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Seven ways … to boost your libido

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Exhaustion, stress, drugs and poor technique can all cause your sex drive to stall. How can you get it back on track?

Low libido? Try reading something erotic

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Is it a problem?

A lack or loss of sex drive is only a problem if the person experiencing it believes it is. Medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease can undermine desire, as can prescription drugs or difficult life events. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) reported in September that 34% of sexually active women and 15% of sexually active men in Britain had lost interest in sex for three months or more during the previous year.

It’s good to talk

Relationship problems are a leading cause of waning libido: Natsal concluded that finding it hard to talk about sex with a partner doubled the chances of a diminished sex drive among women and increased them by 50% in men. “A lot of couples don’t communicate and end up avoiding sex,” says Cynthia Graham, professor of sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton, and the study’s lead author. “Open communication increases the chances of your libido bouncing back.” For women, having a partner with a different level of sexual interest increased the chances of loss of sexual interest more than fourfold, and having one with sexual likes and dislikes they did not share did so by almost threefold.These issues increased the chances of loss of desire by just 17% and 16% respectively among men.

Sleep on it

Burning the candle at both ends is a passion killer. Testosterone’s role in male libido is overstated, but it is true that men with the lowest levels of the hormone report low sexual desire and one US study found that sleeping fewer than five hours a night reduced testosterone levels in young men by 10-15%. A lack of sleep also kills female libido: a 2015 study concluded women who had an extra hour’s sleep were 14% more likely to have sex the next day.

Fly solo

Research shows far fewer women masturbate than men. Some research suggests doing so can help boost self-awareness, social competence, body esteem and improve intimacy in long-term relationships. “One reason women lack interest in sex is that sex isn’t always very good with a partner,” says Prof Graham. “Masturbation can help women learn things they can then teach their partners about how to pleasure them.”

Fantasise

Recently, researchers have emphasised that, especially for women, desire can occur largely in response to arousal. If that’s news to you, you could do worse than read Come As You Are by the sex educator Emily Nagoski. Therapists often tell women they can increase flagging interest in sex by fantasising, reading erotica or watching pornography, and research suggests they are right.

Relax

The “fight or flight” system boosts levels of hormones that help us perform better in dangerous situations. It can also undermine nonessential function,s such as digestion, immunity and reproductive drive. Little wonder, then, that if you’re frequently stressed out, you’re rarely in the mood. Yoga, working out or meditation might help.

The drugs don’t (always) work

Research suggests that taking the contraceptive pill can reduce the frequency of sexual thoughts and sex in some women. Alternative methods might be worth considering. Flibanserin became the first drug to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for low sexual desire in women in 2015. Trials suggest it has minimal effects: an extra 0.5-1 satisfying sex sessions a month compared with placebo. Side effects include low blood pressure, fainting and nausea. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra do not increase libido, but help men get erections. This may increase desire by boosting confidence.

Complete Article HERE!

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Consensual sex is key to happiness and good health, science says

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It’s not just that sex is fun – it’s also good for your physical and mental health.

Some of my research is focused on how men and women differ in the links between sexuality, mental and physical health, and relationship quality. In this article, I write from my findings and that of others on how sex is important to our love, mental health, relations and survival. At the end, I suggest a solution for individuals who are avoiding sex for a common reason – chronic disease.

Good sex makes us happy

Good sex is an inseparable part of our well-being and happiness. Those of us who engage in more sex report better quality of life. Sexual intercourse is linked to high satisfaction across life domains. In one of my studies on 551 married patients with heart disease, individuals who had a higher frequency of sexual intercourse reported higher marital quality, marital consensus, marital coherence, marital affection expression and overall marital satisfaction. These results are replicated in multiple studies.

In a study by another team, partners who both experienced orgasm during sex were considerably happier. These findings are shown inside and outside of the United States.

Sex keeps us alive

Although early initiation of sex such as during adolescence is a risk factor for mortality, having a sound sexual life in adulthood is linked to low mortality. In a seven-year follow-up study of men 17 years old or older, erectile dysfunction and having no sexual activity at baseline predicted increased mortality over time. Similar findings were shown in younger men. This is probably because more physically healthy individuals are sexually active.

