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Envisioning A New Approach To Postpartum Sex

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Welcoming a baby into the world is an incredible experience, but it is certainly not a seamless one. Although your new bundle of joy may be small, metaphorically speaking, they occupy a lot of space, with your partner and intimacy being the first thing to be pushed to the side.

As part of running MysteryVibe, I speak to women and men from different countries, backgrounds, and cultures every day – and one of the most common themes of discussions or questions people ask me is around reclaiming intimacy and sexual pleasure after childbirth.

The 6-week check-up often marks the moment when new moms are physically cleared by their doctors to have sex again. But while you might be given the green light, many women are simply not ready emotionally for penetrative sex.

You have welcomed a new human into the world, and while your heart could burst from all the love you feel, likewise you might be worried sick about their well-being at every moment, ready to cry at the drop of a pin.

Between the physical recovery of birth, a flurry of activities and the emotional rollercoaster of hormones, the last thing on your mind during the postpartum is being physically available for yourself, much less your partner.

But that does not mean that you have to give up on intimacy altogether.

It is time to reframe the 6 week check-up, and move beyond its unrealistic presumption that makes new mothers feel pressured to jump back into the sack after a string of sexless months, and guilty or ashamed when they cannot bring themselves to do it right away.

Rather, we propose a new vision of postpartum sex as a gentle journey of intimacy that leads to a fulfilling, pleasurable relationship with your partner, where sex does not have to mean intercourse right away.

A journey that will not necessarily lead you back to your pre-baby sex life, but to a new normal that can even be more emotionally (and physically) satisfying than ever before!

The rules of the game – go at your own pace, take it slow, communicate your needs to your partner, sit back, relax and let yourself enjoy the pleasure.  Here we offer you a few tips to kickstart your journey.

1. TLC- tender loving care. Before you can be emotionally or physically available for your partner, you must carve out some time for some self-love. Perhaps let dad or grandparents have some alone time with the new arrival – take a bubble bath, go for a walk in nature or perhaps cuddle up in a cozy blanket listening to your favorite tunes.

If you are up to it, maybe try a solo session, using a clitoral stimulator or small vibrator with lots of lubricants. Because of your body’s changing-needs, highly-customizable toys like MysteryVibe’s Crescendo will be a great fit as you can change its shape along with creating unique patterns of vibrations (spanning from super gentle to more powerful).

Toys like this are super effective at satisfying both penetrative and non-penetrative play, and don’t rely on friction or thrusting, which can be painful for many women post-birth. This will be a great time to reconnect with your body, with orgasms acting as stress relievers as well.

Whatever it is, love yourself and do what makes you feel good!

2. Rediscover the power of cuddling and kissing. While it may feel like you are regressing back to ‘first base’, these simple forms of physical touch with your partner increase* oxytocin levels, also known as the ‘bonding’ hormone that can help reduce* stress and anxiety.

So, when your baby is sleeping, take some time to simply hold each other’s hands or wrap yourself up in one another’s arms as you watch some TV.  When you are feeling ready for second base, allow your lips to linger and move into loving, passionate kisses.

3. Venture outside the usual. For many women, their breasts and vagina feel less sexual during the postpartum period. Once a focal point in the bedroom, breasts are now inflated and sore, and the vulva and vagina may be recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth.

No need to fret. There are many other erogenous zones that can bring you pleasure.  With their hands and/or mouth, ask your partner to stimulate other areas of your body.

Try some of these: ears, neck, nape of neck, spine, back, behind the knees and feet. These areas are full of nerve endings and can reveal some unexpectedly pleasurable sensations.

4. Explore non-penetrative practices. There are many ways to experience mutual pleasure and intimacy with your partner outside of the traditional penetrative act. Try reinventing the 69.

If you are not ready for vaginal or clitoral action, ask your partner to massage your feet that stimulate blood flow up to your legs and abdomen, while you return the favor with your hands or mouth.

