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Adolescents with autism need access to better sex education

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Intimacy is part of being human. There are well-documented benefits to positive relationships, from emotional security to good mental health1. Those who want relationships and can’t develop them face low self-esteem, depression, loneliness and isolation from the wider society2.

For adolescents, learning how to navigate sex and sexuality can be a minefield. How do you figure out the nuances of sexuality without experience? How do you approach a potential partner? And once you do, how do you communicate with him or her?

This path is especially fraught for adolescents with autism. For example, people with autism tend to report higher levels of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation than their neurotypical peers3. And yet there is a gap between what these young people need and what schools provide. According to a 2012 study, adolescents with autism know less about sex than do their peers and have less access to sex education4.

My team of researchers and I are documenting the experiences of adolescents with autism in relation to sex, sexuality and their schools’ sex education requirements. Our research suggests schools should provide sex education tailored to the needs of young people with autism.

These classes should include both the standard fare — from human development to safe sex — and additional instruction on topics such as how teens can express themselves to their potential partners and how to decode innuendos and other language used to describe sex. This education is vital to ensure that these adolescents can approach relationships in a way that is safe, confident and healthy.

Role play:

One common misconception about individuals with autism is that they prefer to be alone. My research suggests this simply isn’t true.

In an ongoing study, for example, my team conducted interviews related to sex and relationships with 40 adults with autism. Only three expressed ambivalence about relationships, mostly due to worries about coping with the needs of another person. Nearly half of the respondents had not yet had a relationship but expressed a strong desire for one.

Despite the desire to form relationships, this group expressed limited knowledge about how they would meet someone or show their interest. They found the idea of going out to a pub or club frightening, and socializing with groups of people provoked high anxiety. Some of them expressed a disdain for small talk, and others admitted they had little idea of how to engage in general conversation. They also found the use of dating apps unappealing and said they thought there was an inherent danger in meeting strangers.

Sex education could help these individuals feel confident in approaching others using role-play. For example, they could use techniques created by the late Augusto Boal, a Brazilian theater director who created plays in which audiences could participate.

In the context of sex education, an actor would play the part of the individual with autism and re-create one of that person’s real-life experiences, such as trying to talk to someone new in a bar. The individual with autism would then give the actor new directions — such as “What if I offer to buy her a drink?” — allowing the person with autism to try out many approaches, and witness potential consequences, in a safe environment.

Advice network:

Although instructors may help with some aspects of communication, it’s profoundly difficult to teach someone how to read the intentions and desires of others. Most teenagers rely on peers to work through some of these social complexities.

Teens get feedback from their peers on how to interact, meet new people and gauge the appropriateness of a relationship. Teens with autism struggle with close relationships, but sex education classes could facilitate that learning.

Our research suggests that they desire this guidance. For example, one individual in our study commented that schools should provide students with the “skills on how to find the right sort of partner.” To accomplish this goal, a school could provide an advice network, including regular group meetings in which young people with autism share and reflect upon their experiences. Social networking could extend this support.

For most adolescents, peers also fill in gaps such as helping to define sexual slang. In our study, another participant commented that hearing “dirty talk” from other students made her feel left behind. She was also unsure how to decode the words she heard, and said her school should explain what people might say in a sexual context and what these terms mean. With this context, she could decide to get involved or not.

Moderated discussions in a peer network could help address such slang and provide a safe space for students to ask questions about unfamiliar words.

Different sexualities:

To be effective, sex education in schools must take into consideration that some individuals with autism do not conform to traditional sex roles. When we interviewed 40 young adults with autism as part of an ongoing study, we found that 20 percent identified as gay or bisexual — more than is reported in national surveys of the general population. Gender fluidity may also be more common in individuals with autism: In a study we conducted this year (but is not yet published), we found an unusually high incidence of autism and autism traits in individuals who identify as transsexual or non-binary.

Despite these high numbers, some people with autism find it hard to accept different sexualities. As one male participant explained: “I have a rigid way of seeing the world, and this prevented me from accepting my sexuality. I sort of denied it to myself because I have very concrete black-and-white thinking and it didn’t quite fit in.” This early inability to accept his sexuality and identify as a gay man led to severe depression and admittance to a psychiatric ward.

