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7 Not-So-Deadly Myths About STDs

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STDs can be scary – if you don’t know the facts.

condoms

Due to the highly stigmatized nature of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, it’s no wonder everything from STD prevention to transmission gets cloaked in confusion and misconception. STDs rarely get talked about without a hidden agenda: fear. Fair enough. STDs can be scary – if you don’t know the facts.

Lucky for you, we do.

Not only are STDs either treatable or manageable these days, but they’re rarely deadly. Bet you didn’t know that, right? We’ve gathered seven other not-so-deadly myths about STDs: explained, decrypted and vetted for your educational benefit.

You’re welcome.

Envy – If You Have an STD, You are Alone

There are more than 30 sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Of the STDs that are diagnosed annually, only some (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis A and B, and HIV) are required to be reported to state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).The CDC reports that more than 19 million documented new infections occur annually – some curable, some not. Couple that information with the number of cases not getting documented (the other 24 or so STDs), and it’s plain to see that if you are diagnosed with an STD, you are not alone – at all. (What’s it like to have an STD? Read more in Honey, I Have Herpes.)

Sloth – People with STDs Are Dirty

STDs are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, genital fluids and blood by way of intimate contact, oral sex, vaginal sex and anal sex. Unless you think sex is inherently dirty, STDs are anything but. Washing, douching and genital hygiene methods do not prevent STDs; in fact, genital washing practices after exposure can even increase transmission risk.Clean and dirty are terms of the past. Now, it’s safer sex (or lack thereof) that determines risk.

Gluttony – People with STDs are Promiscuous

That someone has ever contracted an STD or is living with an STD now is not an indicator of that person’s sexual proclivity. Yup, cue the gasp.

In order to contract an STD, a person must engage in one of the aforementioned sexual activities at least once. But once is all it takes. I work both with people who contracted an STD during their very first sexual encounter and those who’ve had a number of sexual forays but have never contracted an STD because they’ve been diligent in their safer-sex practices.

Whether it’s your first or 30th sexual encounter, the risk of contracting an STD is based on the activity you’re enjoying and the measures you take to protect yourself.

Lust – If You Have an STD, Your Sex-Life is Over

If you have an STD, your sex life might change, but you will definitely be able to have one. As someone who’s lived with an STD for 14 years, I can attest to the ability to have an enjoyable and healthy sex life regardless of living with an STD. Quite frankly, my STD has never precluded a partner from wanting to engage in sexual activities with me.

While I’ve had to be more conscientious of risk and transmission – not only to others, but to myself as well (having an STD increases the risk of contracting new STDs), my sex life has hummed along quite nicely. After you bridge the initial challenge of when to tell a new partner about your STD – and how – yours will too.

Wrath – People with STDs Infect People on Purpose

More than half of all people will contract an STD at some point in their lifetime – most won’t know it.Sure, I’ve heard of those horror stories where someone was sleeping with as many people as possible in order to spread their infection, but those situations are not the norm. Most transmissions occur because people are unaware they have an infection at all, and/or people are not engaging in comprehensive safer-sex.

Pride – I Don’t Need to Get Tested

The most common symptom for all STDs is no symptom, which is also why most people are unaware they have contracted an STD. Subsequently, without getting tested, there’s no way to know for sure. 

Think you’ve been tested during your pap smear? Think again. Certain types of pap smears may include HPV testing, and it is also possible that swelling or damage from other STDs could show up on your pap smear. However, that is not the same as undergoing comprehensive STD screening.

Keep in mind that an untreated or asymptomatic STD can still be transmitted to others, and can cause serious health problems for the carrier as well. For example, at least 15 percent of all cases of infertility among American women can be attributed to tubal damage caused by an untreated STD.

Greed – It Costs Too Much to Practice Safer Sex

Safer sex is actually easier and less expensive than you might think. Only two out of four steps in a comprehensive safer-sex practice involve monetary items to begin with, and even those are often attainable at a low-cost or for free. These include:

  1. Talking to a partner about safer sex before engaging in activities with them.
  2. Having a full STD screenings and sexual health exam at least once a year and more often if you have new or multiple partners.
  3. Using barriers consistently and correctly.
  4. Making safer lifestyle choices to reduce risk, such as having mutually exclusive relationships, limiting drugs and alcohol, or reducing the number of sexual partners you have at one time.