No sex and forced sex makes us depressed

There is a two-way road between bad sex and depression. Depression is also a reason for bad sex, particularly for women. And, men who are depressed are more likely to sexually abuse their partners.

And it’s important to note, in the wake of continuing news of sexual assault and abuse, that forced sex in intimate relations make people depressed, paranoid, jealous, and ruins relationships. Couples who experience unwanted sex have a higher risk for experiencing other types of abuse, as bad habits tend to cluster.

Sex different for men and women?

Men and women differ in the degree to which their sexual act is attached to their physical, emotional, and relational well-being. Various reasons play a role among both genders, but for women, sexual function is heavily influenced by mental health and relationship quality.

By contrast, for men sexual health reflects physical health. This is also intuitive as the most common sexual disorders are due to problems with desire and erection for women and men, respectively.

Reasons for avoiding sex

As I explained in another article in The Conversation, sexual avoidance for those who have a partner or are in a relationship happens for a long list of reasons, including pain, medications, depression and chronic disease. Common diseases such as heart disease interfere with sex by causing fear and anxiety of sexual intercourse.

Aging should not be considered as a sexless age. Studies have shown that older adults acquire skills and strategies that can buffer age-related declines in their sexual life, particularly when they are in a positive relationship. This is called seniors’ sexual wisdom.

Back on track

Because people avoid sex for a variety of reasons, there is no single answer for those who want to become sexually active again. For many men, physical health problems are barriers. If they suffer from erectile dysfunction, they can seek medical help for that.

If fear of sex in the presence of chronic disease is a problem, there can be medical help for that as well. For many women, common barriers are relational dissatisfaction and mental health. For both men and women, the first step is to talk about their sexual life with their physician, counselor or therapist.

At least half of all medical visits do not cover any discussion about sexual life of patients. Embarrassment and lack of time are among the most common barrier. So make sure you make time to talk to your doctor or health care provider.

Neither the doctor nor the patient should wait for the other person to start a dialogue about their sexual concerns. The “don’t tell, don’t ask” does not take us anywhere. The solution is “do tell, do ask.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Puberty is starting earlier for many children

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– sex education must catch up with this new reality

Some girls as young as six and seven are showing the early signs of puberty.

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The British government is consulting on a new curriculum for sex and relationship education in English schools. This change provides a timely opportunity to update how, when and what children are taught about puberty.

Astonishingly, the Department for Education (DfE) guidance on sex education has not changed for nearly two decades. But after concerted lobbying, research, and the recommendations of multiple committees of MPs, in 2017, the Children and Social Work Act finally acknowledged the need to provide “sex education for the 21st century”.

New statutory guidance for schools will be published following the public consultation, which closes in mid February. From 2019, secondary schools will be obliged to offer relationships and sex education, and primary schools to offer relationships education. Parents will retain the right to remove their children from sex education – other than that which is covered in the science curriculum – but will not be allowed to remove them from relationships education.

These changes are underpinned by widespread concern about the negative effects of digital technologies on young people’s sexual lives, particularly sexting, child sexual abuse and exploitation, and “strangers online”. The new curriculum will, it seems, teach children and young people what healthy relationships look like in the fraught context of smart phones, online porn and Instagram.

The new puberty

But the new curriculum should also take account of what is happening to the bodies of young people in the 21st century. Not only do kids seem to be growing up much faster today, many of them are actually starting to develop physically earlier than ever before.

According to many scientists and clinicians, we are living in the era of “the new puberty” in which increasing numbers of girls start to develop sexually at age seven or eight. In the 1960s, only 1% of girls would enter puberty before their ninth birthday. Today, up to 40% of some populations in both rich and poor countries are doing so.

Sexual development is also being stretched out for longer, with many girls starting to grow breasts and pubic hair two to three years before they have their first period. While there is less evidence that boys’ development is changing so rapidly, some studies also indicate that earlier entry into puberty’s initial stages is becoming more common.