You and your partner could also try intercrural sex, where the penis is stimulated by being placed in between your thighs. Or, on the flip side, intergluteal sex where the penis can be stimulated by moving between the buttocks.

For the last two, we recommend lube.

5. Invest in some good quality lube. When you are ready for more advanced foreplay or penetrative sex, do not be shocked if you are not naturally lubricating downstairs. Dryness is another side-effect of declined estrogen and progesterone levels post-birth.

Lube will be your best friend when you are getting back to the norm with your partner, helping things run smoothly. Clitoral stimulators can also act as great tools in this department. Also, do not forget to relax.

Many women feel a mixture of fear and anxiety about returning back to penetrative sex after months of celibacy, leading to a tenseness that will undeniably make sex less pleasurable. If you can, have a glass of wine, take your time, let your partner give you a massage, and then get the lube out!

6. The gift that keeps on giving. So maybe you are just not in the mood? Because of wonky hormonal changes, it’s totally normal to experience plummeted levels of libido. It’s ok.

Nonetheless, women put pressure on themselves to perform in the bedroom out of guilt for not tending to their partner’s sexual needs. Consider buying masturbating toys for your partner, it will show them that you care without forcing yourself to do anything out of your comfort zone.

All in all, intimacy with your partner can help decrease* your stress, improve* your confidence and (contrary to belief) energize you! Making space to prioritize intimacy, without the pressure of going all in, can help nurture a deep connection with your partner that can translate to increased happiness and wellbeing.

Do not expect to go from 0 to 100 after your 6 week check-up. Remember, most women wait longer than 6 weeks, and many women will not get 100% back into the groove of things for months.

Allow this journey back to intimacy be an exciting opportunity to rediscover the relationship you have with your own body and to find new techniques that lie outside the norm with your partner.

The key is to take things slowly, to listen to yourself, communicate with your partner, and when the time comes, use lots and lots of lube.

Complete Article HERE!

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All forms of sexual harassment can cause psychological harm

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“Being exposed to non-physical sexual harassment can negatively affect symptoms of anxiety, depression, negative body image and low self-esteem,” say Associate Professor Mons Bendixen and Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

This applies to derogatory sexual remarks about appearance, behaviour and sexual orientation, unwanted sexual attention, being subject to rumouring, and being shown sexually oriented images, and the like.

The researchers posed questions about sexual experienced in the previous year and received responses from almost 3,000 high school students in two separate studies. The responses paint a clear picture.

Worst for girls. This is not exclusively something boys do against girls. It’s just as common for boys to harass boys in these ways.

Girls and boys are equally exposed to unpleasant or offensive non-physical sexual harassment. About 62 per cent of both sexes report that they have experienced this in the past year.

“Teens who are harassed the most also struggle more in general. But girls generally struggle considerably more than boys, no matter the degree to which they’re being harassed in this way,” Kennair notes.

“Girls are also more negatively affected by sexual harassment than boys are,” adds Bendixen.

Being a girl is unquestionably the most important risk factor when teens report that they struggle with anxiety, depression, or .

However, non-physical sexual harassment is the second most important factor, and is more strongly associated with adolescents’ psychological well-being than being subjected to sexual coercion in the past year or sexual assault prior to that.

Level of severity

Bendixen and Kennair believe it’s critical to distinguish between different forms of harassment.

They divided the types of harassment into two main groups: non-physical harassment and physically coercive sexual behaviour, such as unwanted kissing, groping, intimate touch, and intercourse. Physical sexual coercion is often characterized as sexual abuse in the literature.

Studies usually lump these two forms of unwanted behaviour together into the same measure. This means that a derogatory comment is included in the same category as rape.

“As far as we know, this is the first study that has distinguished between these two forms and specifically looked at the effects of non-physical sexual harassment,” says Bendixen.

Comments that for some individuals may seem innocent enough can cause significant problems for others.

Many factors accounted for

Not everyone interprets slang or slurs the same way. If someone calls you a “whore” or “gay,” you may not find it offensive. For this reason, the researchers let the adolescents decide whether they perceived a given action as offensive or not, and had them only report what they did find offensive.

