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How to Rethink Intimacy When ‘Regular’ Sex Hurts

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There’s no rule that says sex has to be penetrative.

By Breena Kerr

When sex hurts, women often feel alone—but they’re not. About 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal intercourse, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine which surveyed a subsample of 1,738 women and men ages 18 and older online.

Awareness of painful vaginal sex—sometimes lumped under the term Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)—has grown as more women talk about their experiences and more medical professionals start to listen.

Many conditions are associated with FSD, including vulvodynia (chronic vulva pain), vestibulodynia (chronic pain around the opening of the vagina), and vaginismus (cramping and tightness around the opening of the vagina). But they all have one thing in common: vaginal or vulval pain that can make penetrative sex anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to physically impossible. However, you can absolutely still have sex, which we’ll get to in a minute.

First and most important, if you are experiencing any type of genital pain, talk to your doctor.

There’s no reason to suffer in silence, even if it seems awkward or embarrassing or scary. Your gynecologist has heard it all and can help (or they can refer you to someone who can). The International Pelvic Pain Society has great resources for finding a licensed health care provider who specializes in genital pain.

“We don’t yet know why women get vestibulodynia or vulvodynia,” Kayna Cassard, M.A., M.F.T., a psychotherapist who specializes in vaginismus and other pelvic pain issues, tells SELF. “[There can be] many traumas, physical and psychological, that become internalized and add to vaginal pain. Women’s pain isn’t just ‘in their heads,’ ” Cassard says.

This kind of pain can affect anyone—regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status—but it can be particularly difficult for someone who mostly engages in penetrative sex with their partner. The important thing to remember is that you have options.

Sex does not have to revolve around penetration.

Hell, it doesn’t even need to include it. And for a lot of people, it doesn’t. Obviously, if P-in-V sex is what you and your partner are used to, it can be intimidating to consider redefining what sex means to you. But above all, sex should be pleasurable.

“The first thing to do is expand what ‘counts’ as sex,” sex educator and Girl Sex 101 author Allison Moon tells SELF. “Many people in heterosexual relationships consider only penis-in-vagina to count as sex, and everything else is some form of foreplay,” she says. But sex can include (or not include) whatever two consensual people decide on: oral sex, genital massage, mutual masturbation, whatever you’re into.

“If you only allow yourself one form of sex to count as the real deal, you may feel broken for enjoying, or preferring, other kinds of touch,” Moon says.

To minimize pain, give yourself time to prepare physically and mentally for sex.

That might sound like a lot of prep work, but it’s really about making sure you’re in the right mindset, that you’re relaxed, and that you’re giving your body time to warm up.

Heather S. Howard, Ph.D., a certified sexologist and founder of the Center for Sexual Health and Rehabilitation in San Francisco, publishes free guides that help women prepare physically and mentally for sex. She tells SELF that stretching and massaging, including massaging your vaginal muscles, is especially helpful for women with muscle tightness. (Too much stretching, though, is a bad idea for women with sensitive vaginal skin that’s prone to tearing.)

Starting with nonsexual touch is key, as Elizabeth Akincilar-Rummer, M.S.P.T., president and cofounder of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, tells SELF. This puts the emphasis on relaxation so you don’t feel pressured to rush arousal.

Inserting a cool or warm stainless steel dilator (or a homemade version created with water and a popsicle mold) can also help reduce pain, Howard says. Women can tailor the size and shape to whatever is comfortable. If a wand or dilator is painful, however, a cool cloth or warm bath can feel soothing instead. Again, do what feels good to you and doesn’t cause pain.

Several studies have shown that arousal may increase your threshold for pain tolerance (not to mention it makes sex more enjoyable). So don’t skimp on whatever step is most arousing for you. That might mean some solo stimulation, playing sexy music, dressing up, reading an erotic story, watching porn, etc.

And of course, don’t forget lubrication. Lube is the first line of defense when sex hurts. Water-based lubricant is typically the safest for sensitive skin. It’s also the easiest to clean and won’t stain your clothes or sheets. Extra lubrication will make the vagina less prone to irritation, infections, and skin tears, according to Howard. But some people may also be irritated by the ingredients in lube, so if you need a recommendation, ask your gynecologist.

Now it’s time figure out what feels good.

Women with pain often know what feels bad. But Howard says it’s important for them to remember what feels good, too. “Lots of people aren’t asking, ‘What feels good?’ So I ask women to set what their pleasure scale is, along with their pain scale. I ask them to develop a tolerance for pleasure.”

