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Screw Science: The Futuristic Sex Tech Aiming to Penetrate Your Bedroom

From fully customizable vibrators to bioelectronic headsets, smart sex toys are on the way up. But does personal pleasure necessarily make for better health?

sex-tech

Pleasure is personal, mostly because it has to be, and not least because female scientists continue to face grinding discrimination regardless of their area of research. And when it comes to sexual health, breakthroughs are few and far between: in spite of increasing documentation of associated health risks, birth control hasn’t really been reformulated since the 60s, and last year’s much-anticipated release of Addyi, a pill meant to fix female sexual dysfunction, only worked for ten percent of the women who tried it.

It’s clear that sexual emancipation has not yet been freed from the bedroom. In spite of its roots in scientific misogyny—the vibrator was developed in the 19th century to cure women of hysteria, after all—a swathe of new devices have people looking hopefully to sex tech (or sextech, as it is also known) as the answer to systemic gaps in sexual health. History, it seems, is coming full circle; where the 1960s saw the vibrator de-medicalized and uncoupled from science, today’s consumer market is beginning to see pleasure and health unified in the pursuit of wellness. Yet what we call “sex tech” is tied more to the lucrative sex toy industry—worth $15 billion this year—than it is to scientific institutions, with much of its promise linked to idea that personal pleasure makes for better health.

These days, more people than ever understand that a woman’s ability to understand what turns her on and why is a crucial step in developing a healthy perspective on her sexual life. So it makes sense that we’re seeking out masturbatory experiences that are more tailored than your average stand-in phallus. It’s the driving force behind the popularity of devices like Crescendo, the first-ever fully customizable vibrator, which raised £1.6 million in funding to date and shipped out over 1,000 pre-orders after a successful crowdfunding round.

Designed to cater to the inherent complexities of female arousal, the vibrator can be finely customized, equipped with six motors and the ability to be bent into any favorable shape. An accompanying app allows users to control each motor individually; it remembers favorite behaviors, provides pre-set vibration patterns, and responds to mood-setting music.

“We were inspired by the concept of tech designed for the human, rather than the human having to adapt their behaviour to tech,” says Stephanie Alys, the co-founder of Crescendo creators Mysteryvibe. “Human beings aren’t just unique in terms of our size and how we’re put together genetically, but also in terms of what we like. What turns us on can be different from what turns another person on.”

smart-sex-technology

Mysteryvibe’s flagship product is the Crescendo, a customizable sex toy.

But in spite of the life-improving promises of consumer sex tech, the reality is that official, peer-reviewed studies remain crucial to reforming policy and education. Founded by Dr. Nicole Prause, Liberos Center is one of the few sex-centric research institutions in the United States. Much of its work investigates the relationship between psychology, physiology, and sex, with an emphasis on the hard data that is often lacking in sex tech.

Liberos presses on in a particularly antagonistic climate; the American government is famously skittish about sexual content. Sexual material is banned from government-funded computers, says Prause, making it difficult for researchers to, say, screen porn to test subjects as part of a study on arousal. She adds that congressional bodies actively seek to pull funding from research that addresses the topic head-on—four recent studies that had already been awarded funding were re-opened for assessment because of their sexual content.

“People report having certain types of experiences all the time,” says Prause. “But they’re often poor observers of their own behaviour, and don’t see anyone’s behaviour but their own. They don’t really have that external perspective, which is why I think it’s important to take both a psychological and laboratory approach. For example, in science, people haven’t been verifying that orgasm actually occurs. So we’ve been developing an objective way of measuring that, and of measuring the effects of clitoral stimulation—on how to best capture the contractions that occur through the orgasm.”

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Liberos is also investigating the effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and direct current stimulation (tDCS) on sexual responsiveness. Both are non-invasive treatments, meaning anyone seeking a cure for low libido may not require anything more than the use of a headset. TMS holds potential for long-term changes to a person’s sex drive; the technique, which uses a magnetic field generator to produce small electrical currents in the brain, has already been used to treat neuropathic pain and otherwise stubborn cases of major depressive disorder. DCS, on the other hand, uses a headset to deliver a low-intensity electrical charge, stimulating the brain areas where activity spikes at the sight, or touch, of a turn-on.

