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‘Why won’t you have sex with me?’ A real look at disability and relationships

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Louise Bruton’s Dublin Fringe Festival show examines our ignorance and prejudices, and takes a real look at disability, sex and relationships

Louise Bruton: ‘We all have our dry spells. We all get heartbroken . . . all the emotional things, they’re all similar to everybody else.’

Louise Bruton is on her way to buy Buckfast ahead of a visit to a friend’s festival on Inishturk island. Standard. Bruton is a writer and journalist who rose to prominence with her website Legless In Dublin (leglessindublin.com) detailing accessibility issues and reviews of venues and events. As a wheelchair user, she has managed to harness a way of communicating that undercuts preconceptions, prejudices and presumptions.

Bruton is blunt and hilarious. A pinned tweet on her Twitter account is a series of photos of her hugging and dancing with Grace Jones.

But there are also rage-inducing snippets of the reality of being a wheelchair user. Sample line: “Last one on the train in Heuston. Not a staff member or ramp in sight. Doors have been closed again. Guess I live here now.” Hard to stomach, but so necessary. Bruton calls this ridiculousness out.

It’s a meditation on disability, sex, relationships, and the misconceptions of non-disabled people hold about the sex lives of disabled people

Her latest project is a show for the Dublin Fringe Festival, excellently titled Why Won’t You Have Sex With Me?, which plays September 8th-11th at the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar, Dublin. It’s a meditation on disability, sex, relationships, and the misconceptions of non-disabled people hold about the sex lives of disabled people.

In the show, she’ll talk to the audience – “there will be a lot of interaction with visuals” – and it will also deal with sex and relationships in general.

Bruton hopes that people might leave the show checking themselves a little, wondering if they’ve ever been that person who has figuratively (or literally) “patted someone on the head, or spoken about them in front of them.”

The Fringe show is also inspired by how the media attempts to tap into the “issue” of sex and disability.

A while ago, after the Guardian ran a piece about disabled people and sex – something Bruton identifies as an “evergreen”, annual story – a couple of journalists from Irish outlets contacted her asking if she would be up for discussing the “stigma” associated with having sex with a disabled person.

We all have our dry spells. We all get heartbroken . . . all the emotional things, they’re all similar to everybody else

“That came in as a very loaded question,” Bruton says, “assuming that there is a stigma. And if there is a stigma, I’m unaware of it. I think it’s pretty unfair to blame anything going on in your love life purely on the fact of a disability. I think that kind of erases everything else about you.”

Bruton sees that story as just another entry point for discussing other people’s relationships and sex lives. Those kinds of articles, she thinks, feel like they use disability as leverage for voyeurism, “I just think it’s a really lazy way to be kind of a pervert about it!”

“We all go through the feast or famine spells when it comes to sex and dating. That’s something that applies to everyone. In the week those journalists contacted me – what if I was going through the famine time? Do I tell them that? ‘Nothing’s happening for me right now, I’m in the famine stages!’ It’s challenging that, pointing out how ridiculous those articles are. They’re done on an annual basis. There’s no evidence to support that our love lives are any different just because we’re disabled.”

“The way this is framed in the media,” Bruton says, “is that if you’re disabled and you’re not having sex, you’re going to die alone, and if you’re disabled and you are having sex, then you’re some sort of a freak or a fetishist.

“You’re put in these two categories, whereas I’m like ‘we’re the same as everybody else’. We all have our dry spells. We all get heartbroken . . . all the emotional things, they’re all similar to everybody else. The elements that do make it different or difficult, have been created by non-disabled people.

“That is the physical structure of society, where we don’t get into every single pub with everybody else in it, or nightclubs that everybody else is in. There’s also the fact that non-disabled people have a very wrong and archaic view of disabled people. They’re looking at us as if we’re completely different, whereas we go through the exact emotions as everybody else.”

Bruton is the type of person who is up the front at gigs, and when she arrives at parties, the energy in the room fizzes. Her busy social life creates the opportunity for a lot of encounters.

“People will come up to me anyway, because I’m in a wheelchair, and they’ll be like, ‘what happened you?’ And I don’t really want to go into my entire personal history and tell them, because it’s none of their business. I know a lot of my male friends who are in wheelchairs, a lot of people come up to them and very specifically ask them does their penis work.

There’s a manipulative attitude that people have towards disabled people

“I didn’t realise how bad it was for guys. That’s just not what you ask anybody. That is such a juvenile thing, firstly, and it’s just really rude as well.

“It seems to be that men are put on the spot in a much more invasive way,” she says. “People I know who are disabled and are in relationships, they have mentioned times where they’ve felt unsure if their partner is comfortable with them being disabled, and that has gone on for years.”

