‘Gay gene’ theories belong in the past – now we know sexuality is far more fluid

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Gender norms imprison us all, dictating our behaviour for fear of abuse – and that extends to who we sleep or fall in love with

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It turns out that genetics is almost as complicated as love and sex. New research has shown that the long fabled “gay gene” does not exist; that a variety of different genes contribute to same-sex attraction, and that several other factors are in the mix too.

For many LGBTQ people – myself included – the very notion of this study sets off big queer alarm bells, though it should be noted researchers worked closely with LGBTQ groups. As early as 1993, the Daily Mail – and mock it all you like, it’s one of the country’s main newspapers – published an article under the headline “Abortion hope after ‘gay genes’ findings”. In the age of supposed “designer babies”, what if the hatefully inclined chose to make sure their unborn child wasn’t gay or bisexual?

Then there’s the old homophobic trope that people “choose” to be gay, and that falling in love with someone of the same gender is a “lifestyle choice” – a perverse myth long used to punish LGBTQ people and fuel the horror of so-called gay conversion therapy. It is reassuring, then, that the study isn’t suggesting that how children are raised by their parents determines their sexuality: one environmental factor that’s been previously researched is that foetal development in the womb may have a significant impact, for instance.

But while the research may be interesting, it is surely irrelevant. Believing that LGBTQ people choose their sexuality belongs in the same bin as flat-Earthism and climate emergency denial. All LGBTQ people grow up in homophobic societies, whether that bigotry is imposed by coercive social attitudes or by the state. Almost all of us endure agonising periods marked by fear and shame, and struggled to come out to ourselves, let alone our family, friends and society: the idea we opted out of heterosexuality for a bit of a laugh is clearly fantasy.

What is more interesting is that we will not know how fluid sexuality truly is until homophobia – and its parent, sexism, because it’s really about enforcing gender norms – is vanquished. Of course there are many who believe their sexuality is effectively fixed as straight or gay. Not so for bisexuals – and for others, their sexuality is more fluid still. The experiences of men and women differ markedly here. Although younger men are more comfortable showing feelings for each other, many men still fear that even expressing affection for another guy will have them pejoratively labelled as exclusively gay. Women who have attraction towards other women, meanwhile, are objectified and sexualised: it’s a crude sexual fantasy for men.

The polling shows that younger people are increasingly less likely to identify as heterosexual, a symptom of growing emancipation. According to YouGuv survey this year, while 83% of 18 to 24-year-olds in Britain identified as heterosexual just four years ago, now only 75% do, with 16% now self-describing as bisexual, an astonishing 14 points higher than 2015.

Sexual and gender norms imprison us all, dictating our behaviour for fear of reprisal – abuse or even violence – and that extends to who we sleep with or fall in love with. When the struggle for freedom succeeds, those boundaries will finally be overcome.

Complete Article HERE!

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Overcoming intimacy challenges after 50

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By Julie Pfitzinger

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

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

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

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

Are You Ready to Move On?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Different Ideas About Sex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Myth of STDs and STIs

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

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

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

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

Make a List of What You Need

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

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

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

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

‘You Have More Freedom’

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

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

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

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

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Not tonight!

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Why men are not always in the mood for sex

By Marjorie Brennan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men want to be desired

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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The Vagina Bible

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This feminist gynecologist wants you to know your body and fight the patriarchy

By Julia Belluz

With her new book, Jen Gunter aims to fight the myths that plague women.

Before the advent of C-sections, every human passed through one. But not everybody knows where it is.

The vagina.

Surveys have repeatedly shown that there’s a startling level of ignorance about female anatomy. Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB-GYN in the San Francisco Bay Area, is on a quest to change that.

On August 27, she’ll publish The Vagina Bible, an encyclopedic guide to vagina-related topics born of what Gunter is calling a “vagenda” to empower people with facts about their own bodies

The book builds on her eponymous blog, which became a viral sensation when she took on jade eggs for the vagina sold on Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website, Goop. The eggs were being marketed as devices “queens and concubines used … to stay in shape for emperors.” In an open letter to Paltrow, Gunter debunked the website’s claims and noted how sexist they were: “Nothing,” she wrote, “says female empowerment more than the only reason to do this is for your man.

Now officially Paltrow’s nemesis — the actress has subtweeted Gunter with Goop’s response to the doctor’s criticisms — Gunter says, “The basic tenet that I go by is that you can’t be an empowered patient with inaccurate information. It’s just not possible.”

Over the years, in Gunter’s blog posts and, more recently, columns in the New York Times, she’s set the record straight on myriad vagina-adjacent topics: vaginal steaming, abortion at or after 24 weeks, misinformation about the HPV vaccine, and best practices for pubic hair care.

Recently, I spoke to Gunter about the top vagina myths, the complex reasons women seek sex, and whether she’ll send Paltrow her book. Here’s our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Julia Belluz

Can you tell me a little about your vagenda? By the way, I love that word.

Jen Gunter

Well, I don’t think I came up with it. It was around the [2016 US] election. There was all this misogynistic crap floating around everywhere. Some dude had written about Hillary Clinton, that she had a “vagenda of manocide.”

Julia Belluz

So you’re reappropriating it.

Jen Gunter

Yeah, I repurposed that. Manocide is really where we’re going here.

Julia Belluz

You’ve been writing about women’s health for a long time, but there’s finally a broad awareness on how policies around reproductive health have been written by men for women’s bodies. What’ll it take for that to change?

Jen Gunter

The patriarchy has to end. This system where men hold the power and women are largely excluded — it is toxic.

Julia Belluz

It seems like the big vagenda, the overarching theme in the book, is exposing all the ways the patriarchy obscures information about women’s bodies or leads to a failure to investigate basic things about women’s bodies. Also, how this often leaves women uninformed. Why are women out of the loop on their own bodies? What do you think are the cultural forces behind it?

Jen Gunter

There is so much misinformation, so if what you have been told has been riddled with half-truths and sometimes even lies, it is hard to know the facts. Western medicine has been linked with the patriarchy since the beginning. If you can’t dissect female cadavers, how can you know the anatomy?

Also, we speak with euphemisms to appease societal and religious mores. If you don’t use the words for female anatomy and normal function, then that imparts shame and can also lead to confusion.

Now we also have the “natural” fallacy gaining traction. Multiple influencers and even celebrities and some doctors advance the false notion that “your body knows” and “nature is best.” And if women look up vaginal garlic [yes, this is a thing] on a naturopath’s website and see it in Our Bodies, Ourselves, of course they will think it is a valid therapy when it is not.

I get that women have been ignored — that is why I am fighting for facts — but the answer isn’t magic and mystics. The answer is demanding that science do better, both with the bench and clinical research and communication.

Julia Belluz

Okay, so let’s start with the very basic facts. You begin the book by pointing to the difference between the vulva and vagina — largely because many people don’t even know what it is. Can you lay it out?

Jen Gunter

Oh, my gosh, that’s so common! The vulva is the external part, where your underwear touches your skin. The part on the inside — where you reach up to find a tampon or check an IUD string — is the vagina. The part where the two overlap is the vestibule.

Julia Belluz

And you made a very good case in the book for why the clitoris is so cool but also really underappreciated.

Jen Gunter

Yeah, it’s the only organ in the human body that exists only for pleasure. It has no other dual function. The penis is for peeing as well. Also for procreation. The clitoris is just there for the party.

Julia Belluz

That brings me to [a] common sex idea that you explain is not quite right: Penile penetration alone leads to orgasm through the G-spot, absent the clitoris. You cite MRI studies that have shown that even when people think it’s penetration [that leads to orgasm], it’s actually the clitoris.

Jen Gunter

This comes down to the fact that so many people don’t understand how large the clitoris is and how much of it is under the labia and wrapped around the urethra. So for some women, you’re going to get some part of your clitoris stimulated with penile penetration. And for some women, you won’t, and that’s okay. It’s not how you had an orgasm, it’s that you did have an orgasm. There’s this fixation that it has to come by way of penile thrusting.

When I started writing this book, every piece of information I thought I believed or everything that we as society believe about women’s bodies, I asked myself: How does this benefit the patriarchy? And if you think about this penile thrusting, well, that makes men feel like, “Oh, I’m the big man, I’ve brought your orgasm around with my mighty sword.” You can quote me on that.

How offensive is that to women who partner with women? Like, their sex is going to be less? Please.

Julia Belluz

Right. And you found two-thirds of women aren’t having orgasm from penetrative sex, and maybe they feel disappointed about that. And clearly, they shouldn’t.

Jen Gunter

Sex should be pleasure-oriented, not metric-oriented.

Julia Belluz

That’s the aphorism for our time.

Jen Gunter

Yeah, right. It’s not did you come with his penis? It’s did you have a good time and did you enjoy yourself?

We also often get fixated on orgasm being the money shot, that penile thrusting is causing this incredible orgasm. Instead, I love the new approach to the female sexual response that is this idea that women can come to sex for many reasons. They can come to sex to have an orgasm. They can come to sex to have physical closeness with their partner. They can come to sex to feel taken care of. They can come to sex for comfort. It’s not all about being horny.

Julia Belluz

Do you think the “sex recession” is real?

Jen Gunter

I have no idea if this is really a thing or not. I often wonder if people feel pressured to say that sex is the most important thing ever in their lives, and now many people are just being more honest and practical. Also, in a heterosexual relationship — how we have largely discussed sex until relatively recently — women were just supposed to say yes, and, if things sucked, just count ceiling tiles. I hope this is changing.