The article presents data from two studies. The first study from 2007 included 1384 . The second study included 1485 students and was conducted in 2013-2014. Both studies were carried out in Sør-Trøndelag county and are comparable with regard to demographic conditions.

The results of the first study were reproduced in the second. The findings from the two studies matched each other closely.

The researchers also took into account a number of other potentially influential factors, such as having parents who had separated or were unemployed, educational programme (vocational or general studies), sexual minority status, , and whether they had experienced physical coercion in the past year or any sexual assaults previous to that.

“We’ve found that sexual minorities generally reported more psychological distress,” says Bendixen. The same applied to with parents who are unemployed. On the other hand, students with immigrant status did not report more psychological issues. Bendixen also notes that sexual minorities did not seem to be more negatively affected by sexual harassment than their heterosexual peers.

However, the researchers did find a clear negative effect of non-physical sexual harassment, over and beyond that of the risk factors above.

Uncertain as to what is an effective intervention

So what can be done to reduce behaviours that may cause such serious problems for so many?

Kennair concedes that he doesn’t know what can help.

“This has been studied for years and in numerous countries, but no studies have yet revealed any lasting effects of measures aimed at combating sexual harassment,” Bendixen says. “We know that attitude campaigns can change people’s attitudes to harassment, but it doesn’t result in any reduction in harassment behaviour.”

Bendixen and Kennair want to look into this in an upcoming study. Their goal is to develop practices that reduce all forms of and thereby improve young people’s psychological well-being.

Complete Article HERE!

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Pain and power

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When #MeToo suddenly flooded social media with testimonials about sexual harassment, assault and violence, I applauded those who spoke out. Yet, even as I was overwhelmed with a need to support and fiercely affirm those around me, I was confronted with a certain uneasiness that extended beyond my reservations about the mentality of mass movements, representation of such campaigns and even ignorance surrounding the sexual harassment–awareness movement’s inception ten years ago. The torrent of posts filled me with a nebulous discomfort.

I couldn’t identify why until I began reflecting on my own experiences, memories of harassment and assault that I’ve swept under the rug as quickly as they have steadily accumulated over the years. From piano to debate, political functions to conversations with acquaintances, encounters with strangers to those I trusted, these are instances that I do not spend time discussing. When I recall the moments that constitute my identity, they do not come to mind. Yet, reflected in the honest and raw stories of the people around me — mostly women, but also oft-ignored men and queer individuals — I was forced to face how the climate of sexual violence has shaped my daily decisions.

Ironically, I have studied women’s rights movements and sexuality. I read voraciously about rape culture and gender inequalities, and consume op-eds and studies and literature on gender-based and sexual violence. With an understanding of how sex, gender and sexuality play into oppressive power dynamics, I advocate for survivors and women in so many spaces, defend the experiences of others around me and celebrate their bravery and authenticity with the fullest conviction. However, the culture I’ve internalized means that writing “me too” makes me feel either that I have no control over harassment and assault, which is scary, or that I hold responsibility for the situations I’ve encountered, which is worse.

This was and is still difficult for me, because I define myself as a strong, assertive woman. In the face of unfairness I have clung to resilience; I want to believe that I have the self-determination to control my own narrative and have the upper hand. I don’t want to sound like I’m whining, or focusing on the little things, or acting hysterically. I don’t want to sound like I’m weak, and, like many around me, I have implicitly linked these experiences with victimhood cast as weakness.

When I finally did write about my experiences, it was a bid for both me and others to associate strength with speaking truth to disempowering experiences, to reconcile the “me” who seeks positions of influence with the “me” in “me too.” Amidst well-intentioned people who dismiss harassment and men who hesitate to criticize friends for predatory behavior, amidst women who quietly succumb to blaming themselves and those ashamed of their experiences, I wanted to affirm that you can be strong and thick-skinned, yet still say “me too.” I wanted my experiences to discredit how we characterize powerful women and what we expect strength to look like.

