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For Menopause Sex Discomfort, Gel Worked as Well as Estrogen

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Study find gels worked as well as prescription hormone tablets at reducing symptoms of menopause-related sexual discomfort.

By Lindsey Tanner

In a study of women with menopause-related sexual discomfort, gels worked as well as prescription hormone tablets at reducing symptoms.

The researchers say the results suggest low-cost, over-the-counter moisturizers might be the best option.

Most women in the study reported some relief from their most bothersome symptoms — painful intercourse, vaginal dryness or itching — regardless of treatment. Still, not quite half the women experienced what researchers considered a meaningful decline in symptom severity.

The problems are linked with declining levels of the hormone estrogen, which happens to all women when they reach menopause.

What baffles researchers is why only about half of women experience bothersome symptoms. Without that answer, pinpointing the cause and finding the perfect solution is difficult, said Dr. Caroline Mitchell, the study’s lead author and a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital.
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“Until we know why, our treatments are really just pretty broad attempts,” Mitchell said. “We’re not targeting the true biological root cause.”

Researchers enrolled 300 women at a Kaiser Permanente research institute in Seattle and at the University of Minnesota. Women were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: prescription vaginal estrogen tablets and a gel with inactive ingredients; placebo tablets and Replens over-the counter moisturizer; or placebo tablets and the inert gel. Treatment lasted 12 weeks.

The results were published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. The National Institutes of Health paid for the study and the researchers have no financial ties to the products studied.

A journal editorial says there have been few similar studies and most were too small to reach conclusive results.

The latest results show that prescription treatment that can cost $200 is no better than over-the-counter moisturizers costing less than $20. The researchers noted that some women may prefer tablets to creams, which can be messy, but the extra money won’t buy extra relief.

Women with troublesome symptoms “should choose the cheapest moisturizer or lubricant available over the counter — at least until new evidence arises to suggest that there is any benefit to doing otherwise,” the editorial said.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to use handcuffs during sex in the best (and safest) way

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Please, please, please avoid cheap metal cuffs.

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Considering trying BDSM? If you’re looking for a beginner‘s way in, handcuffs are a really simple and super-fun way to start.

“Restraints are a fantastic way to explore the world of bondage and discover a new level of pleasure and play,” says Megan McCormack, sex expert for Ann Summers. “Using handcuffs may seem pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few key things to know to ensure you’re getting the most of being cuffed and doing it safely.”

Introducing restraints

When most people think of BDSM, a lovely, gentle chat is probably the last thing that springs to mind. But any form of BDSM play needs to be based on absolute trust and effective communication between partners.

“Establish consent, boundaries and safe words before you begin exploring,” Megan explains. “Talk to your partner about exactly what turns you on. Having this discussion through ‘dirty talk’ allows you to go into detail and build up a scenario to play out later, while building the suspense.

“Set the scene; seduce and relax with your partner,” she advises. Don’t have too many alcoholic drinks for ‘dutch courage’ though, safe BDSM play operates on the Safe, Sane, Consensual principle. This basically means you should be in a sensible frame of mind to take part. “Light candles, kiss and build the anticipation of what’s to come. A slow build makes your body more reactive to sensations,” Megan adds.
Pick your handcuffs style

There are so many different types of handcuffs and restraints, it’s really not necessary to walk away with bruised wrists (unless you’re into that, of course). A dominatrix once told me to never, ever use that cheap metal cuffs you see because they will cut your wrists up so badly. Avoid them at all costs.

“Always begin with soft cuffs, such as Silicone Quickie Cuffs. These stretchy handcuffs allow you to explore restraints without having to worry about getting stuck,” she says. You can play around with control, all in the comfort of knowing there are no pesky keys to lose.” Hypoallergenic silicone is a great and safe material for sex toys and accessories – and they’re soft, flexible and strong.

