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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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5 common questions about vaginas answered

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A sexual health nurse reveals all

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We don’t often bring up genitals in polite conversation but learning more about vaginas can empower women to make the right decisions about their general and sexual health – and know when to seek medical advice.

Helen Knox, a clinical nurse specialist in contraception and sexual health – and founder of Sexplained – shares the vaginal health questions she hears most frequently and the advice she gives women about how best to care for their most intimate area:

1. Is my vaginal normal?

“I often get asked if the smell or discharge a woman is experiencing is ‘normal’. Firstly, normal is what is normal to you. Your vagina will have its own smell, regular discharge and shape. If you notice a change from your norm such as a change in discharge, smell or discomfort, then there may be something up. But don’t be embarrassed about it and do nothing. You can ask your pharmacist to help you work out what might be going on and give you an over the counter treatment. But if you are in pain, are bleeding abnormally or have persistent symptoms then you must see your GP.”

2. What should my vagina smell like?

“Your vulva and your vagina should smell like you, if this smell changes then something might be up. Your healthy vagina is all about balance: it is home to millions of micro-organisms, and is normally good at keeping them in balance.”

“When this balance gets disrupted, you’ll start to notice things aren’t quite right and you could be developing bacterial vaginosis (BV) which is a very common condition that often causes a fishy smell. BV is in fact two times more common than thrush and like thrush it can be simply treated with an over the counter treatment. Lactic acid based products such as Balance Activ (available at Amazon.co.uk) help to rebalance the healthy bacterial conditions within the vagina, to gently and effectively treat the symptoms of BV by restoring normal pH and vaginal flora.”

3. What should my vagina look like?

“Just like the rest of our bodies, our vaginas are all unique. The only part you can see is the vulva, and these come in all shapes and sizes. If you are experiencing any soreness, itching or other changes there may be a problem that needs checking out. In general, adding anything to your vagina such as glitters or perfumes is going to upset your natural balance and encourage conditions like BV, so I really wouldn’t recommend it.”

“You can’t see your vagina, as it is inside you, and it runs from your vulva, up to your cervix, but as long as you’re not experiencing any unusual smells or discomfort, it’s very likely to be looking after itself – and doesn’t need to be messed about with.”

4. Is my discharge normal?

“The vagina is a relatively acidic environment which keeps itself healthy by producing a range of secretions, so women will experience natural changes in discharge throughout their monthly cycle.”

A period generally lasts for 4-5 days, followed by slight dryness and then an increase in discharge. This will normally be white at first and then change to a clear, stretchy consistency during peak fertility. After ovulation, it changes to a dryer, thicker white or creamy mucus, which sperm won’t be able to swim through. If you’re pregnant this doesn’t change. If you’re not, it’s back to the next period.”

“Even in a healthy vagina, there will be a variety of changes to your ‘normal’ discharge, and these can also vary depending on your age and other factors. A change in discharge to it becoming really thin and watery, or thick and cottage cheese like, or a fishy or unpleasant smell may be a sign that something is wrong and your natural balance has been upset – you can check your symptoms at via the online symptom checker or speak to your doctor, pharmacist or sexual health clinic if you are worried.”

5. How do I keep my vagina clean?

Your vagina cleans itself. It is a common misconception that having conditions like BV means you are not clean – in fact when women notice an unpleasant smell (especially after sex) they will often reach for the soap or perfumed shower gel – this can actually make things worse! There’s a delicate eco-system up there, working hard to keep a balance of bacteria so douching or washing with perfumed products can upset this balance and cause BV. As part of your daily cleaning routine, washing once a day with just water around the vulva, which is the skin around the opening, is fine.”

“By understanding your own normal and staying in tune with your body it will help you determine whether you have any issues. If you notice any changes, don’t sit with on-going symptoms wishing them way, discuss them with your Pharmacist who will happily help you, or make an appointment to discuss them with your GP. The chances are it will be something easily treated and managed.”

Complete Article HERE!

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6 sexually transmitted infections you should know about and how to treat them

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“Sex is great, but safe sex is better

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Sexual Health Week upon us, which means it’s time to have that awkward STI chat.

You might be in a loving relationship or think you’re a few decades past your sexual prime, but the STI talk isn’t just for teenagers. According to research last year there has been a surge in sexually transmitted infections in the over 45s (with a dramatic 25% increase in STI diagnosis in women over 65s).

Meanwhile, back in December, it was reported that a third of Brits with an STI caught it while in a relationship – the survey also revealed 39% of people didn’t tell their partner they had an infection.

