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Screw Science: The Futuristic Sex Tech Aiming to Penetrate Your Bedroom

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From fully customizable vibrators to bioelectronic headsets, smart sex toys are on the way up. But does personal pleasure necessarily make for better health?

sex-tech

Pleasure is personal, mostly because it has to be, and not least because female scientists continue to face grinding discrimination regardless of their area of research. And when it comes to sexual health, breakthroughs are few and far between: in spite of increasing documentation of associated health risks, birth control hasn’t really been reformulated since the 60s, and last year’s much-anticipated release of Addyi, a pill meant to fix female sexual dysfunction, only worked for ten percent of the women who tried it.

It’s clear that sexual emancipation has not yet been freed from the bedroom. In spite of its roots in scientific misogyny—the vibrator was developed in the 19th century to cure women of hysteria, after all—a swathe of new devices have people looking hopefully to sex tech (or sextech, as it is also known) as the answer to systemic gaps in sexual health. History, it seems, is coming full circle; where the 1960s saw the vibrator de-medicalized and uncoupled from science, today’s consumer market is beginning to see pleasure and health unified in the pursuit of wellness. Yet what we call “sex tech” is tied more to the lucrative sex toy industry—worth $15 billion this year—than it is to scientific institutions, with much of its promise linked to idea that personal pleasure makes for better health.

These days, more people than ever understand that a woman’s ability to understand what turns her on and why is a crucial step in developing a healthy perspective on her sexual life. So it makes sense that we’re seeking out masturbatory experiences that are more tailored than your average stand-in phallus. It’s the driving force behind the popularity of devices like Crescendo, the first-ever fully customizable vibrator, which raised £1.6 million in funding to date and shipped out over 1,000 pre-orders after a successful crowdfunding round.

Designed to cater to the inherent complexities of female arousal, the vibrator can be finely customized, equipped with six motors and the ability to be bent into any favorable shape. An accompanying app allows users to control each motor individually; it remembers favorite behaviors, provides pre-set vibration patterns, and responds to mood-setting music.

“We were inspired by the concept of tech designed for the human, rather than the human having to adapt their behaviour to tech,” says Stephanie Alys, the co-founder of Crescendo creators Mysteryvibe. “Human beings aren’t just unique in terms of our size and how we’re put together genetically, but also in terms of what we like. What turns us on can be different from what turns another person on.”

smart-sex-technology

Mysteryvibe’s flagship product is the Crescendo, a customizable sex toy.

But in spite of the life-improving promises of consumer sex tech, the reality is that official, peer-reviewed studies remain crucial to reforming policy and education. Founded by Dr. Nicole Prause, Liberos Center is one of the few sex-centric research institutions in the United States. Much of its work investigates the relationship between psychology, physiology, and sex, with an emphasis on the hard data that is often lacking in sex tech.

Liberos presses on in a particularly antagonistic climate; the American government is famously skittish about sexual content. Sexual material is banned from government-funded computers, says Prause, making it difficult for researchers to, say, screen porn to test subjects as part of a study on arousal. She adds that congressional bodies actively seek to pull funding from research that addresses the topic head-on—four recent studies that had already been awarded funding were re-opened for assessment because of their sexual content.

“People report having certain types of experiences all the time,” says Prause. “But they’re often poor observers of their own behaviour, and don’t see anyone’s behaviour but their own. They don’t really have that external perspective, which is why I think it’s important to take both a psychological and laboratory approach. For example, in science, people haven’t been verifying that orgasm actually occurs. So we’ve been developing an objective way of measuring that, and of measuring the effects of clitoral stimulation—on how to best capture the contractions that occur through the orgasm.”

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Liberos is also investigating the effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and direct current stimulation (tDCS) on sexual responsiveness. Both are non-invasive treatments, meaning anyone seeking a cure for low libido may not require anything more than the use of a headset. TMS holds potential for long-term changes to a person’s sex drive; the technique, which uses a magnetic field generator to produce small electrical currents in the brain, has already been used to treat neuropathic pain and otherwise stubborn cases of major depressive disorder. DCS, on the other hand, uses a headset to deliver a low-intensity electrical charge, stimulating the brain areas where activity spikes at the sight, or touch, of a turn-on.