If using the brain’s electrical signals to control the rest of the body sounds like a dystopian fantasy, the reality is that these medical treatments aren’t far off. Bioelectronic firms are now backed by the likes of Glaxosmithkline and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and similar applications have already been established for hypertension and sleep apnea, while chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and arthritis are targeted for future development.

According to Dr. Karen E. Adams, clinical professor of OBGYN at Oregon Health and Science University, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of women experience varying degrees of sexual dysfunction. Medication that targets neurotransmitters, like the SSRIs used to treat depression and anxiety, can fluctuate in efficacy depending on the unique makeup of the person using it.

Combined with the trickiness of locking down the nebulousness of desire (and lack thereof), it’s no wonder that Addyi, a failed antidepressant pursued because of its unexpected effect on serotonin levels in female mice, was a flop. Non-sex-specific studies have shown that electrical stimulation can be more adaptive to the brain’s constantly-shifting landscape than medication that interacts with its chemistry. For the 90 percent of women who found Addyi to be a sore disappointment, bioelectronic treatments could soon offer an alternative solution to low sexual responsivity.

“By giving women information about their bodies that they can decide what to do with, we’re enabling more female empowerment,” says Prause. “And by allowing women to decide which aspects of sex they want to be more responsive to, we’re giving people more control, and not with charlatan claims. We actually have good scientific reasons that we think are going to work, that are going to make a difference.”

Yet the field’s burgeoning successes are only as good as the social environment they take hold in. Sociopolitical hurdles notwithstanding, money remains a significant roadblock for developers, as the controversial nature of sex research has many investors shying away from backing new projects in spite of consumer interest. Whether they’re seeking government funding or VC investments, sex start-ups and labs alike are often forced to turn to crowdfunding to raise money for development.

“It’s pretty unsurprising that heavily female-oriented tech products do so well on crowdfunding sites; these are solutions to problems faced by half of the population, that are overlooked by a male-dominated industry where male entrepreneurs are 86 percent more likely to be VC funded than women,” says Katy Young, behavioral analyst at research firm Canvas8. “But the audience is clearly there—Livia, a device which targets nerves in order to stop period pains, raised over $1 million on Indiegogo.”

Outdated sex ed programs, which emphasize procreation and normalize straight male sexuality without addressing female sexual development, are ground zero for unhealthy social perspectives on sex. Acknowledging that change can’t just come from devices alone, New York’s Unbound, a luxury sex toy subscription service, is teaming up with “campus sexpert” app Tabù to bring both sex education and affordable masturbation tools to colleges across the country.

“There’s a national discussion right now surrounding consent, which is 100 percent needed and super important,” says Polly Rodriguez, CEO and co-founder of Unbound. “But for women to be able to engage in sex and address consent as equals, they need to learn about female pleasure—they should understand their own bodies so that when they are engaging in sexual activities with someone else, they know what feels good to them, they know how to communicate that, and they don’t feel uncomfortable about it.”

It’s tempting to buy into the idea of tech as freeing: that the increased presence of smart devices in our lives will help us form healthier habits and a better understanding of our ourselves, or that the availability of medically-approved tech will be a panacea in the intricately fraught landscape of female sexual dysfunction—which is as socially determined as it is biological, and as cultural as it is psychological.

But sex tech is still far from being paradigm-shifting. Its success will be dependent not only on consumer dollars but on government policies and public attitudes; at a level of engagement this intimate, tech is only any good if people feel free to use it.

Complete Article HERE!

Coming Out for my Transgender Daughter

By

safe-zone

There it sat and it had sat for a very long time. We felt exhausted, vulnerable, and full of anxiety. Writing and sending a “coming out” letter to all of our family, friends, colleagues, congregants, and neighbors that our child was transitioning to match their internal gender was one of the scariest things we had done. We were fearful of the responses or lack of responses our letter would generate, so we sent it out very late on a Sunday night. We could go to bed unscathed from the public for one last night before we had to deal with this honesty head on. It was 14 long months after our child came out to us as transgender.

