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Sexual Health for Singles: Helpful Hints for Having the Sexual History Conversation

By Charles Burton

black-couple-smiling

Unless two people are absolute virgins when they meet, they should sit still for a few minutes and have “the conversation” prior to hopping into bed together. It’s not a pleasant thing to think about, but facts are facts, and STDs are commoner than you might think. If you’re going to engage in adult behavior, it’s imperative that you act with at least a modicum of maturity. Part of that maturity involves open communication with any and all sexual playmates you encounter.

What are STD and STI

According to Mayo Clinic, Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) are the same thing with different acronyms. Both terms refer to infections and diseases that are spread by way of sexual contact. Not all STDs are transmitted via sexual activity, however. A number of so-called sexually transmitted infections can be spread via blood transfusion, shared needles and the birth process.

Among the commonest STD are gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis. These are not the only diseases that can be transmitted by sexual contact, however. HIV is a dangerous disease that does not have a cure as yet. HPV and genital herpes are other STD infections for which there is currently no effective, long-lasting cure.

How to start the STD conversation

Relationship experts at Psychology Today recommend finding (or making) the time to talk when neither partner is busy or distracted. When there’s a football game on TV, it may not be the right time or place to broach the topic of sexual history. Keep the mood positive, and never express alarm or disgust at the number of previous sexual partners either of you has had. Accept the information offered by your potential sexual partner with grace, dignity and humor.

US News notes that the pre-sex talk doesn’t necessarily have to happen in person. In fact, it may be easier to start the conversation while chatting in a private message or texting on the phone. Starting the conversation and honestly communicating is far more important than the set and setting of “the talk.” Because the STD conversation is so imperative to good health for both partners, anonymous sexual encounters are not recommended.

Things to mention during The Talk

If you’re intimate enough to consider sexual relations with another person, you should feel comfortable enough to broach the subject of sexual history with them. Conversely, if you are too shy to mention condoms, request testing or to reveal a prior STD infection, you may wish to totally reconsider whether to begin a sexual relationship at all. Sex is, after all, a sophisticated form of human communication that works best when both partners are able to be completely open, candid and honest with one another.

Sexual history doesn’t need to divulge every detail, but it is crucial that you advise your partner of any hepatitis, gonorrhea, genital warts or other STD you have ever been exposed to.

How to prevent sexually transmitted infection

The most effective way to eliminate the risk of STD infection is to eschew sexual contact altogether. But, as you probably know, complete abstinence is not a realistic solution. Knowing one’s own body, recognizing symptoms and seeking medical help at the first sign of STD are far more effective methods of reducing sexually related infections.

Symptoms of STD may include sores on the genitals or around the mouth. Painful urination and penile discharge are also symptoms of STD, says Mayo Clinic. Foul-smelling vaginal leakage, abdominal aches, unusual bleeding between periods, and painful intercourse are other signs of sexually transmitted infection.

If you think that you or your partner may be infected with any sort of STD or STI, please make an appointment with a doctor or visit an STD testing center without delay. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can receive treatments to alleviate symptoms and treat the infection. The worst thing you can do, as far as your own health is concerned, is to feel too embarrassed to visit a clinic to be tested and treated for possible infection.

Lovemaking, sexual intimacy, or hooking up as “friends with benefits” can be a beautiful thing, but sex is fraught with danger, too. Do your best to reveal your truth with humor and grace, and you may be well on the way to forming a blissful interpersonal relationship that can last a lifetime. If not, you’ll at least reduce your risk of becoming infected while enjoying a hot weekend with a special someone.

Complete Article HERE!

Meet The Photographer Using Rope Bondage To Create Incredible Art

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Art has a long history of drawing inspiration from the otherwise underground world of BDSM. The custom goes as far back as 1928, when the surrealist artist Man Ray captured an image of a woman sensually reclining while bound in ropes and a harness.

Robert Mapplethorpe famously stunned the ’70s art establishment with his documentation of the S&M play flourishing in certain corners of the gay community. Acclaimed Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki made his name with graphic, intensely sexual, and often controversial images of Kinbaku-bi, the ancient Japanese art of “tight binding” or rope play. The list goes on and on…

Contemporary photographer Garth Knight both aligns with and breaks from this complicated tradition. A former engineering student, Knight pursues his lingering interest in forces and mechanisms by creating intricate sculptural rope forms in which human models hang.

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While Knight also draws from the kinbaku tradition, his photographs are less corporal and titillating than Araki’s work or your typical bondage art. The focus of Knight’s stunning and meticulous rope suspensions is more on transcendence than the human form.

Konbini spoke with Knight about his vivid rope worlds, his process, and whether he considers his work erotic. Read the full interview below!

