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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.

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9 Reasons You Might Not Be Orgasming

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By Sophie Saint Thomas

While orgasms don’t define good sex, they are pretty damn nice. However, our bodies, minds, and relationships are complicated, meaning orgasms aren’t always easy to come by (pun intended). From dating anxiety to medication to too little masturbation, here are nine possible culprits if you’re having a hard time orgasming — plus advice on how to deal.

1. You expect vaginal sex alone to do it for you.

One more time, for the cheap seats in the back: Only about 25 percent of people with vaginas come from penetration alone. If you’re not one of them, that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you or your body. As licensed psychotherapist Amanda Luterman has told Allure, ability to come from vaginal sex has to do with the distance between the vaginal opening and the clitoris: The closer your clit is to this opening, the more vaginal sex will stimulate your clit.

The sensation of a penis or a dildo sliding into your vagina can be undeniably delightful. But most need people need that sensation paired with more direct clitoral stimulation in order to come. Try holding a vibrator against your clit as your partner penetrates you, or put your or your partner’s hands to good use.

2. Your partner is pressuring you.

Interest in your partner’s pleasure should be non-optional. But when you’re having sex with someone and they keep asking if you’ve come yet or if you’re close, it can throw your orgasm off track. As somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist Holly Richmond points out, “Being asked to perform is not sexy.” If your partner is a little too invested in your orgasm, it’s time to talk. Tell them you appreciate how much they care, but that you’re feeling pressure and it’s killing the mood for you.

It’s possible that they’re judging themselves as a partner based on whether or not you climax, and they may be seeking a little reassurance that they’re making you feel good. If they are, say so; if you’re looking to switch it up, this is your opportunity to tell them it would be so hot if they tried this or that thing next time you hop in bed.

3. Your antidepressants are messing with your sex drive.

As someone who continues to struggle with depression, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to seek treatment and take medication if you and your care provider decide that’s what’s right for you. Antidepressants can be lifesavers, and I mean that literally.

However, certain medications do indeed affect your ability to come. SSRIs such as Zoloft, Lexapro, and Prozac can raise the threshold of how much stimulation you need to orgasm. According to New York City sex therapist Stephen Snyder, author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long Lasting Relationship. “For some women, that just means you’re going to need a good vibrator,” says New York City sex therapist Stephen Snyder, author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long Lasting Relationship. “For others, it might mean your threshold is so high that no matter what you do, you’re just not going to be able to get there.”

If your current medication is putting a dramatic damper on your sex life, you have options, so talk to your doctor. Non-SSRI antidepressants such as Wellbutrin are available, while newer medications like Viibryd or Trintellix may come with fewer sexual side effects than other drugs, Snyder says. I’m currently having excellent luck with Fetzima. I don’t feel complete and utter hopelessness yet can also come my face off (a wonderful way to live).

4. Your birth control is curbing your libido.

Hormonal birth control can also do a number on your ability to climax, according to Los Angeles-based OB/GYN Yvonne Bohn. That’s because it can decrease testosterone levels, which in turn can mean a lower libido and fewer orgasms. If you’re on the pill and the sexual side effect are giving you grief, ask your OB/GYN about switching to a pill with a lower dose of estrogen or changing methods altogether.

5. You’re living with anxiety or depression.

“Depression and anxiety are based on imbalances between neurotransmitters,” OB/GYN Jessica Shepherd tells Allure. “When your dopamine is too high or too low, that can interfere with the sexual response, and also your levels of libido and ability to have sexual intimacy.” If you feel you may have depression or an anxiety disorder, please go see a doctor. Your life is allowed to be fun.

6. You’re not having sex for long enough.

A good quickie can be exciting (and sometimes necessary: If you’re getting it on in public, for example, it’s not exactly the time for prolonged foreplay.) That said, a few thrusts of a penis inside of a vagina is not a reliable recipe for mutual orgasm. Shepherd stresses the importance of foreplay, which can include oral, deep kissing, genital stimulation, sex toys, and more. Foreplay provides both stimulation and anticipation, making the main event, however you define that, even more explosive.

7. You’re recovering from sexual trauma.

Someone non-consensually went down on me as part of a sexual assault four years ago, and I’ve only been able to come from oral sex one time since then. Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among survivors of sexual trauma; so are anxiety and orgasm-killing flashbacks, whether or not the survivor in question develops clinical PTSD. Shepherd says sexual trauma can also cause hypertonicity, or increased and uncomfortable muscle tension that can interfere with orgasm. If you’re recovering from sexual trauma, I encourage you to find a therapist to work with, because life — including your sex life — can get better.