Chinese rope restraints and rope cuffs are also great introductory restraints for first-timers. “They’re made from soft yet sturdy material, and with sliding knots rather than clasp openings,” Megan explains. “Buckle cuffs are often the easiest type to use and their fabric or leather straps cause less irritation to the wrist during wear.” Plus, they’re often adjustable so you can have them as tight or loose as makes you comfortable.

Putting them on

Before anyone gets handcuffed to anything, you need to pick your position. “Whether you want your hands tied above your head, behind your back or to the bedposts, the options are endless,” Megan says. “If you’re the one being retained, you’ll have to rely on your partner to position you in your chosen cuffs. With your discussion beforehand, you should both be quite clear of what everyone wants and is comfortable with.

“Starting with either yourself or your partner laid on your back, and restrained with hands above your head, is a simple and pleasurable position to start in.” Whatever you want to do once you’re in position, is totally up to you. But it’ll leave you free to get into loads of awesome sex positions. “It also means that you can explore erogenous zones and both give and receive oral sex,” Megan says.

What next?

Communicate

“Reassure your partner by talking to them throughout, and telling them exactly what you’re going to do to them next,” Megan says. “This allows them to voice any concerns and can also settle any nerves they may have.”

Play with temperature and other accessories

Temperature play is so much fun, and introduces new sensations to your sex play. “Freezing lube in an ice cube tray is a super fun (and slippery) way to use it. With your lover’s hands already cuffed above their head, add a blindfold,” she says. “One sense becomes heightened when another is taken away. Watch how their body responds as you slide the ice cubes over them – the coldness will also increase skin sensitivity.”

Rubbing the frozen lube on their neck, nipples, inner thighs and genitals makes bloody rush to the area, too. “Kissing and licking their erect nipples, or gently blowing on their chilled, lubed neck will be the ultimate tease.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Jimmy Kimmel destroyed Trump’s plan for abstinence-only sex ed with an amazing pamphlet.

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By upworthy.com

Abstinence-only sex education is making a comeback.

The Department of Health and Human Services is shifting away from comprehensive sex education — in which abstinence is only one component of instruction — and toward a model that emphasizes delaying sex.

If you’re there thinking, “Wait, what?” You’re not the only one.

Jimmy Kimmel, (almost) everyone’s favorite late-night comedian, had a lot to say about the issue. Buckle up, folks, it’s going to get bumpy.

Kimmel, who’s no stranger to calling out controversial issues, found it hypocritical that the Trump administration is asking to earmark $75 million to champion the euphemistically titled “sexual risk avoidance education” considering the latest of the president’s many scandals.

So the comic did what he does best, lighting up Trump’s plan with his own abstinence-only pamphlet.

 

The video’s funny, but here’s something a little less hilarious: A focus on abstinence-only education is terrible for teens.

Organizations receiving Sexual Risk Avoidance Education funding, for instance, would have to teach teens about contraception from a theoretical rather than a practical perspective. Huh? Exactly. Instructors will still present the idea that birth control and barrier methods exist somewhere out in the real world, but non-prescription contraception won’t be distributed or even demonstrated.

Basically, we’re going to have a lot of this:

Probably not the most sound advice to be giving students.

(Thank god for YouTube, right?)

There’s loads of research to back up how much abstinence-only education doesn’t work.

Data shows that abstinence-only education doesn’t actually decrease pregnancy rates among teens. It does the opposite.

And while opponents of comprehensive sex ed think teaching kids about disease prevention and contraception encourages early sexual activity, the flip side is that not teaching these ideas doesn’t make teens less fascinated with sex. It just leaves them confused and without the knowledge they need to make educated decisions about sex.

Laura Lindberg, co-author of a 2017 report that confirmed abstinence-only programs didn’t reduce either teen pregnancy or delay the age of sexual activity, put it bluntly to NPR, “We fail our young people when we don’t provide them with complete and medically accurate information.”

That’s especially evident in the case of Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), whose staunch support of abstinence-only education didn’t prevent the pregnancy of his own 17-year-old daughter in 2014.

