type. We’re mothers, we’re fixers, we’re problem-solvers; we want to focus on everything but ourselves. It isn’t until you have time to do some self-reflection that you go: ‘Wait a minute, what about me?’”

Hewitt, who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her partner Rachel, says she cannot be sure that if she had been born two decades later she would have identified as lesbian from the start. But while some of her Facebook group wish they had had the courage to do so years earlier, she cautions against assuming that the marriages of women who come out later must have been a sham all along. “You can only know what you know when you know it. You can’t go back and judge your past self on thoughts you didn’t have.”

Changing social attitudes are clearly enabling some older people to explore feelings repressed for decades. But coming out in middle age does not necessarily imply a life spent in the closet, according to Barker, who points to the US psychologist Lisa Diamond’s landmark study following 79 non-heterosexual women for 10 years. The women originally identified as either lesbian, bisexual or preferring not to put a label on their sexuality. Over time, two-thirds of their sexual identities shifted, and a third changed more than once; overall the most common identity adopted was “unlabelled”, and more women moved towards identifying as bi or unlabelled than away from it.

Yet, as Hewitt points out, the idea that sexuality can change across the course of a life is threatening for some. “If you allow for the possibility that people can change their sexuality, what’s to say your wife couldn’t do that, or you couldn’t?” Some of the later-life lesbians she knows were asked when they were going to “change back” to being straight, while one of her own friends suggested that perhaps she hadn’t just met the right man yet.

And if it is difficult for seemingly straight people to come out as bi, then it is perhaps even more controversial for gay people to do so. If sexuality really is fluid, then it might logically be expected to flow both ways; yet in practice it is not always easy for members of a historically oppressed group to admit to sleeping with the perceived enemy.

The idea that sexual identity is set in stone has been useful in some ways to the gay community, especially in tackling the offensive idea that homosexuality might somehow be “cured”. Parents struggling to deal with their children coming out are often encouraged to accept that sexual preference is just something we are all born with, as immutable as race or age and just as deserving of protection from discrimination. So, what if it isn’t as fixed as we thought?

In the US, Diamond’s work has been used by campaigners against same-sex marriage, who argue that it shows some gay people can change their minds – even though Diamond has stressed the changes she saw were involuntary and sometimes against the women’s wishes. Meanwhile, even pointing out that having visible bi role models in public life can help teenagers to come to terms with their own bisexuality risks being twisted into an argument that kids are only choosing it because it is fashionable.

But the pressure to argue for gay rights on the grounds of fixed identities has, Barker argues, led to some inconvenient truths being swept under the carpet. “Part of the reason bisexuality and sexual fluidity are so erased and rejected is because they’re seen as muddying the water.” When Antoni Porowski of the TV show Queer Eye, which involves a panel of gay men making over a generally hapless straight one, came out as sexually fluid, he was accused on social media of being a traitor and a fake, despite having been with his boyfriend for seven years.

Kate Harrad is a bi activist and editor of Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain, a collection of essays exploring all forms of bisexuality. One of the recurring themes in the book is, she says, people describing going to an LGB group or bar for the first time “and being rejected by the gay and lesbian people they met because they ‘weren’t really queer’ or ‘hadn’t made a choice yet’ or because they were seen as innately faithful and untrustworthy. Imagine finally getting up the courage to go to a place you think will accept you and instead experiencing hostility or scorn, or disbelief that your sexuality even exists. It’s no wonder bi people have worse mental health than any other orientation.”

Bisexual people are also less likely than gay ones to be out at work, which Harrad argues is not surprising: “Bisexuality is heavily associated with explicit sexuality, for a lot of people even more than gayness is. So people feel entitled to ask weirdly intrusive questions, like how many people you’re sleeping with, or to assume that you’re interested in them sexually.”

That may go double for pansexuals. As Palmer puts it, there is often a knee-jerk assumption that they are all out swinging from chandeliers when “half the time you’re spending Saturday nights watching documentaries in your pyjamas”. When bi or pan people settle into long-term relationships, that can prompt hurtful assumptions that they have either finally “picked a side” or else may secretly hanker after whichever gender they are not currently with. “There’s this whole thing coming from the LGBT community: ‘Oh, you’re dating a girl, you must be gay,’” says Palmer. “But I’ve also had a partner’s parents saying: ‘Aren’t you scared Jezz is going to run off with a man?’ as if you’re always wanting what you can’t have, when it doesn’t really feel that way.”

Yet as Generation Z grow older, and become the dominant cultural influence, their belief that, as Meadowcroft-Lunn puts it, “people have the right to identify however they choose” is only likely to become more mainstream. Could we eventually reach a point where heterosexuality, or at least the uncompromising version at one end of the Kinsey scale, is no longer considered the norm and “coming out” as anything else is practically superfluous? “It’s still true that over 90% of the country identifies as straight, so I don’t want to overstate this,” says Harrad. “It’s more that awareness-raising is a virtuous circle – the more you know about minority sexualities and the more people you meet who identify as one of them, the less it feels like a big deal. And in an ideal world, why wouldn’t it be?”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Sexy, Secret History of Leather Fetish Fashion

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From post-war motorcycle groups to modern-day sex apps, this is the story of how leather became a symbol of masculinity and sexuality

By Louis Staples

This article is part of a series on AnotherManmag.com that coincides with LGBT History Month, shining a light on different facets of queer culture. Head here for more.

“When I’m wearing my leathers, I like the way I get to be such a symbol, a trope, of masculinity and sexuality,” explains Max, a 38-year-old gay man from London. Max is a “leatherman” or “leatherdaddy”, two common descriptors for gay and bisexual men who fetishise leather clothes and accessories.

“Fetish fashion” is the term used to describe the intrinsic link between clothing and sexual fetishes, with materials like leather, lace, latex, and rubber holding particular prominence. Dr Frenchy Lunning, author of the 2013 book Fetish Style, writes that fashion has historically been the easiest way to “traverse” from one spectrum of fetish to the other. Lunning gauges that, in the history of fetish fashion, there have been two climaxes – no pun intended – with the first occurring between 1870 and 1900. “The Victorians went crazy over silk and velvet,” writes Pat Califia, author of Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. “As quickly as new substances were manufactured, somebody eroticised them.”

When fetishwear resurged for its second peak a century later, between 1970 and 2000, leather was the material of choice. On the gay scene, an infatuation with leather was alive and well as early as the 1950s. Today, leather fetishwear is worn by leathermen like Max in sex clubs, parties, Pride parades and hook-ups, but some incorporate leather into their everyday lives, too. Common clothes and accessories include leather trousers, boots, jackets, gloves, ties and caps, with harnesses, masks and jockstraps more often worn during sexual encounters.