8. You’re experiencing body insecurity.

Here’s the thing about humans: They want to have sex with people they’re attracted to. Richmond says it’s important to remember your partner chooses to have sex with you because they’re turned on by your body. (I feel confident your partner loves your personality, as well.) One way to tackle insecurity is to focus on what your body can do — for example, the enormous pleasure it can give and receive — rather than what it looks like.

9. You’re shying away from masturbation.

Our partners don’t always know what sort of stimulation gets us off, and it’s especially hard for them to know when we don’t know ourselves. If you’re not sure what type of touch you enjoy most, set aside some time and use your hands, a sex toy, or even your bathtub faucet to explore your body at a leisurely pace. Once you start to discover how to make yourself feel good, you can demonstrate your techniques to your partner.

Complete Article HERE!

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Old people still like sex

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Sex educator Jane Fleishman says intimacy improves life regardless of age

Bodies change, but they don’t necessarily become less beautiful.

Jane Fleishman

Erectile dysfunction is a factor for many men, but it can be dealt with.

Aging doesn’t have to mean the end of intimacy.

Sex is part of living and you don’t have to be young to enjoy it, sex educator Jane Fleishman of Deerfield told a group gathered to hear her talk at the assisted living facility Christopher Heights in Northampton recently.

“I am on a mission to change the way continuing care communities treat end-of -life care,” she said following her talk in mid September. “I don’t want to wait around, I want to see change happen in my lifetime.”

To that end, Fleishman, 63, a fast-talking native New Yorker, has been traveling the country holding workshops to spread her message.

“There is no expiration date on sex,” she told the crowd of about four dozen people, mostly residents, at Christopher Heights. Sharing intimacy is an important contributor to good quality of life, she says. Older adults who are more sexually active have a lower instance of heart disease and dementia, she added. “We know that people’s well-being is affected.”

One study that seems to support that was done by a team of researchers from Coventry University in Britain who found that having an active sex life leads to less mental deterioration as people age.

In 2010 researchers surveyed men in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and found that they continue to live sexually satisfied lives, according to a study in the medical journal the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Sex makes you feel alive – it makes you feel sensually connected to yourself,” said Monica Levine, a clinical social worker who runs a private practice in Northampton and is a certified sex therapist.

Edie Daly, 80, of Northampton, a petite woman with short white hair who was at the talk, says sex continues to be an important part of her life. In fact, she says, the best sex of her life started only after she met her wife at age 60.

“We have a deep abiding love,” she said, adding that she can’t imagine life without sex and other intimate touch. “Sex is another form of communication.”

Getting creative

But sex doesn’t always come easy —  and that’s OK — sometimes it takes a little creativity for older adults to reach satisfaction or to accommodate their changing bodies, Fleishman says.

Joint pain from arthritis, for instance, can make sex uncomfortable. Warm baths or changing positions might make intimacy more comfortable and ease any pain, according to the National Institute on Aging, a federal government organization in Baltimore which researches health in older people.

In cases of erectile dysfunction, massage is one approach that can help, says Fleishman. For vaginal dryness, there are lubricants.

Another woman who came to the talk, Mae Lococo, 93, who lives at Christopher Heights, says her husband was “quite vigorous” in bed up until he passed away two years ago. He was also an excellent ballroom dancer, she adds. She wouldn’t mind meeting another man now, she says, but notes there is a shortage of them at her age.

Consent always a factor

There can be a dark side to sex for those who are residents of nursing homes or other facilities, says Fleishman — the possibility of sexual abuse. She encourages younger people to talk to their parents to make sure they aren’t being victimized in some way. It is important, she says, that they feel free to approach a family member or other advocate for help. Just as younger people need to be aware of the boundaries of consent, older people need to understand them too, she says. Sometimes, as people age, they may experience some cognitive decline or dementia, which can make consenting to sex more difficult. That, she says, makes it particularly important for advocates to look out for them. “Consent is complicated when you get older.”

Aging adults also must continue to be aware of sexually transmitted infections, she says. “Sometimes people say, ‘I’m not going to get pregnant, so why does he need to wear a condom?’ While older adults face the same risks as other populations, sexually transmitted diseases often aren’t on the radar of their doctors, she says.

“They might be thinking the same way their patients’ offspring are: ‘Oh, that’s granddad, he can’t be having sex’ or ‘That’s grandma, she can’t be doing it, she can barely get down the stairs.’

“Well, even if she can’t get down the stairs she still might be able to have some fun upstairs,” Fleishman said.

Get over it

At age 55, Fleishman retired from her 30-year career as director of staff development at Connecticut Valley Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Middletown, Connecticut and went back to school to get a doctorate in human sexuality from Widener University in Pennsylvania.

