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Puberty is starting earlier for many children

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– sex education must catch up with this new reality

Some girls as young as six and seven are showing the early signs of puberty.

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The British government is consulting on a new curriculum for sex and relationship education in English schools. This change provides a timely opportunity to update how, when and what children are taught about puberty.

Astonishingly, the Department for Education (DfE) guidance on sex education has not changed for nearly two decades. But after concerted lobbying, research, and the recommendations of multiple committees of MPs, in 2017, the Children and Social Work Act finally acknowledged the need to provide “sex education for the 21st century”.

New statutory guidance for schools will be published following the public consultation, which closes in mid February. From 2019, secondary schools will be obliged to offer relationships and sex education, and primary schools to offer relationships education. Parents will retain the right to remove their children from sex education – other than that which is covered in the science curriculum – but will not be allowed to remove them from relationships education.

These changes are underpinned by widespread concern about the negative effects of digital technologies on young people’s sexual lives, particularly sexting, child sexual abuse and exploitation, and “strangers online”. The new curriculum will, it seems, teach children and young people what healthy relationships look like in the fraught context of smart phones, online porn and Instagram.

The new puberty

But the new curriculum should also take account of what is happening to the bodies of young people in the 21st century. Not only do kids seem to be growing up much faster today, many of them are actually starting to develop physically earlier than ever before.

According to many scientists and clinicians, we are living in the era of “the new puberty” in which increasing numbers of girls start to develop sexually at age seven or eight. In the 1960s, only 1% of girls would enter puberty before their ninth birthday. Today, up to 40% of some populations in both rich and poor countries are doing so.

Sexual development is also being stretched out for longer, with many girls starting to grow breasts and pubic hair two to three years before they have their first period. While there is less evidence that boys’ development is changing so rapidly, some studies also indicate that earlier entry into puberty’s initial stages is becoming more common.

The causes of these changes remain unclear. Many scientists point to the simultaneous increase in childhood obesity, while others study the effects of environmental chemicals, such as Bisphenol A or BPA (which is found in some plastics), on the body. Other research has explored the effects of social factors, including family structures, experiences of early life trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage. This range of explanations points to how complex a phenomenon puberty is.

The current DfE guidance states that:

All children, including those who develop earlier than the average, need to know about puberty before they experience the onset of physical changes.

But it leaves schools to decide, in consultation with parents, “the appropriate age” to teach children about puberty. In 2017, the Personal, Social and Health Education Association argued that this should be when they’re age seven. But talking to seven-year-olds about breasts, pubic hair, body odour and genital changes may not be easy for many teachers, or for many parents. Being seven is supposed to be a time of freedom, play and innocence.

Getting ready for puberty.

Updating sex education

Children who develop early, present a challenge both to cultural thinking about sex and to sex education policy. While many parents and young people want updated sex education, this usually comes with the proviso that such education be “age appropriate”. Although very important, this phrase is painfully vague – and it’s unclear whether it refers to chronological age, emotional age or stage of physical development.

Today, some seven-year-olds may be emotionally young but also starting to grow breasts and pubic hair. Other early developers who have experienced early life stress – such as abandonment or abuse – may feel more mature than their peers and be ready earlier to learn about puberty and sexuality. The widening gap in the timing of boys’ and girls’ sexual development also poses a challenge. Teaching girls separately, or earlier than boys – the strategy in my own child’s primary school – risks reinforcing harmful gender norms and notions of secrecy around issues such as menstruation.

Instead, perhaps we could try to disentangle puberty from teenage sexuality and to develop accounts of puberty that do not frame it as the dawn of adolescence. A seven-year-old with breasts is not “becoming a woman”, and a menstruating nine-year-old is probably not going to want to have intercourse anytime soon.

Ultimately, this means moving beyond traditional portrayals of female bodies that focus on reproductive capacity in order to explore wider meanings and experiences of being a girl. Growing up is also about new horizons, such as strength, health, even pleasure. Sex and relationships education might even then include puberty as something to be anticipated, noticed, even celebrated – rather than as yet another risk.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s The Real Truth About Polyamory In The Black Community

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“I don’t believe in rules. Rules are about trying to wall off an insecurity.”

by Damona Hoffman

First, let’s get a few ground rules straight. The polyamorists I spoke with do not want to be seen as sex hungry monsters who swing from partner to partner. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of polyamory is the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time. So for clarity, we are talking about emotional and physical intimacy here, not just sex.

