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This Female Filmmaker Is Changing the Porn Industry—One Perfectly Lit Sex Scene at a Time

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Catching up with Erika Lust.

By:Lindsay Brown</a

Since we last spoke to Erika Lust, her star has continued to rise. She was recently honored with the Maguey Award at the Guadalajara International Film Festival—a prize that celebrates “the career and achievements of a person who, through her work, has transformed sexual diversity, breaking down barriers and showing new paradigms of sexuality and gender.” Indeed, the Barcelona-based erotic filmmaker is transforming the porn industry. Lust has spent the last ten years elevating porn’s aesthetic, using her role behind the camera to put the focus on female pleasure. (Lest you think that sounds like a lot of gentle lovemaking, I can assure you that you’re wrong; it’s intense and X-rated—from a female gaze—and it will absolutely get you off.)

On the heels of her first American screening in L.A., we spoke to Lust about her revolt against male-centric content, the importance of ethical porn, and why audiences are so hungry for her style of sexual storytelling.

You’re often described as an erotic filmmaker, perhaps because the word “porn” doesn’t seem to do your films justice. Does the word “porn” get a bad rap, and how do you deal with that?

“People have so many ideas about what porn is, and most of those ideas have bad connotations around them. It’s related to mainstream porn that we are used to online today—this kind of ‘Pornhub’ porn. That is very different from my kind of porn. I show explicit sex, obviously, and the conventional porn is also showing explicit sex. But I am trying to do much more with my films. I am a filmmaker. I love film—that is my big passion.”

How would you explain the difference between your movies and mainstream porn to someone who hasn’t seen your films?

“It’s like the difference between eating fast food, and eating at a small little family-owned restaurant. You know, where the owners go to the market and pick out the ingredients themselves…where the owners are elaborating on an old recipe, trying everything out and deciding how it is going to look…caring about the quality.”

The fast-food analogy is such a perfect way to describe mainstream porn sites. A lot of it literally looks greasy, gross, and borderline unhealthy.

“Ha! Exactly!”

What do you think the problem is with mainstream pornography?

“My problem with porn is not the explicit sex in it, [it’s that] it’s so aggressive, so misogynistic, many times so racist, and sometimes even homophobic. It looks like [men] are more interested in punishing women, instead of, you know, coming together and just having a fabulous time! That is what sex should be about, right? But mainstream porn is all about fetishizing people based on body type, age, and race. It takes [away] the humanity of people, and that’s sad, because that’s the interesting part.”

Would you say your films are designed for women?

“I would say…my films are made from a female perspective with a female gaze, but they really are for everyone. I think men will find great benefits from watching real pleasure from women on screen.”

They might learn something!

“Exactly! Many men are confused about what pleasure really looks like. I mean, if you go to Pornhub or something like that, [the women] are all screaming from penetration, and we know that’s not true. We all know that most women need some sort of clitoral stimulation to create those kinds of screams.”

One of the differences between your films and mainstream porn is the casting. You have a lot of diversity. Can you tell us about your casting process?

“It’s totally essential. Without the right actors, you can’t really make it, and it’s something we have really been working a lot with over the last year, to get better at it. I work with a great casting director who is an actress, as well. But [it] is not easy to find the right people… You have to make an effort.”

You’ve been making films for over 10 years now, but recently your company has started to invest in other women’s films as well, financing projects. How important do you think it is to have representation behind the camera?

“I think it’s ridiculous that [mostly] men are telling the sexual stories of humanity. I started financing other women because I realized that I cannot change an industry by myself. The project is growing and has become bigger, and now I have the means to fund other films by women.”

You’ve spoken a fair bit about the importance of ethical porn. Can you elaborate on what that means in practice when it comes to your company?

“Ethical porn means taking care of your cast and crew—making sure that they’re comfortable, that they understand the contract they’re signing and the type of sex they’re agreeing to beforehand. All the sexual acts are negotiated up front, so there are no surprises. And then basic things; that they have water and snacks, that they have blankets, and that they have time to have a break. I hear from women that they feel so safe on my sets, because they are surrounded by sisters.”

