10 pieces of advice for helping a partner who has been sexually assaulted

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According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, around one in three women and one in six men in the US will experience some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime. People who have been sexually assaulted are more than capable of being in healthy and fulfilling relationships, but if your partner has experienced sexual violence, you may be lost on how to support them

Obviously, every person is different, as is their relationship to sexual assault. INSIDER consulted with psychologists and relationship experts to come up with the best pieces of advice for being in a relationship with someone who’s been sexually assaulted.

Don’t press your partner for details of the assault

Some people will want to share the details of their experience. For others, talking about the trauma may feel like reliving it.

“After a sexual assault, it can be re-traumatizing for the person to recall the experience in detail. Your partner may experience flashbacks of the assault as a result of PTSD. This may cause unwanted emotional reactions and further harm your partner,” licensed clinical social worker LaQuista Erinna told INSIDER.

Allow your partner to share as much as they want and make it clear that you’re willing to listen, but don’t push them to give details of the sexual assault.

Never put pressure on your partner to have sex

It goes without saying that you should never pressure any person to have sex at any time, but survivors of sexual assault may need more care when it comes to how and when you initiate sex.

“Sexual desire and sexual arousal can be difficult to achieve for someone who has been sexually assaulted, and it can take time for the survivor to feel comfortable sexually again,” psychotherapist and clinical traumatologist Silva Neves told INSIDER.

Giving your partner the time and space they need to feel comfortable with sexual intimacy is essential. Allow them to set the pace and don’t try to pressure them into physical contact before they’re ready. Talk to them about how they’d feel comfortable with you initiating sexual contact and keep that dialogue open.

Focus on incorporating consent into all aspects of your relationship

It’s crucial for all couples to talk about healthy boundaries both in and out of the bedroom, but having open conversations about consent is especially important when someone in a relationship has been affected by sexual assault.

“Your partner has had an experience of their boundaries being violated, and it’s important for you to emphasize that boundaries will be honored in your relationship. This may seem obvious to you, but it can be so powerful for your partner,” licensed sex therapist Vanessa Marin told INSIDER.

Talk about how you say “yes” and “no” to each other, and if your partner already knows there are certain things that don’t feel safe or good to them. It’s also important to understand that consent can be withdrawn at any moment and needs to be re-given in each new instance of intimacy.

Recognize that physical closeness of any kind might be challenging for a survivor

It’s understandable that sexual intimacy after a sexual assault may be difficult and complicated for a survivor. But other types of intimacy or closeness can also present challenges.

“It’s not just sex that can be difficult after a sexual trauma. Physical intimacy of many types can be challenging: holding hands, snuggling, hugging, even sharing the same bed. Patience, sensitivity, and clear communication are key,” clinical psychologist Forrest Talley told INSIDER.

Don’t assume that physical contact that isn’t overtly sexual will be comfortable for your partner. Instead, regularly check in with your partner about what kinds of touch make them feel safe and in control. Be aware that their preferences might change over time or even day to day.

Focus on giving your partner control over their body during sex

During a sexual assault, a person loses control over their body in a very profound way. As a result, they may feel uncomfortable with intimate activity that make them feel out of control.

“When engaging with a partner sexually after an assault, give them control. Let them make the first move, decide which positions work for them, and use verbal consent when you are escalating a sexual encounter,” sex and relationship counselor Niki Davis-Fainbloom told INSIDER.
Keeping your intentions and boundaries clear can help a survivor of sexual assault feel safe and respected.
If sexual intimacy is challenging, work on finding other ways to express love

Sex isn’t the only way to express love and desire in a relationship. If sexual intimacy is still too difficult for your partner, focus instead on finding non-physical ways to express affection for each other.

“How does the survivor feel the most loved? Is it with a touch? Hearing kind words? Having something done for them? Receiving a small gift? Or spending quality time with their partner? It is different for everyone, and you won’t know unless you have open discussions about it,” Neves told INSIDER.

Building up a non-sexual language of love and respect can help a couple dealing with the effects of sexual assault maintain a close bond even if physical intimacy is challenging.

Have a discussion about potential triggers

Sexual assault can traumatize the mind as well as the body. Some survivors may experience panic or anxiety when exposed to things that seem perfectly innocuous to their partners

“With careful, calm, and non-judgmental discussions, the partner can learn where the triggers are for the survivor. Triggers could include particular smells, parts of the body, heavy breathing, certain sounds, or specific words,” said Neves.

Triggers can be places, too. Having sex in places other than your bedroom may be a trigger or simply visiting a certain part of town can bring back harsh memories. Discuss any potential triggers with your partner and try to be sensitive to them.

Know that every day is different

No matter how long it’s been since their sexual assault, every day since will be different. Things like the news, speaking with old friends, or even anniversaries can bring up old feelings.

Just like every survivor’s experience with sexual assault is different, their feelings can also vary day to day. Again, check in with your partner and let them know that you’re there to talk — or to give them space — if they’re feeling particularly raw.

Learning about the common impacts of abuse can help you better understand your partner’s needs

If you’re in a relationship with someone who has survived sexual assault, it’s sometimes possible to misinterpret the effects of your partner’s trauma as a personal statement on your relationship.

“The best thing you can do to be a supportive partner is educate yourself about the impacts of sexual abuse. Learning about some of the common impacts of abuse can help you understand that these kinds of reactions are about the trauma your partner has been through, not about you as a person,” Marin told INSIDER.

For example, if your partner doesn’t feel much desire for sex, you may think that they’re not attracted to you. If they flinch when you touch them in certain ways, you may think that they don’t trust you. Learning about how sexual assault can impact a person with the help of a licensed mental health professional or free online resources can help you understand what your partner may be going through.

Be honest about your own concerns around sex and intimacy

If you have a partner who is a survivor of sexual assault, it’s natural to want to let them take the lead when it comes to sex and intimacy. However, you should also remember to be honest about your own needs in a judgment-free, no-pressure manner.

“It is important to consider your partner’s stage of processing the sexual assault and proceed with sensitivity. At the same time, failure to identify your needs can eventually lead to harboring resentment,” licensed professional counselor Aimee Yasin told INSIDER.

Make sure you’re communicating your willingness to work with your partner’s needs while still being open about your own concerns and feelings. Bottling up your emotions or ignoring the topic of sex altogether can ultimately work against the relationship.

Take advantage of resources for survivors and their partners

There are several different anonymous and confidential resources that offer advice and services not just to sexual assault survivors, but also for their partners.

Anyone can call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 to speak with a professional counselor who can direct both survivors and porters to local resources or simply offer an understanding and anonymous ear. The RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE can also help anyone affected by sexual assault receive support, information, advice, or a referral.

Complete Article HERE!

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Men are mentors in program for adolescent boys about healthy relationships and sexuality

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Social media campaigns such as #MeToo have brought tremendous attention to the issue of sexual violence in North American society, igniting the call for violence prevention programs that challenge traditional gender norms and promote healthy relationships.

Given the gendered nature of sexual and dating violence, targeting boys with these programs early in adolescence may provide an opportunity to shift core beliefs about masculinity, sexuality and violence.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of programming for boys, particularly interventions focused on promoting healthy and positive constructs of masculinity. Of those that do exist, there is limited evidence on whether they are effective. My doctoral research addresses this gap on engaging boys in masculinity issues and promoting healthy masculinity by examining the benefits of having participated in WiseGuyz, a male-only sexual health and healthy relationship program in Calgary.

Meet the WiseGuyz

The WiseGuyz program, run by non-profit agency The Centre for Sexuality (formerly known as the Calgary Centre for Sexual Health), is a school-based healthy relationship and sexual health program that targets boys in Grade 9 (ages 13 – 15) in several schools in the Calgary area. WiseGuyz consists of four core modules — healthy relationships, sexual health, gender and media and human rights — facilitated over 15 weekly, 90-minute sessions. Issues of sexuality, gender and relationships are explored.

Early in my doctoral program, I became aware of the potential for comprehensive school-based sexual health education as a way of engaging young men in gender equality and gender-based violence prevention efforts. The challenge with this approach, however, is that traditional, school-based sexual health education programs fail to consider ways in which gender ideologies contribute to sexual and dating violence. Years of research on sexual health education in schools also pointed to the fact that engaging boys can be incredibly difficult. Given these factors, I was curious how the WiseGuyz program managed to engage young men, and whether the program was producing positive outcomes.