In some ways, people with autism may even fall outside the ever-expanding range of sexual identities we see today, such as gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual and asexual. For example, one of our participants explained that her wonderful relationship with another girl with autism often involved sitting together for up to 10 hours reading in silence, or spending hours discussing Greek history.

Autism represents a profoundly different way of seeing and being in the world, and individuals with autism often expend great mental and physical effort just trying to appear ‘normal.’ Sex education in school needs to move away from suggesting that people with autism should fit in, and instead explore alternatives to traditional types of romantic relationships.

Awareness gaps:

Our work also suggests that individuals with autism aren’t always aware that they are sexual beings. This lack of self-awareness manifests both in the sexual cues they give off and how they may be perceived by others.

For example, two participants in our study reported behavior that could be perceived as stalking, such as continually following strangers, although they didn’t indicate that they understood how this could seem threatening. One described it this way: “I literally just saw him on the street. And then pretty much just stalked him.”

Not having a sense of one’s own sexuality can be harmful in other ways. For example, individuals with autism are three times as likely to experience sexual exploitation as their peers5. In our study, participants spoke of times when they had been extremely vulnerable and open to abuse. One woman reported that others had gotten her drunk and encouraged her to have sex with girls even though she doesn’t identify as gay. In the interview, she did not appear to be aware that these incidents could be perceived as someone taking advantage of her.

Sex educators need to understand these gaps in awareness to build confidence in young people with autism and to protect them from harm and from unintentionally harming others. For example, young people with autism need to be aware of the law on issues such as stalking, which they themselves may not see as a problem. Their education needs to include lessons on the language of sex and draw distinctions between playful and threatening behavior. It also needs to address issues of abuse and signs that a relationship or encounter is abusive.

Research such as ours can offer insight into this area and provide the tools for effective sex education for people with autism. With the right support, adolescents with autism can feel more comfortable building relationships and exploring their sexuality. This support will help them develop healthy relationships and experience their benefits to well-being, self-esteem and happiness.

Complete Article HERE!

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Are you a pervert? Challenging the boundaries of sex

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Are you a pervert?

I believe you are.

This statement might offend you. Perhaps you wonder what would compel me to say something like that about you, especially since we’ve never met. However, a voice deep down inside of you might wonder if I am right. Maybe that voice is telling you that thing you did or liked may make you abnormal.

Whatever your take on this may be, I invite you to open your mind and explore what might be beyond your comfort zone. Let me entice you with a little bit of what I research as a neuroscientist of sexual behaviour.

Throughout history, those who have not lived under the conformity of social standards of sexuality have been tortured, ostracized, convicted and, in general, have lost their social standing.

In fact, non-conventional sexual practices – and fetishes – are not deviant. Yet there’s a well-established tradition of judging them as if they are. The repercussions of this societal judgment cause the social stigmatization of people we most likely don’t know at all.

One of the most common targets is the Bondage, Domination/Submission, Discipline and Sado-Masochism (BDSM) culture.

Why has society condemned certain intimate practices between consenting adults but not others? The answer possibly lies in wherever our society sets moral standards — generally biased, limited and sometimes political. Instead, normality should be derived by scientific and quantified results.

The Victorian church set sexual standards

The word pervert did not originally mean sexual deviant, but atheist. Pervert described someone who would not ascribe to the normal (church) rules. People who resisted the morality dictated by the church were people who debauched or seduced.

Additionally, the word contains the suffix ‘vert’, meaning to turn, as in, convert. Therefore, pervert described a person who turned away from the right course. The word changed from the moral heretic to the immoral sexual deviant in the Victorian era, when scholars used it to describe patients with “atypical” sexual desires. I imagine in the Victorian era that even a foot fetish would have been considered a perversion.

When it comes to bedroom activities, we often believe that most things we don’t do are wrong and sick. We often judge other people’s realities and behaviours from our limited and biased scope and experience.