You recently hosted a sold-out screening at the legendary Mack Sennett Studios in L.A., which was your first time screening in the States. What do you look forward to at these events?

“I love the audience interaction. I love to communicate with the audience, to answer their questions, to feel the energy in the room. When it comes to the screening in America, it’s particularly special because we really are a small art house European film company.”

Have you found difference between American viewers and Europeans? Do you think there is a different sensibility there about sex and sexuality?

“Absolutely. But even within Europe there are differences. In Germany, for example, they are very open-minded. America is a little bit more…hypocritical when it comes to porn. [Americans] want it, but they don’t want it. They are so drawn to porn privately, but then they don’t want to talk about it as much.”

You’ve mentioned that just how comedy is supposed to make you laugh and horror is supposed to make you scared, porn is supposed to turn you on. Has anyone ever enjoyed the films a little too much during a screening?

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything bad. Mostly people are behaving very well! But when you say that, it sounds like that could be the plot of a new movie!”

Complete Article HERE!

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Beyond breadwinners and homemakers, we need to examine how same-sex couples divide housework

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By and

Housework is often understood as a gendered negotiation based on the traditional roles of homemaker (feminine) and breadwinner (masculine). While gender norms have shifted dramatically in the past few decades, theories of housework are still stuck on this 1950s model.

Shifting family structures, including the rising number of same-sex marriages in recent years, mean our understanding of housework needs updating. In our recent study, we highlight that current theories of housework do not adequately address dynamics in same-sex couples.

We present our own approach, arguing that all couples adopt different roles at different life points, and some reject traditional gender identities altogether.

Simply, there is no single way to explain the role of gender in housework. Our theories and data analysis need updating to account for the more diverse ways people behave as men and women in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships.

Housework in theory

Existing theories of housework argue that domestic labour is one way to perform gender for oneself and one’s partner within heterosexual couples. The basic assumption is that individuals are socialised from birth into gender roles that dictate appropriate feminine and masculine behaviours.

Traditional gender roles teach young girls that women are responsible for the physical and mental work of ensuring household chores are completed. By contrast, breadwinner roles teach young boys that masculinity is tied to providing for the family economically.

Traditional housework divisions relegate men to a narrow set of housework tasks – maintenance of the home, yard work and home repair.

Existing theories of housework suggest individuals are socialised into traditional gender roles from birth.

Feminist literature has challenged these ideas, arguing that domestic and economic work should not be distributed based on gender.

Young people today are more likely than older generations to reject traditionally gendered expectations in favour of more equal divisions of paid and domestic work. Yet we know that gender remains a major factor in unpaid divisions of household labour.

Housework and same-sex couples

Research shows that same-sex couples have more equitable divisions of housework than heterosexual couples, but the partner who engages in more childcare also does more “feminine” housework tasks. However, the question of how to explain these divisions remains.

Existing theories assume same-sex couples either behave just as heterosexual couples, with one specialising in the home and one in the workforce, or do not divide housework by gender at all.

One argument is that same-sex couples are able to negotiate housework in the “absence” of gender. As the argument goes, one partner does the washing, dishes and vacuuming not because they are male or female but because they prefer these chores, have less money or spend less time at work.

Existing studies show that same-sex couples have more equitable housework divisions than heterosexual couples.

However, we argue that same-sex couples’ housework divisions and relationship dynamics may function in more complicated ways, rather than simply doing or undoing heterosexual gender dynamics.

Women, regardless of sexual orientation, may view a clean and well-dressed table as one way to be a “good” woman. But, for others, housework may tap into more nuanced gender relations. For example, resisting the urge to constantly tidy up after children and partners may, for some women, be a form of feminist rebellion, a challenge to patriarchal norms.

Same-sex couples may have more scope to engage in a greater diversity of housework tasks, without the boundaries of heterosexual norms of “feminine” and “masculine” chores. But their performance of these chores is often interpreted through traditional gender norms (for example, gay men clean, cook and decorate as a sign of femininity) that have homophobic connotations.