“Polyamory, Swinging, Open Marriages, Open Relationships, Monogamish and more all fall under the umbrella of non-monogamy but people who are polyamorous are more interested in the relationship and don’t just want to have sex with people,” says editor of the online magazine BlackandPoly.org, Crystal Farmer. “However, a lot poly people have sexual relationships while there are also people who don’t have sexual relationships, who are asexual or don’t have a need for a sexual connection, but consider themselves polyamorous because they are in emotional relationships with other people.”

Are you following? This means you can be polyamorous through sexual relationships or non-sexual emotional relationships or, for most polyamorous people, something in between. The bottom line is that you don’t belong to just one person.

Crystal defines herself as “solo-poly.” “I consider myself my primary partner,” she proclaims. Other than her 7-year-old daughter Crystal explains that she doesn’t want to live with someone again although she says she’s open to having relationships with men, women and gender non-binary individuals.

She was first introduced to the lifestyle by her ex-husband, who wanted an open marriage but asked her to maintain a “one penis policy.” This means that he could bring other women into the partnership and she could have relationships with other females but men were off limits.

Author and speaker Kevin Patterson, founder of the blog PolyRoleModels.tumblr.com, has a very different point of view. He and his wife, who have been together for 16 years, have both maintained relationships with girlfriends and boyfriends with complete trust and transparency.

“I don’t believe in rules. Rules are about trying to wall off an insecurity,” Kevin told me. “When I’m triggered, it inspires me to ask where the insecurity is coming from.” He feels that his partners should all have autonomy.

In his forthcoming book, Love Is Not Color Blind, Kevin discusses what it is like being a Black polyamorous man just as he has done in speaking engagements around the country for years. Borrowing Mahershala Ali’s quote on the Black American experience, “We move through the world playing defense, we don’t have the capacity to play offense,” Kevin says he feels like he’s always defending the legitimacy of his marriage and his decision to be polyamorous to family, the church, and the Black community.

Denika, a 41-year-old polyamorous woman, also felt ostracized from her family and community for choosing to live her life in this way until she discovered the Black polyamorous community online.

A quick search of Meetup.com in my own city of Los Angeles yielded 19 options of polyamory groups to join. But just how diverse are these groups? Crystal, who is based just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, says that the groups she attends are predominantly white.

She is open to dating someone of a different culture but she admits that she feels more comfortable when there are other people of color in her poly groups.

In addition to meetup groups, OKCupid seems to be a popular date source for the non-monogamous.

“I am a happily married man in a polyamorous relationship” is the first line in Kevin’s dating profile. He finds it easier to date in circles where they already know about your lifestyle so you don’t have to “edu-date” a partner about how non-monogamy works.

Writer/director Alicia Bunyan-Sampson, 29, began using dating sites when she was new to the polyamory community but quickly found that her Blackness was exoticized among the couples on her polyamory dating site. She thought the first message she received, with the subject line “Ebony Seeking Ivory,” was an anomaly but when her inbox filled up with 200 similar messages, she retreated from the world of polyamory.

Although she still feels she is polyamorous, Alicia says in her essay “Diary of a Polyamorous Black Girl” that “white is the face of polyamory and has been for quite some time. It more than likely will remain that way. The face of the world is white – why wouldn’t the poly community be the same?”

Crystal sees there is more shame around polyamory in the African-American community because of our roots in Christianity and conservative values.

Denika recalls a time when her sister asked how her relationship with God played into her decision to be polyamorous. Denika sees intimacy and religion as two separate things yet that doesn’t stop her from noticing a look of disapproval when she tells people in the black community that she is polyamorous.

I turned to intimalogist Dr. Kat Smith to understand the psychology behind the polyamory movement. She sees it as a return to our evolutionary roots. “It goes to show how animalistic humans really are.” If you look at many animal packs, the leader is able to have sex with multiple females. “We are sexual beings first,” says Dr. Kat.

Her concern, however, is that women are ‘going rogue with sexuality.’ She warns, “It’s one thing to claim your freedom and sexual liberation. Another thing to put yourself in harms way by not respecting your body.”

Crystal was met with this sentiment so often that she wrote a blog about it for BlackandPoly.org. She wanted to make it safe for other people who feel like her. “I like having sex but that doesn’t mean that I’m compromising my values or putting my life in danger just for sex,” Crystal declares. “I’m a polyamorous person and I’m proud of it.”