We have been led to believe, [because of] the pressures of a largely patriarchal society, that sex is the one true goal, and we use sex to sell almost everything, so that just reinforces that belief. Good sex is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But life is a lot of things.

Julia Belluz

What message do you have for men who partner with women?

Jen Gunter

I would say stop asking your female partner if she came. It’s not ticking a box. Ask, instead, what feels good for you now? What can I do for you now? What do you like? Are you having fun? Is this good? Open-minded communication. Think of it as making dinner with someone, not serving them the meal and saying, well, I hope you like that.

Julia Belluz

Would you give the same kind of advice to women who partner with women or couples with a trans partner?

Jen Gunter

I hear horrible things that women who partner with men are told by their male partners about their intimate places — such as there “can’t be any blood” or “you stink” or “why don’t you shave all your pubic hair.” I have seen women break down because they have irregular spotting on every method of birth control and “he won’t wear condoms” and “thinks blood is gross” yet expects regular sex on his schedule. The things some men tell women about their normal bodies enrage me. I struggle to think of a woman who partners with women who has come to see me because of the shame her partner had made her feel about her body or who has had a partner say vile things about her body. That is a glaring difference I have seen that sticks with me.

Julia Belluz

What, if any, conversations have you had with trans women and trans men who may still carry children?

Jen Gunter

I see trans men who have vaginal irritation, pain with sexual activity, and pelvic pain or pain with sex. Many of these patients get their care in the trans health clinic and so already have an IUD for contraception. Since I no longer insert IUDs or Implanon [a contraception implant], I wouldn’t have an in-depth discussion about these methods with any patient unless specifically asked. I would have a brief discussion about contraception with a trans patient if they are at risk of pregnancy partner-wise and not using contraception, as I would with any patient.

Julia Belluz

What have you learned about sexual health from this community?

Jen Gunter

I think the biggest takeaway I have from seeing trans patients is how hard it can be for so many to access care — either due to services not available locally, prejudice, finances, or all three — and how many different people they have to see to have their symptoms taken seriously. I hear this from many patients, but sadly, there seem to be even more barriers for trans patients, and we must work to end that.

Julia Belluz

One other theme that permeates the book, as well as a lot of your other writing and your copious word spills on Gwyneth Paltrow, is this idea that there are too many people out there trying to sell people stuff for their vaginas that they don’t need.

Jen Gunter

Oh, my god, yes. My goal is to put everybody who sells feminine hygiene bullshit out of business. When I say feminine hygiene stuff, I don’t mean menstrual products. I hate calling menstrual products feminine hygiene. They’re menstrual products!

Julia Belluz

Are you going to send the book to Gwyneth Paltrow?

Jen Gunter

No, no, I wouldn’t.

Julia Belluz

I think she needs it.

Jen Gunter

Of course she does. But it wouldn’t sit with her desire to profit off telling people that they need liver detoxes and [jade eggs for the vagina].

Julia Belluz

There’s also so much talk of natural birth control methods, IUDs, and other moves away from the Pill. What do you see shifting in the way people take control of their sexual health?

Jen Gunter

I see a lot of conversations here, and unfortunately, many are based on misinformation and fear. I am firmly for reproductive choices, but scaring people about contraception is gaining traction, and fear is not part of informed consent. So we are seeing the radical right and radical left (nature-knows-best types) joining forces. I think people should have solid facts so they can weigh their personal risk-benefit ratio and go from there. I think it is very important for people to consider what will happen if they have a method failure — how important is it to not be pregnant? Do they have access to full reproductive health if they have an unplanned pregnancy? How will they feel if they have an unintended pregnancy?

Julia Belluz

You got the HPV vaccine recently, according to Twitter. This may have been surprising to some because you are in your early 50s, and in the past, the recommendation has been that the HPV vaccine is only for girls and women up to the age of 26. But there’s this new broadening of the age range for people who should get the shots. Can you explain?

Jen Gunter

Gardasil 9, which is the one that protects against nine strains of HPV — seven high-risk and the two that cause genital warts — is now approved from ages 9 to 45. If you’re going to vaccinate people, you want to catch the people that you’re more likely to help. The younger you are, the less likely you are to have had HPV. The younger you can get people, the more likely you can protect them from all nine strains. As we age and have sexual partners, we’re more likely to be exposed to different strains of HPV. But the chance that you’re going to be exposed to all of them is low.

So I figured that since I’m dating again, and I personally have never had a positive HPV test, and I have no history of having had an abnormal Pap smear or HPV, I thought, well, I’m in a pretty good category then. The chance that I’ve had all nine strains of HPV is probably low. So I just thought, why not get the shot to protect myself from any of the additional strains?

Julia Belluz

Are there other things that you wish more women did to keep their vaginas happy and healthy — and their vulvas and vestibules too?

Jen Gunter

Well, I wish HPV shots for all my friends. I wish that nobody smoked. That’s a very bad thing. People think about lung cancer and smoking. People don’t think about cardiovascular disease from smoking. It’s also very deleterious for the good bacteria in your vagina. And people who smoke have a higher risk of having HPV-related diseases like cervical cancer, so it’s a co-factor in HPV becoming more aggressive. Not smoking, that would be a wonderful thing.

Condoms. You know, there is a little bit of a drop in condom use, and that is probably due to the increasing use of the IUD. That doesn’t mean that people are having risky sex — they’re actually not. But if you’re switching from a method of barrier protection to a method of non-barrier protection, then you’ll have an increased risk of exposure.

Julia Belluz

Great advice.

Jen Gunter

I wish everybody could talk about the genital tract in the same way we talk about the elbow or the foot. It’s just a body part.

Complete Article HERE!

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Audio Porn?

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

by Estrella Jaramillo

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

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

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

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

Dipsea, Immersive Erotic Stories For Millennials

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

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

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

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

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

Ferly, Emotional Sexual Wellness In Your Phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quinn, The Massive Opportunity Of Crowdsourcing Audio Porn

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

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

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

Emjoy, Creating Healthy Sexual Habits And Ending Female Pleasure Shaming

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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What Is Kink-Shaming?

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(And Why You Should Avoid Doing It)

By Alex Manley

How Kink-Shaming Can Keep People From Feeling Sexually Liberated

You’re hooking up with someone for the first time — or the second, the tenth or the hundredth — and you think you know what to expect, but then they ask if you can try something new. 

Immediately, you’re a little cautious. What if it’s weird? They blush a little bit. “Well, you see, I’ve always wanted to try this thing … but it’s a little kinky…” You gulp as they lean in and whisper the secret desire into your ear. You want to make them happy because you’re not a jerk, but this fetish is way out there, and not at all something you’re used to.

“Gross,” you say. “You’re really into that?” Your hookup buddy looks embarrassed. “Never mind,” they say, grabbing their clothes from the floor. “I should probably get going

What just happened? Well, there’s a name for it: kink-shaming. And even if you don’t think you’re doing it, you probably are.

What Is Kink-Shaming?

“This girl I met on Tinder told me she wanted to try this thing called ‘caking’ — spreading cake batter all over your naked self. I was like, ‘Hmmmm, no.’ Very unsanitary, and I don’t like wasting food.” – Miguel, 28

Kink-shaming is basically exactly that —shaming someone for their sexual desires when they don’t line up with what you think is normal.

“Kink-shaming is when you embarrass someone for their sexual preferences and believe something is wrong with them because of their sexual interests,” says Dr. Janet Brito, a sex therapist based in Hawaii.

This could be about a fetish, a kink, a preference, a history of certain behaviors, or even just an openness or willingness to try something that the other person considers unconventional.

“I would define kink-shaming as the negative judgment and criticism of all sexual contact that isn’t considered vanilla or ‘mainstream,’” says Jor-El Caraballo, a relationship therapist and co-creator of Viva Wellness.

Brito notes that some common targets of kink-shaming include “fetishes that are uncommon, such as titillagnia (arousal to tickling other people) or urophilia (arousal to urine or urinating on others), dressing up as a furry or a desire to be choked or spanked.”

However, there are some that are gender-focused — men, for instance, often kink-shame “their girlfriend’s/wife’s interest in group sex, public sex, threesomes, double penetration, having a rape fantasy, masochist or sadist interestsl,” notes Brito. Or when talking to other men, they might be judgmental toward things like “same-sex attraction, same-sex fantasies, autogynephilia, men attracted to transwomen or non-binary folks.”

This kind of thing can play out in all different ways. It could be as simple as making fun of your friend for a hookup story with an unexpected detail in it, or it could be your long-term significant other trying to make you feel dirty for asking for something new in bed.

While it might not be coming from a place of hurtfulness — it’s as often a sense of surprise or shock rather than outright cruelty — it can still be incredibly demeaning.

How Does Kink-Shaming Negatively Impact People?

“I had a man recoil and tell me he ‘doesn’t do that weird sh*t’ when I placed his hand closer to my neck. It made me feel super uncomfortable for the rest of that interaction.” – Maria, 29

“Kink-shaming really only serves to make people live in silence and fear of judgment,” says Caraballo. “It creates negative internal emotional consequences, leaving the receiver to question the validity of their own desires. This could exacerbate any lingering questions of self-worth, depression or anxiety that the receiver already has about their sexuality and identity. It can negatively impact their ability to have and enjoy sex, and might kill desire altogether.”

