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How To Tell Your Partner You Have An STI

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By Cory Stieg

Early on in relationships, it can feel like you have to be careful and strategic about what information to divulge to your partner and when. This is particularly true when it comes to sexual health, because although your partner doesn’t need to know about every time you’ve had bacterial vaginosis in your lifetime, they may need to know about your STI status.

If you have an STI, it’s your responsibility to tell your partners before you have sex, says Kristen Lilla, LCSW, a sex therapist and sexuality educator. That way, your partner can make an informed decision that’s right for them. “There’s no law about discussing your STI status, but it is the ethical thing to do for your health and someone else’s,” Lilla says.

That said, no one has the right to judge you simply because of your current or previous STI status — so just because it’s important to share these health details, that doesn’t mean your partner is free to shame you. Each day, more than 1 million STIs are acquired worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, so there’s no reason to justify or apologize for your STI status, Lilla says.

There’s not necessarily a perfect time to tell your partner that you have an STI, because every relationship progresses at a different pace, but you should absolutely do it before having sex, Lilla says. “Some people prefer to have this conversation right away when they begin dating someone, and may not want to be with someone who judges them for having an STI,” she says. “Other people do not want to be judged, and may feel embarrassed or even guilty, so they might prefer to wait until they get to know someone and have established some trust before discussing it.” But if you wait to share your STI status after you’ve already had sex, then it can make your partner feel betrayed, Lilla says. Although you might be comfortable having sex and using condoms as a barrier method to reduce the risk of STI transmission, your partner might not be if they know you have a particular STI — and that’s okay, but it warrants a (sex-positive and shame-free) conversation to figure out where everyone’s boundaries are.

If someone judges you for having an STI, you deserve to be with someone else who won’t judge you.

Kristen Lilla, LCSW

So, how do you have the talk? Find a time and place that allows you and your partner to actually discuss the topic calmly — preferably out of your bedroom, Lilla says. “If you feel comfortable, it’s okay to talk about how you feel about your STI status,” Lilla says. For example, you can start by saying, I really like you, so this is difficult for me to talk about, Lilla says. Or, I know some people are freaked out by STIs, but I’m not ashamed to share my status. “It also helps to let the other person know if you are taking medications or not, and give them an opportunity to ask questions,” Lilla says. You don’t have to explain to someone how you got an STI, but you should be prepared to answer any specific questions that your partner has about the STI you have, and how that impacts their risk, she says.

Of course, the details of the conversation are dependent upon the people involved and the STI in question. If you have a bacterial STI, such as chlamydia, then your conversation will probably be different than one about a viral STI, like herpes, Lilla says. That’s because one STI is treatable, and the other isn’t. If you have an STI that’s been treated, Planned Parenthood suggests you say something like, I think it’s important to be honest, so I want to tell you that I got tested for STIs last month and found out I had chlamydia. I took medicine, and I don’t have it anymore. But it showed me how common and sneaky STIs are. Have you ever been tested? There are different implications for every type of STI, so this might not be exactly what you say. For many people, talking about getting tested can be a good jumping-off point.

This may all be easier said than done, since STIs can be a tough topic to navigate, especially if you already feel vulnerable, Lilla says. Unfortunately, many people feel embarrassed or ashamed about having STIs because of unfair societal stigma. But as long as you’re honest, you can’t go wrong — and again, nobody should shame you for having an STI. “If someone judges you for having an STI, you deserve to be with someone else who won’t judge you,” Lilla says.

Ultimately, you’re obligated to make sure your partner knows everything there is to know about your current STI status, so they can make the decision that’s right for them (and vice versa). And if you talk to your partner before becoming sexually active, then you haven’t exposed them to anything, so there’s nothing to apologize for. “What’s more important is to talk with your partner about how to move forward being sexually active in a way that feels safe and comfortable for both of you,” Lilla says.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Tips for Introducing Sex Toys to Your shy Partner

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Trust and vulnerability are required for this experimental play.

