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8 Things Doctors Wish You Knew About Dyspareunia, AKA Painful Sex

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Yup, we mean the bad kind of pain.

Pop culture’s depictions of sex typically focus on the romantic, the salacious, and (in some refreshing cases) the embarrassing.

But one thing that’s still rarely mentioned—both on screen and IRL—is pain during sex (also known as dyspareunia), or the shame, confusion, and stigma that often accompany it. (And we’re not talking about the good, consensual kind of pain during sex, FYI, we’re talking about sex that hurts when you don’t intend it to.)

While dyspareunia may be absent from many sexual-health discussions, it’s not rare, and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Here, doctors walk us through what they wish more people knew about painful sex:

1. Unfortunately, pain during intercourse isn’t that rare. In fact, it’s really common.

Nearly 75 percent of women will experience pain during sex at some point in their lives, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG). Sometimes, this pain will be a one-time thing. Other times, it will be more persistent.

2. The thing is, sex isn’t supposed to hurt unless you want it to.

Some people accept painful sex as the norm, but it shouldn’t be. “The most crucial thing for women to know is that pain during or after intercourse is never really OK,” Antonio Pizarro, M.D., a Louisiana-based gynecologist specializing in pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, tells SELF. There are, of course, some circumstances in which someone might seek out some level of pain during sex. But there’s a difference between a sexual kink and undesired, severe, or persistent pain in the vulva, vagina, or pelvis.

3. Minor soreness during or after sex and intense, chronic pain are not the same thing.

There are tons of reasons you might be sore after sex, Natasha Chinn, M.D., a New Jersey-based gynecologist, tells SELF. They include inadequate lubrication, penetration with a particularly large object or body part, and sex that was especially rough or fast.

If these are minor issues you only encounter every now and then, Dr. Chinn says you can usually pinpoint the cause of the problem and address it on your own (use more lube, seek out smaller sex toys, or have slower, more gentle sex). (Of course, you can go straight to seeing a doctor if you prefer.)

But what if your problem isn’t an every-now-and-then thing? If these issues are happening every time you have sex, happening more frequently than they used to, or if they’re not going away after you try to address them on your own, your painful-sex cause might be more complicated.

4. Unfortunately, there are a ton of health conditions—like endometriosis, cervicitis, and vaginismus—that can lead to painful sex.

Some of these include:

  • Contact dermatitis: a fancy medical name for an allergic reaction on the skin—and yes, that includes the skin on your vulva. This can happen if, say, the delicate skin around your vagina doesn’t react well to a soap, body wash, or detergent you’re using. Contact dermatitis can leave your skin cracked and uncomfortable, and chances are that any kind of sex you’re having while you’re experiencing this reaction is going to be pretty painful.
  • Cervicitis: a condition where the cervix, or lower end of the uterus connecting to the vagina, becomes inflamed, typically due to a sexually transmitted infection. While it often presents without symptoms, Dr. Pizarro cautions that it sometimes causes pain during urination or intercourse.
  • Endometriosis: a condition associated with pelvic pain, painful periods, and pain during or after sex. While the exact cause of endometriosis is not well understood, it seems to be the result of endometrial tissue (or similar tissue that’s able to create its own estrogen) growing outside of the uterus, which can cause pain, scarring, and inflammation. This can lead to pain that’s sometimes worse around your period, when going to the bathroom, and even during sex.
  • Ovarian cysts: fluid-filled sacs found in or on the ovaries. Sometimes they don’t cause any symptoms, but other times they rupture, causing pain and bleeding, including during sex.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): this condition is typically caused when bacteria from a sexually transmitted infection spreads to the reproductive organs. PID can cause pain in the abdomen or pelvis, pain during urination, pain during intercourse, and even infertility if left untreated.
  • Uterine fibroids: noncancerous growths in or on the uterus. Fibroids often don’t cause symptoms, but they can make themselves known via heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pressure or pain, during sex or otherwise.
  • Vaginismus: a condition that causes the muscles of the vagina to spasm and contract. This can lead to pain during sex—or even make any form of vaginal penetration impossible, whether it’s sexual or just inserting a tampon.
  • Vaginitis: an umbrella term for disorders that inflame the vaginal area. Examples include bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections, both of which occur when the balance of microorganisms in the vagina gets thrown off, causing some kind of bacterial or fungal overgrowth. Other forms of vaginitis are sexually transmitted infections such as trichomoniasis (an STI caused by a parasite), chlamydia, and gonorrhea. All three of these infections are characterized by changes in vaginal discharge, vaginal irritation, and, in some cases, pain during intercourse.
  • Vulvodynia: a condition charactized by chronic pain at the opening of the vagina. Common symptoms include burning, soreness, stinging, rawness, itching, and pain during sex, Dr. Chinn says, and it can be devastating. According to the Mayo Clinic, vulvodynia consists of pain that lasts for at least three months that has no other identifiable cause.