In addition to holding sessions on sexuality, she is writing a book about LGBT elders. She wants people to get over feeling squeamish about sexuality among the older generation.

“When I talk to young people about what they think old people do in bed and they get all nervous,” she says. “They say, ‘Too many wrinkles’ or ‘eww.’ Well, if you are lucky enough you will get there and you will realize, it isn’t so bad.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Study Finds Stereotypes About Boys, Girls Begin at Early Age

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Girls look in a mirror as they put makeup on during a beauty and fashion fair inspired by the U.S. “Beautycon” event, a gathering of fashion bloggers and YouTube personalities, May 28, 2016, in Paris. Researchers found that in most of the world’s cultures, by the time girls are 10 years old, they have been taught that their key asset is their physical appearance.

By Carol Pearson

Whether children live in Baltimore, Beijing, Nairobi or New Delhi, by the time they are 15, boys are told to go outside and have adventures, while girls are told to stay indoors and do housework. Furthermore, most girls are told that if they are raped or have sex, they are the ones at fault.

A new study by adolescent-health specialists interviewed 450 poor children and their parents about gender expectations in a total of 15 high-, low- and middle-income countries. The children included in the study, the first of its kind, were between the ages of 10 and 14.

“When we started this work, there was no research at all, no understanding at all of young adolescents,” said Robert Blum, director of the Global Early Adolescent Study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. “There was an assumption that these were young children, and they aren’t cued into gender-based violence, gender messages, rape and things of that nature.

“What we see is that around the world, young people have keen awareness, and they’re very cued in to what’s going on.”

The key finding was that rigidly held and enforced gender expectations are linked to increased lifelong health risks — everything from HIV and depression to violence and suicide.

Messages internalized

“We found children at a very early age, from the most conservative to the most liberal societies, quickly internalize this myth that girls are vulnerable and boys are strong and independent,” Blum told VOA. “And this message is being constantly reinforced at almost every turn, by siblings, classmates, teachers, parents, guardians, relatives, clergy and coaches.”

The researchers found that in most cultures, by the time girls are 10 years old, they have been taught that their key asset is their physical appearance.

Lead researcher Kristin Mmari said no matter where they are, girls are concerned about their bodies, and others’ attitudes to them. “In New Delhi, the girls talked about their bodies as a big risk that needs to be covered up, while in Baltimore, girls told us their primary asset was their bodies and they need to look appealing, but not too appealing.”

Indian youth hold candles during a protest against sexual violence in New Delhi, Feb. 9, 2015.

Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli of the World Health Organization said violence against women is so pervasive that one in three women experience violence from their husbands or other sexual partners. “Social norms accept that a woman has to be beaten,” Chandra-Mouli said.

He and other researchers involved in the study of adolescents’ gender norms discussed their findings at the National Press Club in Washington.

Pressure on boys

The researchers found that boys do not emerge unscathed from gender expectations. They found that the pressure boys face to become physically strong and independent make them more likely to be victims of physical violence and homicide, and more likely to take up unhealthy habits like tobacco, drug and alcohol use.

The study was a collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the World Health Organization. The Journal of Adolescent Health has published a supplement to its October issue incorporating a number of articles on the subject, along with commentaries by Blum, Chandra-Mouli and others.

Adolescents are torn between opposing expectations, the study showed, especially girls.

In Shanghai, for example, girls are told they should be economically independent, and that they should not rely on men for financial support. At the same time, girls are told their husbands will divorce them if they don’t do housework.

The goal was to understand the factors in early adolescence that predispose young people to subsequent sexual health risks and promote healthy sexuality.

The conclusion was that societies wishing to have healthier adolescents and young adults, free of gender stereotypes, must intervene, where necessary, before children reach age 10. Chandra-Mouli said WHO hopes to use the data from the study to shape programs to change misunderstandings about gender norms.

Blum said the researchers will measure changes in their subjects three times over five years to see how perceptions of gender affect individuals’ lives and how programs change the outcome.

Complete Article HERE!

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Bugs, Boners and BDSM: A Day in the Life of a Dominatrix

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Because quirks can be quirky.

By Andre Shakti

“We’ve got a live one, ladies!” Svetlana called out from the office. The scantily clad women seated around the kitchen table barely flinched.

Tuesdays were notoriously slow, with our phone lines typically dominated by time wasters. We called them “wankers,” the men who contacted us under the guise of arranging an appointment while having no intention of following through; simply calling up a domination house and confessing their fantasy to a live woman got them off. Sometimes all we could hear would be the wet slapping sound that accompanied them masturbating while they spoke to us; hence, “wankers.”