While leather fetishwear is not exclusively queer, there is a widely acknowledged parallel between the increased visibility of gay and lesbian identities and leather-based fetishes in contemporary culture. Recon – a fetish app for gay and bisexual men – allows leather wearers to connect with others and follow a year-round calendar of global events such as “London Fetish Week” and “Leather Prides” in cities from Los Angeles to Belgium. Paul, a 34-year-old Recon user, tells me that he equates leather with “power, strength and dominance”. He doubts that he could be with someone “vanilla” – a term for someone who doesn’t have any fetishes. “There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity,” he says. Max, who was first drawn towards leather five years ago, also associates it with manhood. “It’s just so fucking masculine,” he explains. “The more masculine I’ve become over time, the more I’ve been into it. When I wear leathers, it feels like my exterior is reflecting my interior. It’s weighty too: the opposite of something light, diaphanous and feminine.”

“There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity” – Paul, 34

These remarks reveal leather fetish fashion’s significance to masculine gay identities, particularly those relating to sadomasochistic (S&M) sexual practices. In Hal Fischer’s seminal photography book Gay Semiotics, which analyses coded gay fashion signifiers in 1970s San Francisco, leather accessories like caps were indicators that the wearer was interested in sadomasochistic sex. Lesbians also adopted leather and, nowadays, female sex workers and dominatrixes often wear the material. Though, traditionally, the gay leather scene centres on “dominant” men wishing to “own”, or exert control over, a “submissive” male partner.

Sociologist Meredith G. F. Worthen, author of Sexual Deviance and Society, writes that the leather community first emerged after the Second World War, when military servicemen had difficulty assimilating back into mainstream society. For many of these men, their military service had allowed them to explore homosexual desire for the first time. When the war ended, a void was left by the absence of homosexual sex and same-sex friendships. Instead, many found sanctuary in motorcycle communities where leather clothing was popular. The men who rode these bikes were icons of cultural masculinity, conjuring up an image of dangerous rebelliousness that was alluring to many gay men who were weary of seeing themselves depicted as effeminate pansies. Peter Hennen, author of Faeries, Bears and Leathermen, believes that this caused gay men to “invest in leather with a certain erotic power intimately tied to the way it signalled masculinity.” Queer cultural historian Daniel Harris suggests that the “raw masculinity” that leather evokes “shaped a new form of masculinised gay identity among leathermen.”

Leather’s military routes, combined with its significance in hierarchy-driven male social groups, are thought to be behind its importance to sexual practices like S&M, which centre on order, discipline and control. Yet outside the leather fetish scene, artist Andy Warhol famously used garments such as the leather jacket as a device to appear more masculine from the 1950s to 1960s. Transforming his personal style, Warhol sought to present a more macho, aloof persona to the heterosexual male-dominated New York art establishment.

“Tom of Finland ‘set the standard’ for the ‘quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock’”

Max tells me that cultural imagery, such as “Tom of Finland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Marlon Brando and James Dean” contributes to his love for leather. Finnish artist Touko Valio Laaksonen, commonly known as Tom of Finland, is behind leather’s signature homoerotic aesthetic. According to feminist studies professor Jennifer Tyburczy, Finland “set the standard” for the “quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock.” By depicting working-class men like construction workers, bikers and lumberjacks, Finland allowed gay men to feel masculine and strong while maintaining their interest in those of the same sex. His images are the antithesis of the effeminate gay stereotype that was widely circulated at the time, bringing connotations of hyper-masculinity, strength and, of course, sex to black leather. After being circulated in physique magazines such as Physical Pictorial throughout the 1950s, his work quickly became emblematic of the gay fetish community.

Following the popularity of leather in the queer sanctuary cities on America’s coasts, international travel increased its global appeal, with leather kink scenes developing in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and parts of Scandinavia. Imitations of Finland’s images became the customary advertisement of fetish events in these places, which were often disguised as motor sport or biking clubs. For the first time, Finland’s reclamation of masculine imagery provided gay men with what communications professor Martti Lahti describes as an “empowering and affirmative” gay image.

Though after years of resurgence, the leather fetish scene is facing challenges. Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers. Lesbian leather wearers, who have traditionally operated their BDSM club scene separately, have been most harshly impacted by club closures as most gay leather nights purposely ban women from entering. With a full outfit of leathers costing several thousand pounds, it is little wonder that younger kinksters are turning to cheaper alternatives like rubber or sportswear to fulfil their fetish needs.

“Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers”

The extended rights and freedoms won by queer people in recent decades have also resulted in pressure from wider heterosexual-focussed society to assimilate to their norms. Queer historian Lisa Duggan has described how the pressure to comply with what she calls “neoliberal” aims has resulted in a “depoliticised” and “desexualised” gay identity revolving around “domesticity” and heteronormative institutions like marriage. This gay identity can be exclusionary to those that fall outside its “acceptable” norms.

As the visibility of “vanilla” gayness has extended, heterosexual kink aesthetics have moved further into the mainstream, ushered in by pop moments like Madonna’s Justify My Love, Rhianna’s Disturbia and Christina Aguilera’s Bionic era, plus books such as 50 Shades of Grey. Reality star Kylie Jenner even graced the cover of Interview magazine dressed as a “sex doll”, clad entirely in skin-tight black latex. Though despite figure skater Adam Rippon wearing a leather harness once on the red carpet and the occasional performance costume from Jake Shears, the Village People’s Tom of Finland-inspired outfits and Robert Mapplethorpe’s extremely explicit photographs – both almost 40 years old – remain gay fetish fashion’s most visible representations.

With visible mainstream gay identities remaining “desexualised”, the false link between kink, sexual deviance, immorality and even criminality – a trope peddled for decades to depict gay men as “socially wrong” or “sick” – still lingers, even within the LGBTQ+ community. Andrew Cooper, author of Changing Gay Male Identities, suggests that overt sexuality has become less important to gay identities since the AIDS crisis, when sex – and communities like the leather scene that revolve around sex – became associated with death and shame. In Beneath the Skins, a book that analyses the politics of kink, Ivo Dominguez Jr writes that, as gay identities and attitudes become more sanitised, “leatherphobia” remains a significant barrier. Dominguez suggests that those who practice leather are seen by the wider LGBTQ+ community as “poor relatives they wish to hide” or an “albatross around their public relations neck”.

