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What’s the difference between sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape?

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Physician Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual assault of girls on the USA Gymnastics team.

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The terms “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment” – and even “rape” – crop up daily in the news. We are likely to see these terms more as the #MeToo movement continues.

Many people want to understand these behaviors and work to prevent them. It helps if we are consistent and as precise as possible when we use these terms.

But what does each term mean?

We are three scholars who have specialized in the scientific study of sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment over several decades.

Let’s start by defining each of these terms. Then, we can look at how these behaviors sometimes overlap.

Sexual abuse

The term that has been in the news most recently with reference to sports doctor Larry Nassar’s trial is sexual abuse, a form of mistreating children. Sexual abuse is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults.

All 50 states have laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act. In the United States, the age at which consent can be given ranges from 16 to 18 years.

Sexual abuse can include many different things, from touching a victim in a sexual manner to forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way to making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act.

Rape

In 2012, the FBI issued a revised definition of rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The revised law is gender neutral, meaning that anyone can be a victim.

When carefully examined, the FBI definition does not look like most people’s idea of rape – typically perpetrated by a stranger through force. The FBI definition says nothing about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator and it says nothing about force. It does, however, say something about consent, or rather, the lack of it. Think about consent as your ability to make a decision about what happens to your body.

A perpetrator can compel a victim into a penetrative sex act in multiple ways. A perpetrator can ignore verbal resistance – like saying “no,” “stop” or “I don’t want to” – or overpower physical resistance by holding a person down so they cannot move. A person can penetrate a victim who is incapable of giving consent because he or she is drunk, unconscious, asleep, or mentally or physically incapacitated; or can threaten or use physical force or a weapon against a person. Essentially, these methods either ignore or remove the person’s ability to make an autonomous decision about what happens to their body. State laws vary in how they define removing or ignoring consent.

Perpetrators can’t defend against charges of rape by claiming they were drunk themselves or by saying they are married to the victim.

In November 2017, participants combined the ‘Take Back the Workplace March’ and the ‘#MeToo Survivors March’ in Hollywood.

Sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault have been used interchangeably in coverage of events leading to the #MeToo movement, and this practice, though unintentional, is confusing. In contrast to the specific criminal act of rape, the term sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, from unwanted touching and kissing, to rubbing, groping or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways. But sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape.

Social and behavioral scientists often use the term “sexual violence.” This term is far more broad than sexual assault. It include acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic. Sexual violence includes using false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts. It can encompass noncontact acts like catcalls and whistles, which can make women feel objectified and victimized. It includes nonconsensual electronic sharing of explicit images, exposure of genitals and surreptitious viewing of others naked or during sex.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior.

One is sexual coercion – legally termed “quid pro quo harassment” – referring to implicit or explicit attempts to make work conditions contingent upon sexual cooperation. The classic “sleep with me or you’re fired” scenario is a perfect example of sexual coercion. It is the most stereotypical form of sexual harassment, but also the rarest.

A second, and more common, form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention: unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, relentless pressure for dates or sexual behavior. Note that romantic and sexual overtures come in many varieties at work, not all of them harassing. To constitute unlawful sexual harassment, the sexual advances must be unwelcome and unpleasant to the recipient. They must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to “create an abusive working environment,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unwanted sexual attention can include sexual assault and even rape. If an employer were to forcibly kiss and grope a receptionist without her consent, this would be an example of both unwanted sexual attention and sexual assault – both a civil offense and a crime.

Most sexual harassment, however, entails no sexual advance. This third and most common manifestation is gender harassment: conduct that disparages people based on gender, but implies no sexual interest. Gender harassment can include crude sexual terms and images, for example, degrading comments about bodies or sexual activities, graffiti calling women “cunts” or men “pussies.” More often than not, though, it is purely sexist, such as contemptuous remarks about women being ill-suited for leadership or men having no place in childcare. Such actions constitute “sexual” harassment because they are sex-based, not because they involve sexuality.