Bruton says that there seems to be a general feeling that disabled people “should ‘take what you can get’” when it comes to sex and relationships.

“There’s a manipulative attitude that people have towards disabled people – ‘you’re lucky to be getting anyone at all’ – and if you’ve any relationship issues, it’s like ‘you should be glad they’re going out with you’. It might create this fear that they [disabled people] mightn’t have many options so they might have to ‘settle’. Nobody should ever feel that settling is an option.”

A non-disabled person Bruton interviewed as research for the show said that if they ended a relationship with a disabled person, they would be afraid it would be because of the disability, and not a personality clash. “There’s a lot of double takes going on in people’s minds,” Bruton says, “you really are questioning how things are being perceived by other people.”

The superficiality of online dating causes issues, Bruton says. “Because the way that dating has changed – because online dating is such a big part of it now – there is a superficial element to dating now more than ever. You’re basing things on three photos and one sentence that describes your entire life.

“I’m hesitant in the online world . . . I don’t shy away from having my wheelchair in photos. The guys are immediately like ‘why are you in a wheelchair? What happened you?’ There’s no way to brush that off politely. I’ve tried.

“In real life you can say ‘oh I’ll tell you another time!’, but in a message on your phone, they find that rude, or don’t know what to say next.”

If you’re so concerned with taking advantage of someone with a disability, you should be concerned about taking advantage of all other people

As part of the making of the show, Bruton interviewed non-disabled people about disabled people, sex and dating. One word kept repeating. “The word ‘vulnerable’ came up a lot,” Bruton explains. “This is mostly men who said this. Men felt that if they were to date or have sex with a woman with a disability or a man with a disability, they would somehow be taking advantage of a vulnerable person.

“So that goes back to that old-fashioned idea of disability that we weren’t in the same schools, we were sent away to homes to live and be looked after. That idea stuck with people…

“We’re no more vulnerable than the next person. Of course there are different levels to disability. But generally, if you’re so concerned with taking advantage of someone with a disability, you should be concerned about taking advantage of all other people. There’s a lot of hypocrisy with it.”

Something that has been said to Bruton has been the idea that, “‘it takes a very special person to go out with someone who has a disability’.

“The way I interpret that, is that means you have to be a carer almost, instead of being a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I think that’s at the back of people’s minds – they think they’re going to have to look after the person, rather than just spending time with them.”

I think a lot of people see relationships as a status thing

Regarding her own experiences, a not exactly infrequent one is strangers inviting themselves to discuss aspects of her personal life with her – asking if a friend is a boyfriend, or manufacturing a love story out of nowhere. “A lot of people go straight into asking if you’re in a relationship. I think a lot of people see relationships as a status thing, that you can only be truly accepted if you’re loved in that way.”

When Bruton was on crutches before using a wheelchair, she sometimes experienced guys freaking out and backing away when they realised she didn’t just have a sprained ankle or a sports injury. “Maybe they thought I was lying to them or something. Like I was tricking them. That was the vibe I got, that I had lied to them to get their attention.”

At this point, she realises there is an advantage to being able to identify such shallowness from the get-go. It’s like an extra layer of insight to character judgement that non-disabled people may not have, “It’s a really key indicator. Someone else, it could take them a few months to find out if they’re an asshole or not, but I can find out in a second.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Is It Okay To Be Attracted To A Certain Body Type?

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By Cory Stieg

Earlier this month, an Instagram post by a man named Robbie Tripp went viral (for better or worse) because it was a long tribute to his wife’s “curvy body.” It was hard to miss, between the praise he received from news outlets that said he was the “Husband of the Year,” to others (like this one) that criticized him for fetishizing fat women and said he missed the point of feminism.

While the post as a whole is epically maddening, it does bring up an interesting question: Is it okay to be attracted to a certain body type? That’s complicated, and you have to look at where desire and attraction come from in the first place, says Sheila Addison, PhD, LMFT, a sex-positive couples’ therapist who focuses on size acceptance. Desire is a feeling that happens on an unconscious level, so in a sense, it can’t be controlled, Dr. Addison says. And the way that we perceive our own feelings about desire is shaped by what we see in our world as normal and desirable, plus our own values and opinions, she says.