At the same time, however, I wrote with a certain anxiety about the way I depicted my experiences and how they would be consumed. I’m a believer that sharing our stories can elicit transformative empathy, but it was with a sinking feeling that I wondered whether I’d raise awareness or attract pity. I felt as if I’d submitted scenes into a long, continuous documentary of #MeToo experiences, where the various dimensions of survivors’ memories had been reduced to a performance of pain in an exhausting bid for change. I wondered about the actual impact of writing and speaking out; I questioned using my experiences as a place of implied advocacy.

The past week of reading, reflecting and writing about scenarios of sexual harassment and assault has been emotionally draining for both those who have withheld and those who have shared their stories. Although I wish otherwise, the only way for nonsurvivors to understand the lived experiences of others is through hearing about them. #MeToo has brought about a bittersweet mix of acknowledgement and pain, so I hope that we see this pain as power and truly shift the way we think about victims and aggressors. Don’t let this be a pointless show.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Reason Most Couples Stop Enjoying Sex

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(And How To Heighten Your Capacity For Pleasure)

Everywhere I go, I hear stories about the challenges professional women are having sexually with their partners. It happens to women between 20 and 70, with kids and without. It’s described in one of a few ways:

  • “I used to like sex, but then we had kids, our careers picked up, and something changed.”
  • “When we do have sex, half the time I’m thinking about my to-do list. I feel relieved when it’s over, because then I can do what I really want to do—like finish my book.”
  • “We feel more like roommates or business partners than lovers.”
  • “I’m worried my libido is broken and there’s something wrong with me.”

The high stakes of intimacy in long-term relationships mixed with the inaccurate beliefs about female sexuality we face from all sides make for a volatile combination. But I’ve seen these issues get resolved. It’s absolutely possible. No matter where it’s coming from, sexual dissatisfaction can be remedied when both people commit to learning a new way to relate intimately. These are the keys to creating mutually fulfilling intimacy that lasts a lifetime.

I see that these patterns can change when couples commit to learning a new way of relating sexually that women enjoy. Here are the keys to successfully moving toward intimacy that’s mutually fulfilling:

1. Normalize your experience.

When intimacy is the issue, it can be very difficult to discuss openly. Often, we feel alone and don’t realize that sexual struggles in long-term relationships are not just normal, but they happen to the majority of couples at one time or another. Having discussed these issues with countless female clients who believe that they are to blame for their unhappiness, I realized that we just tend to place blame on ourselves. The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with you. Your libido is not broken. You’re not alone and this IS fixable.

2. Clearly articulate your need for change.

One of the biggest mistakes I see otherwise straightforward women make is downplaying their sexual distress to their partner. Many of us believe our male partners don’t care about our sexual fulfillment, or that enjoying sex isn’t worth the tension it would place on your relationship to bring up what isn’t working. Don’t let this stop you from getting what you need.

I have almost as many male clients as female ones, and they all want the same thing when it comes to sex: a partner who is turned on, happy, and enjoying themselves. Regardless of gender or relationship style, if sex only works for one partner in the relationship, then the sex isn’t working.

Have you clearly articulated to your partner that you aren’t sexually satisfied and that you need something to change? If not, your chances of fulfillment are slim. Blaming yourself doesn’t make anything better; taking responsibility for dealing with it as a team does. Get in the habit of talking with your partner regularly about what’s working for you and what isn’t.

3. Stop following a script.

We seem to all have been given the same misinformation about how sex should go: It starts with kissing and ends with intercourse. We’ve also been taught that happy couples have sex once per [day, week, month, insert stereotype here]. We’ve learned that sex is over when the man reaches orgasm. But I’m here to tell you that every single one of these statements is not only false but harmful.

The truth is that when couples drop expectations about sex and adopt a new approach—one that makes both parties’ genuine fulfillment a prerequisite rather than a bonus—women’s genuine fulfillment (which includes much more than having orgasms)—it supports deeper intimacy and can make a woman’s libido more active than it ever was before. Learn more about how to enter a new, infinitely satisfying paradigm here.