It can also have a serious impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being, ultimately causing psychological harm in the end.

“They may feel invalidated, dismissed, misunderstood,” says Brito. “It can negatively impact their relationship with their significant other, cause someone to withhold information or hide their kink from them. [And] at its worst, kink shaming can be used as a weapon against someone, and can cause someone to lose their job or their family.”

That might sound extreme, but instances of people’s sex lives becoming public knowledge are often weaponized against them in some form; the belief that a certain non-conformist sexual interest is unacceptable or somehow indicative of a person’s core moral character lives on in popular thought.

As a result, it’s worth thinking about how kink-shaming functions on a greater societal level, rather than just instances of one person shaming another. When we normalize kink-shaming and general sex-negative attitudes, people grow up feeling ashamed of desires they cannot control.

How Can You Stop Kink-Shaming?

“When I was in my teens (and probably even into my early 20s), I thought it was really funny to make fun of furries. But at some point, I realized that I was belittling people for sexual desire that I didn’t understand, even though it was being practiced by consenting adults. There was no real justification for it other than that it felt good in a shallow, sh*tty way to mock outsiders and people who don’t conform. I never tried to shame anyone directly, but I definitely carried that prejudice for many years.” – Ian, 30

Considering the widespread societal consequences of kink-shaming attitudes, and the seriously negative consequences it can have on a person’s wellbeing, it’s worth considering how we can move away from kink-shaming in general.

To that end, sex education — not just about the physical ins and outs of sex, but how desire works — can be a huge factor.

“I think that education is the biggest way to combat kink-shame,” says Caraballo. “There are a lot of misconceptions about why people enjoy kink (or certain forms of kink) and getting exposure to accurate information helps combat negative, internalized puritanical views about sex and kink.”

Brito agrees that education is important, but notes that there are lots of ways we can help shift our culture away from its current kink-shaming state.

She suggests “being willing to learn more about the diversity of human sexuality by being exposed to more sex-positive messages, by de-stigmatizing sex and knowing how to distinguish the difference between a sexual fantasy and reality, [and] by speaking up when someone is shaming someone’s kink.”

Brito also notes that some of the most common kink-shaming occurs within the self, meaning people shaming themselves for their own desires. If you struggle with that kind of thing, it’s worth putting in the effort to shift gears “by practicing self-acceptance, since working on embracing one’s interests is the first step toward accepting others.”

Finally, she adds, you can make a difference “by embracing the notion that everyone is different, and that having unique or non-traditional sexual interests does not mean something is wrong with you.”

Experiencing sexual desire is normal, and what exactly turns you on is often largely out of your control. Until you recognize that your desires alone don’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, it’ll likely be a struggle for you to genuinely accept yourself and your sexuality.

But if you commit yourself to working through these issues — with a partner, perhaps, or in therapy — it’s absolutely possible to arrive at a healthier, more confident place where your own comfort with your sexual desires means you’re not looking to ridicule, diminish or shame others for theirs.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Most Common Open Relationship Rules

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And How to Set Yours

We’ve been inundated with the concept of “the one” throughout our lives. But what if “the one” is really more like a great entrée with some side dishes? Although we’re led to believe that monogamy is the gold standard of relationships, sociologist Dr. Elisabeth “Eli” Sheff says that “polyagomy is far more common across cultures and societies and history than monogamy.”

In fact, thanks in part to the internet and dating apps, open relationships are seemingly on the rise (or perhaps more people feel comfortable openly acknowledging them). According to a 2016 study, one in five Americans has been in a non-monogamous relationship at some point. Plus, age, race, political affiliations and socio-economic status doesn’t seem to affect the likelihood of someone entering an open relationship. However, people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were slightly more likely to have experienced non-monogamy.

As we all know, relationships are work. And when you add in more parties, it gets decidedly more complicated, and you might discover that sometimes more isn’t merrier. So if you’re considering starting an open relationship, you’ll need to weigh your wants and needs, consider your partner’s and establish some guidelines beforehand. But first things first…

What exactly is an open relationship?

“Open relationships fall under the umbrella of consensual non-monogamous relationships and generally, but not always, tend to focus on sexual activities over emotional with other partners,“ explains clinical psychologist Dr. Catalina Lawsin. “Under this larger umbrella there are many types of consensual non-monogamous relationships, some of which include: polyamory (where partners support one another having both emotional and sexual relationships with other partners with the understanding that love can take many forms and individuals can love more than one person at a time), monogamish (similar to open, but restricted only to sexual activity with other partners), swinging (exploring sexual activities together at social events and meetups with other couples), and relationship anarchy (there are no set rules but instead the relationship is flexible to the needs of each partner).”

She also emphasizes that open relationships are not like affairs, a common misconception. “It’s quite the opposite,” she says. “The core ingredient of an affair is the secrecy of it. In open relationships partners are open in their sexual activity with others and supportive of it.”

Is an open relationship right for you and your partner?

First, for an open relationship to work, both partners need to enter it willingly, not begrudgingly. If a person acquiesces to an open relationship, perhaps out of fear of losing their partner, it’s “a disaster because open relationships are challenging, even if everyone wants to be in them. Relationships in general are challenging. If it’s a non-monogamous relationship, and someone has been pressured or bullied into it, or has given in because they feel the person will leave them if they don’t, then that builds up resentment,” Dr. Sheff says,author of The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families. “And then when something happens, [for example] someone accidentally gets pregnant, someone gets a sexually transmitted infection, then that just blows up.”

Also, it’s not a strategy to fix turbulent relationships, Dr. Lawsin cautions. “On the contrary, consensual non-monogamous relationships rely on trust and require a healthy stable relationship that is mutually supportive to succeed. All relationships require negotiation, and bringing in additional partners to a relationship often requires more negotiation, communication and planning.”

To start, figure out why you want an open relationship. “People should think deeply about their motivations,” says Dr. Sheff. Do you want multiple partners, but recoil at the thought of your partner being with other people? Are you simply looking for an excuse to hook up with other people? Or a way not to fully commit? “It’s not reasonable to expect a partner to be sexually exclusive with you, while you have sex with anybody that you want,” she adds. “Sometimes couples can work out a poly-mono relationship, but in my experience, as a relationship coach and in my research, I have seen that that hardly ever works…Usually people who want a monogamous relationship want their partners to be monogamous with them.” So make sure you and your partner are on the same page.

Next, consider how well you communicate and handle conflict as a couple, which are key ingredients for relationship success, especially in non-monogamous ones. “Because conflict will inevitably arise in any relationship. And if you add additional people into it, the potential for conflict dramatically increases,” Dr. Sheff says. “So if people don’t know how to handle conflict and then they enter a potentially incredibly sticky situation like non-monogamy, that could definitely blow up in their faces.”

Psychotherapist Dr. Kristie Overstreet also suggests working with a certified sex therapist if you need help navigating the possibility of an open relationship. And if your gut is saying “yes yes yes” or “oh God, no no no,” listen to it.
What type of open relationship works for you?

The type of relationship that’s best for you and your partner really depends on what you’re seeking. Dr. Overstreet says that “both partners in the couple need to decide if they are open to emotional, physical or both aspects for an open relationship.”

Dr. Sheff breaks it down like this: “Are you both wanting sexual variety with no strings attached? Then swinging is good for that. Are you wanting more emotional intimacy? Then polyamory is better for that. Do you want no rules and for each relationship to be taken on its own individual independence? Then consider relationship anarchy.”

People who practice relationship anarchy choose to be together out of desire rather than obligation, Dr. Sheff explains. “They are not necessarily on this ‘relationship escalator,’ where there’s one way to have a relationship with increasing exclusivity and commitment until you’re married, with sex only happening with that one partner. Relationship anarchists are not down with that at all.”

The rules of an open relationship

While no two relationships are alike, there are some general guidelines to consider when trying to establish a healthy open relationship. Dr. Lawsin offers the following checklist, adding that any rules or boundaries should be discussed, negotiated and reassessed occasionally throughout the relationship and adjusted as needed.

1. Negotiate your sexual boundaries

Boundaries regarding sex should be explicitly negotiated, such as how often sex can occur (e.g., weekly, monthly, etc.), with how many partners at a time, where (e.g., on business trips) and whatever additional physical or logistical (e.g., time) dimensions a couple wishes to define in their relationship. This includes the type of sex as well. For example, is penetrative sex OK or just oral? What about BDSM? Also, do you prefer your partner to only have sex with strangers who they will never see again or rather with someone you already know and trust. Yes, it might get weirdly specific, but you’ll want to figure this stuff out before you open the flood gates.

2. Define your emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries can be harder to define and set, but they should definitely be discussed, with each partner being honest about what they can manage for themselves and their partner.

3. Safe sex is a must

When you transition your relationship from exclusive to open, you might be super excited to get started with your new ventures, but don’t let all those safe sex practices fly out the window. Discuss with your partner what you’re both comfortable with and how you’ll actually practice safe sex IRL.

4. Be honest

Open relationships relinquish partners from needing to hide or suppress their sexual needs, therefore honesty about what they’re doing should be maintained. Couples need to specify how many details the other wants to know (if any at all) as well as how often. This should be reassessed as needed (and this also applies to #3).