At a time in our lives when our complete focus should have been on our child and family dynamics, we ended up being consumed by worry. How would this affect our lives? The lives of my new daughter and the life of our son? Our friendships, religious life, teacher/student relationships, and my husband’s practice? The worry created a lot of noise and distraction in our heads from the moment we woke until we went to sleep. Our focus was on society and its intolerance towards difference. Looking back, this was a very hard burden to carry. Why is it that when our child needed us most that we had to worry about our society? It was wrong that we ever worried about you.

Fortunately, what we learned after sending our “coming out” letter was that we were stronger than we ever thought and we could face you. We could face you and tell you we are so much happier and healthier than we have ever been. We could face you and say we have done everything right by letting our child transition. We can face you and tell you that our family bond is unbreakable. We can face you because it felt so right to empower other LGBTQ people to live their truths and thrive. More importantly, my daughter can face you because she has us as a family to support her in every way.

We found a way to replace worry with Tikkun Olam. In Judaism, one of the definitions for Tikkun Olam is human responsibility for fixing what is wrong with the world.  The things that I see wrong with the world are: LGBTQ youth doing poorly in school because they are distracted by the anxiety they experience of holding on to their secret or the harassment they experience being “out,” children (young and old) too afraid to come out, parents that are not accepting, strangers questioning parents’ abilities to parent, hate propagated in the name of religion, incorrect assumptions of what it means to be LGBTQ, the thought that being LGBTQ will hold you back and make you less than, homelessness, and hate crimes. We can little by little fix what is broken by speaking out against intolerance, attending school board meetings where anti-LGBTQ agendas are being introduced, signing a petition, writing government officials, volunteering with the LGBTQ community, and building up those LGBTQ individuals around us. My daughter has been advocating for the transgender community for a couple of years now through media and speaking engagements, by sitting on various committees, being involved with her GSA, and training school staff. She found her voice because we nurtured her power to use it to fix what is broken. I believe she has accomplished all of this because we had faith in her ability to live an extraordinary life.

I meet with parents who have children that identify as members of the LGBTQ community. So many parents simply feel lost, stuck,  or unsure of their feelings. There is nothing better than seeing these families move forward and support their children. They move from feeling powerless to powerful. I am also fortunate to meet people who share their stories and ask me advice on how to come out to their parents. It is such an intimate moment and I always get goosebumps, but most of all I am thankful that people feel they can look to me for help. Of course, I am only a parent with experience and compassion to share with others. Each one of us has this ability inside of ourselves, it is a matter of choice to share compassion. I give what I can of myself to fix what is broken.

To  those of you living in silence, sitting with your secret, struggling with your anxiety, waiting for the right time to come out, I hope you can find the people around you who will support and love you. I certainly know that in some families, unfortunately, it will not be safe for you to disclose where you fall on the LGBTQ spectrum. Your safety and well-being should always be considered most important. My heart aches for you because I know the silence is stifling your growth. Always remember that people can change and end up supporting you later. My plea and biggest suggestion is to find a support group. Most support groups’ mission statements will include a statement of anonymity for their attendees. Support groups can be a safe place to share stories and experiences, learn, watch others grow, and bond with the LGBTQ community. The first time we went as a family to support group, it felt like the biggest weight had been lifted from us. The group helped grow our confidence and pride for our new family. I want you to get involved with your school’s GSA or college LGBTQ community. If your school does not have a GSA then start one! Find a role model within the LGBTQ community that you can confide in. Not everyone has it in them to publicly advocate, but if you do then use your voice to empower yourself and your community.

