For those of you who don’t already know, I’m contributing to the Fearless Press site.
I’m writing a series of articles on Catholic Moral Theology. Look for the series HERE!
Pleasure is personal, mostly because it has to be, and not least because female scientists continue to face grinding discrimination regardless of their area of research. And when it comes to sexual health, breakthroughs are few and far between: in spite of increasing documentation of associated health risks, birth control hasn’t really been reformulated since the 60s, and last year’s much-anticipated release of Addyi, a pill meant to fix female sexual dysfunction, only worked for ten percent of the women who tried it.
It’s clear that sexual emancipation has not yet been freed from the bedroom. In spite of its roots in scientific misogyny—the vibrator was developed in the 19th century to cure women of hysteria, after all—a swathe of new devices have people looking hopefully to sex tech (or sextech, as it is also known) as the answer to systemic gaps in sexual health. History, it seems, is coming full circle; where the 1960s saw the vibrator de-medicalized and uncoupled from science, today’s consumer market is beginning to see pleasure and health unified in the pursuit of wellness. Yet what we call “sex tech” is tied more to the lucrative sex toy industry—worth $15 billion this year—than it is to scientific institutions, with much of its promise linked to idea that personal pleasure makes for better health.
These days, more people than ever understand that a woman’s ability to understand what turns her on and why is a crucial step in developing a healthy perspective on her sexual life. So it makes sense that we’re seeking out masturbatory experiences that are more tailored than your average stand-in phallus. It’s the driving force behind the popularity of devices like Crescendo, the first-ever fully customizable vibrator, which raised £1.6 million in funding to date and shipped out over 1,000 pre-orders after a successful crowdfunding round.
Designed to cater to the inherent complexities of female arousal, the vibrator can be finely customized, equipped with six motors and the ability to be bent into any favorable shape. An accompanying app allows users to control each motor individually; it remembers favorite behaviors, provides pre-set vibration patterns, and responds to mood-setting music.
“We were inspired by the concept of tech designed for the human, rather than the human having to adapt their behaviour to tech,” says Stephanie Alys, the co-founder of Crescendo creators Mysteryvibe. “Human beings aren’t just unique in terms of our size and how we’re put together genetically, but also in terms of what we like. What turns us on can be different from what turns another person on.”
But in spite of the life-improving promises of consumer sex tech, the reality is that official, peer-reviewed studies remain crucial to reforming policy and education. Founded by Dr. Nicole Prause, Liberos Center is one of the few sex-centric research institutions in the United States. Much of its work investigates the relationship between psychology, physiology, and sex, with an emphasis on the hard data that is often lacking in sex tech.
Liberos presses on in a particularly antagonistic climate; the American government is famously skittish about sexual content. Sexual material is banned from government-funded computers, says Prause, making it difficult for researchers to, say, screen porn to test subjects as part of a study on arousal. She adds that congressional bodies actively seek to pull funding from research that addresses the topic head-on—four recent studies that had already been awarded funding were re-opened for assessment because of their sexual content.
“People report having certain types of experiences all the time,” says Prause. “But they’re often poor observers of their own behaviour, and don’t see anyone’s behaviour but their own. They don’t really have that external perspective, which is why I think it’s important to take both a psychological and laboratory approach. For example, in science, people haven’t been verifying that orgasm actually occurs. So we’ve been developing an objective way of measuring that, and of measuring the effects of clitoral stimulation—on how to best capture the contractions that occur through the orgasm.”
Liberos is also investigating the effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and direct current stimulation (tDCS) on sexual responsiveness. Both are non-invasive treatments, meaning anyone seeking a cure for low libido may not require anything more than the use of a headset. TMS holds potential for long-term changes to a person’s sex drive; the technique, which uses a magnetic field generator to produce small electrical currents in the brain, has already been used to treat neuropathic pain and otherwise stubborn cases of major depressive disorder. DCS, on the other hand, uses a headset to deliver a low-intensity electrical charge, stimulating the brain areas where activity spikes at the sight, or touch, of a turn-on.
