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Puberty is starting earlier for many children


– sex education must catch up with this new reality

Some girls as young as six and seven are showing the early signs of puberty.


The British government is consulting on a new curriculum for sex and relationship education in English schools. This change provides a timely opportunity to update how, when and what children are taught about puberty.

Astonishingly, the Department for Education (DfE) guidance on sex education has not changed for nearly two decades. But after concerted lobbying, research, and the recommendations of multiple committees of MPs, in 2017, the Children and Social Work Act finally acknowledged the need to provide “sex education for the 21st century”.

New statutory guidance for schools will be published following the public consultation, which closes in mid February. From 2019, secondary schools will be obliged to offer relationships and sex education, and primary schools to offer relationships education. Parents will retain the right to remove their children from sex education – other than that which is covered in the science curriculum – but will not be allowed to remove them from relationships education.

These changes are underpinned by widespread concern about the negative effects of digital technologies on young people’s sexual lives, particularly sexting, child sexual abuse and exploitation, and “strangers online”. The new curriculum will, it seems, teach children and young people what healthy relationships look like in the fraught context of smart phones, online porn and Instagram.

The new puberty

But the new curriculum should also take account of what is happening to the bodies of young people in the 21st century. Not only do kids seem to be growing up much faster today, many of them are actually starting to develop physically earlier than ever before.

According to many scientists and clinicians, we are living in the era of “the new puberty” in which increasing numbers of girls start to develop sexually at age seven or eight. In the 1960s, only 1% of girls would enter puberty before their ninth birthday. Today, up to 40% of some populations in both rich and poor countries are doing so.

Sexual development is also being stretched out for longer, with many girls starting to grow breasts and pubic hair two to three years before they have their first period. While there is less evidence that boys’ development is changing so rapidly, some studies also indicate that earlier entry into puberty’s initial stages is becoming more common.

The causes of these changes remain unclear. Many scientists point to the simultaneous increase in childhood obesity, while others study the effects of environmental chemicals, such as Bisphenol A or BPA (which is found in some plastics), on the body. Other research has explored the effects of social factors, including family structures, experiences of early life trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage. This range of explanations points to how complex a phenomenon puberty is.

The current DfE guidance states that:

All children, including those who develop earlier than the average, need to know about puberty before they experience the onset of physical changes.

But it leaves schools to decide, in consultation with parents, “the appropriate age” to teach children about puberty. In 2017, the Personal, Social and Health Education Association argued that this should be when they’re age seven. But talking to seven-year-olds about breasts, pubic hair, body odour and genital changes may not be easy for many teachers, or for many parents. Being seven is supposed to be a time of freedom, play and innocence.

Getting ready for puberty.

Updating sex education

Children who develop early, present a challenge both to cultural thinking about sex and to sex education policy. While many parents and young people want updated sex education, this usually comes with the proviso that such education be “age appropriate”. Although very important, this phrase is painfully vague – and it’s unclear whether it refers to chronological age, emotional age or stage of physical development.

Today, some seven-year-olds may be emotionally young but also starting to grow breasts and pubic hair. Other early developers who have experienced early life stress – such as abandonment or abuse – may feel more mature than their peers and be ready earlier to learn about puberty and sexuality. The widening gap in the timing of boys’ and girls’ sexual development also poses a challenge. Teaching girls separately, or earlier than boys – the strategy in my own child’s primary school – risks reinforcing harmful gender norms and notions of secrecy around issues such as menstruation.

Instead, perhaps we could try to disentangle puberty from teenage sexuality and to develop accounts of puberty that do not frame it as the dawn of adolescence. A seven-year-old with breasts is not “becoming a woman”, and a menstruating nine-year-old is probably not going to want to have intercourse anytime soon.

Ultimately, this means moving beyond traditional portrayals of female bodies that focus on reproductive capacity in order to explore wider meanings and experiences of being a girl. Growing up is also about new horizons, such as strength, health, even pleasure. Sex and relationships education might even then include puberty as something to be anticipated, noticed, even celebrated – rather than as yet another risk.