The causes of these changes remain unclear. Many scientists point to the simultaneous increase in childhood obesity, while others study the effects of environmental chemicals, such as Bisphenol A or BPA (which is found in some plastics), on the body. Other research has explored the effects of social factors, including family structures, experiences of early life trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage. This range of explanations points to how complex a phenomenon puberty is.

The current DfE guidance states that:

All children, including those who develop earlier than the average, need to know about puberty before they experience the onset of physical changes.

But it leaves schools to decide, in consultation with parents, “the appropriate age” to teach children about puberty. In 2017, the Personal, Social and Health Education Association argued that this should be when they’re age seven. But talking to seven-year-olds about breasts, pubic hair, body odour and genital changes may not be easy for many teachers, or for many parents. Being seven is supposed to be a time of freedom, play and innocence.

Getting ready for puberty.

Updating sex education

Children who develop early, present a challenge both to cultural thinking about sex and to sex education policy. While many parents and young people want updated sex education, this usually comes with the proviso that such education be “age appropriate”. Although very important, this phrase is painfully vague – and it’s unclear whether it refers to chronological age, emotional age or stage of physical development.

Today, some seven-year-olds may be emotionally young but also starting to grow breasts and pubic hair. Other early developers who have experienced early life stress – such as abandonment or abuse – may feel more mature than their peers and be ready earlier to learn about puberty and sexuality. The widening gap in the timing of boys’ and girls’ sexual development also poses a challenge. Teaching girls separately, or earlier than boys – the strategy in my own child’s primary school – risks reinforcing harmful gender norms and notions of secrecy around issues such as menstruation.

Instead, perhaps we could try to disentangle puberty from teenage sexuality and to develop accounts of puberty that do not frame it as the dawn of adolescence. A seven-year-old with breasts is not “becoming a woman”, and a menstruating nine-year-old is probably not going to want to have intercourse anytime soon.

Ultimately, this means moving beyond traditional portrayals of female bodies that focus on reproductive capacity in order to explore wider meanings and experiences of being a girl. Growing up is also about new horizons, such as strength, health, even pleasure. Sex and relationships education might even then include puberty as something to be anticipated, noticed, even celebrated – rather than as yet another risk.

Complete Article HERE!

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More Men Than You Think Identify As ‘Mostly Straight’

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In 2013, Hunger Games actor Josh Hutcherson told an interviewer for Out magazine that he was, in his own words, “mostly straight.” “Maybe I could say right now I’m 100 percent straight. But who knows? In a fucking year, I could meet a guy and be like, ‘Whoa, I’m attracted to this person’ … I’ve met guys all the time that I’m like, ‘Damn, that’s a good-looking guy,’ you know? I’ve never been, like, ‘Oh, I want to kiss that guy.’ I really love women. But I think defining yourself as 100% anything is kind of near-sighted and close-minded.”

At the time, the actor’s comments attracted considerable attention from the media, and the interview caught my eye, too. Hutcherson typifies the young men (he’s 25 years old) I’ve interviewed over the years in my work as a research psychologist: those who embrace sexual ambiguity over neat and simple identity boxes. I even borrowed his words as the title for my new book, Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men. In it, I draw from the experiences of young men to make the case that an increasing number say they’re straight, but feel a slight but enduring sexual or romantic desire for men.

When I tell people about my work, they often assume these men are joking, or that they are really closeted gays. They’re not. Perhaps if a young woman were to make the same claims as these men, we wouldn’t be surprised: Women, not men, are supposedly fluid in their sexual and romantic lives. The 40 young men I interviewed for my book would disagree. Here’s a small sampling of what they’ve told me.