If using the brain’s electrical signals to control the rest of the body sounds like a dystopian fantasy, the reality is that these medical treatments aren’t far off. Bioelectronic firms are now backed by the likes of Glaxosmithkline and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and similar applications have already been established for hypertension and sleep apnea, while chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and arthritis are targeted for future development.
According to Dr. Karen E. Adams, clinical professor of OBGYN at Oregon Health and Science University, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of women experience varying degrees of sexual dysfunction. Medication that targets neurotransmitters, like the SSRIs used to treat depression and anxiety, can fluctuate in efficacy depending on the unique makeup of the person using it.
Combined with the trickiness of locking down the nebulousness of desire (and lack thereof), it’s no wonder that Addyi, a failed antidepressant pursued because of its unexpected effect on serotonin levels in female mice, was a flop. Non-sex-specific studies have shown that electrical stimulation can be more adaptive to the brain’s constantly-shifting landscape than medication that interacts with its chemistry. For the 90 percent of women who found Addyi to be a sore disappointment, bioelectronic treatments could soon offer an alternative solution to low sexual responsivity.
“By giving women information about their bodies that they can decide what to do with, we’re enabling more female empowerment,” says Prause. “And by allowing women to decide which aspects of sex they want to be more responsive to, we’re giving people more control, and not with charlatan claims. We actually have good scientific reasons that we think are going to work, that are going to make a difference.”
Yet the field’s burgeoning successes are only as good as the social environment they take hold in. Sociopolitical hurdles notwithstanding, money remains a significant roadblock for developers, as the controversial nature of sex research has many investors shying away from backing new projects in spite of consumer interest. Whether they’re seeking government funding or VC investments, sex start-ups and labs alike are often forced to turn to crowdfunding to raise money for development.
“It’s pretty unsurprising that heavily female-oriented tech products do so well on crowdfunding sites; these are solutions to problems faced by half of the population, that are overlooked by a male-dominated industry where male entrepreneurs are 86 percent more likely to be VC funded than women,” says Katy Young, behavioral analyst at research firm Canvas8. “But the audience is clearly there—Livia, a device which targets nerves in order to stop period pains, raised over $1 million on Indiegogo.”
Outdated sex ed programs, which emphasize procreation and normalize straight male sexuality without addressing female sexual development, are ground zero for unhealthy social perspectives on sex. Acknowledging that change can’t just come from devices alone, New York’s Unbound, a luxury sex toy subscription service, is teaming up with “campus sexpert” app Tabù to bring both sex education and affordable masturbation tools to colleges across the country.
“There’s a national discussion right now surrounding consent, which is 100 percent needed and super important,” says Polly Rodriguez, CEO and co-founder of Unbound. “But for women to be able to engage in sex and address consent as equals, they need to learn about female pleasure—they should understand their own bodies so that when they are engaging in sexual activities with someone else, they know what feels good to them, they know how to communicate that, and they don’t feel uncomfortable about it.”
It’s tempting to buy into the idea of tech as freeing: that the increased presence of smart devices in our lives will help us form healthier habits and a better understanding of our ourselves, or that the availability of medically-approved tech will be a panacea in the intricately fraught landscape of female sexual dysfunction—which is as socially determined as it is biological, and as cultural as it is psychological.
But sex tech is still far from being paradigm-shifting. Its success will be dependent not only on consumer dollars but on government policies and public attitudes; at a level of engagement this intimate, tech is only any good if people feel free to use it.
Complete Article HERE!
by Joan McFadden
Pick your moment to talk. There are all sorts of reasons people stop having sex – stress, illness, worry about performing, low libido, age, menopause and lack of body confidence. It’s easy to let your sex life drift, but bringing up the subject is difficult so try to pick the right moment when you’re both relaxed and unlikely to be interrupted. But not in bed and especially not while trying to persuade your partner to have sex or feeling angry or frustrated because they’re not interested.