Complete Article HERE!


Recharge your sexual energy


If lack of energy has drained your sex life, there are ways to reignite the passion.

close-up of a mature couple relaxing in bed at home

Your sexual drive can stay high late in life, but often your energy for sex can diminish. Low energy not only affects your sex life, but can carry over to other parts of your life, too. You can become apathetic, no longer find pleasure in favorite activities, and become more sedentary.

However, many of these issues related to lost sexual energy can be addressed. “Never think lack of energy means an end to your sex life, and there is nothing you can do about it,” says Dr. Sharon Bober, director of the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Sexual Health Program. “There are many strategies you can adopt to get back in the game.”

Find your energy drainers

Your lost sexual vim and vigor is often related to some kind of physical, emotional, or relationship issue. Here’s a look at the most common causes.

Low hormones. Lack of sexual energy could be due to male hypogonadism, which occurs when the testicles do not produce enough testosterone, the male sex hormone. In fact, fatigue is one of the most common side effects.

Testosterone levels drop about 1% each year beginning in a man’s late 30s, and could fall by as much as 50% by age 70. (A blood test from your doctor can determine if you have low testosterone.) Testosterone replacement therapy, which is given via absorbable pellet implants, topical gels, patches, and injections, can often help spark sexual energy in men with low levels.

Findings from a study published online Aug. 1, 2016, by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that a year of testosterone therapy improved libido in 275 men (average age 72) with confirmed low testosterone. Compared with men in a placebo group, frequency of sexual arousal increased by about 50%, and they were able to have almost twice as many erections.

Speak with your doctor about whether testosterone therapy is an option for you. Long- term risks are not well known, but there is concern for an increased risk of heart disease and prostate problems.

Erectile dysfunction. Men with erectile dysfunction can experience low energy because the condition can be a blow to their self-esteem. “Men may feel embarrassed about it or worry they will be judged in some way if they cannot perform as well as they once did, so motivation and energy for sex gets depleted,” says Dr. Bober.

In this case, speak with your doctor about taking an ED drug or exploring other options for getting or keeping an erection, like using a penile pump.

Even though talking about ED may be difficult, it’s important to open up lines of communication with your partner. “For many men, it can help relieve stress to know they are not alone and someone is there for support.”

Poor sleep. Lack of sleep can be one of the main energy zappers. Poor sleep can increase stress levels and interfere with how your body and brain store and use energy, which is why you feel so sluggish after not sleeping well. And if you are tired, you have less energy for sex. Talk with your doctor if you have trouble sleeping. Steps like changing medication or dose, cognitive behavioral therapy, and adjusting your diet and sleeping environment can often improve sleep quality.

Lack of movement. When you have no sexual energy, you need to get moving. Regular exercise is one of the best natural energy boosters. Numerous studies have linked exercise with improving fatigue, especially among sedentary people. You don’t need much to get a jolt — 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise can do the trick. Focus on a combination of cardio and weight-bearing exercises like brisk walking and strength training.

Get checked out

Many medical conditions can affect sexual drive, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. So be diligent about regular medical check-ups. Also, many drugs, including blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, and tranquilizers can produce erectile difficulties. Consult with your doctor if you take any of these.

Back in sync

Lack of energy also could be relationship-oriented, if you and your partner are not in sexual sync. For instance, you may have energy for sex, but your partner doesn’t, or at least not at the same level.

“Sex may not always be comfortable for women because of menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness. If sexual activity is physically uncomfortable, not surprisingly, a woman’s sex drive also diminishes,” says Dr. Bober. “This can affect both partners, and if a man is worried that he might hurt his partner, that will certainly affect his interest in sex, too.”

In this situation, you need to communicate with your partner about how important sex is to you. It’s not about making demands, but about finding ways to explore mutual goals, such as pleasure and closeness.

“Perhaps it means negotiating a compromise just like you do in other aspects of a relationship,” says Dr. Bober. “Partners find ways to share everything from household chores to bill planning, and sex shouldn’t be any different.”

