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The story of Magnus Hirschfeld, the ‘Einstein of sex’

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Decades before Alfred Kinsey developed his scale for human sexuality, there was Magnus Hirschfeld — a doctor who dedicated his career to proving that homosexuality was natural.


A party at the Institute for Sexual Science is shown here. Magnus Hirschfeld (second from right) is the one with the moustache and glasses. His partner Karl Giese is holding his hand.

By Julia Franz

Hirschfeld’s reasoning was simple: In turn of the 20th century Germany, where he lived, a law called Paragraph 175 made so-called “unnatural fornication” between men punishable by prison time.

“Magnus was gay himself,” says Undiscovered podcast co-host Elah Feder. “He was both a scientist and an activist, and he was really hoping that his science would lead to greater acceptance of gay and lesbian people.”

Hirschfeld founded what’s considered to be the first gay rights organization and established the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. He also gained international renown for his radical research on the biology of sexual orientation. “He was, in the 1930s, touring the world lecturing about sexuality in China and India,” says co-host Annie Minoff. “The American press actually called him the ‘Einstein of sex.’”

But as Minoff and Feder explore in a recent episode of Undiscovered, Hirschfeld’s legacy didn’t turn out quite as he’d hoped.

“Magnus was using the science at his disposal, right?” Minoff says. “So now, we might talk about genetics or even epigenetics, but back in his day, scientists could see chromosomes under the microscope, but they still weren’t sure if they had anything to do with heredity.”

“So, Magnus was really all about documenting and recording things like physical traits or behavioral traits, trying to see what gays and lesbians might have in common or might be different than the rest of the population.”

Today, some of Hirschfeld’s research comes across as antiquated, even a bit zany. In one excerpt from his book, “The Homosexuality of Men and Women,” Hirschfeld debunks an apparently long-held stereotype that gay men can’t whistle.

“This does not agree with the results of our statistics,” he wrote, explaining that in a sample of 500 gay men, 77 percent could whistle, although “only a few could truly whistle well.”

“But he found that among lesbians, the whistling arts were very strong, which was nice to hear,” Feder adds.

Other aspects of Hirschfeld’s science have better weathered the tests of time. “So, for example, he was interested in whether homosexuality ran in families,” Feder says. “You know — was it a heritable trait?”

“Or, you might remember a few years ago, there were a bunch of studies looking at the correlation between finger length ratios and sexual orientation. They seemed to find a connection in women. And he did stuff like that. He was looking at hip-to-shoulder ratios — pretty pioneering sex research.”

In 1919, Hirschfeld opened his Institute for Sexual Science, a big villa in Berlin’s Tiergarten. “They had medical examination rooms, they had a library, they had a sex museum that was apparently a big tourist attraction,” Feder says.

And, as Yonsei University history professor Robert Beachy explains, the institute also offered sex education to Germans who were queasy about publicly seeking advice.

“They had a little box at the edge of the property, and people could anonymously insert slips of paper with questions about sex or any sort of sexual issue that they had,” he says. “And then people were invited in, and these different slips of paper would be read out loud and then responded to.”

“There were questions about things like, I don’t know, [about] premature ejaculation and how effective it was to use condoms for preventing pregnancy. You know, just lots of relatively mundane questions. But it was supposed to be a public service.”

But if Hirschfeld hoped that greater scientific understanding could change Germany’s discriminatory law, Feder says things didn’t quite turn out that way in his lifetime. (Paragraph 175 wasn’t struck down until 1994.)

“It’s a nice idea,” she says, “but as we end up seeing in Magnus’ story, you can do science, you can hope that it’s going to be used in one way, and it can work out very differently.”

“And his story ultimately is a pretty tragic one.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Should sex toys be prescribed by doctors?

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Talk about good vibrations

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They are far more likely to be found in your bedside drawer than your local surgery, but sex toys can bring more than just benefits in the bedroom; they could boost your health too.

So should GPs stop being shy and recommend pleasure products? Samantha Evans, former nurse and co-founder of ‘luxury sex toy and vibrator shop’ Jo Divine certainly believes so. Challenging stuffy attitudes could change people’s lives for the better.

“I have encountered several doctors including GPs and gynaecologists who will not recommend sex toys because of their own personal views and embarrassment about sex. However, once healthcare professionals learn about sex toys and sexual lubricants and see what products can really help, they often change their mind.”

Samantha says increasingly doctors are seeing vibrators as the way forward for helping people overcome intimate health issues.

In 2015, she was asked to put together a sexual product brochure for the NHS at the request of Kent-based gynaecologist Mr Alex Slack. The document contains suitable sex toys, lubricants and pelvic floor exercisers that can help with a range of gynaecological problems.