Now that you know a little more about STDs, you may need to get tested. Use this handy-dandy testing finder to locate your nearest provider. (Get more facts about sexual health in The Shocking Truth About STDs.)

Complete Article HERE!

The Role and Value of the Friend with Benefits for Gay Men

By Ken Howard, LCSW

vintage tenderness

Recently, some clients in my psychotherapy practice, which for 22 years has focused on the mental health and well-being of adult gay men, have been discussing the role and value of a “fuck buddy” in their lives.  While all sexual topics (even in our “modern” age) seem to come fraught with controversy these days (and we’ll see what y’all have to say about this one), the topic of the “fuck buddy” (sometimes, but not always, used interchangeably with “friend with benefits”), is especially controversial, with one camp saying it’s a great idea and others being appalled at the concept.

Always one to listen and learn from the thoughts, philosophies, and feelings of my clients, I heard some interesting things from one particular client recently, who gave me permission to share his arguments publicly (though the details are changed for confidentiality reasons).

“Cody” is a Southern Boy in his early 30’s who has been in a relationship for 6 years and lives in North Carolina (we work via Skype, and it’s really a life-coaching relationship, since I’m only licensed in California to practice psychotherapy).  His partner, “Matt”, also early 30’s, got accepted and now attends a very prestigious law school program in New England, the chance of a lifetime.  Cody co-runs a small business which is rapidly growing into a larger one, and moving with Matt to his new city would have been a very difficult proposition; he did not want to leave a very good job, especially not temporarily when Matt could end up in a law firm anywhere in the country.  Cody and Matt plan to get married immediately after Matt’s law school graduation, and they’ve already planned much of what they want in their wedding.

Cody can afford to visit Matt at regular intervals throughout the year, and they communicate (even “sexy talk”) via Skype almost nightly.  But their relationship still feels the sting of “long distance”, leaving both guys frequently horny and lonely.

To solve this, they agreed to have an open relationship, and some of the terms and ground rules of handling that were worked out in joint sessions with me on Skype (as I always recommend gay couples do; it’s too complex and full of pitfalls to handle it all without support).  I’ve coached both Matt and Cody separately as well, as each has had a need for support for very specific occupational and personal goals.  One of what I call the “external resources” that this situation needed, as both guys agreed, is that each wanted a “fuck buddy” who would stand in for their partner at certain times (mostly sexual, but for some social companionship locally, too).  Matt is still looking for his, but he’s meeting new guys at school and in his college city, especially via Grindr, Scruff, and Meetup.com groups.  The first guy he met didn’t work out well for Cody, but he found a second one that he likes.

Cody is a smart guy and spoke clearly about how his fuck buddy, “Chris”, has been ideal.  They get along and have fun, including sex, but Chris has recently gotten out of a 3-year relationship and is not looking for anything serious – the perfect candidate for Cody.vintage311.jpg

What Cody related about Chris includes some in the following list, and others I’ve added based on other conversations with clients and personal friends.  Here are some of the special advantages about the role and value of a fuck buddy:

  1.  It is not an avoidance of relationships – Contrary to some critics, having a fuck buddy is not the indulgence of some intimacy-avoidant, emotionally-stunted, horn-dog selfish clod.  It is a different type of sexual and emotional relationship, perhaps based more on fondness than on love, or perhaps a “love” that is more fraternal.
  2.  It can be the combination of sexuality and camaraderie without the components of long-term romance and domesticity – For some people, such as those with long-distance partners, having a fuck buddy means having some in-person companionship for local outings and recreation, and even sexual expression, but without the commitment and domestic component of a partner/spouse relationship.  It’s “relationship lite”.
  3.  Can be a coping strategy for long-distance relationships – Long-distance relationships can be a result of work projects (even overseas), which I see in my practice in Los Angeles for people away on TV or film set locations, or the result of school/training programs, health care treatment, caring for a distant relative’s health or settling their estate, or military deployment.  Open negotiation of the ground rules during the absence is better than unilaterally violating a monogamy agreement without discussion, or abstaining and resenting the physical/emotional harm that can come with deprivation.
  4.  Can be a bridge between class or cultural issues that really might get in the way of a primary relationship – For some fuck buddies, there can be issues of class or culture that might make having a long-term relationship untenable or very difficult (think Sybil and Tom on “Downton Abbey”).
  5.  Is a collaborative way to get needs met that have inherent limitations; is an exchange of favors – So many human interactions involve a negotiated exchange of favors based on mutual needs, and each fuck buddy relationship has unique parameters that make it work.
  6.  Is not for everyone, but it CAN BE for some people; it’s ok to embrace it as much as it is to reject it soundly – Sexual self-empowerment means saying yes when you want to say yes, and no when you want to say no.  If you want to say yes to a fuck buddy relationship with another consenting adult, as an autonomous adult with control and dominion over your own body, you get to make that choice (although if you have a primary partner, this must be a very frank discussion in order to avoid a ton of hurt, resentment, misunderstanding, abandonment, and even rage). love music
  7.  Supports a global benevolent idea of brotherhood – As a child of the 60’s, I grew up with “make love, not war”.  The Dalai Lama recently said something about if every child grew up meditating for 20 minutes a day, war could be eliminated in a generation.  With so many – countless – examples of how men kill each other in gang violence, war, violent crime, and so on, in such adversarial relationships, having a fuck buddy can be an example of benevolence, non-violence, and camaraderie in the Brotherhood of Man.  This is all part of the solution, not the problem.
  8.  It’s practice later on for a “real” commitment, in incremental gain/baby steps – I still maintain that I prepared for my long-term relationship with my husband (who is wonderful, by the way; I never miss a chance to say that) by previously living alone with my cat for a number of years after college first.  After years of living with roommates or alone, having a pet really was dress rehearsal for attending to, caring for, and sharing with a human adult partner (now spouse) in a domestic setting.  Having a fuck buddy might not be a “deep” commitment in romance and domesticity, but it can be a way of exploring relating to another person that is somewhere between being single and being partnered.  For some people, these incremental steps help build their confidence to tolerate a commitment and equip them for a long-term relationship with mutual responsibility.
  9.  Self-empowering sexually, trying different things without feeling “embarrassed” with a partner; exploring one’s own body and likes/dislikes of sensation – While communicating with a primary partner is essential to a good sex life, having a fuck buddy can be an opportunity to explore your sexual interests and fantasies in a lower-stakes situation.  Some people who are shy about telling their partner their sexual fantasies, especially the kinkier ones, might be more uninhibited with a lower-stakes fuck buddy.  It really “shouldn’t” work that way, but it does, and we have to deal in reality.  By being free to explore in a certain “sexual laboratory” situation, you can identify your likes and dislikes and not have to switch to “who’s-cooking-dinner” mode right after.
  10.  Can bridge differences in sexual orientations – While I don’t really respect closeted men as much as those brave gay men who have the courage to come out regardless of the circumstances (living in the Bible Belt, for example), having a fuck buddy can be a way for a man who is “straight” publicly or bisexual to get the “other half” of his sexual and even social needs met.  This is particularly controversial, but all gay men have some idea about this.  Many men can be ambivalent or conflicted about how they identify sexually.  Some might feel a pressure to conform to heterosexual norms, others might quite selfishly want to ride the coat-tails of heterosexual privilege and have their, uh, “cake”, too (albeit at the risk of exploiting or using the gay buddy, but this is better if it’s an honest discussion of what the deal is).  The fuck buddy relationship can also help a conflicted guy move closer down the spectrum to living as an “out” gay man, but in a gentle and gradual process that feels right for him. Bert&Ernie
  11.  Can help other specific situations – The fuck buddy relationship can be a resource for a gay man in early recovery from crystal meth, who is used to the “party-and-play” (PNP) scene, to practice having sober sex with a no-judgment, experimental, low-stakes, fail-safe atmosphere.  I have worked with many guys in my practice who need this kind of opportunity, because learning to have sober sex again is really a skill in recovery that you (usually) can’t get in a CMA meeting!  The fuck buddy relationship can also help someone with a disability or injury to be sexual again in their own way, even if they don’t have a primary relationship yet.  This can a certain “rehabilitation” that a licensed Physical Therapist certainly can’t provide.  This can be for guys who have been injured in a vehicle, sports, or industrial accident, or as a combat veteran who uses prosthetics.
  12.  Can allow for specific sexual interests (BDSM, fetishes) to be fulfilled  — There are times when everything else in a relationship is great – the emotional, the sexual, and the domestic – but certain sexual interests go unfulfilled.  Having a fuck buddy who provides a certain “outsourced” activity, such as BDSM or other kink play, can be a way for that partner to be fulfilled without burdening his partner to do something he really doesn’t like.  I’ve seen that in my practice several times, and it can be a “win-win” solution to the dilemma; everybody’s happy.
  13.  Can be a way to manage sexual incompatibilities – The fuck buddy relationship can also “outsource” situations where the couple gets along fine in most ways, but perhaps a strict top is partnered to a versatile bottom.  For the versatile bottom to be able to top once in a while might require a fuck buddy who is happy to oblige.  This can also be the case when a partner is fulfilled in every way in the relationship except perhaps wanting to fulfill his “size queen” interests.  Outsourcing this to a well-endowed fuck buddy occasionally can fulfil the desire and then get back to regular domestic/sexual life.  This prevents frustrations from building and can resolve tension or even unspoken resentments in a relationship.
  14.  Last, Cody says that having experiences with outside buddies, rather than undermining his relationship with Matt, actually strengthens it because he “sees what’s out there” and learns to appreciate the relief when he’s finally back to see Matt because “everyone else is just not Matt”.  When they are together again after an absence, it’s all the sweeter to revisit the familiarity and intimacy they have built for years, and they never take each other for granted.