Konbini: When did you begin drawing from bondage and shibari in your work? What attracted you to those worlds/forms?

Garth Knight: I have always had a strong affinity with line and had enjoyed playing with rope for practical purposes. In 1999, when I first saw a person being beautifully bound, it was like a revelation.

At that stage I wasn’t particularly interested in or even really aware of erotic bondage, but just seeing the rope and the body combined aesthetically spoke very deeply to me and I knew I had to do it myself.

The mechanics of tying came quite naturally and very easily to me, but the emotional and psychological aspects of rope bondage took a long time to develop. I still feel like there are whole worlds to discover and cultivate in this respect.

There was no internet back then and Japanese rope art (shibari, or kinbaku) was also completely unknown to me. I just started playing around and for many years I was just teaching myself, developing my own style and stumbling around in the dark. When I became aware of kinbaku I was very attracted to it and started incorporating elements of it into my style, though I have always been very careful to make this symbiosis influential rather than a replication.

Garth Knight

How has rope bondage influenced your art?

The more I’ve used rope and tying, the more I’ve learned that my own place in this world is tenuous and unreal and a construct of my mind. This world is connection overlayed with connection which we try and make sense of by building patterns.

When you work with rope, you lay rope onto rope and connection onto connection making an extended and cumulative embrace, forming a vibrating web of touch on the body and in the surrounding space, the connectivity and flow of energy pulsing through the space and the body and our psyches.

It’s a very powerful and sometimes transcendent place to be. It’s compelling and overwhelming and sensual and hypnotic. To release yourself to these emotions, to be able to submit to this, is all facilitated by the constraint of the rope.

Garth Knight

What does your process look like when you are making something like your Blood Consciousness or Vortex series? Who are your models? How long does it take you to finish one of your rope sculptures?

Ideas come mostly in daydreaming states, or while drawing, sketching. The end result is usually very process-driven: I make a start and the work develops organically. Working with the model is usually a very experimental process, working together to find their “place” in the work.

The rope used to tie someone takes up their energy, their sweat and skin and touch and experience. The models are a mixture of my friends and associates, as well as people contacting me who are interested in being part of this process. I choose people who intuitively feel right for that particular image, sometimes this just comes down to serendipity.

Each shoot takes place over several hours. The entire series takes many days to produce, normally stretched out over weeks or months.

contact garth@garthknight.com

Where do you draw or find inspiration? What other artists influence you? What do you draw specifically from the BDSM or bondage world?

The natural world with its constant infinite dance of order and chaos is always my greatest inspiration and ongoing fascination. I am attracted to bonsai and the constraint of form combined with simultaneously attempting to see and bring out the individual plants “true” being.

Surrealist artists like Dali and Man Ray set me on my path early. Escher, Odd Nerdrum, Andy Goldsworthy and Da Vinci are the kind of artists that also rate highly. From the kinbaku world, Kinoko and Kanna are two artists I really admire.

From BDSM specifically, I draw an interest in transcending the body and mind through the use of extreme sensation, and the use of physicality and eroticism as a pathway to awe.

contact garth@garthknight.com

contact garth@garthknight.com

Do you regard your work as erotic or sensual? What do you hope your work conveys about the human body, submission, and constraint?

I’ve brought up a couple of times the erotic and sensual aspects, both in the process and final images, and I definitely find both of these things to be essential elements and integral parts of my work.

In the past, I have avoided talking too much about this aspect, partly because it’s definitely not the only thing the work is about and since it is such a powerful element in people’s perception it can cloud the other aspects. Mostly though I’ve come to realize it’s because I find it very confusing and difficult to extricate some meaningful description of that part of the work using words.

contact garth@garthknight.com

contact garth@garthknight.com

Hopefully, ultimately, I would like to convey that the human body is just a construct for the perception and interaction of the flow of energy which we call consciousness, which moves from the infinite collective unconscious through our momentary singular consciousness to learn and grow and then onto its ultimate dispersal into the collective super-consciousness.

This flow adds to some spiritual momentum which, once it reaches some critical level, will lead to the complete enlightenment of the One which contains us all.

My mind tells me that this thought is ridiculous and just does not add up with what it sees and the physical reality that it has built and fastidiously maintains, and which we are so constrained by and invested in. And yet, when I submit myself entirely to the experience of the creation of art, I do believe this thought to be so.


More of Garth Knight’s work can be found on his website. The “Blood Consciousness” and “Vortex” series are also available in full in Knight’s new book

Complete Article HERE!