When children, young and old, come out as part of the LGBTQ community, parents worry that this is a bad reflection on themselves. The reality is that the only reflection you should worry about is your own. Are you looking at a parent in the mirror that you can be proud of? Are you looking at a parent that won’t have to look back and ask, why didn’t I do better for my child? Are you the parent whose child’s high school counselor cried to me about her student, who can’t come out to their parents because they are too afraid? This counselor, who I just met, knows the most intimate detail of this child’s life and their parents don’t because they have created something in their home that makes it not safe for their child to live an authentic life. Do you want to contribute to what is broken, or do you want to build a world where LGBTQ individuals can reach their maximum potential and thrive? It is our responsibility to make the world a better place for our LGBTQ loved ones by starting at home. There is a saying, “Don’t be your child’s first bully.” Think about that for a minute. I am happy to say we were our child’s first ally. As a parent, I will never walk in my daughter’s shoes, but I will proudly walk next to her and always be thankful that my child had enough trust in us to come out as transgender. I wish all of the newly “out” people of the LGBTQ community happiness, courage, strength, love, peace, and power as you live your authentic lives.

Complete Article HERE!

Kinky Sex For Stress Relief

BDSM Creates Mindful Mental State To Make You Better In Bed And More Relaxed

By

your kinks

It’s no secret the Hollywood blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey and the impending release of the Fifty Shades Darker sequel has sparked our interest in the 6-for-4 deal acronym: Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism, also known as BDSM. It has become a gateway for sexual experimentation among couples of all ages, steering them away from the conventional “vanilla sex.” Now, a study published in the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice suggests BDSM not only adds novelty to the bedroom, it can make us more mindful partners in bed.

The intensity and pain associated with BDSM is presumed to do everything but induce stress. However, BDSM is more than just kinky sex; some practices can enhance our psychological well-being, and even have anti-anxiety effects and other mental health benefits. Previous research has found giving or receiving pain can alter blood flow in the brain, and lead to a feeling of living in the here and now, while reducing anxiety.

Now researchers at Northern Illinois University add further evidence that BDSM creates an altered state of mind. Participants in a study who practiced BDSM showed reduced levels of stress, better mood, and a high level of flow, or energized focus.

The transformative effects of bondage are well known within the BDSM community. According to the researchers, people in the BDSM community will often talk about being transported into a state of flow: “the idea that the rest of the world drops away and someone is completely focused on what they’re doing,” said Brad Sagarin, study author, and  professor in the department of psychology at Northern Illinois University, TIME reported.

In the study, Sagarin and his colleagues recruited seven couples who practice BDSM, including: two couples in a long-term relationship; two in polyamorous arrangements; two pairs who are friends; and one pair who met the day of the study. Each person in a pair were assigned to the “top” role (dominant), or the “bottom” role (submissive). The couples were allowed to engage in BDSM for as long as they wanted, with the average encounter lasting roughly an hour.

The researchers observed and marked down the activities that were happening while the couples practiced BDSM. Before and after each session, the researchers measured the participants’ cortisol levels and testosterone, while also measuring their mood, level of stress, sense of closeness, and whether they were experiencing mental flow.

The findings revealed BDSM helped couples become more present in the here and now, or be more mindful of their partner and the situation. Sagarin hypothesizes the intense sensations and the potential restriction of movement could influence someone’s ability to stay in the moment, and really tune in to it. This could potentially help people who otherwise have a hard time getting out of their own head.

Sagarin and his colleagues compared the BDSM-induced altered state of mind to that of pro athletes, prolific novelists, musicians, or anyone who loses themselves in an activity they’re skilled in. For example, scoring a touchdown requires intense focus to make sure it’s done effectively and safely; cracking a whip requires a similar focus. The athlete and the bed partner both transcend to a flow state of energized focus and full enjoyment of what they’re doing — it’s about letting go of the clutter in the mind.

Sandra LaMorgese, a professional dominatrix, refers to the meditative or mindful form of BDSM as “subspace.”

“My submissive clients describe it as an altered state of consciousness in which they feel completely liberated from stress. It’s a practice that allows you to completely let go of internal and external stress so that you can fully immerse yourself in the present moment,” she told The Huffington Post.