There are disadvantages, too, of cavorting with fuck buddies which have been discussed elsewhere.  Sexual conservatives (which can include plenty of therapists, even gay ones) would deplore the very concept of the fuck buddy as “deviating” too far from socially-expected relationship norms, particularly heterocentric ones.  But like most controversial topics, listening to both sides of a debate can entice you to clarify your feelings on the subject.  You have a right to your own feelings, even if they differ from your peers.  Only you have dominion over your own body and what is, and is not, done with it/to it.  Sexual self-empowerment means taking all these questions about sex and relationships, and deciding what works – and what doesn’t – specifically for you, based on your values and your own rather hard-wired preferences and proclivities.

Complete Article HERE!

Sexual assault is any sexual contact without consent

Name: Lola
Gender: Female
Age: 37
Location: Tennessee
I have been married for 13 years. We have had a pretty healthy, fulfilling sex life. My husband does not like to admit to his insecurities but i think he has some insecurity about his penis size and lately, his problem with not lasting very long. He has developed an obsession with stretching my vagina and pulling my labia. He knows I don’t like it. The other night, he introduces a dildo he has secretly purchased. I have enjoyed dildos, even larger ones, in the past, but this one was ridiculously too big. It was over 12″ long and the circumference was as big as a baseball bat. I told him that it was hurting and that it was impossible. He forced it in me. I was crying in pain and he tells me later that he hasn’t been that aroused in years. I am hurt. It hurt me physically, I bled a little, but it hurts more emotionally. What do you think is wrong with him? He has never hit me or been abusive with me, in the past.

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Jeez darlin’, that’s fucked up…big time.

Here’s the thing about men who have sexual insecurities. They can and often do project their perceived inadequacies outside of themselves and then act out. And almost always this projection and acting out is aggressive and abusive.

I suppose you know that what we’re talkin’ about here, Lola is sexual assault, right? I mean let’s not mince words. Your husband assaulted you. It was premeditated and worst of all he took pleasure in it. This is extremely disturbing, because, despite his non-aggressive past, he has just upped the ante exponentially. You know what they say about domesticated animals that inexplicably develop an aggressive steak. Once they get a taste for blood there’s no trusting them ever again.

I think your old man has severe anger issues. Issues that if left untreated will…not maybe, but absolutely will…escalate into more aggressive and abusive behavior. Your guy needs help. He needs to know that he stands on a precipice. That he is making a cognitive and affective connection between violence and pleasure and this is very dangerous for all involved, especially you, Lola.

