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Performance Anxiety Doesn’t Mean the End of Your Sex Life… Here’s Why

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Sometimes sex can be stressful, but these steps may help you get your groove back.

by Stephanie Booth

After her first sexual partner belittled her in the bedroom, Steph Auteri began second-guessing herself when it came to sex.

“I felt self-conscious and nervous about being a disappointment to the other person,” the 37-year-old says. “I found myself never feeling sexual, never wanting to be intimate, and never initiating anything.”

Even with different partners, Auteri “went through the motions” of sex, always hoping the act would be over quickly.

“I felt broken,” she admits. “And more than anything else, I felt guilty for being weird about sex. I felt that I wasn’t someone who was worth committing to. Then, I would feel resentful for the fact that I had to feel guilty and would want sex even less. It was a vicious circle.”

“Sex anxiety,” like Auteri experienced, isn’t an official medical diagnosis. It’s a colloquial term used to describe fear or apprehension related to sex. But it is real — and it affects more people than is commonly known.

“In my experience, [the incidence] is relatively high,” says Michael J. Salas, LPC-S, AASECT, a certified sex therapist and relationship expert in Dallas, Texas. “Many sexual dysfunctions are relatively common, and almost all of the sexual dysfunction cases that I’ve worked with have an element of anxiety associated with them.”

How sex anxiety manifests can occur in a wide variety of ways for different people. Women may have a significant drop in libido or interest, have trouble getting aroused or having an orgasm, or experience physical pain during sex. Men can struggle with their performance or their ability to ejaculate.

Some people get so nervous at the idea of having sex that they avoid having it altogether.

However, Ravi Shah, MD, a psychiatrist at ColumbiaDoctors and assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, suggests one of the keys to overcoming sex anxiety is viewing it as a “symptom” instead of a condition.

“You’re getting anxious around sex, but what’s the real diagnosis?” Shah asks.

The link between anxiety and sex

If it seems like just about everyone you know is anxious about something these days — well, that’s because they are. Anxiety disorders are currently the most common mental health issue in the United States, affecting about 40 million adults.

When a person senses a threat (real or imagined), their body instinctively switches into “fight or flight” mode. Should I stay and fight the snake in front of me, or book it to safety?

The chemicals that get released into the body during this process don’t contribute to sexual desire. Rather, they put a damper on it, so a person’s attention can be focused on the immediate threat.

“In general, people who experience anxiety disorders in the rest of their lives are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction, too,” says Nicole Prause, PhD, a sexual psychophysiologist and licensed psychologist in Los Angeles.

Additionally, trauma — such as sexual abuse or sexual assault — can trigger apprehension about sex. So can chronic pain, a change in hormones (like right after giving birth or when going through menopause), and even a lack of quality sex education.

“Abstinence-only education tends to create a stigma and shame around sex that can continue into adolescence and adulthood,” says Salas. “Sex education that focuses only on pregnancy ignores the importance of sexual stimulation and pleasure. This can leave people looking to porn for their sex education… [which] can increase myths of sexual performance and increase anxiety.”

“Some people may have anxiety around sex because they have unrealistic expectations about what healthy sex is,” agrees Shah. “Across both men and women, that has to do with low self-esteem, what sex is like in porn and movies versus in real life, and how much sex they feel they ‘should’ be having.”

“People wrongly believe everyone else is having sex all the time and it’s great and no one else has problems except them,” he adds.

How to alleviate sex anxiety

There are plenty of benefits to maintaining a healthy sex life. Sex improves your bond with your partner, gives your self-esteem a boost, and can lower your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system.

The “feel good” hormones released during sex can even help combat feelings of stress and anxiety.

So how do you get past your current anxiety about sex to reap those benefits?

Talk to your doctor

First, rule out any physical problems.

“Many physiological problems can increase sexual dysfunction, which can then increase sex anxiety,” Salas says. These include chronic health issues like arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can also do a number on your libido.

Explore intimacy in different ways

“Sensate focus” exercises, which involve touching your partner and being touched for your own pleasure, are meant to help you reconnect with both your sensual and sexual feelings.