While the recent study only looked at BDSM-style sexual encounters, this could also have implications for those with less adventurous sex lives. If people are really focused on each other, and making the experience enjoyable for their partner, similar benefits may be reaped. Sex could be a new way to bring mindfulness into our lives, and even make us better partners in bed.

Next time you decide to get freaky in the sheets, think of your bed as your yoga mat, and meditate your way to better sex.

Complete Article HERE!

How to cope with a sexless marriage

Be honest, listen to each other properly and be patient – plus expert tips for bringing back intimacy

by Joan McFadden

Sexual-frustration

Pick your moment to talk. There are all sorts of reasons people stop having sex – stress, illness, worry about performing, low libido, age, menopause and lack of body confidence. It’s easy to let your sex life drift, but bringing up the subject is difficult so try to pick the right moment when you’re both relaxed and unlikely to be interrupted. But not in bed and especially not while trying to persuade your partner to have sex or feeling angry or frustrated because they’re not interested.

Pick your moment to listen. Do your best not to take it personally. Don’t assume they no longer fancy you or put words in their mouth. It can be hard enough to talk about without extra needless emotional layers being added so listen to what is being said and how the situation makes your partner feel. It really isn’t about you being a bit plump or growing older or not taking pride in your appearance.

Be honest with yourself and each other. Have you both stopped making an effort, do you take each other for granted and think nothing of rolling into bed in a grubby T-shirt without even brushing your teeth? No one’s suggesting you should aim for supermodel or totally buffed body status, but if you don’t love yourself enough to have a little pride in your appearance, it’s not going to be that easy for other people to love you too. You might feel rather shallow admitting that the extra two stone or constant farting in bed isn’t exactly what you signed up for, but you can do that tactfully, especially if admitting areas where you are also no longer quite the person they fell for.

Decide whether sex is a deal-breaker for either of you. Would you be willing to sacrifice sex for the “other stuff”? Some people are perfectly happy having no sex in their marriage and Relate’s research shows that the importance people place on sex decreases with age. Often intimacy is what’s most important, but if it’s not enough, say so.

Be patient. If sex is a deal-breaker, it’s important for the “keen” partner to be patient while the two of you unpack what is causing the block. This is also not the best time to suggest an open relationship as a possible solution.

Seek help together. Sex therapy can help you with working out what the underlying problem is and can also give you a sense that you’re sorting this out together. At the beginning of a relationship, sex can feel so easy, natural and exciting that it can feel a little sad that you might have to work at it, but the results can be well worth it.

Kindness is sexy. Go out together, have fun, make time for each other. When both parties feel truly heard and understood, often intimacy increases along with the desire to have sex.

Ban sex. Many therapists often suggest that couples in sexless relationships start by taking the pressure off sex entirely. This may sound counterintuitive but creating a temporary ban can stop feelings of anxiety about needing to perform, making relaxation more likely.

Small steps. Reintroduce intimacy slowly – start with something as small as holding hands or giving your partner a peck on the cheek before you head off to work. You can then build up to massages, cuddling, lingering kissing and intimate touching and oral sex, but keeping full sexual intercourse off the table until you both feel like you want to do it. The idea behind this is that it allows you to rediscover one another’s sensual sides and increase desire in a pressure-free environment. It’s important that you regularly discuss how you’re both feeling and don’t push your partner to go further than they are comfortable with.

Drink is not the answer. True, but a relaxing dinner and an easy chat over a couple of glasses has led to other things since time began.

Complete Article HERE!

A waning interest in intimacy; a cross-dressing husband

By Dr. Katie Schubert

As a sex therapist, people sometimes email and call me to ask if I can answer a “quick question” for them. Human sexuality is complicated, and a “quick question” generally has a convoluted answer. However, sometimes I am able to provide a general answer or offer a starting place for those seeking answers. When I polled my students, friends and family about “quick questions” they would like answered by a sex therapist, I was flooded. I narrowed the submissions down to two.

