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Talking With Both Daughters and Sons About Sex

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Parents play a key role in shaping sexual decision-making among adolescents — especially for girls.

A 2016 review of more than three decades of research found that teenagers who communicated with their parents about sex used safer sexual practices. Likewise, new research from Dutch investigators who studied nearly 3,000 teenagers found that young adolescents who reported feeling close with a parent were unlikely to have had sex when surveyed again two years later.

Notably, both research teams found that daughters benefited more than sons, and that the effective conversations and relationships were typically had with mothers.

According to Laura Widman, lead author of the review study and an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, “parents tend to talk about sex more with daughters than with sons, and we can speculate that that’s what’s probably driving these findings. Boys may not get the messages as frequently or have the kind of in-depth conversations that parents are having with girls.”

Given the results of her research, Dr. Widman said that she “wouldn’t want parents to get the idea that they only need to talk to daughters. In fact, it may be the opposite. We need to find a way to help parents do a better job of communicating with both their sons and daughters so that all teens are making safer sexual decisions.”

That parents have more frequent conversations with their daughters about sex and sexual development may be prompted by biological realities. Menstruation, HPV vaccination (which remains more common in girls than boys), and the fact that birth control pills require a prescription might spur discussions that aren’t being had with sons.

Yet experts also agree that gender stereotypes play a powerful role in sidelining both fathers and sons when it comes to conversations about emotional and physical intimacy. Andrew Smiler, a psychologist who specializes in male sexual development, noted that women generally “have a better vocabulary for talking about feelings and relationships than boys and men do. Fathers may be a little more stoic, more reserved and more hands-off.” And, he added, “they may play to the stereotype of trusting boys to be independent and able to care for themselves.”

These same stereotypes can also tend to steer the conversation in one direction with daughters and another direction with sons. When parents do address sexual topics with their teenagers, they typically adopt a heterosexual frame with boys playing offense and girls playing defense.

“We usually view our girls as potential victims who need to be protected from pregnancy and rape,” says Sheryl Ziegler, a psychologist who provides mother-daughter seminars on puberty and sexual development, while boys are often cast as testosterone-fueled prowlers looking for nothing but sex. These assumptions often drive how parents approach the conversation. Dr. Mary Ott, an associate professor of pediatrics at Indiana University and the author of a research synopsis on sexual development in adolescent boys observed that, “when parents talk with boys, there’s an assumption that they’ll have sex and they are advised to use condoms. Whereas for girls, there’s more of a focus on abstinence and delaying sex.”

Parental concern about the negative consequences of adolescent sexual activity can reduce “the talk” to a laundry list of don’ts. Don’t get a sexually transmitted infection, don’t get pregnant or get a girl pregnant and don’t proceed without gaining consent. Critical as these topics are, Dr. Ziegler points out that they can “become the focus, so much more than having a quality conversation about why we are sexual beings, or talking about all of the ways we can express love.” And failing to acknowledge the pleasurable side of sex can, according to Dr. Smiler, hurt the credibility of adults. “When parents only acknowledge the scary side of the story,” he said, “teenagers can devalue everything else the parents have to say.”

So how might we do justice to conversations with both our daughters and sons about emotional and physical intimacy?

Over the years in my work as a clinician, I’ve come to a single tack that I take with adolescent girls and boys alike. First, I prompt teenagers to reflect on what they want out of the sexual side of their romantic life, whenever it begins. Why are they being physically intimate, what would they like to have happen, what would feel good?

Following that, I encourage each teenager to learn about what his or her partner wants. I urge them to secure not just consent, but enthusiastic agreement. Given that we also grant consent for root canals, gaining mere permission seems, to me, an awfully low bar for what should be the joys of physical sexuality. Dr. Smiler adds that any conversation about consent should avoid gender stereotypes and address the fact that boys experience sexual coercion and assault and “include the idea that boys can and do say no.”

Finally, if the parties are enthusiastically agreeing to sexual activity that comes with risks — pregnancy, infection, the potential for heartbreak, and so on — they need to work together to address those hazards.

Research suggests that this shouldn’t be a single sit-down. The more charged the topic, the better it is served, and digested, in small bites.

Further, returning to the topic over time allows parents to account for the rapidly shifting landscape of adolescent sexual activity. We should probably be having one conversation with a 12-year-old, an age when intercourse is rare, and a different one with a 17-year-old, half of whose peers have had sex.

Is it better for mom or dad to handle these discussions? Teenagers “want to have the conversation with someone they trust and respect and who will show respect back to the teen,” Dr. Smiler said. “Those issues are more important than the sex of the person having the conversation.”