Come-ons, put-downs: They’re both bad

In lay terms, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention are come-ons, whereas gender harassment is a put-down. Still, they are all forms of sexual harassment and can all violate law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Historically, social attitudes towards all these hostile actions have assumed a continuum of severity. Sexist graffiti and insults are offensive, but no big deal, right? Verbal sexual overtures cannot be as bad as physical ones. And, if there was no penetration, it can’t have been all that bad.

These assumptions do not hold up to scientific scrutiny, however. For example, researchers at the University of Melbourne analyzed data from 73,877 working women. They found that experiences of gender harassment, sexist discrimination and the like are more corrosive to work and well-being, compared to encounters with unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion.

We have tried to clarify terms that are now becoming household words. Of course, life is complicated. Abusive, assaulting or harassing behavior cannot always be neatly divided into one category or another – sometimes it belongs in more than one. Nevertheless, it is important to use terms in accurate ways to promote the public’s understanding.

Finally, we take heed that society is in a period like no other and one we thought we would never see. People are reflecting on, and talking about, and considering and reconsidering their experiences and their behavior. Definitions, criminal and otherwise, change with social standards. This time next year, we may be writing a new column.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex advice from a youngster is no use to older couples

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“When we first fell in love, we really didn’t know what the future would hold. We were in awe of love’s mysterious forces. But if our relationship has endured, it will have been thoroughly worked through and mirror our maturity in life. Love’s forces will have created a bond between us that radiates a quiet warmth. There is a welcoming space to share common interests and the joy of living. We perceive our own true individuality and treat our partners with respect and honour.”

If this is the picture of your relationship then you probably don’t have any issues with sexuality. It is woven securely into the tapestry of your relationship. For some couples, it’s a subtle thread. For others, it’s more colourful and vibrant.

However, if you’re wondering what has happened because sex isn’t thriving in your relationship, there is a lot of advice out there that won’t help you in the long run.

Forget about learning new sexual techniques. They won’t save your sex life. By now, you should know what works for you and what doesn’t. Forget about trying to retrieve the stamina you had in your 20s, 30s or your 40s. It’s better to appreciate the resiliency you’ve gained through experience.

Forget about taking pole dancing classes or buying expensive lingerie unless you truly think you will enjoy it. Forget about taking advice given to you by someone younger than you who think they know the real secret to a good sex life. If they haven’t experienced sex in an older body or in a long-term relationship, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about.

While trying something new may shake things up and make you look and feel differently in the short-term, sexuality is a living experience. It is a response from inside of you, not a reaction to an idea taken on from the outside. Rearranging things on the outside may help a little, but the real shift takes place by aligning your interior life with your outer experience.

You can begin by asking yourself some questions.

What’s it like being in your older body?

As we age, the exaltation of touch and sensation softens. That fiery, electric current that passes between young lovers gives way to a slow burning flame that is deeper and longer. We take our time. We notice that sensations become less localised, leading to a profoundly satisfying whole body experience.

In older bodies libido tends to decrease. For women it’s a common aftermath of menopause. For men, sex drive lowers more gradually and is definitely noticeable by around the age 62 when most men begin to experience difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection. It takes more time to warm up. But the silver lining is that by spending time touching, kissing, and caressing, you can crawl into your partner’s skin, melting body and soul.

Intimacy or sex?

Intimacy is at the heart of a strong relationship. It is the experience of emotional closeness when two people are able to reveal their true feelings, thoughts, fears and desires. They are completely free in each other’s presence. When sex comes from a place of love and connection, it is the physical embodiment of intimacy.

Although sex and intimacy isn’t the same thing, they are inextricably linked. Intimacy builds sex and sex builds intimacy. Intimate sex can be deeply fulfilling whereas sex without intimacy can be very unrewarding.

What if sex is no longer a part of your relationship?

While sex is an integral part of many relationships, some couples don’t have sex anymore. This may have happened through circumstance such as when one person became ill or simply because sex slowly disappeared in importance over the years.

If sex is a very subtle thread in the tapestry of your relationship, it’s important not to abstain from all physical contact. Hugging, kissing, holding hands and cuddling heighten awareness and awaken the senses. It’s a way of getting to know each other as if for the first time.

Complete Article HERE!

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Vaginismus: a major psychological reason women experience pain during sex

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If you have never heard of vaginismus, it’s time to get it on your radar.

