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How do women really know if they are having an orgasm?

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Dr Nicole Prause is challenging bias against sexual research to unravel apparent discrepancies between physical signs and what women said they experienced

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It’s not always clear if a woman is really having an orgasm, as Meg Ryan demonstrated in When Harry Met Sally.

It’s not always clear if a woman is really having an orgasm, as Meg Ryan demonstrated in When Harry Met Sally.

In the nascent field of orgasm research, much of the data relies on subjects self-reporting, and in men, there’s some pretty clear physiological feedback in the form of ejaculation.

But how do women know for sure if they are climaxing? What if the sensation they have associated with climax is actually one of the the early foothills of arousal? And how does a woman know when if she has had an orgasm?

Neuroscientist Dr Nicole Prause set out to answer these questions by studying orgasms in her private laboratory. Through better understanding of what happens in the body and the brain during arousal and orgasm, she hopes to develop devices that can increase sex drive without the need for drugs.

Understanding orgasm begins with a butt plug. Prause uses the pressure-sensitive anal gauge to detect the contractions typically associated with orgasm in both men and women. Combined with EEG, which measures brain activity, this allows for a more accurate picture of a woman’s arousal and orgasm.

Dr Nicole Prause has founded Liberos to study brain stimulation and desire.

Dr Nicole Prause has founded Liberos to study brain stimulation and desire.

When Prause began studying women in this way she noticed something surprising. “Many of the women who reported having an orgasm were not having any of the physical signs – the contractions – of an orgasm.”

It’s not clear why that is, but it is clear that we don’t know an awful lot about orgasms and sexuality. “We don’t think they are faking,” she said. “My sense is that some women don’t know what an orgasm is. There are lots of pleasure peaks that happen during intercourse. If you haven’t had contractions you may not know there’s something different.”

Prause, an ultramarathon runner and keen motorcyclist in her free time, started her career at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana, where she was awarded a doctorate in 2007. Studying the sexual effects of a menopause drug, she first became aware of the prejudice against the scientific study of sexuality in the US.

When her high-profile research examining porn “addiction” found the condition didn’t fit the same neurological patterns as nicotine, cocaine or gambling, it was an unpopular conclusion among people who believe they do have a porn addiction.

The evolution of design of the anal pressure gauge used in Nicole Prause’s lab to detect orgasmic contractions.

The evolution of design of the anal pressure gauge used in Nicole Prause’s lab to detect orgasmic contractions.

“People started posting stories online that I had falsified my data and I received all kinds of sexist attacks,” she said. Soon anonymous emails of complaint were turning up at the office of the president of UCLA, where she worked from 2012 to 2014, demanding that Prause be fired.

Does orgasm benefit mental health?

Prause pushed on with her research, but repeatedly came up against challenges when seeking approval for studies involving orgasms. “I tried to do a study of orgasms while at UCLA to pilot a depression intervention. UCLA rejected it after a seven-month review,” she said. The ethics board told her that to proceed, she would need to remove the orgasm component – rendering the study pointless.

Undeterred, Prause left to set up her sexual biotech company Liberos, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, in 2015. The company has been working on a number of studies, including one exploring the benefits and effectiveness of “orgasmic meditation”, working with specialist company OneTaste.

Part of the “slow sex” movement, the practice involves a woman having her clitoris stimulated by a partner – often a stranger – for 15 minutes. “This orgasm state is different,” claims OneTaste’s website. “It is goalless, intuitive, and dynamic. It flows all over the place with no set direction. It may include climax, or it may not. In Orgasm 2.0, we learn to listen to what our body wants instead of what we think we ‘should’ want.”

Prause wants to determine whether arousal has any wider benefits for mental health. “The folks that practice this claim it helps with stress and improves your ability to deal with emotional situations even though as a scientist it seems pretty explicitly sexual to me,” she said.

Prause is examining orgasmic meditators in the laboratory, measuring finger movements of the partner, as well as brainwave activity, galvanic skin response and vaginal contractions of the recipient. Before and after measuring bodily changes, researchers run through questions to determine physical and mental states. Prause wants to determine whether achieving a level of arousal requires effort or a release in control. She then wants to observe how Orgasmic Meditation affects performance in cognitive tasks, how it changes reactivity to emotional images and how it compares with regular meditation.

Brain stimulation is ‘theoretically possible’

Another research project is focused on brain stimulation, which Prause believes could provide an alternative to drugs such as Addyi, the “female Viagra”. The drug had to be taken every day, couldn’t be mixed with alcohol and its side-effects can include sudden drops in blood pressure, fainting and sleepiness. “Many women would rather have a glass of wine than take a drug that’s not very effective every day,” said Prause.