But sex toys can also be beneficial for many other illnesses too, Samantha reveals.

“Often people feel their body is being hijacked by their illness such as cancer and being able to enjoy sexual pleasure is something they can take back control of, beyond popping a pill. Using a sex toy is much more fun and has far fewer side effects than medication!”

Here are just some of the reasons it’s worth exploring your local sex shop (or browsing online) to benefit your health:

1. Great sex is good for you

One area sex toys can help with is simply making sex more enjoyable, helping couples discover what turns them on.

“Having great sex can promote health and wellbeing by improving your mood and physically making you feel good. Using a sex toy can spice up a flagging sex life and bring a bit of fun into your life. A sex toy will make you feel great as well as promoting your circulation and the release of the “feel good factors” during an orgasm.”

2. Sex toys can rejuvenate vaginas

Some of the most uncomfortable symptoms of the menopause are gynaecological. Declining levels of the hormone oestrogen can lead to vaginal tightness, dryness and atrophy. This can lead to painful sex and decreased sex drive.

But vibrators can alieve these symptoms (by improving the tone and elasticity of vaginal walls and improving sexual sensation) and also promote vaginal lubrication.

Sex toys can also be useful following gynaecological surgery or even after childbirth to keep the vaginal tissue flexible, preventing it from becoming too tight and also promoting to blood flow to the area to speed up healing, says Samantha.

3. Sex toys help men too

Men can benefit from toys too, says Samantha. She says men who use them are less likely to be burdened with erectile dysfunction, difficulty orgasming and low sex drive.

“They are also more likely to be aware of their sexual health, making them more likely to notice any abnormalities and seek medical advice,” she points out.

Male products can help men overcome erectile dysfunction, following prostate surgery or treatment, diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injury and neurological conditions by promoting the blood flow into the erectile tissues and stimulating the nerves to help the man have an erection without them having to take Viagra.

4. Sex isn’t just about penetration

There’s a reason sexperts stress the importance of foreplay. Most women just cannot orgasm through penetration alone no matter how turned on they are. Stimulating the clitoris can be the key to satisfying climaxes and sex toys can make that easier. Vibrators can be really useful for vulval pain conditions such as vulvodynia where penetration can be tricky to achieve.

“By becoming aware of how her body feels through intimate massage and exploration using a vibrator and lubricant and relaxation techniques, a woman who has vulvodynia can become more relaxed and comfortable with her body and her symptoms may lessen. It also allows intimate sex play when penetration is not possible,” says Samantha.

5. Vibrators can be better than medical dilators for vaginismus

Vaginismus, a condition in which a woman’s vaginal muscles tense up involuntarily, when penetration is attempted is generally treated using medical dilators of increasing sizes to allow the patient to begin with the thinnest dilator and slowly progress to the next size. But not all women get on with these, reveals Samantha.

Women’s health physiotherapist Michelle Lyons, says she often tries to get her sexual health patients to use a vibrator instead of a standard dilator.

“They (hopefully) already associate the vibrator with pleasure, which can be a significant help with their recovery from vaginismus/dyspareunia. We know from the research that low frequency vibrations can be sedative for the pelvic floor muscles, whereas higher frequencies are more stimulating. After all, the goal of my sexual rehab clients is to return to sexual pleasure, not just to ‘tolerate’ the presence of something in their vagina!”

Samantha Evans’ sex toy starter pack

1. YES organic lubricant

“One of the best sexual lubricants around being pH balanced and free from glycerin, glycols and parabens, all of which are vaginal irritants and have no place in the vagina, often found in many commercial sexual lubricants and even some on prescription.”

2. A bullet style vibrator

“This a good first step into the world of sex toys as these are very small but powerful so offer vibratory stimulation for solo or couples play, especially if you are someone who struggles to orgasm through penetrative sex.”

3. A skin safe slim vibrator

“A slim vibrator can allow you to enjoy comfortable penetration as well as being used for clitoral stimulation too. Great for using during foreplay or when penetration is uncomfortable.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Senior citizens are having more sex and enjoying it more than younger people

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Those age 70 and up are having more sex and enjoying it more than younger people. But they don’t kiss and tell.

A study published in March in the Archives of Sexual Behavior noted a decline in sexual frequency among Americans of all ages. The sole exception: people over 70.

By Kevyn Burger

Gray-haired customers sometimes sidle up to Smitten Kitten owner Jennifer Pritchett and say with a smile, “Bet you don’t get someone my age in here often.”

