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Review: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner

Hey sex fans!

I have another swell sex-positive book to tell you about today. Anyone who frequents this site will already be familiar with my dear friend and esteemed colleague, Cheryl Cohen Greene. If ya don’t believe me type her name into the search function in the sidebar to your right and PRESTO!

Not only will you find the fabulous two-part SEX WISDOM podcast we did together, (Part 1 is HERE! And Part 1 is HERE!) you will find a posting about the movie The Sessions. You’ve seen it right? It’s the award-winning film staring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy. It’s the story of a man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity.  He contacts a professional surrogate partner with the help of his therapist and priest. Ms. Hunt plays Cheryl, the surrogate partner in the movie

Cheryl also contributed a chapter on sex and intimacy concerns for sick, elder and dying people for my book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying.

With all that as a preface, I now offer you Cheryl’s own story: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner. The first thing I want to say is this book is it’s not a clinical or technical tome. It is an easily accessible memoir. And that, to my mind, is what makes it so fascinating.

She writes in the Introduction:An Intimate Life

I started this work in 1973, and my journey to it spans our society’s sexual revolution and my own. I grew up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, a time when sex education was—to put it mildly— lacking. As I educated myself, I found that most of what I had been taught about sex was distorted or wrong. The lessons came from the playground, the church, and the media. My parents could barely talk about sex, much less inform me about it.

What follows is a candid and often funny look into the personal and professional life of a woman on the cutting edge of our culture’s movement toward sexual wellbeing.

Cheryl comes out of her conservative Catholic upbringing and her often tortured family dynamics with what one would expect—her own sexual awakenings as well as the conspiracy of ignorance and repression that wanted to stifle it. This is a common story, the story of so many of us.

Starting when I was around ten, I masturbated and brought myself to orgasm nearly every night. … If my nights began with anxiety, my days began with guilt. I became convinced that every earache, every toothache, every injury was God punishing me. … I couldn’t escape his gaze or his wrath. Sometimes I imagined my guardian angel looked away in disgust as I touched myself and rocked back and forth in my bed.

The miracle here is that this troubled tween would blossom into the remarkable sexologist she is today.

rsz_1greenecherylSome of the chapters in her book describe one or another of her hands on therapeutic encounters as a surrogate partner, but equally important and compelling are the chapters that describe Cheryl’s own sexual struggles as she moved to adulthood and beyond. Cheryl’s acceptance of her own sexuality enables her to build a career out of helping others do the very same thing.

Everyone has a right to satisfying, loving sex, and, in my experience, that most often flows from strong communication, self-respect, and a willingness to explore.

Despite the frank discussion of sexual topics within the book, there is no prurience or sensationalism. For the most part, Cheryl’s clients are regular people, mostly men, who have pretty ordinary problems—erection and/or ejaculation concerns, dating difficulties, as well as self-esteem, guilt and shame issues. Cheryl helps each of her clients with the efficiency and confidence of the world-class sex educator she is. Most of her interaction involves her supplying her clients with some much-needed information, dispelling myths, and giving them permission to experiment. As she says;

I continue to be amazed at how solid education delivered without judgment can eradicate much of the guilt and shame that turns life in the bedroom into a struggle instead of a pleasure.

Her most famous client, Mark O’Brien, the 36-six-year-old man who had spent most of his life in an iron lung after contracting polio at age 6, was the author of How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence, in which he writes about his experience with Cheryl. This, of course, was adapted into a film, The Sessions, which I mentioned above. For her part, Cheryl delivers a most poignant remembrance of Mark early in her book.

I explained Sensual Touch to Mark. Although he was paralyzed, he still had sensation all over his body, so he would feel my hands moving up and down. … I encouraged him to try and recognize four common reactions: feeling neutral, feeling nurtured, feeling sensual and feeling sexual.

An Intimate Life chronicles Cheryl’s life-long interest in human sexuality. Her life and sometimes-turbulent loves are on display, but in the most considerate fashion. She teaches by example. She’s even able to speak with great compassion of her time living with and through cancer.