Dr. Chinn says that women going through menopause might also experience pain during sex as a result of vaginal dryness that happens due to low estrogen levels.

People who recently gave birth may also grapple with discomfort during sex, Dr. Chinn says. It takes time for the vagina to heal after pushing out a baby, and scar tissue could develop and make sex painful.

5. There are so many other things that can mess with your sexual response, making sex uncomfortable or legitimately painful.

Any negative emotions—like shame, stress, guilt, fear, whatever—can make it harder to relax during sex, turning arousal and vaginal lubrication into obstacles, according to ACOG.

Of course, the source of these negative emotions varies from individual to individual, Dr. Pizarro says. For some, it’s a matter of mental health. Feeling uncomfortable in your body or having relationship issues might also contribute.

In an unfair twist, taking care of yourself in some ways, like by using antidepressant medication, blood pressure drugs, allergy medications, or some birth control pills, can also cause trouble with lubrication that translates into painful sex.

6. You shouldn’t use painkillers or a numbing agent to try to get through painful sex.

This might seem like the best way to handle your pain, but Dr. Pizarro cautions against it. Your body has pain receptors for a reason, and by numbing them, you could end up subjecting your body to trauma (think: tiny tears or irritation) without realizing it—which can just leave you in more pain.

7. If you’re not ready to see a doctor yet, there are a few things you can try at home, first.

According to ACOG, a few DIY methods might mitigate your symptoms:

  • Use lube, especially if you feel like your problem is caused by vaginal dryness.
  • Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to your vulva to dull a burning sensation when needed.
  • Have an honest conversation with your partner about what’s hurting and how you’re feeling. Let them know what hurts, what feels good, and what you need from them right now—whether that’s a break from certain sex acts, more time to warm up before you have sex, or something else.
  • Try sex acts that don’t involve penetration, like mutual masturbation and oral sex, which may help you avoid some of the pain you typically experience.

It’s totally OK to experiment with these things, Dr. Pizarro says, especially if they help you associate sex with something positive. But these tactics cannot and should not replace professional care.

8. If you’re regularly experiencing painful sex, you should talk to a doctor.

It’s really up to you to decide when to see a doctor about painful sex. “It’s like a cold,” Dr. Pizarro says. “If you’ve got a little cough, you might be all right. But if you have a cough and fever that haven’t gone away after a few days, you might want to see a doctor.” When in doubt, mention your concerns to your care provider, especially if any of these sound familiar:

  • Sex has always been painful for you
  • Sex has always been painful but seems to be getting worse
  • Sex is usually pain-free but has recently started to hurt
  • You’re not sure whether or not what you’re experiencing is normal, but you’re curious to learn more about painful sex

When you see your doctor, they’ll likely ask questions about your medical history and conduct a pelvic exam and/or ultrasound. “It’s important for doctors to ask the right questions and for patients to voice concerns about things,” Dr. Pizarro says.

From there, your doctor should take a holistic approach to treatment to address the possible physical, emotional, and situational concerns. “You really have to look at the total person,” Dr. Chinn says. Treatment options for painful sex vary wildly since there are so many potential causes, but the point is that you have options. “Many people think that it’s acceptable to experience pain during intercourse,” Dr. Pizarro says. “Use your judgment, of course, but it probably isn’t acceptable. And it can probably be made better.”

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Medically assisted sex? How ‘intimacy coaches’ offer sexual therapy for people with disabilities

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‘For me, the sex is obviously why I’m seeking this out, but I’m also seeking services like this out because … I feel the need to be touched, to be kissed,’ says Spencer Williams.

For years, Spencer Williams felt he was missing something in his love life.

The 26-year-old Vancouver university student and freelance writer has cerebral palsy. He says he meets lots of potential sex partners but had trouble finding what he was looking for.

“I always refer to my wheelchair as it comes to dating … as a gigantic cock block,” he says. “It doesn’t always get me to the places I want, especially when it comes to being intimate.”

