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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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Want better sex? Try getting better sleep

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One in 3 American adults do not get enough sleep. Sexual issues are also common, with as many as 45 percent of women and 31 percent of men having a concern about their sex life. While these might seem like distinct concerns, they are actually highly related.

How are sleep and sex related? I’ll state the obvious: We most commonly sleep and have sex in the same location – the bedroom. Less obvious but more important is that lack of sleep and lack of sex share some common underlying causes, including stress. Especially important, lack of sleep can lead to sexual problems and a lack of sex can lead to sleep problems. Conversely, a good night’s sleep can lead to a greater interest in sex, and orgasmic sex can result in a better night’s sleep.

I am a sex educator and researcher who has published several studies on the effectiveness of self-help books in enhancing sexual functioning. I have also written two sexual self-help books, both based in research findings. My latest book, “Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters – and How to Get It,” is aimed at empowering women to reach orgasm. More pertinent to the connection between sleep and sex, my first book, “A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex,” was written to help the countless women who say they are too exhausted to be interested in sex.

The effect of sleep on sex among women

The reason I wrote a book for women who are too tired for sex is because women are disproportionately affected by both sleep problems and by low sexual desire, and the relationship between the two is indisputable. Women are more likely than men to have sleep problems, and the most common sexual complaint that women bring to sex therapists and physicians is low desire. Strikingly, being too tired for sex is the top reason that women give for their loss of desire.

Conversely, getting a good night’s sleep can increase desire. A recent study found that the longer women slept, the more interested in sex they were the next day. Just one extra hour of sleep led to a 14 percent increase in the chances of having a sexual encounter the following day. Also, in this same study, more sleep was related to better genital arousal.

While this study was conducted with college women, those in other life stages have even more interrelated sleep and sex problems. Menopause involves a complicated interaction of biological and psychological issues that are associated with both sleep and sex problems. Importantly, a recent study found that among menopausal women, sleep problems were directly linked to sexual problems. In fact, sleep issues were the only menopausal symptom for which such a direct link was found.

nterrelated sleep and sexual issues are also prevalent among mothers. Mothers of new babies are the least likely to get a good night’s sleep, mostly because they are caring for their baby during the night. However, ongoing sleep and sexual issues for mothers are often caused by having too much to do and the associated stress. Women, who are married with school-age children and working full time, are the most likely to report insomnia. Still, part-time working moms and moms who don’t work outside the home report problems with sleep as well.

While fathers also struggle with stress, there is evidence that stress and the resulting sleepless nights dampen women’s sexual desire more than they do men’s. Some of this is due to hormones. Both insufficient sleep and stress result in the release of cortisol, and cortisol decreases testosterone. Testosterone plays a major role in the sex drive of women and men. Men have significantly more testosterone than women. So, thinking of testosterone as a tank of gas, the cortisol released by stress and lack of sleep might take a woman’s tank to empty, yet only decrease a man’s tank to half full.

The effect of sleep on sex among men

Although lack of sleep and stress seems to affect women’s sexual functioning more than men’s, men still suffer from interrelated problems in these areas. One study found that, among young healthy men, a lack of sleep resulted in decreased levels of testosterone, the hormone responsible for much of our sex drive. Another study found that among men, sleep apnea contributed to erectile dysfunction and an overall decrease in sexual functioning. Clearly, among men, lack of sleep results in diminished sexual functioning.

I could not locate a study to prove this, as it stands to reason that the reverse is also true. That is, it seems logical that, as was found in the previously mentioned study among women, for men a better night’s sleep would also result in better sexual functioning.

The effect of sex on sleep

While sleep (and stress) have an effect on sex, the reverse is also true. That is, sex affects sleep (and stress). According to sex expert Ian Kerner, too little sex can cause sleeplessness and irritability. Conversely, there is some evidence that the stress hormone cortisol decreases after orgasm. There’s also evidence that oxytocin, the “love hormone” that is released after orgasm, results not only in increased feelings of connection with a partner, but in better sleep.

Additionally, experts claim that sex might have gender-specific effects on sleep. Among women, orgasm increases estrogen, which leads to deeper sleep. Among men, the hormone prolactin that is secreted after orgasm results in sleepiness.