Let’s talk about sex and bondage

BDSM is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of consensual sexual or erotic practices. BDSM communities commonly welcome anyone who identifies with their practices. Consider it akin to a book club if you like to read, or like an orchestra if you want to play classical music.

You may imagine or know some of the BDSM practices. But what makes you part of the BDSM culture? Well, there are no rules, but there are three fundamental principles that guide any BDSM practice: consent, safety and respect.

Physical and psychological well-being are a priority over anything: There is no pleasure in a sexual act when one of the parties is not enjoying it.

BDSM practices may require painful and risky stimulation carried out with extreme care. Just as in several other fun activities, such as playing a sport, practice makes perfect. There is only one way of doing things — the right way — and anyone who engages in these practices within the community knows health and safety comes first.

A vintage illustration from the 1950s for an erotic tale, Bizarre Honeymoon.

Normal and sexually satisfied

BDSM and other non-conventional sexual practices are more familiar than you may know. Research has shown that fetishes and BDSM-like practices are very common in the general population. Normal, everyday people commonly fantasize about BDSM-like experiences.

As well, BDSM practitioners and submissive-identified females in particular appear to be more sexually satisfied than the general population. Other studies have revealed increased pleasure, enjoyment and positive effects during BDSM versus non-BDSM sexual experiences.

Although BDSM practitioners were previously believed to have a history of sexual abuse and trauma, studies by medical researcher and professor Norman Breslow in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality showed these initial ideas were based on hypothetical case studies and not empirical evidence.

As well, more recent studies show that BDSM practitioners do not generally report sexual abuse or childhood trauma. BDSM practitioners also display less depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms compared to “normal” population standards. Furthermore, BDSM practitioners also report significantly less benevolent sexism, rape myth acceptance and victim-blaming attitudes compared to college students and the general population.

Even male and female rats have been known to develop fetishes.

A universe of possibilities

All these differences do not necessarily mean one needs to embrace more BDSM-like practices. Instead, it’s an invitation to stop judging others, and instead, embrace and enjoy our sexual lives. Fetishes can simply be the expression of our experiences and versatile sexuality in terms of practices, toys or objects that can be incorporated into our intimacy.

It’s up to each individual to choose what is right for themselves. The notion of abnormality in sexuality — with its medical and psychological labels of illness — came about to explain a deviant pattern in the reproductive aspects of mating. But humans, in general, engage in sex because they like it, not necessarily because they want to reproduce. Thus, in the eyes of those who may believe sex only serves for reproduction, any “deviation from reproductive sex” may be abnormal.

There is a universe of possibilities out there to which only you should set the boundaries. Our time in this world is too short and uncertain to deprive ourselves of the pleasures of the flesh and senses simply because someone has a negative opinion about it.

So, let me ask again, are you a pervert?

Complete Article HERE!

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Chronically Dry Vagina, Oh MY!

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As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge. — Henry van Dyke

Name: Victoria
Gender:
Age: 22
Location: San Diego
Dear Dr Dick,
I love sex with my boyfriend. It is great but sometimes it can be a real pain. I can’t seam to stay wet for to long even if it feels really good I still tend to dry up. I have tried lubrication even lotion and it still only helps for a few minutes then I dry up again. I can cum but even then after a few I get dry again. It makes it so hard cause my boyfriend tends to think I’m not wet cause he doesn’t please me. Which isn’t true. He is, in fact, the best lover I have ever had. Please is there anything I can do to help so I don’t dry up so fast?

Bummer, Victoria, a chronically dry pussy is no fun. First, lets put your boyfriend’s mind to rest. It ain’t you, darlin’. Hey Bub, listen to your woman, you’re pleasing her just fine, the problem resides in her inability to produce sufficient lubrication to make fucking fun and easy. But lets see if we can get to the bottom of this AACS — Acute Arid Cunt Syndrome — and maybe we’ll find a solution along the way.

Ya know, if you’re using the wrong kind of lube for the job it’s gonna dry out, sure as shootin’. And since I don’t know what you are using, I’m gonna use the scattergun approach. There are several different types of vaginal lubricants available over-the-counter, as well as estrogen-based creams available by prescription. Vaginal lubricants come in tubes, plastic squeezie bottles, and some women swear by the vitamin E vaginal suppositories.