The owner of the south Minneapolis adult store smiles right back. “And then I say, ‘Well, you’re wrong. We see people your age every day,’ ” said Pritchett.

Conventional wisdom holds that couples in their golden years prefer to limit their affection to holding hands, a peck on the cheek, maybe a little nighttime cuddle. But a growing body of research reveals that America’s seniors are plenty active between the sheets.

A study published in March in the Archives of Sexual Behavior noted a decline in sexual frequency among Americans of all ages. The sole exception: people over 70.

In the most recent survey for the study, which has been conducted since 1972, millennials and Gen X’ers showed a drop in the number of times they have sex per year, compared with previous years. But the baby boomers and their parents are having sex more often than their cohorts reported in the past.

The study and others like it seem to indicate that the quality — not just the quantity — of sex improves with age. The National Commission on Aging reported that the majority of the over-70 set find sex to be more emotionally and physically satisfying than when they were middle-aged.

Those conclusions are in line with a 2015 British study that found half of men and almost a third of women above 70 reported having sex at least twice a month. It was the first British study on sexual health to include octogenarians. It documented that a sizable minority of those in their 80s still masturbate and have sex.

Many people are, especially younger people.

“We see a consistent disbelief that older people are sexually active,” said Jim Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging.

But Firman is adamant that those antiquated, ageist attitudes shouldn’t put a damper on the love lives of older Americans.

“We can’t let expectations of younger people control what we do,” he said. “Physical contact is a universal need and should be normalized and encouraged as part of aging. We should break those taboos or exceptions that say otherwise.”

Different, but ‘still hot’

Pritchett is all about breaking taboos.

In addition to its selection of vibrators, lubricants and videos, Smitten Kitten maintains a lending library. The books that fly off the shelves the fastest are about sex in later life.

“That’s kind of telling about how hungry people are for this information,” Pritchett said. “Sex ed in school is based around reproduction. When you’re older, family planning is not part of your sexuality. What’s left is pleasure.”

The most popular of the books on the store’s shelf were written by Joan Price, who bills herself as an “advocate for ageless sexuality.” Her bestsellers include “The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50,” “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex” and “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty.”

“My mission is to help people maintain or regain a satisfying sex life, with or without a partner” said Price, 73, who lives in California and regularly lectures, blogs and offers webinars on topics such as senior-friendly sex toys and satisfying sex without penetration.

Price said she got interested in creating content about sexuality for underserved seniors when, at 57, she met a man and “had the best sex of my life.” The longtime health and fitness writer couldn’t find any resources that reflected her experience, so she tackled the subject herself, becoming an erotic cheerleader for her cohorts.

“Sex has no expiration date, but things change — our bodies, our hormones, our relationships,” she said. “Expectations have to change. Responses are slower, we need more sensation, more stimulation to be aroused. We may have to redefine or reframe sex, but it can still be hot.”

Price, who’ll lead workshops at Smitten Kitten on June 4-5, preaches about the importance of communication between older partners.

Silenced by sex shaming

For Carol Watson, 67, flexibility is the key.

Still bawdy about her body, the Minneapolis woman is semiretired from her work at a nonprofit but retains a full-time interest in intimacy.

Starting when she went to college in 1967, she said, she’s “cut a wide swath.”

“That was the Summer of Love, the year birth control pills became readily available,” said the married mother of two adult children. “There was no AIDS, no Hep-C, nothing that couldn’t be solved with a shot of penicillin. We were the generation that could have sex without consequences — and we did. I’ve had many partners and no regrets.”

When her libido flagged a decade ago, Watson asked her doctor for an estrogen prescription for both a patch and cream.

“I’m happy sex is still part of my life. It keeps me young,” she said. “It’s stress relief, validation. It’s about joy.”

Describing herself as “on the far end of the bell curve,” Watson enjoys sex several times a week, within her marriage and with other partners, and said she has no plans to slow down.

“My mother died at 92 and Dad lived to be 96. I’m going to live to be 120 and I’m not willing to let sex fade into the distance.”

Watson’s frankness makes her a bit of an outlier.

While sex may be more common among older adults than younger ones, talking about senior sex still seems off limits. And that only perpetuates the myth that seniors have little interest in it.

“It’s still a sex-shaming society for older people and they internalize that,” said Pritchett. “It’s too bad because the shame keeps seniors in the dark. Old bodies are just as worthy of pleasure as young ones.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexuality education for parents of young people with Down Syndrome

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By Kim Cavill

When I first started teaching sexuality education, I focused on people with disabilities, the parents and carers of people with disabilities, and professionals who worked with people with disabilities. I truly loved my work. When I moved back to the United States, I attempted to bring that work with me, pitching various disability support organizations around Chicago to teach sexuality education. The best response I got was…let’s call it polite disinterest.