Men as mentors

Building and maintaining a safe space is critical to the program’s ability to engage young men in challenging conversations. Focus groups with the boys identify how the program structure allowed them to feel safe and explore topics regarding sexuality and masculinity without the fear of being judged. Creating a sense of safety is important, as it supports an environment whereby the boys can begin to openly discuss masculine stereotypes, pressures and expectations.

The program is facilitated by men in their mid-20s to early 30s, whom boys in the program see as mentors, role models and friends. Having these kinds of facilitators is important, as young men from numerous studies say typical sex education is delivered by staff with limited credibility. By deliberately choosing young, socially relevant male facilitators, the centre has been able to engage program participants in conversations about sexuality, masculinity and relationships.

Supporting boys to critically reflect about gender is an important part of the program. According to boys, once they began to examine masculine norms and stereotypes, they began to understand how they were influenced by them. Young men speak about gaining greater awareness of the ways in which language is used to police behaviour. For example, one shared that “you don’t realize the destruction that it does” to be called derogatory names that challenge or question your masculinity.

Empowering boys towards healthy adulthood

Survey data collected in the program shows boys agree less with traditional masculinity ideologies after the program as compared to when they started the program.

Boys spoke about the way the program supported them to think about masculinity differently. For example, although boys may enter the program aware of the differences between themselves and other group members sometimes with negative judgment, during the program they appear to increase their respect for these differences. This can lead to a greater acceptance of a wider range of qualities and behaviours from both themselves and others.

My preliminary research suggests that WiseGuyz is a promising program in reducing boys’ endorsement of traditional masculinity ideologies that contribute to dating and sexual violence.

Providing boys with skills to address, examine and challenge beliefs around traditional masculinity ideologies allows young men to resist and re-define the highly gendered expectations they face regarding their identities and behaviours.

By empowering boys with the confidence and skills to resist societal constructions of masculinity, WiseGuyz is supporting the young men they work with to attain emotionally healthy adulthood.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Couples Should Talk More During Sex, According To Science

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Do you talk during sex?

And I don’t mean before the sex starts or after it ends (although both are great things as well). I mean during the actual sex.

If you’re indeed a talker in bed, you’re probably a lot happier with your sex life than the rest of us zipped-lipped fornicators. A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy just found that people who communicate in bed tend to be more satisfied both sexually and in their relationships.

To clarify, you can certainly talk with your body: Nonverbal cues, including moving someone’s hand where you want it to go, moaning when they do something you like, or shaking your head when something makes you uncomfortable, all count as forms of communication. Both verbal and nonverbal communication were associated with more communication satisfaction and thus more sexual satisfaction.

“Our findings suggest that use of verbal or nonverbal communication, specifically, is less significant to one’s sexual satisfaction when individuals are satisfied with their sexual communication,” the researchers wrote in the paper on their findings. “In other words, trying to ascribe to a particular communication style may be less important than simply being satisfied within a relationship with a particular communication style.”

To reach these conclusions, researchers surveyed about 400 people about how often they communicated during sex, how they communicated (verbally and nonverbally), and how and how often their partner communicated. The partners also reported how happy they were with their sex lives, their relationship, and the sexual communication within their relationship. More communication of all kinds during sex (whether verbal or nonverbal and whether it was you talking or your partner talking) was associated with people being more satisfied with the levels of sexual communication in the relationship. And being satisfied with the communication was associated with being satisfied with the sex.

In other words, the more people communicate in bed, the better the sex is.

That might seem obvious, but think about it: How often do you speak actual words during? How often do you directly convey to your partner what you do and don’t want while you’re actually in the middle of the romp?

The researchers point to past studies that have suggested people can be really uncomfortable about ruining the mood or getting shut down if they speak up during a sexual encounter:

Some people believe that talking about sex will cause embarrassment or ruin a sexual mood. And some people may be concerned or fear their partner’s reaction to verbally communicating about sex. This fear, in turn, can inhibit open communication. In response to these fears, people may prefer more ambiguous communication in order ‘to test partner responses and save face if the partner does not respond positively.’ Indeed, couples report intentionally engaging in communication tactics to help ‘save face’ and avoid discomfort or embarrassment associated with direct verbal sexual communication. This may be particularly true during a sexual encounter. Given that individuals may be especially vulnerable when engaging in partnered sexual activity, the consequences of a negative partner reaction may have more impact than a negative reaction in a less vulnerable situation.

It’s so important for us to move past these fears of negative reactions. The results of this study prove that everyone tends to be more pleased with sex when the communication is better, both with oneself talking and with one’s partner talking. And there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ nonverbal cue if that better suits you and helps keep you both in a sexual mood: “Nonverbal communication during sex is often perceived to be less awkward or less threatening than verbal communication,” they write. “It may be less awkward or threatening for a woman to guide her partner’s hand to her genitals rather than directing her partner verbally: ‘Please touch my genitals.'”

Not that a direct ask is ever bad. Having a person you find attractive ask you to touch their anything can be a big turn-on if phrased the right way and spoken seductively. It can give both of you a little bit of confidence.

Clinical sexologist and sex therapist Cyndi Darnell tells mbg that communicating during sex is just a good way to tell your partner what you’re into: “The silence means it’s hard to read what their partner is experiencing, and while it needn’t be a porno soundtrack, a little aural feedback is a great thing!”

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Netflix’s ‘Special’ Brings Disability and Gay Sex to the Forefront

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Ryan O’Connell, the show’s creator and star, discusses internalized ableism, the sex scene that was “his baby” and Grindr.

By Mathew Rodriguez

A simple matter of budget ended up making one of the most revolutionary queer stories on television. Ryan O’Connell, Will & Grace writer and author of the memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, was not attached to star in the show he’d write and create when he first pitched it. But O’Connell, who is gay and living with cerebral palsy, ended up being the cheapest option to star in the show and, thus, Special, which just dropped on Netflix, was born: a show created, written by, and starring a queer person living with a disability based on his own life story.

Disability representation is still pretty abysmal on television. According to GLAAD, though over 13% of Americans are living with a disability, only 2.1% of characters on primetime broadcast shows live with a disability — 18 characters in all. That’s actually the highest percentage GLAAD has recorded in its nine years of tracking, which hopefully points to an upward trend. But there’s still so far to go, and Special not only a pushes the meter in the right direction, it also addresses how queerness intersects..

It’s a point that people like deaf activist and model Nyle DiMarco has made again and again: there is not enough disabled representation when it comes to everything from children’s shows to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In October, DiMarco posted an ad from the CW on his Twitter that touted the network’s commitment to racial, sexual, gender, and ethnic diversity but, as DiMarco pointed out, made no mention of disability representation.

Special doesn’t only put queer people on screen, it centers their interior lives and deals with a host of thorny, complicated issues — all while eliciting big laughs. In the show,  O’Connell plays Ryan Kayes, a 20-something gay guy living with cerebral palsy who gets a job working at a millennial-centered site called EggWoke. (O’Connell himself used to write for Thought Catalog, so take from that what you will.)

In only eight, 15-minute episodes, a first for Netflix, the show tackles internalized ableism, queer disabled sexuality, sex work, gay monogamy, the exploitation of marginalized stories, Instagays, and more. Out caught up with O’Connell ahead of the show’s debut to discuss the disability spectrum, why pool party scenes feel so universal, and whether he feels pressure to represent the entire disabled community in one show.

Spoiler alert: Several plot points of Netflix’s Special are discussed in this interview

Very early in the series, you have a scene talking to your trainer about being on Grindr.  Did you feel like you waited a longer time to go on apps than other gay men?

I definitely looked at the apps. I have had a boyfriend for four years and I’m still on the apps, honey, hello, welcome to the future. But back in my single days, I remember I was on Grindr and I was on Scruff, but I would rarely meet up with someone because I just had anxiety. Are they going to notice I have a limp? Am I doing false advertising? It was a tricky thing to navigate. Because I felt like my disability wasn’t pronounced enough to make a difference. I felt like warning them about a limp was overkill, but I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had been duped. I was on the apps, but it would take a bottle of wine for me to invite someone over.

I really loved a conversation that your character has on the show about being disabled, but not being “very disabled,” like, let’s say, someone who operates with a wheelchair. Obviously, your show is a major step forward for disability representation on TV, but do you feel pressure for the show to represent a large swath of the disabled community?