Yet the leather scene could certainly be more inclusive itself. In addition to its exclusion of women, it is overwhelmingly white. When combined with the fact that elements of the leatherman aesthetic have been co-opted by various sub-fetishes and groups that eroticise white supremacist roleplay and Nazi iconography, this paints a particularly objectionable picture. Then there’s the fact that much of the hyper-masculine culture that surrounds leather promotes the idea that feminine men are inferior. Society’s ever-evolving understanding of the effects of entrenched, socially-constructed gender binaries and toxic masculinity has undoubtedly reduced its appeal further.

However, despite its current challenges, the history of leather fetish fashion is as fascinating as the black cowhide is transformative to those who lust over it. Leather can conjure solidarity among those who feel alienated, while acting as a symbol of sexual liberation. Its history tells a nuanced, important story of just how integral fashion can become to communities and subcultures. To its devotees, it represents more than mere aesthetics or the leather-clad bikers of the past. To them, leather fetish fashion is a way of life.

Complete Article HERE!

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What porn taught us about sex, romance and ourselves

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For a generation that went through puberty in the digital age, sex-ed often began in front of a desktop. But what happens when porn is your teacher?

By Tyler Griffin

Whenever eight-year-old Gabrielle Clarke watched Rihanna or Christina Aguilera music videos on YouTube, she would get an intense feeling of desire she couldn’t explain. She eventually came across the word ‘sex’ and Googled it in an attempt to satisfy her curiosity. Thousands of images and videos popped up, showing naked men and women and body parts she had never seen before. Realizing she could describe exactly what sexual acts she wanted to see and have them displayed on her computer screen with the click of a mouse, it wasn’t long before she was surfing sites like Pornhub and XHamster every night before bed. It was then that something in Clarke’s head clicked. As a devout church girl, she knew it was wrong to watch porn online. She felt dirty, ashamed, guilty—and yet she wanted to see more. 

Watching porn was not only enjoyable, Clarke found it filled the gaps in her knowledge of sex—her immigrant mother never gave her “The Talk.” From that point on, porn sites became Clarke’s main source for sex education. From penetrative sex to blowjobs to rimjobs—if it involved pleasure, porn taught it to her. When Clarke eventually had sex for the first time, she was beyond prepared. “Porn taught me how to be more confident.”

But as much as she learned, an education through porn didn’t come without lasting effects on her sex life. Now a second-year student in the RTA School of Media, Clarke has noticed she subconsciously chases after white men—a manifestation of what she’s always seen in porn. As a Black woman, she tries to avoid categories like BBC because she can’t stand to see Black men in such an objectifying light. Yet, whether she’s watching amateur, Ebony, Asian or whatever’s on the homepage of Pornhub, it’s “always a white guy,” Clarke says. “It’s a default.”

For curious youth, easy-to-access online pornography can become the go-to educator when they don’t have comprehensive sex education in their classrooms, making porn the de facto sex curriculum for many. But the porn industry is filled with racist and misogynistic narratives and practices. It’s also developing the sexual psyches of Canadian youth. According to André Grace, Canada research chair of sexual and gender minority studies, teenagers who use porn as a method of instruction are often perplexed about “what constitutes healthy sexual relationships and consent,” when translating online sex to their real life romantic and sexual relationships.

Grace says porn can be validating for those whose sexual and gender identities historically deviate from cultural norms. There should be comprehensive sex-ed that includes content on sexual and gender minorities, he says. These students often turn to porn and develop their understanding of sex through online depictions of gender, sexuality, aggression, consent, race, queer sex, relationships and body images in porn.

Taught by middle school teachers who would dispel myths about porn, Liam considers himself one of the lucky ones. The third-year RTA student began watching porn in Grade 6, after he he already started sex-ed two years earlier in Grade 4. He learned about contraceptives, male and female anatomy and everything else a curriculum for straight people could offer. His sex knowledge even diffused a pregnancy scare with a female partner when she got back some strange blood test results. Liam knew she wasn’t pregnant, as he had worn a condom every time and neither of them had finished during sex. If he’d been poorly instructed through sex-ed, Liam says he probably would have had a nervous breakdown. “I was actually very calm while she was freaking out,” Liam says. “I was just laughing like, ‘there’s no way I’m the unluckiest man in the world.’”

But Liam’s sex-ed didn’t prepare him when he started to sleep with men in Grade 11. So he turned to gay porn to provide him with instructions on how to have anal sex. In classes, his teachers wouldn’t talk about lube, tearing or the dangers of barebacking (anal sex without a condom). “Prepping for anal sex sucks so much,” he says. “In porn, you never see any mess, but you’re fucking someone’s ass, you know.”

With gay porn and Yahoo Answers as his guide, Liam got a warped perception of his sexual identity. As a young, queer, feminine man, he immediately categorized himself as a bottom, playing into the feminine-equals-bottom, masc-equals-top dynamics he saw in gay porn. He branded himself as a bottom looking for a masculine, dominant top. Every video he watched portrayed ripped, white-bred men as the gospel body type for queer men. This took a toll on his self-esteem, especially as someone who was bullied for being a chubby adolescent. “I was like, I want that. I want that so bad,” Liam says. “I feel like I had better sex education than the majority of the people I know and I was still fucked the moment I came out.”

Researchers at the University of Toronto said in a 2018 report that white, fit, muscular and masculine bodies are favoured in Toronto’s gay community—a reflection of dominant body imagery in the media. Many men resort to steroids, eating disorders and unsafe sex to reach these unrealistic body ideals.

Queer stereotypes in porn are often seen perpetuated in the profiles of gay men on Grindr, where it’s commonplace for users to boast their racial preferences (“Whites only,” “Sorry, not into Blacks” and “No Blacks, fats, femmes or Asians!!!” are a choice few). Liam points out it’s common to be offered money for sex on Grindr, because anyone can message anyone regardless of if they’ve matched. “I got offended by someone’s offer one time,” Liam says. “I was like, that is so low!”

In his classes, he was taught that the biggest risk with having sex was getting a girl pregnant. Since he wasn’t going to get any of his male partners pregnant anytime soon, he ended up having a lot of unprotected sex—not realizing he could contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE) says gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are 131 times more likely to get HIV than men who do not have sex with men, and according to a report from the Public Health Agency of Canada, one in four queer men in Toronto have HIV/AIDS. “Porn armed me with the idea that barebacking was fine, and so did my sex-ed curriculum—because they didn’t bother.”