5. Schedule check-ins with your partner

Transparency about how each partner is feeling about the other’s sexual pursuits should also be negotiated and checked on. Partners can make assumptions in any type of relationship, so it’s important to have check-ins with one another to provide a safe space to process emotions, make any adjustments to negotiated boundaries and assess the health of the primary relationship.

6. Don’t forget your about your relationship

Schedule time and space to nurture the relationship and make sure to maintain this. Date nights, trips away and expressing love need to be prioritized to maintain the relationship foundation. Dr. Sheff agrees, saying that it’s easy for one partner to get distracted with a shiny new, exciting relationship and forget to pay attention to the longer-term relationship. “Don’t just save all the fun juju for the new relationship,” she adds.

What about jealousy?

You’re gonna get jealous. It’s inevitable. So, Dr. Sheff says, people “should anticipate it and start building skills around dealing with it before they even engage in open relationships.” And if you do get jealous that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the idea of an open relationship altogether. Rather, you need to face the jealousy head on and figure out why you feel that way, perhaps because you’re feeling insecure or threatened by your partner’s new relationship. Dr. Sheff says that this is a good time for your partner to reassure you (or for you to validate your partner) by saying, “I love you. It’s OK. I’m not leaving you and here are all the reasons why I love you.”

Complete Article HERE!

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We asked a sex educator every question you probably have about spanking

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By Tiffany Curtis

While the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy might be the most mainstream (and, honestly, lackluster) depiction of sensual spanking we’ve seen in recent years, the act of receiving or giving some good ol’ ass slaps isn’t new.

Erotic or sensual spanking is a method of impact play. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “impact play,” it is defined by Kinkly.com as “a sexual practice where one person is struck by another person for the sexual gratification of either or both parties.” While spanking, which can vary in its levels of intensity, and other forms of impact play are often a part of BDSM, you don’t have to be a part of the lifestyle or identify as kinky in order to master and enjoy the act.

Despite the fact that many people enjoy erotic spanking (24% of Americans, according to this study), the topic remains somewhat taboo and bogged down by misinformation. “Most media representations of kink, BDSM, and spanking involve persons who are psychologically troubled or have experienced abuse,” said Candice Smith, co-founder of The KinkKit, when the reality is plenty of people who were never victims of abuse or trauma choose to practice BDSM.

Again, it’s important to note that you don’t have to self-identify as kinky in order to experience the pleasure or potential benefits of safe and consensual spanking, or other forms of impact play, but those who practice elements of BDSM experience higher levels of life satisfaction, lower anxiety, and more communicative relationships, according to a 2013 study conducted by the International Society for Sexual Medicine—just in case you needed reassurance that spanking is a normal and healthy sex act.

Maybe you’ve wanted to ask for a good spanking, but you aren’t sure how to initiate the conversation with a partner? Or maybe you’re already a spanking pro, and you’re wondering how to level up beyond just being taken across someone’s knee?

That’s why we reached out to Dirty Lola, sex edutainer and host of Sex Ed A Go Go. She recently collaborated with The KinkKit on a sensual spanking skills kit for adults, and she spoke to us about the ins and outs of spanking.

HG: For anyone who might be new to the term “sensual spanking,” what is it?

Dirty Lola: Sensual spanking is spanking with the intent to give pleasure. It should be consensual, mindful, and focus on the connection between partners. In this case, sensual should not be confused for gentle. While sensual spanking may start off with light smacks, it can most definitely move into harder, firmer blows. It all depends on the needs and desires of the person being spanked, aka the bottom.

HG: What do you think makes this particular kind of impact play pleasurable for folks?

DL: I think sensual spanking is a popular form of impact play because it’s so accessible. You don’t need special furniture or implements to start exploring sensual spanking. While those things can definitely take your spanking game to another level, if you’re just starting out, all you need are your hands, a willing bottom, and a little know-how.

HG: How can someone who wants to try sensual spanking bring up the conversation with their partner(s)?

DL: I’m a big fan of making time to chat with my partners about sex things when we aren’t having sex. For instance, the next time you’re hanging out on the couch with your boo, you could mention that you read a great article on sensual spanking that piqued your curiosity. This will definitely open up a dialogue about trying out new things.

HG: What things need to be in place before incorporating spanking into your sex sessions?

DL: Before you begin to incorporate spanking into your sex sessions, you should definitely know how to safely administer a spanking so you reduce the chances of harming your partner. You should also know what sensations your partner likes and what level of pain they would like to receive. Most importantly, you should have a safe word in place or use the stoplight method (Green = more / harder, Yellow = keep the same pace, Red = stop) in order to ensure an open line of communication with your partner and fewer misunderstandings.

HG: While the over-the-knee position is pretty common, what are some other positions that can make getting spanked, or doing the spanking, more fun?

DL: Have your bottom stand and bend over and hold on to their ankles, a low table, or a stool. This position is great because it really showcases the butt and exposes more of the upper thighs. If you want to experiment with a standing position but your bottom needs more upper-body support, then you can have them stand at the end of the bed and lay their upper body across the bed while keeping their feet flat on the floor. This position can also be achieved by leaning over the arm of a couch. If your bottom enjoys the sensation of their entire body being supported while receiving spanks you can try spanking them while they are on their knees on a bed or couch with their chests flat against the surface and their asses in the air. Both of these positions allow the person doing the spanking, aka the top, to easily move around and change angles during the session.

HG: Where on the body, should we be spanking/getting spanked?

DL: The main area of concentration during a spanking is the convex buttocks, or as I like to fondly refer to them, Booty Meats. The Booty Meats are the lower, fleshier portion of the butt. All of that fleshy goodness is what makes it the prime target during a spanking. However, you can also spank the sides of the butt (stay away from the hips), as well as those delightful creases between the thighs and butt as well as the upper thighs. These areas should receive fewer swats because the skin in those areas is more delicate and prone to bruising. Of course, if that is your thing, then proceed accordingly. You should avoid spanking near or around the tailbone completely. You especially want to avoid spanking anywhere around the lower back, as heavy blows can cause kidney damage.

HG: Is a partner necessary in order to experience spanking?

DL: You don’t need a partner in order to enjoy the fun of spanking. You will, however, need long arms or implements with long handles in order to be your own bottom and enjoy a bit of self-flagellation. Positioning is also key when spanking yourself. Standing and leaning over the arm of a couch or a stool or a high chair will position you in such a way that your butt is sticking out giving you more access.

HG: What are some of your favorite spanking techniques/tools?

DL: I love giving and receiving spanks with bare hands. There is something special about feeling the heat of skin-to-skin contact during spanking sessions. Hands also have the ability to squeeze, rub, tickle, and pinch. All things you can add into your spankings to heighten sensation. If I am using an implement or having an implement used on me, I prefer a small, sturdy paddle. Small paddles make it easier to dole out harder blows while using less energy. I also love having something soft to run across the skin post-spanking, like a feather or a silky piece of fabric, to change up the sensation during a long spanking session.

HG: What kind of aftercare should be taking place after a spanking session?

DL: Some examples of post-spanking aftercare are cuddles, gentle touches, words of affirmation, massages (butt and hand), and, of course, verbally checking in with one another. Yes, tops need aftercare, too. It’s also a good idea for everyone to hydrate post-spanking. If the spanking resulted in bruises, you can add a bruise reducer to your aftercare ritual.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Best Lazy Sex Positions

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When you want to get it on—but don’t want to do any heavy lifting.

By Gabrielle Kassel

High-energy sex can be thrilling and fulfilling. But sometimes you crave the kind of slow-mo, leisurely action that requires minimal effort—yet offers maximum pleasure. That’s where these lazy sex positions come in. Recommended by sex experts, they’re perfect for when you’re too tired or chill to work up much of a sweat…but you’re in the mood for orgasms.

“Lower-effort sex positions are a great way to stay connected with your partner when work, kids, and life sap your energy,” Sadie Allison, founder of online sex toy boutique Ticklekitty.com and a sexologist who holds a doctorate in human sexuality, tells Health. Here, 6 expert-backed positions that’ll make you O even when you need zzz’s.

Chill missionary

Missionary is like the vanilla ice cream of sex positions. But that’s exactly why it hits the spot when you’re not up for acrobatic action. Lie back, have your partner enter you, and let them do the rest. Instead of hiking your legs up to your shoulders or stretching your arms overhead (and getting muscle cramps in the process), keep your limbs wherever they feel most comfortable.

This undemanding move is perfect for when you just want to enjoy the way it feels to have your partner move inside you. You also connect emotionally thanks to the eye contact, kissing, and touching missionary allows for, Lisa Finn, a sex educator at sex toy emporium Babeland, tells Health.

Sleepy spoons

Great for when you’re both feeling lazy yet turned on, this position allows you to snuggle while you have sex. Lie on your side with your partner curved behind you, touching their front to your back. They can reach around and put their hands on your shoulders or belly, then slide into you from behind and thrust in long, leisurely strokes.

Since your bodies are so close together, your partner can easily move their hands to your nipples or clitoris for extra stimulation, says Finn. And you can guide them to use the speed and intensity you like by placing your hand over theirs as they touch you.

Two lazy dogs

This doggy-style variation has you lying flat on your stomach, with your partner spread out against your back on top of you. “They can keep their arms extended in a push-up position or rest on their elbows, whichever is most comfortable,” says Finn.

