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A Glossary of Terms for Talking About Sex and Gender in 2018

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As our understanding of gender and sexuality is evolving, so are the words we use to describe them. There are many more sexual identities and expressions than previously acknowledged, so it’s about time we named more of them.

“The binary options of gender—man or woman—and sexuality—heterosexual or gay—are way too limiting to capture the complexity of human life,” says sex educator Kenna Cook. “There are so many variations in our personalities, beliefs, and DNA that limiting human sexuality to a tiny box of two choices makes it impossible for people to exist authentically.”

Learning the correct terminology for different expressions of gender and sexuality is essential not only to participate in conversations on this topic in an educated way, but also to support the people in your own life who might identify with them. “Language gives us ownership of our identities and autonomy over our personal choices,” says Cook. “Having words to communicate our identities gives us a way to find others similar to us. Words can help us feel seen.”

So, in the interest of educating ourselves and others, here’s a guide to a few human sexuality terms that you might not know, but definitely should.

Cisgender: Identifying with the same sex you were assigned at birth. A cisgender woman, for example, may have been born with female anatomy, like a vulva, and assigned female at birth.

Transgender: Identifying with a gender that differs from the sex you were assigned at birth. For example, trans women are people who may have male anatomy and been assigned male at birth and identify as women.

Queer: Anything other than straight and cisgender, or, more generally, breaking the mold of what society teaches us are the default options for gender and sexuality.

Sexually fluid: Feeling attracted to different genders at different times in one’s lifetime, or open to sexual relationships with a gender that one is not normally attracted to. For example, a heterosexual women who occasionally is attracted to women might identify as sexually fluid.

Pansexual: Attracted to all variations of gender identities. Because there are more than two genders, pansexual people may not find the word “bisexual” adequate to describe their sexual identities.

Asexual: Not experiencing sexual attraction to other people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have sexual urges or romantic attraction to others. In fact, many aseuxal people masturbate and have romantic relationships. Some people also feel some sexual attraction to others but view themselves as on the asexual spectrum.

Pangender: Feeling an affiliation with multiple gender identities. A pangender person, for example, might feel they embody male, female, and other genders simultaneously.

Agender: Not identifying with any gender. Agender people might disagree with the whole concept of gender or simply feel that it does not apply to them.

Non-binary: Not exclusively identifying as male or female. Non-binary people may also identify as agender, pangender, or trans. They can also identify as male or female in addition to being non-binary. Some non-binary people use the pronouns “they/them”.

Genderqueer: Expressing gender outside of cisgender. This could include someone who is trans, non-binary, pangender, agender, or simply “genderqueer,” without any other gender label.

Gender-nonconforming: This term is sometimes used simply to denote a lack of adherence to typical gender roles or stereotypes. Other times, it indicates a refusal to identify with a gender. Some non-binary and trans people also identify as gender-nonconforming.

Polyamory (a.k.a. ethical non-monogamy): Consensually having romantic relationships with more than one person, whether with one primary partner and other secondary partners or with several partners given equal importance.

Open relationship: A relationship in which one or more people are permitted to have other sexual or romantic relationships. This type of relationship agreement can exist in both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.

Solo polyamory: Someone who considers their primary relationship to be with themselves. Sometimes this means having multiple partners but not a “primary” relationship with anyone.

BDSM: an acronym for Bondage, Dominance, Submission/Sadism, and Masochism.

Kink: a term that is representative of alternative sexual interests like BDSM, sexual fetishes, and other forms of sexual expression that depart from what’s considered “vanilla” sexual expression.

Keep in mind that all these definitions are personal, so you won’t be able to say which term applies to another person unless you ask. For this reason, it’s important not to make assumptions about who someone dates, who they have sex with, or how they identify based on how they look or act.

Complete Article HERE!

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Masturbating has a number of health benefits for women too, so why aren’t we talking about them?

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May is National Masturbation Month

By Erika Lust

The idea that women enjoy sex still hasn’t quite reached societal acceptance. There is no purer example of this than the taboo which surrounds a woman enjoying the pleasure of masturbating.