Liam also had sex with older men while he was still in high school, including a brief hookup with a 27-year-old when he was only 16—something he still grapples with. “I look at it and see that type of relationship represented in all the porn I watch,” he says. “I have a hard time rationalizing that as wrong because that’s in so much of the sexualized content I can see.”

Watching porn for so long made Clarke an expert in the field of pleasuring men.

Now, Clarke asks her potential partners what their favourite porn genre is to get an idea of what to expect in bed. As a Black woman, she wants to know if guys are interested in her for what she has to offer personality-wise, or if their only interest is fulfilling their own sexual fantasies. One guy she met on Tinder said, straight up, “I like Ebony.”

When he showed her his whole dating history consisted entirely of Black women, she quickly realized she wouldn’t be sticking around to satisfy his exotic dreams.
She knew how to scream and moan to make her partner feel good, but was at a loss when it came to her own pleasure and sexual gratification. “I’m afraid to tell guys to do this or to do that because I don’t want to make the guy uncomfortable,” Clarke says. “I literally did not understand what an orgasm was from a female perspective…like it happened off-camera or something.”

One day, Clarke brought home who she thought was the hottest man she’d ever seen. When they got to the bedroom, he became increasingly assertive, putting his hands around her neck, growling and pushing her around. She had never had rough sex, nor was she ever really into watching it online. He was about the same height as Clarke, and she reckons she could have bodied him if she needed to. But as it goes in porn, where women are so often a vessel for the male’s satisfaction, she believed she was expected to pleasure her partner. So she kept quiet and went to sleep with a sour taste in her mouth, despite her extreme attraction to him. “I was so scared because I was so focused on pleasuring him,” she says. “I didn’t want to upset him.”

Now aware of the harmful values and practices porn has instilled in her and her sexual partners, Clarke is working to save money so she can afford to buy more ethical porn that doesn’t portray rape, racism or strict gender roles. Sites like Make Love Not Porn aim to showcase the differences between real sex and sex in porn through user-submitted amateur videos, while sites like Pink and White Productions are dedicated to producing porn that reflects “the complexities of queer sexual desire.” The Feminist Porn Awards, an alternative to the Adult Video News (AVN) Awards, have been celebrating porn films that prioritize equity and real pleasure since 2006. They also have an educational section with how-to videos on things like bondage and pegging.

“Ethical porn doesn’t just present boring, rose-petals sex,” says Clarke. “It does talk about situations that involve consent or a person’s fantasy.’”

There’s also Erika Lust, a Swedish feminist porn producer, who runs a series called XConfessions. Lust takes user-submitted fantasies and turns them into artistic and erotic short films. Her project aims to change the way we watch and consume porn, centring women’s and non-binary people’s pleasure. Her series is for those looking for ethical porn that includes diverse bodies and realistic sex, reflecting their own sexual experiences. Users can submit their own sexual fantasy on her website for a chance to see them played out in her next video. “It’s raw, it’s the closest to looking like real sex,” Clarke says.

Now, Clarke asks her potential partners what their favourite porn genre is to get an idea of what to expect in bed. As a Black woman, she wants to know if guys are interested in her for what she has to offer personality-wise, or if their only interest is fulfilling their own sexual fantasies. One guy she met on Tinder said, straight up, “I like Ebony.”

When he showed her his whole dating history consisted entirely of Black women, she quickly realized she wouldn’t be sticking around to satisfy his exotic dreams.

Complete Article HERE!

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Almost two-thirds of women have experienced sexual discomfort…

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but only around half of men have noticed

By Jessica Lindsay

Lubrication is one of the main ingredients for a successful sexual experience.

It turns out, however, that many women are experiencing sexual discomfort, and are reluctant to use lube for a variety of reasons. What might be even sadder is that there is a big disconnect between women having painful sex and men’s awareness of it.

A study by Durex found that 73% of British women have had discomfort during sex, but only 57% of men have noticed it with their female partners.

One third of women said discomfort made them want sex less, and 9% said it had affected their relationships as a result.

Surprisingly, however, only a third would use lubricant in bed despite 9 out of 10 agreeing that sex felt better with it.

This resulted in a number of those asked saying they’d faked orgasms, hurried their partner to finish, or quit having sex altogether due to the pain.

Although the reasonings behind the discomfort range from simply feeling drier at points in their menstrual cycle to not enough foreplay, it’s odd that this taboo still exists around using lube.

This study clearly shows that lack of lubrication is a common problem faced by women of all ages, even if it is one that isn’t often publicised.


 
Durex’s campaign aims to take a stand against the idea that we’re supposed to lie back and think of England, and instead asks why we’re still putting up with pain during sex that could be easily rectified.

They’ve got a number of influencers on board to raise awareness, including author Chidera Eggerue, who says: ‘In a world where women are constantly scrutinised for existing, it isn’t surprising that so many of us choose to silence ourselves in exchange for comfort or safety. But it’s time we choose ourselves for once.

‘We’re calling for all women to stop suffering in silence and prioritise their pleasure!’

Which lube should you go for?

Steer clear of sugars in lube (if you want to try something with flavour, look for those with aspartame or stevia instead to avoid thrush).

Water-based lubes are best for use with condoms or sex toys.

Silicone lubes can be more long-lasting, which is better suited to anal. Just make sure you don’t use these with silicone sex toys, as they can make surfaces more porous and more likely to harbour bacteria.

Try a small bottle first, and stay attuned to whether your body reacts well to it. You can then decide whether it’s the one for you.

Don’t bother with DIY solutions. Although you might that think the coconut oil or petroleum jelly in your bedside cabinet will do the trick, neither of these are condom-safe, and could cause a reaction.

Use as often and as much as you need. Forget the stigma, and forget putting up with uncomfortable sex.

Hannah Witton, British sex and relationships YouTuber echoed Chidera’s statements: ‘Using lube should be a totally normal part of sex as not only does it avoid any discomfort, but it’s also really fun! The female body is an amazing thing but depending on where we’re at in our monthly cycle, we shouldn’t have to ‘grin and bear it’ by pretending we’re enjoying sex when really we’re uncomfortable.

‘I hope this campaign encourages women to put their pleasure first and enjoy sex without compromise.’

The Durex study spoke to over 1,200 people, and the breadth of those grinning and bearing vaginal dryness issues is staggering.

It shows that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, and that taking control of your sex life is something we should all be doing, whether that’s using lubrication for ourselves, or being more in tune with our partner’s needs.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Complete Article HERE!