It’s a lot of pressure because there has not been that much representation of disability, let alone form actual disabled people. I do know intellectually that it’s truly impossible for my show to speak for an entire population of people. It just can’t happen. So I feel like I have to write something that’s authentic to my experiences. And I feel like as you get more specificity, you get more universal. Hopefully Special opens the door for more disabled voices to tell their stories. I can’t speak for an entire population of people.

I don’t know if you’ve watched Shrill on Hulu yet, but just like Special, there’s a pool scene where the main character is confronted with their own body. What do you think it is about a pool setting that can be so emotionally fraught?

Well, I think the setting of the pool party is very relatable. I feel like everyone at some point in their lives has been invited to a pool party and has felt anxiety over taking off their clothes in front of a group of strangers, or even friends. I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling very self conscious about my body, not feeling good enough. All of the feelings Ryan [has] in the pool party episode are things that you relate to. I don’t know if i’ve ever been invited to a gay pool party, [but the idea is] so deeply triggering. I think I’d feel self conscious, especially one full of Instagays because they have these conventional, beautiful bodies and that’s definitely not mine. You can’t help but compare yourself. “Compare and despair,” that’s what they say. It’s hard. The relationship to the body is always evolving. It really depends on the day. Some days I’m like, :I love my body! I’m body positive!” And other days I’m like, “I’m literally a goblin.”

Watching your show coincided with me watching Shrill and then there was also an episode on Comedy Central’s The Other Two about Instagays. It seems like Instagays are having their cultural send-up moment.

Totally. There’s just a lot to mine there. Let’s be honest. It’s just a very very funny subculture of people. I don’t know any Instagays personally. I don’t know what they do for a living. God bless, but yeah, The Other Two is so brilliant. I love that show. It’s so smart and so funny.

Your character also deals with a season-long arc of internalized ableism and keeps his disability a secret. You lived that experience, then wrote about it in your memoir and now for your show. What is it like to live that experience but then translate it to the screen and have to access those feelings again?

I really enjoyed it actually. Because I think when I wrote the book, I was so unevolved in my  feelings about my disability and the fact that I had been closeted about it for the past six years. While it was cathartic to write about it in my book, I felt I had only scratched the surface and had only begun to understand what I had done to myself. Talking about it in the show was an amazing opportunity because I’ve learned so much about myself and when I was closeted and how it fucked me up on such a deep level.

I didn’t even know about internalized ableism when I wrote the book. And if I knew what it was, I wouldn’t even know that I suffered from it. I was beginning to unpack what being closeted about disability had done to me, I was just not there yet. So doing it in the show was just amazing because I feel like I have grown so much and I understand things much better than I did back then.

In the show, your character goes on a date with another disabled person and you kinda exit stage right. Did you ever find that ableism had stopped you from dating other disabled people?

Yeah, that actually happened to me in high school. There was this really cute deaf gay guy in my high school and he asked me out on Myspace or something. I remember being so grossed out like, “Who does he think he is that he can ask me out on a date and I’d say yes?” Meanwhile, I’m drooling on myself and limping away like “How dare you!?” Like, “I date able-bodied people only please!”

I thought I was justified in feeling that way. I had no idea how fucked up I was in feeling that way. I think it’s so fascinating and specific to the disabled community. But I think it’s specific outside of the disabled community in a larger way with gay men. Sometimes you have internalized homophobia and sometimes someone reminds you of the things you don’t like about yourself and it causes you to reject them.

There’s a conversation in Hollywood right now about people from marginalized communities being able to play themselves on screen. Was it always the plan for you that you would star in Special?

No, never. There was no discussion. When we first went out to the pitch, I was not attached to star. There was no one attached to star. We would talk about “Who do we get to play me?” and initially we went out with the pitch and we went to Stage 13, a digital branch within Warner Bros., but out of financial necessity, it was like, “We have no money, Ryan is very cheap, so welcome to Hollywood, honey!” So I was forced to play myself.

I was so scared of it. I never wanted to act, but now having done it, I’m so glad and I can’t imagine anyone else doing it. Looking back on it, I like performing. I was in high school plays and middle school, but I feel like I never gave myself to really want that. I was ashamed about it, like “I’m just a writer, I’m behind the scenes in Studio City in a writer’s room and that’s my journey.” Now, I feel like I do like to perform and I do like to act and that’s OK.

I really loved the plotline where your character has a positive experience with a sex worker. How important was it to show that kind of interaction, between a person living with a disability and someone who does sex work?

Well, that scene was really really important to me. That sex scene was my baby. I have been really frustrated about the lack of representation of gay sex in film and TV. I don’t understand why anal sex has not been normalized or depicted for what it is. You get Queer as Folk, really porny, or you don’t get anything at all. So I knew when I was starting the season that I wanted to have an honest sex scene and I also had an experience with a sex worker that has been so amazing and I wanted to create a scene that was also pro-sex work.

I also wanted to make sure that Ryan losing his virginity was a nice, tender scene and that I was not traumatized. I felt that that was very important. When something is so common in your life and you don’t see it every in TV or film, I get really frustrated. I’m like, “Why is this so groundbreaking? This is something that tons of people experience!”

And the scene also actually featured lube, which gay sex scenes never feature lube!

Yeah, I think that was actually the addition of my gay producer. I think that was my producer being like, “He should definitely have lube!” Lube is obviously a very essential part of gay sex. Can’t leave home without it!

So, I’ve worked in digital media for a while and I see a lot of the same culture at EggWoke [the fictional site where Ryan works in Special] that I’ve seen in a lot of digital media. They want you to harvest your deepest, darkest parts of yourself for clicks. What advice would you give writers who are living with a disability or marginalized in any way who might be pressured to tell their stories when they’re not ready?

My advice is don’t do it. I know that when I started writing for the internet, I was in such a hungry, desperate place, that I was like, “I’ll write about anything! I have no boundaries! I need a career.” And then over time, like six months, I realized that that was not a place to be, emotionally prostituting yourself for two dollars. You have to really create boundaries and realize what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not ready, you have to say you’re not ready to talk about this. Do something else: sell your sperm, do foot fetish work. That has more integrity than exploiting yourself.

You also try to show the awkwardness that can happen when a disabled person and a non-disabled person try to have sex. What advice would give you non-disabled people who want to talk to someone with a disability on apps?

I don’t know if I’ve ever been in that position. I’m trying to think. I didn’t really date. I need to say that a million times. I was single for many, many years and I think it was because of scenarios like you just said. I was so fearful of talking about my disability. So, what I will say is through my coming out of the disability closet — usually no one cares about the things you care about as much as you do. When it comes to getting laid, in my experience, once you’re there, no one gives a shit. It’s just like, “Let’s do it!” So be comfortable and confident and if for whatever reason the person is not receptive, if anyone has some sort on unsavory reaction to your disability then say, “Goodbye and good luck with your fucking projects!”

Complete Article HERE!

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Learn to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ for better sex…

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and to improve your whole life

‘Boundaries and consent issues cause a huge amount of confusion and unhappiness in many people’s lives.’

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Conveying our deepest desires, likes and dislikes, to our most intimate partner is essential. Here’s how…

“Yes,” I say, surprisingly firmly, to the man I have never met before, whose name I do not even know, who is massaging my back and shoulders. “Yes. Yes, please.”

I am lying on a mat on the floor of a conference room in a London hotel and around me three people – complete strangers – are rubbing my back. “Zero,” I say suddenly, which is the code word for stop. It’s not because I want the massage to end – in truth, it feels rather soothing – but because we have been encouraged to try saying “no” as well as “yes”. That, after all, is the point of the exercise. According to the leader of this workshop, intimacy and relationships expert Jan Day, we find “no” extremely difficult to say, and our lives would be better if we could bring ourselves to say it more readily. Instantly, the people surrounding me draw back, and I revel in the afterglow of both having articulated the difficult message I wanted to convey, and having it acted upon.

Around 40 of us have signed up to Day’s workshop, more or less equal numbers of men and women, spanning a wide age range from 20-something to 50-something. The topics under discussion are boundaries and consent, issues, Day tells us, that cause a huge amount of confusion and unhappiness in many people’s lives. While the #MeToo movement has focused attention on these in a societal setting, she believes we are as all-at-sea as ever over how to convey our deepest desires, likes and dislikes, to our most intimate partner.