Masturbation is widely accepted as an essential part of health and hygiene – for men.

Women’s reproductive health is a politicised and much-discussed topic, with conversation ranging from the accessibility of birth control to the necessity of abortion clinics. The discussions focus mainly on preventing pregnancy, rather than a woman’s own sexual well-being and pleasure.

By ignoring the health benefits of masturbation for women – reduced stress, sleep induction, endorphin production, increased resistance to infection, decreased anxiety levels – and focusing mainly on protection, the stigma around female masturbation strengthens and consequently so does the idea that women receive sex, as opposed to enjoy it.

Even referring to the act as “female masturbation” implies it is something separate and not normal – there’s masturbation, and there’s “female masturbation”.

The stereotype of the women who masturbates

Society has long decreed women should only exhibit passive feelings towards sex. The same double standard that exists for dating and having sex with multiple people exists for masturbation. This stereotype of what type of woman masturbates is not only incredibly false but another toxic form of slut-shaming.

Men are encouraged to masturbate, which allows them to explore their bodies and find out what makes them feel good. When women are afraid to masturbate they are robbed of this experience, they don’t know how to make themselves orgasm and they don’t feel as comfortable telling their partner what they like.

Many women have their first sexual experience with another person, but most men have theirs with themselves. So from the very beginning, women learn about sex and pleasure in relation to another person, rather than something they can do for themselves.

End the control of women’s bodies

If women learn how to pleasure themselves without a man, it threatens to undo the patriarchal structure of our society. Our patriarchal society which attaches so much fear and fascination to female sexuality. What is more threatening to the male ego than a woman who can please herself?

It’s time to throw away the shame surrounding masturbation. The stigma isn’t going to end until women speak openly about it. So if you watch an amazing porn film or have fun with a new sex toy, share your discovery with your friends.

By talking about it we can break the misogynistic control and repression of the female body. And if we can bring masturbation into the broader discourse around women’s health, maybe we can bring a larger change in society’s views of women.

Complete Article HERE!

 

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Older Americans Having Sex, Just Not Talking About It — to Docs

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By Megan Brooks

Most older Americans are interested in sex, but only about half of those with a romantic partner are sexually active and many don’t talk about sex with their partner or clinician, according to a University of Michigan poll released today.

“Sexual health among older adults doesn’t get much attention but is linked closely to quality of life, health and well-being,” Erica Solway, PhD, coassociate director of the poll, said in a news release.

“It’s important for older adults and the clinicians who care for them to talk about these issues and about how age-related changes in physical health, relationships, lifestyles and responsibilities such as caregiving, affect them,” said Solway.

The University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging asked a nationally representative sample of 1002 adults aged 65 to 80 years about their views on relationships and sex and their experiences related to sexual health.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of those surveyed have a current romantic partner (married, partnered, or in a relationship) and most (92%) have been in a stable relationship for 10 years or longer. Among those without a current romantic partner, 13% have been on a date with someone new in the past 2 years.

Taking the Sex Pulse of Older Americans

Overall, 76% of older adults said sex is an important part of a romantic relationship at any age, with men more likely than women to hold this view (84% vs 69%).

Two in five (40%) said they still have sex. Sexual activity declined with age, from 46% for those aged 65 to 70 years, to 39% for those aged 71 to 75, to 25% for those aged 76 to 80. Older men were more likely to report being sexually active than older women (51% vs 31%), as were those who said they were in good health (45% vs 22%).

About half of those with a romantic partner (54%) reported being sexually active compared with only 7% of those without a romantic partner; 92% of those who are sexually active say intimacy is an important part of a romantic relationship and 83% say it is important to their overall quality of life.

Overall, about two thirds of respondents (65%) said they were interested in sex; 30% were extremely or very interested and 35% were somewhat interested. Half of elderly men (50%) said they were extremely or very interested in sex compared with 12% of women. However, the percentage of adults very interested in sex declined with age, from 34% at age 65 to 70, to 28% at age 71 to 75, to 19% for those aged 76 to 80.

