We’re Queer And We’ve Been Here

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Rediscovering Buddhism’s LGBT history of gay monks, homoerotic samurai, and gender-nonconforming practitioners and gods

By Dr. Jay Michaelson

It’s no secret that many LGBTQ people have found refuge in the dharma, and it’s easy to see why.  It helps us work with the wounds of homophobia, recognizing internalized self-hatred for the delusion and dukkha [suffering] that it is. Yet when queer people interact with the dharma, there is often something missing: visibility. It’s nice that Buddhism doesn’t say many bad things about us, but does it say anything good? Where are we among the Dogens and Milarepas and Buddhaghosas?

This is not, of course, a question limited to Buddhism. Everywhere, queers have been erased from history. Often we find ourselves only when we are being persecuted; we have to read in between the lines of our interlocutors, trying to reconstruct a lost past.  

But there is much to be gained from the effort. Finding ourselves in history, for better or for worse, reminds us that we have one. We can see the different ways in which gender and sexuality were understood across time and cultures, and we are reminded that sexual and gender diversity has always been a part of human nature.

The history of queer Buddhism does not always paint a rosy picture. We find a mixed tapestry that includes stories of acceptance and persecution as well as examples that are problematic or offensive to modern Western sensibilities. While books can be (and have been) written about this subject, here I will limit myself to four examples that demonstrate the breadth of queer experience throughout Buddhism.

1. Mild offenses

First, and I think least interestingly, there are various levels of injunctions against male-male sexual behavior. What’s interesting here, apart from the mere visibility—yes, the monks were doing it with each other—is the minor nature of the offense. In the Theravadan monastic code, for example, sexual (mis)conduct between monks or novices was no more egregious than any other sexual misconduct, and did not warrant additional sanctions. The offense is similarly minor in Vajrayana monastic communities, leading both to consensual “thigh sex” (frottage) among monks, and, tragically, to many documented instances of sexual abuse.

Conflicting statements by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama have reflected this ambivalence. In 1994, he said that as long as there were no religious vows at issue, consensual same-sex intimacy “is OK.”  But in an interview published two years later, he said that only when “couples use organs intended for sexual intercourse” could sex be considered “proper.” After meeting with gay and lesbian activists in 1997, he noted that the same rules applied to straight and gay people alike, and that they were not part of the direct teachings of the Buddha and thus might evolve over time. In 2014, he reiterated the view that for Buddhists, homosexual acts are a subset of sexual misconduct, but that this was a matter of religious teaching and did not apply to people of another or no religion. Other rinpoches have disagreed and fully affirmed gay and lesbian lives.  There is no clear position. 

2. Gender-nonconforming ancestors

Second, there are several instances of what today might be called gender-nonconforming people in Buddhist texts, now newly accessible thanks to historian Jose Cabezon’s recently published 600-plus page tome, Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism. Many Theravada and Mahayana texts, for example, refer to the pandaka, a term which, Cabezon shows, has a wide variety of meanings, encompassing “effeminate” male homosexuals, intersex persons, and others who exhibited non-normative anatomical, gender, or sexuality traits. (The term pandaka is often translated “eunuch,” but insofar as a eunuch is someone who chooses to be castrated, this is an inaccurate translation. Because of the breadth of the term, Cabezon himself renders it “queer person.”)

By and large, the pandaka is not depicted positively. As Cabezon describes in great detail, the Theravadan monastic code prohibits the ordaining of a pandaka—“the doctrine and discipline does not grow in them,” it says. And a Mahayana sutra called A Teaching on the Three Vows says bodhisattvas should not befriend them. But to me, just the visibility of the pandaka is encouraging. Here we are! And if we have been stigmatized, well, as Cabezon notes, that is hardly comparable to how queer people have been treated in other religious traditions.

3. Sexual samurai

Third, there is a fair amount of male-male homoeroticism in Buddhist textual history. The Jataka tales [parables from the Buddha’s past lives] include numerous homoerotic stories featuring the future Buddha and the future Ananda; in addition to the tales themselves apparently being told without a sense of scandalousness, these stories suggest an interesting appreciation of the homoerotics or at least homosociality of the teacher-disciple relationship. Like Batman and Robin, Achilles and Patroclus, and Frodo and Sam, the Buddha and Ananda are, emotionally speaking, more than just friends.

Japanese Buddhism probably had the most fully developed form of same-sex eroticism—nanshoku—that endured for hundreds of years, beginning in the 1100s and fading out only in the 19th century, under the influence of Christianity.  These relationships—sometimes called bi-do (the beautiful way) or wakashudo (the way of the youth)—were pederastic in nature, often between an adolescent boy (probably aged 12–14) and a young man (aged around 15–20), and thus not role models for contemporary LGBT people, but a queer love nonetheless.

As with Greek pederasty, these relationships combined a sexual relationship with a mentoring relationship. And as in the Greek model, there were clear rules and roles that needed to be followed; nanshoku was not hedonism but a homosexuality that was socially constructed.

The legendary founder of the institution of nanshoku was the 12th-century monk Kukai, also called Kobo Daishi (“the great teacher who spread the dharma”), who was also credited with founding of the Shingon school of Japanese esoteric Buddhism, which incorporates tantric practice. Although there is not much historical evidence for this, it’s interesting that the institution of nanshoku became linked with tantra, which has its own polymorphous eroticism in the service of awakening.

This culture has left us the greatest collection of homoerotic Buddhist texts of which I am aware. Nanshoku Okagami (the Great Mirror of Male Love), published in 1687 and available in a fine translation by Paul Gordon Schalow, is a collection of love stories, some requited and others not, between samurai warriors and Buddhist monks, actors, and townspeople. Now available in multiple translations, the book is an almost unbelievable artifact of Edo-period hedonism, warrior love conventions that closely resemble the Mediterranean ones, and Romeo-and-Juliet-like stories of forbidden love, impossible love, and star-crossed lovers. If you can get past our cultures’ very different ethics regarding intergenerational sex, it’s an amazing queering of history.

4. Gender fluidity

Finally, the fluidity and play of gender within some Buddhist texts is often inspiring but also frequently problematic. Numerous Buddhist enlightenment stories feature women suddenly transforming into men, for example. On the one hand, that’s kind of awesome from a queer and trans point of view. On the other hand, it’s often a way of explaining how deserving women can become fully enlightened—by becoming men.  

That highlighting the role of a prominent female bodhisattva like Kuan Yin or a female deity like Tara has enabled many Western dharma centers to manifest their commitments to gender egalitarianism—awesome. That Kuan Yin is but one manifestation of the male bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara—less awesome. And yet, that a male bodhisattva occasionally manifests as a female figure—maybe more awesome.

So too the feminization of the principle of wisdom, prajnaparamita, and the Vajrayogini, who is female, erotic, and enlightened. These figures may be gender-essentialistic, gender-binaried, and heteronormative, but especially for Westerners, they productively queer the assumptions of what is masculine and feminine.

These examples of queerness in Buddhist text and history are just a sampling; there are many more. When queers look at these echoes in the past, we’re doing several things: We are finding ourselves in history and theology. We are claiming and acknowledging our existence, albeit in different forms from those we know today. And we are, hopefully, keeping our senses of irony and historicity intact. This isn’t gay-hunting or a naïve apologetics that siphons off the bad and leaves in only the good. We are, instead, searching for a usable past, not with a faux nostalgia or appropriative orientalism, but with a sophisticated relationship to what has gone before and what is present now.