If using the brain’s electrical signals to control the rest of the body sounds like a dystopian fantasy, the reality is that these medical treatments aren’t far off. Bioelectronic firms are now backed by the likes of Glaxosmithkline and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and similar applications have already been established for hypertension and sleep apnea, while chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and arthritis are targeted for future development.

According to Dr. Karen E. Adams, clinical professor of OBGYN at Oregon Health and Science University, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of women experience varying degrees of sexual dysfunction. Medication that targets neurotransmitters, like the SSRIs used to treat depression and anxiety, can fluctuate in efficacy depending on the unique makeup of the person using it.

Combined with the trickiness of locking down the nebulousness of desire (and lack thereof), it’s no wonder that Addyi, a failed antidepressant pursued because of its unexpected effect on serotonin levels in female mice, was a flop. Non-sex-specific studies have shown that electrical stimulation can be more adaptive to the brain’s constantly-shifting landscape than medication that interacts with its chemistry. For the 90 percent of women who found Addyi to be a sore disappointment, bioelectronic treatments could soon offer an alternative solution to low sexual responsivity.

“By giving women information about their bodies that they can decide what to do with, we’re enabling more female empowerment,” says Prause. “And by allowing women to decide which aspects of sex they want to be more responsive to, we’re giving people more control, and not with charlatan claims. We actually have good scientific reasons that we think are going to work, that are going to make a difference.”

Yet the field’s burgeoning successes are only as good as the social environment they take hold in. Sociopolitical hurdles notwithstanding, money remains a significant roadblock for developers, as the controversial nature of sex research has many investors shying away from backing new projects in spite of consumer interest. Whether they’re seeking government funding or VC investments, sex start-ups and labs alike are often forced to turn to crowdfunding to raise money for development.

“It’s pretty unsurprising that heavily female-oriented tech products do so well on crowdfunding sites; these are solutions to problems faced by half of the population, that are overlooked by a male-dominated industry where male entrepreneurs are 86 percent more likely to be VC funded than women,” says Katy Young, behavioral analyst at research firm Canvas8. “But the audience is clearly there—Livia, a device which targets nerves in order to stop period pains, raised over $1 million on Indiegogo.”

Outdated sex ed programs, which emphasize procreation and normalize straight male sexuality without addressing female sexual development, are ground zero for unhealthy social perspectives on sex. Acknowledging that change can’t just come from devices alone, New York’s Unbound, a luxury sex toy subscription service, is teaming up with “campus sexpert” app Tabù to bring both sex education and affordable masturbation tools to colleges across the country.

“There’s a national discussion right now surrounding consent, which is 100 percent needed and super important,” says Polly Rodriguez, CEO and co-founder of Unbound. “But for women to be able to engage in sex and address consent as equals, they need to learn about female pleasure—they should understand their own bodies so that when they are engaging in sexual activities with someone else, they know what feels good to them, they know how to communicate that, and they don’t feel uncomfortable about it.”

It’s tempting to buy into the idea of tech as freeing: that the increased presence of smart devices in our lives will help us form healthier habits and a better understanding of our ourselves, or that the availability of medically-approved tech will be a panacea in the intricately fraught landscape of female sexual dysfunction—which is as socially determined as it is biological, and as cultural as it is psychological.

But sex tech is still far from being paradigm-shifting. Its success will be dependent not only on consumer dollars but on government policies and public attitudes; at a level of engagement this intimate, tech is only any good if people feel free to use it.

Complete Article HERE!

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What is consent? Many college students aren’t sure

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College and university students remain divided over what consent actually means

Students walk by an ASU consent sign on Taylor Mall in Downtown Phoenix on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.

Students walk by an ASU consent sign on Taylor Mall in Downtown Phoenix on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.

By Kelsey M

On June 3, 2016, I found myself outraged and ready to throw my phone at the wall. After reading the Buzzfeed News article that featured a heart-wrenching letter penned to Brock Turner in the Stanford rape case, I was in a state of sheer disbelief.

Scrolling through the letter on my iPhone and shedding tears of both anger and sadness, I started thinking about how “Emily Doe” was in no state to give any form of consent. Unfortunately, her inebriation did not stop her attacker.

In the year 2016, college students around the nation still fail to grasp the fact that there is a hard line of consent. I would think common sense dictates that if a person does not actively say yes, then that person has not given consent. However, time and time again, I have been proven wrong.