28 Realities of Long-Distance Dating

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long-distance-dating

In short, long distance sucks. It’s the suckiest of all possible sucks, and not always for the reasons you’d expect. You might think you’re going to miss your SO when you’re hanging out with your couple gang, or when you fancy a movie date, and you will, but it will be the moments of frustration — like when you’re trying to put the quilt cover back on — that you’ll find yourself in tears because you miss them so much.

My partner and I are on our second bout of LD. In a way it’s easier than the first time — I know the lonesome drill — and in other ways it’s harder — I thought I’d paid my dues! Here are 28 things you totally know to be true when your SO lives in another city.

  1. You know your best FaceTime angle and where in your house has the best lighting. Especially important if you’re going to be talking after you’ve washed your face.
  2. You spend even more time looking at your phone. Who even knew that was possible? You’ve also downloaded 15 new ways of communicating with each other: Words with Friends, WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Pair . . . and if you’re planning a wedding like us: Trello, Google Docs and Evernote.
  3. You feel like you’re in a relationship with your phone. It’s like he actually lives in your phone, because it’s the only place you see him. If you lose your phone, it’s like you’ve killed him.
  4. All your money goes to flights. And you’re booking the cheapest, nastiest airlines so you’re not even accumulating points.
  5. You have a similar dating life to that of the girls on The Bachelor. When the ladies were complaining that it was all or nothing with Richie you could totally relate. When you finally see your SO it’s all fancy dinners, romantic strolls and helicopter rides (OK, maybe not that bit) but then it’s back to the #nunlife.
  6. You can get a bit *cough* lazy with the personal grooming. Are legs really hairy if no one’s there to feel them?
  7. You have about five conversations that are just “checking in” and one during which you download all information and admin. Wake-up call, mid-morning coffee call, lunch call, 3 p.m. call, and the “I’m heading home” call put together don’t run longer than 2.5 minutes. 8 p.m. call goes for an hour.
  8. You enjoy the luxury of more space. In the wardrobe, in the bed, in the kitchen — who knew those stupid protein powders were preventing you from having a teacup collection?!
  9. You devour every girly series he vetoed. You’ve cried your way through the later seasons of Downton Abbey, got into Outlander, devoured every season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, rewatched Sex and the City — your Netflix has never looked so pink.
  10. You jam-pack your social calendar just to stop yourself feeling lonely. Exhausted and broke is better than lonely, right?
  11. You’re really happy when he’s having a good time without you, but also a teeny bit jealous. Shake it off girl.
  12. Your single mates like you so much more. You can stay out all night because no one’s waiting for you to come home and you’re basically chaste — you’re the ultimate wing-woman.
  13. You go back to having hours-long convos with your girlfriends. You know the kind you had in high school when time seemed to drag on forever? The downside of this is that time seems to drag forever.
  14. You get really good at mingling. Flying solo at a party for the first time in forever will actually make you feel awesome. You’re still fun. People still like you, see? Something you’ll recount to your partner later with the phrase, “I was the life of the party.”
  15. You say “yes” to a lot more. See above. Why would you not go to that Aztec party of a Facebook you forgot you had? You’re the life of the party.
  16. You become more sure of yourself. Jokes aside, it’s a huge confidence boost knowing you don’t need your dude with you to have a good time. You’re together because you want to be, not because you need to be. *sings “Independent Woman”*
  17. Time differences become your enemy. People will think you’re being a pathetic but even half an hour is annoying.
  18. Podcasts are your friend. Because your transit time is at an all-time high.
  19. You count down days like a kid waiting for Christmas. You literally mark them off the calendar like you’re in a ’90s Disney movie. Where did you even find a calendar?
  20. You get butterflies in your stomach when you’re about to see him. You’d kind of forgotten what it was like to be so nervous and excited at the same time.
  21. You get to discover another city. You’re going there so much that you learn where all the good cafes and bars are, and become a bit of an expert.
  22. People totally get it when you say you can’t do something because your SO is in town. The most you’re going to hear out of anyone that weekend is a love-heart emoji on your Insta pic. They’re just happy you’re together!
  23. You experience the most severe Sunday blues known to man. Your time together is over and it’s as if a group of Dementors have arrived for a sleepover.
  24. You do a lot more communicating. It’s all you’ve got, babe!
  25. You become more thoughtful. Because you know that a little note in his suitcase will brighten his whole day.
  26. You begin to appreciate him a lot. When you’re in each other’s face it’s easy to start taking each other for granted, but with a little distance you see, he’s amazing.
  27. You learn a lot more about yourself. If for no other reason than you’re spending a lot more time solo, making all the decisions. And yes, you do think a bowl of steamed broccoli followed by a block of Lindt chocolate is an adequate dinner.
  28. Your relationship will be stronger than ever. This is how I see it: when you start doing LD your relationship is like Goku, going into the Gravity Chamber to begin his training. It’s tough and at times he wants to go back to how things were, but he carries on and eventually he becomes super saiyan (blonde) and basically invincible.
     