As I inch toward seventy, I appreciate more and more how much I have to be grateful for and how fortunate I’ve been. I was lucky to find a wonderful career and to be surrounded by so many smart, adventurous, caring people. My personal sexual revolution auspiciously paralleled our culture’s, and in many ways was made possible by it. I am eternally grateful to the pioneers, rebels, and dreamers who made our society a little safer for women who embrace their sexuality.

There is so much I loved about this book, but mostly it’s the humanity I found in abundance. Cheryl’sdr.-cheryl-cohen-greene enlightened soul shines brightly from every page. Her no nonsense approach to all things sexual is an inspiration. And her perseverance to bring surrogate partner therapy into the mainstream is laudable.

…what separates surrogates from prostitutes is significant. When people have difficulties grasping [that], I turn to my beloved and late friend Steven Brown’s cooking analogy that I’ve so often relied on to help me through that question: Seeing a prostitute is like going to a restaurant. Seeing a surrogate is like going to culinary school.

Finally, An Intimate Life is the culmination of Cheryl’s life as a sex educator, her surrogate partner therapy practice being just part of that mission. I highly recommend you read this book. You will, I assure you, come away from it as I have, a better person—enriched, informed, as well as entertained.

Cheryl, thank you for being in my life and being such an abiding inspiration. Thank you too for this marvelous book; now you can be in the lives of so many others who need you so that you can inspire them along their way.

Be sure to visit Cheryl on her site HERE!

What’s a mother to do?

What we have here is an exchange I had with a woman and while I don’t know anything about her, not even her name, I can make some inferences. If I had to guess, she’s in her 40’s. She’s married and has kids.

You must talk to a lot of women in your practice and hear from a lot of women through your advice site. What would you say are the main sexual concerns of women over the age of 40?

Research shows that approximately 40% of women experience sexual problems. But a 2008 study out of Harvard suggests that only a few — 12% — are concerned enough with these issues to do anything about them. I find that not only surprising, but shocking! That suggests to me that sexual wellbeing is not a high priority for a good number of women.  What a bummer!sexual-Frustration

Low libido, diminished arousal, difficulties with orgasm, pain with sex or body image concerns all play a part. A lot of this is directly connected with having an ineffectual partner. I mean, I’d give up sex too if I was consistently frustrated and unfulfilled. But what about masturbation? Are sexually frustrated women seeing to their own needs through self-pleasuring? I don’t see any hard data, you should pardon the pun, on that topic.

We hear a lot about the horny dad and the tired mom, but what do you do if the “roles” are reversed – and dad is tired and mom is horny?

Curiously enough, I hear from way more men these days, who are exhausted, depressed or overweight and who have little or no libido, than I hear from women with the same problems. Sign of the times? You betcha!

But don’t sink to the lowest common denominator. Here’s one of my most popular tutorials, Sex Play — Tips and Techniques.

How can parents find common “ground” when it comes to when they might have sex (as in day of the week or time of day)? Does it always involve compromise? Can our internal clocks ever synch up?

Synching up schedules my not always be the solution. If we wait for that to happen, we could die waiting. The answer might be finding a middle ground. “I may not be up for full on fucking at the moment, but I’ll give you a fantastic hand-job.” Or “I can’t seem to get it up right now, but hand me your vibrator and I’ll send you to heaven!” I’m a huge proponent of mutual masturbation.

Another suggestion might be something like The MoodSign. We reviewed this very clever gismo awhile back. In fact, it was among our Best Products List for 2013. Check it out and see if something like this would help.

If parents are interested in kinking it up, what are some simple, not too scary ways to introduce it into the relationship?

Keep it safe and consensual. Always have a safeword. I developed a workshop called; The Gospel of Kink. I’ve also conveniently packaged this workshop into a workbook with the same title. You can find the book HERE!

GOK small cover

Both the workshop and book are designed to help people, like you, develop the skills they need to effectively communicate with one another and improve their problem solving skills. The workshop and book, as the title suggests, are specifically geared toward folks in kinky, BDSM, and alt-culture relationships, but even vanilla couples will find what I present very helpful.