To explore what feels good, partners can try an exercise where they rate touch. They set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and ask their partner to touch them in different ways on different parts of their body. Sex partners can experiment with location, pressure, and touch type (using their fingertips, nails, breath, etc.) and change it up every 30 seconds. With every different touch, women should say a number from 0 to 10 that reflects how good the touch feels, with 10 being, “This feels amazing!” and 0 meaning, “I don’t like this particular kind of touch.” This allows women to feel a sense of ownership and control over the sensations, Howard says.

Another option is experimenting with different sensations. Think tickling, wax dripping, spanking, and flogging. Or if they prefer lighter touch, feathers, fingers, hair, or fabric on skin are good options. Some women with chronic pain may actually find it empowering to play with intense sensations (like hot wax) and eroticize them in a way that gives them control, according to Howard. But other women may need extremely light touch, she says, since chronic pain can lower some people’s general pain tolerance.

Masturbating together can also be an empowering way for you to show a partner how you like to be touched. And it can involve the entire body, not just genitals, Akincilar-Rummer says. It’s also a safe way for you to experience sexual play with a partner, when you aren’t quite ready to be touched by another person. For voyeurs and exhibitionists, it can be fun for one person to masturbate while the other person watches. Or, for a more intimate experience, partners can hold and kiss each other while they masturbate. It feels intimate while still allowing control over genital sensations.

If clitoral stimulation doesn’t hurt, feel free to just stick with that.

It’s worth noting that the majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob/gyn in West Palm Beach, Florida, tells SELF. Stimulating the clit is often the most direct route to arousal and climax and requires no penetration.

Some women won’t be able to tolerate clitoral stimulation, especially if their pain is linked to the pudendal nerve, which can affect sensations in the clitoris, mons pubis, vulva, vagina, and labia, according to Howard and Akincilar-Rummer. For that reason, vibrators may be right for some women and wrong for others. “Many women with pelvic pain can irritate the pelvic nerve with vibrators,” says Akincilar-Rummer. “But if it’s their go-to, that’s usually fine. I just tell them to be cautious.”

For women with pain from a different source, like muscle tightness, vibrators may actually help them become less sensitive to pain. “Muscular pain can actually calm down with a vibrator,” Howard says. Sex and relationship coach Charlie Glickman, Ph.D., tells SELF that putting a vibrator in a pillow and straddling it may decrease the amount of direct vibration.

Above all else, remember that sexual play should be fun, pleasurable, and consensual—but it doesn’t need to be penetrative. There’s no need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable physically or emotionally or worsens your genital pain.

Complete Article HERE!

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How many times do women need to explain that penetration isn’t everything before everyone gets it?

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This week, sex therapist Dr Janet Hall advised MamaMia of a catchy new term for sex that doesn’t just involve placing a penis inside a vagina and wriggling it about.

‘Introducing outercourse’, said MamaMia, explaining that ‘outercourse’ counts ‘kissing, massaging, using vibrators, touching erogenous zones, clitoral stimulation, oral sex or toe-sucking. Basically, everything else that might come with sex, but isn’t penetration.’

They go on to note that outercourse shouldn’t be thought of as foreplay, as it’s not an add-on to sex, but something that’s absolutely essential to female pleasure.

Which is all true, and incredibly important to point out.

The issue is that ‘outercourse’ has been picked up and spread around the internet as a catchy new sex trend, as if it’s an easy ‘trick’ to get women off.

Which is a bit irritating really, because women have been saying over and over that we need more than just a poke with a penis to enjoy sex.

So why is the world still not getting it? Why is the revelation that the penis isn’t a magic orgasm stick still being treated as truly shocking news?

The ‘penetration is everything’ idea has been f***ing over women who have sex with men for ages. Women are being left unsatisfied or putting up with painful sex, because we’re taught that foreplay is just build-up to the main event – and the main event is all about the man getting off.

There’s an orgasm gender gap as a result (straight women have been shown to have the fewest orgasms out of everyone else having sex), and an oral sex gender gap, proving that the importance of non-penetrative sex is huge.

There’s a load of reasons men and women expect that five minutes of foreplay is enough before popping a penis into a vagina.

Think of sex scenes in films, which go from ripping each others’ clothes off to the woman gasping as she’s penetrated in a matter of seconds.

Think of sex education, which mentions that the penis becomes erect before penetrating vagina, but rarely makes any reference to the process the vagina needs to go through before being penetration-ready – because our sex education focuses more on sex for the purposes of reproduction (for which a female orgasm isn’t essential) rather than sexual pleasure.