There’s a lot of room to find common ground, she adds. “There are many ways to be sexually active with your partner besides traditional intercourse. For example, you can ask your partner to be with you when you pleasure yourself, which feels intimate and can allow both partners to feel connected.”

Talk about it

Sometimes the sexual barrier is not about sex at all. An open dialogue also can reveal issues beneath the surface that may interfere with your partner’s sexual energy.

“Your partner may desire sex as much as you, but there may be underlying problems in the relationship that could affect sexual desire and need to be addressed,” says Dr. Bober.

Finally, another way to ignite lost sexual energy is to do new things together. “Couples can get into routines that can make for boring sex lives,” says Dr. Bober. “It can be fun to speak with your partner about ways to keep the relationship interesting and erotic.”

Many times, this can be done outside the bedroom, like having more date nights, going for long weekend romantic getaways, or even doing simple activities together like joining a club or taking a class.

“Investing in change can energize both you and your partner, and most important, pave the way for a renewed sense of closeness and novelty that is great for all couples,” says Dr. Bober.

Complete Article HERE!


Aphrodisiacs: Where is the evidence?


The quest for sexual satisfaction is as old as civilization itself. Can 21st-century medicine unravel the secret? Despite good-quality clinical studies, the holy grail of aphrodisiacs remains to be found.

Do aphrodisiacs have a place in our sex lives?

The quest for sexual satisfaction is as old as civilization itself. Can 21st-century medicine unravel the secret? Despite good-quality clinical studies, the holy grail of aphrodisiacs remains to be found.

For many couples, a happy sex life is key for long-term happiness. But sexual dysfunction and loss of interest in sex are common issues, affecting sexual happiness and relationship satisfaction.

In 2015, a panel of experts reviewed scientific studies investigating sexual dysfunction in men and women.

Writing in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, they conclude that “[…] that the most frequent sexual dysfunctions for women are desire and arousal dysfunctions. In addition, there is a large proportion of women who experience multiple sexual dysfunctions.”

“For men,” they add, “premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction are the most common sexual dysfunctions.”

Are aphrodisiacs the answer to getting our sex lives back on track?

What are aphrodisiacs?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Any product that bears labeling claims that it will arouse or increase sexual desire, or that it will improve sexual performance, is an aphrodisiac drug product.”

Bold claims have been made about many potential aphrodisiacs, which range from commonly used spices and exotic plant extracts to animal organs and ground insects.

Many of these are steeped in history and long-held cultural beliefs, but little scientific evidence actually exists to show that they have the desired effects.

Some products, such as yohimbine — which is extracted from the bark of the West African Yohimbe tree — have been linked with severe health risks, such as heart attacks and seizures, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Luckily, we are slowly emerging from the dark ages of aphrodisiac research, with the number of good-quality studies — aiming to get to the bottom of which compounds are safe and how they work — steadily increasing.

Ginkgo and ginseng

In a review of the scientific evidence underpinning natural aphrodisiacs, Dr. Elizabeth West, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California at Irvine, and Dr. Michael Krychman, from the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach, explain that “while the data are still limited, ginkgo, ginseng, maca, and Tribulus have promising data behind them.”

Ginkgo has been shown to increase blood flow to the peripheral organs, including the genitals. While one study showed an improvement in sexual function in both men and women, these findings were not supported in another study, according to Drs. West and Krychman.

Ginkgo is well-tolerated by most people, but it can cause risk of excessive bleeding, they caution.

Several double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies support the notion that ginseng is effective for erectile dysfunction, and — to a lesser studied degree — can improve sexual arousal in menopausal women.

As with ginkgo, there may be side effects, which include minor gastrointestinal symptoms. Those with hormone-sensitive cancers should avoid using ginseng.

Maca and Tribulus terrestris

According to Drs. West and Krychman, “Research in rodents has shown that maca [an Andean root vegetable] effectively enhanced libido and improved erectile function after supplementation.”