Another study found that teens who received abstinence-only education were less likely to use condoms while still engaging in sexual activity.

So what actually reduces rates of teen sex and pregnancy? Comprehensive education and affordable contraception methods.

But being transparent with teens about safe sex is only one piece of the puzzle.

Teaching teens they should wait until marriage can be particularly stigmatizing. As Dr. Terez Yonan, a physician specializing in adolescent medicine told Teen Vogue, the heteronormative framework such programs are based on alienates and sidelines LGBTQ youth. “It isolates them,” she said. “They don’t learn anything about how to have sex with a partner that they’re attracted to and how to do it in a safe way that minimizes the risk of STDs and pregnancy.”

Abstinence-only education also often provides teens with information on relationships and consent that marginalizes and puts pressure on young women.  As Refinery 29 points out, these programs “engage in teaching affirmative consent and violence prevention in ways that perpetuate gender stereotypes, such as putting the onus on young women to be in control of young men’s sexual behaviors.”

But even if the above weren’t true (and all of it is), abstinence-only education is behind the cultural curve in general. Marriage rates are dropping as priorities and cultural ideas about the role of marriage change. Many are waiting until they’re older to get married or deciding not marrying at all. According to 2015 statistics, the average age of first marriage was 27 for a woman and 29 for a man in America.

Are we really expecting teens to wait until they’re almost 30 to figure out the right way to unroll a condom (there’s a reason we need the banana demonstration!) or that lube is a must in the bedroom?

Abstinence-only education, while ostensibly well-intentioned, is also often terrifying.

Take this clip from the 1991 movie “No Second Chance” for instance. It intercuts a teacher threatening an entire classroom with death by venereal disease with grainy stock footage of a man loading a gun.

“What if I want to have sex before I get married?” One nervous student asks.

“Well,” the teacher says, leaning in close, “I guess you just have to be prepared to die.”

It hasn’t gotten much better. While the fashions have changed, a 2015 episode of “Last Week Tonight” made it clear that the message remains the same: Sex before marriage is dangerous, shameful (especially for young women), and morally repugnant.

If we really want to give today’s youth a chance at a bright and healthy future, it’s going to come from frank and open discussions about sex, sexuality, and healthy relationships — not by scaring them into celibacy.

Of course, if we need another idea for how to prevent teens from having sex early, Kimmel has some words of wisdom.

“I didn’t need abstinence education when I was a teenager,” he quipped. “I just played the clarinet.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why hasn’t the gay community had a #MeToo moment?

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The conversation around consent for gay men has been stifled. We must recognise the culture of sexual assault that exists

‘Sex is something to be celebrated – whatever your gender, sexuality or preference.’

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Most gay men can remember the first time they set foot in a gay bar: the awkwardness as they walked up to the bouncer, ID (fake or otherwise) in hand, clasped tightly. Discovering others with a specific experience similar to your own, finding community, is a powerful feeling. But as the #MeToo movement rolls on, and the conversation turns to consent and dating dynamics between men and women, there’s an uncomfortable reality on the gay scene that also needs to be confronted.

According a survey by gay men’s health charity GMFA, some 62% of British gay men have been touched or groped in a bar without consent. In the US 40% of gay and 47% of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared with 21% of heterosexual men.

There’s a culture of silence, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Recognising the sexual violence you have experienced isn’t always easy, especially when these are some of your earliest sexual encounters, or when memories are clouded by alcohol and drugs.

The conversation around consent for gay men has been stifled: most of us were never taught the language with which to explain or understand the experiences of our youth. Inclusive same-sex education in schools isn’t mandatory, being LGBTQ+ doesn’t often run in the family, and there are fewer role models to learn from. Instead, we navigate sex blindly. For many young gay men, the boundaries and the logistics of sexual contact are an unknown.

It wasn’t long ago that our relationships were looked down on by both society and the state, with our sex lives taboo and criminalised. To criticise now how some of our sexual practices have developed bears a risk: the bigots will say they were right all along, and our sexual relationships will be further stigmatised.