“Is it a wanker?” Lydia called back. She sat directly across from me at the table; Minna lounged to my right, and Cynthia leaned against my left side. We were an unusually small staff for an evening shift, but none of us minded. Fewer girls meant less competition

“No,” Svetlana replied, shuffling into the room wearing nothing but tattered SpongeBob SquarePants bedroom slippers. “Believe it or not, he put down a deposit. He’ll be here in an hour, and he’s not picky about appearance.” She maintained a quirky little smile as she delivered the information.

The three of us immediately perked up. If a client didn’t voice a preference for aesthetics, it evened the playing field. He could be anyone’s mark, although your skill level, number of years spent at the house, and relationship with the house manager all factored in.

“Please tell me he wants bondage,” Lydia purred. She was a whiz with rope, and a bombshell to boot. If the client had requested shibari, it’d be an easy match.

Svetlana’s grin stretched wider. “Oh, he wants bondage. But there’s a catch. You ladies know what an entomologist is?”

“Uh, is that an ENT? An ear, nose and throat doctor?” Minna guessed.

“Someone who studies insects,” I offered. As if on cue, Lydia and Minna pushed themselves violently away from the table in unison.

I’ve always gravitated toward creepy-crawlies. When most young girls my age were experimenting with makeup, I was scaling trees and pulling rat snakes out of neighbors’ birdhouses. Home videos of my childhood soccer games document me decked out in my goalie uniform, kneeling in the grass to trap a grasshopper as the ball whizzes by my head and my parents groan in disappointment

“Indeed!” Svetlana crowed. “The guy wants to book two girls. It’ll be a Snidely Whiplash gender-swap role play — you know, the cartoon villain that ties girls to train tracks? You girls will tie him down and torture him, except you’ll be torturing him with giant bugs.”

Lydia and Minna were already on their feet and backing away, their hands fluttering around their heads like moths around a light. Cynthia and I gazed up at Svetlana, barely able to contain our excitement.

The Divine Ms. Shakti.

Cynthia was the “evil genius” of the house. She went on to become one of the biggest fetish porn stars of the modern era; during one interview she disclosed — in earnest — that if she hadn’t found the sex industry, she’d probably be a serial killer. It almost goes without saying that she was my favorite co-worker.

Cynthia and I spent the next 45 minutes cleaning ourselves up and prepping one of the playrooms for the session. Before we knew it, the doorbell rang and we ushered a small, bespectacled older man — let’s call him Ned — into the session room. Ned was pale and slightly stooped, with a subdued manner that conveyed his reverence. This was not his first rodeo

We exchanged pleasantries and confirmed the requests he’d made over the phone. Ned proceeded to methodically unpack the cheap Styrofoam cooler he’d brought with him. Out came half a dozen small, identical Tupperware containers, each housing a different species of insect. First came the crickets, then the mealworms. The centipedes followed, as did the giant millipedes and hissing cockroaches. Finally, a pair of wolf spiders emerged to complete the collection.

With each unveiling, Cynthia and I cooed our mounting anticipation. I prematurely fondled one of the millipedes, allowing it to encircle my forearm as Cynthia stripped Ned nude. Together we tied him efficiently to the floor, stretched out on his back between a leather spanking bench and an elaborate canopied bondage bed. Once he was secured, we stepped back, surveying our work. Ned struggled pathetically. Cynthia’s eyes flashed, and I knew we’d transitioned seamlessly into our scene

“Do you hear that sound, Cynthia?” I tilted my head to the side. “It sounds almost like … a train!”

On cue, I pressed play on my phone, and the sound of a distant locomotive burst from the speakers. Ned squealed.

Cynthia leaped astride Ned, dangling a cricket an inch above his face. His eyes locked on the flailing insect as Cynthia traced his body with it, nose to toes, bathing in his fear. I took hold of my millipede and knelt beside the squirming Ned.

“Look how pathetic he is! I bet this millipede is even bigger than his cock,” I teased, moving the millipede to Ned’s lower abdomen to compare it to his flaccid penis.

“Let me go, please!” Ned screamed.

“Looks like you’re out of luck, Ned,” Cynthia mused, her face an unreadable mask. “The train’s coming around the corner. Sure you can’t get out of those restraints?”

Ned wrenched his hands and feet against the restraints, but remained stuck fast. Beads of sweat formed on a face that was getting redder by the second. I surreptitiously turned the volume up on my phone, simulating the train’s rapid approach.

“Any last words?” I said, locking eyes with Cynthia. As Ned opened his mouth for a final protest, we pried the lids off all the Tupperware containers and let every last insect rain down on his naked body.

Later that evening, I slid into the driver’s seat of my car and placed a small Tupperware container on my lap with care. Ned the millipede made an excellent pet.

Complete Article HERE!

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