Translating science into more sleep and more sex

It is now clear that a hidden cause of sex problems is sleeplessness and that a hidden cause of sleeplessness is sex problems. This knowledge can lead to obvious, yet often overlooked, cures for both problems. Indeed, experts have suggested that sleep hygiene can help alleviate sexual problems and that sex can help those suffering from sleep problems.

Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that both sleep hygiene suggestions and suggestions for enhanced sexual functioning have some overlap. For example, experts suggest sticking to a schedule, both for sleep and for sexual encounters. They also recommend decreasing smartphone usage, both before bed and when spending time with a partner. The bottom line of these suggestions is to make one’s bedroom an exclusive haven for the joys of both sleep and sex.

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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Masturbation—Get Down With Yourself!

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May is National Masturbation Month.

By Molly Lloyd

Alrighty folks, it’s about time we talk about masturbation. I’ve been thinking about sex a lot recently (thank you, women’s, gender and sexuality studies and educational studies for allowing me to do both my capstones on sex education). But before we can really talk about sex – and I mean really talk about sex – we have to be able to talk about masturbation first, right? Right.

This is a topic of conversation that makes most people uncomfortable. Masturbation, among many other sexual things, is not really something we talk about. Our culture tends to avoid conversations surrounding positive sexual experiences, because we have a deeply ingrained fear of sexuality. For the most part, people’s experiences talking about masturbation have been limited to preteen and teenage boys making jokes about their taste in porn and making obscene gestures towards one another. It’s never something that’s talked about seriously and I’m almost positive that most sex education classes avoid the topic. Conversations surrounding pleasure and desire are usually absent from sex education classes because adults and educators worry that discussing these topics will encourage young people to have sex.

Back in the 19th century, masturbation of any sort by any kind of person has been seen as impure and people would go to great lengths to keep children and teens from exploring themselves. It was rumored that masturbating would cause hair to grow all over your palms and that losing one drop of semen was the equivalent to losing ten drops of blood. It was common practice to make young boys wear belts with spikes surrounding the penis, to “discourage” them from developing erections. Women, on the other hand, had to be treated for “hysteria” (a made up disease, from the Greek word “hysterika”, meaning “womb”) because they orgasmed so infrequently and their husbands only cared about their personal pleasure.

Even in this day and age in the United States, many people are taught that their sexual desire and want to masturbate are wrong, dirty or something to be ashamed of—this is especially something that happens to girls and women. People will go an incredibly long time in their life without ever having explored themselves or orgasmed because they’re scared or they feel ashamed. Since coming to Macalester, I have met plenty of cis women who are scared of and disgusted by their vaginas and don’t feel comfortable exploring themselves. Let’s destigmatize masturbation and pleasure!

Knowing what you prefer and what works for you can allow you and your partner(s) to have sex where it is easier for you to orgasm (assuming that that is a thing you want!). On top of having better sex and more orgasms, there are – according to Planned Parenthood – some added health benefits to masturbation, including: -Releasing sexual tension -Reducing stress -Helping you sleep better -Improving your self-esteem and body image -Helping treat sexual problems -Relieving menstrual cramps and muscle tension -Strengthening muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas Some people even claim that masturbating until orgasm can help with headaches and migraines—something to consider, for sure. So there you have it! An invitation to go for it; touch yourself!

I would encourage everyone – seriously! everyone – to take some time this weekend and get to know themselves; figure out what you like and don’t like, what gets you going! Knowing how your body works is an essential first step to taking ownership of your body and sexuality. Personal empowerment comes from personal knowledge, and masturbating can be a way of gaining that personal knowledge.

To end this piece, I will leave you with a quote from Audre Lorde – a prominent feminist writer from the second wave and a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” – about her ideas surrounding the erotic and ask you to think about how masturbation could improve your (sex) life.

“The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”

Complete Article HERE!

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These Fun Online Cartoons Give Kids Honest Advice About Sex

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AMAZE’s YouTube series gives kids sex education, along with some fun, like an unlubricated condom struggling to get down a slide.

By Ben Paynter

In the cartoon, two animated condoms try to go down a pair of side-by-side slides. The first zips down easily, a look of satisfaction on its face, while the second gets stuck and appears disappointed. “Some condoms have lubricant to make them more comfortable during sex, while others do not,” explains a female narrator in a voiceover.