“I’m not completely heterosexual. I like to think of myself as fluid. I have man crushes when a male is so cool … I like the idea of male fluidity.” — Leo, age 21

“If I were to meet a man who I was attracted to, I would not be afraid to be attracted to them.” — Demetri, age 19

“He opened my eyes that it is not wrong for a straight guy to have attractions or crushes on other guys.” — Brady, age 18

“I wrestled with this guy, my drill partner, and we got very close. We never kissed, but emotionally we kissed.” — Kevin, age 19

“I’ve had bromances, I guess you could say. And man crushes … I would say I’m 99 percent straight with my 1 percent being those moments where noticing or thinking what would it be like to have sex with a guy.” — Ben, age 22

These men challenge existing assumptions that a man is necessarily straight, gay, or, perhaps, bisexual, and that his sexual arousals and romantic desires are stable, categorical, and, therefore, predictable. But what if he doesn’t fit into existing sexual categories or acknowledges that sometimes he desires sex or romance with his “nonpreferred” sex (men)? Is he simply fooling himself — or might he be illustrating a hidden and poorly understood dimension of male sexuality?

The short answer is that we simply don’t know, because research on male sexuality frequently combines him with straight or bisexual men, or deletes him altogether because researchers aren’t sure what to make of him. But so far, the difference seems to be this: Mostly straight men are more attracted to women and less attracted to men than are bisexual men, suggesting that they are neither exclusively straight, nor are they bisexual.

We like male sexuality to be simplistic and straightforward, but this can only be achieved by ignoring complexity. In so doing, however, we discount insights uncovered 70 years ago, when Kinsey demonstrated that sexuality is a continuum for both sexes. And, perhaps more critically, we negate young men who proclaim that their sexual and romantic desires and attachments are on a spectrum, not forever fixed in time or permanently housed in gay or straight identity boxes. We fail to recognize that they are “something else” — not exclusively straight, not bisexual, but mostly straight.

During the past decade, researchers in my sex and gender lab have reviewed the scientific literature about these young men — including youth who in a previous generation had described themselves as “straight but not narrow,” “heteroflexible,” or “bicurious.” We also surveyed and interviewed hundreds of young men about their sexual and romantic histories and measured their pupil and genital responses while they watched videos of naked men and women. In brief, here’s what we’ve found.

More men than you think identify as mostly straight. When given the option to identify as mostly straight, approximately 5 to 10 percent of men do so. This is especially true among millennials, who tend to possess greater sexual knowledge, freedom, curiosity, and exploration than earlier generations. This percentage is, by the way, higher than the percentage of men who self-identify as gay or bisexual combined. And yet these numbers are likely conservative, underrepresenting the true proportion of men who are mostly straight.

Perhaps this is because these men believe they don’t have the similar leeway to choose alternative sexualities. Or, perhaps, they fail to recognize that their bromances, “bud sex” activities, and man crushes imply something important about their sexual or romantic orientation. Also suppressing the number of men willing to identify as mostly straight is the widespread belief in previous generations that any amount of same-sex attractions or crushes makes one at least bisexual and, likely, gay.

“Mostly straight” doesn’t mean “secretly gay.” Our research has found that a mostly straight identity remains moderately stable over time. If a mostly straight individual drifts, the movement is usually between a straight and a mostly straight identity — almost never toward a bisexual or gay identity. This finding challenges the widespread belief that a mostly straight man is in reality someone who is gay but is afraid to emerge from his closet. (Indeed, mostly straight men tend to be exceptionally pro-gay.)

Guy sex and man crushes should be considered an addition, not a subtraction. A mostly straight man exhibits patterns of sexual and romantic attraction, fantasy, and infatuation that are distinctly unique from other men, though, to be clear, he leans closer to the straight. He has about as many female sex partners and romances as a straight man but, as you might expect, he is also more likely to have sex with another guy. His sexual behavior tends to involve genital touching, mutual masturbation, or receptive oral sex, but not anal sex. Although he might develop an intense man crush and cuddle with a best friend, he is considerably less likely to fall passionately in love or want to date this friend. However, he might also agree with interviewee Dillon, age 20: “If the guy is attractive enough … You just never know.” Guy sex and man crushes can be thought of as an addition, not a subtraction, to his heterosexuality.