    If Dragon Ball Z references are wasted on you, I’m basically saying, if you can make it through long-distance, you can make it through anything.

Complete Article HERE!

Should we teach teens about BDSM in sex ed?

By Leigh Cuen

Could talking to students about BDSM culture help combat rape on college campuses? Psychology researcher Kathryn Klement thinks so.

Klement is the co-author of a newly published study out of Northern Illinois University, which showed that BDSM practitioners are less likely to believe victim-blaming myths or sexist stereotypes than the general population.

That’s why she believes that teaching college students about BDSM and kink practices can be hugely beneficial.

“A sex education program [with information about BDSM] would help people understand what’s consensual and what’s not,” Klement said in a phone interview.

Woman shops for whips, paddles and other kink gear.

Woman shops for whips, paddles and other kink gear.

Klement’s study analyzed surveys filled out by 60 college students, 68 random online respondents recruited through Amazon’s MTurk site and 57 self-identified BDSM practitioners.

The groups, which included a robust mix of ages and genders, answered whether they agreed with such sexist and victim-blaming statements as “when girls go to parties wearing slutty clothes, they are asking for trouble,” and “many women have a quality of purity that few men possess.”

Across the board, Klement said, kinky participants had a healthier understanding of sex and consent than the other groups. A whopping 84% of BDSM respondents said wearing “slutty clothes” isn’t asking for trouble, compared to only 45% of the MTurk adults.

Kinky participants were also less likely than college students to support benevolent sexism, or stereotypes that misrepresent women as weak creatures in need of male protection. “It’s not assumed [in the BDSM community] that just because she’s a woman that she wants to be submissive,” Klement said.

“These results fly in the face of stereotypes about BDSM,” Klement added, citing the misconception that BDSM is all about violence, or that kink communities celebrate unhealthy” sexual desires.

Woman at an Israeli Slut Walk with the words "still not asking for it" scrawled across her exposed chest.

Woman at an Israeli Slut Walk with the words “still not asking for it” scrawled across her exposed chest.

Although there’s much to be gained from the mainstream community borrowing BDSM mainstays like safe words during sex, Klement thinks the most important thing the kink community can teach us is the concept of affirmative consent.

Many BDSM practitioners follow a “yes means yes” mentality, where partners explicitly ask about specific sex acts rather than assuming it’s kosher until somebody says no.

According to Klement, most BDSM practitioners believe consent can be withdrawn any time. That’s the bottom line.

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Because BDSM often involves physical danger and role-play, many practitioners advocate constant communication throughout every stage of seduction and sex.

Klement said some people worry all that talking will kill the mood, but in reality it can often have the opposite effect. “It’s actually quite sexy to talk about what we want to do beforehand,” she said. “People might be more informed [if they learned from BDSM] and have a better idea of how to handle sexual situations.”It looks like a lesson in consensual humiliation and kinky foreplay might be the ticket to fighting rape culture.

more-informed

Complete Article HERE!

Dismantling the myths of rape culture

By Matthew Wade

slutwalk

It’s a double edged sword: as a queer woman, your sex life is objectified if you’re too femme, or dismissed if you’re too masc. In light of the recent SlutWalk rally in Melbourne to protest slut-shaming and victim-blaming, Matthew Wade spoke to queer women about how their sexual identities are policed in Australia.

Men often fetishise the sex lives of queer women or erase them completely, with little elbow room in between.

When she first came out and started dating women, Natasha Smith was femme-presenting, and her sex life was a point of objectification.

“A common question at the time was around what I did in bed, but not in a way that made me feel empowered,” she told the Star Observer.

“People would ask if what I did was really sex, and who the ‘man’ was in the bedroom.

“When there’s no man involved other men have to try and figure out what this tantalising thing is… when a woman’s sexuality isn’t defined by them they turn it into a form of entertainment.”

On the flip side, Smith believes the sexualities of queer women that are more masc-presenting are often invisible, as they’re not seen by men as ‘real’ women.

“Queer women live in this weird dehumanising space where they’re stigmatised as sex objects for the straight male gaze or they’re denied,” she said.

For her Master’s thesis Smith focused on the impact homophobia and sexism had on same-sex attracted women.

She interviewed women aged 18 to 60 and many told her they had experienced street harassment and ogling, with men yelling at them for holding another woman’s hand.