Think of porn, which will more often show bow jobs than a man going down on a woman, which shows fingering as sharp-nailed fingers sliding in and out as the woman writhes around in ecstasy, which shows women reaching orgasm within seconds of a dildo or dick entering her.

We’re taught about foreplay as an afterthought, as a ‘nice to have’ instead of a ‘need to have’.

And it’s women who are missing out as a result.

A recent study from OMGyes found that just 18% of women can orgasm from penetration alone (again, this isn’t surprising or new. Countless other studies have found similar results), and that 36% of women need clitoral stimulation to have a chance of climaxing.

Rushing through the non-intercourse bits of sex is leaving women unsatisfied and pressured into faking orgasms – because they’ve been taught that they’re supposed to be able to come from a few quick pumps of a penis, and feel like they’re failing, or there’s something wrong with them, if they don’t.

None of this should be news. We’ve known for decades that the clitoris is hugely important, and women have reported for decades that they feel more pleasure through oral or manual stimulation than penetrative sex.

And yet, penetration is still held up as the be all and end all. We still place value on the idea of losing ones virginity as having penetrative sex, ignoring that for many women who have sex with women, this definition would make them virgins after multiple sexual partners.

Sex is not just penis in vagina. Foreplay is not an optional add-on. Sex is oral, and touching, and sucking, and all the other stuff that gives us pleasure.

If you’re bothered about women’s pleasure, sex needs to involve things other than penetration for much, much longer than a half-hearted five minutes. Foreplay shouldn’t just be a chunk before the good stuff – for many women, it is the good stuff, the bit where they’re actually likely to have an orgasm.

Touching the clitoris orally or with your fingers, kissing, caressing. It’s incredibly difficult for a woman to even get wet without that stuff, let alone have any chance of achieving orgasm.

We need to stop viewing an erection as the start of sex and ejaculation as the end. If a woman is not aroused, if she’s not experienced genuine pleasure, sex isn’t done – and the only way to get that done is the stuff that isn’t penetration, because your penis, shockingly enough, is not uniquely gifted to give orgasms.

Basically, if you’re not doing the stuff that isn’t penetration, you’re not doing sex.

Listen to women. Value our pleasure. Stop viewing our bodies as mysterious, otherworldly things that can’t be understood when we keep shouting exactly what we want (decent oral, clitoral stimulation, more of the stuff that isn’t penetration).

If you’re confused, ask women what they want. Then give it to them for an adequate chunk of time – not as a starter for sex, but as an essential part of the entire experience.

Complete Article HERE!

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Yes, I use a wheelchair and I still have sex

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Comedienne Romina Puma dispels some of the most common misconceptions around disabilities

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Disability and sex are two words that, for some reason in our society, do not go together. Most people assume that if you’re disabled, sex is not part of your life. Many find it hard to believe that disabled people date, have relationships or even like to have one-night stands

I’m a comedian who has muscular dystrophy. I’m nearly 40 and, while dating can be difficult for everyone, if you’re disabled, it makes it even harder – trust me. I haven’t been disabled all my life though. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle wasting condition.

I am not your personal Wikipedia/Google, I have feelings.

My sex life before my diagnosis was good. I always seemed to have boyfriends on the go or be having fun with men. I’m not the most beautiful girl, but I know how to seduce a guy, which helps when you are not exactly a Victoria Secret type.

Before I became a full-time wheelchair user, I used to go out on crutches and it was still possible for me to hide the condition and get lucky. But all of a sudden, about three years ago, my condition got worse and I couldn’t walk anymore. Everything changed. Since I have been using a wheelchair, my dating experiences have become a lot less frequent.

Guys ask me all manner of questions – some I don’t mind, but others can take it a step too far. They all want to know…

“Can you have sex?”

This is a common misconception. Most people only think about sex in terms of penetration. How wrong they are. There are so many other ways to reach that goal by exploring each other’s bodies – the pleasure can be so much more. However, the answer is yes, I can and do have sex!

“Can you feel anything?”
Yes, I can! I understand that most people believe the equation: wheelchair user = paralysed = cannot feel anything. But this assumption is wrong, for at least two reasons. One is, if you see someone in a wheelchair, it does not necessarily mean that person is paralysed. Second, there are many bases to explore when having sex. It’s not only about penetration! And toys can also help.

Then we have the strange requests…

“Will you bring your wheelchair?”
No, I just use it for fun and because I’m lazy! Some time ago, I used a profile picture of me sitting sideways on my wheelchair for an online dating website. Aside from not having much luck, one guy asked me if the wheelchair was a prop. After that, I deleted my account. No point staying on that site anymore.