There is even (some) physiological evidence to support this theory. My lab has found that physiological measures of sexual orientation which are relatively free of conscious control confirm the existence of mostly straight men. These individuals had arousal patterns — penis enlargement and pupil dilation — to pornographic videos of women masturbating that were identical to those of straight men. In contrast to straight men (who had almost zero arousal), they were also slightly aroused by men masturbating, though less so than were bisexual men. Thus, we observed that whereas a mostly straight man didn’t differ from a straight man in his physiological responses to women, he did in his heightened arousal to men. This suggests that he wasn’t lying about his self-reported mostly straightness.

Historically, the social ramifications for owning any degree of homoeroticism prompted many men to minimize or disown their same-sex desires. However, increased tolerance for diverse sexual and gender expression among millennials has given permission to this formerly unrecognized group to embrace the breadth of their sexual and emotional lives. Some we’ve interviewed have maintained this identity and orientation for many years, perhaps even a lifetime, even as they live traditional heterosexual lives.They’re not closeted gays who over time gravitate toward same-sex encounters. They’re mostly straight.

Complete Article HERE!

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The future is fluid:

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Generation Z’s approach to gender and sexuality is indeed revolutionary

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Whenever a new generation comes of age, it inevitably ends up getting scrutinized by those who came before. Just look at how millennials have been derided for killing romance, sex, and the entire democratic system. If you believe everything you read, it’s like this generation is single-handedly out to destroy all that is holy in America, leaving nothing behind for posterity.

But death leads to new life, and from the ashes of the American Dream (which millennials have also killed), the younger Generation Z appears to have discovered a bevy of new social norms—especially in regards to gender and sexuality.

Also called the iGeneration, Generation Z is loosely defined as anyone born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s (aka ages 7 to 22). Growing up in the shadow of what is now the largest living American generation, Generation Z inevitably took a lot of inspiration from millennials. But as this group of young Americans become teenagers, even certified legal-drinking adults, one defining feature experts are starting to notice is the iGen’s tendency to view gender and sexuality as something on a spectrum, not just simply male or female, or gay or straight.

Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp’s 18-year-old daughter and an actor in her own right, has said, “You don’t have to label your sexuality; so many kids these days are not labeling their sexuality and I think that’s so cool.” At 19 years old, Jaden Smith told GQ Style, “I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms. I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction.”

For these Gen Zers, fluidity isn’t reactionary like it was (and still is) for millennials; now, it’s closer to the norm.

In fact, a 2016 survey by the consumer insight agency J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that only 48 percent of Generation Z identifies as “completely heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of millennials. And over half of these young Americans reported knowing someone who goes by non-traditional gender pronouns like “they/them,” making this generation the only demographic where that is the case.

The iGeneration, as its name suggests, is unique because its members were the first to be born in the post-dot-com bubble world. While Generation X, baby boomers, and even older millennials will wax poetic about life before the internet took over, Gen Z doesn’t even know what that looks like. And although being constantly connected to the web can be very problematic at times, it has also gifted this generation with a level of exposure to different worldviews that was previously unheard of.

“We grew up in a time when the internet opened the doors of the world—literally—and allowed us to talk to someone on the other side of the globe in a matter of seconds,” Sean Dolan, a 19-year-old who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and now lives in Austin, told the Daily Dot. “The internet generation, as I’ve heard us referred to, has never experienced what it is like to not feel connected to every piece of information in the world at any time.”

Not only does the internet open up doors to different views of gender and sexuality, but it also allows for members of Gen Z to find other people who feel the same way that they do. Today, online communities like those found on Tumblr and in private Facebook groups are there to show support even when nobody is physically there to do so.

“Nowadays, I feel like kids are way more open about talking about sexuality, and making it more mainstream through use of social media and new forms of technology,” Madeline Dolinsky, a 20-year-old Chicago native told the Daily Dot. “People can freely express who they are and feel comfortable knowing they have a larger community around them who supports them.”

According to a 2013 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, LGBTQ teens are online for an average of 45 minutes longer than straight, cisgender teens. And while only 19 percent of these straight, cisgender teens reported making friends online, half of the LGBTQ survey respondents said that they did have a close friend they met online.