Although three clinical studies showed improvement in sexual function in women and men, another trial did not.

Tribulus terrestris, which is a plant traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, contains a compound that is converted to dehydroepiandrosterone, a natural steroid hormone.

“A rodent study showed increased sperm production after Tribulus supplementation,” say Drs. West and Krychman. Sexual satisfaction in the women taking Tribulus terrestrial was improved in several studies — including a 2017 trial — while semen quality and erectile dysfunction in men also saw a boost.

Not ‘recognized as safe and effective’

Despite the increase in good-quality clinical studies, the FDA caution that “[t]here is a lack of adequate data to establish general recognition of the safety and effectiveness of any […] ingredients […] for OTC [over-the-counter] use as an aphrodisiac.”

They issue a further warning:

Based on evidence currently available, any OTC drug product containing ingredients for use as an aphrodisiac cannot be generally recognized as safe and effective.”

So, before you rush off to stock up on any purported aphrodisiac, it might be worth bearing this warning in mind. Talking to your healthcare provider, rather than taking matters into your own hands, could be a safer option altogether.

Complete Article HERE!


Lots more women are enjoying porn


And this is why it’s great for your sex life

Watching the X-rated clips is helping women explore their sexuality and connect with others to talk about what they want in the bedroom

A study of 28 women of different sexual orientations looked at how they watched porn.

Researchers found that the online videos encouraged them to embrace their sexuality and discuss new ways of improving their sex lives.

Diana Parry, a professor in recreation and leisure studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: “We know from existing research that women are one of the fastest growing groups of people consuming online pornography and this study helps us understand some of the reasons they are doing so.

“It also seems clear that technology has enabled women to explore pornography on their own terms and to explore aspects of their sexuality that are new to them.”

Having a healthy sex life can help women feel good about themselves as well as reduce their stress levels, according to sex therapist Louise Mazanti.

She told The Sun Online: “To be in touch with your body and your sexuality gives you a sense of pleasure and sense of fulfilment that is really important in order to feel good.

“It is both a physical thing and about your identity and your self-esteem.

“It is important that you get in touch with the deeper potential of pleasure within your body because it helps you connect more deeply with yourself.

“In an orgasm there are a lot of different hormones that are released that partly reduce stress and partly increase a sense of wellbeing, belonging and a general sense of feeling good.”

Not only does watching porn and having a healthy sex life improve boost your happiness, it also improves your relationships.

“Porn is quite important for women because we don’t fantasise enough, we don’t engage with sexual imagery and porn can really help us simply by starting our imagination to think about sex,” Louise added.

“It helps us to reclaim our own sexual identity instead of waiting to only develop that when you are with a partner.

“We become so dependent on being in a relationship and that’s actually dis-empowering in terms of owning your sexuality.

“When we are in touch with our sexuality we bring so much more to the relationship because we aren’t just waiting for our partner and when they want sex.

“It [porn] allows them to bring much more sexual energy to the relationship and that is something that makes a relationship thrive.”

Parry and her team also found that the privacy offered by smartphones and laptops also made women feel more comfortable exploring different types of porn.

Complete Article HERE!


When a Partner Cheats



Marriages fall apart for many different reasons, but one of the most common and most challenging to overcome is the discovery that one partner has “cheated” on the other.

I put the word cheated in quotes because the definition of infidelity can vary widely among and within couples. Though most often it involves explicit sexual acts with someone other than one’s spouse or committed partner, there are also couples torn asunder by a partner’s surreptitious use of pornography, a purely emotional relationship with no sexual contact, virtual affairs, even just ogling or flirting with a nonpartner.

Infidelity is hardly a new phenomenon. It has existed for as long as people have united as couples, married or otherwise. Marriage counselors report that affairs sometimes occur in happy relationships as well as troubled ones.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs. The incidence is about 20 percent higher when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included. As more women began working outside the home, their chances of having an affair have increased accordingly.