When people talk about having a “type” it’s more difficult to brush that off as just a side effect of imposed desire. “On the one hand, feelings do what they do, and there are no illogical feelings,” Dr. Addison says. But people do tend to have illogical thoughts about their desires, which can lead to fetishizing, she says. For example, some people might believe that they will only date tall people, when in reality they just happen to be more attracted to taller individuals. Because we’re human beings who like patterns, there’s a temptation to “fall into shorthand” and just say you have a type, Dr. Addison says. That would mean, following the same example, that you never talk to shorter people when you’re out; or that you try to notice a person’s height before engaging in a conversation to get to know them. In doing this, you’ve excluded them from the conversation, and only checked off your “yes, tall” requirement. Problematic!

This line of thinking becomes problematic when it prevents someone from expanding their horizons and connecting with anyone outside of their type, Dr. Addison says. “You get comfortable with just letting [desire] flow along the channel that it’s carved out up to now,” she says. And if your channel is extremely well-worn, so to speak, take a beat to consider the difference between having a “type” you tend to be attracted to, and fetishizing people who fit a certain characterization.

From a mental health perspective, there is a clear line between a type and a fetish, Dr. Addison says. “Psychiatrists have decided that the dividing line is that fetishes really become the center of the sexual act or the sexual desire, as opposed to the person,” she says. So, instead of being interested in a person, you’d be interested in their body alone, if you had a body-focused fetish. “At that point, your world of desire has really narrowed down to whatever it is you’re fetishizing,” she says.

Fetish doesn’t automatically equal objectification, though, and there are certainly ways partners can safely enjoy a fetish with mutual consent. “When it comes to having fetishes for types of people, I think that is one where it can get difficult somewhat quickly,” Dr. Addison adds — because a fetish is putting something specific before the actual person. This can make sex, or a whole relationship, feel somewhat transactional, she says. In Tripp’s post, for example, he neglected to even mention his wife’s name until the very end, after remarking on several parts of her body.

“For me, there is nothing sexier than this woman right here: thick thighs, big booty, cute little side roll, etc.,” he wrote. What about, I don’t know, her personality or literally anything else about her? This is why a Refinery29 writer, and so many others, characterized Tripp’s comments as fetishization — yes, it was his own wife he was talking about; and no, we can’t know how she feels about this line of thinking, but he had removed her humanity to praise, pick apart, and point out the physical pieces of her that excite him. When people are fetishized for their bodies, it tips the balance of power and control in a relationship.

“There’s this cultural idea that fat people, particularly fat women, cannot find love just on their own merit, or cannot find people who love and adore them as total people,” Dr. Addison says. Plenty of people completely reject that idea, but others still find it incredibly painful. “Those people are potentially vulnerable to someone who is offering attention that is really coming from a place of a fetish, but in the guise of a relationship,” she says. Having someone be sexually aroused by your body can feel really good at first, but if you’re hoping it will turn into a reciprocal, mutual relationship, then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.

So, what’s the solution for this? We tend to forget that desire is actually expandable, Dr. Addison says. Tripp’s post actually included a call to action for guys to, “rethink what society has told you that you should desire.” This is a good point, but it’s also a little beside the point. Yes, question anytime society is telling you what you “should” look like, or be attracted to in others. But also question your own desires, especially if you find yourself being held back by them. “The people who get most uncomfortable with conversations about this are those who are uncomfortable with looking at how learned values and learned aesthetics really do play into who or what appeals to us,” Dr. Addison says. And the time you find yourself scanning the room for the tallest person in sight, for example, consider taking a beat to think about why.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex Education Based on Abstinence? There’s a Real Absence of Evidence

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Sex education has long occupied an ideological fault line in American life. Religious conservatives worry that teaching teenagers about birth control will encourage premarital sex. Liberals argue that failing to teach about it ensures more unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. So it was a welcome development when, a few years ago, Congress began to shift funding for sex education to focus on evidence-based outcomes, letting effectiveness determine which programs would get money.

But a recent move by the Trump administration seems set to undo this progress.

Federal support for abstinence-until-marriage programs had increased sharply under the administration of George W. Bush, and focus on it continued at a state and local level after he left office. From 2000 until 2014, the percentage of schools that required education in human sexuality fell to 48 percent from 67 percent. By 2014, half of middle schools and more than three-quarters of high schools were focusing on abstinence. Only a quarter of middle schools and three-fifths of high schools taught about birth control. In 1995, 81 percent of boys and 87 percent of girls reported learning of birth control in school.

Sex education focused on an abstinence-only approach fails in a number of ways.

First, it’s increasingly impractical. Trying to persuade people to remain abstinent until they are married is only getting harder because of social trends. The median age of Americans when they first have sex in the United States is now just under 18 years for women and just over 18 years for men. The median age of first marriage is much higher, at 26.5 years for women and 29.8 for men. This gap has increased significantly over time, and with it the prevalence of premarital sex.