Complete Article HERE!

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From stone dildos to sexbots: how technology is changing sex

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A worker paints make-up on the faces of sex dolls in a factory in China.

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As the TV series Westworld wraps up its second season, the show continues to spark discussion about a potential future that involves lifelike sex robots.

Meanwhile, Australia’s largest adult sexuality and lifestyle expo, SEXPO, is making its way around the country with the theme “Feel the Future” – a nod to all things sex and tech.

But while more lifelike sex dolls are beginning to hit the market, they aren’t the only innovations on the horizon.

What’s next for sex?

The use of technology to enhance sexual pleasure is ancient.

A stone dildo discovered by researchers in a German cave dates back 28,000 years. And sculptures with strong erotic imagery from more than 35,000BC are thought by some scientists to be an early form of pornography.

The main technologies that are likely to be important for developments in sex over the next few years are:

  • Increasing miniaturisation of motors and batteries for stimulation and to simulate human movement,
  • improved touch-based (haptic) interfaces,
  • virtual reality and brain computer interaction,
  • materials development, such as skin that stretches, and
  • artificial intelligence for control and response.

Sex aids

Sex aids for solo or coupled sex remain extremely popular. More natural skin-like covers, ranges of movement, battery life and wireless control are major areas of innovation.

Devices such as the We-Vibe have gone mainstream, and are now sold by Amazon.

But, as with many technologies, hi-tech sex aids have their downsides. The manufacturer of We-Vibe recently settled a class-action law suit following allegations the company breached users privacy by remotely tracking use of the device.

Teledildonics

New technologies can facilitate sex with a partner who is present, a partner who is distant, as well as solo activity. These aspects merge in the field of teledildonics, which involves partners getting together without being together.

Teledildonics is an extension of web-cam or phone sex. Remotely controlled sex toys can be used to facilitate pleasuring a partner when they are not there.

We may see apps like Tinder and Grindr move in this direction, limiting perceived risks associated with physical contact. Sexy Vibes – an alternative to Tinder – already works by turning a phone into a vibrator.

Virtual reality

Since a lot of sexual pleasure is experienced in the brain, advances in virtual reality that make a simulated sexual encounter more realistic and engaging may be more important than anatomically accurate physical devices.

You might be familiar with online games where people change gender, appearance, and even species as they wish. Sex is already relatively common in games such as World of Warcraft, and there are a huge range of sex-games available.

Virtual reality could remove the need to have any link to the real world whatsoever.

Sexbots

Sexual robots that behave like humans are a staple of science fiction. Without going into the ethical questions surrounding their development – which have become the subject of activist campaigns – sexbots to the fictional standard are difficult to make and suffer from the “uncanny valley” effect effect. They are close to human, but noticeably different.

And once you have built a sexbot, you need some way of controlling its behaviour. A distant partner may be one approach, a pre-programmed “digital prostitute” may be another. It is possible to imagine a future where one could personalise a robot using 3D printing and a set of prebuilt responses to appear and act like a particular human being.

Alternatively, advances in machine learning could enable a sexbot to change its behaviour in response to the desires and actions of the user, constructing a completely artificial personality.

Voice interfaces, such as Amazon’s Alexa, are already reliable. Haptic interfaces could be used to stimulate behaviour, along with gesture recognition or even brain-computer interfaces.

It’s possible we may see a future where robots are considered more understanding than humans, encouraging people to share intimate details about themselves more readily.

A sexual response Turing test

The fully fledged sexbot that can be mistaken for a human is still beyond current technology.

Major barriers to this include duplicating the kind of human movement that depends on hundreds of muscles, the development of skin that can feel, and the creation of a nervous system that can respond to stimuli.

Even in ten years time, it is unlikely that the movement and appearance of people could be duplicated unless there is a breakthrough in artificial muscle design and biomimetic materials.

A sexbot that could pass a “sexual response Turing test” – much like Google’s Duplex is able to pass as a human caller – would be much easier to develop in a virtual world.

Beyond pleasure

Some new technologies may have benefits that go beyond just pleasure. These tools might be used to help people with concerned about genital function, appearance or type.

There are already a wide array of prosthetic penises and vaginas, often marketed for transgender people. Adding feeling to function – by using biomimetics and sensory feedback – may make them more acceptable than surgery for some people.

Sex and technology link in many different ways – whether its helps overcome a disability or separation from a loved one, or is simply be a way to increase pleasure and excitement. In the future, physical technologies may be complementary to virtual ones, and fantasy might trump realism in their design and use.

Complete Article HERE!

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Study: Even more Americans identify as something other than heterosexual

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A new survey finds the number of people who identify as bisexual, pansexual or homosexual continues to rise

A United States study has found that more people than ever before identify as something other than heterosexual.

The study by YouGov, a U.K.-based data analytics firm, found that one-third of 18 to 34-year olds identify as something other than completely heterosexual — a figure that has increased by 5% since 2015.

Carrie Baker, director of Smith College’s Program for the Study of Women and Gender, told Newsweek that society’s increasing acceptance of LGBTQ relationships has led to an increasing rise in people being more open about their sexuality.

“Really it was not that long ago that same-sex behavior was illegal in this country,” said Baker. “As our culture opens up same-sex sexuality as a possibility, more people are likely to experiment or to acknowledge those feelings or act on them.”

She also explained that an increase in same-sex couples being depicted in movies and television, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” have helped spur conversations that allow people to feel more comfortable with their sexuality.

The study was conducted by having participants rank themselves from a 0 to 6 on the Kinsey scale, 0 being completely straight and 6 being completely gay. The data collected was then compared to a similar study conducted in 2015.

Of the 1,096 people surveyed, 25% labeled themselves as something other than completely heterosexual, an increase from 20 percent in 2015. Twenty percent also picked a 1-5 on the Kinsey scale, meaning they’re bisexual, pansexual or fluid, compared to 16% three years ago. Those who listed themselves as exclusively homosexual — or a 6 on the Kinsey scale — increased 1% over 2015.

Baker said that these results show that sexual attraction is on a spectrum, which she attributes to young people’s openness.

“Circumstance can influence sexuality,” she said. “I also think the young people are thinking less of sexuality as sort of rigid and binary and more as on a continuum and as fluid.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay, Straight, Or Bisexual – Which Group Of Men Are More At Risk Of Heart Failure?

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Can your sexuality increase or decrease your risk of heart failure?  A new study released by the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing states that Bisexual men have a higher risk for heart disease compared with heterosexual men.

Now, of course it is not because you’re sleeping with men, but it’s because of everything else that may come with it.

In a new study published online in the journal LGBT Health, Billy Caceres, the study’s lead author, states:

Our findings highlight the impact of sexual orientation, specifically sexual identity, on the cardiovascular health of men and suggest clinicians and public health practitioners should develop tailored screening and prevention to reduce heart disease risk in bisexual men.

More than 30 percent of men in the US have some form of heart disease making it a leading cause of death for American men. Not many studies have been done to understand the impact of sexual orientation on heart disease risk for men.

In this study, NYU researchers examined differences in modifiable risk factors for heart disease and heart disease diagnoses in men of different sexual orientations. Risk factors measured included:

mental distress
health behaviors such as

  •       tobacco use
  •       binge drinking
  •       diet
  •       exercise

biological risk factors such as

  •       obesity
  •       hypertension
  •       diabetes
  •       cholesterol.