How families talk with teenagers about their developing sexuality will reflect the parents’ values and experiences but, Dr. Ott notes, we’re all in the business of raising sexually healthy adults.

“We want our teenagers to develop meaningful relationships and we want them to experience intimacy,” she said, “so we need to move our conversations about sex away from sex as a risk factor category and toward sex as part of healthy development.” And we need to do so with our sons as well as our daughters.

Complete Article HERE!

Middle-aged sex without the mid-life crisis

More people are dating in middle age, but are they looking after their sexual health?

A regular, happy sex life can benefit our physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing, improving health and prolonging life

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With more middle-aged people dating, or starting new relationships than ever before, are we taking enough care and consideration of our sexual health?

When we think of the faces behind recent statistics that are showing a rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), we probably picture someone young. Those irresponsible students and twentysomethings playing around and not thinking through the consequences of their actions. But not so much. It is becoming clear that a large proportion of people contributing to those statistics are in fact, middle-aged. The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) annual report highlighted an increase in women aged over 50 coming to the clinics for sexual health services, including sexually transmitted infection screening and menopause check-ups.

The association said there was a perception that once women reached menopause, that they no long needed sexual health services. But that’s not the case. Minding our sexual health all through our life is as important as looking after our physical and mental health.

Unplanned pregnancies

For many women, perhaps coming out of a long marriage or relationship, they perhaps don’t seem to think they have to go back to the good old days of contraception and protection. Yet there are more unplanned pregnancies in the 40-plus age group than the younger ages.

“We definitely see an innocence and a lack of knowledge in middle-aged women seeking our services,” says Caitriona Henchion, medical director of the IFPA. “We see women not knowing if they need emergency contraception or whether they are experiencing menopausal symptoms. They’re not sure even in their late 40s and early 50s whether they still need contraception.”

The recommendation for contraception is very simple, yet perhaps not widely known. Until you have not experienced periods for two full years and you are under the age of 50, or one full year without periods after the age of 50, you need to still consider contraception. Amid constant talk of falling fertility as we age, many women are confused about their contraception needs.

This lack of knowledge about sexual health needs is apparent not just in the number of unplanned pregnancies in older women, but the rise of STDs in that age group as well. According to Henchion, advice from GPs can sometimes vary in quality and quantity, and so any sexually active woman over the age of 40 needs to seriously consider both her health risks and contraception needs.

Regular screening

The recommendation is that anyone who is sexually active needs regular screening. This seems to be something that many women feel unable to do. But emerging from a marriage or long-term relationship where the partner may have had other sexual partners means that STD screening is imperative.

“Discovering an unfaithful partner is a really common reason that we see older women coming to our clinics for screening,” says Henchion. “Our advice would be that the first thing to consider when starting with new partners is to ensure you have safer sex with condoms.”

But condoms don’t protect against everything, so the recommendation from the IFPA would be that if in sexual relationships you need to have testing twice a year.

“Obviously the people I see are a self-selecting group who are sexually active and attending our services, but certainly I would see a lot more people in the 50-plus [group] who are openly talking about their wants and needs and their problems with it, which is great,” explains Henchion. Who they do not see are the men and women not seeking sexual health services, or asking openly about their needs

One of the reasons there is a rise in general of STDs is because far more tests are being carried out, and therefore, more positive results. The tests are better now for chlamydia and gonorrhoea, so whereas a few years ago tests had less than 75 per cent detection rate, today it is 99 per cent. The tests themselves are simple. For men with no symptoms it is a straightforward urine sample and blood test, and for a woman, a vaginal swab and blood test in a nurse-led clinic.

Simple rule

According to Henchion, “the simple rule would be if you have a new partner for a few weeks, get tested.” But for many people, we perhaps don’t even know what to look for.

The top three STDs in terms of prevalence would be chlamydia, warts and herpes, and although many of the symptoms are obvious such as bleeding or physical warts, in more than 50 per cent of cases there are no symptoms. How many cases are picked up is through automatic testing when going for certain contraception options such as the coil.

Henchion believes we need better sex education and awareness for all generations. “I see 21-year-olds coming in with no understanding of how STDs such as herpes and warts can still be spread even though they are using condoms. And for sexually active people in middle age, there is often a significant lack of knowledge.”

For now, until sexual health education is more widely available, there are plenty of support services including GPs, well woman/well man sexual health clinics and the Guide Clinic at St James’s Hospital. The IFPA offers free advice, and there are plenty of online services such as HealthyIreland.ie.

“The key message is that early detection makes a huge difference in reducing risk of pelvic infection and obviously reducing the risk of passing it on,” warns Henchion. “Anyone, whatever age, who is sexually active needs to mind their sexual health.”