This doesn’t come as a surprise for Michael Bronski, a professor in the women, gender, and sexuality department at Harvard University. In the 16 years that Bronski has been teaching, he has witnessed first hand how internet communities have shaped his students.

“I can remember a moment at Dartmouth, maybe 2007, when the freshman class showed up and because Facebook had just been invented, many gay or lesbian students as freshmen came and they already knew each other,” Bronski told the Daily Dot. “It was this amazing thing where the first LGBT meeting was completely packed because they were all friends already. Well, they were virtual friends.”

And that was 10 years ago, when social media was just starting to become a part of mainstream culture. Now, the iGen often goes to these virtual communities first to learn about gender and sexuality, regardless of whether they’re actively looking for fellow LGBTQ teens or just trying to procrastinate homework.

“Even in the past five years, I think I’ve seen more of an openness and open-mindedness about talking about stuff,” Bronski said. “You don’t have to go to the library to look up in the card catalog books that have ‘gay’ in the title anymore—you can do it on your iPhone that your mother left you with when you were 10.”

In other words, the internet can give queer teens what real-life surroundings cannot. For Dolan, growing up in what he refers to as “the conservative suburbs of Chicago,” it was hard for him to be open about his sexuality. Only when he went off to college and found himself surrounded by other people his own age did he gain the confidence to come out to his family. And when he did come out, he found that his parents were supportive, but not necessarily as understanding as his fellow Gen Zers.

“I had this idea all the way up until college that I would never come out to my parents, except for when I [told] them that I got married to another man,” Dolan said. “It wasn’t until I finally summoned up the courage to call them and tell them that their first reaction was, ‘Honey, we know.’ I still feel that, although they have been accepting when I talk about it at home, it is a borderline don’t-ask, don’t-tell situation.”

Dolan’s family experience shows that America won’t seamlessly become a fluid utopia when iGen takes over. While Gen Xers like Dolan’s parents might be more open to gays and lesbians than Baby Boomers are, sexuality is still predominantly seen as a black-or-white concept among them. The term “sexual fluidity” didn’t even enter the mainstream vernacular until psychologist Lisa M. Diamond wrote a book on the subject in 2008.

Gender fluidity, meanwhile, is an even more recent concept in pop culture. Only in the last few years have people come under fire for using the derogatory term “tranny.” And for some Gen Zers, the reality of living life outside of the binary is still far from perfect.

Nikolai Tarsinov is a 20-year-old transgender man currently living in Boston who identifies as pansexual. He often notices a discrepancy between how open his generation thinks it is in regards to fluidity, versus how open it actually is.

“My friend group is almost all heterosexual and cisgender. If I’m being completely honest, they are a lot less open-minded than they think they are,” Nikolai said. “The same people who proudly declare themselves progressives and allies will offhandedly make comments about how I’m not a ‘real’ guy.”

This also might have to do with maturity—teenagers can be mean and they’re hardly masters of nuance. But it also shows that this generation is teetering on the precipice of a major breakthrough. It’s going to take more than celebrities endorsing fluidity, however, to make long-term, noticeable changes to how America perceives gender and sexual identities. The million-dollar question now is whether or not Generation Z is ready to commit to those changes.

“I would never belittle the progress society has made. Just over the course of my short life, I have seen queerness go from something to make fun of to something that’s tentatively accepted,” Tarsinov said. “We are a lot more progressive than any generation that has come before us, but there is a lot more work to be done before society gets to a place where all people can be comfortable with their sexuality.”

It can be hard to predict trends in an entire generation’s worldviews, especially when dealing with a group as young as Generation Z. It can be even more difficult to try and sum up an entire generation’s views on a topic as complex as gender or sexuality. And let’s get one thing clear: Generation Z probably won’t be the group to completely rid the world of sexual and gender binaries.

With that said, this generation is onto something. It will be interesting to see how gender and sexual norms change as the iGen continues to grow up and enter the “real world”—whatever that means.

Complete Article HERE!

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