“There’s this idea that you’re an object but if you fight back and resist that, it comes with the threat of escalating violence,” she said.

For many of her interviewees, revealing their sexuality to a male who may be flirting with them in a nightclub would have damaging repercussions.

“As soon as they said they were a lesbian, they’d be called a slut, a dyke, and would be subject to public humiliation,” she said.

While shame and stigma are commonly heaped on the sex lives of queer women, this becomes much more apparent when a queer woman has a more grievous encounter with sexual assault or rape.

According to the United Nations, Australia has one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world, more than double the global average.

However, because men often try to delegitimise the sexualities of queer women, their voices and experiences are left off the table.

Smith believes rape culture affects society at large, but that for queer women it can be particularly damaging.

“If you’re a queer woman and you happen to be more masc-presenting there’s a weird sort of erasure of your sexuality,” she said.

“And because people misunderstand rape as something connected to sexuality, many think queer women aren’t likely to be raped.”

When it comes to survivors of sexual assault and rape, Smith wants to debunk a common misconception: that rape is about sex.

“There’s an assumption when it comes to sexual assault and rape that they’re inherently sexual acts – but they’re not,” she said.

“They’re violent acts of power that use sex as the weapon.

“The myth that rape is somehow related to the sexual attractiveness of women is what leads to the dismissal of the experiences of queer women.”

Beyond the masculine and feminine gender binary that subjects queer women who present either way to sexual fetishisation or erasure, queer women who sit somewhere along the spectrum also face stigma around their sexual identity.

Where Smith recalls being asked intrusive questions about her sex life as a femme-presenting woman, Melbourne resident Luca Vanags-Smith is at times assumed to not have one.

As someone who now identifies as gender queer, Vanags-Smith has seen a noticeable shift in the way her sexual identity has been perceived.

“I think if you’re femme you’re hyper sexualised, and if you don’t fit the stereotypical model of femininity you’re invisible,” she said.

“I’ve had the lived experience of being gender queer for about two years and I’m viewed by many men as being sexless, or as being an asexual creature.

“I think there’s also this idea that two people that have vulvas can’t really have sex because there’s no penetration involved, so men see women sleeping with each other as entertainment for them.”

The desexualisation and dismissal of masc-presenting or gender queer women can also lead to homophobic views around Vanags-Smith’s sexual identity and her relationships with other women.

“I think when I was more femme-presenting people didn’t take it as seriously, but now my relationships often get pushed into a more heterosexual lens, which isn’t the case at all – after three or four months at a job I had, I had to break it to my boss that I wasn’t in fact a man,” she said.

“It can definitely erase the queerness of my relationships.

“People just assume I must be the one that uses the strap on, when one: that’s none of their business and two: that isn’t the case at all.”

Vanags-Smith has also found that heterosexual men will treat her as ‘one of the guys’ and attempt to engage her in a sexist conversation.

“Men will come up to me, point out a particular woman and say, ‘she’s got a great ass mate,’” she said.

“I know how awful that can make someone feel, especially a same-sex attracted woman.

“I’ve also had guys calling me love and telling me I just haven’t had a good fuck, and asking me how I have sex.”

As a means to combat this, Vanags-Smith believes sex education in schools needs to become increasingly sex positive.

She also added that sexist attitudes and misogyny are the bedrock of homophobia, transphobia, and whorephobia.

“With same-sex intimate relationships between women, men don’t really fit into that equation,” she said.

“And some see that as affronting.”

Melbourne recently played host to the annual SlutWalk rally, a march developed as a means to protest the slut-shaming and victim-blaming of women around the world, irrespective of gender or sexual identity.

It was created in Canada in 2011 after a police officer said “women should avoid dressing like sluts” if they wanted to avoid being sexually assaulted.

In Melbourne the rally sees speakers with a diverse range of experiences speaking out against misogyny and rape culture, and how it affects women.

Smith believes SlutWalk does well at being as inclusive as it can be, particularly now that the conversation around trans and queer identities has become more prominent.

“When I started going to SlutWalk I wasn’t as out as I am now, and it was through being emerged in the march that I found a community of feminists that understood me,” she said.

“They enabled me to grow into someone I’m very proud of and to be comfortable in my sexuality.”

Vanags-Smith said she loves SlutWalk because it changes people’s opinions of what a sexual assault survivor might look like, to include women of different ages, cultural backgrounds, and sex ual and gender identities.

“It acknowledges that there may be people who are femme and attractive, but there may be women who don’t fit these archetypes who may also experience sexual assault,” she said.

“The idea that some women are more at risk than others is a massive myth in rape culture that SlutWalk seeks to dismantle.”

Complete Article HERE!