Responses from 7,731 men ages 20 to 59 were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2001-2012). Differences were analyzed across four groups based on their sexual identities: gay men, bisexual men, heterosexual men who have sex with men, and heterosexual men.

The researchers found no differences in heart disease diagnoses based on sexual orientation, but risk for heart disease was more complicated.

  • Gay men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual men who have sex with men had similar heart disease risk.
  • Gay men reported lower binge drinking compared with heterosexual men, but otherwise few differences in health behaviors were noted.
  • Bisexual men, however, had higher rates of several risk factors for heart disease relative to heterosexual men: mental distress, obesity, elevated blood pressure, and three different measures of diabetes (medication use, medical history, and average glycosylated hemoglobin level).

“Poor mental health is a recognized risk factor for the development of heart disease,” said Caceres. “Clinicians should be educated about sexual minority health and should routinely screen bisexual men for mental distress as a risk factor for heart disease. This is particularly important as healthcare organizations increasingly include sexual orientation as part of demographic questionnaires in electronic health records.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Do You Have Sexual Side Effects From Antidepressants You Stopped Taking?

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From low libido to erectile dysfunction, some people report suffering from enduring sexual problems.

From low libido to erectile dysfunction, some people report suffering from enduring sexual problems.

By Michael O. Schroeder

Antidepressants are widely prescribed, commonly used for depression and recommended to treat a range of other issues, from anxiety disorders to pain. But the medications aren’t without risk – and some potentially serious side effects start, or continue, after a person has stopped taking them.

These effects vary by the individual and the drug, but for the most commonly prescribed antidepressants – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SSNIs – side effects, or adverse events reported by patients, range from headache, nausea and fatigue to paresthesia, or an abnormal sensation that can feel, to some, like electrical shocks, to insomnia to seizures. And though less widely recognized, some patients also report another enduring effect of SSRIs and SSNIs: sexual dysfunction.

To be sure, sexual side effects ranging from lower libido to erectile dysfunction are known and detailed in drug labeling information. But though online support groups have cropped up for people who experience persistent sexual dysfunction after going off antidepressants – post-SSRI sexual dysfunction, or PSSD – it’s not clear how common the concern is.

However, one recent paper co-authored by researchers linked with an independent drug safety website RxISK.org that collects reports of side effects – including after people stop medications – recently reported on 300 cases of enduring sexual dysfunction. These were reported by people from around the world who were taking SSRIs, SSNIs and tricyclic antidepressants, as well as drugs called 5α-reductase inhibitors and isotretinoin. which are used to treat male hair loss (baldness) and benign (non-cancerous) prostate enlargement, and acne respectively. Reports by patients who’d taken 5α-reductase inhibitors and isotretinoin to RxISK of enduring problems with sexual function after stopping these medications appeared to have similar characteristics to those related to antidepressants, notes co-author Dr. Dee Mangin, the David Braley and Nancy Gordon Chair in Family Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and chief medical officer for RxISK.org.

“We were really looking at sexual dysfunction both on and after taking medication, because some of the reports we were getting were suggesting that sexual dysfunction, which is a known side effect of a number of drugs, seemed to be persisting once the drugs were stopped,” Mangin says.

As noted in the paper published in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, there have been limited references to the potential for such issues to occur after patients stopped antidepressants. In the U.S., the product information for Prozac (fluoxetine) – the oldest of the SSRIs – was updated in 2011 to warn, “Symptoms of sexual dysfunction occasionally persist after discontinuation of fluoxetine treatment.” What’s more, the authors noted, “The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published in 2013, states that ‘In some cases, serotonin reuptake inhibitor-induced sexual dysfunction may persist after the agent is discontinued.'”

But the authors go further in detailing reports of enduring sexual dysfunction such as the onset of premature ejaculation and persistent genital arousal disorder (whereby a person becomes aroused without any stimulation) as well as losing genital sensation, or genital anaesthesia, pleasureless or weak orgasm, loss of libido and impotence. “Secondary consequences included relationship breakdown and impaired quality of life,” the authors note.

The individuals weren’t independently evaluated before, during or after taking the medication, and more study is needed. Still, Mangin asserts, “The study provides the strong signal that there is a group of people who seem to experience enduring side effects that affect their sexual function after they’ve stopped taking the drug.”

Experts say just as patients should never stop antidepressants abruptly, or without consulting with their provider – since doing so is known to increase side effect risk and worsen those effects – patient and provider should discuss any adverse effects that start or continue after stopping a medication.

Dr. Eliza Menninger, who directs a behavioral health program at McLean Hospital in Boston, says she hasn’t heard from patients voicing serious concerns about sexual side effects after stopping their medication. For the most part, sexual side effects seem to go away after patients stop taking the medication, Menninger says. “Some will indicate it’s still an issue, but they don’t seem as bothered by it – and I don’t know if it’s as bad an issue as when they were on the SSRI,” she says.

However, clinicians say, it would be helpful to have more clarity on the issue – including how likely it may be that patients could experience enduring sexual side effects. In part due to the sensitive nature of sexual complaints, experts point out, these effects often go unacknowledged in patient-provider conversations.

One problem is that sexual side effects aren’t tracked in a systematic way like other drug side effects – even though they can be severely damaging to intimate relationships and undermine a person’s overall quality of life and well-being. “There’s no requirement, for example, for drug companies to track sexual side effects. They’re not considered serious adverse events, although the potential for them to continue post-medication I would consider extremely serious – even a disability,” says Audrey Bahrick, staff psychologist at the University of Iowa’s counseling service.

Bahrick recently signed onto a petition, along with Mangin and others who’ve researched enduring sexual side effects, asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies to require makers of SSRIs and SSNIs to update drug labeling to warn that such legacy effects can occur and continue for years or even indefinitely.

Sandy Walsh, a spokesperson for the FDA, said it would review the petition and respond to the petitioner, but declined to comment further regarding the petition. Drugmakers who responded to a request for comment say they work closely with regulatory agencies to keep information updated.

Mads Kronborg, a spokesman for pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck, notes that summary production information for its SSRIs, citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro), “already states that side effects can occur upon discontinuation, and that such side effects may be severe and prolonged.” Specifically, it’s stated that “generally these events are mild to moderate and are self-limiting, however, in some patients they may be severe and/or prolonged.” The side effects listed for citalopram and escitalopram “include sexual side effects,” he says, though he adds that sexual side effects are not among the most commonly reported reactions to discontinuation. “So information about potential enduring side effects is actually already included.”

But the petition asserts drug companies aren’t going far enough to acknowledge these concerns.

Bahrick says though the prevalence of enduring sexual side effects remains unknown, “My own impression clinically is that it’s not at all uncommon, and that it can range from subtle – not returning to sexual baseline – to really a complete sexual anesthesia, where a person who has been without any significant sexual problems prior to taking the medication might be rendered unable to experience sexual pleasure, unable to have sensation in the genitals, having orgasms that are not associated with pleasure,” she says. “These are clearly, I think, drug effects. [Issues] like genital anaesthesia and pleasureless orgasm – these are not symptoms that are associated with any sexual problems, say, that are commonly associated with depression. We can see these as legacy effects of the SSRIs.”

In the absence of prevalence data, clinicians continue to debate the potential extent of enduring sexual side effects for those who have stopped antidepressants. Some worry about unnecessarily scaring patients away from antidepressants who may benefit from taking the drugs.