That is why my heart leapt when I heard about Katie Frank, who works at the Adult Down Syndrome Center in Park Ridge, and she was kind enough to spend an hour with me to talk about her work in sexuality education for parents of young adults with Down Syndrome.

Katie has a PhD in Disability Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where her dissertation was “Parents as the Primary Sexuality Educators for their Adolescents with Down Syndrome.” She has been the primary investigator on multiple research studies including individuals with DS and/or their families, and has had her work published in peer reviewed journals. I spoke to her about sexuality education for parents of young people with Down Syndrome.

I asked Katie where she usually starts with parents and carers of young people with Down Syndrome in regard to sexuality education. She said she likes to start with questions. Parents tentatively bring up the subject of sexuality education for many different reasons. Rather than make assumptions, Katie seeks out more information by asking questions like, “Why are you thinking about this right now?” Parents’ answers range from issues around public vs private behaviors, to discomfort with self-stimulation. Others do not how to respond when their child declares an intention to get married. Despite the wide variety of circumstances that lead families to Katie, research shows that most parents avoid these conversations because they’re scared, and understandably so. Katie reassures parents that sexuality education is not just about sex. In fact, many times, it is not about sex at all. Frequently it’s about dating, relationship skills, needs for companionship, or general life goals. She also tells parents that sexuality education is not just a one-time conversation, but rather a habitual use of teachable moments to both gauge and add to a young person’s understanding.

Katie says that parents, not educators, should be the primary teachers of sexuality education. For many young people with Down Syndrome, schools and supportive service agencies are ill-equipped to teach sexuality education in a way that is tailored to individual understanding and learning needs. If a young person with Down Syndrome is in an inclusive classroom, the material is not necessarily presented in a way that maximizes their understanding. If a young person is in a special education room, the teacher is highly unlikely to be even the least bit comfortable teaching sexuality education. Therefore, Katie believes that parents are best positioned to be the primary teachers of sexuality education for their children.

So, where should parents start? Katie directed me to many helpful resources, which you can find here. Some of those resources include books written by the incomparable Terri Couwenhoven. The Adult Down Syndrome Center also offers in-person services for qualifying families. These services include monthly social skills workshops on topics like friendship, dating, and social awareness. The center also offers health services and consultations.

Katie is currently running a research study at the center for family-based sexuality education training for parents of young adults with Down Syndrome. The training is free for parents of young adults (ages 20-30) with Down Syndrome. The study will investigate the effectiveness of a family-based sexuality curriculum for parents of young adults with Down Syndrome. So far, Katie is pleased with the results of the study, which measures improvement in self-efficacy and attitudes around sexuality and healthy relationships, as well as increases in parent-child communication on sexuality-related topics. Participants must be able to communicate in English and be available to meet three times over a four week time frame for three hours (9 AM – 12 PM). A follow-up survey must be completed one month after the final training. It is offered at the Adult Down Syndrome Center in Park Ridge, IL, and there are several date options available through the summer and early fall (of 2017). Please contact Katie, or call 847-318-2303, if you are interested in participating.

When I worked in sexuality education for people with disabilities, many asked me why my job existed at all, implying that people with disabilities have no need for this information. That is simply untrue. Sexuality education includes information about puberty, social expectations, relationship skills, what is/is not legally permitted, body autonomy, and risk-management. Those topics are relevant to all human beings, regardless of whether they are typically-developing or not. The mechanisms for delivering that information and the level of detail required are the only things that change. I was very grateful to meet Katie, who is doing the important work of making sure families have access to the information and services they require to live healthy, fulfilled lives on their own terms.

Though I wish I could summarize all of Katie’s insight from the fascinating hour we spent together, I can at least leave you with this:

“None of us knows all the answers to all the questions, which is why we all must learn to keep asking.” – Katie Frank

Complete Article HERE!

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The New Gay Sexual Revolution

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PrEP, TasP, and fearless sex remind us we can’t advance social justice without including sex in the equation.

By Jacob Anderson-Minshall

The sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s came to an abrupt and brutal end for many gay and bi men the moment AIDS was traced to sexual contact. In the early days of the epidemic, sex between men was equated with AIDS, not just in the mainstream media, but also in prevention efforts by other gay men. Since AIDS in those days was seen as a death sentence, for men who had sex with men, every sexual interaction carried the risk of death. Indeed, tens of thousands died of AIDS-related conditions.