“I thought, if something didn’t happen now, I was going to die a virgin.”

So he Googled “sexual services for people with disabilities.”

That’s how Williams found Joslyn Nerdahl, a clinical sexologist and intimacy coach.

‘Intimacy coach’ Joslyn Nerdahl says sex can be healing.

“I answer a lot of anatomy questions. I answer a lot of questions about intercourse, about different ways that we might be able to help a client access their body,” says Nerdahl, who moved from traditional sex work to working as an intimacy coach with Vancouver-based Sensual Solutions.

“I believe [sex] can be very healing for people and so this was a really easy transition for me, to make helping people with physical disabilities feel more whole.”

Sensual Solutions is geared toward people with disabilities who want or need assistance when it comes to sex or sexuality. It can involve relationship coaching, sex education or more intimate services. They call the service “medically assisted sex.” It costs $225 for a one-hour session.

Nerdahl notes that some people with disabilities are touched often by care aids or loved ones who are assisting with everyday activities such as getting dressed or eating.  But her clients tell her that despite that frequent physical contact, the lack of “erotic touch” or “intimate touch” can leave them feeling isolated, depressed or even “less human.”

‘Help a client access their body’

Nerdahl says each session with a client is different, depending on the person’s level of comfort and experience, as well as his or her particular desires and physical capabilities.

Williams says his sessions might start with breathing exercises or physio and move on to touching, kissing and other activities.

An intimacy coach may help a client put on a condom or get into a certain position.

A session might also involve “body mapping,” Nerdahl says, describing it as “a process of going through different areas of the body, in different forms of touching, to figure out what you like and what you don’t like.”

Social stigma

Sex and sexual pleasure remains a taboo topic when it comes to people with disabilities.

For Williams, accessing this service is about more than sexual pleasure. But it’s about that, too.

The sex is obviously why I’m seeking this out, but I’m also seeking services like this out because I feel the need to be close. I feel the need to connect. I feel the need to be touched, to be kissed.”

“Sometimes people … offer to sleep with me as a pity, and I often don’t appreciate that. I want things to be organic and natural,” says Williams.

He much prefers his sessions with Nerdahl, in which he is able to explore physical and emotional intimacy in a non-judgmental and supportive setting, even though it’s something he pays money for.

“I think it freaks people out when we talk about sex and disability because most of the time they haven’t thought about that person in a wheelchair getting laid,” Nerdahl says. “They just assume they don’t have a sex life because they’re in a chair, and that’s just not the case.”

Legal grey area

The stigma is further complicated because Canada’s prostitution laws have no provisions for services that blur the line between rehabilitation and sex work.

Kyle Kirkup is critical of Canada’s current prostitution laws that criminalize the sex trade regardless of context or intent.

Currently, it’s legal to sell sex and sex-related services, but illegal to purchase them. (Sex workers can be charged for advertising services or soliciting services but only if in the vicinity of school grounds or daycare centres.)

Kyle Kirkup, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, calls the current laws a “one-size-fits-all approach” that criminalizes the sex trade regardless of context or intent.

The current law doesn’t include provisions for people with disabilities, or which deal specifically with services like Sensual Solutions whose intimacy coaches may come from clinical or rehabilitation backgrounds.

“A person with a disability who purchases sexual services would be treated exactly the same as any other person who purchased sex,” he says.

“So it’s a very kind of blunt instrument that doesn’t actually do a very good job of contextualizing the reasons why people might pay for sex.”

There are other countries, however, such as the Netherlands that view medically assisted sex in another way entirely; sex assistants’ services may be covered by benefits, just like physiotherapy or massage.

Complete Article HERE!

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Welcome To The Wacky World Of Fetish Porn

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By Sarah Raphael

In 2017, Pornhub boasted an average of 81 million active users a day, culminating in 28.5 billion visits over the course of the year. For comparison, Twitter had 100 million active users per day, and the BBC had a global average of 372 million people per week. As responsible citizens, we like to keep abreast of current affairs, and it appears we like porn just as much.

According to Pornhub’s survey, the most searched terms on the site last year were, in order: lesbian, hentai (anime/ manga porn), milf, stepmum, stepsister, and mum. Lesbian is perhaps unremarkable, since it appeals to several genders and orientations, but hentai at number two is a surprise, and it only gets weirder from there. Hentai loosely translates from Japanese as ‘a perverse sexual desire’ – but when manga and mummy porn are among the top six search terms of 81 million watchers a day, is it time we reconsider what constitutes ‘abnormal sexual desire’?