If I had to guess, I’d say you were trying to get the job done by using a water-based lube, right? If that’s the case, I suggest you switch to a Silicon-based lubricant. They don’t dry out as quickly as water-based lubes. They tend to be a bit more expensive; they’re not water-soluble and clean up can be a bit of a chore. So, you’ll not want to use this stuff while fucking on the brand new Laura Ashley’s, don’t ‘cha know. But all of the drawbacks to a Silicon-based lube will pale in comparison to some mighty fine slippery fucking. Look for Pjur Woman Bodyglide, in Dr Dick Stockroom. Mind as well plug one of my favorite sponsors, right? If that doesn’t work, I’d ask a doctor about an estrogen-based cream.

But before we go there, maybe you should be asking yourself what gives with your Acute Arid Cunt Syndrome anyway. Is anything about your lifestyle that contributes to the problem? You know lot of very popular meds Interfere with natural vaginal lubrication including:

  • Halcion
  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Beta-blockers
  • And especially prescribed and over-the-counter cold and allergy medications.

High levels of stress and depression, as well as a hormone imbalance, can cause vaginal dryness. If this is you, you can combat some of this by boosting your water intake. If you’re not adequately hydrated — at least ten 8-oz glasses of water a day — kinda hydration, you know you’re gonna have a problem.

Also, hand and body soaps and a lotta laundry products can contain scents and other chemicals that will irritate the delicate mucosal tissues that line your pussy.

A healthy diet and proper exercise is also important to maintaining a healthy level of natural lubrication. Ya know those low-fat, high-carb diets many women are on these days? Well, they literally starve your body of the nutrients it needs to make sex hormones. For example, the estrogen needed for vaginal lubrication is made from cholesterol, something women on low-fat diets are woefully lacking.

Good luck

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Who’s avoiding sex, and why

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By Shervin Assari

Sex has a strong influence on many aspects of well-being: it is one of our most basic physiological needs. Sex feeds our identity and is a core element of our social life.

But millions of people spend at least some of their adulthood not having sex. This sexual avoidance can result in emotional distress, shame and low self-esteem – both for the individual who avoids sex and for the partner who is rejected.

Yet while our society focuses a lot on having sex, we do not know as much about not having it.

As a researcher of human behavior who is fascinated by how sex and gender interact, I have found that sexual avoidance influences multiple aspects of our well-being. I also have found that people avoid sex for many different reasons, some of which can be easily addressed.

People who have more sex report higher self-esteem, life satisfaction and quality of life. In contrast, lower frequency of sex and avoiding sex are linked to psychological distress, anxiety, depression and relationship problems.

In his landmark work, Alfred Kinsey found that up to 19 percent of adults do not engage in sex. This varies by gender and marriage status, with nearly no married males going without sex for a long duration.

Other research also confirms that women more commonly avoid sex than men. In fact, up to 40 percent of women avoid sex some time in their lives. Pain during sex and low libido are big issues.

The gender differences start early. More teenage females than teenage males abstain from sex.

Women also are more likely to avoid sex because of childhood sexual abuse. Pregnant women fear miscarriage or harming the fetus – and can also refuse sex because of lack of interest and fatigue.

The most common reasons for men avoiding sex are erectile dysfunction, chronic medical conditions and lack of opportunity.

For both men and women, however, our research and the work of others have shown that medical problems are the main reasons for sex avoidance.

For example, heart disease patients often avoid sex because they are afraid of a heart attack. Other research has shown the same for individuals with cerebrovascular conditions, such as a stroke.

Chronic pain diminishes the pleasure of the sexual act and directly interferes by limiting positions. The depression and stress it causes can get in the way, as can certain medications for chronic pain.

Metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity reduce sexual activity. In fact, diabetes hastens sexual decline in men by as much as 15 years. Large body mass and poor body image ruin intimacy, which is core to the opportunity for having sex.