About three in four older adults (73%) said they were satisfied with their sex life, with women more likely to be satisfied than men. Those in better health were also more apt to be satisfied with their sex life.

Who’s Talking About Sex?

“This survey just confirms that the need for and interest in sexual intimacy doesn’t stop at a certain age,” Alison Bryant, PhD, senior vice president of research for AARP, a cosponsor of the poll, said in the news release.

Sixty-two percent of older adults polled said they would talk to their healthcare provider if they were having a problem with their sexual health, yet only 17% had actually done so in the past 2 years. Of those who had talked with their doctor about sexual health, 60% said they initiated the conversation themselves and 40% said their doctor started the conversation. Most of those who had talked with their provider about their sexual health said they were comfortable doing so (88%).

“Although most older adults say that they would talk with their doctor about sexual concerns, health care providers should routinely be asking all of their older patients about their sexual health and not assume that bringing up the issue will offend or embarrass them,” said Bryant.

The poll also found that 18% of men and 3% of women have recently taken medications or supplements to improve sexual function and most said it was helpful (77%).

This is a notable finding, the University of Michigan pollsters say. While some of these older adults may be taking prescription medications to aid sexual function, others may be taking over-the-counter supplements. Given potential side effects and drug interactions, they suggest providers ask patients about supplement use.

Results of the poll are available online.

Complete Article HERE!

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Many parents unsure of talking about sex with LGBT kids

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Many parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens feel uneasy and uninformed when it comes to talking to them about sex and dating, a new study shows.

The study included 44 parents of LGBT teens between the ages of 13 and 17. The parents cited many challenges in trying to educate their teens about sex, including general discomfort in talking about it, and feeling unable to offer accurate advice about safe LGBT sex.

“Parents play an important role in helping their children learn how to have healthy sexual relationships, but they really struggle when discussing this with their LGBTQ teens,” study author Michael Newcomb said. He is associate director for scientific development at Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing.

The study was published recently in the journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

“We need resources to help all parents — regardless of their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity — overcome the awkwardness and discomfort that can result from conversations about sexual health,” Newcomb said in a university news release.

He noted that a healthy and supportive relationship with parents is a key predictor of positive health outcomes in teens of all sexual orientations.

“Many parents and their LGBTQ teens want to have supportive relationships with one another, so if we can design programs to strengthen these relationships, it could have a tremendous impact on LGBTQ teens’ health and wellbeing,” he said.

In a separate study, institute researchers examined how gay and bisexual boys between 14 and 17 felt about talking to their parents about sex.

“We found that many of the gay and bisexual male youth in our study wanted to be closer to their parents and to be able to talk about sex and dating,” study lead author Brian Feinstein said in the news release.

“However, most of them said that they rarely, if ever, talked to their parents about sex and dating, especially after coming out. And, even if they did talk about sex and dating with their parents, the conversations were brief and focused exclusively on HIV and condom use,” Feinstein said. He is a research assistant professor.

That study was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to enjoy sex even when your mental ill-health is working against you

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Anxiety and low self-esteem can seriously impact your sex life

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Ever had one of those days when your brain seems to be dead set on working against you?

You’re planning a nice bit of sexy time – whether with a partner or simply some solo fun – but your head’s just not in it.

However much you might want to get jiggy with it, your brain is skipping around elsewhere and you just can’t concentrate, let alone roll around in orgasmic delight.

So what causes your head to seemingly separate from your body at just the moment you want to be able to focus on fun times?

All too often it boils down to lack of confidence in yourself and what you’re doing.

If you have problems with self esteem, it can trickle into all areas of your life – and that includes the bedroom.

The saying ‘first you have to love yourself’ is bit of a cliche – but like most cliches, it’s actually true. Many things can sap your confidence, both mental and physical.

For my friend Amy, the problem is a lack of confidence caused by physical issues.

The problem has grown over the years, to the stage where it’s such a big issue that she’s unsure how to even start working through it.