Second, the evidence isn’t there that abstinence-only education affects outcomes. In 2007, a number of studies reviewed the efficacy of sexual education. The first was a systematic review conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. It found no good evidence to support the idea that such programs delayed the age of first sexual intercourse or reduced the number of partners an adolescent might have.

The second was a Cochrane meta-analysis that looked at studies of 13 abstinence-only programs together and found that they showed no effect on these factors, or on the use of protection like condoms. A third was published by Mathematica, a nonpartisan research organization, and it, too, found that abstinence programs had no effect on sexual abstinence for youth.

In 2010, Congress created the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, with a mandate to fund age-appropriate and evidence-based programs. Communities could apply for funding to put in only approved evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, or evaluate promising and innovative new approaches. The government chose Mathematica to determine independently which programs were evidence-based, and the list is updated with new and evolving data.

Of the many programs some groups promote as being abstinence-based, Mathematica has confirmed four as having evidence of being successful. Healthy Futures and Positive Potential had one study each showing mixed results in reducing sexual activity. Heritage Keepers and Promoting Health Among Teens (PHAT) had one study each showing positive results in reducing sexual activity.

But it’s important to note that there’s no evidence to support that these abstinence-based programs influence other important metrics: the number of sexual partners an adolescent might have, the use of contraceptives, the chance of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or even becoming pregnant. There are many more comprehensive programs (beyond the abstinence-only approach) on the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program’s list that have been shown to affect these other aspects of sexual health.

Since the program began, the teenage birthrate has dropped more than 40 percent. It’s at a record low in the United States, and it has declined faster since then than in any other comparable period. Many believe that increased use of effective contraception is the primary reason for this decline; contraception, of course, is not part of abstinence-only education.

There have been further reviews since 2007. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted two meta-analyses: one on 23 abstinence programs and the other on 66 comprehensive sexual education programs. The comprehensive programs reduced sexual activity, the number of sex partners, the frequency of unprotected sexual activity, and sexually transmitted infections. They also increased the use of protection (condoms and/or hormonal contraception). The review of abstinence programs showed a reduction only in sexual activity, but the findings were inconsistent and that significance disappeared when you looked at the stronger study designs (randomized controlled trials).

This year, researchers published a systematic review of systematic reviews (there have been so many), summarizing 224 randomized controlled trials. They found that comprehensive sex education improved knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and outcomes. Abstinence-only programs did not.

Considering all this accumulating evidence, it was an unexpected setback when the Trump administration recently canceled funding for 81 projects that are part of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, saying grants would end in June 2018, two years early — a decision made without consulting Congress.

Those 81 projects showed promise and could provide us with more data. It’s likely that all the work spent investigating what is effective and what isn’t will be lost. The money already invested would be wasted as well.

The move is bad news in other ways, too. The program represented a shift in thinking by the federal government, away from an ideological approach and toward an evidence-based one but allowing for a variety of methods — even abstinence-only — to coexist.

The Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine has just released an updated evidence report and position paper on this topic. It argues that many universally accepted documents, as well as international human rights treaties, “provide that all people have the right to ‘seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds,’ including information about their health.” The society argues that access to sexual health information “is a basic human right and is essential to realizing the human right to the highest attainable standard of health.” It says that abstinence-only-until-marriage education is unethical.

Instead of debating over the curriculum of sexual education, we should be looking at the outcomes. What’s important are further decreases in teenage pregnancy and in sexually transmitted infections. We’d also like to see adolescents making more responsible decisions about their sexual health and their sexual behavior.

Abstinence as a goal is more important than abstinence as a teaching point. By the metrics listed above, comprehensive sexual health programs are more effective.

Whether for ethical reasons, for evidence-based reasons or for practical ones, continuing to demand that adolescents be taught solely abstinence-until-marriage seems like an ideologically driven mission that will fail to accomplish its goals.

Complete Article HERE!

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In college, sexual empowerment is more important than ever

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Hook-up culture shouldn’t be ignored; it should be empowered.

By Kelsey Thompson

Of the many anxieties incoming college students face, like heart attack-inducing syllabi or annoying roommates, one is particularly dreadful: hook-up culture.

The transition from high school to college is marked by increased independence and exposure to new people and experiences. So things get especially complicated when relationships and sex come into play. While that’s not to say that everyone attending college is interested or engaging in uncommitted sex, the amount of sex college students are having does create an environment where sexual education is not only advisable, but imperative.

From freshmen orientation onward, Syracuse University promotes conversations that extend beyond the cringe-inducing PowerPoints of middle school sex ed classes. With mandatory events like Speak About It, a monologue-based performance that highlights both the positives and negatives of sex, students are encouraged to take accountability for their sex lives without being condemned for it.