Pick your moment to listen. Do your best not to take it personally. Don’t assume they no longer fancy you or put words in their mouth. It can be hard enough to talk about without extra needless emotional layers being added so listen to what is being said and how the situation makes your partner feel. It really isn’t about you being a bit plump or growing older or not taking pride in your appearance.
Be honest with yourself and each other. Have you both stopped making an effort, do you take each other for granted and think nothing of rolling into bed in a grubby T-shirt without even brushing your teeth? No one’s suggesting you should aim for supermodel or totally buffed body status, but if you don’t love yourself enough to have a little pride in your appearance, it’s not going to be that easy for other people to love you too. You might feel rather shallow admitting that the extra two stone or constant farting in bed isn’t exactly what you signed up for, but you can do that tactfully, especially if admitting areas where you are also no longer quite the person they fell for.
Decide whether sex is a deal-breaker for either of you. Would you be willing to sacrifice sex for the “other stuff”? Some people are perfectly happy having no sex in their marriage and Relate’s research shows that the importance people place on sex decreases with age. Often intimacy is what’s most important, but if it’s not enough, say so.
Be patient. If sex is a deal-breaker, it’s important for the “keen” partner to be patient while the two of you unpack what is causing the block. This is also not the best time to suggest an open relationship as a possible solution.
Seek help together. Sex therapy can help you with working out what the underlying problem is and can also give you a sense that you’re sorting this out together. At the beginning of a relationship, sex can feel so easy, natural and exciting that it can feel a little sad that you might have to work at it, but the results can be well worth it.
Kindness is sexy. Go out together, have fun, make time for each other. When both parties feel truly heard and understood, often intimacy increases along with the desire to have sex.
Ban sex. Many therapists often suggest that couples in sexless relationships start by taking the pressure off sex entirely. This may sound counterintuitive but creating a temporary ban can stop feelings of anxiety about needing to perform, making relaxation more likely.
Small steps. Reintroduce intimacy slowly – start with something as small as holding hands or giving your partner a peck on the cheek before you head off to work. You can then build up to massages, cuddling, lingering kissing and intimate touching and oral sex, but keeping full sexual intercourse off the table until you both feel like you want to do it. The idea behind this is that it allows you to rediscover one another’s sensual sides and increase desire in a pressure-free environment. It’s important that you regularly discuss how you’re both feeling and don’t push your partner to go further than they are comfortable with.
Drink is not the answer. True, but a relaxing dinner and an easy chat over a couple of glasses has led to other things since time began.
Complete Article HERE!
Most of us don’t want to ask, but we’re curious how our sex life stacks up to our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. “How often do other couples have sex?” and, “How long do they last in bed?” or “Do they ‘change it up’ every time?” are all questions that make us wonder if we’re sexually normal. Good sexual health is contingent on understanding and embracing all aspects of our sexuality.
Sexual health is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity. Dr. Draion M. Burch, a sexual health advisor for Astroglide TCC, affirms it’s not limited to just being STD free. “It’s the emotional, physical, and social characteristics of sexual behavior,” he told Medical Daily.
It’s a mind-body connection that facilitates the possibility of having good sex. You have sex in a way that promotes health and healthy relationships. It’s about feeling good about ourselves as an individual, as well as understanding who we are sexually.
Dr. Nicole Prause, a sexual psychophysiologist and neuroscientist, reminds us we can be sexually healthy and choose not to engage sexually at all. “Sexual health does have to even necessarily include sex per se,” she told Medical Daily.
Below are 6 signs of good habits in the bedroom to rate how sexually healthy you are.
A healthy sex life starts with loving our body. A 2009 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found women between the ages 18 to 49 who scored high on a body image scale were the most sexually satisfied. Positive feelings associated with our weight, physical condition, sexual attractiveness, and thoughts about our body during sex help promote healthy sexual functioning.
April Masini, relationship expert and author, believes a poor body image, or poor health and an awareness of it, can lead to a complicated sex life.
“Your body is the instrument you use to have sex, so when your body is in good health and you feel good about it, you’re less likely to feel it’s an obstacle to having sex,” she told Medical Daily.