More recently on Sept. 16, Allen Artis, a linebacker at the University of North Carolina, turned himself into a magistrate court this past Wednesday after Delaney Robinson, a fellow student, claimed he raped her.

The lack of education and exposure to sex education leaves college students to attend school with mixed ideas of what consent actually means. To clarify the line, we need to encourage conversations about sex, healthy relationships and consent.

 

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In a poll conducted in 2015 by the Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation, American college students were given three different scenarios: someone undressing, someone getting a condom and someone nodding in agreement. Then, they were asked if these actions established consent.

The results show, specifically among women, 38 percent said it establishes consent for more sexual activity if someone gets a condom; 44 percent said the same is true if someone takes off his or her own clothes; and 51 percent said a nod of agreement signals consent.

If I were ever to find myself in a risqué situation, I would want my partner to understand that me changing clothes is not a cue to start putting the moves on me. Unfortunately, the numbers show that the idea of consent is not universal.

It is rare that any idea can be considered completely collective, but not establishing what qualifies as “agreement” leaves college students in a grey area that could mean the difference between an enjoyable night or a criminal offense.

What is more mortifying than the nonexistent definition of “agreement,” is the blatant misogyny that surrounds from the blurred lines of consent.

In 2011, Yale University banned the fraternity group Delta Kappa Epsilon from recruiting and conducting activities on campus for five years after members went around chanting the phrase “No means yes! Yes means anal!”

Needless to say, Delta Kappa Epsilon’s actions created a hostile environment toward women. To me it’s very clear: If someone has not said that he or she wants any kind of intercourse, it does not give his or her partner permission to proceed. Yet, the members of this fraternity believe it does or find the blurred consent line humorous, to say the least.

Clearing up the misconceptions around consent is not easy, but not impossible. According to Susan Estby, a Barrett, the Honors College staff member who works with multiple women’s advocacy groups — including Kaity’s Way, Sojourner, and Break the Silence Campaign — consent starts in elementary school.

“We should be teaching sex at an early age right when we introduce things like digestive system, we should be calling various sexual organs by their terms, we need to remove religion and family beliefs and treat it as what it is and that is education,” Estby said. “During welcome week and during floor meetings there should be mandatory sex-ed on college campuses.

“Talking openly at the university, including more stuff in curriculum about sex and healthy relationships and really critically analyzing the stories that we are told (about sex) can go a very long way.”

When practiced safely, sex can help improve and foster relationships. However, we must set firm boundaries and talk more openly about sex and consent. It is time we not only establish that only a verbal, sober “yes” means consent, but implement it onto campuses and start a dialogue to tear down the delusions surrounding that idea.

Complete Article HERE!

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A slip through the back door does not a gay man make

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By JOACHIM OSUR

strapon-sex-hospital

When Risper met Tom, she was convinced that he was the Mr Right she had been waiting for. She was thirty-two years old and like any single woman of that age, there was enough pressure from her mum and aunties to get married as quickly as possible.

You see, there is this belief that if you do not marry by a certain age you will remain single forever and may not bear children, so the people who need to be named, those whose names your children should inherit will suffer extinction.

We believe that we live forever by giving our names to newborns from our children. Anyway, that is a story for another day.

And so it was that six months into the relationship Risper and Tom were already having sex. Plans were underway for a wedding.

Tom had already visited Risper’s parents and they were all too thankful to God for favouring their daughter with such a handsome and responsible man – Tom was a doctor, a cardiothoracic surgeon, who had delayed marriage to pursue his specialised medical qualification.

A month before the wedding Risper was seated in front of me at the sexology clinic, weeping. She was weeping because in discovering each other sexually, Tom had ventured into anal sex.

Risper was not psychologically prepared for it. All she could remember was that she heard Tom requesting in the heat of the moment to be allowed to try something new and adventurous. She said okay only to be caught unawares when he penetrated her anus!

“God forgive me, but I have to call off the wedding. I cannot marry Tom! I will not entertain homosexuality; it is evil, it is unacceptable, it is wrong!” Risper said, her eyes red and wet with tears.

NOT HOMOSEXUALITY

But anal sex is not synonymous with homosexuality. Homosexuality is sexual attraction to a person of the same sex. For women, it is called lesbianism (where a woman is attracted sexually to another woman.) Men who are attracted sexually to other men are gay. When a man is sexually attracted to a woman, like in Tom’s case, then he cannot be labeled homosexual.