Personality disorders, addiction and substance abuse and poor sleep quality all play major roles in sexual interest and abilities.

Many medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, reduce libido and sexual activity, and, as a result, increase the risk of sexual avoidance.

Finally, low levels of testosterone for men and low levels of dopamine and serotonin in men and women can play a role.

For both genders, loneliness reduces the amount of time spent with other people and the opportunity for interactions with others and intimacy. Individuals who are lonely sometimes replace actual sexual relations with the use of pornography. This becomes important as pornography may negatively affect sexual performance over time.

Many older adults do not engage in sex because of shame and feelings of guilt or simply because they think they are “too old for sex.” However, it would be wrong to assume that older adults are not interested in engaging in sex.

Few people talk with their doctors about their sexual problems. Indeed, at least half of all medical visits do not address sexual issues.

Embarrassment, cultural and religious factors, and lack of time may hold some doctors back from asking about the sex lives of their patients. Some doctors feel that addressing sexual issues creates too much closeness to the patient. Others think talking about sexuality will take too much time.

Yet while some doctors may be afraid to ask about sex with patients, research has shown that patients appear to be willing to provide a response if asked. This means that their sexual problems are not being addressed unless the doctor brings it up.

Patients could benefit from a little help. To take just one example, patients with arthritis and low back pain need information and advice from their health care provider about recommended intercourse positions so as to avoid pain.

The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” culture should become “Do ask, do tell.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How the Nazis destroyed the first gay rights movement

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‘Damenkneipe,’ or ‘Ladies’ Saloon,’ painted by Rudolf Schlichter in 1923. In 1937, many of his paintings were destroyed by the Nazis as ‘degenerate art.’

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Very recently, Germany’s Cabinet approved a bill that will expunge the convictions of tens of thousands of German men for “homosexual acts” under that country’s anti-gay law known as “Paragraph 175.” That law dates back to 1871, when modern Germany’s first legal code was created.

It was repealed in 1994. But there was a serious movement to repeal the law in 1929 as part of a wider LGBTQ rights movement. That was just before the Nazis came to power, magnified the anti-gay law, then sought to annihilate gay and transgender Europeans.

The story of how close Germany – and much of Europe – came to liberating its LGBTQ people before violently reversing that trend under new authoritarian regimes is an object lesson showing that the history of LGBTQ rights is not a record of constant progress.

The first LGBTQ liberation movement

In the 1920s, Berlin had nearly 100 gay and lesbian bars or cafes. Vienna had about a dozen gay cafes, clubs and bookstores. In Paris, certain quarters were renowned for open displays of gay and trans nightlife. Even Florence, Italy, had its own gay district, as did many smaller European cities.

Films began depicting sympathetic gay characters. Protests were organized against offensive depictions of LGBTQ people in print or on stage. And media entrepreneurs realized there was a middle-class gay and trans readership to whom they could cater.

Partly driving this new era of tolerance were the doctors and scientists who started looking at homosexuality and “transvestism” (a word of that era that encompassed transgender people) as a natural characteristic with which some were born, and not a “derangement.” The story of Lili Elbe and the first modern sex change, made famous in the recent film “The Danish Girl,” reflected these trends.

For example, Berlin opened its Institute for Sexual Research in 1919, the place where the word “transsexual” was coined, and where people could receive counseling and other services. Its lead doctor, Magnus Hirschfeld, also consulted on the Lili Elbe sex change.

Connected to this institute was an organization called the “Scientific-Humanitarian Committee.” With the motto “justice through science,” this group of scientists and LGBTQ people promoted equal rights, arguing that LGBTQ people were not aberrations of nature.

Most European capitals hosted a branch of the group, which sponsored talks and sought the repeal of Germany’s “Paragraph 175.” Combining with other liberal groups and politicians, it succeeded in influencing a German parliamentary committee to recommend the repeal to the wider government in 1929.

The backlash

While these developments didn’t mean the end of centuries of intolerance, the 1920s and early ‘30s certainly looked like the beginning of the end. On the other hand, the greater “out-ness” of gay and trans people provoked their opponents.

