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Are you getting any closer? A pocket-sized primer on female sexuality

By Clarissa Fortin

Stay curious between the sheets, friends.

Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality
by Sarah Barmak
(Coach House Books, 2016; $14.95)

If it weren’t for Sarah Barmak’s Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality I might have gone for years of my life without ever finding out what my clitoris actually looks like.

“Illustrations of it resemble a swan with an arched neck,” Barmak writes. “When I saw an closerillustration of the clitoris’s true shape for the first time I felt like a blind man finally seeing a whole elephant when all he’s ever known was the tip of it’s trunk.” I realized while reading those sentences that no one in my Catholic high school health class ever bothered to show me such an image and I’d never thought to seek one out.

I consider myself a feminist and a sexually liberated woman. Yet, there are still surprising gaps in my understanding of my own body. And that’s why a book like Barmak’s is important. Closer tackles its subject with eloquence, intelligence and humour.

The book is split into five essays that tackle the “fear of pleasure,” the history of female sexuality, the science and psychology of the orgasm, the “female sexual underground” and the politics of acknowledging female desire.

While each essay has its own strengths, I think the most effective chapter is “A History of Forgetting.” This section aligns the historical “discovery” and “loss” of the clitoris with the individual experience of a woman named Vanessa — an actual interview subject.

We first meet Vanessa on the table at the doctor’s office filming herself masturbating in order to prove to the doctor that she can indeed ejaculate. We learn that Vanessa has been having a series of problems — pain after sex, recurring yeast infections and so on — that no doctors can figure out.

From here Barmak momentarily leaves Vanessa’s story behind and turns her attention to the clitoris itself, noting that “the mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003, years before we got around to doing an ultrasound on the ordinary human clit.”

While the tendency is to see history as ever moving forward and progressing, Barmak counters that “women’s sexuality began by being celebrated, then was feared as too potent, before being downplayed and denied in the scientific era.”

The Christian church, the scientific revolution and various other factors resulted in a demonization and rejection of female bodies. It’s a generalized historical account to be sure, but Barmak does point readers in the direction of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, a much more comprehensive book on the subject.

What makes this essay so powerful is the way it revisits and concludes with Vanessa and her struggle. Her story held up against the larger history of the clitoris itself demonstrates all too well an overall contempt for and neglect of the female genitalia.

Along with research and anecdotes, Barmak amasses a diverse collection of interviews with doctors, researchers and sex educators. I was excited to learn many factoids that I will surely whip out at dinner parties in the future — for instance, vaginal self stimulation actually blocks pain in women, and even women who are paralysed can sometimes still feel sexual pleasure because of nerves which bypass the spinal cord and communicate directly with the brain!

Barmak combines this research and traditional journalistic writing with first-person narration, bringing her own experience into the story. This means attending seminars and workshops, watching a demonstration of a female orgasm at Burning Man, and getting a vaginal massage.

Barmak is open about her own skepticism and trepidation during these investigations. “I like to consider myself open to new things,” she writes. “Yet, the idea of a strange lady’s gloved fingers all up in my jade palace falls somewhat outside my personal boundaries.” She goes through with it and the personal account makes for a richer narrative overall.

A note about the term “woman”: Barmak uses it throughout the book to generally refer to the cisgendered female experience. If I have any strong critique of the book it is that by celebrating the distinctly female anatomy, the book sometimes verges on unintentionally emphasizing a gender binary. This is something Barmak herself seems aware of. She notes on pg. 21 that “the word woman can refer equally to cisgender, intersex, genderqueer and transgender women all representing varied shades of experience.” While it’s good that the acknowledgement is there, I think a declaration like this belongs even earlier on as a note for readers to keep in mind before the book even begins.

That said, Barmak does make an effort to include the experiences of typically marginalized women such as trans women and women of colour in her narrative. “Being white affords privileges even in non-mainstream spaces of revolt such as sexuality,” she notes.

The topic is something “that requires far more depth and attention than this little book can offer,” Barmak says and while this seems like a partial cop-out for having only a few pages devoted to women of colour and trans women specifically, Barmak makes a valid point. Issues regarding sexuality faced by marginalized women warrant entire books altogether, preferably penned by a writer who has lived those experiences.