“But tell me doctor, how do gay men have sex, is it not anal sex?” Risper asked not believing me.

Well, anal sex between men is gay sex but between a man and a woman it is heterosexual anal sex and it does happen. There are heterosexual couples who find it pleasurable and if they mutually enjoy it, they should be allowed to do it.

The scenario is different if one partner is uncomfortable with any type of sexual adventure in a relationship. There should be mutual discussion about it and if one party finds it unacceptable, just keep off.

“My anus hurts! I do not understand why he had to do this to me!” Risper said writhing in pain and ignoring my advice.

Of course if one chooses to have anal sex it must be understood that the anus does not lubricate (a vagina does). Applying a lubricant before penetration is important. Further, one has to be gentle and considerate of the partner’s feelings. It is insensitve to cause pain and injury to one’s partner during sex in the name of adventure.

“In fact, it is unchristian to do what Tom did to me! If I reported him to our pastor, the church would call for prayer and fasting for God to deliver us,” Risper interjected.

And yes, one’s values do matter as far as sexual adventures are concerned. If it is against your values it is better to keep off. There are people who cannot entertain anal sex, oral sex or other forms of sex other than the traditional intercourse where the penis goes into the vagina. This should be respected.

The next day I had a sit-down with both Risper and Tom and reiterated the etiquette of introducing new sexual moves to each other. Tom was saddened to hear that Risper had considered calling off the wedding.

“You know what, doctor? I did what I did to please Risper. I read somewhere that women enjoy it. In fact I forced myself into it and did not enjoy it at all,” Tom explained, gloom painted on his face.

“Well, you have learnt your lesson, in sex sometimes words speak louder than actions and you have to learn to use words more than your actions especially when introducing something new,” I explained, to which Tom nodded vigorously.

So the wedding plans continued and the couple is now married and living happily together. Two years into the marriage, Tom called and informed me that Risper had delivered a bouncing baby girl at dawn. The baby was named after Tom’s mother.

“Thank you for setting us straight on that fateful day, I cannot forget your intervention; it saved my marriage!” Tom said bursting into a loud staccato laughter.

Complete Article HERE!

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Am I Sexually Healthy? 6 Signs Of Good Bedroom Habits For Better Sex

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Most of us don’t want to ask, but we’re curious how our sex life stacks up to our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. “How often do other couples have sex?” and, “How long do they last in bed?” or “Do they ‘change it up’ every time?” are all questions that make us wonder if we’re sexually normal. Good sexual health is contingent on understanding and embracing all aspects of our sexuality.

Sexual health is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity. Dr. Draion M. Burch, a sexual health advisor for Astroglide TCC, affirms it’s not limited to just being STD free. “It’s the emotional, physical, and social characteristics of sexual behavior,” he told Medical Daily.

It’s a mind-body connection that facilitates the possibility of having good sex. You have sex in a way that promotes health and healthy relationships. It’s about feeling good about ourselves as an individual, as well as understanding who we are sexually.

Dr. Nicole Prause, a sexual psychophysiologist and neuroscientist, reminds us we can be sexually healthy and choose not to engage sexually at all. “Sexual health does have to even necessarily include sex per se,” she told Medical Daily.

Below are 6 signs of good habits in the bedroom to rate how sexually healthy you are.

Love Your Body

A healthy sex life starts with loving our body. A 2009 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found women between the ages 18 to 49 who scored high on a body image scale were the most sexually satisfied. Positive feelings associated with our weight, physical condition, sexual attractiveness, and thoughts about our body during sex help promote healthy sexual functioning.

April Masini, relationship expert and author, believes a poor body image, or poor health and an awareness of it, can lead to a complicated sex life.

“Your body is the instrument you use to have sex, so when your body is in good health and you feel good about it, you’re less likely to feel it’s an obstacle to having sex,” she told Medical Daily.

Good communication

A healthy sex life relies on the foundation of communication. It’s about communicating what we want and what our partners want in the bedroom. Good communication takes effort, and it doesn’t always go smoothly, but attempting to talk with one another about desires can make sex enticing.

“Without it, you don’t read each other’s cues and react to whether something feels good or doesn’t feel good,” said Masini.