A French reporter, bemoaning the sight of uncloseted LGBTQ people in public, complained, “the contagion … is corrupting every milieu.” The Berlin police grumbled that magazines aimed at gay men – which they called “obscene press materials” – were proliferating. In Vienna, lectures of the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” might be packed with supporters, but one was attacked by young men hurling stink bombs. A Parisian town councilor in 1933 called it “a moral crisis” that gay people, known as “inverts” at that time, could be seen in public.

“Far be it from me to want to turn to fascism,” the councilor said, “but all the same, we have to agree that in some things those regimes have sometimes done good… One day Hitler and Mussolini woke up and said, ‘Honestly, the scandal has gone on long enough’ … And … the inverts … were chased out of Germany and Italy the very next day.”

The ascent of Fascism

It’s this willingness to make a blood sacrifice of minorities in exchange for “normalcy” or prosperity that has observers drawing uncomfortable comparisons between then and now.

In the 1930s, the Depression spread economic anxiety, while political fights in European parliaments tended to spill outside into actual street fights between Left and Right. Fascist parties offered Europeans a choice of stability at the price of democracy. Tolerance of minorities was destabilizing, they said. Expanding liberties gave “undesirable” people the liberty to undermine security and threaten traditional “moral” culture. Gay and trans people were an obvious target.

What happened next shows the whiplash speed with which the progress of a generation can be thrown into reverse.

The nightmare

One day in May 1933, pristine white-shirted students marched in front of Berlin’s Institute for Sexual Research – that safe haven for LGBTQ people – calling it “Un-German.” Later, a mob hauled out its library to be burned. Later still, its acting head was arrested.

When Nazi leader Adolph Hitler needed to justify arresting and murdering former political allies in 1934, he said they were gay. This fanned anti-gay zealotry by the Gestapo, which opened a special anti-gay branch. During the following year alone, the Gestapo arrested more than 8,500 gay men, quite possibly using a list of names and addresses seized at the Institute for Sexual Research. Not only was Paragraph 175 not erased, as a parliamentary committee had recommended just a few years before, it was amended to be more expansive and punitive.

As the Gestapo spread throughout Europe, it expanded the hunt. In Vienna, it hauled in every gay man on police lists and questioned them, trying to get them to name others. The fortunate ones went to jail. The less fortunate went to Buchenwald and Dachau. In conquered France, Alsace police worked with the Gestapo to arrest at least 200 men and send them to concentration camps. Italy, with a fascist regime obsessed with virility, sent at least 300 gay men to brutal camps during the war period, declaring them “dangerous for the integrity of the race.”

The total number of Europeans arrested for being LGBTQ under fascism is impossible to know because of the lack of reliable records. But a conservative estimate is that there were many tens of thousands to one hundred thousand arrests during the war period alone.

Under these nightmare conditions, far more LGBTQ people in Europe painstakingly hid their genuine sexuality to avoid suspicion, marrying members of the opposite sex, for example. Still, if they had been prominent members of the gay and trans community before the fascists came to power, as Berlin lesbian club owner Lotte Hahm was, it was too late to hide. She was sent to a concentration camp.

In those camps, gay men were marked with a pink triangle. In these places of horror, men with pink triangles were singled out for particular abuse. They were mechanically raped, castrated, favored for medical experiments and murdered for guards’ sadistic pleasure even when they were not sentenced for “liquidation.” One gay man attributed his survival to swapping his pink triangle for a red one – indicating he was merely a Communist. They were ostracized and tormented by their fellow inmates, too.

The looming danger of a backslide

This isn’t 1930s Europe. And making superficial comparisons between then and now can only yield superficial conclusions.

But with new forms of authoritarianism entrenched and seeking to expand in Europe and beyond, it’s worth thinking about the fate of Europe’s LGBTQ community in the 1930s and ‘40s – a timely note from history as Germany approves same-sex marriage and on this first anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges.

In 1929, Germany came close to erasing its anti-gay law, only to see it strengthened soon thereafter. Only now, after a gap of 88 years, are convictions under that law being annulled.

Complete Article HERE!

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