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The very first time I remember seeing a sex toy was at a “Passion Party” hosted in the apartment of one of my college friends. The entire event was incredibly awkward and I remember doing my best to just relax and have fun. We played games where we talked openly about our sex lives and previous sexcapades.

Throughout the party, different toys were described and passed around for each of the attendees to get a little hand only experience. The entire soiree was filled with nervous giggles and an almost palpable sexual electricity.

Towards the end of the party, we were given little ordering sheets of paper and were instructed to walk past a table with each toy laid out on display. I remember being so nervous to make a choice and even more nervous if I were to choose one that had to be delivered to my apartment where I lived with my high school sweetheart at the time.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the small purple vibrator I choose was the last one the party rep had in stock and available to take home. I left the event with giddiness and an excitement I hadn’t yet felt before.

Interestingly, those positives were countered by slight thoughts that yielded shame as well. I grew up in a Catholic environment and I always struggled with the idea of self-pleasure, sex used as a means for pleasure, sex outside of marriage and orgasm through means other than my spouse.

I also knew that if I wanted to bring my new purchase into the bedroom with my partner, I would have to get over more than just how to figure out which way the batteries went.

Since that time in my life, my how things have changed. Now, sex and sexuality empowerment and exploration is a fabric of my being and what I spend most of my days helping people with. I can’t help but relive a portion of the story above every time I have conversations with clients and friends who are looking to play with sex toys of any sort for the first time.

If my first experiences, with even the most basic toys, were awkward and slightly shame-filled, I can only imagine there are plenty of other people out there who are just as shy to the idea.

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Sharing from personal experience and from the experience of some of the people I have worked with, here are a few good things to know when considering adding sexy playthings into some of your sexy time.

  1. Sex toys are meant to aid in your sexual pleasure not replace your partner. If your partner makes a suggestion for the addition or exploration of sex toys, it does not mean you are not pleasing them. If anything, that is a sign that your partner trusts you enough to be vulnerable while in the midst of a very sacred, personal act.
  2. Make your decision based off of a conversation. I suggest creating a sex toy “want, will, won’t” list so you can determine your comfort level and your boundaries along with the comfort level and boundaries for your partner. Once you have a better understanding of dynamics and preferences you can make an informed sex toy purchase. Toys can be used for all sorts of play. It’s best to create your lists with open communication. Maybe take the BDSM Test at www.bdsmtest.org to help with your decision.
  3. I suggest your first sex toy purchase include a blind fold for sensory deprivation. This enhances other active senses and can make the person who is blindfolded feel less exposed when play time begins, while the person learning to give pleasure through sex toy play has the opportunity to relax and explore without eyes on them the entire time.
  4. Have a safe word and when playtime begins and continues communicating. Tell your partner when something feels good and when something does not. I find that a blindfold helps with the comfort level around keeping communication free flowing as well.
  5. All sex toys are not created equal. Choose toys that are made of high quality, non-toxic material.
    Some toys are waterproof and some are not. Make sure to check before you play, just in case your sexy session decides to change environments.
  6. Knowing about the toy does not take the fun out of it! The more information you get on sex toys that interest you, the easier it is to enjoy the experiences that include them.
  7. Get help where you need it if you are dealing with sexual shame from any area of your life.
    I needed to heal from shame surrounding my faith and regarding the lack of healthy sex related information provided to me while growing up.Step one is identifying the problem areas and then gaining assistance and support in healing from wounds that exist in those areas.

There are plenty of resources available and people like myself and other sex experts that specialize in sex education and step one is identifying the problem areas and then gaining assistance and support in healing from wounds that exist in those areas. There are plenty of resources available and people like myself and other sex experts that specialize in sex education and sexuality empowerment that can assist you on your journey. When you treat the core area of discomfort and/or pain, adding things like sex toys into your life can lead to magical, orgasmic experiences.

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Sex toys can be a fun way to spice things up in the bedroom, but they can also be a way to further connect with yourself and your partner.