Applying heterosexual norms to same-sex couples housework negotiations is fraught with false gendered assumptions and homophobia.

Cultural narratives of gender

To fully explain the way same-sex couples might negotiate housework, we need to leave our old theories of gender behind.

Take two examples. The idea that men using power tools to feel a rush of masculinity is evident in our cultural narratives. Similarly, the notion that women bake cupcakes to shower their families with feminine love is also ingrained in our traditional gender norms.

If we switch the genders here – have women use power tools to be feminine and men bake cupcakes to be masculine – we can see that the logic of these theories falls flat. Of course, men bake and women use tools, but how these tap into gender identities is lacking from existing research.

Men may bake to show care for their partners and this action may tap into other dimensions of masculinity (such as caring and nurturing). Gay men may engage in baking and lesbian women in using power tools as a way to tap into different dimensions of their masculinity and femininity (such as care or empowerment), not to demonstrate their rejection of either gender identity.

Or, housework may have less to do with gender among modern heterosexual and same-sex couples and more to do with preferences, leisure and relaxation.

Important questions

As ideas of gender as a simple binary (masculinity and femininity) are increasingly challenged, the question of how gender affects couples’ housework divisions is important. Existing studies on gender and housework ask standard questions about gender (male/female/other) but fail to ask detailed questions about gender identities and gender expressions on a continuum.

Within same-sex couples, housework is less likely to be a source of patriarchal domination, but that doesn’t mean gender is absent from negotiations. Today’s adults were raised in the context of our society’s gender norms, and being in a non-heterosexual relationship requires a re-evaluation of these norms.

This can create flexibility in how gender is expressed to the outside world, to people’s partners, and to themselves. And identifying to what extent gender remains coupled to inequality is important, especially given that housework inequality jeopardises relationship quality regardless of sexuality.

Complete Article HERE!

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Masturbation—Get Down With Yourself!

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May is National Masturbation Month.

By Molly Lloyd

Alrighty folks, it’s about time we talk about masturbation. I’ve been thinking about sex a lot recently (thank you, women’s, gender and sexuality studies and educational studies for allowing me to do both my capstones on sex education). But before we can really talk about sex – and I mean really talk about sex – we have to be able to talk about masturbation first, right? Right.

This is a topic of conversation that makes most people uncomfortable. Masturbation, among many other sexual things, is not really something we talk about. Our culture tends to avoid conversations surrounding positive sexual experiences, because we have a deeply ingrained fear of sexuality. For the most part, people’s experiences talking about masturbation have been limited to preteen and teenage boys making jokes about their taste in porn and making obscene gestures towards one another. It’s never something that’s talked about seriously and I’m almost positive that most sex education classes avoid the topic. Conversations surrounding pleasure and desire are usually absent from sex education classes because adults and educators worry that discussing these topics will encourage young people to have sex.

Back in the 19th century, masturbation of any sort by any kind of person has been seen as impure and people would go to great lengths to keep children and teens from exploring themselves. It was rumored that masturbating would cause hair to grow all over your palms and that losing one drop of semen was the equivalent to losing ten drops of blood. It was common practice to make young boys wear belts with spikes surrounding the penis, to “discourage” them from developing erections. Women, on the other hand, had to be treated for “hysteria” (a made up disease, from the Greek word “hysterika”, meaning “womb”) because they orgasmed so infrequently and their husbands only cared about their personal pleasure.

Even in this day and age in the United States, many people are taught that their sexual desire and want to masturbate are wrong, dirty or something to be ashamed of—this is especially something that happens to girls and women. People will go an incredibly long time in their life without ever having explored themselves or orgasmed because they’re scared or they feel ashamed. Since coming to Macalester, I have met plenty of cis women who are scared of and disgusted by their vaginas and don’t feel comfortable exploring themselves. Let’s destigmatize masturbation and pleasure!