Middle-aged, single and on fire – or talking ourselves celibate?

For many women who have reached the supposed sexual prime of their 40s and 50s, their body image is shattered along with their energy. A recent survey suggested some women in this age bracket have the lowest confidence of any other age group regarding body image, and it’s affecting their sex lives. Yet another survey highlighted the fact that some women in middle age are having the best sex of their lives. If both surveys are right, is it all just down to attitude, and can changing your attitude change your sexual mojo?

In the two decades since the iconic shenanigans of the “man-eater” Samantha shocked a nation in Sex and the City (while women everywhere sniggered at the delight of it), middle-age sex is becoming mainstream. The BBC were at it with Happy Valley, and even Cold Feet caught up. First time round, Adam and co were in their youth, but now that they are heading towards 50, who is the one having all the sex? Karen. Middle-aged, single and on fire. Now that ordinary middle-aged women are being shown to be – gasp! – sexual, it begs the question: what does this mean for us? Is this liberating or intimidating?

It seems your answer to that question is the difference between having an active sex life in and beyond middle age and putting away the sexy knickers and taking out the comfy slippers.

Like tight skin and fashionable clothes, sex used to be the domain of the young. But now middle-aged women can have tight skin, fashionable clothes and sex as well. It all depends on your attitude. If you think your sex life is over at 50, it will be.

“Attitude is so important,” says sex therapist Kate McCabe. “I see women challenging traditional values and beliefs that you are past it sexually after a certain age. Women are having babies later, new relationships later, are mentally and physically healthier and anxious to be active and participate fully in every aspect of their lives.”

In fact, a regular, happy sex life can benefit our physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing, improving health and prolonging life. This generation of middle-aged women have opportunities to redefine what stereotype they fit into, experiencing greater sexual, financial, social and intellectual freedom than at any previous time. Contraception has meant we are not overburdened with childbearing, and openness about sex means that issues which might have caused discomfort and difficulty can be addressed. The increase in divorce and separation now means that middle-aged dating is an acceptable social norm.

So why are all middle-aged women not taking advantage of the chance to flirt their 50s away and sex up their 60s

“Sex must be worth it,” explains McCabe. “I see women who come into therapy to see how they can best improve their sex life, even to the extent that they’ll bring in their partners and manage to engage in that conversation.

And it’s women of all ages. McCabe has clients in their 60s and 70s. “They are definitely getting out there, and they want really good, honest information on how to make the most of their sexual potential.”

But what about those women who are talking themselves celibate because of lack of confidence? Media plays a huge part in how women can often rate themselves. According to McCabe, feeling sensual has nothing to do with how you look.

“Finding intimacy is a brave step. Overcoming hang-ups to really explore our own sensuality is vital. And much of it relies on getting the right attitude.”

Complete Article HERE!

Are you making this one mistake in bed?

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If you’re bolting right after sex, you could be ruining your sex life for you and your partner.

Take it from me. One of my first sexual experiences as a young adult was with a guy we’ll call Jay. He was older, more experienced, very good-looking and hence, seemed slightly intimidating to me.

We had great chemistry and spent an entire summer making out in the backseat of his mom’s car. However, everything shifted the first time we had sex and he wouldn’t even make eye-contact. Before I could roll into an upright position, Jay had managed to jump out of the bed and get dressed. He was out the door within minutes. Years later, my therapist would explain to me that Jay likely had “intimacy issues.” But at the time, the experience left me feeling completely naked – literally and figuratively.

I’ve since come to realize that what comes after sex is almost as important as the act itself. Even if a relationship is casual, being able to cuddle, connect and check in with your partner following sex is not only really enjoyable, it also has the potential to make or break the experience.

Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when Trojan and The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada surveyed midlife Canadians and found that after-sex behaviour contributes to overall sexual satisfaction.

According to the study, women who reported 6 to 10 minutes of affectionate behaviour after sex were much more likely to rate their intercourse experience as very pleasurable compared to women who reported 0 to 5 minutes. Researchers say it all comes down to what they’ve dubbed “the 6-minute rule.”

So, how exactly does it work?

“When couples are being sexual, it’s an opportunity for intimacy and connection. The 6-minute rule refers to cuddling and intimacy that occurs AFTER sex (the counterpoint to foreplay),” explains Robin Milhausen, a sexuality and relationship researcher and associate professor at the University of Guelph. Biologically speaking she says, “during sex, and after orgasm, men and women experience a boost in the hormone oxytocin. This hormone has been associated with feelings of connection, affection, and bonding. So we are primed after sex, in part because of oxytocin, to bond with our partners, especially if we spend a few minutes being affectionate.”