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Cannabis, Women and Painful Sex

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Sex can be painful for women. There, we’ve said it. Now let’s talk about natural ways to deal with it.

We’ve all heard that women experience vaginal dryness after menopause, but what some of us on the Ellementa team have experienced goes way beyond a moisture-free environment.

“It feels like jagged razor blades slicing me up inside during penetration,” she said.

“It’s like having little elves with knives inside my vagina, cutting away.”

That is what we were hearing around our virtual water cooler when the topic of menopause and sex came up.

Being on a mission to help women better understand the health and wellness benefits of cannabis and CBD, one of our intrepid founders decided to try cannabis and CBD products to address unpleasant symptoms from menopause. She confessed that for the past year she had been experiencing mind-blowing pain that put a damper on any possibility of mind-blowing sex.

“Here I was telling women how beneficial cannabis and CBD can be for our health, and I wasn’t addressing a very real health and wellness issue of my own,” she said.

One evening, she decided to try some of the sample products she had received to review. And they worked!

Here is the recipe for relief that she found useful:

  1. Use a natural vaginal lubricant daily. Many women don’t realize you can apply lubricants daily, particularly after a shower or bath, inside your vagina. We’re not talking about drowning your vagina in oil but applying it internally using a small amount on your finger. Organic coconut oil can be a natural vaginal lubricant, and can be used intra-vaginally if you’re not allergic to coconut. Other fast-absorbing oils include Jojoba and Sweet Almond.
  2. Use a THC-based sexual lubricant or topical 20-30 minutes before sex. Note that many of the THC-infused sexual aids may not be very lubricating but are more warming as well as offering the analgesic effects of THC. THC shouldn’t actually numb the vaginal area but instead reduce the sensation of pain while increasing blood flow to the vagina.
  3. Add a CBD-based lubricant. Our intrepid team member tried a sample packet of Privy Peach’s Personal Lubricant with 250mg CBD. The product claims to “help stimulate your body’s own lubrication, increase circulation, and alleviate any present discomfort.” Note: NOT FOR USE WITH LATEX CONDOMS as any oil may degrade latex.

The results? Nearly pain-free penetration, and definitely pain-free, awesome sex.

This information was a revelation for another one of our founders who went into surgical menopause after a hysterectomy.

“I was just so unprepared for menopause,” she said. “I had no idea my sex life would end, and that I’d have my own private desert.”

As with many other women, she hadn’t looked up THC- or CBD-infused sexual products.

“I’m always taking care of everybody else,” she admitted but vowed to search her market for the right products to relaunch her sex life.

It’s Not Just Older Women Experiencing Painful Sex

“I personally faced quite the battle with my vagina the minute I started having sex,” Cyo Ray Nystrom, the founder and CEO of QuimRock, recalls. “I’ve had years of awful UTIs, forcing me to take intense rounds of antibiotics that, in turn, killed off all the natural vaginal flora and caused yeast infections. It affected my life and sex life greatly as vaginal health is such an important part of intimacy and sex for so many people.”

QuimRock is a cannabis-infused self-care line for women’s intimate care.

Cyo says cannabis can be “powerful sex-medicine for anyone using it intentionally and with her own personal needs in mind.” She also notes that the shame that’s historically associated with vaginal health issues, including those related to menopause, can be “particularly scarring.”

“Personally, cannabis has always been a great tool for getting me into my body, which is essential for me to really show up in my sex life,” Cyo explains, adding, “Cannabis has helped me in many ways—from cramp relief after getting a UTI to pain relief-focused topicals to the amazing benefits of cannabis-infused lubricants.”

What Does a Medical Expert Say About Cannabis to Relieve Painful Sex?

One of our Ellementa Advisors, Dr. Elaine Burns is the founder and medical director of Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center and founder of DrBurns’ ReLeaf tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) products. Dr. Burns was working with bio-identical hormones for women before she entered the cannabis industry seven years ago. We asked her about cannabis and specifically CBD for women’s sexual health during peri-menopause and post-menopause.

According to Dr. Burns, menopause is a “multifactorial issue,” meaning no woman can expect that what worked for someone else will work for them, too. She also emphasized that cannabis is only part of an overall health-care plan that could include botanicals (such as black cohosh, evening primrose and chamomile) for women before menopause or bio-identicals—non-synthetic, all-natural hormone replacements—for women no longer experiencing menses. She told us she would never solely recommend cannabis or CBD to relieve menopausal symptoms.

THC, by the way, can also be helpful with low libido and stress related sexual dysfunction. Dr. Burns reminded us there are two parts of support during menopause:

  • Relief from unpleasant symptoms ranging from vaginal dryness to hot flashes to painful sex.
  • Prevention of diseases such as osteoporosis.

Depending on your health goals, cannabis—and specifically CBD—can be integrated into your overall care plan to alleviate specific menopause symptoms and also help with general good health as you age.

As Cyo from QuimRock explains, “It’s hugely important to figure out what turns you on and what turns you off.” And that takes time and trying different things. Just as menopause is a journey, so is naturally addressing your sexual health with botanicals like cannabis.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A lesson on consent

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The difference between writing and BDSM is… kind of a lot

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Despite living mere blocks from a sex shop, I’d never been inside. Until one sweltering evening this past summer, when my writer friend, Elle, invited me to a “Scene Building 101” class hosted by Pleasures & Treasures (2525 University Ave.).

It sounds like a writing class, we joked. Let’s go learn a thing or two! 

But, no, it was not a writing class. This was a BDSM class. “Scenes” and “play” are what we plebes lump into the cliché umbrella of roleplaying, but to the BDSM community this sort of thing is fundamental.

Scene Building 101, taught by Bikkja Amy, is considered a “soft skills” class. Hard skills, on the other hand, are things like spanking and mummification. (I’ll save you the private browser googling session: Mummification is wrapping your sub entirely in plastic wrap for an escape scene or for sensory deprivation.)

Elle, it turned out, had been to a Pleasures & Treasures class before (FYI it was a hard skills class). I learned this as we went around the room for introductions. Everyone was asked to identify themselves as a top, a bottom or a “switch,” and whether it was our first time at a class. It was hard for me to focus on everything I had just discovered about Elle, but I was up next.

“I’m Julia. I’m–” Oh god. I didn’t want to out myself as a nothing, nor did I want to pretend. I also didn’t want to out myself as a writer because it felt just as incriminating to either be a journalist or a wannabe BDSM novelist who was there to gather material.