While your partner takes charge of the speed and pacing, you can zone out and simply focus on the pleasure you feel and let them know when something feels extra amazing and you want more of it. Or give them a break and have your partner stay still while you move your hips in circles, stimulating them.

Comfy cunnilingus

This one is super simple: While you’re reclining on the bed or floor, spread your legs comfortably and have your partner give you oral sex. While they do the work, you can drift off into dreamland or give them direction, putting your hands on their head to steer them to the right angle. (Remember, lazy isn’t synonymous with non-communicative.) Prefer to lie on your belly? Have them perform cunnilingus from behind.

If your clitoris is very sensitive and can’t always handle all the pleasurable sensations of receiving oral, Allison suggests leaning against a headboard or a stack of pillows. “If you’re sitting up, your partner’s tongue will come down on top of your clitoral hood, which may help dull some of the sensation,” she explains.

Bathtub boning

“You don’t have to be in bed to have comfortable, lazy sex,” says Allison. That brings us to this second most leisurely place in the house: the bathtub, especially when it’s filled with steamy water.

After you’ve drawn the water, ask your partner get in first and lie back, then recline against their chest facing away. Have them play with your breasts and clitoris with their hands, then prop yourself up a bit so they can enter you, and enjoy reverse cowgirl at a slow, easy pace. If the bath revives your energy, kick up the pace a notch and hold on to the edge of the tub while your partner thrusts faster and harder.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Be an Ethical Hookup Partner

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Because hooking up doesn’t have to be devoid of feelings.

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Hookup culture,” especially as it plays out on college campuses, is a much-discussed topic. Often, hooking up is studied and speculated about like it’s some kind of sexual epidemic, or at the very least, the outcast of sexual intimacy: Is it increasing or decreasing? Perpetuated by dating apps? Gendered? Dangerous? Sure, hookup culture and the many ways we have and experience sex is worth studying and having opinions about, but it can’t be that all hookups are bad or blah.

Despite the often-negative press, hookups, or, short term sexual/intimate encounters, like one-night stands, summer flings, and semester-long friends-with-benefits relationships, can come with a lot of descriptors: “casual,” “fun,” “random,” and “spontaneous” can be some, but can they also be ethical, considerate, and satisfying? We think yes!

Determining whether or not something is officially ethical can be confusing work, as ethics tend to rely both on our individual values and also what society deems ethical — which might not always align. Get your conservative, married-for-50-years grandfather and your liberal, nonmonogamous LGBTQ+ friends at the same dinner table and ask what makes for an “ethical sexual encounter” and you’ll likely get very different responses from each of them (and if anyone ever does do this, please let me know how it goes).

Regardless of what your hookup entails (making out, oral sex, penetrative sex_ or whether you met via a dating app, a party, or a chance meeting with a beautiful stranger — hookups tend to be understood as uniquely separate from a relationship in that they are typically described as being casual or short term and require minimal official commitment between the people involved. For some, the very short-term nature of a hookup can feel unethical (and that’s a totally fine opinion to have as long as we’re not judging others’ choices!), but for others, short-term intimate encounters are exactly what they want. The reality is, we’re certainly not creating more happy hookup experiences by immediately throwing out the possibility of hookups being conscientious, respectful, and downright ethical just because they’re only happening once, sporadically, or when the mood strikes.

So how do you make sure your hookup is ethical?

As a resident sex educator for a youth collective of 16- to 19-year-olds, I had the great opportunity to sit down with a group of the collective’s youth leaders to talk about what they wanted to communicate to their peers about the components of an ethical hookup. Here’s the advice we came up with to help you make your hookup as ethical as possible.

Know and share your STI status.

Being aware of the state of your personal sexual health and sharing it openly and without shame is a key part of making sure our partners and ourselves are informed participants in our hookup. The general rule of thumb is to get a new STI test at least every six months if you’re sexually active with more than one person, or anytime you have a new sexual partner. Empower yourself by knowing that you can set the tone for this “status talk,” so practice speaking confidently and nonjudgmentally about your status and your partner will likely follow suit.

In addition to sharing your status, you should also know and share how to prevent the transmission of STIs via various safer-sex practices. And when it comes to hooking up, it’s always a good idea to have those safer-sex supplies on hand! This HRC Safer Sex Guide (available in both English and Spanish) can help connect the dots between levels of risk, certain sex acts, and which safer-sex practices to put in place.

Consider others’ feelings.

Despite common portrayals, a hookup doesn’t need to be completely devoid of feelings to be considered successful, and not all people experience short-term sexual encounters as emotionless. You can absolutely enthusiastically agree to a hot roll in the one-day hay and be kind, check in about your hookup partner’s feelings the next day, and still maintain casualness. A simple text of appreciation or a “How are you?” can go a long way; as long as you’re clear about intentions, feelings don’t need to get hurt or ignored.

Know and be clear about your intentions.

Intentions are just that — what we set out to do, on purpose, with the knowledge that what we intend might not pan out. If you know that you’re only available for a summer fling but lead your partner on into thinking you want to continue your short-term relationship indefinitely, that’s not ethical because you’re creating a connection based on false pretenses.

Despite our intentions, things can change, feelings can get caught, and our best-laid plans can shift, and that’s okay. But if we have specific intentions from the get-go and aren’t communicating them, then our partners can’t make their own choices about how they would like to interact with us, their own feelings, and their own boundaries. Knowledge is power — don’t strip your partner of theirs by withholding intent.

Respect your own boundaries.

Intentions and ethics start with you. Just like communicating your intentions to your partner gives them power, checking in with your moral compass, your sexual desires and limits, and your hopes for your own intimate interactions gives it to you. Hookups can really get us caught up in a moment, so be prepared for a casual connection by thinking about some of these elements ahead of time. How do I want and like to be touched? What do I want out of a hookup? What do I not want? Scarleteen.com’s sexual inventory checklist, Yes, No, Maybe So, can be a helpful piece of hookup homework to do on your own, in advance.

Respect your partner and their boundaries.

Yes, a fling can be casual and maybe even happen quickly, but always make sure to make time to ask your partner directly about their own yeses, nos, and maybe-sos. Not only does this ensure that we’re respecting our partners and practicing consent, but this also drastically increases our chances of having a mutually pleasurable experience.

If a hookup is indeed temporary, why waste your time guessing at what your partner might want rather than simply asking them directly? And when they give you an answer, you should listen to it. Asking our partner about their desires is consensual, ethical, and just plain economical.

No shame in your own game and no slut-shaming.

Create more emotional, relational, and sexual safety in your hookups by maintaining mutual respect for your and your partner’s particular desires, wants, yucks, and yums — including wherever you and your partner might fall on the spectrum of sexual experience.

Being fearful to express what it is that turns you on or shaming your partner for what tickles their intimate fancy is a terrible way to explore a mutually satisfying hookup. Sexuality is a very wide world, so it’s impossible that you’ll both be totally into every single thing the other person is into, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as everything is consensual. Instead, focus on where your desires overlap and remember that you can enthusiastically consent to trying something new because consent means you can change your mind at any time if the new thing just isn’t for you.

Honor consent and seek it actively and in an ongoing manner.

Consent starts with asking for explicit permission before your intimate interaction begins, making sure that each party involved is fully informed about and understands what they’re saying yes, no, or maybe to. Make sure your consent practice doesn’t end there, though!

Active, ongoing consent continues through your intimate interaction and for the duration of your hookup relationship, no matter how long it lasts. During your hookup, ask questions like “Is this still okay?” “Do you like what we’re doing or should we switch it up?” and never assume that just because you hooked up once that your partner (or you!) wants to hook up again, or do the same things you did last time. Keep asking questions and don’t be worried about asking too many. It’s better to spend more time asking questions and less time feeling regret or remorse.

Practice makes perfect.

Feeling awkward is one of the main reasons high school and college students tell me they don’t utilize consent skills and safer-sex supplies. Though putting a condom on a banana is one of the most tired classroom sex-ed tricks in the book, getting your hands on things like condoms, dental dams, gloves, lube, and knowing how to use them properly before you find yourself in a hookup situation will make using these tools more seamless (and less awkward-seeming) in the moment.

Masturbating using condoms, gloves, and/or lube to get familiar with the sensation can be a fun way to practice. You can visit your local Planned Parenthood to get accurate information about birth control and risk-management options (even if you don’t plan on needing them anytime soon), which can help bust myths and let you know the resources available to you. Better yet — make it an educational outing with a few friends, complete with going out for ice cream afterward — because why not?

Check in regularly.

Though the general lack of commitment can be part of what makes hooking up appealing to folks, it’s always a good idea to check in every now and then about whether or not keeping it casual is still what you want to do. Checking in with ourselves about our own wants and needs and communicating them clearly also makes sure that we’re keeping tabs on our own priorities, too, and makes sure that we’re remembering to stay clear about our intentions.

Ask for info on pronouns, body parts, no-zones, and triggers.

Even if our sexual interactions are short-term, hooking up is still a vulnerable place to be. All of our partners deserve respect and to feel safe and valued. Nothing will ruin a hookup faster than crossing a boundary (even if accidentally), so make sure to ask where and how your partner likes to be touched, the words they use to talk about them and their bodies, and where they absolutely do not want to go with you whether that’s right now or ever.

Pro tip: Remember that someone saying “no” or “not there” to you isn’t something that you should take personally. Rather, a no can be valuable information your partner is sharing with you about themselves so that you can get to know them better. This perspective can make the “nos” easier to hear while keeping our egos in check.