Nevertheless, I think this book would have been more complete with a sixth section devoted specifically to these issues.

At its core this book is compassionately optimistic, celebrating the innate complexity of sexual pleasure itself and arguing in favor of orgasms for all, something I can definitely get behind.

Sex educator and vlogger Lindsay Doe has a motto she repeats at the end of each of her videos: “stay curious.” Closer isn’t the definitive book about female sexuality and it doesn’t claim to be. But it made me curious about my own body, and even more curious about the wonderfully vast array of experiences we humans have between the sheets.

I recommend it to my friends of all genders, my boyfriend, my sisters, and especially the woman who started it all, my mother.

Complete Article HERE!

10 Mind Blowing Ways To Improve Your Sex Life Like You Never Have Before

By Sasha Godman

man & woman

It has never defined me as a person, but my sexuality is a big part of who I am, I’ve always considered myself lucky to be so sexually free, co-workers, one night stands, it was all for fun. No one got hurt and not once did I sense impending danger.

Then that way of thinking was totally obliterated. In saying that, I bounced back so fucking well, people that I’ve confided in ask me if I’m alright and they give me a look of disbelief because I’ve got a drink in one hand, a smoke in the other and a smile on my face. I am doing well. I’m reassessing not only what makes me happy, but what will make 2015 a year of unforgettable sex.

1. Forget porn.

Un-see everything you’ve typed into your pornhub search. You don’t have headphones in, trying to fap as silently as possible, you’re with a living, breathing person, kiss everything, nibble everything, lick everything, in saying that…

2. Communicate.

Your clit isn’t as sensitive as he may assume? The best kind of hand job involves the mouth? We’re not mind readers, orgasms are so much more achievable when we abandon our embarrassments and outline what gets our rocks off.

3. Foreplay matters yo.

As much as I just want to climb on top of my boyfriend the moment I see him after a week hiatus, it’s not only hotter, but healthier (and a higher chance of orgasming!) to lengthily explore each others bodies before undergoing the main event.

4. Embrace lube!

I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that I was just shy of my 23rd birthday before I even thought about purchasing a bottle of lube, but all I know now is that hand jobs will never be the same again. Just sayin’.

5. Look each other in the eye.

Whether it’s a casual hook-up or the culmination of a long awaited encounter with someone you deeply care about, sex reaches an incredibly intimate level when we forsake our anxieties over the dumb cum faces we’re pulling and we can actually look at the person we’re sharing pleasure with.

6. Sober sex is best sex.

Sure there is an indescribable level of horniness that alcohol seems to boost, but sober sex is 100% more focused and less sloppy.

7. Conjure a fuck-it list.

Why keep things private? Whether it’s a sacred document you’ve created with a partner or you have solo fantasies that you want to embark on, what’s the worst that could happen? Sex in the back row of the Foxcatcher screening* wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be, oh well, we tried! Tick!

*I am in no way encouraging sex in Events Cinemas or any other dignified establishment; these expeditions are just the spice of life and are not completely unheard of.

8. You’re not an Olympian.

Some positions work better than others, but it’s not always necessary to incorporate as many switches as possible, you’re not in a marathon. See number 2.

9. We’re all perverted little humans.

Can I take a photo while I’ve got you all tied up? Being attentive to each others desires is key to awesome sex, that and consent.

10. Sometimes sex doesn’t happen.

Sometimes he’s not hard enough, she’s not wet enough, sometimes it’s just nicer to hold hands or dry hump ourselves into bliss.

Sex can mean as a little or as much as you want it to, all I’ll say is that being comfortable within yourself should hit a big, mandatory tick before you embark on your ventures.

Complete Article HERE!

10 Reasons Why Women Lose Their Libido

Ladies, libido means sexual desire. Women having decreased libido is one of the most common complaints I hear in the office, especially for those stressed out supermoms. Trust me – you’re not alone, ladies. It is estimated that more than 40% of women experience some sort of sexual dysfunction in their lifetime. Here’s why, and what you can do about it.