As Milhausen points out, “sex makes us vulnerable – we are physically (and emotionally!) naked. As a result, what happens during a sexual encounter can make us feel wonderful – loved, beautiful, sexy – but it can also make us feel worse – self–conscious and disconnected. So those minutes after sex are crucially important to creating a positive experience.”

What’s exciting about the 6-minute rule is that it’s an “intervention” that most couples can implement with very little difficulty. It’s literally as easy as not rolling over and going to sleep immediately after sex. “Cuddle! Talk about the high points of the encounter,” says Milhausen. For example, you can let your partner know, “I really loved when you did ____” or “that was so hot when______ happened.”

These six-minutes post-sex are a great opportunity to experience a good sexual encounter again.

“ Being kind after sex can help your partner feel valued and appreciated. And it’s the perfect time to communicate that message.”

Complete Article HERE!

How to Rekindle Sexual Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

New research shows that couples who are responsive outside of the bedroom have more interest in sex

long-term-relationship

By Elizabeth Bernstein

How can a couple keep their sexual desire going strong for the long haul?

Be nice to each other.

New research shows one way to keep desire strong is to be responsive to your partner’s needs out of the bedroom.

People who are responsive do three things: They understand what their partner is really saying, validate what is important to their partner, such as his or her attitudes, goals and desires, and care for or express warmth and affection toward their partner.

“Responsiveness creates a deep feeling that someone really knows and understands you,” says Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), a private university in Herzliya, Israel, who is the lead researcher on the new studies. “It makes you feel unique and special, and that is very, very sexy.”

In the beginning of a relationship, neurotransmitters such as dopamine push the partners to have sex as much as possible. Scan the brain of someone in this early, passionate stage of love and it will look very much like the brain of someone on drugs.

The addiction doesn’t last. Research suggests the chemical phase of passionate love typically continues between one and three years. Desire fades for different reasons: the chemical addiction to a partner subsides; people age and hormones decrease; emotional distance can cause passion to drop.

The new research—by psychologists at the IDC, the University of Rochester, Bar-Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel, and Cornell Tech in New York, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology—consists of three studies of more than 100 heterosexual couples each. In the first, partners rated each others’ responsiveness and their own feelings of desire after a back and forth in an online app, where one person described a recent experience and thought his or her partner was responding. It was really a researcher.

In the second study, researchers reviewed videotapes of couples as one partner told a positive or negative personal story and the other responded. Then they were told to express physical intimacy. Researchers coded the subjects’ responsiveness and their expressions of desire.

In the third study, couples were asked to keep a daily diary for six weeks, reporting on the quality of the relationship, how responsive each partner felt the other was, and their level of desire. The participants were also asked to rate whether they felt their partner was valuable that day—someone others would perceive as a good partner—and how special he or she made them feel.

The studies showed that both men and women who felt their partner was more responsive felt more sexual desire for their partner. But women were affected more than men when their partner was responsive, meaning their desire for their partner increased more. The researchers believe women’s sexual desire is more sensitive in general to the emotional atmosphere than men’s.

The new research contradicts a decades-old theory that psychologists call the Intimacy-Desire paradox, which proposes that desire drops as two people become more emotionally intimate. It purports that people seek intimacy in a relationship, but desire thrives on distance and uncertainty.

Dr. Birnbaum says that certain types of intimacy are better for your sex life than others. Impersonal intimacy—familiarity without an emotional component—does kill desire. Think of your partner shaving in front of you or leaving the bathroom door open. But emotional intimacy that makes the relationship feel unique can boost it.

Tips to boost desire in your relationship by being responsive:

Start now. It is better to prevent a decline in desire than to try to revive it when it is lost, Dr. Birnbaum says.

Listen without judging. Don’t interrupt. Don’t spend the time while your partner is speaking thinking about how you will respond. “Most people want to give advice,” says Dr. Birnbaum. “It’s not the same as being there as a warm and wise ear.”

Pay attention to details. Look for ways to show your understanding and support. Does your wife have a big interview coming up and need solitude to prepare? Take the children out to dinner. Is your husband’s team in the playoffs? Don’t ask him to clean the garage right now. Being responsive is often expressed by behaviors, not just words, Dr. Birnbaum says.

Talk about your desire. Share your fantasies. Watch a sexy movie and talk about what parts you liked best.

Complete Article HERE!

The Thrills of Left-Handed Wanking

By Tom Usher

left hand

I’ve always been confused about my strongest hand. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I used to switch hands when writing or coloring in, when one or the other hand got tired. As a grew older I realized I was left-handed when I was writing but had an ambidextrous hangover because my stronger side was always my right.