But fear is no excuse for avoiding difficult questions. When the types of intimacy we engage in deviate from “lights off, in bed, with a long-term monogamous partner every other Friday” – which, of course, can have its own problems – it’s not an act of betrayal to point out that there are more opportunities for things to go wrong.

Take, for instance the “dark room” – a space few people will speak of outside the confines of the gay scene’s sweaty, hedonistic heart. To the uninitiated, the concept is simple: it’s a room in a club, it’s dark and you have sex. When it comes to consent, though, the situation is more complex.

Much of gay dating revolves around hookups and clubs fuelled by alcohol and drugs. Gay and bisexual men are seven times more likely to use illegal drugs, according to a 2012 study, and twice as likely to binge drink than heterosexual men.

Is taking a step into such a dark room consent to all sexual contact? Can two (or more) people consent to sex when they’re both off their face? Is whispering “do what you want with me” a green light for whatever happens next? When others join in – do they need explicit permission – what if you don’t even notice? There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers to all of these questions, but in the context of #MeToo these are conversations that need to be had.

It’s would be easy to write this off as universal; of course, heterosexuals also get wasted and look for sexual partners under the cover of night. Unlike our straight counterparts, however, it’s often only in bars and clubs that many gay men learn the rituals of love, sex and seduction – having to come out, rather than your sexual identity be seen as normal, means many of us do not innocently experiment and reflect during adolescence. We find our norms on the scene. For most of us, there were few other places to turn.

It’s not just gay men who have woken up next to someone they barely remember taking home, but when there are multiple sexual partners involved – in drug-filled rooms and dark, public spaces – the risks are multiplied. Having no recollection of who you had sex with, or where, means you may not have had the capacity to consent in the first place.

For younger gay men, the landscape is changing: the internet has revolutionised how we look for sex. Apps have provided a way to find partners away from nightlife, but these hookups aren’t always safe and forgiving environments either. Some men feel a sense of entitlement when you turn up at their door with a single, prearranged purpose. The number of crimes reported as a result of online hookups is rising. Casual sex is all well and good, but these interactions don’t teach teenagers about intimacy and relationships.

Reckless behaviour in adulthood can be linked to self-hatred, abuse and violence – it’s a coping mechanism in a world that continues to see us as victimised, isolated and abused.

Of course, it is possible to tackle these problems: the introduction of same-sex sex education in schools would be a start. Community support, once publicly funded and now decimated by local government cuts, would be another useful step. LGBTQ+ spaces away from drugs and alcohol are also sorely needed, as are effective mental and sexual health services.

At the same time, predatory gay men need to take responsibility for their actions. Drugs, darkness and the thrill of the moment are no excuse for exploiting vulnerable men. We need to recognise and highlight the culture of sexual assault and violence that exists in our community, as it does in others, and hold perpetrators to account. Assault is assault, and rape is rape. That isn’t the “freedom” our community fought for.

But neither do we need moralising from high horses, homophobic or otherwise. People of all genders and sexualities take drugs, and it can be done healthily. Putting your fingers in your ears and pretending it’s not happening serves no purpose to anyone. Ours is a community that has long been persecuted and made to feel ashamed. It’s important to talk about liberation, and to embrace sexuality in all its glorious forms. Sex is something to be celebrated – whatever your gender, sexuality or preference – as long as the all of those involved can and do consent.

Complete Article HERE!

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Can There Be Good Porn?

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In 2006, when I first considered performing in a hard-core pornographic video, I also thought about what sort of career doors would close once I’d had sex in front of a camera. Being a schoolteacher came to mind, but that was fine, since I didn’t want the responsibility of shaping young minds.

And yet thanks to this country’s nonfunctional sex education system and the ubiquitous access to porn by anyone with an internet connection, I have that responsibility anyway. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night — but I try to do what I can.