“These medications are used to treat symptoms of illnesses that are potentially quite debilitating and can be lethal, so while I want to encourage a discussion of side effects, the intent is to use medications to help improve significant symptoms,” Menninger says. She points out, as the petition notes, that to date no prospective studies have been done assessing sexual dysfunction prior to SSRI and then during and after SSRI use. Though certainly side effects are real and concerning, she says, “there is clinical evidence the medications make a significant difference in helping [and/or] saving a life.” That’s something some clinicians emphasize shouldn’t get lost in the discussion.

But Bahrick says for patients, not having information that these effects may occur undermines their ability to make a fully informed decision when deciding to go on antidepressants, and deciding whether to try alternative treatment options first. “It’s so important to get this information out there on the front end. Because these injuries are very real and can be lifelong and seriously limit intimacy and create a lot of shame and isolation and despair,” she says. While for some the side effects go away on their own, for others they persist – and Bahrick says there’s no known cure for PSSD. “So this is in service of informed consent that is quite lacking at this time.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How Satisfying Are Open Relationships Compared To Monogamy?

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Monogamy;— to have only one partner at a time — is considered a social standard in modern human society. But is it a necessary component of a satisfactory relationship?

Canadian researchers present new findings, suggesting that it may not have to be the ideal relationship structure. People in open relationships report feeling just as happy and content as those in conventional, monogamous ones.

The study titled “Reasons for sex and relational outcomes in consensually nonmonogamous and monogamous relationships” was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships on March 23.

“We are at a point in social history where we are expecting a lot from our partners. We want to have sexual fulfillment and excitement but also emotional and financial support,” said lead author Jessica Wood, a Ph.D. student in applied social psychology at the University of Guelph.

“Trying to fulfill all these needs can put pressure on relationships. To deal with this pressure, we are seeing some people look to consensually non-monogamous relationships.”

While monogamy is omnipresent, Wood said that open relationships are actually more common than most people would expect. Currently, somewhere between three to seven percent of people in North America are said to be in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship.

For the study, the team surveyed around 200 people in monogamous relationships and around 140 people in open relationships to compare the data sets. Both groups were asked questions regarding how satisfied they felt, whether they considered separating, general happiness levels, etc.

Research has shown that many people tend to have a negative perception of open relationships. Some find it to be immoral, some equate it to cheating or sex addiction, and some simply believe it offers low levels of satisfaction.

“It’s assumed that people in these types of relationships are having sex with everyone all the time. They are villainized and viewed as bad people in bad relationships, but that’s not the case,” Wood said. “This research shows us that our choice of relationship structure is not an indicator of how happy or satisfied we are in our primary relationships.”

The results of the study revealed that people in open relationships actually had similar levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships.

Sexual motivation appeared to be the biggest predictor of satisfaction, regardless of relationship structure. This was because of how closely sexual satisfaction is tied to our psychological needs.

“In both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, people who engage in sex to be close to a partner and to fulfill their sexual needs have a more satisfying relationship than those who have sex for less intrinsic reasons, such as to avoid conflict,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

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Nearly half of British women dissatisfied with sex lives, survey finds

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Those aged 25 to 34 were the least satisfied

By Olivia Petter

More than one in four British women report being unhappy with their sex lives, new research has found

The survey by Public Health England (PHE) of more than 7,300 women investigated problems relating to reproductive health and included an unsatisfactory sex life within this umbrella.

The report revealed that those aged 25 to 34 were the least satisfied in bed, with 49 per cent complaining of a lack of sexual enjoyment.

Dissatisfaction was slightly lower for women aged 55 to 64, less than a third of whom reported experiencing unfulfilled sex lives – however, it was not clear whether this was because they were enjoying sex more or simply having less sex.

Health officials found that women who experienced unhappiness in their relationships, had been diagnosed with STIs and had difficulty communicating with their romantic partners were more likely to have low sexual function.

Meanwhile, positive sexuality (defined by PHE as experiencing high levels of sexual satisfaction, sexual self-esteem and sexual pleasure) were associated with use of contraception, improved relationship quality and an absence of STIs.

For young women specifically, a healthy sex life was also linked to less alcohol use, improved mental health and a positive attitude towards education.

The report also found that nearly a third of women surveyed had suffered from severe issues relating to sex, such as heavy periods and menopausal symptoms.

Dr Jane Dickson, vice president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, commented: “The importance of having a healthy, enjoyable sexual life cannot be overstated as this strongly contributes to general wellbeing.

“However, there is still much stigma and embarrassment when it comes to sexual function – especially when we are talking about women’s sexual pleasure. Society still relegates women’s sexual pleasure to the background.”

Public health consultant at PHE Sue Mann added that a fulfilling sex life is fundamental to women’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Our data show that sexual enjoyment is a key part of good reproductive health and that while many women are reporting sexual dysfunction, many are not seeking help.”

The research also found that there is a strong stigma associated with reporting sexual and reproductive health issues.

“This is particularly true in the workplace where many women do not feel comfortable speaking to their managers about the real reasons for needing to take time off work,” Mann continued.

“We want to empower women to educate themselves about good reproductive health and to feel confident speaking about it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The End of Safe Gay Sex?

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By Patrick William Kelly

June is Pride Month, a ripe time to reflect on one of the most startling facts about our sexual culture today: Condom use is all but disappearing among large numbers of gay men.

Many rightly attribute the condom’s decline to the rise of PrEP — an acronym for pre-exposure prophylaxis, a two-drug cocktail that inoculates a person from contracting H.I.V. But another crucial component is the fading memory of the AIDS crisis that once defined what it meant to be gay.

After tracking the sexual practices of 17,000 gay and bisexual Australian men from 2014 to 2017, a team of researchers this month unveiled the most convincing evidence to date. While the number of H.I.V.-negative men who are on PrEP increased to 24 percent from 2 percent, the rate of condom use decreased to 31 percent from 46 percent. More troubling, condom use among non-gay men is also down significantly</a

Although public health advocates have been sounding the alarm on condom use for the last decade, their calls have gone largely unheeded. Part of that is because of a shift in how we talk about risky sex: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has replaced “unprotected” with “condomless” sex.

The dangerous implication is that PrEP alone may ward off all sexually transmitted infections. Indeed, studies have shown a strong correlation between PrEP use and the contraction of S.T.I.s. PrEP enthusiasts counter that PrEP mandates testing for S.T.I.s every three months, a practice that promotes rather than discourages a culture of sexual health.

But a 2016 study by the University of California, Los Angeles illustrated that PrEP users were 25.3 times more likely to acquire gonorrhea and a shocking 44.6 times more likely to develop a syphilis infection (other studies have found no significant uptick in S.T.I. rates, however).

More than the specific public-health risks of declining condom use among gay men is the shocking speed with which a sort of historical amnesia has set in.

The very idea of “safe sex” emerged from the gay community in the early 1980s, in response to the AIDS crisis. Drag queens once ended performances with catchy one-liners like, “If you’re going to tap it, wrap it.”

AIDS indelibly shaped what it meant to be gay in the 1980s and 1990s. When I came out at the tender age of 14 in 1998, I recall my mother’s reaction. As tears welled up in her eyes, she buried her face in her hands and said, “I just don’t want you to get H.I.V.” No stranger to controversial allusions, the AIDS activist and author Larry Kramer famously called it a homosexual “holocaust.” Condom use, therefore, was never a negotiating chip.