Day’s own life story, with two unhappy marriages behind her, and the therapeutic practice she did to overcome the fallout, led her to this work. A qualified coach who has been a relationships specialist for 20 years, she says the crux of the matter is that most of us are either unable or unwilling, or both, to say “no”, even when “no” is what we mean.

There are several reasons for this, the first being empathy. “You don’t want to feel the feelings your ‘no’ will provoke in the other person,” she explains. “And then at other times, you’re simply embarrassed. Or another reason is that, as a child, you learned to associate the word ‘no’, uttered by the adults around you, with ‘bad’. And what your subconscious tells you is that if you’re responsible for something ‘bad’ in your partner’s life, you’ll no longer be loved.”

All of this is entirely logical. But failing to say what we mean, particularly in our sex life, has repercussions. “If we can’t say what we want to say, we learn instead to numb our feelings, to zone out, both physically and emotionally.” Some people – and this describes as many men as women – simply shut themselves down sexually. “They blank it out, say they’re not interested any longer, feign headaches, push it away completely. Or they go with whatever is suggested, but they zone themselves out from it – go through the motions, but fail to connect it properly with who they are inside.”

The fallout is more than just the obvious, says Day. Of course on the one hand it means a failure to live out a fulfilling sex life, but just as damaging is the effect on an individual’s power to enjoy and shape the wider world. “Our sexual energy isn’t only about sex,” she says. “In fact it’s not even mostly about sex. Your sexual energy is your life energy: it’s the centre from which your interest in life, your joie de vivre, arises. It’s the kernel of your aliveness.” It can also, she acknowledges, be very scary to give yourself intimately to someone you love. Sharing your deepest self with the person you spend most time with leaves you vulnerable in all sorts of ways. No wonder, says Day, that there are people who feel more comfortable with the idea of keeping sex and love, carnal pleasure and heart, entirely separate. “You’d be surprised by how many people are with a partner they very much love, but don’t have sex with, while their sex life is part of an affair.” It’s a way of keeping things “safer”. But they miss out on all the ways a 360-degree relationship can enhance a life.

A starting-point in Day’s workshop is the idea that we need to be grounded in our sexuality, knowing what we like and don’t like, and being able to do what we need to do to achieve it. And that means, in the first instance, being properly connected not with another person, but with ourselves. As with the business of being able to say no, this goes back to our earliest learned behaviour – because the vast majority of us were taught as children to denigrate our sexual urges as shameful, or dirty, or disgusting. What her day-long workshop does is give participants the chance to begin to rethink how they incorporate their sexuality into themselves. “Usually sexuality is denied or played down in our lives, and so we don’t get a chance to work out how it influences us holistically, and how to work it alongside the other parts of our being,” says Day. Throughout the event, she stresses that no-one is at any point required to do anything they don’t want to do. Indeed, speaking up about what you don’t want is, if anything, more important than saying what you do, for reasons already described.

The exercises – one involves holding a partner’s hand and, with their permission, massaging it gently – are simple and straightforward, but some of the 40 or so faces around me are tear-stained when we sit back in a circle to listen to more input from Day. In tracing our fingers across another person’s hand, in caring about whether it feels good to them or not – and then vice versa, with our own hand being massaged – we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable; and for some, that brings sensations of pain. One woman is sobbing after being touched. She says she hasn’t had a relationship for many years, hasn’t felt another person’s loving touch for so long. For Day, what we’re experiencing is about allowing feelings to arise and not being afraid of them. This isn’t about hiding pain but feeling it and working through it as the key to the better self awareness she hopes we will gain from the workshop.

The point to which Day keeps returning is the need to work out what we want ourselves – and then to learn to convey it to another person. Too much of what happens in intimate relationships, she believes, is guesswork. We haven’t worked out what we want, we’re too worried or embarrassed about conveying it clearly, so all we can do is attempt to mind-read our partner’s deepest desires. “And the trouble with that,” she says, “is that you can’t mind-read on all this stuff, so you make assumptions that are wrong.”

Day’s assistant at the workshop is her husband, Frieder. They have put all her wisdom into play in their own relationship, she tells me. “He really likes it that I say no as well as yes. The thing is that if you know someone is able to say no, you can completely trust them when they say yes. And that means your partner can in turn enjoy himself or herself more, and can be more playful during sex, because they’re not taking responsibility for how you’re feeling, now they know you’re going to be clear about it.”

Day’s workshops are held at a variety of venues, with some a day long, others across a weekend or even a week. Participants come alone or with a partner – on my course, there were three couples. Either way is fine, says Day. Where people attend solo and have a partner, she hopes the energy and ideas of the workshop can help recalibrate a couple’s sex life. Certainly the exercises aren’t remotely complicated.

The one we keep repeating throughout the day is about signalling when we don’t like something and when we do, and knowing the other person won’t be offended by our “no” or “zero”.

“It’s incredibly simple,” says Day. “Anyone can do it, in the privacy of their own space. You just need to talk about it beforehand and agree on what you’re going to signal and how you’ll do it. And it really can revolutionise not only your sex life, but your wider life as well.”

Complete Article HERE!

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New study shows that sexual identity continues to evolve well into adulthood

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By Kells McPhillips

As a new generation calls back to the sexual revolution with fresh attitudes about sex and relationships, an extensive study of 12,000 students emerges, providing greater understanding of sexual fluidity in young adults.

Research published in the Journal of Sex Research found that people ranging in age from adolescence to their late 20s reported variation in who they were attracted to and partnered up with, as well as how they identified sexually. The studies authors mined statistics from surveys including the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.

“Sexual orientation involves many aspects of life, such as who we feel attracted to, who we have sex with, and how we self-identify,”  Christine Kaestle, PhD, a professor of developmental health at Virginia Tech said in a press release. “Until recently, researchers have tended to focus on just one of these aspects, or dimensions, to measure and categorize people. However, that may oversimplify the situation.” She gives the example of someone who might consider themselves heterosexual, but also have a history with partners of their same sex.

Of course, how people interact sexually is far too complex to fit into the labels “gay,” “straight,” or “bisexual,” argue the study authors. “We will always struggle with imposing categories onto sexual orientation,” said Dr. Kaestle. “Because sexual orientation involves a set of various life experiences over time, categories will always feel artificial and static.”

While the study’s findings on sexual fluidity highlight insufficiency of the labels gay, straight, and bisexual, researchers divided people into nine distinct categories based on their findings, including “mostly straight or bi,” “minimal sexual expression,” and “emerging lesbian.” The groupings leave much more room for nuance than the run-of-the mill labeling so often used to herd people into sexually simple boxes, and it also allowed them to discover for some truly thought-provoking findings.

For example, more men identify as straight than women, who, on the other hand, had a greater sexual fluidity over the course of their young adulthood. And less than one in 25 men fell somewhere in the middle of being either gay or straight. “At the same time—as more people pair up in longer term committed relationships as young adulthood progresses—this could lead to fewer identities and attractions being expressed that do not match the sex of the long-term partner, leading to a kind of bi-invisibility,” explains the researcher.

No matter your age, it’s 100 percent okay if you don’t feel like you fit into one of nine categories. As Dr. Kaestle and her colleagues are quick to point out, when it comes to sexuality, we’re really just looking at the tip of the iceberg (for now).

Complete Article HERE!

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Erectile Dysfunction:

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Two Women On What It Did To Their Sex Lives

By Natalie Gil

Erectile dysfunction (ED) has been getting the millennial marketing treatment recently. On London transport earlier this year, you may have seen a ‘quirky’ ad campaign for a viagra delivery service called Eddie, which urged men not to be shy about the condition, proclaiming “ED isn’t an ‘old man problem'”. Men’s health company Numan, which manufactures treatments for ED, uses a minimal, earthy-toned colour palette for its packaging – clearly targeted towards the same younger audience. In the US, the hipster-friendly viagra company Hims (with its cacti motif) has even been credited with making erectile dysfunction ‘trendy'</a

It’s refreshing that brands are trying to de-stigmatise an issue that can emasculate men – and it makes sense, given that there’s cause to believe younger men are increasingly finding it difficult to get or maintain an erection for long enough to have sex. A study of 2,000 British men last year found that half of men in their 30s and 35% of men in their 20s are “struggling in the bedroom”, with stress, tiredness, anxiety and boozing too heavily cited as the predominant causes. The ubiquity of porn is also named as a possible cause.