STIs have been with us for centuries. In the past mercury, arsenic and sulphur were used to treat venereal disease – which had serious side-effects, including death due to mercury poising. The introduction of Penicillin and modern medicine in the 20th century meant, thankfully, the big difference now is that greater awareness and modern medicine means they can be treated much more effectively.

Prevention and education is best practice, so here are what you need to know about six of the more commonly-known STIs…

1. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common STI in the UK mainly due to many people not knowing that they have it. Symptoms can vary between men and women and most have no symptoms at all.

Men can experience pain or burning whilst urinating, cloudy discharge from the tip of their penis, and discomfort in their testes.

Women can sometimes experience a similar discomfort when urinating and discharge from their vagina, pain and/or bleeding during or after sex, and heavier or irregular periods. Usually though, they have no symptoms at all.

If chlamydia is untreated it can lead to serious pelvic infections and infertility so it is very much worth getting checked regularly.

How to treat it

Chlamydia can be diagnosed through a simple urine test, and fortunately can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics.

2. Genital Warts

Genital warts are the second most common STI and can be identified as small fleshy growths around the genitals or anal area. The warts are generally not painful, however may be itchy and irritable. While condoms are the best preventative method for genital warts because they are spread by skin-to-skin contact the area around the genitals my still become infected.

Treatment

Creams and freezing can get rid of them.

3. Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common infection and is caused by the same virus that causes cold sores (HPV).

Symptoms can occur a few days after infection and can generally be identified by small uncomfortable blisters which can really hurt – making urinating or just moving around very uncomfortable. The blisters go away by themselves after about 10 days but very often come back again whenever your immunes system gets a bit low or distracted.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is currently no definitive cure for genital herpes, however each attack can be very effectively managed by using anti-viral medications which you can get from your doctor. Try to have the medications on hand because the sooner you use them in each attack the better they will work.

4. Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus. It can spread easily through intercourse, the symptoms are similar to those of chlamydia except usually more pronounced. If the person experiences discharge from their penis or vagina it can either be yellow or green in colour and there can be quite a lot of it.

Like Chlamydia though, the symptoms are not always present.

Treatment

The infection can be identified through a swab or urine test, and can be treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, bacteria is getting resistant to more and more antibiotics and treatment is getting more difficult. Right now, though it is still well treated with an antibiotic injection.

5. Pubic lice or ‘crabs’

Crabs have commonly been seen as the funny STI and are often the punch line to many a joke. But as with all STIs, the reality really isn’t very funny.

Also known as pubic lice, crabs can be easily spread through bodily contact. They are usually found in pubic, underarm and body hair, as well as in beards and sometimes in eyebrows and eyelashes. The lice crawl from person to person, and can take weeks to become visible. They are usually spotted due to itchiness and in some cases people can find eggs in their hair.

Treatment

Pubic Lice can usually be treated using creams or shampoos which can be purchased readily from pharmacies.

6. HIV

Of all the STIs mentioned HIV probably is the most famous and feared. In the 1980s having HIV was effectively a death sentence and, tragically, it brought with it huge stigma. Thankfully, today modern drugs have had a huge impact on the HIV community, enabling them to live happy and healthy lives. But what is it?

HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system and is most commonly spread through unprotected sex. Many people with HIV appear healthy and do not display any symptoms, but they may experience a flu-like illness with a fever when they first become infected.

The final stage of HIV is AIDS, this is where the immune system is no longer able to fight against infections and diseases.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for HIV – however, modern medicine has come a long way enabling people to live long and otherwise normal lives.

Sex is great, but safe sex is better. If you’re concerned about STI’s visit your local sexual health clinic for a screening.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Rethink Intimacy When ‘Regular’ Sex Hurts

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There’s no rule that says sex has to be penetrative.

By Breena Kerr

When sex hurts, women often feel alone—but they’re not. About 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal intercourse, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine which surveyed a subsample of 1,738 women and men ages 18 and older online.

Awareness of painful vaginal sex—sometimes lumped under the term Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)—has grown as more women talk about their experiences and more medical professionals start to listen.

Many conditions are associated with FSD, including vulvodynia (chronic vulva pain), vestibulodynia (chronic pain around the opening of the vagina), and vaginismus (cramping and tightness around the opening of the vagina). But they all have one thing in common: vaginal or vulval pain that can make penetrative sex anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to physically impossible. However, you can absolutely still have sex, which we’ll get to in a minute.