Knowing what you prefer and what works for you can allow you and your partner(s) to have sex where it is easier for you to orgasm (assuming that that is a thing you want!). On top of having better sex and more orgasms, there are – according to Planned Parenthood – some added health benefits to masturbation, including: -Releasing sexual tension -Reducing stress -Helping you sleep better -Improving your self-esteem and body image -Helping treat sexual problems -Relieving menstrual cramps and muscle tension -Strengthening muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas Some people even claim that masturbating until orgasm can help with headaches and migraines—something to consider, for sure. So there you have it! An invitation to go for it; touch yourself!

I would encourage everyone – seriously! everyone – to take some time this weekend and get to know themselves; figure out what you like and don’t like, what gets you going! Knowing how your body works is an essential first step to taking ownership of your body and sexuality. Personal empowerment comes from personal knowledge, and masturbating can be a way of gaining that personal knowledge.

To end this piece, I will leave you with a quote from Audre Lorde – a prominent feminist writer from the second wave and a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” – about her ideas surrounding the erotic and ask you to think about how masturbation could improve your (sex) life.

“The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Federal courts ask: What is the meaning of ‘sex’?

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Existing prohibitions against discrimination ‘because of sex,’ already provide a civil rights umbrella wide enough to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity, some judges are beginning to say.

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A number of federal courts have begun to ask a question that has become more and more subtle over the past few years: What is the meaning of ‘sex’?

It’s a question that has in many ways evolved out of the storms of cultural change that have surrounded the country’s shifting ideas about human sexuality and gender over the past few decades. Many of these culminated in the US Supreme Court’s landmark 5-to-4 decision in 2015, in which a bare majority declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

On the one hand, the high court’s epoch-changing decision that legalized same-sex marriage created the kind of situation that inevitably arises out of rapid cultural change. Today, neither the federal government nor some 28 states offer any explicit civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBTQ), either in the workplace or any other arena of daily life.

“It is constitutionally jarring to know that, in most states, a lesbian couple can get married on Saturday and be fired from their jobs on Monday, without legal redress,” notes the legal scholar William Eskridge, professor at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn.

And many throughout the country, even those with liberal-leaning views, continue to be uneasy about the presence of transgender people in certain sensitive places, including school bathrooms and locker rooms.

On Friday, President Trump issued a policy memo that would disqualify most transgender people from serving in the military, after tweeting about his plans to issue such a ban last July. As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reported to the president in February, the administration is concerned that the presence of transgender soldiers could “undermine readiness,” “disrupt unit cohesion,” and create unreasonable health care costs for the military, echoing arguments used in the past for other groups.

At least four federal courts have found this reasoning constitutionally jarring as well, potentially violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Yet beyond sweeping constitutional questions which regulate what the government can do to its citizens, the nation’s evolving definitions of sex, marriage, and gender have also been quietly transforming the nation’s civil rights laws, which regulate how citizens live their common lives together.

Title VII and Title IX

Indeed, a number of federal courts have recently begun to weigh in on a vigorous and relatively new legal idea, simmering for the past few years in federal civil rights cases but only now beginning to take a more defined legal shape.

There may be no need to press Congress and the majority of state legislatures to change their statutes and explicitly add LGBTQ people to their lists of protected classes. (Traditionally, these include race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.) Existing prohibitions against discrimination “because of sex,” already provide a civil rights umbrella wide enough to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity, some judges are beginning to say.

The Obama administration took this position in 2016, telling the nation’s public schools that transgender students should be able to use the bathroom of their choice, a directive that interpreted Title IX’s prohibitions against sex discrimination as covering transgender identity.

Last April, the US Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, which includes nine justices nominated by Republican presidents and five by President Ronald Reagan, also embraced this idea. In an 8-to-3 decision that spanned the panel’s ideological spectrum, the full court ruled that the Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination in the workplace also included any based on sexual orientation.

Last month, the Second Circuit in New York issued a similar ruling. “Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted,” wrote Chief Judge Robert Katzmann for the 10-3 majority. It would be impossible “for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account,” he continued.