In his masterpiece podcast The Butterfly Effect, journalist Jon Ronson interviews the founders of Anatomik Media, a company based in LA which produces made-to-order fetish videos for private clients. The videos, produced by the company’s founders, husband and wife duo Dan and Rhiannon, cost anywhere between a few hundred and several thousand dollars, and the clients will often send a script or a specific set of instructions for how the fetish fantasy should play out. Some of the videos they talk about on the podcast include burning a man’s very expensive stamp collection, and pouring condiments like ketchup on a woman in a paddling pool. “We take everyone’s fetish very seriously, we don’t laugh at them,” Rhiannon tells Jon. In the same episode, Jon interviews fetish actress/ producer Christina Carter, who stars as Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman vs. The Gremlin, a custom video series for a private client in which Wonder Woman is controlled by a gremlin who hits her over the head to keep her in the room. Jon emails the client to ask where this scenario came from and eventually he replies, saying that his mother left when he was five and he remembers watching her leave; the inference is that he is the gremlin in the scenario, trying to make his mother (Wonder Woman) stay

“I don’t consider any of the fetishes people come to see me to explore as being ‘unusual’,” Miss Bliss, a 31-year-old pansexual, feminist dominatrix with 10 years’ experience in the sex work industry, tells me over email. “I try and break down barriers, not reinforce them. I teach my clients that it takes courage to embrace one’s desires and strength to experiment and understand and indulge in them, regardless of what their particular fetish is. There are no unusual fetishes, just unusual societal standards.” The services Miss Bliss offers include ‘corporal punishment’ (spanking, slapping, whipping, etc), ‘foot/high heel worship’, ‘wax play’, ‘puppy play’ (being treated like a dog), ‘adult baby care’ (being treated like a baby) and ‘consensual blackmail’, which, as she explains, is an act “involving one person or people giving written or verbal permission to release sensitive and potentially damaging information, and/or agreed-upon falsehoods/embellishments if previously agreed-upon actions/terms are not met.” On her website, the explanation is a little easier to comprehend: “Beg and plead with me not to release any intimate images, videos and messages to your partner, family, co-workers or on social media.” Miss Bliss says she sees the game of consensual blackmail as “just another way of stripping someone of ego, control and power, which allows the person to be vulnerable and in a constant state of heightened excitement.”

Humiliation is a common theme in Miss Bliss’ services, and an inherent part of BDSM. “When conducted consensually, safely and appropriately, it can be incredibly liberating,” she explains. “People enjoy humiliation as a way to break down the boundaries we put up in our day-to-day lives and stay ‘safe’ behind. It opens a door to vulnerability, repressed emotions and allows feelings like control, responsibility and ego to take a back seat in a safe environment.” Miss Bliss describes an “outpouring of emotion” from some clients after a session and includes aftercare as part of the package – “to build the submissive back up so they feel supported, nurtured and protected.”

When I ask why Miss Bliss thinks people end up in her dungeon or domestic space, she answers: “For so many reasons. A lot to do with their upbringing, their relationship with others and themselves, the power struggle they feel in their careers… Everyone wants to feel heard, to be seen and to feel understood. Coming to see a professional who bears no judgement, has only the best intentions and understands boundaries and respect is one of the most healthy ways to work through psychosexual subjects. It is certainly a form of therapy.”

When you put it like that, it’s hard to remember why stigma exists at all around fetish. And yet, if you found out your colleague watched hot wax porn every night, you might raise an eyebrow, or if someone in your circle revealed that they were a client of Miss Bliss and enjoyed puppy play on a Saturday, you might fall off your chair – because these things aren’t talked about and they come as a shock.

“There’s generally two reasons that fetishes are talked about in the public domain,” explains Professor Mark Griffiths, a chartered psychologist and professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, over the phone, “either because somebody has been criminally arrested because the fetish constitutes some kind of criminal activity or it’s people who are written about because they’re seeking treatment for their fetish. But I would argue with the vast majority of fetishes – what we call non-normative sexual behaviours – there’s absolutely no problematic element for anyone engaging in them.”