“Initially, no genital touching is allowed,” explains Prause. “More touching is gradually added back in as exercises progress, which are often done with a therapist between home sessions. These are done to help identify sources and times of anxiety and work through what those might mean.”

Since anxiety “most often is about something failing around the moments of penetration,” says Prause, you could also choose to avoid that specific act until your confidence builds back. That way, you can learn how to enjoy other pleasurable sexual activities that still provide intimacy, but without the pressure.

Just make sure you talk with your partner if you decide this direction is best for you. As Prause cautions, “There’s no skirting good communication on this one.”

Be mindful

During sex, you may find yourself trying to read your partner’s mind or worrying that you’re not living up to their fantasies. “Mindfulness can help keep you in the present, while managing negative emotions as they arise,” says Salas.

To do that, he urges his clients to view the signals they get from their body as information, rather than judgments. “Listen to your body, rather than try to override it,” he says.

For instance, instead of worrying why you don’t yet have an erection — and panicking that you should — accept that you’re still enjoying what you’re currently doing, like kissing or being touched by your partner.

“Noticing without judgment and acceptance are key aspects of lowering sexual anxiety,” says Salas.

Make sex a regular conversation

“It’s a fantasy that your partner should know what you want,” says Shah. “They don’t know what you want for dinner without you telling them, and the same goes for sexual activity.”

Choose a private moment and suggest, “There’s something I want to talk to you about in regards to sex. Can we talk about that now?” This gentle heads-up will give your partner a moment to mentally prepare. Then approach the heart of the matter: “I love you and want us to have a good sex life. One thing that’s hard for me is [fill-in-the-blank].”

Don’t forget to invite your partner to chime in, too, by asking: “How do you think our sex life is?”

Talking openly about sex may feel awkward at first, but can be a great starting point for working through your anxiety, Shah says.

Don’t discount foreplay

“There are so many ways to get sexual pleasure,” says Shah. “Massages, baths, manual masturbation, just touching each other… Build up a repertoire of good, positive experiences.”

Explore issues of shame

Maybe you’re embarrassed about your appearance, the number of partners you’ve had, a sexually transmitted disease — or perhaps you were raised to believe that your sexuality is wrong.

“When it comes to sex, shame isn’t very far behind,” says Salas. “The problem with shame is that we don’t talk about it. Some of us won’t even own it.” Identify which aspect is causing you to feel ashamed, then consider opening up about it to your partner.

“When people survive sharing the information that they’re most ashamed about, the fears of sharing it lessen,” says Salas. “They realize that they can share this, and still be accepted and loved.”

Seek professional help

If your anxiety isn’t confined to the bedroom, or you’ve tried without success to improve your sex life, seek professional help. “You may need more robust treatment with a therapist or even medication,” says Shah.

Life after sexual anxiety

Steph Auteri didn’t find an instant cure for her sex anxiety. It stuck around for 15 years. Even when she met her current husband, their first sexual encounter was marked by Auteri’s tears and a confession that she had “weirdness” about sex.

An accidental career as a sex columnist helped her slowly start to realize that her anxiety wasn’t so unusual. “People would comment or email me thanking me for being so open and honest about a thing they were also experiencing,” says Auteri, who’s now written a memoir, “A Dirty Word,” about her experience. “They had always thought they were alone. But none of us are alone in this.”

When she and her husband decided to have a baby, Auteri was surprised to find that the more she had sex, the more she desired it. A regular yoga practice also helped her improve a sense of mindfulness, and she started asking her husband for more foreplay and nonsexual intimacy throughout the day.

“I also became more open to intimacy even when I wasn’t necessarily ‘in the mood.’ Although let’s be real,” Auteri adds, “sometimes I’m really not in the mood, and I still honor that.”

And honoring our own feelings is often the first (and biggest) step toward overcoming sex anxiety.

Complete Article HERE!

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Men who masturbate often have better sex lives

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May is National Masturbation Month

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There’s no shame in masturbating.