A healthy sex life relies on the foundation of communication. It’s about communicating what we want and what our partners want in the bedroom. Good communication takes effort, and it doesn’t always go smoothly, but attempting to talk with one another about desires can make sex enticing.
“Without it, you don’t read each other’s cues and react to whether something feels good or doesn’t feel good,” said Masini.
A flirty or naughty text or whispering dirty sexual banter into each other’s ears can lead to greater sexual satisfaction for both partners. A 2011 study in the Journal of Integrated Social Sciences found specific sexual behaviors, such as kissing, oral sex, and engaging in sexual conversations, were more likely related to greater sexual satisfaction. This is also linked to the concept of good communication between both partners.
Inevitably, a happy relationship usually translates to a happy sex life. A 2011 study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found for middle-aged and older couples in committed relationships of one to 51 years’ duration, relationship happiness and sexual satisfaction were mutually reinforcing. Romantic relationships are important for our happiness and well-being.
Couples will report sex can become routine; novelty is a way that increases sexual arousal, and as a result, sexual pleasure. Changing it up doesn’t have to be drastic — simply wearing new lingerie or doing your hair differently can be a way to introduce something new in the boudoir.
“Some people seem to think novelty means anal sex in your front yard, but novelty can be very subtle, like extremely slow pacing and teasing,” said Prause.
Couples may do it a few times a week or once a month, but focusing on a number will not be productive to our sex life. “The nature and quality of the sex can vary tremendously, as does frequency, but the main outcome any therapist will focus on is your satisfaction,” according to Prause.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization found increased frequency does not lead to increased happiness. Researchers hypothesize it could be because it leads to a decline in anticipation, and therefore enjoyment. Sometimes less is more when it comes to sex.
Sexual health does not pertain to just sex; it’s about how you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Complete Article HERE!
By Rafi Letzter
Why are you so straight? Why are you so gay? Why are you so bi? Science doesn’t have any definite answers.
I reached out to Ritch Savin-Williams, a developmental psychologist at Cornell University and author of several books focused on sexuality. I asked him what we know about why and how people develop their sexual preferences. He explained that the answer is not all that much, and that the problem is that there’s no good way to do the necessary research.
“We have some sense that some major part of [sexuality] is biological. But what part of biology? Is it a gene? Genes? Hormones? Prenatal hormones?” he said.
This issue is prevalent across the field, he explained. The roots of attraction are a mystery.
“Why are we attracted to what we’re attracted to?” Savin-Williams asked. “For example: pedophiles. How does someone get to be a pedophile? We have no idea. We don’t even really know why someone is straight versus gay versus bi versus all the other pan-sexuals, asexuals, all of the different sexuals. We don’t know why.”
(To be clear, Savin-Williams was not morally conflating pedophilia with being straight, gay or bi — just explaining how little we understand about how attraction forms.)
The problem, he said, is that researchers in his field aren’t able to do good research on children.
“We can’t ask children about their sexuality. Take a 5-year-old and say ‘What are you sexually attracted to?’ and you’ll get put in jail. So we can’t ask children about their sexuality at all.”
There’s are obviously good reasons society frowns on asking detailed sexual questions of children. But the reality is that so much of sexual development happens at that phase of life that it’s impossible to form a complete picture without it.
“We don’t know anything about it. And yet we all know that children masturbate … We know that their sexual attractions are there before puberty. And that they’re sexually interested in themselves and other people. And yet we can’t do research on that,” he said.
What’s more, there’s reason to doubt people’s memories of their childhood sexualities once they grow up, even though that’s usually what the research is relying on.
“All of my data that I’ve collected is on adolescents and young adults, and I struggle even to ask high school kids,” Savin-Williams said. “It’s all retrospective.”
There are a few studies on children from Scandinavian countries with looser cultural norms around sexuality and childhood, Savin-Williams said. But the data is still a trickle. And without it, so much of why we develop the sexual feelings we do remains a mystery.
Complete Article HERE!