4. Recognize that orgasms are not sex’s raison d’être.

Orgasms are wonderful, but in truth, our fixation on them keeps our sex lives from becoming extraordinary. Let’s get real: If orgasms were all it took for radical fulfillment, far more of us would feel fulfilled. We wouldn’t even need relationships to make that happen. But we know it’s not the same. Self-pleasure is healthy, and may temporarily alleviate feelings of exhaustion or anxiety, but it doesn’t provide us with the connection or intimacy that partnered sex can.

5. Seriously, get rid of the script—before you even start the first act.

You’ll see a night-and-day difference in your sexual encounters if you let go of expectations before either of you starts getting hot and bothered. Nothing hinders women’s enjoyment of sex more than feeling pressured in bed. It’s almost impossible for us to enjoy ourselves if we’re worried about expectations about how or how much we are. Instead of feeling the pleasure, we get stuck wondering whether we’re doing it right or whether our partner is satisfied. Tossing expectation out the window is the most reliable way to start having fantastic sex immediately.

6. Touch each other for the sake of touching—with no apprehension or expectation about where it might lead.

Physical contact is essential for sexual fulfillment. But when sex isn’t working, we often avoid touching each other. I encourage couples to touch each other frequently and in a wide variety of ways—foot massages, hand-holding, and everything in between. But, by the same token, I encourage couples to stop tolerating touch they don’t like or want.

Tolerating touch leads to sexual shutdown—the person being touched isn’t enjoying themselves but won’t say it; the person doing the touching knows something is wrong but isn’t being told how to fix it. It creates distance rather than fostering intimacy. The solution is to have physical contact with zero expectations. When pressure and expectations are lifted, touch becomes an exploration of sensation and connection rather than a race to orgasm or “those same three moves.”

7. Don’t look at sex as a means to achieve any goal other than giving and receiving pleasure for pleasure’s sake.

Goals are great for business plans and exercise regimens, but they have the opposite effect on sex. Few of us have ever touched our partner without trying to achieve a goal. We use our touch to prove we’re a good lover, to make peace in the relationship, or to bring our partner to climax. How would we touch each other if we weren’t trying to achieve anything except to connect and explore each other’s bodies? Given an open-ended approach to sex that is full of touch and free of pressure, both desire for and enjoyment of sex will grow exponentially.

8. Learn what you like, and allow yourself to receive it.

Desire is vital to fulfillment. When we lose touch with that inner spark, our sex lives fall flat. Ask yourself the question, “What do I want?” 10 times a day. Seriously. And get very good at answering it. Desire is the first step. Only then can we receive it. It may sound simple, but I see women struggle sexually for years because they don’t know how to receive the help, love, and touch their partner wants to give. It takes as much work to receive as to give—sometimes more.

Practice receiving by focusing on the enjoyment of what you’re experiencing. Sink into the warm embrace of a hug. Delight in the smell of your favorite baked good. Relax as your partner touches you. Think less; feel more.

9. Practice, practice, practice.

Yes, even great sex requires practice. Create habits that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. I encourage all couples I work with to develop a habit of sexual research—open-ended sessions where couples explore new ways to connect without pressure. Like any new habit, allowing yourself to feel more pleasure and connection takes practice.

10. If it seems helpful, get professional coaching.

If you don’t feel like you can do it alone, don’t. There’s nothing to be ashamed of except not using every tool at your disposal to create the relationship you want. Get the support of a coach whose philosophy inspires you.

11. Be patient with yourself and with your partner.

Sexual connection is deeply personal and one of the most vulnerable elements of our identities. Don’t be discouraged if you, your partner, or your sex life doesn’t change as quickly as you’d hoped. People transform in different ways, through different means, over different periods of time. In seeking long-lasting change, favor paradigm shifts over quick fixes. Stick with it and be patient with each other.

Complete Article HERE!