Dried Rose On Old Vintage Wood Plates

Female sexual dysfunction can include problems with desire, arousal, achieving orgasm and sexual pain that causes significant distress in your life. More specifically, decreased libido is when you don’t want to engage in any type of sexual activity, including masturbation, and you don’t want to have any sexual thoughts or fantasies. Sound like someone you know? Let’s review some reasons why you may not want to have sex with your significant other:

1. Bad Relationship.

Fighting with your partner is an easy way to kill your sex drive. When you are angry or hurt, sex is the last thing on your mind. Fix your relationship — go to couples’ therapy.

2. Stress.

It doesn’t matter where the stress comes from, all of it can cause your libido to drop. It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed out from financial problems, from trying to get pregnant, or from worrying about your job – it all negatively impacts your libido. Stress can also lead to you being fatigued, which worsens the problem. Find ways to chill out ladies – I mediate daily to deal with stress, and that might work for you, too.

3. Alcohol and Smoking.

Both of these drugs have been shown to decrease sexual desire and satisfaction. While alcohol in moderation is okay, when you binge drink, sexual dysfunction starts to occur. On the other hand, any kind of smoking is bad – just quit!

Easier said than done, right? You have to know why you are smoking. Substitute that why with something else. For example, if you smoke because you are bored, instead of lighting up go to the gym.

4. Mental Illness.

Mental conditions such as depression and anxiety can also cause your libido to drop. Talk to your doctor and get treated. Sometimes medications used to treat these conditions can also cause a drop in libido – but not every medication does, so talk to your doctor.

crying girl

5. Birth Control.

Hormonal birth has been shown to decrease testosterone in your body, which could lead to a lowered libido. This is because testosterone is one of the hormones that makes you horny.

Other medications such as antidepressants, anti-seizure meds, opioids, medical marijuana, antihistamines, and hypertensive medications can also decrease your sexual desire. Talk to your doctor about switching your medications if you think any are giving you a problem. Your healthcare provider can also potentially switch you to a non-hormonal birth control option, like the Paragard IUD.

6. Trauma in your Past.

Negative sexual experiences in the past can cause issues with decreased libido. Women who were raped or have been victims of domestic violence may, understandably, have issues here. Going to therapy to work through your pain can help.

7. Poor Body Image.

In a world full of fake butts and boobs, it isn’t hard to image women struggling with their body image. Not thinking you are sexy enough can cause your sex drive to plummet. If you don’t like something about yourself, change it – in a healthy way, of course. Eat clean, drink water and exercise – though, keep in mind that a lot of times this is something that you have to work out in therapy.

8. Medical Conditions.

Medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disease, congestive heart failure, or cancer can all affect libido. They can alter hormones that have an impact on your sex drive. Proper treatment of the underlying disease can often improve libido.

9. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding.

Hormones fluctuate during pregnancy and breastfeeding, which can decrease your sex drive. Being pregnant can cause you to be tired and not feel sexy, which certainly doesn’t help your libido! Do your best to focus on intimacy with your partner — also, when you have the baby, get help. Let those grandparents help out with babysitting!

10. Aging.

In menopause, estrogen levels drop drastically because the ovaries aren’t working anymore. Low estrogen causes, among other things, a dry vagina, which makes sex painful. This can lead to decreased sexual desire. Arthritis in the aging population can make having sex less fun. When vaginal dryness makes sex uncomfortable, use lubricants (try a free sample of Astroglide Liquid or Astroglide Gel, which temporarily relieve dryness during intercourse). Some women find using vaginal estrogen also helps.

Complete Article HERE!

I Can’t Cum, dammit!

Name: Jayme
Gender: female
Age: 23
Location: ??
I have a pretty major question that I think you’d be perfect to answer, with your credentials. I’ve not had the best relationship history. My second boyfriend, right after I graduated high school, was abusive in every way but physically. I stayed with him for 7 months before getting wise and getting out. A few months after the breakup I was almost raped at a party. I found afterward that I was unable to do anything sexual with anyone, unless I was drunk. It was 4 years before I tried hooking up with anyone.