Until it was. PrEP, which the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2012, replaces the condom’s comforting shield. Liberated from the stigma of AIDS, gay men, many people think, are now free to revert to their carnivorous sexual selves. In this rendering, the condom is kryptonite, a relic that saps the virile homosexual of his primordial sexual power.

AIDS is no longer a crisis, at least in the United States, and that is a phenomenal public-health success story. But it also means that an entire generation of gay men has no memory or interest in the devastation it wrought. AIDS catalyzed a culture of sexual health that has begun to disintegrate before our eyes. What is there to be done to bring it back?

One answer is to recall the gay culture of the 1970s that gave rise to the AIDS crisis in the first place. The myth of a world of sex without harm is not new. The 1970s were a time of unprecedented sexual freedom for gay men, during which diseases were traded rampantly, fueled by a libertine culture that saw penicillin as the panacea for all ills.

The nonchalant dismissal of the condom today flies in the face of the very culture of sexual health that gay men and lesbians constructed in the 1980s. If a hyper-resistant strand of another life-threatening S.T.I. develops, we will rue the day that we forgot the searing legacies of our past. We might also recognize that PrEP has not proved nearly as effective a prevention strategy for women as it has for men, and that some strains of H.I.V. have developed resistance to the drug.

While we debate the utility of latex, what are we to think about the millions of sex workers, injecting-drug users and marginalized populations (in particular, black men who have sex with men) without adequate access to costly and coveted drugs like PrEP? If they develop AIDS, they also struggle to acquire the triple drug therapies that have since 1996 turned AIDS into a manageable if chronic condition. Millions have died from lack of access while pharmaceutical companies rake in billions every year.

We might also pivot away from the individualistic and privileged approach of our dominant L.G.B.T. organizations — what one scholar called the “price of gay marriage.” We might, then, regain a radical sense of queer community that we lost in the wake of AIDS.

Complete Article HERE!

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Trying to figure out where you fit on the sexuality spectrum?

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Dabbling in these tests might help.

Human sexuality spans too wide a scope to possibly be covered by a single test.

Be attracted to whomever—don’t stress about tests and scales.

By Sara Chodosh

Alfred Kinsey’s spectrum of human sexuality shocked the world when he published it in 1948. His book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male featured extensive interviews with 5300 people—almost exclusively white males along with a paltry number of racial and ethnic minorities about their sexual histories and fantasies. The second volume, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, came out five years later and made equally shocking claims about the inner lives of 5940 women, also almost exclusively white.

Kinsey’s ethical standards were questionable, especially by today’s standards—much of his research involved sexual contact with his subjects—but he also introduced the world to an idea that previously had little publicity: Human sexuality isn’t confined to the binary hetero- and homosexual standards; rather, it exists on a broad spectrum. Today, most people know that as the Kinsey Scale (though that’s just one way to measure sexuality). It runs from zero to six, with zero being exclusively heterosexual and six being exclusively homosexual. A seventh category, just called “X,” is often interpreted as representing asexuality.

It’s by far the best-known sexuality scale, both for its creator’s fame and for its simplicity, but it’s far from the most accurate or most helpful. In fact, it probably wasn’t ever intended to be a test for participants to take themselves.

Kinsey and his colleagues (among them, his wife) generally assigned their subjects a number based on the interview they conducted. This may be surprising. Many people, sex researchers included, mistakenly believe it was some kind of psychological test conducted exclusively to determine someone’s sexuality. But in a 2014 journal article James Weinrich, a sex researcher and psychobiologist at San Diego State University, dug back into the original Kinsey reports to investigate and found that only a small portion of Kinsey’s subjects were asked to assign themselves a number on the scale. “It was a self-rating only for those asked the question—those who had significant homosexual experience. Otherwise, it was assigned by the interviewer,” he writes.

Since most people’s score on the Kinsey Scale wasn’t their own assessment, it was more or less based on the subjective decision of the expert conductors. That means those online quizzes purportedly telling where you fall on the Kinsey Scale aren’t official in any way.

But that’s not to say that they can’t be useful. Plenty of people—perhaps even most—question their sexuality at some point in their lives. It’s natural. And it’s equally natural to feel anxious, unnerved, or uncomfortable about having feelings that you’re not sure how to categorize or think about. Society has a plethora of negative judgments for anyone who deviates outside of the cisgendered, heterosexual bucket.

Of course, no one has to fall under specific labels. Many men interviewed for sex research, for example, avoid using the term “bisexual” even if they’ve had multiple sexual encounters with other men. San Diego State’s Weinrich spoke extensively with Thomas Albright, one of Kinsey’s original collaborators, who painted a likely far more accurate picture of how the interviews went and the challenges that the study presented. He wrote that a significant percentage of men in the Kinsey sample self-reported that they had “extensive” homosexual experiences, but when asked to rate themselves (men with homosexual experiences were the only ones asked to rate themselves) would self-identify as a zero (exclusively heterosexual) on the Kinsey scale when first asked. If pushed, they might push that back to a one or perhaps a two even as they acknowledge that they receive oral sex from other men.

While just one example, it highlights some of the inadequacies of the Kinsey Scale and of many other attempts to quantify human sexuality. One is that all answers are self-reported, and so rely on people to self-examine. Another is that there may be a disconnect between the attractions a person feels and the label they identify with. Perhaps they only have romantic feelings for people of the opposite sex, but are sexually aroused by men and women.

All of this intricacy is only magnified when you add the spectrum of gender identity. Transgender people, those identifying as gender-fluid or really anything outside of the traditional binary genders are often left out of these sexuality scales.

If you’re questioning your own sexuality, looking at some of these scales might be helpful in getting you to consider aspects of yourself that you might not think of. And if you’re not yet comfortable confiding in another person, these tests and quizzes may be a way of testing ideas and identities. Probably the healthiest way to explore would be with a psychologist who specializes in sexuality (you can find one here, as well as locate all manner of bisexuality-aware health professionals), but if you’re not ready for that step or can’t afford to see someone, these scales may be of some use.

The Kinsey Scale

The oldest and most basic spectrum, the Kinsey Scale is a straightforward numerical scale:

0 – Entirely heterosexual 1 – Mainly heterosexual, little homosexual 2 – Mainly heterosexual, but substantial homosexual 3 – Equally hetero and homosexual 4 – Mainly homosexual, but substantial heterosexual 5 – Mainly homosexual, little heterosexual 6 – Entirely homosexual X – “have no sociosexual contacts or reactions” (Kinsey didn’t use the word “asexual,” but modern researchers interpret the X this way)

Kinsey and colleagues allowed for intermediate numbers, like 1.5, along the scale in keeping with the idea that sexuality is a smooth spectrum. The Kinsey Scale is nice and simple—and that may make it useful to some—but it also focuses on behavior. Cisgender -women who have some unexplored feelings towards other cisgender -women or towards a transgender -woman may not find a place for themselves on the scale if they’ve never acted on those feelings.

The Klein Sexual Orientation Grid

The KSOG tries to remedy some of the nuance that’s not included in the Kinsey Scale. Rather than a single number line, the KSOG is a grid that asks you about sexual attraction, behavior, and fantasies along with emotional and social preferences (and even a few more variables) along a scale from 1 to 7. Importantly, it also asks about these variables in different time scales—past, present, and ideal. (It’s easiest to understand if you take a look at the grid on this page). Perhaps you have historically thought of yourself as an exclusively straight, cisgender male, but now feel some sexual attraction to men like yourself, though you still feel emotionally attached only to cisgender -women. There’s a place for you on the KSOG. There’s also a place for a cisgender -woman who feels equally attracted sexually and romantically to men and women.