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You don’t mention that he had any remorse about this assault. This too is disturbing. Because you can’t precisely pinpoint the cause of his acting out, you’ll never really know when you’re safe and when you’re not. I encourage you not to treat this lightly. Confront him about this. Make it clear to him that he has violated the bond of trust between the two of you. He may try and shift the blame for this incident to you. But remember, you’re not at fault. Insist that he seek professional help immediately. Anything short of him doing that will nullify your relationship.

No waffling on this, Lola! You do not want him to get the message that this incident can be winked at or overlooked. Your wellbeing hangs in the balance.

All unwanted, forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual contact or activity is sexual assault. Sexual assault is not about sex, eroticism or desire; it is about power, control and abuse.

Good Luck

4 Stupid Female Masturbation Myths We Wish Would Disappear

By Coleen Singer

Women may be more empowered about their sexuality than ever before, but there are still a few myths about female masturbation that just won’t die.

Masturbation Myths

I still don’t understand why female masturbation is still shrouded by so much misinformation. We live in the age of information. Women are more empowered about their own sexuality than ever before. Yet, without fail, most TV shows and movies portray female masturbation as some mythical thing, one that often involves ridiculously impractical rituals that most women just don’t have time for. We need to clear this right up. I know that writing just one article isn’t going to magically remove the misinformation, but we have to start somewhere, right? Here area few incorrect assumptions I often see in the media and daily life about female masturbation.

We Make a “Night” Out of It

The biggest misinformation I see in the media is that when women masturbate we do shit like light candles, wear sexy things, maybe have a bath – you know make a “night” out of it.

What?! This is certainly worth doing, but it isn’t routine for any woman I know – nobody has time for that! Plus, women are perfectly capable of masturbating without any fanfare: before we sleep, when we wake up, because we’re bored, as a quickie before we leave the house. You know, just like men. The best part is that many of us can do it multiple times in a row, because multiple orgasms.

It’s a Performance

Judging from porn, TV, and movies, every time a woman masturbates, she’s all hot and bothered, gasping for breath, boobs heaving, and when she cums she throws her head back and moans before finally collapsing in an ecstatic heap.

Uh…. no. Masturbation can be really uneventful. It can even be downright ugly. Our faces screw up as we concentrate because we need to in order to climax. Sometimes we’re watching porn. Sometimes we’re just using our imagination. Yet, the media portrays female masturbation as a way to evoke desire in others. Even when we’re all alone and pleasuring ourselves, it’s apparently still supposed to be a performance.

In many cases, women take care of business without sexy lingerie, perfectly tousled hair or even audible moans of pleasure. And that’s OK. It’s what’s happening on the inside that counts.

It’s for a Certain Kind of Girl

I once had a guy tell me that his girlfriend doesn’t masturbate because she’s not a slutty girl. There is so much wrong with this statement that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, it requires the assumption that most women don’t masturbate (not true). The idea that only slutty women masturbate stems from how female masturbation is often portrayed – as something performative and for the pleasure of others. Dead wrong. The majority of women masturbate. They do it the way they want to and they do it for themselves. It’s healthy and normal, and it says nothing about the kind of people they are.

It’s a Feminist Thing

On the flip side, masturbation has been used by well-meaning feminists as a way to take control of how we feel about our bodies. That’s all well and good, but really, it’s just masturbation. We should be able to do it without having it attached to some kind of political statement. No one is telling men to whack off to feel better about their bodies. The same should go for women. While I’m grateful that we can now talk about our sexuality and explore it more, when I’m touching myself, all I want are my fantasies and to feel good.

Hopefully we start changing these perceptions of women’s sexuality so that women can just have sex and masturbate without any assumptions or judgments.

Complete Article HERE!

Why Do So Many Bisexuals End Up In “Straight” Relationships?

By Kristina Marusic

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When I started dating a woman for the first time after years of happily dating men, I had a go-to joke ready for when I was called upon to explain my sexual orientation to the confused: “I’m half gay. Only on my mom’s side of the family.”