Such an evolving legal definition of sex could again reshape the nation’s legal landscape. “Potentially a lot is at stake,” says Professor Eskridge. “Depending how broadly you go, this idea could affect dozens of state statutes and dozens of federal statutes, the chief of which are Title VII and Title IX,” sections in the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination both in the workplace and in public schools.

Original intent

On the surface, the debate over the meaning of “sex” in these cases divides legal thinkers into classic liberal and conservative approaches to the law. Those who focus on the “original intent” of laws and the precise words of the legal text have generally rejected the expansive lines of thinking about the definition of sex.

“I think the better answer, the cleaner answer is just, let Congress go ahead and change the laws,” says Mark Goldfeder, senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory Law School in Atlanta. And there’s virtue in hashing out such questions through a political process rather than letting a panel of judges make such society-shaping decisions.

Indeed, this was part of the reasoning behind a three-judge panel in the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which came to the opposite conclusion. In a 2-to-1 decision, the majority said that discrimination “because of sex” and discrimination based on sexual orientation were two different things. The disagreement among appeals courts could invite a potential Supreme Court review, scholars say.

But the history of the legal concept of “sex discrimination” unfolded in a much more complex way, many observers note, and conservative jurisprudence, too, has played a key role in the evolving definitions of “sex” that almost immediately began to widen over time.

“There’s been this natural progression of the law,” says Susan Eisenberg, managing partner at the Miami office of Cozen O’Connor. As a trial attorney who has been defending companies from civil rights complaints for more than two decades, she’s has watched as the concept of “sex” in discrimination cases has evolved over time, changing the ways she defends her clients.

The evolution of civil rights law

In the first decade after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she and others point out, the “original intent” of the prohibition against sex discrimination was clear. The nation’s elite law schools and medical schools were often reserved for male applicants only, single women could be denied leases and bank accounts, and the nation understood its merit-based workplace as the natural domain of men alone.

But by the 1970s, people began to claim that sexual harassment in the workplace also violated Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination, and the Supreme Court agreed, declaring “a hostile work environment” as a violation of Title VII.

By the end of the 1980s, the Supreme Court found that discrimination based on “gender stereotypes” was also a violation of civil rights laws – in this case a woman who was passed up for promotion because she did not act feminine enough.

“She argued: that’s discrimination against me on the basis of my sex,” says Steve Sanders, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. “They’re not discriminating against me as a woman per se, but they’re discriminating against me because I failed to demonstrate certain stereotypes of what it means to be a woman, and the Supreme Court accepted that.”

And the nation’s high court broadened the definition even further in 1998, ruling unanimously that Title VII’s workplace protections covered sexual harassment between members of the same sex – a key decision, says Ms. Eisenberg, citing a passage that in many ways redefined her job.

“Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority in the case Oncale v. Sundowner, explaining the expanding definition of sex in this area of civil rights law.

“The sexual orientation cases that we’re now seeing basically takes the logic of these cases one step further,” says Professor Sanders. “If you’re a man, the social stereotype and the social expectation is that you will want to have sex with a woman, that you will want to have a relationship and a marriage with a woman. But, no, you defy that gender stereotype about what it means to be a man, because you’re attracted to other men.”

“Well, if the idea that men should only be attracted to women and women should only be attracted to men is a form of gender stereotyping, ergo, the logic goes, it’s covered by Title VII,” he says.

The Trump administration, however, maintains that while the Justice Department “is committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals,” in these case it remains “committed to the fundamental principle that the courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided,” said Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley in February.

‘Lack of clarity can prove expensive’

Corporate attorneys say most businesses have already instituted their own antidiscrimination policies. “But though many have adopted these, only voluntarily, the unevenness, the irregularity of anti-discrimination laws, I think is very challenging for the business community to grapple with,” says Darren Rosenblum, professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in New York. “So I think there is an imperative to clarify the law on this point. That’s what they need first and foremost, because the lack of clarity can prove expensive, figuring out which norms to follow.”