It’s now been 4 years and 6 months since all that happened, and I’m finally starting to get more comfortable with being sexual. I went through some minor therapy over the summer that really helped me to get past the near-rape I experienced in college. Because of that, I was finally able to have sex for the first time a few weeks ago. I’ve been hooking up with a good friend semi-regularly, and it’s been mostly great. The only problem I’ve run into is that I can’t relax enough to cum with this guy, from anything. He’s fingered me, gone down on me, and we’ve had sex, and I just can’t get off. I’ve had no problems ever bringing myself to orgasm, and when I’m with this guy I can feel like I’m just about to, but I can’t get all the way to that point. Do you have any suggestions for me?

Jilling off

Hey there, Jayme.

Thanks for your message. I do have one really important suggestion for you. This is the same suggestion I make to other women who, for whatever reason, are not getting off with a partner.

You say you have no problems bringing yourself to orgasm. This happens during masturbation, right? Do you use your hand, or do you employ a toy of some sort? Perhaps you do both. Whatever your pattern is, it is successful, and that’s the important part.

My suggestion to you is that you masturbate with and for your partner. I am a huge proponent of a couple masturbating together. There is a wealth of information that each can share with their partner about technique and sensitive areas of one’s body. This is a particularly effective means of resolving issues like the ones you have. And I hasten to add that these masturbation events don’t have to be some boring clinical affairs; they can be totally hot. Put on a show for him and he for you. Read erotica aloud to one another. Incorporate toys, whatever.

If you were my client I’d insist on a fucking moratorium. I’d have you and your partner do lots of playful masturbation together — dry hand, wet hand, toys, whatever. Once you get into a rhythm of orgasmic filled masturbation events, I’d have you move on to mutually masturbating each other. When this is successful you could move on to oral, just as long as you also use your hands. Then and only then would I allow you to incorporate full-on fucking to your sex play.

Eliminate the performance anxiety, share your Jack & Jilling off technique and make your sex play fun; that’s your homework.

Good luck

7 Things I Learned After A Year Of Celibacy

(Personally I wouldn’t use the term celibacy to describe sexual abstinence and HERE is why.)

 

The most important lessons I learned about sex were when I wasn’t having any.

By

1. I used to have a lot of sex.

I’m not shy about it. I was a woman with many casual sexual partners, and for a while it was really very fun. I revelled in it. Played up to the role. I was a good-time gal and wanted you to know it. I was in control of my sexuality and unafraid to explore it – and exploit it.

Then it stopped being fun. Somewhere along the way – the way being several years of drunken promiscuity with more men than I’ll admit to – my intentions got muddied. Tarnished. I was using sex as a weapon, a way to keep distance between me and every bloke I kicked out of my bed at 4am. Hats off to you if you can enjoy no-strings-attached sex, but me? I was playing a role, a sort of Samantha-Jones-meets-Russell-Brand playgirl, and I wasn’t happy. It took me a while to realise it, but once I did – once it hit me that I was lonely, and a bit of a phoney – the reality was devastating. So I closed my legs. For a year I didn’t date. For 12 months I asked myself who I was, what I wanted, and how I could bridge the gap between those two things.

2. It’s lonelier to be in bed beside a stranger than it is to be in bed alone.

02

The turning point for me was being in bed with a balding Australian who wouldn’t speak to me on nights out with mutual friends and yet, somehow, I’d always take home. One lazy morning I leaned over to him and said, “Make me come…” His answer was to check his watch, and get up to go shower. He might’ve known the sound of my orgasm and the taste of my kiss, but I couldn’t find the words to tell him how humiliating his treatment of me – our treatment of each other, to be fair – was, because there was absolutely no intimacy. Once I was celibate, I saw that the sex had been a pseudo-surrender: I could pretend to be revealing parts of myself, but really was using my body to ensure I’d never have to. It’s the most isolating thing I could’ve done. No wonder I felt lonely.