I’m one of those people who’d always misguidedly “hated labels,” and I actively eschewed the term “bisexual” for years. I went on to date a number of trans guys, and in my mind, “bi” was also indicative of a gender binary I didn’t believe existed. I’ve since come to understand that actually, the “bi” implies attraction not to two genders, but to members of both one’s own and other genders, and that the bisexual umbrella includes a wide rainbow of labels connoting sexual fluidity. These days, I wear the “bisexual” label proudly.

Given all that struggle and growth, my current situation might come as a surprise: I’m in a committed, long-term relationship with a cisgender man who identifies as straight—just like a startling majority of other bisexual women.

Dan Savage once observed that “most adult bisexuals, for whatever reason, wind up in opposite-sex relationships.” Whether or not you’re a fan of Savage (or his sometimes dubious takes on bisexuality), the statistics support his assertion: The massive 2013 Pew Research LGBT Survey found 84 percent of self-identified bisexuals in committed relationships have a partner of the opposite sex, while only 9 percent are in same-sex relationships.

As someone who has spent way too much time convincing people—gay and straight alike—that my bisexuality actually exists, that “for whatever reason” modifier of Savage’s has long vexed me. What is the reason? Because on the surface, the fact that 84 percent of bisexuals eventually wind up in opposite-sex partnerships could appear to support the notion that bisexuality is, as people so often insist, actually either “just a phase” or a stepping-stone on the path to “full-blown gayness.” Knowing that wasn’t true, I decided to investigate.

Some of my initial suppositions included internalized homophobia, fear of community and family rejection, and concerns over physical safety. Although being bisexual doesn’t necessarily mean you’re equally attracted to multiple genders, it does seem feasible that these sorts of concerns could push a person with fluid attractions in the direction deemed more socially acceptable.

Although there’s a dearth of research into whether these factors are actually prompting bisexuals to choose relationships that appear “straight” to the outside world, there’s no shortage of research revealing that bisexuals live under uniquely intense pressures within the LGBTQ community: In addition to facing heightened risks for cancer, STIs, and heart disease, bisexuals also experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, and are significantly more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors or attempt suicide than heterosexuals, gays, or lesbians. It isn’t difficult to imagine that for some, the promise of a bit more social currency and safety could be compelling reasons to seek out an opposite-sex partner, even unconsciously.

But there’s actually a much simpler, more obvious, and more likely explanation for the reason so many bisexuals wind up in opposite-sex partnerships: The odds fall enormously in their favor.

Americans have a well-documented tendency to drastically overestimate the percentage of queer folks among us. Polls have revealed that while most people believe LGBTQ people make up a full 23 percent of the population, but the number is actually closer to a scant 3.8 percent. So not only is it statistically more likely more likely that a bisexual person will wind up with a partner of the opposite sex; it’s equally likely that they’ll wind up with someone from the over 96 percent of the population who identifies as straight.

As anyone currently braving the world of dating knows, finding true love is no easy feat. There likely aren’t a ton of people on this planet—let alone within your geography or social circles—whose moral compass, sense of humor, Netflix addictions, dietary restrictions, and idiosyncrasies sync up with yours closely enough to make you want to hitch your wagon to them for the long-haul (and the internet is making us all even picker). Add to that the fact that due to persistent biphobia, a large number of gay men and lesbians still flat-out refuse to date bisexuals, and it becomes even more apparent that the deep ends of our relatively narrow dating pools are, for bisexuals, overwhelmingly populated by straight people—folks who, for bi women at least, are also more likely to boldly swim on over and ask us out.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that although plenty of bisexuals enjoy monogamy, not all people in committed relationships choose to be monogamous. Bisexuals in committed, opposite-gender relationships (including marriages) may very well have arrangements with their partners that allow them to enjoy secondary relationships with members of the same gender.

That said, we have to remember that even within monogamous opposite-sex relationships, if one or both parties identify as bisexual, that partnership doesn’t invalidate anyone’s bisexual identity—after all, we’d never tell a gay man practicing abstinence that he “wasn’t really gay” just because he wasn’t currently sleeping with men.

Ultimately, a relationship with a bisexual in it isn’t ever really “straight” anyway—by virtue of the fact that there’s at least one person in there queering the whole thing up. At our best, bisexuals are queer ambassadors: We’re out here injecting queer sensibilities into the straight world, one conversation and one relationship at a time.

Complete Article HERE!