It’s downfall is gender identity. In two studies of the KSOG, researchers asked non-cis participants to evaluate the scale on its ability to capture their own sexuality. Many felt it did not. One wrote that “it still does not capture my sexual expression as a genderqueer transwoman for whom the labels “same” and “opposite” sex are incoherent.” Another noted that “As a person who is gender queer and who prefers the same in partners, I have a hard time figuring out if I am homosexual or not! It depends on the solidity of your gender category which I don’t have.”

Multidimensional Scale of Sexuality & MoSIEC

As a reaction to the Kinsey Scale’s limitations, researchers in the 90s developed the MSS and later a more modern version called the Measure of Sexual Identity Exploration and Commitment (MoSIEC). It’s now one of the few (or perhaps the only) scale in the official Handbook of Sexuality-Related Measures.

MoSIEC measures sexuality across four subscales—commitment, exploration, sexual orientation identity uncertain, and synthesis—where participants score themselves on each of 22 statements based on how characteristic they find it. So for example, statement 1 says “my sexual orientation is clear to me,” and you as the test-taker would score yourself on a scale from 1 (very uncharacteristic of me) to 6 (very characteristic of me).

The MoSIEC questions are really intended for researchers, not self-exploration, so we’ll give you the warning here that this isn’t supposed to be a take-at-home quiz. But if you’re curious, you can find the full questionnaire on pages 101-2 of this pdf. The subscores are the averages of the scores for the questions in each subscale, but they’re not divided evenly nor are they in any particular order. For example, the “exploration” subscale is made of up questions 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, and 19. A higher score indicates “higher levels of the measured construct present in the individual” (we did warn you it was for researchers!).

Again, this isn’t a tool intended for lay people, but if you’re really motivated here are the breakdowns for the subscores:

Exploration: 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 19 Commitment: 10, 11, 15, 16, 18, 20 (#15, 16, and 18 are reverse-scored) Synthesis: 4, 7, 13, 17, 22 Sexual orientation identity uncertain: 1, 15, 21 (#1 is also reverse-scored)

The final option: no scoring at all

All of these measures play into both our desire to categorize ourselves as well as our peers, and the necessity of measuring sexuality when it comes to research. But numbers, like labels, can’t possibly capture the complex nature of human sexuality. A quiz or a test can prompt you to consider important questions, but it can’t give you any concrete answers. Don’t stress if you don’t feel like you belong in any one category—nobody really does.

Complete Article HERE!

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Non-Binary Folks Share Advice for Coming Out as Gender Non-Conforming and Accepting Yourself

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Struggling to come out as your authentic self? You’re not alone.

 by


 
With Pride Month coming to a close, Lifehacker has released a video featuring folks discussing coming out and the process of identifying as non-binary. The individuals include Nandi Kayyy, Dane Calabro, Divesh Brahmbhatt, and Kei Williams, all of whom use the pronouns they/them, but describe their gender identity in a variety of different ways. The video touches on gender, sexuality, identity, and the struggles of coming out as non-binary.

Simply put, gender non-forming is “a term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.” Similar terms like genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary, and gender variant express the recognition of a gender spectrum that exists beyond the male/female binary.

Another important distinction is the difference between sex and gender, two concepts often used interchangeably with each other. Sex is simply the medical assignment made at birth based on a baby’s external anatomy. Gender however, is how you feel inside, your sense of self. Sex and gender are entirely separate from sexuality/orientation, which is about who you are(or aren’t) sexually or romantically attracted to.

Despite being acknowledged across cultures and countries, the concept of gender variance is still widely misunderstood and dismissed. While gender variance has existed for centuries, many people struggle with upending and exploring identities beyond the binary.

It’s hard to break out of a system that’s been reinforced as a cornerstone of our identity since before we’re born. Just look at the rise in popularity of gender reveal parties, where parents and families gather together to cut open a cake or bust a pinata or smash a watermelon in an alligator’s mouth to get those pink vs. blue results.

But progress is happening: states like Oregon, Washington, New York and California have passed laws officially recognizing a third gender, and gender variant characters are appearing in popular culture (one of our faves, Steven Universe, gets a shout-out in the video).

For some people, gender identity is a fixed constant, while others experience gender as a fluid and ever-changing experience. There’s no wrong answer and no wrong way to identify: everyone moves at their own personal velocity. If you want to learn more, check out resources like GLAAD, The Non-Binary Resource and the Trevor Project or reach out to your local LGBTQ center.

Complete Article HERE!

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Embrace And Then Move Past Your Scaring

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Name: NIta
Gender: female
Age: 40
Location: South Africa
I recently had abdominal surgery to remove a cancer. I’m recovering pretty well, and the prognosis for my future is also pretty good. But I am noticing two problems. The surgery left a really big scar. It’s still not fully healed yet, but I can tell it’s always going to be ugly. And my belly is really misshapen now. I felt pretty okay about my body before hand, but this scar really makes me look really unattractive. Also, my sex drive has completely gone away. I used to be a pretty sexual person, but now nothing excites me. Would you say this is normal?

How long ago was your surgery, I wonder? It’s got to be pretty recent, if you say the incision is still healing.

Darlin’, may I suggest that you’ve been through quite a trauma — a cancer diagnosis, recent surgery and all. This would throw anyone for a loop. I’d be willing to guess you’ve not had the proper time to process all of this. It comes as no surprise to me that your libido has gone south. I wouldn’t expect otherwise.

If you’re still healing on the outside, you know for sure your insides have a much longer way to go. You’re probably still feeling some discomfort, right? That’s enough to put the kibosh on sexual interest right there. You’re body is consumed with the job of healing itself. It probably hasn’t any energy to spare for sex. And why have a libido if ya can’t be sexual, right? So you see, your body is actually protecting itself and concentrating on the task at hand.

Maybe at this point in your recovery a little pampering would be better for you than a pursuit of sexual pleasure. Long luxurious baths will help soothe the tension, as well as giving your easy access to your fine pussy. Even folks with no discernable libido find touching themselves enjoyable. And just to keep your head in the game, even though you’re sitting on the sidelines, you could read some erotica or watch some sexy smut.

Some modest exercise like walking or swimming can perk up the libido too. Treat yourself to an erotic massage. Let a pro get his or her hands on you and make you glow. This may also help bring back some of the sensitivity to areas effected by the surgery. One things for sure, doing something is better than doing nothing but sitting there wondering what’s up.

An invasive and disfiguring surgery will always have a profound effect on one’s body image, which goes without saying. Feeling unattractive because of a scar? No doubt about it, it’s a bummer. But consider for a moment that you are here writing to me about it, instead of napping six-feet under. So I guess the scar is not the worst thing that could have happened, right? As you probably know, I hear from a number of my country’s war vets returning home with shattered bodies and lives. My advice to them is what I offer you now. Move through the scar’s impact…with a therapist if need be. And find within yourself the other things that make you beautiful, attractive, alluring and desirable. Who knows, you might luck out and find a scar fetishist out there who will worship you for what you find loathsome.