First and most important, if you are experiencing any type of genital pain, talk to your doctor.

There’s no reason to suffer in silence, even if it seems awkward or embarrassing or scary. Your gynecologist has heard it all and can help (or they can refer you to someone who can). The International Pelvic Pain Society has great resources for finding a licensed health care provider who specializes in genital pain.

“We don’t yet know why women get vestibulodynia or vulvodynia,” Kayna Cassard, M.A., M.F.T., a psychotherapist who specializes in vaginismus and other pelvic pain issues, tells SELF. “[There can be] many traumas, physical and psychological, that become internalized and add to vaginal pain. Women’s pain isn’t just ‘in their heads,’ ” Cassard says.

This kind of pain can affect anyone—regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status—but it can be particularly difficult for someone who mostly engages in penetrative sex with their partner. The important thing to remember is that you have options.

Sex does not have to revolve around penetration.

Hell, it doesn’t even need to include it. And for a lot of people, it doesn’t. Obviously, if P-in-V sex is what you and your partner are used to, it can be intimidating to consider redefining what sex means to you. But above all, sex should be pleasurable.

“The first thing to do is expand what ‘counts’ as sex,” sex educator and Girl Sex 101 author Allison Moon tells SELF. “Many people in heterosexual relationships consider only penis-in-vagina to count as sex, and everything else is some form of foreplay,” she says. But sex can include (or not include) whatever two consensual people decide on: oral sex, genital massage, mutual masturbation, whatever you’re into.

“If you only allow yourself one form of sex to count as the real deal, you may feel broken for enjoying, or preferring, other kinds of touch,” Moon says.

To minimize pain, give yourself time to prepare physically and mentally for sex.

That might sound like a lot of prep work, but it’s really about making sure you’re in the right mindset, that you’re relaxed, and that you’re giving your body time to warm up.

Heather S. Howard, Ph.D., a certified sexologist and founder of the Center for Sexual Health and Rehabilitation in San Francisco, publishes free guides that help women prepare physically and mentally for sex. She tells SELF that stretching and massaging, including massaging your vaginal muscles, is especially helpful for women with muscle tightness. (Too much stretching, though, is a bad idea for women with sensitive vaginal skin that’s prone to tearing.)

Starting with nonsexual touch is key, as Elizabeth Akincilar-Rummer, M.S.P.T., president and cofounder of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, tells SELF. This puts the emphasis on relaxation so you don’t feel pressured to rush arousal.

Inserting a cool or warm stainless steel dilator (or a homemade version created with water and a popsicle mold) can also help reduce pain, Howard says. Women can tailor the size and shape to whatever is comfortable. If a wand or dilator is painful, however, a cool cloth or warm bath can feel soothing instead. Again, do what feels good to you and doesn’t cause pain.

Several studies have shown that arousal may increase your threshold for pain tolerance (not to mention it makes sex more enjoyable). So don’t skimp on whatever step is most arousing for you. That might mean some solo stimulation, playing sexy music, dressing up, reading an erotic story, watching porn, etc.

And of course, don’t forget lubrication. Lube is the first line of defense when sex hurts. Water-based lubricant is typically the safest for sensitive skin. It’s also the easiest to clean and won’t stain your clothes or sheets. Extra lubrication will make the vagina less prone to irritation, infections, and skin tears, according to Howard. But some people may also be irritated by the ingredients in lube, so if you need a recommendation, ask your gynecologist.

Now it’s time figure out what feels good.

Women with pain often know what feels bad. But Howard says it’s important for them to remember what feels good, too. “Lots of people aren’t asking, ‘What feels good?’ So I ask women to set what their pleasure scale is, along with their pain scale. I ask them to develop a tolerance for pleasure.”

To explore what feels good, partners can try an exercise where they rate touch. They set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and ask their partner to touch them in different ways on different parts of their body. Sex partners can experiment with location, pressure, and touch type (using their fingertips, nails, breath, etc.) and change it up every 30 seconds. With every different touch, women should say a number from 0 to 10 that reflects how good the touch feels, with 10 being, “This feels amazing!” and 0 meaning, “I don’t like this particular kind of touch.” This allows women to feel a sense of ownership and control over the sensations, Howard says.

Another option is experimenting with different sensations. Think tickling, wax dripping, spanking, and flogging. Or if they prefer lighter touch, feathers, fingers, hair, or fabric on skin are good options. Some women with chronic pain may actually find it empowering to play with intense sensations (like hot wax) and eroticize them in a way that gives them control, according to Howard. But other women may need extremely light touch, she says, since chronic pain can lower some people’s general pain tolerance.