Trust seems to be the highest priority among all the poly individuals I spoke to. Denika notes, “I need to be able to trust people. Sometimes it can be hurtful but I will be upfront with you so you’re not mislead in the end.” She clarifies that she doesn’t do hookups. “If all you want is sex then you need to be upfront with your intentions but don’t waste my time,” Denika explains.

Is polyamory “right” for African-Americans? You will have to draw your own conclusion. What I can say is that the polyamorous people I spoke with all seemed happy with their decision to live life in this way. It’s evident from the growing popularity of sites like BlackandPoly.org and PolyRoleModels.tumblr.com that there is at least a curiosity and an openness to exploring non-traditional relationship options.

Denika’s advice is to “know yourself, explore your sexuality, intimacy, sense of self and be open to something different.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Lots more women are enjoying porn

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And this is why it’s great for your sex life

Watching the X-rated clips is helping women explore their sexuality and connect with others to talk about what they want in the bedroom

A study of 28 women of different sexual orientations looked at how they watched porn.

Researchers found that the online videos encouraged them to embrace their sexuality and discuss new ways of improving their sex lives.

Diana Parry, a professor in recreation and leisure studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: “We know from existing research that women are one of the fastest growing groups of people consuming online pornography and this study helps us understand some of the reasons they are doing so.

“It also seems clear that technology has enabled women to explore pornography on their own terms and to explore aspects of their sexuality that are new to them.”

Having a healthy sex life can help women feel good about themselves as well as reduce their stress levels, according to sex therapist Louise Mazanti.

She told The Sun Online: “To be in touch with your body and your sexuality gives you a sense of pleasure and sense of fulfilment that is really important in order to feel good.

“It is both a physical thing and about your identity and your self-esteem.

“It is important that you get in touch with the deeper potential of pleasure within your body because it helps you connect more deeply with yourself.

“In an orgasm there are a lot of different hormones that are released that partly reduce stress and partly increase a sense of wellbeing, belonging and a general sense of feeling good.”

Not only does watching porn and having a healthy sex life improve boost your happiness, it also improves your relationships.

“Porn is quite important for women because we don’t fantasise enough, we don’t engage with sexual imagery and porn can really help us simply by starting our imagination to think about sex,” Louise added.

“It helps us to reclaim our own sexual identity instead of waiting to only develop that when you are with a partner.

“We become so dependent on being in a relationship and that’s actually dis-empowering in terms of owning your sexuality.

“When we are in touch with our sexuality we bring so much more to the relationship because we aren’t just waiting for our partner and when they want sex.

“It [porn] allows them to bring much more sexual energy to the relationship and that is something that makes a relationship thrive.”

Parry and her team also found that the privacy offered by smartphones and laptops also made women feel more comfortable exploring different types of porn.

Complete Article HERE!

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12 Things All Men Should Know About Their Balls

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We don’t want to bust your balls, but how much do you really know about your testicles? Guys talk about them, brag about them, and let clichés about them flow from their lips without a second thought. So take a few moments to think about your down under friends with 12 ball busting facts about your testicles.

What’s in a name?

“Testicles” and “balls” are not exactly the same thing. When men refer to their balls, they are actually talking about three things: the testicles, the scrotum (the skin sac that protects the testicles), and tiny tubes called epididymides that are attached to the testis and which store and transport sperm. Your testicles are your big T (testosterone) producers, so you want to make sure they are healthy and happy at all times!

Location, location, location.

Real estate agents know the value of location, and your testicles aren’t much different. That is, your left ball and your right ball are not exactly next to each other; one hangs a little bit lower than the other (or one is higher than the other, your preference). Each ball is approximately 2 inches by 1 inch, although typically the right testicle is slightly bigger than the left one. However, even though you might think the bigger testicle should hang lower, that’s not the way nature works. Go figure.

Bigger is not necessarily better.

According to a study conducted at Emory University, men who have smaller testes are more likely to be nurturing dads than are their peers who have bigger balls. The authors evaluated 70 American men, including Caucasians, African-Americans, and Asians, who had a child aged one to two years old. Analysis of brain function while the men looked at children and questionnaire responses resulted in the conclusion that “the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between mating effort and parenting effort, as indexed by testicular size and nurturing-related brain function, respectively.”