The Instagram-ready billboards might do something to tackle the stigma surrounding ED for some men but certainly not all – a recent study of 1,000 men and 1,000 women by Numan found that less than half (42%) of men who have experienced ED took steps to fix it. Nor is the taboo lifting among the sexual partners of those with the condition. The fallout and shame arising from ED remains far worse for men themselves, of course – nearly 50% of men with ED told Numan’s survey they felt self-conscious during sex, while nearly 20% avoided it altogether, and 79% were experiencing anxiety of some kind – but its impact on their romantic partners and relationships shouldn’t be overlooked.

How do affected couples communicate about an issue that is so sensitive? How does it make them feel about themselves? And how does it affect their own sexual satisfaction and experience of sex? Sex and relationship experts advise “talking to him and letting him know that he has nothing to feel ashamed of” and suggesting that he seek professional help if the problem persists. But it can be difficult squaring your partner’s wellbeing, self-esteem and masculine identity with your own needs, as two women in heterosexual relationships told Refinery29

Jo, 36, a strategist and self-described serial monogamist, was in a relationship with a man with erectile dysfunction which was “cut short due to ED and how it manifested in the relationship,” she says.

“The situation was twofold; he’d had health issues in the past brought on by a partying lifestyle that resulted in a mild heart issue, and he previously had an addiction to pornography, which he felt had warped his mind and changed how his body responded in intimate situations. I didn’t know any of this, of course, but I sensed a disconnect when we were intimate. Like his mind went somewhere else. I found out a few months in that he regularly used Viagra to deal with it. He hadn’t spoken to anyone else before and god knows where he was getting the medication.

During the next few months, sex changed… I acted more like a sex therapist than a girlfriend. It was probably the first time he’d discussed it with anyone. I wished there was someone else, like a professional, who he could speak to, to take the pressure off me. Sex became less about my enjoyment and more about ‘fixing’ him. I did a lot of research but didn’t really know what to do in this situation and if I was being a ‘good’ girlfriend or not. Was I making it worse or better? I was kind and patient for sure but pushed my needs and feelings aside as a result.

The ED took over everything. If we wanted guaranteed sex then it had to be planned, so it was less spontaneous and felt fake. I think he possibly took too strong a dose or was on the wrong medication too, because I felt he changed a bit as a person sexually. As I say, it felt like a therapy session, which brought us closer together in a way but also got boring very quickly for me. I sound like a bitch even now saying it, but that’s the truth.

The experience gave me a good insight into how hard it can be to be a man in 2019 and opened my eyes to how modern lifestyles, porn and mental health can really affect the physiology of a human; we all need to get to know and understand our bodies better. It taught me to be more patient and how to have tough conversations. Moreover, it taught me to care about my own feelings more, when to set boundaries and when to cut out.”

Melissa (not her real name), 29, who works in recruitment, saw a man for several months from September last year, and it soon became clear that his religious beliefs were hampering his ability to have sex.

“I was really excited about him as we clicked on so many levels. Before we’d slept together, he told me he was quite religious and that he’d probably want to explore it more when he got older and settled down. I’m not religious, but I didn’t think too much of it. On another occasion, he started talking about certain foreplay things he liked to do and asked if I was game – I was. Back at mine we started getting into it and he focused his attention on me during foreplay. He didn’t let me pay much attention to him. He had an erection at the time. However, when it came to having intercourse he lost it, proceeded to hug me and said that what we had just done was so amazing, etc. The foreplay was good and I’d been hoping we’d go the whole way since the dirty talk at dinner. I brushed it off.

We met up again and the same thing happened – he couldn’t get hard to have sex. We tried and it got a little hard but he lost it immediately. I could see that he was frustrated, but I could also sense he knew what was going on. I told him he could feel comfortable speaking to me about it, as we’d already had several deep conversations. Eventually, he told me his ex-girlfriend of five years was very religious and only wanted to have sex once she was married. He’d had a few sexual partners before her and was willing to wait. In the last year of his relationship they began to experiment with foreplay and when they eventually had sex, at his insistence, it didn’t feel right and they ended up splitting up. Essentially, he could only get hard off his kinky foreplay fantasy and had gone so long without intercourse that when it came to it, he had a mental and physical block.

We got on well but the lack of sex and his unwillingness to address it meant we didn’t see much of each other after that. I was willing to try and help out, be understanding and patient but he kept me at a distance and ultimately didn’t want to talk to me about it. Since he’d been so forward about what he wanted in bed I felt deflated that he couldn’t go the whole way. It made me think I was the problem. I now realise this wasn’t the case, but if your partner has ED and doesn’t admit it, doesn’t talk about it and distances themselves, it doesn’t make you feel good. Men rarely talk about it and women are often embarrassed to talk about it with their friends to avoid embarrassing their partner, so seek your own advice and if your partner is hesitant, broach the subject yourself. Give them resources or solutions and let them know it’s a common problem. Help them to find out what really might be causing it.”

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Exploring the different sexual orientations

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

By Logan Metzger,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other orientation is pansexuality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Demystifying the internal condom

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A guide for anyone whose sex life demands options

By Elizabeth Entenman

Getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be scary. But regular STD and STI testing is an important part of your sexual health. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018, STD rates have continued to increase for four consecutive years. From 2013 to 2017, gonorrhea cases increased by 67% and syphilis cases nearly doubled.

April is STD Awareness Month, and now is a good time to get tested and learn more about your prevention options. When you think of prevention methods, regular latex condoms probably come to mind first. But you should also know about the internal condom (formerly the female condom). It’s an easy-to-use alternative that we think everyone should consider including in their sexual repertoire.

We spoke with Julia Bennett, director of learning strategy for education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, about internal condoms. Bennett explained what internal condoms are, how they help protect against STIs, and how they’re different from regular condoms. Here are answers to some common questions you might have.

What is an internal condom?

“Internal condoms (formerly known as ‘female condoms’) are an alternative to regular (external) condoms. They provide great protection from both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. However, instead of going on a penis or sex toy, internal condoms go inside either the vagina (for vaginal sex) or anus (for anal sex). People of any gender can use them for vaginal or anal sex. To use an internal condom for anal sex, simply take the inside ring out.”

How do internal condoms work?

“Internal condoms are made of nitrile (a type of soft plastic). They create a barrier between people’s genitals during anal or vaginal sex. This barrier stops sperm and egg from meeting, which prevents pregnancy. It also helps prevent STIs from spreading. Internal condoms put up a barrier, so you don’t come in contact with each other’s semen (cum), pre-cum, or genital skin, all of which can spread STIs. But you do have to use them every time you have sex, from start to finish, for them to work.”

Can anyone use an internal condom?

“Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) renamed the internal condom, as it was previously known as the ‘female condom.’ The FDA moved the internal condom from a Class 3 medical device to a Class 2 medical device—the same as other condoms. This change will help make internal condoms easier to access in the future. The reclassification also underscores their versatility—anyone can use them, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

How effective are internal condoms?

“Internal condoms are really good at preventing both STIs and pregnancy. About 21 out of 100 people who use internal condoms for birth control get pregnant each year. If you use them from start to finish every time you have vaginal sex, they can work even better. Keep in mind that you can get even more pregnancy prevention powers by using internal condoms along with another birth control method (like the pill or IUD). That way you’ve got protection from STIs, and double protection from pregnancy.”

What are the benefits of using internal condoms?

“There are a lot of benefits to internal condoms:

They help prevent STIs. Condoms, including internal condoms, are the only method of birth control that also protects against STIs.

They may feel more comfortable. Some people find internal condoms more comfortable than other condoms since they don’t fit snugly around a penis. They may feel even more comfortable (and pleasurable) if you use water or silicone-based lube, too. [Editor’s note: Internal condoms are a great option for those whose penises are larger than standard- or large-size condoms.]

They’re latex-free. This makes them a great option for people allergic to latex.

• They can increase sexual pleasure. During vaginal sex, the internal condom’s inner ring may stimulate the tip of the penis, and the external ring can rub against the vulva and clitoris. That little something extra can feel great for both partners. You can also insert the internal condom before sex, so that you don’t have any interruptions.”

Are there any disadvantages to using them?

“You need to use an internal condom every time you have sex, which may be hard for some people to stick to. You also have to be sure to put them on correctly. They also may take some getting used to, if you/your partner are new to them. Practice inserting them, or even make it a part of foreplay by having your partner insert it.”