Professor Griffiths has written extensively about fetish on his blog, and says he almost always concludes his posts with the fact that we just don’t know enough about fetishes or how many people have them because the studies that have been conducted are so small. “We recently interviewed eight dacryphiles – people who are sexually aroused by crying,” he says, “and found that there were three completely different types of dacryphile even in the sample of eight people. Half were ‘sadistic’ dacryphiles where their pleasure came from making other people cry, three people were ‘compassionate’ dacryphiles who were sexually aroused by men crying, and one person’s particular fetish was when people are about to cry and their lower lip starts to wobble – that was the sexually arousing part – so we called that a ‘curled lip’ dacryphile. These eight people were from one forum – the crying forum – but there could be many other types of dacryphile.”

Having researched and written about all sorts of fetishes, from bushy eyebrow fetishes to injection fetishes, shoe fetishes and fruit fetishes, Professor Griffiths reaffirms that “the vast majority of people with fetishes don’t have psychological problems or mental disorders, it’s just something they like. We have to accept, in terms of how we develop sexually, that there are going to be lots of different things that get people aroused, and some things are seen as normal, and others are seen as strange and bizarre. For example, if you’ve got a fetish for soiled underclothes – which is called mysophilia – that’s more embarrassing to talk about than if you’ve got a fetish just for knickers. One is seen as bizarre, one isn’t.”

Professor Griffiths’ first port of call in his research on fetish is online forums – like the crying forum – where people connect with others who have the same or a similar fetish. Natasha (not her real name) uses online forums to explore her fetish, which is hair, specifically haircuts, known as trichophilia. “I masturbate while watching videos of women having their hair cut,” she explains on email. “It freaks me out that I like it, I used to be really scared of having my hair cut when I was a child, and somehow as I got older, it became a sexual thing.” Natasha goes on websites such as Extreme Haircuts and Haircuts Revisited and watches videos of and reads stories about women having their hair cut. “I feel like a freak,” she tells me, “but there’s a whole world of haircut porn on the internet, so I’m not the only one.” Natasha says that discovering porn catered to her fetish was liberating, but she still deletes her search history so that her boyfriend doesn’t find out.

“We are led to believe that there are few options in which we can express our sexuality healthily, when nothing could be further from the truth,” says Miss Bliss. “This, in conjunction with the various religious messages which restrict our sexual expression, leaves people feeling so isolated, which is what I am here to change.” Miss Bliss is on a mission to open up sexuality and empower people to explore their kinks in a safe, consensual setting.

Whether we know about it or not, the world of fetish and its many online and offline facets has a place in our society. It might be something we frown at, but there’s no denying that people have a need and are using these services – Pornhub search terms are the tip of the iceberg. As Professor Griffiths concludes: “It might be non-normative, but that doesn’t mean it’s abnormal.” Who knows what dreams may come when you approach the dungeon.

Complete Article HERE!

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Masturbation hacks and consent advice: how YouTubers took over sex education

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With UK schools increasingly falling short, vloggers such as Hannah Witton and Laci Green have stepped up to offer guidance on everything from body confidence to sexual pleasure

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When Lily was at school, she remembers the boys and girls being separated for a sex education class. The boys were given one booklet; the girls another. “In the boys’ booklet, there was a section on masturbation and there wasn’t in the girls’ booklet,” she says. “A girl put her hand up and said: ‘Why don’t we have that?’ and one of the teachers said: ‘Girls don’t do that, that’s disgusting.’ It shouldn’t be a shameful thing to talk about. It can be a bit awkward and embarrassing, but we should be talking about it.”

Afterwards, Lily, who is now 19 and identifies as bisexual, went online and discovered sex education videos on YouTube, particularly those made by a young woman, Hannah Witton. “Within my friendship group it has really opened up a conversation about things you don’t normally discuss,” she says. “In schools, LGBT sex ed is just not talked about. Sex was never discussed as a pleasurable thing, especially for women.” Magazines such as Cosmopolitan filled some of her knowledge gaps, she says, but most of her sex education has come from Witton.

YouTube sex educators are increasingly popular, and for the young people I speak to, such videos are where almost all their information about sex now comes from. Witton, who is 26 and British, is incredibly popular, with 430,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel and videos racking up millions of views. Why Having Big Boobs Sucks! has received 3.5m views; 10 Masturbation Hacks has had 1.2m. In the US, Laci Green has 1.5 million subscribers and her videos on, among many topics, nudity, vaginas, foreskins and pubic hair reach millions. There are several other hugely successful sex-ed vloggers, such as Shan Boody and Dr Lindsey Doe. In Poland, where sex education was recently removed from schools, young people are turning to vloggers such as Natalia Trybus, while the model Anja Rubik and a women’s rights organisation, Dziewuchy Dziewuchom, have also launched a series of sex education videos on YouTube.