Two’s company, three’s a crowd.

An extremely rare condition called polyorchidism is defined as the presence of three—or more—testicles. Only about 200 cases of polyorchidism, more or less, have been reported in the literature, so it’s not a condition that should keep you up at night with worry. However, if you have a unexplained mass in your scrotum, it’s something your doctor may want to rule out.

Pain in the balls.

If you experience painful, swollen, and/or inflamed testicles for no apparent reason (e.g., no one has kicked you down under), it may be time to see your doctor. Trauma to the testicles, such as from a sports injury, usually results in temporary pain. In other cases, however, such as testicular torsion (twisted testicle, which is a medical emergency), epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis, often caused by a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea), inguinal hernia, testicular tumor, or orchitis (inflammation of the testicle from bacteria or viruses), a doctor should be consulted. Sometimes it’s more than just a pain in the balls!

Bumpy balls.

One thing you can say about a man’s balls—they aren’t attractive. All those little bumps and lumps sure don’t make them pleasing to the eye, but are they dangerous as well? In most cases, no. However, an enlarged vein called a varicocele can have a negative impact on fertility and be painful. Tiny fluid-filled bumps called epididymal cysts are unsightly but harmless. Only 4 percent of the unusual lumps on the balls end up being cancer. If you have a lump or bump that doesn’t seem quite right or that has appeared suddenly or changed in size or shape, be sure to have your doctor check it out.

Cool balls, man.

Your body temperature may hover around 98.6 degrees, but your balls run about 1 to 3 degrees cooler. Why? It seems to be nature’s way to keep sperm “on ice” so to speak. A cooler temperature keeps sperm in a resting state until they are ready to move on and result in pregnancy or just a vacation away from home. On the other side of the cooler, when men experience a fever or sit in a sauna for a length of time, their sperm counts are temporarily reduced. Cool is where it’s at.

Balls rise to the occasion.

Just before a man ejaculates, his testicles rise up close to his body and make contact at the moment of truth. More specifically, in most men the right testicle begins the journey upwards before the left one. Since the right ball is usually already closer to the body (see “Location, location, location”), it has less of a journey to make.

Pampering balls.

If you want your balls to be all they can be, then pamper them. That means no smoking (lowers sperm count), limit alcohol use (lowers T and sperm count), dress them comfortably (no overly tight underwear, pants, or bathing suits—except on limited special occasions!), wash them daily and gently, and protect them from trauma, especially in sports. On this latter point, wear a protective cup during contact sports and get the right saddle for your bicycle.

Balls have muscles.

Well, not exactly, but there are several types of muscles in the area that are responsible for keeping your balls in motion. For example, the cremasteric muscle works like an elevator, causing your scrotum and testicles to rise and lower (see “Balls rise to the occasion”). Another muscle called cartos causes the testicles to move within the scrotum. This muscle tissue is also the one that can be blamed for the wrinkly appearance of your balls. The good news: you don’t need to work these muscles in the gym!

Ball check.

Once a month, all men should check their balls. Not just a perfunctory pat, but a thorough examination to be sure there are no hard lumps or any bumps that have changed in size or shape. Why? Testicular cancer is not near the top of the disease list, but it does affect about 1 in every 270 men. When caught early, it usually can be cured. The best time to perform this ritual is when showering. If something doesn’t feel right, see your doctor.

Ball busting.

During sexual arousal, a man’s balls can increase in size by 50 percent or more. Of course, most men are too busy thinking about something else while the blood is rushing to their testicles, but their partners may notice the change. This ball busting event is temporary, and the testicles return to normal size once the excitement is over. However, if a man’s balls don’t return to normal size or become enlarged at other times, it’s time for a visit to your doctor.

Complete Article HERE!

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What a leather convention can teach everyone about sex and consent

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I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

“Hotel is closed for private event” read the signs affixed to the front of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last weekend. A steady stream of people, mostly men, many in leather harnesses, some in collars and on leashes, and some simply in jeans and sweaters, walked in and out in an almost continuous stream.

Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL), now in its 48th year, is a three-day long celebration of the leather community, a subculture that celebrates various sexual kinks, many centered around leather and toys. Bears, daddies, pups and others identifying with various subsets roam the Hyatt Regency, participating in conference-like demonstrations about suspension (BDSM where you’re bound and hung) and electro (BDSM involving electric shocks), buying handcrafted leather goods and sex toys, and, of course, partying. (Actual sex was not part of the convention but no doubt took place in private.) It’s a predominantly LGBTQ centric space, although look closely enough and you’re sure to find people on every part of the gender and sexuality spectrum.