Embracing and then moving past your scaring will open you to find the myriad pleasures your body can still provide you and others. So while your body works on healing itself, your mind can do likewise. No need to have two scars, on one your belly and another one on your psyche. In the end you may find that flaunting your scar, like some women do with their mastectomy scars, will liberate you from feeling unattractive. After all, that scare and misshapen abdomen are your red badges of courage, honey. Not only do they make you distinct, but also they testify to you being a survivor.

Good luck

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Sex and gender both shape your health, in different ways

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When you think about gender, what comes to mind? Is it anatomy or the way someone dresses or acts? Do you think of gender as binary — male or female? Do you think it predicts sexual orientation?

Gender is often equated with sex — by researchers as well as those they research, especially in the health arena. Recently I searched a database for health-related research articles with “gender” in the title. Of the 10 articles that came up first in the list, every single one used “gender” as a synonym for sex.

Although gender can be related to sex, it is a very different concept. Gender is generally understood to be socially constructed, and can differ depending on society and culture. Sex, on the other hand, is defined by chromosomes and anatomy — labelled male or female. It also includes intersex people whose bodies are not typically male or female, often with characteristics of both sexes.

Researchers often assume that all biologically female people will be more similar to each other than to those who are biologically male, and group them together in their studies. They do not consider the various sex- and gender-linked social roles and constraints that can also affect their health. This results in policies and treatment plans that are homogenous.

‘Masculine?’ ‘Cisgender?’ ‘Gender fluid?’

The term “gender” was originally developed to describe people who did not identify with their biological sex. John Money, a pioneering gender researcher, explained: “Gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine.”

There are now many terms used to describe gender — some of the earliest ones in use are “feminine,” “masculine” and “androgynous” (a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics).

Research shows that gender, as well as sex, can influence vulnerability to disease.

More recent gender definitions include: “Bigender” (expressing two distinct gender identities), “gender fluid” (moving between gendered behaviour that is feminine and masculine depending on the situation) and “agender” or “undifferentiated” (someone who does not identify with a particular gender or is genderless).

If a person’s gender is consistent with their sex (e.g. a biologically female person is feminine) they are referred to as “cisgender.”

Gender does not tell us about sexual orientation. For example, a feminine (her gender) woman (her sex) may define herself as straight or anywhere in the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied) spectrum. The same goes for a feminine man.

Femininity can affect your heart

When gender has actually been measured in health-related research, the labels “masculine,” “feminine” and “androgynous” have traditionally been used.

Research shows that health outcomes are not homogeneous for the sexes, meaning all biological females do not have the same vulnerabilities to illnesses and diseases and nor do all biological males.

Gender is one of the things that can influence these differences. For example, when the gender of participants is considered, “higher femininity scores among men, for example, are associated with lower incidence of coronary artery disease…(and) female well-being may suffer when women adopt workplace behaviours traditionally seen as masculine.”

In another study, quality of life was better for androgynous men and women with Parkinson’s disease. In cardiovascular research, more masculine people have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are more feminine. And research with cancer patients found that both patients and their caregivers who were feminine or androgynous were at lower risk of depression-related symptoms as compared to those who were masculine and undifferentiated.

However, as mentioned earlier, many health researchers do not measure gender, despite the existence of tools and strategies for doing so. They may try to guess gender based on sex and/or what someone looks like. But it is rare that they ask people.

A tool for researchers

The self-report gender measure (SR-Gender) I developed, and first used in a study of aging, is one simple tool that was developed specifically for health research.

The SR-Gender asks a simple question: “Most of the time would you say you are…?” and offers the following answer choices: “Very feminine,” “mostly feminine,” “a mix of masculine and feminine,” “neither masculine or feminine,” “mostly masculine,” “very masculine” or “other.”

The option to answer “other” is important and reflects the constant evolution of gender. As “other” genders are shared, the self-report gender measure can be adapted to reflect these different categorizations.

It’s also important to note that the SR-Gender is not meant for in-depth gender research, but for health and/or medical studies, where it can be used in addition to, or instead of, sex.

Using gender when describing sex just muddies the waters. Including the actual gender of research participants, as well as their sex, in health-related studies will enrich our understanding of illness.

By asking people to tell us their sex and gender, health researchers may be able to understand why people experience illness and disease differently.

Complete Article HERE!

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The World Health Organization No Longer Classifies Being Transgender as a Mental Illness

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New catalogue lists ‘gender incongruence’ under ‘conditions related to sexual health’

Ati, who is a Muslim and transgender, waits for the start of Boston’s 48th Pride Parade

Transgender people, who identify as the opposite gender to the one they were born with, should no longer be considered mentally ill, according to a new UN categorisation.

The World Health Organization issued a new catalogue Monday covering 55,000 diseases, injuries and causes of death, in which it discreetly recategorised transgenderism.

The new catalogue, which still needs to be approved by UN member countries, so-called “gender incongruence” is now listed under “conditions related to sexual health”, instead of “mental, behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorders”.

“We expect (the re-categorisation) will reduce stigma,” Lale Say, the coordinator of WHO’s department of reproductive health and research, said.

WHO says gender incongruence is characterised as a “marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the assigned sex.”

Several new chapters appear in the first update of WHO’s International Classification of Diseases catalogue since the 1990s, including the one on sexual health.

“We think it will reduce stigma so that it may help better social acceptance for these individuals,” Say said, adding that since the catalogue is used by doctors and insurers to determine coverage, the move away from a mental disorder could “even increase access to healthcare”.

The document, which member states will be asked to approve during the World Health Assembly in Geneva next May, will take effect from January 1, 2022 if it is adopted.

Several countries have already taken steps to reclassify transgenderism and take it off the list of mental disorders, including France and Denmark.

Say said she thought the text, which is the result of years of discussion among experts, would easily win approval, despite widespread lack of acceptance of transgender people in many parts of the world.

WHO’s latest catalogue also has a new chapter on traditional medicine, which previously went unmentioned, despite being used by millions of people around the world.

It also includes a section on video gaming, recognising gaming disorder as a pathological condition that can be addictive in the same way as cocaine.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Does Circumcision Really Affect Your Sex Life? Here Are the Facts

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A growing number of guys are speaking out against what they see as a cruel and barbaric practice. But how much does it actually affect your sex life?

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When Adam Zeldis was 16, Howard Stern changed his mind about his penis forever. On his show, Stern was talking about how circumcision changes sexual sensations for men, and Zeldis’s curiosity was piqued. He had been circumcised as a baby, and he hadn’t ever thought about whether it had reduced sexual sensation for him before. In fact, up to that point, he had no idea that there were even men who weren’t circumcised.

So Zeldis decided to do some research. And when he learned what a circumcision procedure actually entailed — the surgical removal of the foreskin of the tip of the penis — he was outraged.

“I felt a loss for a sex life that I could never have,” Zeldis told MensHealth.com. “Basically, if you’re circumcised you can never experience sex the way nature intended it.”

Today, Zeldis is a senior strategy advisor for Intact America, an activist organization designed to educate people against circumcision, which it views as a medically unnecessary and cruel practice. Intact America isn’t the only organization that harbors this view: in fact, there is an entire movement — “Intactivism” — devoted to propagating the idea that male circumcision is a cruel and barbaric practice.

But what are the cold, hard facts about circumcision? Are there actually health benefits, or is it a cruel, outdated practice that permanently reduces male sexual sensation? We asked doctors and sexuality experts to weigh in.

Does circumcision have health benefits?