Where can you buy an internal condom?

“While the recent reclassification will hopefully lead to easier access in the future, right now internal condoms can sometimes be a little hard to find. Currently, the only brand available in the U.S. is the FC2 Internal Condom. It’s available online at the FC2 Internal Condom website, at many Planned Parenthood health centers, family planning and health clinics, and by prescription in drugstores. Some health centers may provide them for free. Otherwise, internal condoms cost about $2-3 each if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost. They’re usually sold in packs of 12.”

If you use an internal condom, should you still use a regular condom, too?

“There’s no need to double up on condoms, no matter what kind of condom it is. One is all you need. Each kind of condom is designed to be used on its own, and doubling up will not give you extra protection.”

What’s a big misconception around internal condoms that isn’t actually true?

“There are so many kinds of condoms to choose from to meet the needs of you and your partner. Trying different kinds can be a fun way to help you find what works best for the both of you. And contrary to popular myth, condoms don’t ruin the mood—people who use condoms rate their sexual experiences as just as pleasurable as people who don’t. Using any type of condom, including the internal condom, is a good way to lower stress and focus more on having a fun, pleasurable sex life. In fact, many people say they find sex more enjoyable when they use condoms because they aren’t worrying about STIs or unwanted pregnancy.”

What should you tell your partner if they don’t want to use a condom?

“If your partner doesn’t want to use a condom, ask why. That can help start an honest conversation about your health. Sometimes it’s about finding the right type of condom, using condoms along with lube, or explaining why you want to use them. Stress that your health (and your partner’s health) is your priority—and that sex without protection is not an option. Then decide who will get the condoms, and make a plan to use them every time, the whole time you’re having sex.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What’s A Dom?

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This BDSM Term Is All About Perception

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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How Couples Can Deal With Mismatched Sex Drives

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By Kelly Gonsalves

One of the most common problems faced by long-term couples is desire discrepancy—one partner wants more sex than the other. It’s a frustrating place to be for both parties: One person doesn’t feel sexually satisfied or desirable in their relationship, the other feels pressured to have sex they don’t really want, and both usually feel guilty for putting their partner in this position.

One excellent way couples can deal with the issue is to see a sex therapist, who can work with them in building a new, mutually satisfying intimate life together. How does sex therapy work? A new paper published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy gives us a pretty good picture, describing one treatment approach for desire discrepancy developed by certified sex therapist and clinical psychologist Barry McCarthy, Ph.D.

Here are the most important steps for dealing with mismatched sex drives, according to McCarthy. Don’t worry—you can get through this.

1. Team up.

One of the most important steps of dealing with desire discrepancy is to stop viewing each other as representatives of opposing sides.

“In the first session, the task of the therapist is to confront the self-defeating power struggle over intercourse frequency and replace it with a new dialogue about the roles and meanings of couple sexuality,” write McCarthy and Tamara Oppliger, M.A., co-author of the study and clinical psychology Ph.D. student at American University, in a draft of the paper shared with mbg. “No one wins a power struggle; the fight is over who is the ‘bad spouse’ or ‘bad sex partner.'”

Stop trying to make one person out to be the enemy. You’re a couple—you’re on the same side of the table, looking over a shared problem that’s hurting your relationship. Come together to make an agreement that this is a journey you’re going to undertake together.

And by the way, your goals for this journey should be clear—and it should not be about making sure you have sex a certain number of times a month. Sexuality is about much more than how often you do it. “The goal of couple sex therapy for desire discrepancy is to reestablish sexuality as a positive 15 to 20% role in their relationship,” the authors write. “It is not to compensate for the past, to declare a ‘winner,’ or to reach a goal for intercourse frequency.”

In other words, your goal is simply to make intimacy a positive force in your relationship, something that feels good to both people.

2. No pressuring another person to have sex, ever.

“Sexual coercion or intimidation is unacceptable,” McCarthy and Oppliger write. That kind of behavior can be terrifying for the person getting intimidating and can lead to someone saying yes to sex they don’t want. Any sex that’s only agreed to because of pressure is going to feel more like a violation than anything else. There’s no faster way to kill desire and make sex feel toxic.

3. Prioritize desire, not intercourse or orgasms.

When a relationship involves a man and a woman, couples often fall into the trap of using intercourse (i.e., putting a penis in a vagina) as the definition of sex. They believe sex is only sex when intercourse happens, and how often you have intercourse becomes a pass-fail measure of your sex life. One of McCarthy’s key points: “When it is intercourse or nothing, nothing almost always wins.”

No matter what genders you and your partner are, stop trying to use any one act like intercourse or penetration as the only marker of whether you’ve had sex—and while you’re at it, forget about having orgasms too. All these things can be great parts of a healthy and satisfying sex life, but they’re by no means the most important or crucial parts. All kinds of touch can be pleasurable and connective.

If not intercourse or orgasms, what exactly should you be striving for in your intimate life? “Desire is the most important dimension,” McCarthy and Oppliger write. Desire is the key to sexual energy and excitement, and it’s often what we’re truly seeking when we pursue sexual gratification. “Satisfaction means feeling good about yourself as a sexual person and energized as a sexual couple.”

4. Not all sex needs to be earth-shattering for both parties.

“The best sex is mutual and synchronous,” the authors write. “Yet, the majority of sexual encounters are asynchronous (better for one partner than the other). Asynchronous sexuality is normal and healthy as long as it’s not at the expense of the partner or relationship.”

For example, sometimes one partner might just go down on the other so she can have a good orgasm, and then the two cuddle as they fall asleep. Both people don’t need to get off every time, as long as the pleasure balances out and is satisfying for both parties over time.

5. Start with touch.

Not sure where to start? After assessment, one of McCarthy’s first suggestions is for couples to begin with getting reacquainted with touching each other again. Those touches don’t need to be a whole sexual act—they can be as simple as holding each other in bed or rubbing each other’s backs. “The focus is using touch as a way to confront avoidance and build a bridge to sexual desire,” he and Oppliger write.

In other words, the more you get comfortable with touching each other and sharing skin-on-skin contact, the more your desire will eventually build up. (Past research shows desire is indeed buildable, with having a spark of erotic energy one day leading to more of it the following day, even if you didn’t have actual sex.)

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Do People Like BDSM?

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Here’s What 8 People Who Love It Have To Say

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If your tastes tend to run toward the vanilla end of the sexual spectrum, chances are you’ve probably wondered why people like BDSM. Do they actually like pain, or is there something more and deeper going on that isn’t readily apparent? The reality is that sexual desire and pleasure are really complicated. Turn-ons and sexual satisfaction are deeply personal and diverse. That’s really the beauty of it: You get to decide for yourself what works for you and, so long as there is consent, and you are taking all of the safety precautions, then there is no right or wrong way to be a sexual being. Frankly that’s what makes BDSM so interesting; people who participate in it are boldly pursuing what they most enjoy in the bedroom (or dungeon, for that matter) without apology (unless, of course, that is a part of their kink). That said, the question remains: What specifically about BDSM makes it enjoyable to those who participate in it?

To help explain why people are drawn to this type of sexual roleplay and activity, I turned to the source: Folks on Reddit and social media who explain why they enjoy BDSM, in their own words. Honestly, it makes so much sense. Here is what they had to say.

It’s about giving up control.

I try very hard to have a lot of control in my life and there is something about being submissive in the bedroom that is foreign and exciting, in a way. I wouldn’t live the lifestyle that goes with it, but just the intimate part of it can really be fun.
     — u/Albimau

For many reasons. It allows feeling very vulnerable and open to a partner, and that being ok. It can have a wide range of different experiences. It can be silly, intense, unique, sensual. Also, I just like the sensations.
     — u/FreySF

For me, it’s being at someone else’s complete control that knows you and you trust them. It can be absolutely thrilling. I’ve had other people tell me that they control everything else in their life, so they want someone else to take control in this area of their life.
     — dontcallmevicki

I love the release it gives me and the power and control aspect of it. It helps me access emotions that are hard to get to otherwise.
     — Courtney, 40

The exploration and experimentation makes it hot.

There’s something about exploring and trying things with someone I trust that’s just a lot of fun.
     — u/molly-ofcourse

It’s a release. I’ve been in the BDSM scene for a little under 6 months now and I’ve never felt more balanced and free. The people are totally chill too. We meet for coffee, dinner, and other numerous activities (it’s not always about sex you know). We’re a group of freaky people who promote safety and self awareness first.
     — u/SpankSpankBaby69

It’s a creative form of sexual expression.