My first MAL was in the winter of 2016. I’d just gone through a breakup and my friend had suggested that perhaps it would be good for me to explore life beyond my comfort zone. “Just get ready,” he’d said, “it may be more than your little vanilla heart can handle.” And he wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

That first year I met Adam, a dentist in town from Texas just for MAL. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said back in a hotel room he was sharing with a friend of mine.

“Do I look that out of place?” I asked. I’d put on a leather jacket to try to blend in.

“Not out of place,” he said, “just kind of shocked.”

And shocked I was. Not necessarily at anything that was going on at the hotel that night, but more so at the fact that for the better part of my life I’d allowed myself to believe that this kind of sexual openness was only available to a certain kind of person.

“Where I grew up, there wasn’t really anything like this,” said Anthony, a 30-year-old living in Arlington, Va., who grew up in Portsmouth. (The sources for this story preferred that only first names be used, for privacy reasons). “There was no kink culture, and I really wanted to explore it. Everyone here was super welcoming, and that’s why I keep coming back.”

This was a common sentiment. “It’s a different part of the gay family,” said Garret, 28, who lives in Washington. “We all have different interests … and if nobody else respects that, come to MAL because they do here.”

Respect, as it turns out, is a dominating theme throughout the course of the weekend. You might expect that when many attendees are walking around in only a jockstrap and a harness, but it is pleasantly surprising to see how strictly they adhere to that principle. In the era of #MeToo, when more and more queer folks are being vocal about the role consent plays in queer spaces, perhaps the leather and kink communities have something to teach the general public about active and enthusiastic consent.

Ask for permission before petting. Hold out your hand and let the pup come to you first. If the pup doesn’t, or turns or growls, let them be as they may not want to or have permission. This is rule No. 5 as listed on the board outside the 10th anniversary mosh at the MAL Puppy Park, a yearly tradition in which individuals who participate in pup play — a BDSM role-play wherein one participant acts as the “pup” and one as the handler — have an opportunity to interact with other pups. Other rules include: Nudity is not permitted in public spaces, genitals cannot be exposed and DO NOT pull on a pup’s tail or collar. It can cause injury and is disrespectful. Change some of the verbiage and perhaps these would be appropriate guidelines to post at the Academy Awards.

“It’s where I met my current roommate,” said Allyn, a 31-year-old originally from Wisconsin who now lives in Washington, of his first MAL experience. “It was exhilarating. I’d never seen anything like it. It make me feel brave and nervous at the same time.” He didn’t speak to his would-be roommate the first night they met, however. “I mean, I had a ball gag in at the time,” he recounted.

Zack, 23, from Baltimore, also used the world “exhilarating” when describing his first MAL experience. “I got chills coming down the escalator into the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to Folsom I’ve ever been too,” a reference to the San Francisco street fair that’s the world’s largest leather celebration.

Everyone I spoke to talked about descending that escalator on the evening of the opening party. It is truly a complete sensory experience. The sight, sound and smell of wall-to-wall leather and latex on every kind of body, not just seen but celebrated and appreciated.

While I was talking to Garret about the weekend, someone he appeared to know approached him, whispered something in his ear and, after he nodded yes, lifted Garret’s arm and began to sniff his armpit. Garret continued to answer my questions without pause. “There may be something over here that’s not your thing, but then you’ll look over there and see something going on that you’re totally into,” he explained “Don’t be shy, don’t judge other people for something you don’t understand. And above all, come and have a good time. No one is here to be spectacled. It can be a learning and cultural experience.” The sniffer had moved on to his other armpit by the time he finished talking.

Although I have yet to be brave enough to buy and wear a harness to MAL myself, each year I attend I move closer toward that goal. At the very least, the event has highlighted for me the fact that there is an exciting world beyond the “vanilla” one I’d relegated myself to — and has given me a better understanding of the queer community as a whole. At one point, in the leather market, a man who had recently undergone top surgery was trying on a new harness next to a group of folks signing to one another, while feet away a $1,400 bejeweled pup hood was on sale. Only at MAL.

Complete Article HERE!

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