Respect the gender and sexuality identities of your partners and support their ongoing journey.

Gender, sexuality, and identity is fluid and, especially between teenagehood and adulthood, can change and shift a lot. If a partner tells you about how they identify, believe them, respect them, use the language they ask you to use, and adapt if what’s true for them changes.

Your sureness about your own gender and sexuality doesn’t need to get rattled just because your partners’ identities shift — we promise.

Don’t stir drama.

A truly ethical hookup doesn’t kiss and Snap. While getting support from or excitedly dishing to your friends about hookups can be a totally healthy part of the experience, spreading rumors, sharing information, or even dropping hints that violate your partner’s privacy, consent, or are intended to hurt them or someone else is not. Know the difference, ask your partner before sharing their personal information, and absolutely keep their sexts to yourself.

Complete Article HERE!

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The biggest reason older women have less (enjoyable) sex

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Just 22.5% of women over 50 surveyed were sexually active

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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What are the benefits of having an orgasm?

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By Almara Abgarian

We’re celebrating the power of the orgasm today.

Whether experiencing one by yourself or with a partner, reaching climax has some significant benefits (besides giving you a deliciously tingly feeling).

By getting a release of endorphins on a regular basis, you could improve your physical and mental health, as well as form a closer bond with yourself or your partner.

Bear in mind that not everyone can or wants to orgasm, and that’s perfectly OK, but here are some reasons why the big O is so great.

You will sleep better

Ever notice how you feel drowsy after you climax?

It’s not just because of the exercise you’ve just given your body (or hand), but at the point of orgasm your body releases various chemicals including oxytocin and serotonin (the happy hormones), as well as norepinephrine, vasopressin and prolactin.

These chemicals work together to make you feel relaxed, which in turn could help you drift off at night and have a deeper sleep.

‘…during climax, the body releases prolactin, along with many other chemicals,’ Dr Diana Gall, from the online doctor service Doctor 4 U, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Prolactin has been proven to be involved with making you feel relaxed and tired, which should help you drift off to sleep more easily.

‘In addition to this, oestrogen levels in women are increased during and just after orgasm. This hormone helps to enhance the REM cycle, meaning that a deeper sleep is more likely.’

You will feel less stressed

Having an orgasm can do wonders for the mind.

You have oxytocin to thank for this one, too. When the chemical is released in the hypothalamus part of the brain, it send signals that makes you feel calmer, warmer and generally just a bit happier.

‘Oxytocin is the same hormone that’s associated with mother and baby bonding, whilst dopamine is partly responsible for regulating emotional responses, as well as contributing to feelings of pleasure,’ said Dr Gall.

‘This cocktail of hormones can help people to feel more relaxed and in a state of mental wellness.’

If you have difficulty reaching orgasm or don’t fancy it, there’s always the option of going for a run before bed, as some studies find this can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, which will improve your sleeping patterns.

It could help with pain management

Certain studies have found that reaching climax can lessen pain symptoms.

A study from the University of Munster in Germany in 2013 revealed that having an orgasm during sex helped with migraines and cluster or tension headaches.

Out of the participants, 60% of those who suffer from migraines and one third of those who suffer from cluster headaches said getting themselves off during sex improved their pain levels.

While the study didn’t cover masturbation, researchers drew conclusions that it’s likely the effect would be the same in this scenario.

However, some migraine sufferers (33%) said having sex/orgasms made their symptoms worse, so it won’t work for everyone.

Your heart will thank you

‘Orgasms aren’t just good fun for you and your partner, they can actually be good for your health, good news for anyone who’s having them regularly!,’ Shamir Patel, pharmacist & founder of Chemist 4 U, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘For example, when you have sex your heart rate typically gets higher, and its average beats per minute can increase even further when you orgasm.

‘Raising your heart rate is good for your heart, and when you orgasm it can reach rates that are similar to when you’re doing light exercise, like a brisk walk.’

Having orgasms on your own could improve your sex life

Having alone time is very healthy, regardless if you have an orgasm or not.

By exploring what you like and how you like it, you’ll be able to communicate this to your lover.

Plus, it’s really fun.

Your skin will glow

This one is more likely if you’re having sex, rather than masturbating.

‘Medically, your blood flow is increased during sex and orgasm, meaning that there’s more oxygen pumping around your body,’ said Dr Gall.

‘This increased blood flow is also responsible for the flushed skin many people experience during and after sex.

‘As well as this, the increased oxygen flow can stimulate the production of collagen – a protein that’s known to be great for the skin. As orgasms can also promote better sleep and decreased stress levels, these may also help to improve your skin.’

It could improve your relationships

Having an orgasm with someone else can make people feel very vulnerable.

Showing this level of trust during sex or through mutual masturbation with your partner can bring you closer together. There’s also the satisfaction in making a partner orgasm or watching as they do, knowing they’re revealing that private part of themselves.

But that’s not the only relationship to focus on.

Getting up close and personal with yourself can also make you feel more confident, and in tune with your body and mind.

Go forth and orgasm.

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What straight people need to know about going to gay bars

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It’s great you want to support your queer friend, but all those looking for a GBF: listen up.

By Grace Walsh

As a gay person, knowing my straight friends want to come to LGBTQ+ bars and spaces fills my heart with joy. I appreciate the accepting atmosphere that these spaces create, and I love that my friends want to show their support of me and my community so openly in them.

I came out just before starting university, having made wonderful (and very straight) friends during my time at college. I was worried they would treat me differently after I came out, or be freaked out thinking I either hated men or fancied one of them. Luckily, neither one of those age-old stereotypes came true, and actually I didn’t give them enough credit. It turned out most of them knew I was gay long before I did.

But recently, when I took a group of them to Soho in London for a night out, I realised even the most well-intentioned, supportive straight/cis friends can miss the mark entirely. One of my male friends came back from the bar carrying drinks and a phone number, written on a napkin. He loudly demanded to know why the bartender had thought he’d be interested because after all, he didn’t “look gay”. Sigh.

Later on, we went to dance at another bar. On a small side stage, men in cowboy costumes were dancing. Before I knew it, another friend was dancing between them and trying to take a hat from one of their heads. Awkward side glances and a request for her to get down followed.

After another friend who was feeling queasy and asked me (the only actual LGBTQ+ person in the group) to go outside with her, I left feeling let down and a little pissed off. They’d been so supportive of me for so many years, yet they’d made me – and others around us – feel uncomfortable, in a space that I had invited them into.

I could go to “straight” bars with my friends, and I often do. But there’s something quite special about being able to hold my girlfriend’s hand or kiss her without double takes from passers-by (or the horrifying offer of a ménage à trois). That’s why queer spaces and bars are important to me and many other members of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s where we can be in the majority for once, where we can feel the most comfortable and protected, and where we have the most access to music by early noughties queer icons – an integral element for survival. These spaces give people who can’t be “out” publicly for whatever reason somewhere they can truly be themselves. These are places where trans and gender nonconforming folk can hopefully feel physically safe and recognised, away from a world that isn’t always so accepting.

For Meg-John Barker, author of Life Isn’t Binary and expert on gender, sex and relationships, queer spaces are vital. “LGBTQ+ people often become used to having to come out repeatedly, to being asked intrusive questions about their bodies and sex lives and being treated as an object for people (the weird one in the office, or the gay best friend, for example). It’s understandable that they might want some spaces where they don’t have to worry about that stuff. Where they can assume that everyone will ‘get it’, relax and breathe easy,” they say.

How to behave as a straight person in an LGBTQ+ space

So, you want to support your queer friend in the space they love and have a boogie to Whitney Houston? That’s fabulous. But here’s how to do it while being respectful and considerate of the space you’re in.

Think about your motivations for going

If you’re there on safari and looking “to see something strange and exotic to you or you’re there to exploit the coolness of LGBTQ+ culture in some way” as Meg-John puts it, then maybe take your night out down the road instead.

“I’ve tried to buy a drink for/ask for a number from several women in queer spaces, who have turned out to be straight. Instead of politely declining, I’ve often been made to feel like a gross pervert for even suggesting they might be queer and interested,” says 22-year-old Becca, a bisexual student from Oxford. “I’ve also taken straight friends to queer clubs and been horrified and embarrassed when they react inappropriately when someone has assumed they’re queer

Meg-John says your reason for wanting to go to a queer space should be to “support your LGBTQ+ friend who is keen for you to go along.” They add it’s fine “if you want to learn something, or it’s an event that’s particularly looking for allies to support it and the people going.

Check whether you’re actually welcome there

For straight, cis people, the world really is your oyster! You can pretty much go anywhere and everywhere without worrying that you’ll be physically or verbally assaulted because of your sexual or gender orientation. Meg-John explains, “Don’t go to [a queer space] with your straight, cis partner and get off together very publicly. Remember that everyday spaces are safe for you in a way they aren’t for the rest of the people there.”

Luke, a 27-year-old gay writer, says queer spaces have become somewhat of a tourist attraction for hen dos. And this can cause a lot of problems. “If you’re thinking of going to a queer space as a primarily straight, cis hen do – just don’t do it,” he says. “I’ve been to numerous nights were a group of be-sashed, wasted white chicks show up and start shrieking. It really changes the vibe. Having a hen party there makes everyone feel that they’re a spectacle on display for someone else’s enjoyment and entertainment, which isn’t much fun

When hen parties invade queer spaces, they bring the gaze of the outside world with them. This means we have to go back to monitoring the way we behave, in spaces that are supposed to belong to us.”