Hannah Witton talks about masturbation on YouTube.

Amy, 16, says these videos are where almost all of her sex education has come from. “I only really started being given proper sex education in year 10 or 11, when I was about to leave school.” It would have been helpful to have had it earlier, she says. She started watching Witton’s videos when she was about 12. “Everyone around me seemed to understand sex stuff and I was completely clueless,” she says. What did she find most helpful? “Quite a lot of it was her masturbation videos. She presents it in a very positive way – female masturbation is a controversial subject when it shouldn’t be. It helped me understand that side of things. If I had questions, I could probably go on her channel and scroll back and see if she’d posted on it. I’m not that sexually active but I feel like I’m more understanding of what [happens]. I feel a bit more confident because I’ve learned about it in a way that isn’t porn. It’s helped me become more sex positive. It helps me feel like I can talk about it with my friends, whereas before it was like: ‘I can’t talk about that even though everyone’s going through it.’” Has it made it easier to talk to her parents, too? “A little bit,” she says.

It is not surprising that young people are turning to the internet for information, says Lisa Hallgarten, policy manager at Brook, the sexual health and education charity. “Partly because they get everything from the internet. But there is also the fact that in schools they’re just not getting what they need. Even in schools where they’re trying to do a good job, young people aren’t getting the information they need, when they need it. Young people are saying: don’t talk to us about contraception when we’re 17, because some of our friends are already pregnant.”

At the moment, personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) – in which sex education is often included – is not a statutory part of the curriculum in the UK, although schools are expected to provide it. Last year, the Department for Education announced that relationships and sex education (RSE) would be compulsory in all secondary schools, and an eight-week consultation on what should be included recently ended; the guidance has not been updated since 2000, during which time children have had to face then-unheard of things such as sexting, cyberbullying and access to online pornography. “What we would like is for RSE to be a mandatory part of PSHE and for PSHE to be a statutory subject and taught as a timetabled lesson,” says Hallgarten.

Some aspects of sex education are compulsory and taught in science classes. However, parents have the right to remove their children from RSE. “Most parents want RSE for their children but we are worried that those who get withdrawn are possibly the most vulnerable and the least likely to be in households where they get that information from their parents,” says Hallgarten. “They may well resort to looking on the internet of their own accord, and in that case more power to the vloggers. I think there are good vloggers and mediocre vloggers. Some of what people see will be misinformation. I think vlogs should be a supplement, not a replacement to classroom teaching.”

As it is, many teachers are not supported well enough to deliver great sex education lessons, she says. “I think there are a lot of teachers who feel awkward about talking about any aspect of RSE and that’s why we are lobbying hard to make it a real subject and provide real training. There are teachers who really love doing it and are really excellent, but lots of teachers don’t want to do it. If they feel awkward talking about it then it’s not really helpful for young people.” As Amy puts it: “Sex education isn’t seen as a positive thing. It’s seen as cringey. [Watching YouTubers] where it’s people who are only a little bit older than us and not like 40-year-old teachers, it might help people understand it better.”

Hallgarten identified particular areas in which conventional RSE is lacking. “Things like talking about sexual pleasure is something that lots of teachers would really shy away from. They are told about unhealthy relationships but they often don’t have a good model for what a healthy sexual relationship would look like. The vast majority of people will have sex at some point in their life and we hope that it will be a nice experience, but we don’t talk about that. That’s one of the things young people go online to try to understand.”

Some teachers have started even using YouTube sex-ed clips in a classroom setting. “We use a lot of the vloggers in our work,” says Eleanor Draeger, senior RSE trainer at the Sex Education Forum. “We go out and train teachers and show them a wide range of different resources they can use in their classrooms, and one of the resources is vlogs. The idea is that the teacher chooses the things they think will work with the students in their class.” Many of the topics might not be appropriate for secondary school age children; some of the most popular sex education videos are on topics such as encouraging stripping, and the use of sex toys and porn.

“One of the ways we might recommend using a vlogger is we show the video on whichever subject you’re teaching and then the teacher can explain anything the students didn’t understand or expand on the topic. If you were only getting your sex education from [videos] you might not get a rounded sex education. Having said that, I think they’re fantastic as an adjunct and I wish that kind of thing had been around when I was younger.”