“How long do your batteries last?”
Longer than most men in the bedroom!

“If we have sex, will I get your disease / impairment?”<
Well, Muscular Dystrophy is genetic so no you can’t catch it.

It’s time to #EndTheAwkward

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about disability out there. I think it’s always best to ask a person about their impairment, as long as you aren’t being offensive. Most disabled people prefer to talk about it rather than let things be awkward. But it can be very hurtful when your dream guy asks you all those questions and then they disappear. I am not your personal Wikipedia/Google, I have feelings.

I am part of Scope’s #EndtheAwkward campaign which raises awareness about how awkward the nation is when it comes to disability. Most recently I contributed to the charity’s A to Z of sex and disability . Research by the charity revealed that the majority (67%) of Brits feel awkward around disabled people, and as a result they panic, or worse, they avoid contact altogether. They also discovered that only 5% of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out, or been on a date with, a disabled person. I really do hope campaigns like this will encourage people to see the person and not their impairment, and will help everyone feel less awkward around disabled people.

67% of Brits feel awkward around disabled people

It’s frustrating that most people cannot see passed my wheelchair. I have not changed. I am exactly the same person I was before I started using it. I just get tired way more than I did 10 years ago. In my stand-up shows as a comedienne, I try and change people’s perceptions on sex and disability as much as I can. I’m still waiting for someone in the audience to help me try all the positions in the Kama Sutra but can you believe it – I haven’t had any takers yet!

So I’ve now come up with a plan B – masturbation and sex toys. If guys don’t want me anymore what can I do? I still need to have sex. For me having sex is the best thing ever. It makes me feel better and more confident. Two years ago, I bought my first toy; a very basic rabbit. After that, I tried several other toys, until I finally found the right one for me. Believe me, so far I can easily survive without men. Better to be alone than with someone who does not appreciate me for who I am!

Complete Article HERE!

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8 health benefits of great sex

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“If doctors could prescribe sex, they would“, says sexpert Tracey Cox

Do you feel as if you’re too busy to ‘get busy’? It’s a common response. It’s easy to let life get in the way of your sex life, but as it’s National Sexual Health Day, here are a few health reasons to make time for sex from Lovehoney sexpert Tracey Cox.

1. Regular sex could make you look younger

Sex boosts the levels of a person’s anti-ageing hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) – a key factor in keeping us young. After orgasm, levels of DHEA in the blood rise to five times the normal level. A study found that couples in their sixties still having regular sex looked between five and seven years younger than those no longer having sex.

2. You could live longer

Regular sex (at least twice a week) has been linked to an increase of 3-8 years in a person’s lifespan. A study found that the risk of dying in any one year was 50 per cent lower in men who had sex twice or more a week – even when other factors such as age, social class and smoking status were controlled for.

3. Sex might improve the quality of men’s sperm

The quality of sperm improves when men have regular sex, according to research. Tests show that sperm quality lowers through abstinence, particularly after 10 days. In a study conducted in 2009 of men with fertility problems, daily ejaculation for a week cut the amount of DNA damage seen in sperm samples.

4. Sex boosts your immune system

Having sex once or twice a week raises the level of immunoglobulins (IgA) in the body, increasing protection against colds and flu. Couples who have regular sex have 30% higher levels of IgA than abstainers.

5. It counts as a work out

Sex can keep you fit. Quickies of 20 minutes weekly mean 7,500 calories annually, that’s as much as you consume jogging 120km. A sex session can burn about 200 calories. This is like running 15 minutes on a treadmill.

6 Sex might soothe your period cramps

Many women say they feel less menstrual pain if they have intercourse before their cycle. Muscle contraction that occurs during sexual arousal releases tension in the muscles of the uterus, which are responsible for menstrual pain.

7. It’s good for your heart

Studies have shown that regular sex can help prevent a heart attack. Studies in Belfast showed that sex three times a week could halve the risk of a heart attack or stroke. A separate study found that women who had at least two orgasms a week were 30% less likely to have heart disease than women who did not regularly have sex.

While having sex, the heart rate goes from 70 beats per minute to 150, a good training for the heart. Having sex three times a week decreases the risk of heart attack by almost half, according to scientists at the New England Research Institute in Massachusetts.

8. It might help a stuffy nose

Sex has been found to reduce the amount of histamine in the body – the chemical that gives you a stuffy nose, or itchy throat. It could in theory provide relief from hay fever symptoms. But obviously don’t ditch your inhaler or any other medication you’ve been prescribed.

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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