The field of brain stimulation is in its infancy, though preliminary studies have shown that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain, can help with depression, anxiety and chronic pain but can also cause burns on the skin. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses a magnet to activate the brain, has been used to treat depression, psychosis and anxiety, but can also cause seizures, mania and hearing loss.

Prause is studying whether these technologies can treat sexual desire problems. In one study, men and women receive two types of magnetic stimulation to the reward center of their brains. After each session, participants are asked to complete tasks to see how their responsiveness to monetary and sexual rewards (porn) has changed.

With DCS, Prause wants to stimulate people’s brains using direct currents and then fire up tiny cellphone vibrators that have been glued to the participants’ genitals. This provides sexual stimulation in a way that eliminates the subjectivity of preferences people have for pornography.

“We already have a basic functioning model,” said Prause. “The barrier is getting a device that a human can reliably apply themselves without harming their own skin.”


 
There is plenty of skepticism around the science of brain stimulation, a technology which has already spawned several devices including the headset Thync, which promises users an energy boost, and Foc.us, which claims to help with endurance.

Neurologist Steven Novella from the Yale School of Medicine uses brain stimulation devices in clinical trials to treat migraines, but he says there’s not enough clinical evidence to support these emerging consumer devices. “There’s potential for physical harm if you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said. “From a theoretical point of view these things are possible, but in terms of clinical claims they are way ahead of the curve here. It’s simultaneously really exciting science but also premature pseudoscience.”

Biomedical engineer Marom Bikson, who uses tDCS to treat depression at the City College of New York, agrees. “There’s a lot of snake oil.”

Sexual problems can be emotional and societal

Prause, also a licensed psychologist, is keen to avoid overselling brain stimulation. “The risk is that it will seem like an easy, quick fix,” she said. For some, it will be, but for others it will be a way to test whether brain stimulation can work – which Prause sees as a more balanced approach than using medication. “To me, it is much better to help provide it for people likely to benefit from it than to try to create fake problems to sell it to everyone.”

Sexual problems can be triggered by societal pressures that no device can fix. “There’s discomfort and anxiety and awkwardness and shame and lack of knowledge,” said psychologist Leonore Tiefer, who specializes in sexuality. Brain stimulation is just one of many physical interventions companies are trying to develop to make money, she says. “There’s a million drugs under development. Not just oral drugs but patches and creams and nasal sprays, but it’s not a medical problem,” she said.

Thinking about low sex drive as a medical condition requires defining what’s normal and what’s unhealthy. “Sex does not lend itself to that kind of line drawing. There is just too much variability both culturally and in terms of age, personality and individual differences. What’s normal for me is not normal for you, your mother or your grandmother.”

And Prause says that no device is going to solve a “Bob problem” – when a woman in a heterosexual couple isn’t getting aroused because her partner’s technique isn’t any good. “No pills or brain stimulation are going to fix that,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Rekindle Sexual Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

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New research shows that couples who are responsive outside of the bedroom have more interest in sex

long-term-relationship

By Elizabeth Bernstein

How can a couple keep their sexual desire going strong for the long haul?

Be nice to each other.

New research shows one way to keep desire strong is to be responsive to your partner’s needs out of the bedroom.

People who are responsive do three things: They understand what their partner is really saying, validate what is important to their partner, such as his or her attitudes, goals and desires, and care for or express warmth and affection toward their partner.

“Responsiveness creates a deep feeling that someone really knows and understands you,” says Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), a private university in Herzliya, Israel, who is the lead researcher on the new studies. “It makes you feel unique and special, and that is very, very sexy.”

In the beginning of a relationship, neurotransmitters such as dopamine push the partners to have sex as much as possible. Scan the brain of someone in this early, passionate stage of love and it will look very much like the brain of someone on drugs.

The addiction doesn’t last. Research suggests the chemical phase of passionate love typically continues between one and three years. Desire fades for different reasons: the chemical addiction to a partner subsides; people age and hormones decrease; emotional distance can cause passion to drop.

The new research—by psychologists at the IDC, the University of Rochester, Bar-Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel, and Cornell Tech in New York, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology—consists of three studies of more than 100 heterosexual couples each. In the first, partners rated each others’ responsiveness and their own feelings of desire after a back and forth in an online app, where one person described a recent experience and thought his or her partner was responding. It was really a researcher.

In the second study, researchers reviewed videotapes of couples as one partner told a positive or negative personal story and the other responded. Then they were told to express physical intimacy. Researchers coded the subjects’ responsiveness and their expressions of desire.

In the third study, couples were asked to keep a daily diary for six weeks, reporting on the quality of the relationship, how responsive each partner felt the other was, and their level of desire. The participants were also asked to rate whether they felt their partner was valuable that day—someone others would perceive as a good partner—and how special he or she made them feel.