Witton launched her first sex education video in January 2012 (she had been posting videos on YouTube for some time before that). It was a video on contraception, presented with a friend. “Sex education is pretty crap, at least in the UK,” she said in it, “so I wanted to make a mini series of sex education videos that hopefully you guys will enjoy and learn some stuff.” That “mini series”, as she endearingly described it, presented and filmed without her more recent polish, has turned into dozens of videos, millions of viewers, a book, and a full-time job as a YouTube star. Witton is smiley and chatty and presents her videos from her flat. She has covered sex toys, hormones, masturbation, porn, consent and open relationships (she doesn’t only talk about sex and relationships – in recent weeks she has been talking about undergoing surgery for ulcerative colitis and what it is like to live with a stoma).

“I was very much inspired by Laci Green in the US,” she says, “and I decided I wanted to start making content about that because I noticed that most of my audience were young women. I felt like I wanted to do something. In terms of my personal experience, [sex education] was very much lacking in school. I had more of an open household so I could talk to my parents, in theory. I remember meeting people once I got to sixth form, who had maybe been to a different school from me or had a different upbringing, who didn’t know some stuff I thought was really basic. I met someone who thought it was totally fine to not use a condom and just pull out. I was like, ‘nooo’.”

She is direct and funny. “I genuinely feel no awkwardness at all. It was one of the reasons I felt like it would be a good idea to start making videos like this, because I know some people don’t feel comfortable talking about these things. If I have a platform and I’m OK talking about them, I can use that platform for good.”

The videos that have done particularly well, she says, include those on masturbation, “especially female masturbation, which for some reason is still taboo. A lot of people either don’t want to admit it’s happening or feel too ashamed to talk about it. There is a general shame and stigma around that topic, in terms of actually doing it but also talking about it.”

Her main audience is women aged between 18 and 24, with 25- to 34-year-olds the next biggest group. People have to be 13 to have a YouTube account (or say they’re 13, and there will be many people who watch without an account) but the 13-17 age bracket makes up just 6% of her audience. Witton, who is an ambassador for Brook, is careful about accuracy. Are there sex education vloggers who are spreading misinformation? “I couldn’t [think of any] off the top of my head, but it’s the internet, so yeah.”

Does she feel that for many young people, she’s their main provider of sex education? “That feels like a lot of pressure, but I’m always really clear that I’m not a doctor. I like to think of my videos as a conversation-starter and from there people’s curiosity can lead them to other bits of information if they want to look into it further. I don’t want to ever take a didactic approach of ‘I’m the teacher’. It’s more of a peer-to-peer education thing.”

In the US, Green started making videos at university. Growing up as a Mormon, her only sex education at school was around abstinence. “A lot of the teenagers in my community just didn’t have the information and resources they needed, so I was a bit miffed about that. I didn’t really ever get sex ed in school. It was only in college, which for me was much later – I’d started having relationships, dating, having sexual experiences. I felt it was too late.” Her videos, she says, felt like “a good platform to have a conversation with other people who thought the same way I did and to share information. As I was trying to figure this stuff out, I was getting the information I needed and sharing it online.”

Around 60% of Green’s subscribers are young women. “I think a lot of the problems we struggle with in society fall around misogynistic ideas around women’s bodies and about relationships, and this is what women are supposed to be and this is what men are supposed to be, which feeds into homophobia and transphobia as well.”

She says around two-thirds of the people who contact her have had no sex education at school, or abstinence-based lessons. “Then the other third did have sex ed but didn’t have all their questions answered. I think a lot of people are awkward about sex. A lot of teachers in the US don’t know how to answer these questions, they’re very restricted in what they can say or do and that makes it really hard for them to have an honest relationship with their students.”

Thea, 19, started watching sex education videos by Green and then found Witton’s. “I definitely got most of my sex ed from YouTube videos,” she says. “Which is sad, because some of this stuff should be taught in school to educate young teenagers properly about sex, but also about the gender and sexuality spectrums. My parents weren’t a lot of help either. It’s really awkward to talk to them about that stuff and they’re another generation so they don’t even know most of it.” She says YouTube videos have changed the way she thinks about sex, sexuality (she identifies as “queer”) and herself. “I feel a lot more confident about my body and I feel a lot more comfortable talking about sex. I probably wouldn’t have been able to actually come to terms with my sexuality if it wasn’t for YouTubers talking about theirs so openly. Online, people aren’t as reluctant to talk about sex, their sexuality and their gender any more, and that’s beginning to be the case in the real world as well, which is awesome.”