For the love of God don’t say, “I’m a writer,” I thought.

“Just say you’re a switch,” Elle whispered.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

The class was primarily structured around where to find new ideas, and how to start and configure a “play date.” Seated in folding chairs in a circle, it was less instruction and more of a brag-adjacent discussion. I wrote in my notes, I think this class could really benefit from narrative and character elements!

I also wrote down some of the zingers: “I saw someone with a fishnet outfit and people cutting it off with a knife. And I was like, gonna try that!” one woman said. “I like to light people on fire and throw them in the pool,” someone else said.

As the class progressed, I was so busy marveling at the sheer variety of previously unfathomable BDSM kinks that I almost didn’t notice the bulletproof lesson on consent rippling quietly beneath the surface. 

Everyone here had braved a stuffy evening discussing pervy stuff with near-strangers to master the “ask,” and to learn how to lay groundwork. Scene building in the BDSM community is not about developing relatable characters with a full narrative arc ahead of them. It’s laying out expectations, boundaries and, most importantly, consent.

“If I didn’t mention it [beforehand], those things are off the table. It is the stupidest thing on the planet to say you have no limits,” the instructor explained.

A woman spoke up, in a weirdly chill voice: “So, I’m a masochist? And I don’t want to top from the bottom.” Her concern was that spelling out her boundaries ahead of time can sometimes feel like “topping,” but the instructor was steadfast. Set the boundaries and exchange consent, all the time, and every time, they told us. Find creative ways to do it, but definitely do it.

It wasn’t the place I expected to hear such a clear message on something so wholesomely universal. I think I found my kink.

Complete Article HERE!

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Ten things you should know about your waning sex life

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In a 2014 survey by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, it was found that 12 percent of married people hadn’t had sex for at least three months. Six and a half percent of married women and almost five percent of married men reported that they hadn’t had sex with their spouse in over a year.

A lack of sex in marriage or otherwise committed long-term relationships is something that’s joked about all of the time. In general, though, married couples do have more sex than people who are single or dating.

However, for the not insignificant minority of committed couples who have lost the sexual side of their relationship, it is anything but funny.

It is important to note that regular sex is not an imperative part of life or of some relationships. If you’re both happy with anniversary sex, or never sex, then we’re happy for you.

For those of you that aren’t happy, for those of you who feel stuck, confused, resentful, guilty or scared, we talked to two experts—Amy Bucciere, a certified sex and relationship therapist practicing in Pittsburgh, and Dr. Erika Evans-Weaver, the director of the Center for Human Sexuality Studies’ Sex Therapy Clinic at Widener University—to find out what you should know.

1. Rule out physiological causes.

Both experts agree that it’s important to first rule out medical conditions that could be causing changes in your libido or bodily function.

“Diseases or conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer—any of those conditions can impact your sex drive,” said Evans-Weaver.

2. Don’t assume that you know how your partner feels.

Simply put, the only way to find the cause of the problem is to look for the cause of the problem. We all have a tendency to assume that the way our partners are acting is directly related to how they feel about us. In many cases, this isn’t the truth.

Bucciere says that’s why it’s important to stay curious about what’s causing the sexual problems in your relationship, instead of coming to a conclusion on your own.

“[Ask yourself] is this actually true or is this something that I’m assuming? What is genuinely going on here? And it can be a lot of work to get an accurate answer to that question,” Bucciere said.

3. Remember that things are always in flux.

As your life circumstances change, so will the circumstances of your relationship. One of the hardest times is what Evans-Weaver refers to as the “sandwich generation,” which is when a couple is caring for both their young children and their aging parents.

“You’re exhausted, so you might want to be sexual, but at the same time you might say ‘I’d like to just cuddle up and take a nap,’” she explained. “And that’s real and fair.”

You may think that the root of your problem is that your partner has a different sex drive than you, and you could be right. But, that’s a reality in most relationships and it, too, can change over time.

“What are the chances that two people are going to be 95 percent in the same place when it comes to desire and arousal and availability to be intimate?” Bucciere said. “So it’s kind of a given that somebody is going to be higher and somebody is going to be lower, and you may go through different seasons…It’s not a stable position.”  

4. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself.

“The most important thing is that if my goal is to assign blame and to alleviate myself of doing the hard things then what happens is nothing changes,” Bucciere said.

Believing that you are right and your partner is wrong is easy and convenient, and it doesn’t get you any closer to a solution.

“It’s in our ability to make a conscious, painful decision to say, ‘I wonder what’s really happening here because if the story I’m telling myself is somehow a reductionist story about my goodness and your badness’ or something like that, then that’s the story I’m going to end up with,” Bucciere continued.

5. Talk to your partner, not everybody else.

To get more familiar with this issue, I dove into some online forums for people in sexless relationships. What I found was a lot of people commissorating about their problems, while encouraging a lot of vitriolic behavior.

“Everybody wants to let off some steam, but you’ve got to let it off with the person that’s driving you batty, not everybody else,” said Evans-Weaver.

“The folks that you are commiserating with validate you, so you feel right, and by the time you get ready to actually have the interaction with your partner, it’s still [the same] issue but not necessarily one that you have the same motivations to confront because you already felt this validation,” she continued.

So whether they’re your friends, or strangers on the internet, it’s often best to avoid airing out your grievances with people who aren’t your partner. Consider going to your partner first.

6. Don’t lose sight of the ‘us’ in your relationship.

A lot of people end up sitting with and dissecting this problem for a while, and in that time the frustration, desperation and resentment have been piling up. It’s easy to lose sight of the point of it all.

“What happens is you end up neglecting what I have come to refer to as the ‘physics of the relationship’ and you’ve become solely focused on ‘me’ and ‘you,’ and I’m neglecting the ‘us’ that exists between us and it’s in that misfocus that we end up trekking down a long and painful road,” Bucciere cautioned.

7. It’s not all about intercourse.

Evans-Weaver said that sometimes the problem can be due to boredom because the societally-driven focus on penetrative sex isn’t satisfying to one or both partners.

“[People] get stuck in these really basic sexual scripts that are no longer pleasurable for them, but they don’t know how to communicate about creating something different that is fun and invigorating to them,” she said.  

“We have to expand our perspective on what it means to be sexual with our partners because it can be anything from a sensual massage to mutual masturbation. Or it can be oral sex. It could be just touching. And it could be penetrative intercourse, but doesn’t have to be.”