3. Nobody can love you until you love yourself.

It’s almost embarrassing to write that, hackneyed phrase as it is, and yet it’s the truest thing I know. I reckon on some level I was after somebody to prove my own worth to me. My high school sweetheart of almost a decade had dumped me to marry my best mate, and that affected, so deeply, how I thought of myself. I think I was looking for parts of myself in every man who I seduced. I revealed my most unkind, mean version as if to see who would challenge me and love me anyway. Some men tried, and I couldn’t respect them for it. I didn’t trust anyone who wanted to be with me, because what poor judgment did that demonstrate? I could never date a man actually interested in such a broken half-woman. It’s because I didn’t like myself that I couldn’t believe anybody else did. Nobody can love you until you do.

4. Good sex is sex with somebody you actually like.

01

In my most promiscuous years, the sex I was having was terrible. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but once I declared my year-long vow of celibacy I allowed myself to have the kind of fantasies I’d previously denied. I let my mind wander as to what it would be like to be kissed – every last inch of me. To have a man take his time, to be explored deeply, widely, to be looked in the eye. Sex with somebody you like as expression of intimacy, and not as a substitute for it, is just about as hot as it gets. Sex acting out what you think you should do based on some bad porn you’ve googled? Not so much. Sex with a man who claims not to “know you well enough” to go down on you? Even worse.

5. A sexless life isn’t a loveless life.

As soon as I stopped making sex my focus for a night out, or for parties or work events or any other time I left the goddamn house, the love in my life increased exponentially. It was inversely proportional. When I wasn’t trying to sleep with men, men were suddenly more interested in me. In what I had to say. I was very honest about my year of celibacy, and it fascinated them. I had so many conversations about the pressures they felt to “perform” a certain way in the bedroom, about how much they, too, wanted real connection, a partner. It was enlightening. We’re largely sold this idea of men as single-minded fuckboys, shagging around and not wanting to be bothered by commitment, that it’s us girls who pressure them into marriage and babies, and it shouldn’t have been so shocking to me that actually they wanted to be as seen and as valued as I did. They want families and community, too. Plus, boys make really good mates when you’re not trying to shag them. A revelation.

6. It’s not actually as hard you you’d think to go without.

The most commonly asked question I get about a year of celibacy is “But didn’t you go insane?” Look, I’ll be upfront: I wanked furiously. Of course I did. And I missed the weight of a man’s body on top of me. But the longer I went without sex the easier it became, and the more I was determined that when I did start engaging again it would have to mean something. It’s a bit like doing dry January – there’s an end point, and when you reach it it’s not worth your first drink being a warm chardonnay in a plastic cup. Oh no. On 1 February you spend all day dreaming about an ice-cold pint served in a frosted glass, beads of condensation dripping down the glass as you lift it to your mouth and let the bubbles dance on your tongue. And so with the first lay after a dry spell.

7. I will never be ashamed of my history.

My story is one about sex and the body – it’s one about feelings and the heart. Nobody else gets to decide what my history is. I got hurt, like a bajillion other people have been, and I had to figure out my shit, like a bajillion other people have. That’s not sickening and unworthy. That’s human.

Some men I’ve dated don’t get it – but I’d do it all again, unapologetically. I continue to date again, in hope. Unapologetically. I will meet a million different men at a million different events, and with some of them I will think, OK, let’s see if there is something here. I will go out with them and drink with them and laugh with them and wonder about them. Sometimes, I’ll go home with them too. If it feels right. I play fast and easy with my feelings because the alternative – shutting off my feelings entirely, as I had done – is just too damned depressing. It’s par for the course that some men won’t understand that. That some won’t understand that I’m proud of what I did to become who I am. Not that I shagged around, but that I got down in the trenches with every last damned hang-up I have, and shone a light on the fuckers until I wasn’t scared any more.

I did the work. I did the work, and I will never not reveal what that work looked like. I’m still learning, but I have learned enough to understand that you have to own what you’re ashamed of or else it owns you. My one won’t be deterred by the dirt under my fingernails. My one will thank me for it. My one will understand. The blokes who don’t understand, who don’t get what it took, they
aren’t my one. The ones who don’t understand are another lesson learned, all
in the name of what will be.

Complete Article HERE!