It’s a stress reliever, it’s the only form of entirely safe sex, and, as new research notes, it might actually make you better at sex with another person.

Sex toy brand Tenga have revealed that men who masturbate weekly are 10% more confident in their own sexual performance than those who masturbate less often.

Men who masturbate weekly or more often are also 12% more satisfied with the quality of their orgasm, and 6% more confident in their own body.

Tenga surveyed 2,000 UK men for the results, asking them about their solo sex habits and their experiences with other people.

They found that 96% of British men masturbate, and that the average person discovers masturbation at age 15.

The top three reasons why we masturbate are to achieve pleasure, to relieve sexual tensions, and to de-stress. Other popular reasons include to aid sleep, to deal with boredom, their partner isn’t up for sex, and to help improve sexual performance.

Of course, this study only shows a positive correlation between masturbation and improved sexual satisfaction and confidence in your own body. What’s not clear is a cause and effect relationship.

It’s possible that men who are more sexually confident are more comfortable masturbating more, or that men who are comfortable in their bodies tend to be more open to exploring themselves sexually, rather than the other way round.

But what we do know is the many, many benefits of masturbation for all genders – stress relief, the ability to learn what gets you off, and the empowerment of being able to give yourself pleasure.

Alix Fox, sex and relationships educator and ambassador for Tenga, commented: ‘It doesn’t surprise me at all that male masturbation goes – ahem – hand in hand with being a better lover!

‘Guys who regularly take time to pleasure themselves and appreciate their bodies are more likely to feel comfortable and confident in their own skins.

‘This in turn means they’re more likely to be relaxed when playing with a partner.

‘It’s a lot easier to pay attention to the sensual signals someone’s giving off; to be fully immersed and present in a shared moment; to be switched on to your lover’s needs and turned on yourself if you’re not distracted by getting hung up on your own hang ups.

‘A regular masturbator is more likely to have been experimental in their solo sessions, too. They may well have discovered a broader range of erogenous zones and stimulation techniques that make them tick. They may even have tried some toys.

‘This greater self-awareness and open-minded attitude – honed via testing new things out alone – makes for more exciting, creative partnered sex.

‘The more men discover how their own bodies can feel wonderful in myriad ways, the more they are likely to try to bring that same liberated sense of adventure and those same fresh thrills to their lovers.’

Complete Article HERE!

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Masturbating has a number of health benefits for women too, so why aren’t we talking about them?

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May is National Masturbation Month

By Erika Lust

The idea that women enjoy sex still hasn’t quite reached societal acceptance. There is no purer example of this than the taboo which surrounds a woman enjoying the pleasure of masturbating.

Masturbation is widely accepted as an essential part of health and hygiene – for men.

Women’s reproductive health is a politicised and much-discussed topic, with conversation ranging from the accessibility of birth control to the necessity of abortion clinics. The discussions focus mainly on preventing pregnancy, rather than a woman’s own sexual well-being and pleasure.

By ignoring the health benefits of masturbation for women – reduced stress, sleep induction, endorphin production, increased resistance to infection, decreased anxiety levels – and focusing mainly on protection, the stigma around female masturbation strengthens and consequently so does the idea that women receive sex, as opposed to enjoy it.

Even referring to the act as “female masturbation” implies it is something separate and not normal – there’s masturbation, and there’s “female masturbation”.

The stereotype of the women who masturbates

Society has long decreed women should only exhibit passive feelings towards sex. The same double standard that exists for dating and having sex with multiple people exists for masturbation. This stereotype of what type of woman masturbates is not only incredibly false but another toxic form of slut-shaming.

Men are encouraged to masturbate, which allows them to explore their bodies and find out what makes them feel good. When women are afraid to masturbate they are robbed of this experience, they don’t know how to make themselves orgasm and they don’t feel as comfortable telling their partner what they like.

Many women have their first sexual experience with another person, but most men have theirs with themselves. So from the very beginning, women learn about sex and pleasure in relation to another person, rather than something they can do for themselves.