Understand that sometimes things don’t go according to plan and choose to laugh when things go a little different to your expectations. Always give certain toys and instances a second chance and remember to breathe and be present.

Sex is fun and pleasure is good for you.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to introduce BDSM to the bedroom without terrifying your partner

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Everything you need to know about adding a bit of kink to your bedroom

First things first, let’s clear up exactly what BDSM means: bondage and discipline (B&D); dominance and submission (D&S); sadism and masochism (S&M).

It’s split up this way because BDSM means a lot of different things to the people who identify with it. And don’t believe the 50 Shades Of Grey hype – when performed consensually, those people aren’t mentally unstable or have a history of abusive behaviour, they just have a kinkier nighttime ritual.

Another 50 Shades misconception is that BDSM involves pain or sex at all. It doesn’t (unless you both want that). The only requirement involved with BDSM is trust and consent. There is always a dominant person (gives orders, is in complete control) and a submissive participant (receives orders and does as they’re told by the dominant). EL James obviously wasn’t a fan of fact-checking.

Yet the book, which is generally looked down on by BDSM fans, has helped it become more mainstream, High Street even – some Ann Summers stores now have their own BDSM sections selling all the impedimenta you need, which, plainly, is great if you always wanted to partake but were too afraid to ask. But there’s still a slight stigma attached to it, so you’ll need to plan this carefully.

First of all, research is key. Settle in for a long session on a BDSM tube, hit a BDSM chat room (yep, they still exist), read BDSM erotic fiction – expose yourself to as much of it as you can and work out exactly what it is you like. Once you’ve got your head around it, share it with your other half. This is not the time for shock and awe – start gently, maybe showing them a video you’ve seen. Say, “Looks kind of sexy, don’t you think?” and gauge their reaction. If they’re into it, great. If not, park it. It may plant a seed in their mind that does eventually flower, it may not. You can’t force them. That’s not what BDSM’s about.

Assuming they’re happy, it’s time to introduce it to the bedroom. BDSM isn’t an impulsive act; it takes planning, research and preparation, but a good transitional device is a mask. Buy one and ask if they want to wear it/mind you wearing it during sex. It might seem trivial, but whoever’s wearing the mask (the submissive) has to put all of their trust into the person who isn’t (the dominant) and that’s where things should get sexy. If it felt good, suggest a massage with a vibrator while their eye mask is on.

If that’s the extent of your fantasy, great. Mission accomplished. But if you want to edge towards the kinkier side of things, you need to keep establishing that trust by never exploiting it, obviously, but also by having plenty of post-coital discussions about what you both liked and what else you could try. Then you need to prepare yourself. When I said BDSM wasn’t impulsive, I meant it – you need an awful lot of gear if you want to explore BDSM more broadly.

Want to tie someone up? You’ll need a specialist product that reduces the risk of rope burn. Then you’ve got to think about adjustments. Things like spreader bars (Ann Summers sells out of these every Valentine’s Day) and nipple clamps aren’t necessarily designed for pain because you can change how tightly they fasten, and some days you or they may wish to be in more or less pain than the time before. Then there’s putting on the BDSM uniform. Whether that’s just lingerie or, well, a uniform – it all takes time and a very free schedule. But if procuring the products, setting them up and getting dressed up is worked into the ritual of kinkier sex, the prep can become its own pleasure.

By now, you should be in full swing, enjoying all the safe, sexy delights BDSM can offer, whatever that might mean to you. I bet they put Christian Grey‘s efforts to shame.

Complete Article HERE!

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We need to show real photos of genitals as part of sex education

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Labiaplasty is on the rise. Boys and men continue to worry that their penis is too small. Every other week there seems to be a new treatment promising to make your penis longer and harder or your vagina tighter, smoother, and more sparkly.

These treatments prey on our insecurities – our deep, dark worry that there’s something wrong with our genitals. That they’re not ‘normal’.