Michelle Goode, a health promotion specialist at the university’s Office of Health Promotion, said having positive conversations about sex makes students more likely to practice safely, protecting both themselves and their partners.

“Having more conversations about healthy sexuality and sharing accurate information and resources can be empowering, enhance intimate experiences and relationships, and help counter negative perceptions that perpetuate rape culture and gender-based oppression,” she said.

It’s especially important for women entering college to know their rights and find a sense of empowerment in their sex lives. In a male-dominated culture that simultaneously sexualizes women and condemns them for having sex, education is power. But it’s the university’s responsibility to provide the right tools for effective education.

Beyond university-run performances and events, SU Health Services is an essential tool for new students to utilize when it comes to sexual safety and prevention. Reproductive health counseling, STI screenings, birth control refills and condoms and emergency contraceptives are available for students on a regular basis.

“Programs and services that focus on sexual safety and education not only help students learn about the resources available, but also promote sex-positive messaging, which challenges the negative messaging students may encounter in the media and in pop culture,” Goode said.

But let’s face it — school-based sex education still has a bad rep. While SU provides basic resources and programs on sexual safety, clubs like SASSE take it to the next level.

SASSE, or Students Advocating Sexual Safety and Empowerment, promotes empowerment events, such as performances of “The Vagina Monologues” and condom giveaways, to help erase sexual taboos on campus. Taking advantage of these events can help students understand the reality of sexual empowerment in ways university offices simply can’t.

While college isn’t a constant cycle of frat parties and hook-up buddies, casual sex isn’t something to be afraid of or feel ashamed about. Sex is a natural thing to desire and engage in, and your body count is by no means reflective of your character or worth.

By having frank, open conversations about sexual safety, freshmen can breathe a sigh of relief. Know that while your 15-week class syllabi may be fear-inducing, sex should be anything but.

Complete Article HERE!

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All the reasons to masturbate — that have nothing to do with sex

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By WHIMN

Masturbation has so many health benefits, it should come with a certified AMA tick of approval. It increases blood flow, flushes your body with lovely endorphins, alleviates stress, boosts your self-confidence and keeps you in tune with your body and your sexuality. In short, it makes you feel great, and here at whimn, we’re all about that.

Real talk: Any time of day is a good time to masturbate. But some times are, well, more good than others.

Right before you go to work

Everyone has their morning checklist. Ours goes something like this. Shower, breakfast, coffee, brush teeth, rush out the door like a whirling devil to make the next bus to the office. But if you set aside a little more time in the morning, you could add an extra item to your to-do list: yourself.

Sure, masturbating in the morning won’t have the same languid sense of ease as a Sunday afternoon session, but it has plenty of health benefits that could improve your performance at work. You’ll be less stressed by office politics, will have more energy to tackle a big day at the desk and you’ll cut your beauty routine in half, courtesy of your natural, post-orgasm flush.

When you’re lacking in focus

If you feel yourself losing your concentration, it might be time to masturbate. Speaking to Bustle, Kit Maloney, the founder of O’actually, a feminist porn production company, said that “masturbation [and] orgasm is like meditation. It allows the space for the brain to quiet and that means you’ll be more focused and effective with your to-do list afterwards.”

When your mood is low

Think about a time of day when your energy levels and mood are running near-empty. It could be because you’re hung over, or because you’ve hit the mid-afternoon slump, or for a myriad of other reasons pertaining to you.

Whenever you feel your mood slipping is a great time to masturbate, thanks to all the nice dopamine that is released when you have an orgasm. Dopamine is a chemical that leads your body to feel pleasure, satisfaction and happiness, all things that help elevate your mood.

When you have your period

Though there’s been no specific scientific examination of this, in theory masturbation is a fantastic way to soothe menstrual cramps. That’s because when you have an orgasm, your uterine muscles contract and release naturally analgesic chemicals. Period pain, begone!

Before you go to sleep

There is a school of thought that says that since orgasms leave you in a state of heightened, pillowy relaxation bordering on bone-tiredness, you shouldn’t have one before anything that requires your brain to do heavy lifting.

Which means that one of the best times to have an orgasm is in bed, right before you go to sleep. There have been no studies explicitly examining the correlation between sleepiness and orgasms, but research by Kinsey found that participants noted that nightly masturbation helped them fall asleep, quickly and more smoothly. That might be because during climax, your body releases our old friend dopamine and then oxytocin, a nice little hormone cocktail that makes you feel very happy and then very tired all at once. Have an orgasm before bedtime and you might have the best sleep of your life.

Complete Article HERE!

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