End the control of women’s bodies

If women learn how to pleasure themselves without a man, it threatens to undo the patriarchal structure of our society. Our patriarchal society which attaches so much fear and fascination to female sexuality. What is more threatening to the male ego than a woman who can please herself?

It’s time to throw away the shame surrounding masturbation. The stigma isn’t going to end until women speak openly about it. So if you watch an amazing porn film or have fun with a new sex toy, share your discovery with your friends.

By talking about it we can break the misogynistic control and repression of the female body. And if we can bring masturbation into the broader discourse around women’s health, maybe we can bring a larger change in society’s views of women.

Complete Article HERE!

 

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These Fun Online Cartoons Give Kids Honest Advice About Sex

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AMAZE’s YouTube series gives kids sex education, along with some fun, like an unlubricated condom struggling to get down a slide.

By Ben Paynter

In the cartoon, two animated condoms try to go down a pair of side-by-side slides. The first zips down easily, a look of satisfaction on its face, while the second gets stuck and appears disappointed. “Some condoms have lubricant to make them more comfortable during sex, while others do not,” explains a female narrator in a voiceover.

In the next scene, the stuck condom appears to have learned this. It applies its own water-based lubricant and cheers as it continues the ride. “Non-lubricated condoms can be used with water-based lubricants, such as commercial lubricant you can buy in the drug store near the condoms,” adds the narrator. Cue the flashing red Xs that cross out an oil can and Vaseline container, along with a verbal warning that Vaseline or other oil-based lubricants should always be avoided because they break down the condom.

The same balance of humorous imagery and important information happens throughout the three-minute episode, which covers the entire act of sex, from safely opening and putting on a condom, to consummating the act and cleaning up afterward. But that video, entitled “How To Use The Contraception Effectively,” is one of over 50 that are now freely available online at AMAZE, a YouTube-based sexual education program that has more than 5 million views.

It took a team of health nonprofits to make this happen. Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health combined forces to launch the venture in October 2016. Their efforts are supported by the WestWind Foundation, which works globally to improve future generations’ quality of life through environmental protection and better access to reproductive health services. In April 2018, AMAZE released a Spanish-language version to reach more kids in Latin American countries.

WestWind conceived of AMAZE as a supplemental resource for kids with questions that go beyond those being addressed in their classroom sexual education programs. After all, when kids go online to learn about sex, they often find porn, which doesn’t model healthy sexual behaviors. But as the current administration has continued to express support for an abstinence-only class curriculum–the political code word is “sexual risk avoidance”–and pushed to remove contraception from family planning service grants, WestWind has tried to cover nearly every corner of traditional sexual education and emerging topics that school programs may be too polite to discuss openly, like pornography and masturbation.

Episodes like “Porn: Fact or Fiction” and “Masturbation: Totally Normal” rank among the top five episodes on the site, all of which range from about a minute and a half to three minutes. But there are other heavily visited topics, too, including the top signs of puberty for both boys and girls, and an animation called “Expressing Myself. My Way” that’s about gender identity and acceptance. These all have garnered from 250,000 to more than 1 million views.

“[This] was started because there was a lack of information for 10- to 14-year-olds, especially for today’s 10- to 14-year-olds,” says Kristen Mahoney, a consultant with the organization’s reproductive health and rights program. “The important thing is we’re trying to meet youth where they’re at and provide accurate information at a time that’s got to be really confusing to them. We want to be one of those resources that if they go online will be one of the first they find to help them through that difficult time.”

The core online curriculum covers standard national sex ed topics, but is also informed through viewers’ responses and feedback through associated Twitter and Instagram accounts. To determine the approach of each show, those nonprofit groups conducted surveys and focus groups with the target audience, kids between the ages of 10 and 14.

While the development team settled on short animated videos that incorporate some humor, they’ve worked hard to make sure that lightheartedness doesn’t obscure the broader lessons, which are often shared visually and verbally. To demonstrate the right way to put on a condom, for instance, the episode shows an actual cartoon penis instead of confusing things with some symbolically phallic object. “The humor level has to be very clear that you know it’s fun jokes, but this is actual factual information and not misleading information,” adds Mahoney.