And it isn’t all about orgasm, either. Making sex too goal-orientated can kill sex drive. According to Evans-Weaver, the focus should be pleasure and fun.

8. Affection and connection.

Sometimes you need to create the space for sex in your relationship though affection and re-establishing a connection.

“I remember working with folks and saying, ‘alright, what’s going on here is that one of you just wants more expression of affection and one of you actually wants to be more sexual with one another. Two different things, but the more that you express affection it’s going to also titillate your partner which might increase their desire to be sexual,’Evans-Weaver said.  

Bucciere emphasizes that feeling truly connected to your partner can change your whole approach to the issue for the better.

“It’s this idea that if we’re really feeling connected and the space between us feels safe and warm and open and loving, from there we’ll be able to figure it out,” she said.

9. Relationships take work. And they can work, if you do.

Start from a place of understanding that lasting relationships don’t happen because there’s no conflict or messiness, they last because both partners have decided that they’re going to work through the bumps.

“If people are genuinely looking to one another to say ‘I want this to get better,’ the implications of that are life-giving and tremendously healing and just a shit ton of work,” Bucciere said.

If you can develop a healthy method that you use to handle problems in your relationship, that’s a tool you’ll be able to come back to again and again.

“I genuinely, 100 percent believe that when two people are truly committed to making a process work, that it will,” Bucciere said. “If we can have our process down about how we work on this stuff, then we’re ultimately going to be able to handle whatever comes down the pike.”

10. Get help if you need it.  

This is a complicated problem. There are professionals out there, like Bucciere and Evans-Weaver, who can help. Whether you need a mediator, an idea-generator or a fresh set of eyes to look at your situation, therapists are trained to assist you.

“My approach is: listen, nobody has all the answers, right? I don’t have all the answers to fixing the problems in my own life. So my role is not to tell you, ‘well, you’ve been doing this wrong all your life,’” Evans-Weaver said.

“It’s really just to ask insightful questions that provide you with an unbiased opportunity to examine what it is that you want to do and how do you want to get there.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Uncomplicated Truth About Women Sexuality

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Is women’s sexuality more complicated than men’s? Well, not really, no, says author Sarah Barmak.

In this frank, eye-opening talk, she shows how a flawed understanding of the female body has shaped this discussion for centuries. She debunks some age-old myths (you’re welcome) and offers a richer definition of pleasure that gets closer to the simple truth about women’s sexuality.

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Why Doesn’t Sex Ed Cover Body Image?

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By Tiffany Lashai Curtis

Without a doubt, American sexual education needs a lot of work. Only 25 states even mandate that it be taught in public schools, and only 13 states require those sex ed programs to be medically accurate. In 2016, a study published by the Guttmacher Institute found today’s teens are actually receiving less education on topics like contraception and STI prevention than they did in years past.

In addition to improving access to this kind of basic sexual health information, a new paper published by the American Journal of Sexuality Education suggests we also need to expand the very definition of sexual health. One big addition that the researchers behind the paper recommend: make body image a core part of the curriculum.

How body image affects sexual well-being.

We don’t often think of body image as being directly related to our sex lives, much less our sexual health, but a growing body of research shows the two are actually intimately related. Led by Virginia Ramseyer Winter, Ph.D., MSW, director of the University of Missouri Center for Body Image Research and Policy, the researchers outlined dozens of past studies that demonstrate this connection.

Most prominently, several studies have found negative body image is often associated with increased participation in risky sexual behaviors among girls and women, including not using any contraceptives, having more unprotected sex with casual partners, and tending to be drunk before sex. Meanwhile, women who are more satisfied with their bodies are more likely to use condoms and less likely to have unprotected sex after drinking, Dr. Ramseyer Winter’s team reported: “Increased body image satisfaction acted as a protective factor for this population.”

Why would having poor body image lead girls to having more unsafe sex? One 2002 study that surveyed 522 black teen girls suggests part of the problem is the sexual beliefs and attitudes that tend to come with having a negative view of one’s own body: These girls tended to deal with a nagging fear of being abandoned while asking their partners about using condoms, and they also worried about things like not having a lot of “options” for sexual partners and not having a lot of control in their relationships. They also tended to have generally low self-esteem and more symptoms of depression.

It seems that this concoction of negative beliefs about one’s own sexual and personal worth can lead to difficulties with communicating, the researchers explained: “Self-objectification and poor body image may interfere with a young woman’s ability to advocate or negotiate on her behalf regarding her sexual health.” But Dr. Ramseyer Winter’s past studies have demonstrated the opposite is also true: Women who feel better about their bodies tend to be more comfortable talking about sex in general, which likely allows them to better negotiate their sexual boundaries and needs and thus make better decisions regarding their sexual health.

In other words, being able to comfortably talk about sex is crucial to being able to advocate for oneself in bed, and that comfort is usually closely related to how comfortable a person is with their own body. That makes sense—sex involves a person being naked and exposed, and if the idea of their body being viewed like that is frightening to them, it’ll be harder to confidently talk about sex without all those negative feelings getting in the way.

Indeed, just this month another study found that your perception of your partner’s appreciation of your body can affect your own sexual functioning. If you perceive your partner as loving your body, you have more sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasms, satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction.

Why we need a larger definition of “sexual health.”

Part of the problem is our conceptualization of sexual education as primarily a means of preventing negative health outcomes without talking much about how to promote good sexual outcomes—things like more sexual pleasure, confidence, and overall well-being.

“Instead of considering overall improved sexual health of the individual, sexuality education curricula tend to focus most heavily on reducing unplanned or teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,” the researchers point out in the paper. “While results from curricula with the aforementioned focuses provide significant immediate results showing improved condom use or abstinence, the results are not significant over time. To work toward a model of sexual health that is more than the absence of negative sexual-health-related outcomes, we must approach sex education from a theoretical perspective that is congruent with this definition.”

The researchers recommended an assessment of current sex ed curriculum and the addition of body image as a core topic for all kids. While people of all genders struggle with body insecurities, the researchers noted that girls tend to be more prone to “self-objectification,” or internalizing other people’s views of their physical appearance, which makes them particularly susceptible to body image issues. A 2006 study found upward of 80 percent of young women reported experiencing dissatisfaction with their bodies, and a 2012 study on girls in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades found girls experience a decrease in satisfaction with their bodies as they move through adolescence (with Latina girls particularly experiencing this hit to their self-esteem as they got older).