Dirty Talk

A flirty or naughty text or whispering dirty sexual banter into each other’s ears can lead to greater sexual satisfaction for both partners. A 2011 study in the Journal of Integrated Social Sciences found specific sexual behaviors, such as kissing, oral sex, and engaging in sexual conversations, were more likely related to greater sexual satisfaction. This is also linked to the concept of good communication between both partners.

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Happy Relationship

Inevitably, a happy relationship usually translates to a happy sex life. A 2011 study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found for middle-aged and older couples in committed relationships of one to 51 years’ duration, relationship happiness and sexual satisfaction were mutually reinforcing. Romantic relationships are important for our happiness and well-being.

Changing It Up

Couples will report sex can become routine; novelty is a way that increases sexual arousal, and as a result, sexual pleasure. Changing it up doesn’t have to be drastic — simply wearing new lingerie or doing your hair differently can be a way to introduce something new in the boudoir.

“Some people seem to think novelty means anal sex in your front yard, but novelty can be very subtle, like extremely slow pacing and teasing,” said Prause.

Not Counting

Couples may do it a few times a week or once a month, but focusing on a number will not be productive to our sex life. “The nature and quality of the sex can vary tremendously, as does frequency, but the main outcome any therapist will focus on is your satisfaction,” according to Prause.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization found increased frequency does not lead to increased happiness. Researchers hypothesize it could be because it leads to a decline in anticipation, and therefore enjoyment. Sometimes less is more when it comes to sex.

Sexual health does not pertain to just sex; it’s about how you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Complete Article HERE!

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UA Report: Few Studies Look at Well-Being of LGB Youth of Color

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Studies that do look at gay, lesbian and bisexual youth of color tend to focus on negative outcomes, a UA-led report finds.

By Alexis Blue

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While research on lesbian, gay and bisexual youth has increased in recent years, these studies often fail to look at the experiences of young people of color, according to a new report in the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health.

This omission may lead to wide gaps in understanding the experience of sexual minority youth who also are part of a racial or ethnic minority, says University of Arizona researcher Russell Toomey, lead author of the report.

Russell Toomey

Russell Toomey

Studies that do look at gay, lesbian and bisexual youth — also known as sexual minority youth — of color tend to focus on negative outcomes, such as sexual risk-taking behavior and alcohol and tobacco use, rather than normal developmental experiences. This is according to researchers’ review and analysis of 125 reports on sexual minority youth of color, age 25 and younger, published since 1990.

“Adolescence is a time of identity development — when we figure out who we are — and most of the research really hasn’t paid attention to the fact that the youth have multiple identities that they’re juggling at the same time,” said Toomey, assistant professor in the John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Studies focus on young people’s sexual identity but they totally ignore racial or ethnic identity, which is also becoming very salient and important during adolescence,” Toomey said. “Very few studies have merged those two and examined how an LGB-identified person might have to navigate sexual identity in the context of their culture or vice versa.”

Toomey conducted the literature review with collaborators Virginia Huynh, professor at California State University, Northridge; Samantha K. Jones, researcher at the University of Missouri; Sophia Lee, a graduate student at San Diego State University; and Michelle Revels-Macalinao, a graduate student at California State University, Northridge.

Given that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are coming out at younger ages and given that the nation’s demographics are changing, with the U.S. Census Bureau projecting that the nation’s Hispanic population will nearly double by 2050, it’s critically important to consider the intersection between sexual orientation and race-ethnicity, Toomey said.

Also important, Toomey said, is looking at the normal, everyday experiences of teens with multiple oppressed identities.

“The literature’s focus has really been on understanding negative outcomes among LGB youth of color, and we’re not focused on any of their normative experiences as people,” he said. “This particular adolescent population has really been framed as a ‘risk population,’ and we need to start to understand their experiences with family and school contexts to really understand how to prevent or reduce some of those negative outcomes.”

Toomey and his collaborators also found that the experiences of women and transgender individuals were largely invisible in the reports they analyzed, with the majority of studies looking solely at men. This signals another area where more research is needed.

“It will help us to understand the complexities of young people growing up in the U.S. today if instead of ‘siloing’ their experiences we try to examine their holistic experience,” Toomey said. “Paying attention to the multiple layers of youths’ lives will help us to better understand how to reduce disparities in health and well-being by targeting intervention and prevention in more culturally appropriate ways.”

Complete Article HERE!

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