Advocates For Youth already supplies a sexual education curriculum called Right, Respect and Responsibility to more than 50 school districts around the country, reaching about 2.3 million kids, and has added AMAZE content in supplemental lessons with that program. Planned Parenthood has also included the channel as a supplement in another sex education program that exists outside of schools.

In June, the group will release a 10-video series called AMAZE Academy that’s aimed at teaching parents who watch these videos alongside their kids how to ask questions that encourage openness and more learning. That will be followed by another series aimed at younger kids (in the 5 to 10 range) who are interested in things like where babies come from or the names of different body parts.

In May 2017, the YouTube Social Impact Lab awarded AMAZE a grant to work with Kivvit, a strategic advisory, on how to expand its online search optimization, presence, and reach. YouTube appears interested in what it takes to provide accurate educational information online, and is working closely with AMAZE to ensure its content isn’t inadvertently flagged or censored.

By becoming an online-first resource independent of school systems, AMAZE also has the ability to react quickly to what’s happening in the news. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the channel decided to green-light an episode about sexual assault. Kids have proven curious about that buzzword too, and are learning how to find a health answer. “What is Sexual Assault” is currently one of the site’s most popular videos.

Complete Article HERE!

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Straight men share what sex feels like when you have a penis

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If you’re a person born with only a vagina, it’s a sad day when you realise you’ll never truly know or understand what it’s like to have sex if you had a penis.

And vice versa, for people born with penises.

It’s a fact of life. An unbridgeable gap in understanding. It is something that will always come up in hypotheticals, when asked what we’d do if we had a penis for the day or whether we’d rather change sex every time we sneezed or always smell like butter.

Sadly, us vagina-havers will never truly know what it’s like to have sex when you have a penis.

But we asked a bunch of straight men to be as descriptive as possible when telling us what it actually feels like to put their penis in a vagina, so we can all get a little closer to understanding.

All names have been changed, because few men want to publicly declare what sex feels like on the internet.

Let’s find out all the bodily sensations men feel when they slip their penis into a vagina.

Sam, 35

‘It feels like a warm cushion.

‘The weird part is, the penis doesn’t really “absorb” the feeling. It’s your head/brain that starts rushing.’

David, 31

‘It feels like a snug glove filled with warm oil.’

Eric, 34

‘Entering a vagina for me is a very intense moment because for me – it’s the ultimate agreement of intimacy between a man and woman.

‘If I am wearing a condom it feels different to going natural – my penis feels less sensitive and less connected to the woman with a condom on.

‘There is a warm soft feeling of entering her, she has a moistness that cant be matched.

‘I guess you could say it’s like scuba diving penis first.’

Steve, 24

‘It’s hard to describe, but it kind of feels like pushing yourself into a lubed inflatable armband.

‘I’d say it feels a little like going underwater too.

‘Imaging eating the best brownie you’ve ever had, then imagine that sensation over all your nerve endings and taking up your entire headspace, rather than just having a party in your mouth.’

Chris, 43

‘Like your penis is being stroked and hugged from all directions at the same time.’

Ross, 27

‘Warm with a bit of tightness so there’s feeling all over, but soft enough so it’s not like the thing’s getting squeezed.

‘However in some circumstances it can be a bit like penetrating a keyhole where the inside’s lined with some kind of dry rubber.’

Ron, 42

‘Gooey warm softness. It feels like a warm smooth jam doughnut that you’ve just pierced with your cock.’

Aaron, 36

‘There is always the initial sensation when entering the vagina, a certain warmth, and this tickles the nerve sensations up and down the shaft of the penis.

‘It’s a bit like the feeling of heat when you open an oven on a cold day.

‘She gets wetter and wetter, it becomes more difficult to maintain friction and sometimes it can feel as if the orgasm is running away from you.

‘The intensity of my own release can vary, it can always be satisfying, but the bigger orgasms are obviously better, like a volcano erupting inside you – your whole body feeling every part.