It’s no wonder we think that, though, when we don’t get to see a range of all the different ways vaginas and penises can look.

If you’re interested in same-sex relationships or, well, sex, you’ll likely get to see a few more genitals that look a bit like yours.

But this only happens once you start getting to the point of stripping down – a point you’re unlikely to reach if you’re so filled with doubt and self-hatred for the appearance of your genitals that you can’t even imagine letting someone else see them.

And for those who exclusively get busy with people of the opposite sex, it’s easy to never see a real-life alternative of your own sex-specific genitals out in the world.

Instead, you see smoothed, Barbie-perfect versions of vaginas and whopping great penises that stay erect for hours in porn.

You see blurred out images online or dainty flowers, or bananas and crude doodles to illustrate their place.

When you never see genitals that look even a tiny bit like yours, you’re going to worry that you’re abnormal, that something’s wrong, that you need to change yourself.

That’s why we need to get in there early, and show students actual photos of actual vaginas and penises.

Not doodles.

Not just vague diagrams of the reproductive system.

Actual photos or – if that greatly offends you for reasons I don’t understand – a wide range of illustrations that shows all the parts of the genitals and all the different ways they can look.

Students should see where the clitoris is, because if they don’t they’ll struggle to give women pleasure or experience it themselves.

Students should understand what a circumcised penis looks like versus an uncircumcised one.

Students should see longer labia, different skin tones, penises that are short and fat, penises that are long and lean. A range of healthy genitals to expand the definition of ‘normal’ in young people’s minds.

‘Relationships and Sex Education is an opportunity to challenge the idea that any one type of body is ‘normal’,’ Lisa Hallgarten, coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, told metro.co.uk.

‘Learning about and celebrating body diversity may start with simply thinking about the different heights; body shapes; hair, eye and skin colour of people we can see around us; and learning about the difference between female and male body parts.

‘When it comes to genitals young people may think their own are unusual or unhealthy because they haven’t seen any images of different bodies, or because many sexual images they have accessed online depict a particular type of body (e.g. men with very large penises and women with hairless, surgically-altered vulvas).

‘Whether we use photographs, anatomical drawings or art works (such as Jamie McCartney’s Great Wall of Vagina) it is essential that any images we show properly represent the great diversity that exists in the shapes and sizes of people’s genitals.’

Hear hear.

Seeing these images before we start having sex or having the power to make changes to our bodies through surgery or other means is incredibly important.

How we view our bodies informs how we view ourselves. It affects our sexual relationships, our decisions, our mental state.

Knowing that our genitals are okay, that there’s nothing wrong, gross, or weird about them just because they don’t match the images we see in porn, will inform healthier sexual decisions, make us more confident, and prevent people from considering drastic measures to ‘fix’ themselves.

As someone who was so self-concious about my vagina that I blamed it for breakups and went to the doctor to beg them to change the appearance of my vulva, I know how powerful learning that your genitals are normal can be.

It’s not just about seeing genitals similar to your own, mind you.

Seeing real, intimate pictures of bits of all genders will make sex significantly less intimidating.

If you’re shown accurate images of all different genitals, you won’t be confused and horrified when you start having sex and are greeted by a penis or vagina that looks entirely unlike the ones you’ve seen in porn.

Adding real images to sex ed will make people more understanding of the range of normal for the opposite sex, too. So boys won’t take the piss out of women’s labia or the size of their vagina*, and girls won’t say cruel things about the size of someone’s penis.**

*No, you can not tell how much sex someone’s had by how tight or loose a vagina feels. No, you should not make up songs about women’s ‘flaps hanging low’.

**No, it’s not cool to tell people your ex has a small dick just because he p*ssed you off.

It’ll make our sex lives better, too. There’ll be a greater understanding of how penises and vaginas work, and lots more pleasure happening when everyone understands where the clitoris is, which bits of the penis are more sensitive, and what to expect when they start going down.

Oh, and knowing the range of normal will make it easier to know when something’s gone a bit wrong.