But, I hear you ask, what does this mean for your preferred wanking hand of choice? Yes, a pertinent question. A little personal, as I barely know you, but it means in reality that I’ve always used both hands, and never really thought too much about it either way, you weirdo. After doing a bit of research I found that left-handed wanking, or “non-dominant hand masturbation,” is a thing.

“I wank with my left hand so I can browse porn using my mouse easier with the right,” is one excuse trotted out a lot by wankers. Others say the “orgasm is more intense and lasts longer when I wank with the left hand.” Finally, a lot of wankers seem to say that “wanking with the opposite hand makes it feel like someone else is doing it.” All good and valid reasons from people of an ‘ambisextrous’ nature (ZING). But to find out the real reasons why we may choose to bash off with our non-dominant hands I spoke to counselor, psychosexual, and sex addiction therapist Michael Stock, a member of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (ATSAC).

VICE: Why might you think guys might want to masturbate in different ways? What reasons have you heard so far?
Michael Stock: The key thing with internet porn is that the person, or teenager, watching it and masturbating separates sex from emotion. They’re short-circuiting—going straight to strong sexual arousal using porn, rather than putting in the effort from being with a man or woman. When they switch on their computer, they have more porn than they can shake a stick at their command—with anonymity and accessibility.

So you think people end up wanking in different ways because it’s become so easy to be aroused?
Yes. A typical guy will orgasm within about two minutes of starting to masturbate. Some people will say, ‘no that’s not me’ but most men masturbate roughly to porn, completely focused on the idea that they have to get to the orgasm—nothing pleasurable about it. Some of my clients play around for several hours and might sit there watching porn, stimulating but not allowing themselves to come, but most come quite quickly.

What mental or physical difference can non-dominant masturbation make, then?
I imagine it’s about variety, because the human brain craves excitement. If I were looking at porn, I’d start on the reasonably soft stuff and then I’d want more and more, which all has to do with dopamine. That’s when people get addicted. I’ve worked with clients who the only way they could come is masturbation—they couldn’t even do couple sex anymore. So I can imagine that non-dominant hand masturbation is another way to get some excitement and make wanking feel different.

I see a lot of stuff on the internet about the shape of people’s penises and how it affects things differently when masturbating. Have you come across anything like that?
I would say that’s unlikely to be true. I think there are a lot of rumours but, first of all, most of us are boringly normal, and secondly the size and shape shouldn’t matter. The only issue is if a man has been circumcised or not: circumcised men may find the head of the penis, filled with nerves, feels very sensitive. Unless the shape of the penis was absolutely extreme, it’s not relevant.

Have you seen any experiments or research done on the right and left hemispheres of the brain and how that impacts on masturbation?
I think that’s a red herring. Neuroscience says the right and left hemispheres talk to each other all the time—this idea is very overdone. You’re right in the sense that as someone right-handed, the left hemisphere of my cerebral cortex controls my right hand and the right side of my brain controls my left hand. But I wouldn’t think using one side of the brain or the other would be particularly important in masturbation. It would be different probably more realistically, if you think about it—and I’m going to assume you masturbate…

Assume away.
… If you were masturbating with one hand, your thumb and finger would be in a particular position, rubbing up and down the shaft of the penis. If you used your other hand, you’d stimulate other areas of the penis.

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I’m ambidextrous, so this idea of right-handed people masturbating left-handed is a new thing for me.
You’ve made the case for me! You can be ambidextrous, able to do it either way around, and we can certainly learn to change. I’m strongly right-handed. I can write with my left but it’s extremely difficult; it feels like I’d get brain-ache after a while. I would say that for someone imasturbating with their non-dominant hand, the main effect would a different, and somehow novel physical stimulation of the penis.

Earlier you mentioned how porn may be desensitising us when it comes to our pleasure from masturbation.
I’ve had young men as clients, 18-year-olds, so hooked on porn that they’ve become uninterested in couple sex. We train our brain all the time, and I believe most of our behavior is learned. Young guys in particular—say 16-year-olds—who masturbate a lot are in the middle of a crucial time when their brains are growing in complexity, in neuropathological ways.

At 16, your brain did something called ‘pruning.’ It went in and got rid of lots of neural pathways it didn’t need, like a railway network over the UK that’s gone mad laying tracks everywhere until you say, ‘This is crazy I don’t need this track.’ And your brain rips up a track. Your brain goes from an overgrown weed at 16 to a nice tree structure two years later—you’ve pruned your brain. Today’s youngster are being exposed to more extreme porn when they’re young, in this pruning stage, and that’s where things have grown really interesting for someone in my line of work.

Complete Article HERE!