Masturbating together can also be an empowering way for you to show a partner how you like to be touched. And it can involve the entire body, not just genitals, Akincilar-Rummer says. It’s also a safe way for you to experience sexual play with a partner, when you aren’t quite ready to be touched by another person. For voyeurs and exhibitionists, it can be fun for one person to masturbate while the other person watches. Or, for a more intimate experience, partners can hold and kiss each other while they masturbate. It feels intimate while still allowing control over genital sensations.

If clitoral stimulation doesn’t hurt, feel free to just stick with that.

It’s worth noting that the majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob/gyn in West Palm Beach, Florida, tells SELF. Stimulating the clit is often the most direct route to arousal and climax and requires no penetration.

Some women won’t be able to tolerate clitoral stimulation, especially if their pain is linked to the pudendal nerve, which can affect sensations in the clitoris, mons pubis, vulva, vagina, and labia, according to Howard and Akincilar-Rummer. For that reason, vibrators may be right for some women and wrong for others. “Many women with pelvic pain can irritate the pelvic nerve with vibrators,” says Akincilar-Rummer. “But if it’s their go-to, that’s usually fine. I just tell them to be cautious.”

For women with pain from a different source, like muscle tightness, vibrators may actually help them become less sensitive to pain. “Muscular pain can actually calm down with a vibrator,” Howard says. Sex and relationship coach Charlie Glickman, Ph.D., tells SELF that putting a vibrator in a pillow and straddling it may decrease the amount of direct vibration.

Above all else, remember that sexual play should be fun, pleasurable, and consensual—but it doesn’t need to be penetrative. There’s no need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable physically or emotionally or worsens your genital pain.

Complete Article HERE!

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8 health benefits of great sex

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“If doctors could prescribe sex, they would“, says sexpert Tracey Cox

Do you feel as if you’re too busy to ‘get busy’? It’s a common response. It’s easy to let life get in the way of your sex life, but as it’s National Sexual Health Day, here are a few health reasons to make time for sex from Lovehoney sexpert Tracey Cox.

1. Regular sex could make you look younger

Sex boosts the levels of a person’s anti-ageing hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) – a key factor in keeping us young. After orgasm, levels of DHEA in the blood rise to five times the normal level. A study found that couples in their sixties still having regular sex looked between five and seven years younger than those no longer having sex.

2. You could live longer

Regular sex (at least twice a week) has been linked to an increase of 3-8 years in a person’s lifespan. A study found that the risk of dying in any one year was 50 per cent lower in men who had sex twice or more a week – even when other factors such as age, social class and smoking status were controlled for.

3. Sex might improve the quality of men’s sperm

The quality of sperm improves when men have regular sex, according to research. Tests show that sperm quality lowers through abstinence, particularly after 10 days. In a study conducted in 2009 of men with fertility problems, daily ejaculation for a week cut the amount of DNA damage seen in sperm samples.

4. Sex boosts your immune system

Having sex once or twice a week raises the level of immunoglobulins (IgA) in the body, increasing protection against colds and flu. Couples who have regular sex have 30% higher levels of IgA than abstainers.

5. It counts as a work out

Sex can keep you fit. Quickies of 20 minutes weekly mean 7,500 calories annually, that’s as much as you consume jogging 120km. A sex session can burn about 200 calories. This is like running 15 minutes on a treadmill.

6 Sex might soothe your period cramps

Many women say they feel less menstrual pain if they have intercourse before their cycle. Muscle contraction that occurs during sexual arousal releases tension in the muscles of the uterus, which are responsible for menstrual pain.

7. It’s good for your heart

Studies have shown that regular sex can help prevent a heart attack. Studies in Belfast showed that sex three times a week could halve the risk of a heart attack or stroke. A separate study found that women who had at least two orgasms a week were 30% less likely to have heart disease than women who did not regularly have sex.

While having sex, the heart rate goes from 70 beats per minute to 150, a good training for the heart. Having sex three times a week decreases the risk of heart attack by almost half, according to scientists at the New England Research Institute in Massachusetts.

8. It might help a stuffy nose

Sex has been found to reduce the amount of histamine in the body – the chemical that gives you a stuffy nose, or itchy throat. It could in theory provide relief from hay fever symptoms. But obviously don’t ditch your inhaler or any other medication you’ve been prescribed.

Complete Article HERE!

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