Bondage games are always fun. And you don’t need anything beyond what you already have in your closets — silk scarves, belts, shoe strings, etc.

Nipple clamps, playing with sensations like ice cubes and hot wax, hair pulling, making use of blindfolds and gags

Discipline/Spanking is always fun too — a ruler, a hairbrush, a wooden spoon, a belt, rubber bands. See my tutorial: Spank Me, Daddy.

Role play is always a delight. Don’t forget about phone sex.

There are tons of instructional videos at Dr Dick’s How To Video Library.

I always suggest that couples read erotica aloud to each other. That never fails to get one’s motor purring.

I’d also love to talk with you about the taboo of sex, particularly with the parenting set, and how parents, moms, and dads, can work to break stereotypes without feeling like a sexual “deviant.”

Really? What would be so wrong about being a deviant?

Good luck

You want me to do WHAT?

First Name: Beth
Age: 52
Gender: Female
Location: New Jersey
Your question or comment: My husband and I have swung in the past and have had an open marriage for a short time about 5 or 6 years ago. We have, for the most part, been monogamous for the past few years. He now tells me that the only thing that will make him interested in having sex with me is if I find men to have sex with and send him pics of myself in the act with other men. I have no desire to do this but am considering doing it if it will help my sex life with him. I have read about Candaulism (a sexual practice or fantasy in which a man exposes his female partner, or images of her, to other people for their voyeuristic pleasure) and am beginning to think he may be a latent homosexual or bisexual and trying to fulfill his desire to be with a man by living vicariously threw me. He says that the torment of knowing that I am with another man is exciting to him and I don’t understand how that can be a healthy thing for him. I am desperate for guidance in this area. Your thoughts??

Well then, Beth, things are gonna get very interesting in your life real soon, huh?

2477075029_d8e7e288c4Before I get to answering your query, let me ask you some questions. You say you and the hubby used to be swingers and even had an open marriage for a while some years ago. Why, after all that nontraditional relationship stuff, did ya’ll go back to sexual exclusivity? Did you both agree to go back to the straight and narrow, or did one of you decide for the both of you? This is an important point. If one of you decided for the both of you, the one tagging along with the decision may not have been totally on board from the get go. And when that happens, what looks like domestic tranquility is actually nothing of the sort.

It appears to me that your marriage has somewhat of a cyclical pattern to it. You guys have vanilla periods and kinky periods. Would that be an accurate representation of the dynamics? If so, let me ask a few more questions. Who or what determines the swing, you’ll pardon the pun, from vanilla to kink? Is it a boredom thing? And who determines the swing back to vanilla? And does that have anything to do with fear and jealousy? Do you guys discuss the transition before hand? Or is the migration from vanilla to kink and back again more of a follow-the-leader sort of thing? And who leads whom into kink? And does the same person lead out of kink back to vanilla? These questions are all very important and I would want to know the answers before I suggest a path forward.Candaulism

Now I know you are not here to answer my outstanding questions, so that means I need to punt. From what you tell me, I discern that the hubby is in need of a little spice. And maybe he is the one who traditionally leads the marriage out of vanilla into kink. You appear to be resisting this migration for whatever reason. Maybe that’s your traditional role in the marriage. I’m also guessing that you guys don’t talk things through before a momentous change is in the offing, but ya should. A lot of the heartache and misdirection could be avoided if you did.

I also think your husband is not veering into particularly dangerous or uncharted waters with his Candaulism. Seems to me you’ve been there already, at least in spirit, with your periods of swinging and open relationship. It also occurs to me that your hubby has a big fat cuckold fetish that he is trying to itch. And in terms of fetishes, this is a relatively harmless one, especially if everyone involved is on board for the fun and games. Check out my How To Video Library for some swell movies on that theme.

mr-honmaIs his cuckold fetish latent homosexuality? What a funny question to ask considering your relationship history. Isn’t it more likely that he might have a bisexual streak? And the fact that you are puzzled by all of this suggests, at least to me, that you guys don’t know each other very well. And that’s astonishing considering what you’ve been through together.