The most exciting perk of enjoying BDSM is the role playing. When done safely, the bondage and roles become a total escape from reality. For gays & lesbians, BDSM tends to be an extension of reality, since in many cases our regular sex lives have surprising parallels to bondage, particularly the dominance and submission.

Another unexpected benefit whilst partaking in bondage: It’s quite a creative form of expression, and it sparks creativity within us, giving us a rich source of material for writing, acting, art, film production, and even video game development!
     — Daniel, 49

It enables them to fully surrender.

I am most often acting as a receiver in a BDSM exchange (or scene) and being overpowered, restrained, struck or yelled [at] takes me out of myself and allows me to be so overcome with sensory stimulation that I am utterly lost in the moment. To experience such complete surrender is disorienting and emotional and I come out of it feeling spiritually cleansed. When such an exchange or scene is done for the purpose of orgasm and not just play, the orgasms are extremely intense and the level of intimacy felt with my partner is unparalleled in those moments.

“Losing myself” through BDSM play is so appealing because I overthink constantly and it’s awful. It’s especially awful when it happens in sex and so engaging with a partner under specific terms with specific roles, takes all of that away. There’s simply no capacity left to think when I’m so fully consumed by physical sensation and mental assault. To that end, being yelled at, insulted, etc., is probably the most effective method of achieving the escape and surrender I seek.

I only engage in such exchanges with people I have a real connection with, who fully understand that what is allowed to happen in the specific moments of exchange are sacred and don’t carry over to any other area. I ALLOW them to do and say the things they do, with absolute trust and knowledge that we respect each other and our boundaries.
     — Brianne McGuire, host of the Sex Communication podcast

While BDSM may not be for everyone, it’s clear that, for those who love it, they have really compelling reasons for doing so. Sexual desire is complicated, but that’s one of the reasons it’s so amazing!

Complete Article HERE!

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10 Things To Do If You’ve Been A Victim Of Sexual Assault

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It’s not too late to get help.

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Sexual assault is typically something you think will never happen to you—until it does and and you find yourself in desperate need of help and support.

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, so it’s a scary (but common) reality—and one that can leave you feeling anxious, fearful, sad, angry, or a combination of those things.

“It’s a natural human state to be overwhelmed with this kind of traumatic event,” says Jessica Klein, a licensed clinical social worker and adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern California. “The thinking part of your brain really can’t process everything that’s happened.”

Thankfully, there’s help for sexual assault victims, whether your assault happened thirty minutes or three years ago. If you’ve been assaulted and need to know what your next steps are, here’s a timeline of all the various ways to get help—from the first minutes after your assault to the days, months, and years that follow.

1. Evaluate your surroundings and get medical treatment ASAP.

In the immediate aftermath of your assault, it’s time to think about your health and safety. Evaluate your surroundings and get yourself to a safe place if you aren’t already in one. Then consider calling 911 or going to a hospital, even if you aren’t visibly injured or are unsure whether you ultimately want to involve the police.

“After your safety is secured, medical treatment is often an immediate need,” says Kathryn Stamoulis, PhD, a licensed mental health counselor in New York City. “Even if you are reluctant to undergo a medical examination for the purposes of reporting your assault, trained staff can provide you with emergency contraception, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and referrals to a counselor.”

2. Try not to change your clothes or use the bathroom.

Something important to keep in mind: You can decline or discontinue your forensic examination (a.k.a. “rape kit”) at any point if you become uncomfortable, says Stamoulis.

According to RAINN, you don’t need to commit upfront to reporting the crime in order to have an exam performed, but it’s a good idea to get one, anyway: Should you choose to report your assault later on, you’ll have gone through the necessary steps to collect evidence.

RAINN also advises against doing anything that could damage that evidence in the time between your assault and your exam, like bathing, changing your clothes, or using the bathroom. (FYI, even if you’ve done these things, you can still get an exam.)

3. Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you know and trust for immediate support.

It may be helpful for you to stay with a local friend or family member in the hours after the assault, says Stamoulis. Being around someone familiar can be extremely comforting and reassuring.

If you are a student, she says, many schools and colleges have counseling centers or victim advocates on campus to help support you through the aftermath.

4. Try to make yourself feel as safe as possible.

In the short-term, you will be dealing with the traumatic effects of your assault. This might include feeling anxious or depressed, having nightmares, having difficulty concentrating, or struggling in your relationships, says Stamoulis.

During this time, it’s important to prioritize your physical and emotional needs. That might look like taking time off from work, finding babysitters or extra childcare assistance if you have children, or even replacing the locks on your doors.

All of these needs are normal, and you should feel free to ask for whatever helps you. Try not to judge yourself—there’s no way to predict how your body and mind will respond to the trauma.

5. See a trained counselor who specializes in sexual assault.

Well-meaning friends and family members may not (or cannot) offer you the best advice for your particular situation, so Stamoulis strongly recommends seeking professional counseling.

A trained counselor, she says, will know the best practices for helping assault victims cope and can educate you on what to expect during your recovery. (If you’re having trouble locating a counselor in your area, RAINN’s crisis hotline can refer you to someone.)

“Sexual assault is different from a lot of other traumas because our society tends to blame the victim, [which] is another way of being traumatized,” Stamoulis explains. “A therapist who specializes in treating sexual assault survivors understands the unique needs of someone who experiences a trauma that is often shrouded in shame and secrecy.”

6. If you didn’t report your assault or receive a forensic exam, take those into consideration again.

If you didn’t receive a forensic exam immediately after your assault, there may still be time; in some states, Klein says, evidence can be collected and preserved up to 96 hours later. And even if you’re beyond the forensic window, reporting your assault is absolutely not a “now or never” proposition.

“Law enforcement is getting better at understanding why people don’t report immediately in the aftermath and not having forensic evidence is not a dealbreaker,” she says. “There are other corroborating factors they look into, and you never know who filed a report against that perpetrator before you—or who might file one after you, since many perpetrators are repeat offenders.”

7. Know the lifelong risks associated with sexual assault.

Being a victim of sexual assault puts you at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and substance abuse problems, per Mental Health America.

So if you’re feeling really down, having trouble with your daily functioning, or relying on unhealthy habits to cope with overwhelming emotions, seek help from a qualified therapist ASAP.

8. Remind yourself that healing isn’t always linear.

The road to recovery in the wake of sexual assault is not always a straight line. Stamoulis notes that some people find themselves doing well emotionally for a long time, then suddenly struggling with intensely negative feelings again.

If this happens to you, she recommends being kind to yourself (making sure you are eating and sleeping well, monitoring your stress levels), as well as eliminating any identifiable triggers, like watching the news.

9. Know that you may need to confront your trauma again.

The healing process is a complicated one that unfolds over time, but you will likely need to address your trauma head-on at some point. That may be done through professional counseling or through reflective mediums like art or journaling. Stamoulis calls this process “post-traumatic growth” and says it’s a key component of long-term healing.

“When you’re working through the trauma, you’re not trying to get rid of the memories completely, but trying to gain a different relationship to the memories so you can think about them in different [less triggering] ways,” she says.

10. Realize that everyone’s healing process looks different.

In the long-term, it’s important to be aware of your unique needs during recovery and to choose activities that help you move forward in a healthy way.

“Some people find that they want to make meaning from the experience by volunteering with other victims or fighting for social justice, while others want to put it completely behind them,” says Stamoulis. “There is no right or wrong response.”

If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault, you can call 800-656-HOPE to receive confidential crisis support from a trained specialist with the National Sexual Assault Hotline. It’s free and available 24/7. You can also chat online with a support specialist.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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What Is Sex Therapy?

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And What Is It That Sex Therapists Do?

By Rita DeMaria

Here’s how to tell if sex therapy is right for you.

How many people have you known who confided in you that they went to a sex therapist or were considering sex therapy for intimacy problems in their marriage?

For many people, talking about sex with a partner is not always easy, so reaching out to a sex therapist might actually be a more comfortable way to address any concerns you have about your sex life.

So what is sex therapy, and how can working with a sex therapist help you create a stronger, healthier sexual relationship with your partner or spouse?

Sex therapy is defined as “a strategy for the improvement of sexual function and treatment of sexual dysfunction.” Sex therapy addresses a wide range of clinically described sexual behaviors and difficulties that create sadness, fear, frustration, and disappointment for people who want to explore and enjoy their sexuality.