Educate yourself before you go

Even if you think you know everything about every identity under the LGBTQ+ acronym, do your homework Meg-John says. “There are plenty of videos out there about things LGBTQ+ people are sick of hearing, or what not to ask them, as well as easy 101 introductions to language,” they add.

There’s no shame in not knowing something about a community unfamiliar to you, but there’s plenty of shame in asking a same-sex couple an ignorant question steeped in stereotypes like, “Who’s the man in the relationship?” Believe me, it still happens.

“I was once at a gay club with some straight friends celebrating our friend’s 21st. Perhaps trying to be supportive and ‘in touch’ with the birthday boy’s sexuality, they started throwing phrases like ‘Yaaaaaas queen’ around to all the camp men, assuming they’d respond positively,” says Ellen, a recent graduate who identifies as bisexual. While you may think this referencing of queer culture by straight people is totally harmless, not all LGBTQ+ people agree.

“Many queer folk are tired of hearing such over-used drag queen lingo,” Ellen adds. “And they don’t owe it to you to respond if they aren’t comfortable, especially in their own safe spaces.”

Treat people queer people like you would anyone else

Meg-John says you should avoid going to queer bars if your intention is “to flirt or get off with somebody LGBTQ+ because you’re curious, or want to have a story to tell. This involves treating people as objects for your pleasure, not full human beings.”

Ed, a 22-year-old bisexual teacher, has experienced this kind of behaviour first hand. “I have experienced problems with straight women using me a bit like a shiny new handbag. They just pull me over and are very tactile. They randomly dance with me before ushering friends to take pictures of us dancing without asking me. Then they can get frustrated when I try to walk away!”

Pansexual sex educator Topher, 30, agrees that although this behaviours is common, it can be really harmful. “I was in a very famous gay pub in Soho, resting on my boyfriend’s chest when a drunk, straight-presenting lady informed us of how attractive we were as a couple,” he says. “I said, ‘Thank you’, and turned my head away back to him.

“This is when I felt her hand run up the back of my T-shirt and down my back, before attempting to squeeze my bum. We shoved her off, and she acted very shocked to have been corrected while sexually assaulting me in public. I felt invaded and we left. One of my biggest issues with it, other than the assault, was that this was my boyfriend’s first experience of a proper gay bar and what he’d witnessed was unpleasant.”

Don’t take over the space

“Don’t go with your straight, cis mates and take up a lot room in the venue with your bodies or your noise,” Meg-John says. “Many people will feel less safe if you’re doing that. Be considerate of places with a maximum capacity that are already pretty full, too. It’s better to let LGBTQ+ people be the people who get to use the space,” they add.

So, maybe trying to get you and six of your friends into G-A-Y on Pride weekend is an idea to rethink

The morning after my night out I was presented with a bacon sandwich and some sheepish looks. Hopefully my next trip to Soho will be more successful, with a lot less eye rolling and quick escapes out of the side exit

Complete Article HERE!

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The Psychology of Sexual Kink

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The word kink has myriad associations — leather, spanking, corsets, whips, maybe even a ginger root. While its depictions in popular culture are abundant and eager, they are hardly ever accurate. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, is the most recent, and perhaps the most famous, example of kink, specifically Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism (BDSM), in mainstream pop culture — except it gets kink wrong. BDSM practitioners have called the movie more vanilla than BDSM, or dangerous, because of its superficial understanding of violent sex, glorifyingly portrayed without context.

The kink sexual preference is a greatly stigmatized one, and the psychology behind it misunderstood. Kink is believed to stem out of trauma, which is false; it’s perceived to bastardize the tender idea of making love, again false; and it’s considered ‘freaky’ and ‘not normal,’ guess: false. Understanding how kink develops and what kinky people get out of it are initial steps toward normalizing an integral aspect of human sexuality.

Kink is defined as “consensual, non-traditional sexual, sensual, and intimate behaviors such as sadomasochism, domination and submission, erotic roleplaying, fetishism, and erotic forms of discipline,” psychological researcher Samuel Hughes, who has determined the five stages of kink identity development, writes in Psychology Today.

Kink can develop innately in childhood, or be adopted later in life

Individuals may gravitate toward kink in two ways; the journey is either innate and realized as a child grows up, or an acquired taste later in life for others wanting to explore their sexuality. Children, even before age 10, can develop initial engagement in kinky behaviors, such as “wanting to be captured while playing cops and robbers, or seeing television shows with superheroes in peril and feeling absorbed by the show,” Hughes writes. For some, these initial excitements could graduate to exploring those desires with their bodies, through “fantasizing, seeking out erotic media, masturbating, and exploring material sensations on their bodies.”

Between ages 11 and 14, kids come to terms with their interests. “It can involve feeling stigma over their kink interests, feeling generally different, realizing that not all of their peers share their interests, worrying there might be something wrong with them, and sometimes actively engaging in research in order to try to label and understand their interests.” Once they realize there might be people like them out there, they can attempt to find others who share their interests, through the internet and popular culture. The last stage of kink development includes engaging in kink interests with others, which usually happens after a kinkster surpasses 18.

The word kink has myriad associations — leather, spanking, corsets, whips, maybe even a ginger root. While its depictions in popular culture are abundant and eager, they are hardly ever accurate. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, is the most recent, and perhaps the most famous, example of kink, specifically Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism (BDSM), in mainstream pop culture — except it gets kink wrong. BDSM practitioners have called the movie more vanilla than BDSM, or dangerous, because of its superficial understanding of violent sex, glorifyingly portrayed without context.

The kink sexual preference is a greatly stigmatized one, and the psychology behind it misunderstood. Kink is believed to stem out of trauma, which is false; it’s perceived to bastardize the tender idea of making love, again false; and it’s considered ‘freaky’ and ‘not normal,’ guess: false. Understanding how kink develops and what kinky people get out of it are initial steps toward normalizing an integral aspect of human sexuality.

Kink is defined as “consensual, non-traditional sexual, sensual, and intimate behaviors such as sadomasochism, domination and submission, erotic roleplaying, fetishism, and erotic forms of discipline,” psychological researcher Samuel Hughes, who has determined the five stages of kink identity development, writes in Psychology Today.

Kink can develop innately in childhood, or be adopted later in life

Individuals may gravitate toward kink in two ways; the journey is either innate and realized as a child grows up, or an acquired taste later in life for others wanting to explore their sexuality. Children, even before age 10, can develop initial engagement in kinky behaviors, such as “wanting to be captured while playing cops and robbers, or seeing television shows with superheroes in peril and feeling absorbed by the show,” Hughes writes. For some, these initial excitements could graduate to exploring those desires with their bodies, through “fantasizing, seeking out erotic media, masturbating, and exploring material sensations on their bodies.”

Between ages 11 and 14, kids come to terms with their interests. “It can involve feeling stigma over their kink interests, feeling generally different, realizing that not all of their peers share their interests, worrying there might be something wrong with them, and sometimes actively engaging in research in order to try to label and understand their interests.” Once they realize there might be people like them out there, they can attempt to find others who share their interests, through the internet and popular culture. The last stage of kink development includes engaging in kink interests with others, which usually happens after a kinkster surpasses 18.

If this identity development doesn’t occur early on, then it leads to internalized shame, causing anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, Hughes says. He adds that young kinky people often feel like they are freaks, sick or evil for entertaining their desires. This is mostly due to the stigma and silence around kinky behaviors, which leads to rampant pop psychology pathologization of kink in media and the law. “Studying the identity development of kinky people can help us to better understand how kinky people develop resilience in the face of a world that often thinks of them as, at best, a joke, and at worst, violent criminals or mentally deranged,” Hughes writes in Psychology Today.

Social stigmatization of kink can be a detriment to kinksters’ mental health

Let’s take the example of age play, one of the most stigmatized kink expressions, as it can involve adults dressing up/behaving as babies or toddlers in a sexual situation. It is classified into “ephebophilia, or attraction to older post-pubescent adolescents; hebephilia, or attraction to pubescents; pedophilia, or attraction to prepubescents; infantophilia, which is often considered a sub-type of pedophilia, used to refer to a sexual preference for infants and toddlers (ages 0–3, though some raise it to 5),” sex therapist David Ortmann writes for Alt Sex NYC Conference, an annual event that brings together scholars from the kink community to expand popular discourse around kinky identities.

A majority of the stigma against age-play arises from the conflation of pedophilia with child sexual abuse. The former is a sexual preference, while the latter is an illegal practice that harms minors who cannot consent. In age-play, the consenting, adult sexual partners act an age different from their own, for various reasons: those who act younger may want to be cared for, or disciplined or simply play an age that they feel most familiar with. For those who gravitate toward older ages, their instincts might arise from wanting to act as caregivers or protectors of their partner, fulfilling their partners’ desire to be disciplined, and myriad other reasons, according to ABCs of Kink.