“I was alive when homosexuality was [still] considered to be a psychological illness,” David Russell, pop star Sia’s manager, recently told Plus magazine. “The two generations ahead of mine, and a good portion of my generation, were completely decimated by AIDS. They’re gone.”

While some men with HIV outlasted all predictions and became long-term survivors, the widespread adoption of condoms is credited with dramatically reducing HIV transmissions among gay and bi men in subsequent years. Yet reliance on nothing but that layer of silicone — a barrier some complain prevents true intimacy and pleasure — couldn’t erase the gnawing dread gay men felt that every sexual encounter could be the one where HIV caught up to them.

There have been, of course, moments when nearly every gay or bi man has allowed their passions to override their fears and enjoyed the skin-on-skin contact that opposite-sex couples often take for granted. Thinking back on those unbridled and unprotected moments of passion filled many of these men with terror, regret, and guilt.

“Shame and gay sex have a very long history,” acknowledges Alex Garner, senior health and innovation strategist with the gay dating app Hornet. “And it takes much self-reflection — and often therapy — to feel proud and unashamed of our sex when everything around us tells us that it’s dirty, immoral, or illegitimate.”

Since the late 1990s and the advent of lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, some of the angst around sex between men faded — and with that came changes in behavior. Condom use, once reliably high among gay and bisexual men, has dropped off in the past two decades. According to a recent study published in the journal AIDS, over 40 percent of HIV-negative and 45 percent of HIV-positive gay and bi men admitted to having condomless sex in 2014. Researchers found the decrease in condom use wasn’t explained by serosorting (choosing only partners believed to have the same HIV status) or antiretroviral drug use. And despite what alarmists say, condom use had been declining long before the introduction of PrEP.

Garner, who has been HIV-positive for over two decades, says he’s almost relieved he acquired the virus at 23, because “My entire adult life I have never had to worry about getting HIV.”

The Rise of PrEP

Now there’s hope the younger generation may also experience worry-free sex lives — without the side effects of living with HIV.

The use of the antiretroviral drug Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (it’s the only medication approved for HIV prevention), has been shown to reduce the chance of HIV transmission to near zero. Since the medication was first approved as PrEP in 2012, only two verified cases of transmission have been documented among those who adhere to the daily schedule (a third, according to HIV expert Howard Grossman, could not be confirmed). New, longer-lasting PrEP injectables should reach market in the next few years. Studies suggest that on-demand PrEP (such as taking it before and after sexual activity) may also be effective.

“This is a revolution!” Gary Cohan, MD, who prescribes PrEP, told us in 2016. “This should be above the fold in The New York Times and on the cover of Time magazine. A pill to prevent HIV?”

Undetectable Equals Untransmittable

Those who are already HIV-positive also have a sure-fire option for preventing the transmission of HIV that doesn’t rely on condoms. It’s called treatment as prevention, or TasP. Those who are poz, take antiretroviral medication, and get their viral load down to an undetectable level, can’t transmit HIV to sexual partners. Last year, The New England Journal of Medicine published the final results of HPTN 052, a study that proved antiretroviral medication alone is enough to prevent HIV transmission among serodiscordant couples. In a Facebook Live interview for AIDS.gov, Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted, “The chance of transmitting [HIV] if you are virally durably suppressed is zero.

Since Dieffenbach’s statement, a number of HIV organizations and medical groups have joined the “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable” bandwagon, including GMHC, APLA Health, and the Latino Commission on AIDS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of condoms in addition to PrEP or TasP, primarily because neither biomedical approach prevents other sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or syphilis. Still, PrEP and TasP make it safer to have condomless sex — and that could jump-start the new sexual revolution. “When the threat of HIV is removed from sex there is a profound sense of liberation,” Garner says. “Sex can just be about sex.”

One hurdle is PrEP stigma, furthered by the myth of “Truvada whores,” and AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Michael Weinstein’s deliberate efforts to portray the HIV prevention pill as “a party drug.”

“Fear and shame have been ingrained in gay sex for decades,” Garner admits. “And it will take time and a great deal of work to extricate those elements.” But he remains optimistic that “together negative and poz men can shift the culture away from fear and toward liberation.”

He argues that what’s at stake is far more than just a better orgasm.

“Our sexuality is at the core of our humanity,” Garner says. “Our sexuality is as integral to us as our appetite. We can’t advance social justice without including sex. As queer people and as people of color, our bodies have been criminalized, our sexuality has been pathologized, and structures continue to dehumanize us. It’s a radical act of resistance when, as gay men, we choose to find pleasure and intimacy in our sex. Our sex has been, and will continue to be, intensely political. It can change our culture and our politics if we embrace it and run to it instead of away from it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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