What I’m getting at though all of this is, if you want to restore some balance and harmony to your marriage, the answer is not simply hanging out at the vanilla end of relationship spectrum because it’s comfortable and safe. At least not until there is consensus on the part of both you and your husband. The big mistake many couples make is to assume that if one person is along for the ride, just to make peace, there is consensus. That’s not consensus; that’s conciliation.

Again, because you guys aren’t here to discuss this stuff with me, but I’d still like to help, let me turn you on to an exercises that will facilitate the open and honest discussion you need to have with your man and he with you. What follows comes from a workshop I developed called; The Gospel of Kink. I’ve also conveniently packaged this workshop into a workbook with the same title. You can find the book HERE!

GOK small cover

Both the workshop and book are designed to help people, like you and your husband, develop the skills they need to effectively communicate with one another and improve their problem solving skills. The workshop and book, as the title suggests, are specifically geared toward folks in kinky, BDSM, and alt-culture relationships, but even vanilla couples will find what I present very helpful.

Even the strongest relationships go through periods of distress and turmoil. Disagreements, misunderstandings, and personal foibles can cause contention and conflict. So let’s see if we can come up with some practical tools and techniques to 1) handle common alt relationship related issues, and 2) successfully navigate our relationship conflicts.

EXERCISE 2 — Tools and Techniques for Navigating Alt Relationship Conflicts

Begin by jotting down a half dozen or so key words or phrases that identify the issues and problems you’ve encountered in your alt relationships. And then see if you can come up with a list of a half dozen or so key words or phrases that suggest possible solutions to those issues and problems.

Once both of you have completed your lists you’ll need to set up a time for a formal discussion of those lists. With a little luck, this exercise will help you identify the stumbling blocks that both of you see and help you develop a strategy to overcome them.

Of course all of this will depend on how well you listen to and absorb the message coming from your partner. Need help with that too? Never fear, The Gospel of Kink has exercises for that as well.

Good luck

Sex Play — Tips and Techniques

ANOTHER SEXUAL ENRICHMENT TUTORIAL

Beginning Sex Play — Tips and Techniques

The most frequent questions I get are from your average Dick and Jane, (or Dick and Dick, or Jane and Jane) who want to spice up their sex life. Inevitably they describe the kind of sex they’re currently having. And almost universally the description makes this grown man cry. Jeez, the boredom. How do they stand it? It’s a wonder any of them are having any sex at all.

What is it with the humdrum, run of the mill, and the “we’ve always done it that way mentality?” Are ya’ll afraid that if you add a little something new to your sex chore, from time to time, that the sky will fall? Holy cow!

Today’s tutorial is another attempt to motivate you to get off your butts and make something interesting happen in the sex department. We’ll begin with what was once called foreplay.

First off, I hate the word “foreplay” because it suggests that all these really great sex activities are only a lead up to a single “more important” activity — fucking. It also implies that ya’ll can dispense with the one in order to hurry up and get to the other. And that, my friends, is always a huge mistake.

do-not-disturb.jpgFrom now on I want us to banish “foreplay” from our vocabulary. Instead let’s start using “Sex Play.” It says it all, and it makes no suggestion that anything in particular must follow.

I’m of the mind that we’d all be better served if we thought of sex play as a continuum of pleasure and pleasuring — with a beginning, middle and an end. If you ask me, our sex play ought mirror our sexual response cycles — arousal, plateau, orgasm and resolution. That way we’re less likely to overburden one particular activity at the expense of all the others. Get it? Got it? Good!

Experienced sex fans agree; the best sexual encounters include an extended period of sensual play at the beginning of most sex play. This brings increased pleasure to both partners, and will make whatever else that might follow more satisfying. Just remember, sex play can be a meal in itself.

Sex play brings spice to the encounter because it gets our motors started. Even all you major sex athletes out there who are perpetually primed for sex will benefit from some hearty sex play. It will help cool your jets and make the encounter last longer than a firecracker. And I know that you know what I mean!rose-flogger

In our hectic rush around world, sex play is particularly important. It helps us transition from the daily cares and woes to the realm of sensual pleasures. The workaholics among us need more time to become fully aroused. Their minds are still filled with the junk of the day, and not yet ready to give or receive pleasure. And pleasuring and being pleasured takes a big attitude shift from that of the rest of the day. In fact, if you’re gonna approach sex and pleasuring with the same mindset you have on the job or with the kids, give it up now and be done with it. You’ll only walk away from the encounter disappointed.