Volumes have been written about infidelity, most recently two excellent and illuminating books: “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” by Esther Perel, a New York psychotherapist, and “Healing from Infidelity” by Michele Weiner-Davis, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colo. Both books are based on the authors’ extensive experience counseling couples whose relationships have been shattered by affairs.

The good news is, depending upon what caused one partner to wander and how determined a couple is to remain together, infidelity need not result in divorce. In fact, Ms. Perel and other marriage counselors have found, couples that choose to recover from and rebuild after infidelity often end up with a stronger, more loving and mutually understanding relationship than they had previously.

“People who’ve been betrayed need to know that there’s no shame in staying in the marriage — they’re not doormats, they’re warriors,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said in an interview. “The gift they provide to their families by working through the pain is enormous.”

Ms. Perel concedes that “some affairs will deliver a fatal blow to a relationship.” But she wrote, “Others may inspire change that was sorely needed. Betrayal cuts to the bone, but the wound can be healed. Plenty of people care deeply for the well-being of their partners even while lying to them, just as plenty of those who have been betrayed continue to love the ones who lied to them and want to find a way to stay together.”

The latter was exactly the position a friend of mine found herself in after discovering her husband’s affair. “At first I wanted to kick him out,” she told me. “But I realized that I didn’t want to get divorced. My mother did that and she ended up raising three children alone. I didn’t want a repeat of my childhood. I wanted my son, who was then 2 years old, to have a father in his life. But I also knew that if we were going to stay together, we had to go to couples counseling.”

About a dozen sessions later, my friend came away with critical insights: “I know I’m not perfect. I was very focused on taking care of my son, and my husband wasn’t getting from me whatever he needed. Everybody should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. We learned how to talk to each other and really listen. I love him and respect him, I’m so happy we didn’t split apart. He’s a wonderful father, a stimulating partner, and while our marriage isn’t perfect — whose is? — we are supportive and nurturing of each other. Working through the affair made us stronger.”

As happened with my friend, most affairs result from dissatisfaction with the marital relationship, fueled by temptation and opportunity. One partner may spend endless hours and days on work, household chores, outside activities or even social media, to the neglect of their spouse’s emotional and sexual needs. Often betrayed partners were unaware of what was lacking in the relationship and did not suspect that trouble was brewing.

Or the problem may result from a partner’s personal issues, like an inability to deal with conflict, a fear of intimacy, deep-seated insecurity or changes in life circumstances that rob the marital relationship of the attention and affection that once sustained it.

But short of irreversible incompatibility or physical or emotional abuse, with professional counseling and a mutual willingness to preserve the marriage, therapists maintain that couples stand a good chance of overcoming the trauma of infidelity and avoiding what is often the more painful trauma of divorce.

Ms. Weiner-Davis points out that “except in the most severe cases such as ongoing physical abuse or addiction,” divorce often creates more problems than it solves, an observation that prompted her to write her first book, “Divorce Busting.”

Ms. Weiner-Davis readily admits that recovering from infidelity is hard work and the process cannot be rushed. Yet, as she wrote in her new book, “many clients have shared that had it not been for their partner’s affair, they’d never have looked at, discussed, and healed some of the underlying issues that were broken at the foundation of their relationship.”

Rather than destroying the marriage, the affair acted as a catalyst for positive changes, Ms. Weiner-Davis maintains. In her new book, she outlines tasks for both the betrayed spouse and the unfaithful one that can help them better understand and meet the emotional and physical needs of their partners.

Both she and Ms. Perel have found that, with the benefit of good counseling, some couples “divorce” their old marriages and start anew with a relationship that is more honest and loving.

It is important to find a therapist who can help the couple weather the many ups and downs that are likely to occur in working through the issues that lead to infidelity, Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If they expect setbacks and are willing to work through them, the odds are good that they’ll end up with a healed marriage.”

“Infidelity is a unique situation that requires unique therapeutic skills,” she said. She suggested that in selecting a therapist, couples ask if the therapist has any training and experience in treating infidelity and how successful the therapist has been in helping marriages heal.

Complete Article HERE!