‘I was born with cerebral palsy and I also have ME and fibromyalgia,’ Amy says.

‘I’ve gone from being moderately active and social to spending most of my time at home and sleeping a lot.

‘I was never particularly confident with guys because I have always been overweight.

‘I’ve had four sexual partners so far, three men and a woman. All were basically one night stands that were pretty unsatisfactory for me (and probably them too).

‘I’ve not had sex in years now and have never really dated anyone.

‘I’m pretty fed up of that to be honest but I feel quite isolated socially and wary of anyone who might take an interest because I feel so unattractive.’

You need to learn to love yourself

My personal suggestion in any situation like this always boils down to that same cliche – you have to learn to love yourself first.

Mirrors, masturbation and practice is the key.

Look at yourself so that you’re used to what your own body looks like and learn what really turns you on.

If you practice this alone then you’ll have all the more confidence when it comes to getting down to it with someone else in the room.

Amy’s story is just one of many I hear all the time from people whose sex lives have become unsatisfactory through no fault of their own.

I spoke to relationship and sexuality counsellor Jennifer Deacon and asked for her general advice on separating sex from anxiety.

‘When you’re anxious it’s often hard to feel turned on – or even have any desire at all.

‘That in turn can feed the anxiety more, particularly if you’re in a relationship where you might feel you’re letting your partner down, bringing up a whole heap more anxiety.

‘As with any anxiety the first thing is to try and find that tricky balance between reflecting on what’s going on with your thoughts and over-analysing.

‘What’s stopping you – is it the thought of being naked with someone else? The physical acrobatics that you might feel you ought to be performing?

‘Or is your sexual desire being suppressed because of meds that you’re taking?

‘Try to reflect on what’s going on, and then work through the ‘what ifs’ and ‘shoulds’ that often make up a huge part of anxious thoughts.

‘If you have a partner, try to communicate with them what you need – for example if you’re missing intimacy but are scared of initiating hugs or cuddles because you’re not sure you want full sex, then try to find a way to talk about this with them.

‘If your anxiety has roots in a trauma that you’ve experienced then communication becomes even more important – both communicating with yourself as to what you need and want, and communicating with your partner so that they can support you.

‘Lack of libido can be a common side effect from medication so if you notice that your sexual desire has waned since you started a new medication or changed your dose, consider discussing this with your GP or specialist.’

Many prescription drugs do indeed have side effects that affect the libido – and doctors aren’t always up front about explaining the risks.

Okay, so ‘losing interest in sex’ might be a long way down the list of worrying potential side effects, but given that antidepressants often cause this issue, I’m always amazed that it isn’t discussed more.

Sex is a healthy part of life and if you still want it but struggle to get any joy out of it, that’s going to affect your happiness levels.

After literally decades of living with chronic anxiety, I’ve been through endless different drugs in the hope of finding one that will help without ruining the rest of my life.

The problem is that drugs affect everyone differently – what works brilliantly for one person can potentially have drastically negative effects on another.

The first antidepressant I was given was Prozac.

Back then it was the big name in drug therapy and widely considered to be suitable for everyone.

And yes, it helped my depression – but it also completely removed my ability to orgasm.

I still wanted to – my sex drive itself wasn’t affected in any way – but I simply couldn’t ‘get there’.

I still regale people about ‘that time I gave myself RSI through too much w*nking’ – it’s a funny story now, but at the time it was utterly true and completely miserable.

I went back to the doctor and had my meds changed.

At the last count, I think I’ve tried about thirteen different anxiety meds and I still haven’t found one that I can cope with.

Ironically, if I was happy to lose my libido then several of them would have been perfect – but why should we be expected to go without one of the most enjoyable life experiences?

Personally, that makes me just as miserable as being anxious or depressed, so it invalidates the positives anyway.

Currently I’m med-free – and not very happy about it – but at least I still have my sex life.

For some people, finding the right medication without it affecting their libido will be easy.

But everyone has to find their own balance – some might prefer to take the meds and sacrifice their physical enjoyment.

But it’s okay to want both.

Complete Article HERE!

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