Heart PadlockSex play primes us for maximum pleasure. Men will have the time we need to come to full erection and women will have the time they need to properly lubricate. By the way, this is called the arousal stage in our sexual response cycle. But you probably know that already, right?

When we stop thinking of sex play as “foreplay” we realize there is no such thing as spending too much time giving and getting pleasure. If sex play evolves into full-on fucking — SWELL. Both partners will be fully aroused and fucking will flow naturally and effortlessly from the pleasure enjoyed at the beginning of sex play.

Sex play can include everything from chocolate and whipped cream to whips and chains. But let’s not get too far ahead of our selves. Let’s start at the beginning of sex play. Most people miss out on the pleasure of undressing with and for their partners. Stripping out of, or being helped out of our daily wear and into something sexy or nothing at all can be very arousing. It’s also a visual signal that we’re shifting out of our work-a-day world and entering the realm of sensuality. Stripping is an art form, ya know. We could all learn a lesson or two from the folks who do this for a living, but there’s more about this in another tutorial — The Big Tease; How to Strip for Someone Special.Kama Sutra Body Souffle

Creating the right sex environment is important too. Make sure the room is warm. Proper lighting and music will surely add to the mood. Scents are also important. More and more people are incorporating erotica into their sex play — reading a sexy story together or enjoying some hot porn will make the encounter memorable.

Most women complain that their partners don’t kiss long enough and rush the kissing to get at their pussy. Guys, what the fuck? You want pussy? Use your mouth to maximum advantage kiss and nibble all over everything. Literally devour your partner with your mouth. Believe me, if you do this right, by the time you get to her pussy she’s gonna want to give it up big time.

Sex play is the perfect time for setting the mood for all that might follow. It’s a time for sharing fantasies, role-playing, dirty talk or some full body massage. Always have some nice lotion available then use your hands, forearms, feet and elbows to knead your partner’s muscles and naughty bits.

GOK small coverCertain areas on the body are more hot-wired than others. It’s your job to find each and every one your partner has. As you massage vary your strokes and touch to stimulate your partner. Roll your fingertips across his or her nipples and behind his or her ears as you kiss him and tease her with your tongue.

If you’re doin things right, your partner will be moaning with pleasure. If she or he starts getting impatient it’s time to bring out the restraints. There’s nothing like some hot erotic bondage to punctuate your sex play.

While your darling is subdued and possibly blindfolded, crank things up a notch. Add different sensations and stimuli, a warm chocolate sauce followed by ice cream. A fur mitt followed by a Loofah. Introduce some sex toys — a vibrator, tit clamps, or an anal stimulator.

Don’t forget to check in with your partner from time to time. Ask for some feedback and direction. Do you like this? Or do you like this better? Never presume to know what your partner likes simply because he or she liked it before, this is a recipe for boredom and the dreaded bed death. If words fail you, SHOW your partner what you want. Then encourage your partner to do the same to younipple_clamps.jpg.

Sex play is not about pressing the right buttons in the right order. It is about understanding what makes your partner tick and supplying and applying those things to their greatest sensual advantage. There are many ways to give your partner extreme pleasure, and it all begins in your brain. Sex play is as much of an art form as it is a necessity.

Finally, the basic premise behind all of this is that a great lover is one that gives pleasure because it is its own reward, not a means to getting something else.

Good luck ya’ll

Clueless

Name: Josh
Gender: Male
Age:
Location:
About a month ago I fell in love with a girl in another country and tried the long distance thing. It was not the best relationship. Stupid I know now, but when you’re in love…
I am a very sexual person and well that’s the problem. I enjoy anal, and want to try some BDSM but I have no idea where to look for a girl like this. I want someone who can be wild but knows when to be a good girl. I have no idea where to look for a girl like this. I have tired online sites but I don’t like them. Been having no luck on them and I do better face to face. So any suggestions?