 

INTEREST IN SEX IS GOING, GOING, GONE

I am a 40-year-old woman, married 18 years, with twins, age 15, and a 12-year-old. I am a stay-at-home mom. I spend a lot of time driving the kids to their activities every day. My husband continues to be very interested in having sex, but I couldn’t care less. I’m nowhere near menopause, but I think my hormones are off or something. I have no awareness of desire anymore. What’s happening to me? I still love him very much.

This is a complaint I hear from a lot from women. A recent study published by the National Institutes cross dressingof Health found that the prevalence of sexual dysfunction among all women is estimated to be between 25 and 63 percent. Those figures are even higher for postmenopausal women, at 68 to 86.5 percent. Also, sexual dysfunction is more common in women (43 percent) than in men (31 percent). Further, the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors found that between 26 and 48 percent of women over 40 reported a lack of interest in sex.

To answer your question, you could be experiencing a lack of desire for many reasons. Part of the sex therapy process would be to uncover these reasons and develop ways to increase your desire. Being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job and exhausting. Are you getting enough sleep? Lack of sleep can lead to reduced testosterone levels, which may contribute to a low libido or feelings of fatigue. Was your libido always low, or has it declined over the course of your marriage? It is not uncommon for a person’s sex drive to change over time. Fluctuations in libido often coincide with stress levels, major changes in your life or your relationship, or hormonal changes. How is your relationship with your husband? Does he make you feel guilty for not having sex? Does he help out enough with the kids and around the house? If you are harboring anxious feelings about needing to have sex, or feeling resentment toward your husband for not helping enough with the kids or house, the last thing you will want to do with him is be intimate.

Sex therapists use a process called sensate focus with couples experiencing situations similar to yours. Through sensate focus, couples are given a series of homework assignments geared toward rebuilding intimacy and trust in a relationship in an environment with reduced pressure and anxiety. The exercises begin with nonsexual massages and gradually work up to sexual touching and intercourse.

The fact that you love your husband is not indicative of how much sexual desire you should have for him. However, loving your husband is a great foundation and will help resolve this issue with more ease.

SURPRISE! WIFE FINDS HUSBAND IN HER BRA

I came home early from work one day last week and found my husband sitting in the family room dressed in my bra and panties and watching a sexually graphic movie on TV. He got really angry that I “caught” him. Is this common? What’s going on with him? I am horrified.

First of all, cross-dressing does not mean your husband is gay, bisexual or transgender. Most men who cross-dress are heterosexual and married and simply enjoy the practice. There are varying estimates of the prevalence of male cross-dressers in the United States, ranging from 2 percent to 10 percent. In a study published in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality (Reynolds & Carson, 2008), researchers found that most of the heterosexual men who engaged in cross-dressing did so to achieve a feeling of “comfort and peace.” Men in the study said they cross-dressed to fulfill a biological, genetic or innate desire.

There have been several studies focusing on the wives of cross-dressers. One of these studies, published in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality (Reynolds & Carson, 2008), found that most wives did not support their husband’s cross-dressing, but rather tolerated it. Generally, the wife’s biggest source of anxiety about their husband’s cross-dressing was that other people might find out.

If you and your husband were to pursue therapeutic services, it is likely that a therapist would first explore the feelings you both have about his cross-dressing. Often issues arise in relationships due to a lack of communication. You may be horrified by his cross-dressing because you do not understand why he does it or what it means about him. If you are given the space to ask questions and he is given the space to answer your questions, you both may feel more at ease with his cross-dressing. In the therapy session, you both may be asked what it would take for you to tolerate his desire to cross-dress. Most of the time, compromises must be made in order for both partners to feel as if their needs are being met. For instance, you may be able to work with your husband to set limits on his cross-dressing activities so you are more comfortable with his behavior.

Rest assured, your experience is not unique. In our society, gender norms are quite black and white. Any sort of behavior that does not fit into our rigid expectations is seen as taboo. The best thing to do in your situation is to learn more about cross-dressing, whether that means reading up on it or seeking the assistance of a sex therapist.

Complete Article HERE!