Pornography was not intended as a sex education program. It was not intended to dictate sexual practices, or to be a how-to guide. While some pornographers, like Nina Hartley and Jessica Drake, do create explicitly educational content, pornography is largely an entertainment medium for adults.

But we’re in a moment when the industry is once again under scrutiny. Pornography, we’re told, is warping the way young people, especially young men, think about sex, in ways that can be dangerous. (The Florida Legislature even implied last month that I and my kind are more worrisome than AR-15s when it voted to declare pornography a public health hazard, even as it declined to consider a ban on sales of assault weapons.)

I’m invested in the creation and spread of good pornography, even though I can’t say for certain what that looks like yet. We still don’t have a solid definition of what pornography is, much less a consensus on what makes it good or ethical. Nor does putting limits on the ways sexuality and sexual interactions are presented seem like a Pandora’s box we want to open: What right do we have to dictate the way adult performers have sex with one another, or what is good and normal, aside from requiring that it be consensual?

Context reminds people of all the things they don’t see in the final product. It underscores that pornography is a performance, that just as in ballet or professional wrestling, we are putting on a show. For years the B.D.S.M.-focused website Kink provided context for its sex scenes through a project called Behind Kink, with videos that showed the scenes being planned and performers stating their limits. Their films also showed a practice called “aftercare,” in which participants in an intense B.D.S.M. experience discuss what they’ve just done and how they’re feeling about it. (Unfortunately, the Behind Kink project lost momentum and appears to have stalled out in 2016.)

Shine Louise Houston, whose production company is dedicated to queer pornography, has live-streamed behind the scenes from the set, enabling viewers to see what making pornography is really like. I have always tried to provide at least minimum context for my explicit work, through blog posts and in promotional copy.

Many other performers and directors maintain blogs or write articles discussing scenes they particularly enjoyed doing or sets they liked being on, and generally allowing the curious to get a peek behind the metaphorical curtain. Some, like Tyler Knight, Asa Akira, Christy Canyon, Annie Sprinkle and Danny Wylde, have written memoirs.

When viewers have access to context, they can see us discussing our boundaries, talking about getting screened for sexually transmittable infections and chatting about how we choose partners. Occasionally, they can even see us laying bare how we navigate the murky intersection of capitalism, publicity and sexuality.

But this context is usually stripped out when a work is pirated and uploaded to one of the many “free tube” sites that offer material without charge. These sites are where the bulk of pornography is being viewed online, and by definition don’t require a credit card — making it easier for minors to see porn. And so the problems that come with porn are inseparable from the way it’s distributed.

How it’s distributed also shapes the type of porn that is most readily available to teenagers. I frequently hear pornography maligned as catering only to men. That’s not quite fair: Most heterosexual pornography caters to one type of man, yes, but to ignore the rest does a disservice the pornographers who have been creating work with a female gaze, or for the female gaze, for decades.

Candida Royalle founded Femme Productions in 1984 and Femme Distribution in 1986. Ovidie and Erika Lust have been making pornography aimed at women for over 10 years. Of course, their work also isn’t the sort of content that’s easy to find on free sites. But plenty of men enjoy this sort of work, too — just as some women like seeing bleach blondes on their knees.

Sex and sexual fantasies are complicated. So much of emotionally safer sex is dependent on knowing and paying attention to your partner. We in the industry can add context to our work, but I don’t know that it’s possible, at the end of the day, for what is meant to be an entertainment medium to regularly demonstrate concepts as intangible as these. We cannot rely on pornography to teach empathy, the ability to read body language, or how to discuss sexual boundaries — especially when we’re talking about young people who have never had sex. Porn will never be a replacement for sex education.

But porn is also not going anywhere. That means that we have a choice to make. We can hide our heads in the sand, or we can — in addition to pushing for real lessons on sex for young people again — tackle the job of understanding the range of what porn is, evaluating what’s working and what we can qualitatively judge as good, and try to build a better industry and cultural understanding of sex. I choose to try.

Complete Article HERE!

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