The studies showed that both men and women who felt their partner was more responsive felt more sexual desire for their partner. But women were affected more than men when their partner was responsive, meaning their desire for their partner increased more. The researchers believe women’s sexual desire is more sensitive in general to the emotional atmosphere than men’s.

The new research contradicts a decades-old theory that psychologists call the Intimacy-Desire paradox, which proposes that desire drops as two people become more emotionally intimate. It purports that people seek intimacy in a relationship, but desire thrives on distance and uncertainty.

Dr. Birnbaum says that certain types of intimacy are better for your sex life than others. Impersonal intimacy—familiarity without an emotional component—does kill desire. Think of your partner shaving in front of you or leaving the bathroom door open. But emotional intimacy that makes the relationship feel unique can boost it.

Tips to boost desire in your relationship by being responsive:

Start now. It is better to prevent a decline in desire than to try to revive it when it is lost, Dr. Birnbaum says.

Listen without judging. Don’t interrupt. Don’t spend the time while your partner is speaking thinking about how you will respond. “Most people want to give advice,” says Dr. Birnbaum. “It’s not the same as being there as a warm and wise ear.”

Pay attention to details. Look for ways to show your understanding and support. Does your wife have a big interview coming up and need solitude to prepare? Take the children out to dinner. Is your husband’s team in the playoffs? Don’t ask him to clean the garage right now. Being responsive is often expressed by behaviors, not just words, Dr. Birnbaum says.

Talk about your desire. Share your fantasies. Watch a sexy movie and talk about what parts you liked best.

Complete Article HERE!

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Good News: Porn Isn’t Bad For Your Sexual Health After All

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Everyone can calm down now.

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porn addiction, no such thing

Recently, a British National Health Service therapist suggested that access to porn is “damaging” to men’s health, particularly their sexual health, so naturally the internet freaked out, because porn is awesome and it’d be tragic if it really was unhealthy somehow.

The claim came from psychosexual therapist Angela Gregory, who stated that watching porn too much and too often is the reason more and more men in their teens and 20s are suffering from erectile dysfunction. She told BBC:

“Our experience is that historically men that were referred to our clinic with problems with erectile dysfunction were older men whose issues were related to diabetes, MS, cardio vascular disease. These younger men do not have organic disease, they’ve already been tested by their GP and everything is fine.

So one of the first assessment questions I’d always ask now is about pornography and masturbatory habit because that can be the cause of their issues about maintaining an erection with a partner.”

To supplement her argument that porn is no bueno, Gregory mentioned a youngster named Nick, who started jerking off to porn when he was 15, and loved it so much that it ruined his life and he needed medical help. Poor Nick.

“I found that when I was lying next to a girl a lot that I just wouldn’t be horny at all, despite being really attracted to the girl and wanting to have sex with her, [because] my sexuality was completely wired towards porn. At my peak I was probably watching up to two hours of porn every day.”

That’s a lot of porn. In fact that does sound excessive and potentially harmful.

However, there’s a small problem with Gergory’s claim: there’s no factual evidence. Hers is a subjective interpretation, therefore only a theory. So calm down. Porn isn’t bad for you, and it’s not messing up your junk’s ability to do its job.

The article published by BBC announcing Gregory’s theory even started out saying, “There are no official figures, but…” so readers should have known right then to not take it to heart. After all, if you’ve been beating off to porn for years and your equipment still functions and you have not turned into a sex offender, it must mean porn isn’t bad for you.

If it helps, there are actually studies that prove porn is beneficial. One Danish study from 2007 found that pornography has positive, yet minor, effects on sexual health. Another large study also definitively determined porn is not bad for you, and has literally no negative impact on men’s sexual health.

“Contrary to raising public concerns, pornography does not seem to be a significant risk factor for younger men’s desire, erectile, or orgasmic difficulties,” the authors wrote in the report.

See? You love porn, and porn loves you back just the same, so keep watching.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Thrills of Left-Handed Wanking

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By Tom Usher

left hand

I’ve always been confused about my strongest hand. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I used to switch hands when writing or coloring in, when one or the other hand got tired. As a grew older I realized I was left-handed when I was writing but had an ambidextrous hangover because my stronger side was always my right.

But, I hear you ask, what does this mean for your preferred wanking hand of choice? Yes, a pertinent question. A little personal, as I barely know you, but it means in reality that I’ve always used both hands, and never really thought too much about it either way, you weirdo. After doing a bit of research I found that left-handed wanking, or “non-dominant hand masturbation,” is a thing.

“I wank with my left hand so I can browse porn using my mouse easier with the right,” is one excuse trotted out a lot by wankers. Others say the “orgasm is more intense and lasts longer when I wank with the left hand.” Finally, a lot of wankers seem to say that “wanking with the opposite hand makes it feel like someone else is doing it.” All good and valid reasons from people of an ‘ambisextrous’ nature (ZING). But to find out the real reasons why we may choose to bash off with our non-dominant hands I spoke to counselor, psychosexual, and sex addiction therapist Michael Stock, a member of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (ATSAC).