Don’t suffer in silence

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Aly Dilks, sexual health expert and clinical director at The Women’s Health Clinic, says: ‘It is the term used to describe recurrent or persistent involuntary tightening of muscles around the vagina whenever penetration is attempted,’

According to Vaginismus Awareness, the condition affects at least two in every 1,000 women at some point in their lifetime.

Approximately 10% of adult women have experienced painful intercourse in the past six months.

‘It’s not fully understood why the condition happens [but] factors can include thinking the vagina is too small, negative sexual thoughts – thinking sex will be painful and cause damage – and previous sexual abuse,’ says Ms Dilks.

She also lists damage to the vagina – common during childbirth or an episiotomy, a painful first sexual experience, relationship problems, and fear of pregnancy as other potential triggers.

Pain is not limited to sex.

Some women find inserting tampons or fingers painful; others find any type of penetration intolerable.

Unlike other causes of vaginal pain, such as an infection, vaginismus is a psychological problem that cannot be cured with a straightforward prescription.

There’s effective treatment

Help is available beyond search engine suggestions

This is not to say it can’t be treated: Vaginismus Awareness reports a 95% chance of treating this psychological condition effectively, and many women receive referrals to a sex therapist as a first port of call.

Colin Richards is a relationship and sex mentor and the founder of Intimacy Matters.

He says: ‘As a practitioner who works with both the psychological and physiological, about 20% of female clients that come to me for treatment around sexual performance come with some level of vaginismus.

‘The psycho-sensual treatment I offer involves talking through the psychological influences, followed by sensual massage that is given in controlled, professional space.

‘It allows the new emotional tools to emerge in an authentic, non-judgemental way.’

Both Ms Dilks and Mr Richards also suggest vaginal trainers: four, smooth, plastic penis-shaped objects in different sizes.

They can be used in the privacy of your own home, at your own pace. Ms Dilks says: ‘Once you feel comfortable inserting the smallest one, you can move on to the second size, and so on.’

‘It doesn’t matter how long it takes – whether it’s days, weeks, or months.’

Vaginismus is just one of many types of sexual frustrations and fears women face but, says Mr Richards, it is probably the most challenging for the sufferer.

That challenge is perpetuated by a lack of awareness and the taboo that still surrounds female sexuality, even when women talk to one another.

Yet it can have major implications on a woman’s sex life, self-esteem, body image and her relationships.

Hope for sufferers

Women can be reluctant to talk about their sex life, even with other women

If you have pain during sex, during your period, or if there’s anything that concerns you about your sexual health, don’t suffer in silence; women have been doing that for too long, and vaginismus is something for which there is a proven treatment.

Mr Richards says: ‘In my experience, if one can get to the root psychological cause of the anxiety or fear, then the vaginismus can be removed completely.

‘I have seen improvement over a period of three to six appointments.

‘As the mind learns that sexual penetration is not painful or wrong, and is, in fact, pleasurable, the body soon responds and lets go of the need to tense up.

‘[The woman] remains calm, and feels familiar with the situation, and so confident that everything should be fine.’

Complete Article HERE!

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Consent doesn’t end with dating – husbands have to ask their wives for sex too

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Many of the female survivors I’ve worked with said that having sex with their husbands felt like rape. They would be shocked when I told them that their experiences had, in fact, been rape

Men are socialised to feel ownership over women’s bodies, regardless of their pain or happiness. Women are conditioned to accept degrees of male aggression

By Hera Hussain

Thanks to the #MeToo movement the topic of consent is now on the agenda. The conversation is centred on dating and hooking up, teaching us how to navigate those confusing moments between going home and actively saying, or hearing, the word “yes”. What isn’t being expressed is that consent is something that happens every time we agree to sleep with someone – whether on a first date, or after 30 years of marriage. At every point in a relationship someone has the right to say no, and to be listened to.

It’s frightening for many to think that partners we trust, love and may even desire might force us into something they’re enjoying, when we’re not, but it happens in too many relationships.