Ortmann adds that he has treated such kinksters for 14 years, and the main reasons they seek therapy is “to be seen, to be heard, to recover from shame, discover how to have sexual pleasure without harming themselves or others.” It is important to understand that “age-play is a form of roleplaying in which an individual acts or treats another as if they were a different age, sexual or non-sexually,” Ortmann writes. The important thing to remember, he adds, is that it “involves consent from all parties.” There needs to be more research into the kink origins of age-play, which has historically been difficult to accomplish owing to the silence of the community that doesn’t trust outsiders easily. “Let’s work together to find language for the very in-the-shadows sexual minorities that allow for empathy, instead of evoking fear and disgust.”

Normalizing the kink for the person, and helping them find a like-minded or accepting partner, is most important, writes Rhoda Lipscomb, a certified sex therapist, in a presentation for Alt Sex NYC Conference. With those steps come self-acceptance, less anger, better sleeping habits and better relationship patterns for those involved.

The supportive environment of kink can be a haven for those with non-normative desires and bodies

For dominant-submissive relationships in BDSM, the underlying psychological motivations are more clearly researched. For tops (in kink speak: tops are those who adopt a dominant role for a particular sexual encounter, as compared to doms who gravitate toward dominance more frequently), “I can determine what happens next; I can be independent; I can feel cherished,” make up some of the erotic motivations, according to an Alt Sex NYC Conference presentation by sex therapist Dr. Petra Zebroff. For bottoms (in kink speak: bottoms are those who adopt a submissive role for a particular sexual encounter, as compared to subs who prefer submissive sexual identities more frequently), they include, “I can hold extreme focus; I can feel safe; I can feel cherished; I don’t have to make decisions; I don’t have to worry about my partner’s reactions.” For both tops and bottoms, “openness, exploration, trustworthiness, communication, humor (playfulness, laughter, and fun), sensual experiences” are prioritized for themselves, and their partners. In tops, their bottom partners require “trustworthiness, warmth and caring; ability to read a partner; confidence and strength of character; knowledge and skill.” In bottoms, the tops need “self-knowledge, rebellious qualities (such as bratty), expressiveness, surrendering of power (servicing).”

In addition to understanding the motivations of the sexual players, it is also important to destroy the myth that BDSM encourages unwelcome violence against partners. In sexual play that involves intense sensation (sometimes, pain), for example, the players seek to achieve pleasure and challenge their boundaries, Michael Aaron, Alt Sex NYC co-organizer and sex therapist and sexologist, writes in a presentation.

People choose to harm themselves for a variety of reasons, Aaron writes: to alleviate negative emotions, to direct anger at themselves, to elicit affection from others, to interrupt feelings of being empty, to resist suicidal urges, to generate excitement, or to feel distinct from others. The bodily harm from when an individual inflicts injuries on themselves outside of a sexual context — what is called non-suicidal self-injurious behavior (NSSI) — is different from BDSM, mainly in the ways an individual feels after the hurting has happened, Aaron writes. NSSI can arise out of wanting relief from overwhelming feelings and wanting to distract emotional pain with physical. After inflicting pain for these unhealthy reasons, however, the individual feels broken or damaged, and more alienated from others.

In BDSM, Aaron clarifies, the motivation to indulge in NSSI in a sexual context emerges from “desire, hunger, eagerness, [anxiety] to start.” While indulging in the kinky behavior, feelings of excitement, pleasure, connection abound. After, players feel “satisfied, content, calm, secure, fulfilled,” and “empowered, loved, authentic.” Aaron found that most individuals who engaged in NSSI eventually stopped harming themselves after they sought the feeling through BDSM, according to a survey he conducted.

For others, engaging in kinky behavior may help in dealing with past trauma. While the trauma itself doesn’t serve as a catalyst for developing a kink (which is a popular misconception), it can be alleviated through play. “For example, a sexual assault survivor might initially feel afraid, weak, and powerless during their actual sexual assault,” Hughes writes in Psychology Today. “However, simulating that assault via consensual roleplaying with a trusted partner can help them feel powerful (because they consensually negotiated and agreed to it, and can use a safeword to stop the scene), strong (because they feel they can get through whatever physical pain or intensity comes their way), and brave, for facing what can often be dark times in their past head-on.” A major part of it is “aftercare,” the word for the time and space kinksters use for emotional and mental health, often with their partners, after having engaged in BDSM. It involves “cuddling, talking, rehydrating, and ‘recentering’ oneself, which can help those who are using kink to overcome hardships process their experience in a healthy and safe environment,” Hughes adds.

However, the process of navigating a past trauma proves difficult even within the kink communities, according to licensed sex therapist Samantha Manewitz. In an Alt Sex NYC Conference presentation, she lays out how kinksters with trauma can internalize shame, be unwilling to give up power to their sexual partners or be able to explain their own responses in BDSM play. Some scenes can also trigger trauma or feelings of isolation. It is important to empower the survivor in such situations — build their coping skills through negotiation before an act, exposing them to the act during play, and integrating their thoughts with their feelings after BDSM through aftercare, Manewitz writes.

Kink can also help build an inclusive environment for queer folks. Hughes compares the identity development for kink to the way in which kids can realize their queer identities. The emotional stages are similar, including dealing with stigma and making positive associations with those realizations. BDSM as a sexual orientation is a popular hypothesis, explained as attraction toward specific activities or toward a role (dominant, submissive, switch) — be it the individual’s or their partners’, according to Daniel Copulsky, founder of sexedplus.com and researcher of social psychology. “Everyone has a sexual orientation in regard to gender because that’s how we’ve defined sexual orientation,” Copulsky writes in a presentation for the Alt Sex NYC Conference. “Everyone has a sexual orientation in regard to power, too, if we define it as a submissive, dominant, switch, or vanilla.”

Kink can also help marginalized communities feel more comfortable in their own skin. For trans people, their relationships with their bodies are colored by dysphoria, awkwardness, and trauma. For a group whose bodies and existence are unabashedly questioned, fetishized, or who are made to feel unwelcome in societal institutions, consent in a sexual scenario holds utmost importance.

“Consent is the explicit indication, by written or oral statement, by one person that he/she [or they] is willing to have something done to him/her [or them] by one or more other persons, or to perform some sort of act at the request or order of one or more other persons. In terms of sexual consent, consent may be withdrawn at any point, regardless of what has been previously negotiated orally or in writing,” licensed psychotherapist Laura Jacobs writes for Alt Sex NYC about a core kink principle.

Trans or gender non-conforming folks can greatly benefit from this structure, as they may not have been accorded the opportunity or the language to communicate their sexual needs. Through using safe words, they can feel protected and respected; and through tight-knit local BDSM communities, they can encounter people who will respect them and their boundaries. “Ultimately, for a large number of people in the trans and gender-nonconforming community, heteronormative or not, reveling in these nontraditional forms of sexuality and relationships is part of our ongoing examination of the human experience,” Jacobs writes.

It is a shame, then, that some forms of kink, and within it BDSM, are regarded as detached, cruel and violent. In reality, kink can be a vehicle for people to embrace their vulnerability, maintain intimate bonds with various people, and learn to communicate and negotiate varied sexual preferences in a non-judgmental way. Kink is not “weird,” or something to sensationalize. When we achieve a greater understanding of non-normative sexual practices, we normalize identities that are otherwise marginalized, and who knows — might even learn a thing or two instead, both in and out of sex.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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A sexual wellness app for women could be a game changer

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Recent research has revealed that far from letting their sex lives wane over 50s are continuing to carve out some dedicated time between the sheets each week.

But making the leap from an active sex life, to one that actually satisfies, can be easier said than done; and this is where a new sexual wellness app for women comes in.

Launched on the Apple Store and Google Play late last month, Emjoy, founded by Andrea Oliver Garcia and Daniel Tamas in 2018, is an app offering up more than 80 audio sessions covering topics including how to boost libido, developing self-knowledge, increasing pleasure and improving sexual communication.

Experts in the fields of psychology, sex therapy, education and mindfulness also impart their wisdom on all aspects of sex.

Revealing the inspiration behind the app, Andrea said, “I have always considered myself a feminist and as I grew up, I realised that many girlfriends of mine lived their sexuality with shame and knew very little about themselves – some even doubting if they had or hadn’t experienced an orgasm.

“Then I came across several studies such as the pleasure gap and sexual wellbeing reports showing that cisgendered heterosexual women consistently experience less pleasure than their male counterparts. Shockingly, data from several studies show that over 40 per cent of women struggle to attain an orgasm and that 30 per cent of women worldwide experience libido issues.”

Continuing she added, “As I was researching and talking to sex therapists and industry experts, I noticed the internet was crowded with inconsistent and untrustworthy information.

“That’s when I decided to stop backing amazing entrepreneurs to become one myself in order to help women enhance their sexual wellbeing with Emjoy.”

With an average 4-star rating on Google Play and an average 5-star rating on the Apple Store, here’s what those who’ve already downloaded it had to say:

‘Finally an app addressing this subject the proper way. Already addicted to all the great quality content (keep it up!).’

‘I’m delighted there is an app that breaks all taboos about women’s sexuality. It was time for something like this to exist! Thank you :)’

‘Can’t wait to…get home from work and continue “my journey”.’

‘I’ve used this app for a couple of months and its really made a difference! The quality of the content is great. It’s made me feel much more comfortable in my relationship, communicating what I want to my partner and helping me get out of my mind.

‘It’s also done in such a classy/easy way – I never feel akward [sic] or embarrassed when I listen to these sessions, it’s very natural and easy to relate to. Honestly, it’s about time someone created this type of product!!’

Would you try it out?

Complete Article HERE!

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