VICE: Why might you think guys might want to masturbate in different ways? What reasons have you heard so far?
Michael Stock: The key thing with internet porn is that the person, or teenager, watching it and masturbating separates sex from emotion. They’re short-circuiting—going straight to strong sexual arousal using porn, rather than putting in the effort from being with a man or woman. When they switch on their computer, they have more porn than they can shake a stick at their command—with anonymity and accessibility.

So you think people end up wanking in different ways because it’s become so easy to be aroused?
Yes. A typical guy will orgasm within about two minutes of starting to masturbate. Some people will say, ‘no that’s not me’ but most men masturbate roughly to porn, completely focused on the idea that they have to get to the orgasm—nothing pleasurable about it. Some of my clients play around for several hours and might sit there watching porn, stimulating but not allowing themselves to come, but most come quite quickly.

What mental or physical difference can non-dominant masturbation make, then?
I imagine it’s about variety, because the human brain craves excitement. If I were looking at porn, I’d start on the reasonably soft stuff and then I’d want more and more, which all has to do with dopamine. That’s when people get addicted. I’ve worked with clients who the only way they could come is masturbation—they couldn’t even do couple sex anymore. So I can imagine that non-dominant hand masturbation is another way to get some excitement and make wanking feel different.

I see a lot of stuff on the internet about the shape of people’s penises and how it affects things differently when masturbating. Have you come across anything like that?
I would say that’s unlikely to be true. I think there are a lot of rumours but, first of all, most of us are boringly normal, and secondly the size and shape shouldn’t matter. The only issue is if a man has been circumcised or not: circumcised men may find the head of the penis, filled with nerves, feels very sensitive. Unless the shape of the penis was absolutely extreme, it’s not relevant.

Have you seen any experiments or research done on the right and left hemispheres of the brain and how that impacts on masturbation?
I think that’s a red herring. Neuroscience says the right and left hemispheres talk to each other all the time—this idea is very overdone. You’re right in the sense that as someone right-handed, the left hemisphere of my cerebral cortex controls my right hand and the right side of my brain controls my left hand. But I wouldn’t think using one side of the brain or the other would be particularly important in masturbation. It would be different probably more realistically, if you think about it—and I’m going to assume you masturbate…

Assume away.
… If you were masturbating with one hand, your thumb and finger would be in a particular position, rubbing up and down the shaft of the penis. If you used your other hand, you’d stimulate other areas of the penis.

001

I’m ambidextrous, so this idea of right-handed people masturbating left-handed is a new thing for me.
You’ve made the case for me! You can be ambidextrous, able to do it either way around, and we can certainly learn to change. I’m strongly right-handed. I can write with my left but it’s extremely difficult; it feels like I’d get brain-ache after a while. I would say that for someone imasturbating with their non-dominant hand, the main effect would a different, and somehow novel physical stimulation of the penis.

Earlier you mentioned how porn may be desensitising us when it comes to our pleasure from masturbation.
I’ve had young men as clients, 18-year-olds, so hooked on porn that they’ve become uninterested in couple sex. We train our brain all the time, and I believe most of our behavior is learned. Young guys in particular—say 16-year-olds—who masturbate a lot are in the middle of a crucial time when their brains are growing in complexity, in neuropathological ways.

At 16, your brain did something called ‘pruning.’ It went in and got rid of lots of neural pathways it didn’t need, like a railway network over the UK that’s gone mad laying tracks everywhere until you say, ‘This is crazy I don’t need this track.’ And your brain rips up a track. Your brain goes from an overgrown weed at 16 to a nice tree structure two years later—you’ve pruned your brain. Today’s youngster are being exposed to more extreme porn when they’re young, in this pruning stage, and that’s where things have grown really interesting for someone in my line of work.

Complete Article HERE!

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How Kink Helps Me Practice Radical Body Acceptance

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Kinky activities have taught me that by body is amazing and worthy of love.

Body Acceptance

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At my last doctor’s appointment, my doctor had to take my weight for my pre-operative examination. I stepped on the scale, and it read 190 pounds.

Now, that might not sound like a lot to some of you, but as a 5’1″ girl, skirting 200 pounds is a bit scary. To be entirely factual, I’ve gotten fat.

There’s no reason why being fat should be a bad thing. I’m active (I walk 1+ hour every day, sometimes I bike), I’m in good health, and I can walk up many flights of stairs without losing my breath. I just have a bit of a sugar addiction, and yeah, maybe I could eat better. Overall, though, I consider myself fairly healthy.

 

Complete Article HERE!

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