‘Sometimes to heighten my orgasm I may suck her toes towards the end (I have a foot fetish)

‘After a particularly big release, there’s little can be done above collapsing on top of her, drained and content. Everything spent, but too weak to just roll over.’

Harry, 30

‘Well, the initial feeling when you first go inside is pretty unreal. Especially when the vagina is really tight and wet.

‘Then when you’re inside the only way to describe it is if you were to squeeze your penis with your hand, like the vagina is gripped to your penis.

‘Then different positions give you different sensations, for example from behind can feel really deep and intense, more so than missionary.’

Jerry, 30

‘Warm, soft and sensitive with that slight rubbing.

‘A rush of adrenaline and excitement and then a satisfying feeling, like when you have that first sip of a cold beer on a really hot summer’s day.’

Mark, 32

‘It doesn’t feel like I expected it to as a young man.

‘Before I had sex, I expected it would feel wet and noticeably warm, Stifler’s words from American Pie ringing in my teenage ears.

‘It is however a different sort of pleasure from masturbation and I wondered why for a while.

‘I think a big part of the erotic sensation comes from the pressure applied to the base of the penis. Men tend to focus on the tip when they masturbate, but during sex there is a lot more going on with the base of the shaft, and it contributes greatly to sexual pleasure.

‘Thrusting sends a tingling sensation down the penis as the sensitive portions of the tip are stimulated. There is no grating shove or resistance, really, another pre-sex misconception.

‘The penis does not feel consumed or surrounded, but functionally positioned like an elevator in its shaft. Pleasure comes in occasional jolts and not a constant sensation of deepening or rhythmic enjoyment.’

Tom, 28

‘Imagine a thick sock made of velvet. Then add in some ridges.’

Paul, 24

‘Warm, comfortable and (usually) wet, but if it is dry it’s very uncomfortable. But, in the odd occasion, over quicker than I’m able to actually think what it’s like.’

Joe, 34

‘The quelling of long standing wonder, akin to Indiana Jones finding a way into a cavern he long hoped he’d find. Like entering a brave new world that’s quite snug, warm, and eventually hot. Good kind of hot.

‘There’s tingling and further hardening and excitement and the feeling of growth and the will to go forward even deeper.’

Oliver, 28

‘Putting your penis in something is a bit like putting your foot in something, but if your foot was extremely sensitive.

‘If you put your foot in a slipper that is cold, hot, dry, wet, small, big, whatever, then you will feel the appropriate feeling. The penis is much the same, although you are generally a lot more careful with where you’re putting it than your big old hoof.

‘Also, what is positive/negative is very different between the foot and the penis. You wouldn’t want your slippers to be wet and warm, although that is absolutely fine when it comes to the vagina.

‘The similarities come in terms of fit, a snug fit is ideal for both and you can certainly notice if your slipper/vagina does not fit as you may have hoped.

‘Much like if you were to try on every pair of slippers in Debenhams, each vagina is different, specifically on entry. Some much more of an issue than others in terms of each of entry. I guess this is just down to shape and size of the respective genitals.

‘Once in, there is notable difference in terms of how snug the fit is and how aqueous the area is, which makes a big difference to the general feel.

‘But, unless circumstances are particularly extreme, it’s all a lot of fun regardless of variables.’

Ned, 27

‘I once read that it feels like sliding into warm custard.

‘I’ve never slid into warm custard, but that sounds similar to the feeling of going in a vagina – just very warm, wet with a slight thickness, and comforting.

‘It’s also like a well-fitting shoe, or getting tucked into bed. It feels like exactly the right size, nice and snug without cutting off circulation.’

Ryan, 50

‘Every experience is different and very much age and childbirth dependant. It also depends on the type of sex you are having, position and a multitude of other variants.

‘First full penetration is simply heaven – smooth, encompassing, embracing – a huge depth of sensations across your whole penis.

‘Subsequent thrusts – again depending on speed, angle and depth – give you different sensations across different parts of your willy.

‘Getting to know your partner’s fanny and how to work together can build and release all kind of sensations.’

Complete Article HERE!

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