Many of the female survivors I’ve worked with have expressed, quite reluctantly, that having sex with their husbands felt like rape. They would be shocked when I told them that their experiences had, in fact, been rape. And these women aren’t an anomaly. One study reported that nearly one in three women has experienced sexual violence within an intimate relationship.

I can never forget when one woman I worked with asked me, embarrassed, how sex was for another married woman. She asked me if it was supposed to feel good. Or the woman who would go to extreme lengths to avoid sleeping with her husband, pretending to be sick or on her period. And another who would lock the door and sleep in the guest room when her husband would come staggering home from a night out. There are so many more stories like these.

As seen in the recent high-profile cases, women continue to face a higher standard of scrutiny for experiencing abuse than abusers do for inflicting it. “If it was so bad, why didn’t she just leave?” people ask me. There are many reasons why women don’t leave an abusive situation.

Psychological barriers can prevent recognition of abuse, women are socialised to fear the anger of men who don’t get their way, and, for many women, leaving simply isn’t an option as there’s nowhere to go. After all, in England alone, nearly 200 women and children are turned away from domestic violence refuges every single day.

Clearly, we’re going wrong somewhere. Men are socialised to feel ownership over women’s bodies, regardless of their pain or happiness. Women are conditioned to accept degrees of male aggression, and will often temper their response knowing that they risk being seriously hurt or even killed if they fail to comply.

If we’re serious about changing gender power dynamics for good, we need to take the NSPCC’s advice and teach children about consent from a young age. This begins with making PSHE education, including lessons on consent, taught by trained teachers, statutory in all schools.

Consent can’t begin and end with dates. Consent can’t be the absence of a “no”. It can’t be an extra. It can’t be a one-off check. Consent has to be affirmative and enthusiastic every single time, from the first time to the last time.

Complete Article HERE!

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Everything you need for a beginner’s kink-friendly Valentine’s Day

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If vanilla sex doesn’t really do it for you, imagine the bounty that Valentine’s Day could be if you decided to celebrate it the BDSM-friendly way – with all the necessary kink toys.

Whether you’ve always looked at handcuffs with a glint in your eye or got interested in kink thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s a fun playground to express your sexual personality and have fun with your partner. If you’re a beginner, start slow and enjoy the exploration. We have a few recommendations to help you begin your journey too.

1. Burn your copy of Fifty Shades and grab one of these instead.

Fifty Shades of Grey may be a popular book, but it’s a poor guide when it comes to properly honoring the rules of BDSM. For that, you’ll need to turn back to some of the classics in the genre.We have a handy list right here we highly recommend. In addition to the classics, a book like The Ultimate Guide To Kink is a great way to learn about the rules and concepts that BDSM is defined by.

Price on Amazon: $19.18 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)

2. Try out restraints.

The only way to find out if one or both of you like restraints is to give it a try. While you could start with a regular old pair of handcuffs, we suggest something with a little padding to ease you into the experience. If you really enjoy it, upgrade to a nicer pair (Ardour Crafts makes a solid set).

Price on Amazon: $9.99

3. Experiment with a blindfold.

If you’d like to see what sensory deprivation is like, a blindfold is a good place to start. We suggest you forego the super cheap ones and try out a wider style that completely blocks out light that can seep in around the nose or at the top of the forehead. Try pairing it with the handcuffs to see how it feels. There’s lots to choose from in the kink world when it comes to masks, but this is a classic start.

Price on Amazon: $6.99

4. Explore your sadomasochistic side.

If you think you might like spanking (or know you do), trying out a crop is the next best option. It’s not quite as intense as a full whip and creates a more concentrated sting. If you’re super into it, try out a horse whip next – you won’t regret it.

Price on Amazon: $16.99

5. Strap on a collar.

Submissives love the feeling of a leather collar around their necks. This one attaches a leash that’s perfect for that extra bit of roleplay you may be looking for. Put all these goodies together, and your Valentine’s Day is going to leave chocolates and flowers in the dust.

Price on Amazon: $25.99

6. Rope Bondage.

Beginner? Just getting started and not sure what you need or what to do?  The Twisted Monk crew answers the top five questions they get from folks trying rope for the first time to help you find your way picking out your rope kit. (For more in-depth product and ordering information, check out their FAQ.)

Complete Article HERE!

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