Ahhh, you sound like a real charmer, Josh. I love how you perpetuate the whole madonna/whore dichotomy. You want a bad girl in the bedroom and a good girl in…what the kitchen? Sheesh, it’s no wonder you’ve been striking out.madonna_whore

Before your begin your search for a playmate, learn how to talk to a potential partner about what you want. If you’re gonna continue to be all Neanderthal in your communication you mind as well pull the plug on this endeavor right now. Don’t know the first thing about asking for what you want or getting what you ask for? I have just the resource for you. Pardon the shameless self-promotion, but I think you should check out The Gospel of Kink.  I wrote it, in part, for people just like you. It’s a primer on how to start, build, and maintain kinky and alt culture relationships through effective communication.

When you begin your search for this illusive partner you’ll need to let go of your very outmoded way of thinking about women and their sexuality. No self-respecting woman is gonna even consider hookin up with you if they first get a whiff of your sexism. And this is especially true for sexually liberated women, like those in the madonna:whoreworld of kink and BDSM.

And just in case you don’t think the dichotomous madonna/whore mindset isn’t a put-down, imagine if a woman came on to you like that. I want a big-dicked stud in the bedroom who also makes six figures in the boardroom.

Next I’d want to know what you mean when you say; “I enjoy anal…” Do you mean you like to get butt fucked, or you like fuckin’ chicks in the ass? The answer to this question will determine where and how you look for partners.

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that it is you who wants to get fucked. More and more straight guys are gettin off on anal these days, ya know. I guess they’re discovering the joys of prostate stimulation, a thing the gays have known for fuckin’ forever. Anyhow, looking for a woman who knows her way around topping a man is pretty challenging; there aren’t a whole lot of them out there. Besides. it’s certainly not something most women would put in their online profile. You may be slightly more successful in your search if you put it out there. Perhaps you should make it real clear in your profile, that you like gettin’ pegged.

And here’s a tip: when you have special sexual needs, like the ones you have, Josh, you need to offer perspective partners something in return for their indulgence. Here’s where you need to understand the concept of “Give to Get?” You want something extraordinary? You’d better be willing to offer something extraordinary in return.men in pain

Start now by learning how to finesse the fuck you want. Like I said, most women are unaccustomed to being a top. And they’d feel pretty self-conscious with a strap-on. So in exchange for the unusual sex you are looking for, most women will want something in return. Most women would probably feel more comfortable exercising a kink in a relationship of some sort or another. Are you relationship material? Because if you are not the women you seek have little to gain from being kinky with you otherwise. You’re also gonna have to offer to buy your perspective partner the strap-on and/or all the other toys you might need to satisfy your pervy side.

Before you look to satisfying your special needs, I suggest that you first find out what turns your partner’s crank and get her warmed up before you spring your kink on her. Be prepared to do whatever it takes to make a lasting impression that you are not only in this for yourself. If it take some hugging, kissing and lots of oral sex…you’d better take care of business first. It’s the least you can do.

bondageRemember, there are all kinds of relationships — from fuck (pegging) buddies to marriage. Know how far you want to go to get the goodies you desire and then be straightforward with your perspective partner. If you lie or prevaricate just to get what you want; you are bigger asshole than I already think you are.

Now hookin up with the BDSM crowd will also be challenging, especially if you’re a novice and don’t know what the fuck you want. Here’s where I think you would do well to work with a professional dominatrix. Even if you ultimately want to be a Dom yourself, I suggest that you learn the ropes, as it were, at the foot of a pro. And don’t expect this education to be inexpensive. Once you’ve found the dominatrix of your dreams, ask her to introduce you to the local BDSM scene. And if you’re not a complete douche, she’ll probably be willing to do so.

Like I said, you will need an entree into the scene, and there’s no one better situated to help you gain entrance than someone well established in the community. If you play your cards right, you may find what you are looking for.

And last but not least, be a gentleman about all of this. You can screw up the whole mess if you don’t have your head in the right space. Power play, and that’s what where talking about when we’re talkin’ BDSM, is more about the mindset than the genitals.

Good luck

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