Even so, Eisenberg points out that given the ways in which the high court has redefined the meaning of sex in past precedents, today simple claims of “gender stereotyping” already covers most claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“And if you’ve got people who are being discriminated against just because they’re not part of a protected characteristic, that’s just not good management,” Eisenberg says. “It’s not good for recruiting, it’s not good for maintaining employees, it’s not good all the way around.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Does Sex Feel So Good, Anyway?

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By Kassie Brabaw

There’s a reason that sex toy shops choose names like Pleasure Chest, Good Vibrations, and Sugar. All of these words invoke the tingling, heart-pumping, all-over ‘yum’ feelings many people associate with having sex.

There’s no question that great, consensual sex feels amazing. But why does it feel so good? What’s actually happening inside someone’s brain and body to create that euphoria?

According to sexologist Laura McGuire, PhD, there are three main physiological reasons someone feels sexual pleasure: the pudendal nerve, dopamine, and oxytocin.

The pudendal nerve is a large, sensitive nerve that allows someone’s genitals to send signals to their brain. In people who have vulvas, it has branches in the clitoris, the anus, and the perineum (the area between the anus and the vulva or the anus and the penis). In people who have penises, the pudendal nerve branches out to the anus, the perineum, and the penis. “It’s important for women to realize that the nerve doesn’t have much concentration inside the vaginal canal,” Dr. McGuire says. “Most of the pudendal nerve endings are focused on the clitoris.” That’s why it’s common for people who have vulvas to struggle reaching orgasm from penetrative sex alone, and why the clitoris is often considered the powerhouse of women’s sexual pleasure.

The pudendal nerve explains how signals get from someone’s genitals to their brain during sex, and then the brain releases dopamine and oxytocin, which causes a flood of happy, pleasurable feelings. “Oxytocin is often called ‘the love hormone,'” Dr. McGuire says. “It’s what makes us feel attached to people or things.” Oxytocin is released during sex and orgasm, but it’s also released when someone gives birth to help them feel attached to their baby, she says. “That’s the big one that makes you feel like your partner is special and you can’t get enough of them.”

Like oxytocin, dopamine helps your brain make connections. It connects emotional pleasure to physical pleasure during sex, Dr. McGuire says. “So, that’s the hormone that makes you think, that felt good, let’s do it again and again and again,” she says.

Oxytocin and dopamine are both in a class of hormones considered part of the brain’s reward system, says Lawrence Siegel, a clinical sexologist and certified sexuality educator. As someone’s body reaches orgasm, they flood their system because the brain is essentially trying to medicate them, Siegel says. “The brain seems to misunderstand sexual arousal as trauma,” he says. As someone gets aroused, their heart rate increases, their body temperature goes up, and their muscles tense, all of which happen when someone’s body is in trouble, too.

“As that continues to build and increase, it reaches a point when the brain looks down and says ‘Uh,oh you’re in trouble,'” Siegel says. “An orgasm is a massive release of feel-good chemicals that leaves you in a meditative state of consciousness.”

Yet, not everyone desires sex. So how do we explain asexuality? Science doesn’t have any solid answers, Dr. McGuire says, although it’s important to know that asexual people don’t choose to be asexual any more than gay people choose to be gay. While we don’t know what makes someone asexual, it’s pretty certain that there’s no physical difference between asexual people and everyone else, Siegel says.

“It’s not correct to say that people who identify as asexual don’t experience pleasure,” he says. “They just don’t have the desire to have sex.” Desire is ruled by different hormones, most notably testosterone. But even that might not fully explain why someone isn’t interested in having sex. “It feels like a different appraisal or reaction to the experience in their body,” Siegel says.

While everybody has a pudendal nerve and can experience the release of dopamine and oxytocin that happens with sex, not everyone will experience that release as pleasurable or experience the same level of pleasure. “People are very complicated,” Dr. McGuire says.

Complete Article HERE!

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