If we know all the different ways a healthy vagina or penis can look, we’ll be more able to quickly notice a change in appearance or a dodgy symptom – and because we’re not holding on to the heavy worry of ‘what if my entire downstairs area is completely abnormal and the doctor will recoil in horror’, we’ll feel more able to ask for help.

And, of course, openly presenting students with pictures of genitals is all part of chipping away at our general silence and squeamishness around our bits.

Penises and vaginas are not inherently gross, or dirty, or wrong. We should be able to talk about them, ask questions about them, and not feel disgusted or scared when it comes to being presented with their natural states (*cough* periods are not gross, neither is body hair, and ‘vagina’ is not a dirty word *cough*).

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Embracing Your Sexuality (Fetishes & All) Makes You A More Attractive Partner

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Growing into our sexual selves is a lifelong process, like growing up in general. But because we don’t have a lot of language for our sexual lives, we somehow erroneously expect that sex is something we are born knowing how to do. Like any other physical and emotional skill, our sexual capacity to both give and receive pleasure increases with education and practice.

We begin waking up to our emerging erotic consciousness in our early adolescence. This awakening process is mostly subconscious, as our maturing brain connects the powerful arousal mechanism to historic and unresolved painful events and relationships. Like our fingerprints, or the subtle distinctions in our sense of smell—what turns us on sexually is largely outside of our control and often contradicts the way we view ourselves outside of the bedroom.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the first and often the most persistent issue for most of us on our sexual journey is reconciling our interests with our sense of what is “normal.” Quite often, sexual discovery tests the boundaries of normalcy. Our sexual selves are the unique, wild streak in us that cannot be contained and whose full pleasure potential cannot be achieved if we try to rein it in.

“Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” —Sydney Harris

Instead of healthy dialogue and reliable information about what it means to become and embrace who we are sexually, our curiosity and confusion about emerging sexuality are often met with archaic teachings, generational discomfort from those we trust, misinformation from our peers, and a complex cultural obsession.

The majority of us never have the opportunity to adequately explore the questions that arise from our earliest adolescent erotic awakening. Maturing beyond our initial discomfort requires education, and real sexual education is hard to come by.

For many young people, low-grade anxiety prevents them from engaging in any real conversations, whether with a friend, doctor, or even their partners about their fears and the obstacles they face sexually. Often, even the more progressive will turn their sexual concerns into a joke, laughing at their discomfort and communicating either that sexual concerns are not to be taken seriously or at least not to be discussed seriously.

What we suppress becomes more powerful. Suppressing our sexual nature only exacerbates our preoccupation with it. Asking honest questions about our sexual selves and being able to get reliable information allows us to use sexual privacy in healthy ways. Studies show that the kids who are given the most sexual education are often the last ones to engage sexually. They don’t need to learn about it by doing it—their theoretical learning allows them to make healthy choices about when and with whom they want to do it.

People who have come to terms with this essential aspect of their being are happier and more satisfied in every other aspect of their life as well.

Likewise, adults who move beyond their adolescent sexual anxiety through education gain not only the courage to take ownership of their erotic preferences but also the skills to engage in sexual behavior that is consistently pleasurable. Sexually mature adults are not waiting for someone else to make them feel sexy or give them permission to explore the range of their sexual function.

Taking full responsibility for their own sexual needs allows them to also be truly responsive to the sexual needs of others, which makes them attractive partners that tend to stay partnered. Aspiring to sexual maturity evokes a host of other essential skills for life—sexually mature adults tend to also be emotionally intelligent and capable of dealing with life changes.

Our sexual selves are often perceived as a locked box of bizarre fantasies and out-of-control impulses toward carnal pleasure. While it’s true that a mature sex life employs these tools for pleasure, working at our sexual evolution is more like developing core strength. Because our erotic identity is so central to who we are, people who have come to terms with this essential aspect of their being are happier and more satisfied in every other aspect of their life as well.

Complete Article HERE!

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