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Writing Graphic Sex Scenes Can Be a Feminist Act

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‘We don’t put enough value on female pleasure in our culture’

By Stef Penney

Why is there explicit sex in my new book? Because I’m a feminist.

Under A Pole Star, my third book, is a novel about late 19th century arctic explorers that features, alongside ice, ambition and rivalry, more than one sexual relationship. And there’s a lot of detail. My central characters fall in love, and yes, they have a lot of sex. I was nervous about how the passages would be received. One Amazon reviewer has already complained about “copious quantities of copulation.” The specter of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award, given annually to authors of “poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction,” hovers over us all, tittering. Some judge writing explicitly about sex to be less than literary — or worse, discrediting of female characters. But why should achieving romantic and sexual satisfaction — one of the most difficult challenges we face as humans — be redacted or blurred?

There’s a problem with leaving “it” up to the reader’s imagination: Every reader will fill your tasteful ellipsis with something different — possibly with unachievable fantasy, with prejudices, with bad experience, with pornography. I wasn’t going to do that to my characters. I felt I owed it to readers to treat the characters’ intimacy with the same precision and seriousness I would any other intense human experience.

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I’ve read too much bad sex in otherwise good books: bizarre, metaphorical sex; coy, breathless sex; baffling, what-just-happened-there sex; most of all, phallocentric, male-experience-dominated sex. Too often, in sex scenes between a man and a woman, the woman’s sensations are barely mentioned, as if her experience is incomprehensible or irrelevant. It’s important to ask why this is — and the fact that a lot of those writers are male is not a satisfactory answer. We don’t put enough value on female pleasure in our culture. The way we write about sex only exacerbates that problem.

In my quest for knowledge and precedent, I sought out scientific research, erotic poetry and literature. I trawled the Internet as much as I could bear. I wanted to dissect the composition of sex scenes — and waded through many, many passages that didn’t come close to answering essential questions: Did she climax? Has this man heard of a clitoris? What were they using for contraception? Some uncovered even more questions about our culture’s perception of female sexuality: Did men in D.H. Lawrence’s time really accuse women of “withholding” their orgasms, as happens to Lady Chatterley? Because that’s absurd.

There’s so much ignorance, confusion and frustration out there. Delving into sex forums online, I was shocked by the prevalence of questions from women like, “How do I know if I’m having an orgasm?” The fact that so much confusion prevails is no surprise: studies have found that more men orgasm more frequently than women and 40% of women have sexual dysfunction, which can make it difficult to achieve climax. One study found that 80% of women fake orgasms.

The more I read, the more I realized how important it would be for me to write my scenes in steamy, awkward, mutual and real graphic detail. I wanted to write about a sexual relationship in a way that convinced me and reflected what I know to be true about female sexuality — that it’s complicated, beautiful and worth equal attention. So I included accounts of great sex, horrible sex, indifferent sex, sex that just doesn’t work despite both partners’ best intentions — and I showed how and why they were different.

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I wanted to create a story that honored the sexual biographies of both partners from both points of view, that showed how they reach the point where they come together and why their relationship is the way it is. And while we’re on the subject of coming together, simultaneous orgasm was one myth I encountered over and over again in my research that was never going to get an outing here.

When my friends began to read my book and wanted to talk about it, I learned things I’d never known about them, and I became more forthright in turn. We tumbled through a flood of questions. Why had we never talked about our sexual pleasure in explicit detail before? Why did we not achieve good, orgasmic sex until our mid-twenties, or later? Why were we too ignorant, too embarrassed to ask? Why did we expect so little in bed?

One reason, we all agreed, was that we’d had to learn about good sex through trial and error, because that behavior wasn’t modeled for us in a healthy, explicit way.

We need to be able to talk, teach, learn, write and read about sex, honestly and seriously, without — or in spite of — derision and censure. Unless we share specifics, we’ll never understand one another’s experiences. You can’t support women’s empowerment without frank and open discussion of their sexuality.

Complete Article HERE!

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