“New curricula should begin prior to puberty, as girls experience intense negative shifts in their body image during puberty and should be delivered in all settings (e.g., churches, schools, community centers),” the researchers recommend. “We can truly make sexuality education comprehensive and reflective of theoretical constructs relevant to girls. New curricula [would] incorporate topics beyond the traditional birth control and STI prevention messages, such as body image, race, gender, relationships, and more.”

If body confidence can begin in the classroom—with young people being actively encouraged to love their bodies—it might help set a precedent for healthier intimate relationships as adults.

Complete Article HERE!

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Where Sex Education Fails, Technology Can Help

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The Juicebox app connects people with sex coaches to get their questions answered—anonymously.

Juicebox, along with similar apps, has made it a mission to take the awkwardness and shame out of the “birds and bees” talk and encourage more sex-positive conversations.

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One day last year, Evan Conaway realized he had a problem. He’d been through a series of breakups in a short span of time, and the ensuing stress manifested with the onset of erectile dysfunction.

He didn’t know what to think. And he felt embarrassed even talking about it.

After trying to research solutions to his problem online, he discovered Juicebox, a smartphone app that connects anonymous users with certified sex coaches to ask questions about sex or relationships.

Working with a coach motivated him to talk about the issue with his sexual partners. “She made it seem like a normal thing to go through,” Conaway said.

Conaway said he didn’t know how to talk about what he liked or expected out of a sexual encounter. In his home state of Georgia, sex was treated as a shameful subject, especially for gay people like Conaway.

“Before I was talking to the coach, I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to express myself,” he said. “The way I approach sex is way more open and transparent.”

The slow process of public policy making means that technology has become a resource for filling in the gaps left by sparse sex education curricula that dominate U.S. schools. Juicebox, along with similar apps, has made it a mission to take the awkwardness and shame out of the “birds and bees” talk and encourage more sex-positive conversations.

While an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee, Brianna Rader, Juicebox’s founder, saw her peers enduring the consequences of a poor sex ed curriculum. She’d grown up in the state and also had to educate herself, especially as she came to identify as bisexual.

“Being queer in the South made me question the information I was given more critically,” Rader said.

Many students who had come through Tennessee’s mandated abstinence-only curriculum had a general lack of knowledge about sex and sexual health that, combined with newfound freedom at college and the ready availability of alcohol, led to disastrous situations.

Rader saw other schools like Yale and Harvard organize Sex Week, a campus event that held workshops and talks from sex educators, plus free HIV testing. But when Rader decided to organize Sex Week on the Tennessee campus, the ensuing controversy across the state led the university to succumb to political pressure and defund the project. Rader and her co-organizers kept Sex Week running for two years solely from their own fundraising.

Founder and CEO of Juicebox, Brianna Rader.

The experience sparked Rader’s newfound passion for sexual health. It also led her to seek solutions that would address people’s needs immediately, and not have to wait for policy makers to come around in their thinking.

Rader later moved to San Francisco and got a master’s degree in global health. The proximity of Silicon Valley helped her realize technology’s ability to have a faster and more wide-ranging impact.

This lack of education about sex in many parts of the U.S. has led to some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections when compared to other industrialized countries.

Only 24 states require sex education be taught in public schools, and even when sex education is offered, the curriculum varies from state to state.

A 2017 report from the Guttmacher Institute said that 20 states require information on contraception, but 27 states also must stress abstinence. HIV education is required in 34 states, but only 12 states discuss sexual orientation. And out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, only 13 require the information presented to be medically accurate.

Research published by the Public Library of Science found that abstinence-only education does nothing to prevent teen pregnancy. In fact, it actually contributes to higher pregnancy rates in the U.S.

The LGBTQ community has suffered the brunt of poor sex education. The exclusion of sexual minorities from curricula has contributed to higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unwanted pregnancies among the group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even with this data available, comprehensive sex education has yet to be universally adopted in the U.S.

Conaway didn’t receive much of a sex education growing up in Georgia, a commonplace situation throughout the South.

He said that when he began questioning his sexuality in middle school, he had to resort to the internet for information. At first, Conaway thought he was bisexual. Without anyone in school talking about LGBTQ identity positively, he assumed that something must be medically wrong with him.

“The first thing I Googled was ‘the cure for bisexuality’ because I’ve only heard of that as a disease, so it must be something that I can get rid of,” Conaway said.

Karen Rayne, a sex educator from Texas, has seen firsthand the result of a dearth of sex education. Much like Rader’s native Tennessee, Texas’ curriculum stresses abstinence. Texas also is one of the few states that forbids the curriculum from portraying LGBTQ identities positively.

Texas has some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. About 35,000 teens get pregnant each year in the state. Rayne said that teens in other states have access to more progressive and medically accurate information, and the lack of that in Texas is largely to blame for the state’s high rate of teen pregnancy.

Juicebox initially launched as a resource for teens to ask the questions that couldn’t get answered in sex ed class. But then Rader noticed more adults using the app to get answers for much different questions. Users needed help with topics like erectile dysfunction, the female orgasm, or couples’ issues, for example.

An example of how the chat function on the Juicebox app is used.

Influenced by the reality of that additional demographic, Rader relaunched Juicebox last spring with an option that pairs users with a certified sex coach so they can receive personalized attention.

Rader now wants to help users move past sexual shame and learn to communicate openly about sex—both lingering effects of inadequate sex education.

“We’re helping address the trauma that comes from our country’s horrible sex ed system, pornography, and the way media discusses sex,” Rader said.

Juicebox users span across the country—they’re even in big cities like San Francisco and New York City, where sex education is more comprehensive than Texas or Tennessee. Rader said that despite how good the education system can be, there’s still a lot of confusion around sex.

That’s why Rayne stresses that nothing can really replace comprehensive sexuality education earlier in life. Without a template to understand sex, it’s hard to know how to broach the topic with a teen.

Both Rader and Rayne believe open communication will be key in addressing an epidemic of teen pregnancies and STIs and helping people feel comfortable in their sexuality.

“Sex education is fun—or at least it should be,” Rayne said. “Our sexuality should be forces of joy and pleasure, whether we’re actively engaging with sexual partners or not.”

Even though apps like Juicebox can serve as a supportive tool in developing a comprehensive curriculum, Rayne said a face-to-face education must still be the priority. Without it, people often don’t know what questions to ask. She sees tech working more in conjunction with sex education programs rather than substituting for it.

Rader hopes Juicebox can be an accessible resource for people wanting to learn more about sex and adopting a more sex-positive attitude.

“I believe we’re at the very, very beginning of a hopefully larger movement,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

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