In the next scene, the stuck condom appears to have learned this. It applies its own water-based lubricant and cheers as it continues the ride. “Non-lubricated condoms can be used with water-based lubricants, such as commercial lubricant you can buy in the drug store near the condoms,” adds the narrator. Cue the flashing red Xs that cross out an oil can and Vaseline container, along with a verbal warning that Vaseline or other oil-based lubricants should always be avoided because they break down the condom.

The same balance of humorous imagery and important information happens throughout the three-minute episode, which covers the entire act of sex, from safely opening and putting on a condom, to consummating the act and cleaning up afterward. But that video, entitled “How To Use The Contraception Effectively,” is one of over 50 that are now freely available online at AMAZE, a YouTube-based sexual education program that has more than 5 million views.

It took a team of health nonprofits to make this happen. Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health combined forces to launch the venture in October 2016. Their efforts are supported by the WestWind Foundation, which works globally to improve future generations’ quality of life through environmental protection and better access to reproductive health services. In April 2018, AMAZE released a Spanish-language version to reach more kids in Latin American countries.

WestWind conceived of AMAZE as a supplemental resource for kids with questions that go beyond those being addressed in their classroom sexual education programs. After all, when kids go online to learn about sex, they often find porn, which doesn’t model healthy sexual behaviors. But as the current administration has continued to express support for an abstinence-only class curriculum–the political code word is “sexual risk avoidance”–and pushed to remove contraception from family planning service grants, WestWind has tried to cover nearly every corner of traditional sexual education and emerging topics that school programs may be too polite to discuss openly, like pornography and masturbation.

Episodes like “Porn: Fact or Fiction” and “Masturbation: Totally Normal” rank among the top five episodes on the site, all of which range from about a minute and a half to three minutes. But there are other heavily visited topics, too, including the top signs of puberty for both boys and girls, and an animation called “Expressing Myself. My Way” that’s about gender identity and acceptance. These all have garnered from 250,000 to more than 1 million views.

“[This] was started because there was a lack of information for 10- to 14-year-olds, especially for today’s 10- to 14-year-olds,” says Kristen Mahoney, a consultant with the organization’s reproductive health and rights program. “The important thing is we’re trying to meet youth where they’re at and provide accurate information at a time that’s got to be really confusing to them. We want to be one of those resources that if they go online will be one of the first they find to help them through that difficult time.”

The core online curriculum covers standard national sex ed topics, but is also informed through viewers’ responses and feedback through associated Twitter and Instagram accounts. To determine the approach of each show, those nonprofit groups conducted surveys and focus groups with the target audience, kids between the ages of 10 and 14.

While the development team settled on short animated videos that incorporate some humor, they’ve worked hard to make sure that lightheartedness doesn’t obscure the broader lessons, which are often shared visually and verbally. To demonstrate the right way to put on a condom, for instance, the episode shows an actual cartoon penis instead of confusing things with some symbolically phallic object. “The humor level has to be very clear that you know it’s fun jokes, but this is actual factual information and not misleading information,” adds Mahoney.

Advocates For Youth already supplies a sexual education curriculum called Right, Respect and Responsibility to more than 50 school districts around the country, reaching about 2.3 million kids, and has added AMAZE content in supplemental lessons with that program. Planned Parenthood has also included the channel as a supplement in another sex education program that exists outside of schools.

In June, the group will release a 10-video series called AMAZE Academy that’s aimed at teaching parents who watch these videos alongside their kids how to ask questions that encourage openness and more learning. That will be followed by another series aimed at younger kids (in the 5 to 10 range) who are interested in things like where babies come from or the names of different body parts.

In May 2017, the YouTube Social Impact Lab awarded AMAZE a grant to work with Kivvit, a strategic advisory, on how to expand its online search optimization, presence, and reach. YouTube appears interested in what it takes to provide accurate educational information online, and is working closely with AMAZE to ensure its content isn’t inadvertently flagged or censored.

By becoming an online-first resource independent of school systems, AMAZE also has the ability to react quickly to what’s happening in the news. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the channel decided to green-light an episode about sexual assault. Kids have proven curious about that buzzword too, and are learning how to find a health answer. “What is Sexual Assault” is currently one of the site’s most popular videos.

Complete Article HERE!

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