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An Erotic Artist on Censorship and Finding Spirituality in Sex

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By Claire Valentine

You may have come across the work of Alphachanneling on Instagram before — with over half a million followers, the artist’s contribution to the landscape of erotic art has been accomplished in no small part due to the accessible nature of the platform. His “Utopian Erotic” drawings are a delicate expression of explicitly sexual themes; with soft colors, thin lines and psychedelic florals, Alphachanneling captures some of our rawest, most intimate moments as humans through a lens that is overtly and unexpectedly spiritual. PAPER caught up with the artist to talk censorship, divinity in sensuality and the role erotic art plays in our modern lives:

When did you first start drawing nudes?

The human form has always been a compelling subject for me. The works of Egon Schiele, Henry Moore, and Rodin were some of my first inspirations for figurative art, and I was introduced to the practice of life drawing from figure models as a teenager. The human body in art has a timelessness that transcends whatever historical cultural moment we happen to be in. It reminds us of the fundamental human nakedness, stripped from layers of self-conception. It reminds us that through all of time we’ve been the same creature, experiencing joy and suffering, love, sex and death.

Fellow Being Radiated by Babe’s Orgasm

Do you use models now or draw from imagination?

In figure drawing my attention was always on capturing the body, the form, the light. It was a very focused kind of effort, and while I deeply respect it, I found I was not expressing what was truly within me. It wasn’t until I dedicated myself to drawing my figures direct from imagination that things started to open up. Drawing without reference forces me to answer all kinds of questions on a personal level, like “what does the exquisite tension of lips pressed against a nipple look like,” “what does a sumptuous ass look like when it is seducing and inviting a lover towards it?” Without objective reference, the next questions become, “what do I want it to look like?” and “what about it is activating and exciting to me?” This kind of questioning leads me to a much more personal expression of the figure. I love the idea of bending and shaping bodies into forms that capture the sensation and experience of our realities; the physical, the energetic, the emotional, the spiritual.

FUSION

What was the initial inspiration behind them?

The inspiration driving my art is the premise that desire is an expression of the divine, and therefore something to exalt and celebrate in all its forms. In the same way that a plant turns toward the sun, I believe my desire turns me on to that which nourishes me and makes me grow. This outlook is in part a reaction to living in a society which represses, condemns and reduces desire to behaviorism. I’d like to add that I’m speaking only of desire as I’ve experienced it in my life; I’m not speaking for anyone other than myself.

EXPANDING UNIVERSE

Where do you draw your erotic influences from?

The poetry of Rumi has been a big influence on me. It’s shown me that art can simply be praise and an expression of joy and love. This kind of ecstatic art released me from the idea that art had to contribute some kind of innovation on culture in order to be validated. Novelty isn’t the only form of value, one can repeat what’s already been said a thousand times, and the deeper and more sincerely it is expressed, the more its value increases. I draw my influences from a wide range of sources both high and low, from mysticism and the occult to folk art, outsider art and indigenous art, from pornography, kink and BDSM to yoga, tantra, and the healing arts.

Bad Kitty

It seems that for the most part you’ve been able to circumvent Instagram’s notoriously strict censorship rules. Why do you think that is?

I think my work has a kind of double nature that makes it confusing to define. It is as delicate and innocent as it is dirty and confrontational. I believe the intention with which something is said has greater significance than the words themselves. The same applies with visual language. Rather than being modest and subtle, I am overt and explicit with the sexuality in my art, but I like to deliver that provocation in the most gentle, graceful and reverential way, through the colors I use and my craftsmanship. Perhaps this has protected my art from tripping the censorship rules as much as it could given the subject matter. Regardless, my work still exists in a precarious place where it is flagged and taken down from time to time.

Living Temple

What role does erotic art play in our lives?

Erotic art can help normalize the natural sexuality that we experience as humans, but yet struggle to find social and cultural acknowledgment of. Erotic art can allow us to explore sexuality and desire in a way that feels safe and approachable and exposes us to a spectrum that may be new and unknown in our experience of our lives. Erotic art expands the language of love and sexuality and reminds us of the beauty of being alive, the beauty of living as a sexual being.

Love City

Complete Article HERE!

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