Sex therapists provide focused and personal attention, typically in a private office setting, where couples — or individuals — can talk about their sexual relationship and any differences or problems they’re experiencing relating to physical intimacy.

Individuals often contact a sex therapist with very specific concerns. In contrast, many couples often look first for a couples therapist and then see if sex therapy is offered, too. Sometimes it’s very difficult for couples to decide which direction they want, especially if one or both of them aren’t so sure how sex therapy will go.

Sex therapists typically begin with an assessment of each person’s sexual history. Then, they’ll explore other experiences within the current relationship or address ongoing sexual problems like premature ejaculation or inhibited sexual desire.

In addition to sex therapists, there are also sex educators and sex counselors who can become certified by a national organization, the American Association for Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). There is also an international non-profit organization, the Society of Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR). SSTAR provides a forum for sex research and treatment, exploring many facets of human sexuality.

Most people don’t know what they don’t know about sex, which is why working with a sex therapist can help.

Some people aren’t sure if love is a necessary and important aspect of sex, but the truth is love and sex do go together.

Yes, people have sex with people they don’t know well. But generally, people prefer having good to great to sex with someone when they feel affection toward their sexual partner(s). Given the chemistry of romantic love, a sexual bond came become much greater than a friendship and go beyond affection.

Positive sex education, knowledge, and awareness are essential for men and for women (and for children, too).

Sexual counseling is also very important, though it differs from sex therapy. This type of counseling is often offered by a wide range of medical people (nurses, doctors, midwives), as well as in sexual health clinics and educational classes, where very important information and misinformation can be talked about individually or in groups.

Sex therapists provide intensive attention to difficulties and fears that individuals or couples experience and have knowledge and expertise in exploring their sexual desire and negotiating their sexual relationship.

Sexual problems and mismatches are common in committed and marriage relationships.

Even when couples have been together for a long time, you could be surprised to know that having a passionate and loving sex life can also last a lifetime.

Yet sadly, sex is often surrounded by secrecy and insecurity. Talking openly with your partner about your sexual thoughts and feelings, as well as sharing your fantasies, is an important key to a pleasurable relationship.

The root of sexual ignorance, shame, and embarrassment can be deep. Although there is so much information available, marriage, couple, and family therapy were interconnected with sex therapy in the early years with a focus on marital difficulties around sex. Premarital counseling, which also included attention to sex, began in the early decades of the twentieth century.

The evolution of sex therapy has been very important in helping individuals and couples with often complicated sexual experiences. These can include sexual traumas, sexual abuse, and a wide range of diagnoses from sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and pain disorders, and many more sexual problems, like healing from infidelity.

Sex therapy can and will help you.

Sex is no longer a taboo subject, and it can last a lifetime for committed, loving couples. Both sexuality and sensuality can be an amazing personal experience.

Suffering from guilt, shame, misunderstandings, trauma, misinformation, and silence can be overcome with the help of a certified sex therapist. One of the most important aspects of having a healthy sexual relationship is the benefit of emotional and physical well-being.

Passion begins with your own sexual desire and fantasies, and so many people struggle and ignore the unique and amazing potential of what can happen when love, affection, desire, and sex expression combine. Your sexuality is a gift and if you’re worried that you’re not enjoying yours, don’t be afraid to reach out to a sex therapist for help.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Counts As ‘Sex’?

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Why We Should Stop Focusing So Much On Intercourse

By Gigi Engle

In the last several months, lots of research has emerged showing that young people aren’t having as much sex as prior generations. Many people interpret this trend as an indication that people aren’t connecting with one another as much as they did in decades prior.

But one big problem with many of these studies is their definition of the word “sex.” The standard barometer of whether sex is happening is whether there’s a man with a penis inserting it into a woman’s vagina.

That’s not accurate.

Intercourse (i.e., a penis being inserted into a vagina) is not sex. Well, it is—but it’s not the only sex there is. It is one act that is a part of a larger umbrella of “sex.” And there’s a lot of sex that happens that doesn’t involve intercourse at all.

Every sex act is sex.

It’s everything from masturbation to manual stimulation to cunnilingus, breast play, nipple licking, blow jobs—all of it. It is all sex.

Sex is everything we do sexually with one another, involving any acts that make us feel sexual pleasure and that we pursue for that explicit purpose. It doesn’t matter how you “get there”; it matters that you enjoy yourself.

It’s time we stop referring to “intercourse” as sex and start moving into a better, more well-rounded understanding of what constitutes sex. By placing all our eggs in the intercourse basket, we’re not only leaving out people in relationships other than heterosexual cis ones; we’re also robbing ourselves of better, more frequent orgasms.

The false hierarchy of sex.

When we claim that intercourse is sex, we automatically place all other sex acts below it. Intercourse becomes “the big show” and the “main event” of a sexual experience. Every other sex act, such as oral sex, anal sex, and hand sex, are considered “less than” or “not quite sex.” This puts nearly everyone at a sexual disadvantage.

For female-bodied people, it completely ignores the clitoris, a crucial sex organ that is central to the female orgasm. Nearly every woman requires external clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm. This rarely, if ever, happens during intercourse without a hand, toy, or tongue involved in tandem. Yet we call oral sex and hand sex “foreplay,” meaning it is the thing that comes before the “big show.” To add fuel to the fire, it is also widely considered optional, providing yet another damaging effect on female sexually.

The term “foreplay” enforces an unequal gender hierarchy: A female orgasm is secondary to a male orgasm. In sex between men and women, defining sex as “intercourse” makes female orgasms an afterthought.

For male-bodied people, it adds a ton of pressure to “perform.” When “sex” is made to be all about a person with a penis being able to thrust it into a vagina, hard erections that last a long, long time become vital to being a satisfactory partner in bed. What if you tend to orgasm quickly from penetration? What if you have a small penis? Suddenly you’re a lackluster lover. This sets the stage for feelings of inadequacy, performance anxiety, and general discomfort around sex. But these negative narratives are all based around an incomplete picture of what sex really is: After all, a guy with a smaller penis who can use his tongue, hands, or a toy is far better equipped for delivering orgasms than one with zero skills and an enormous penis.

And of course, for same-sex couples, intercourse may not even be on the table. What is sex then if there is no P in the V in the game? It leaves same-sex people out of the equation completely.

Where does this misconception come from?

A lot of the confusion stems from inadequate sex education programs, many of which reinforce tired stereotypes, gender norms, and narratives about sex being inherently “dirty” or “bad.” According to the 2018 SIECUS report, “21 states do not require sex education or HIV/STI instruction to be any of the following: age-appropriate, medically accurate, culturally appropriate, or evidence-based/evidence informed.” Furthermore, 32 states require abstinence-only education if HIV instruction is provided.

Even many more thorough sex ed programs primarily focus on pregnancy prevention and STI prevention through condom use, which reinforces that “sex” means “intercourse.” And you’d be hard-pressed to find many sex ed programs that actually talk about sexual pleasure, which might allow for broader definitions of sex. All of this together means the only sex we ever hear about in an academic setting is heterosexual intercourse.

Additionally, part of our stubborn adherence to making intercourse the definition of sex is in service of the virginity myth. Society wants to maintain a clear-cut definition of what makes someone a “virgin.”

Virginity is simply a social construct we created long ago based on the idea that sex is inherently shameful. It was used to differentiate between the “pure” people who haven’t had sex and the “dirty” people who have, and today many conservative cultures around the world still embrace this harmful and false dichotomy.

Sex is a part of the human experience. All people are born with sexuality. It is as normal and natural as eating and sleeping. By placing emphasis on virginity, it inherently makes us feel ashamed of and uncomfortable with our bodies and feelings. This is objectively not a healthy way to live.

Broadening the definition of “sex.”

Would the results of research on sexual activity trends look different if we specifically asked about sexual acts other than heterosexual intercourse? It’s possible. After all, if our fear is about people connecting, shouldn’t we acknowledge that a couple giving each other pleasure through oral alone regularly is just as connected as a couple that has intercourse regularly?

Everyone benefits from new understandings of what makes sex sex. When we recognize all sex acts as equal—part of a beautiful patchwork of human sexual expression—we open up new avenues for education, exploration, and the ability to secure a less shame-laden future for younger generations.

Complete Article HERE!

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