For decades, circumcision has been something of a given in the United States. It was considered a standard procedure for baby boys, regardless of their cultural or religious background, with doctors citing its health and hygiene benefits. For this reason, approximately 75% of men in the United States are circumcised, according to the World Health Organization.

The potential health benefits aside, “parents who choose circumcision often do so based on religious beliefs, common myths about hygiene, or cultural or social reasons, such as the wish to have their child resemble his father,” says sex therapist Kimberly Jackson, LCSW

Doctors also believed circumcision cut down on the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs), which, if left untreated, can lead to kidney infections

“The cited health benefits included [a decreased risk of] STIs, especially HIV and HPV; penile cancer; paraphimosis (when foreskin gets trapped behind the glans, which can cut off blood supply to the tip of the penis), and balanitis, or infection of the glans,” says sexual health counselor Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, PA-C, CSC, CSE.

Are the benefits of circumcision legit?

To a degree, the consensus in the medical community is still that circumcision does slightly reduce the risks of certain UTIs and STIs. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement saying that notwithstanding the potential rare complications of circumcision, including bleeding, infection, and (shudder) penile necrosis, “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks.”

But over the years, emerging research has thrown some of the stated benefits of circumcision into question. For instance, while some studies of African men indicated that circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV transmission by as much as 60%, “the research design was inherently flawed — [they] only examined the health behaviors of heterosexual men, and the results cannot be generalized across cultures,” says Jackson

That’s why more and more parents are choosing to forego the procedure. Circumcision is on something of a decline, with the number of newborns who are circumcised dropping from 84% in the 1960s to about 77% in 2010. Some doctors are also refusing to perform the procedure.

“I have not performed a circumcision since 1994,” says Steven Dorfman, MD, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. “It is a cruel, unnecessary and…substandard practice which belongs in the history books, not in the hospital or the clinic.”

As to the question of whether circumcision is more hygienic than being uncut, it is true that guys who are uncut do have to contend with smegma, an odorless (and harmless) cheese-like substance underneath the foreskin. But washing underneath the foreskin daily and rinsing the head of the penis can easily remedy that issue.

Does being circumcised reduce sexual sensation?

For many guys, this is the million-dollar question: does circumcision reduce penile sensitivity?

Some health experts claim that circumcision can reduce sexual sensation, as the procedure removes thousands of nerve endings in the penis. In fact, a 2007 study found that the glans of the uncircumcised penis was more sensitive to light touch than the glans of a circumcised penis.

“It is also thought that the extra skin adds more friction and stimulation to the clitoris during penetration (both get extra pleasure!), and causes increased sensation to the glans as well,” says Fosnight.

That said, “studies show that there is no significant change in sensation in adult men who undergo circumcision,” says Dr. Alex Shteynshlyuger, director of urology at New York Urology Specialists. A 2016 study confirmed this, finding that men who were circumcised experienced the same level of sexual pleasure as men who were not.

Do people prefer uncircumcised penises?

Although the research on the health and sexual benefits of circumcision is mixed, some parents still would prefer to circumcise their kids for aesthetic reasons — i.e., because they don’t want their sons to feel weird next to the other kids in the locker room. And some guys still do think that their sexual partners prefer circumcised penises to uncircumcised ones.

But when it comes down to it, that’s probably not the case. While there are few surveys indicating what people’s preferences are, a lot of people really don’t care if their sexual partners are circumcised or not — especially as more and more parents choose not to circumcise their kids.

“I don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter to me. Plus, I’m not everyone’s idea of ‘perfect’ down there, either.” says Maria*, 38. Karina*, 26, agrees: “I don’t care one way or the other so long as it’s clean and disease-free. Cut, uncut, whatever, it’s the guy that matters. Not how his penis looks.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The One Sex Toy You’re Afraid of for No Reason

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By Bianca Mendez

Cock rings are a super-fun toy and great for anyone with a penis—but they also come with some serious stigma despite how great they are. But sex toys in the bedroom are the norm nowadays, and a cock ring is just another option—and shouldn’t be any more shameful than using a vibrator or any other sex toy (which is to say, not at all).

So why use one?

The purpose of a cock ring is to prevent the backflow of the blood, which keeps the penis hard for longer than it otherwise would, says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—and How to Get It. When a penis isn’t aroused, the blood flows in and out easily. During an erection, the blood stays in the erectile tissue until the man ejaculates, and the blood flows freely again.

This means cock rings have been used as an aid for erectile dysfunction long before Viagra was a thing, but they can also help you enjoy yourself in the moment and remove stress about staying up.

Cock rings are a super-fun toy and great for anyone with a penis—but they also come with some serious stigma despite how great they are. But sex toys in the bedroom are the norm nowadays, and a cock ring is just another option—and shouldn’t be any more shameful than using a vibrator or any other sex toy (which is to say, not at all).

So why use one?

The purpose of a cock ring is to prevent the backflow of the blood, which keeps the penis hard for longer than it otherwise would, says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—and How to Get It. When a penis isn’t aroused, the blood flows in and out easily. During an erection, the blood stays in the erectile tissue until the man ejaculates, and the blood flows freely again.

This means cock rings have been used as an aid for erectile dysfunction long before Viagra was a thing, but they can also help you enjoy yourself in the moment and remove stress about staying up.

“When used recreationally, many men report that it makes their penis more sensitive and that when they finally do ejaculate, the sensation is more intense,” Mintz says. “It also makes erections last longer, which many men like not just for the longer erection itself, but also for the psychological bonus of not worrying about losing one’s erection or lasting ‘long enough.'”

Plus, some of them vibrate…

Vibrating cock rings can offer clitoral stimulation, which makes them great for a partner, whether you’re using them on a penis or a strap-on—talk about a win/win. But for a sex toy that pretty much acts as a mini-vibe, the stigma surrounding them can make people feel reluctant to try them out. But why are folks so intimidated by this harmless-looking sex toy?

“There is so much pressure on men to last long and thrust hard to be a ‘real man,'” Mintz says. “Anything associated with making this happen is fraught with pressure.”

The way to break the stigma is to shift the mindset.

Sexual pleasure comes from a lot more than plain ol’ P-in-V action, Mintz says, noting that there are many alternative methods to get intimate. Just think of a cock ring as another fun way to experiment with your sex life.

If you’re curious about trying one with your partner, have an honest, open discussion and explain why you think it’d be fun to try it, suggests Mintz. Keep in mind, however, that sex is a two-way street—if your partner isn’t into the idea of using a cock ring, don’t force it.

What kind should you go for?

Like all sex toys on the market, cock rings come in different shapes, colors, and sizes, and are made in a variety of materials, including glass, metal, and silicone. If you’re trying one for the first time, Mintz suggests using a silicone cock ring that’s stretchy and easily adjustable.

To use the cock ring, you’ll want to place it on a semi-hard penis and position it at the base. Make sure it feels snug, but not to the point where it’s pinching. Remove it immediately once you finish.

What not to do…

Mintz says that if used correctly, cock rings are a safe toy, but in very rare cases, they can damage the erectile tissue of the penis. Using it too long will cause the blood to coagulate and give you an erection for a long time, Mintz says.

Basically, as with any new sex trick, you should take precaution. “The general recommendation is to use it for no longer than 30 minutes and to remove immediately if your penis begins to swell a great deal, hurts, feels numb, or feels hot or cold,” Mintz says. Also, never wear a cock ring while you sleep or use one under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Complete Article HERE!

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