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New treatments restoring sexual pleasure for older women

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By Tara Bahrampour

When the FDA approved Viagra in 1998 to treat erectile dysfunction, it changed the sexual landscape for older men, adding decades to their vitality. Meanwhile, older women with sexual problems brought on by aging were left out in the cold with few places to turn besides hormone therapy, which isn’t suitable for many or always recommended as a long-term treatment.

Now, propelled by a growing market of women demanding solutions, new treatments are helping women who suffer from one of the most pervasive age-related sexual problems.

Genitourinary syndrome, brought on by a decrease in sex hormones and a change in vaginal pH after menopause, is characterized by vaginal dryness, shrinking of tissues, itching and burning, which can make intercourse painful. GSM affects up to half of post-menopausal women and can also contribute to bladder and urinary tract infections and incontinence. Yet only 7 percent of post-menopausal women use a prescription treatment for it, according to a recent study.

The new remedies range from pills to inserts to a five-minute laser treatment that some doctors and patients are hailing as a miracle cure.

The lag inaddressing GSM has been due in part to a longstanding reluctance among doctors to see post-menopausal women as sexual beings, said Leah Millheiser, director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University.

“Unfortunately, many clinicians have their own biases and they assume these women are not sexually active, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth, because research shows that women continue to be sexually active throughout their lifetime,” she said.

With today’s increased life expectancy, that can be a long stretch – another 30 or 40 years, for a typical woman who begins menopause in her early 50s. “It’s time for clinicians to understand that they have to bring up sexual function with their patients whether they’re in their 50s or they’re in their 80s or 90s,” Dr. Millheiser said.

By contrast, doctors routinely ask middle-aged men about their sexual function and are quick to offer prescriptions for Viagra, said Lauren Streicher, medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause.

“If every guy, on his 50th birthday, his penis shriveled up and he was told he could never have sex again, he would not be told, ‘That’s just part of aging,’” Dr. Streicher said.

Iona Harding of Princeton, New Jersey, had come to regard GSM, also known as vulvovaginal atrophy, as just that.

For much of their marriage, she and her husband had a “normal, active sex life.” But after menopause sex became so painful that they eventually stopped trying.

“I talked openly about this with my gynecologist every year,” said Mrs. Harding, 66, a human resources consultant. “There was never any discussion of any solution other than using estrogen cream, which wasn’t enough. So we had resigned ourselves to this is how it’s going to be.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that the same generation who first benefited widely from the birth control pill in the 1960s are now demanding fresh solutions to keep enjoying sex.

“The Pill was the first acknowlegement that you can have sex for pleasure and not just for reproduction, so it really is an extension of what we saw with the Pill,” Dr. Streicher said. “These are the women who have the entitlement, who are saying ‘Wait a minute, sex is supposed to be for pleasure and don’t tell me that I don’t get to have pleasure.’”

The push for a “pink Viagra” to increase desire highlighted women’s growing demand for sexual equality. But the drug flibanserin, approved by the FDA in 2015, proved minimally effective.

For years, the array of medical remedies has been limited. Over-the-counter lubricants ease friction but don’t replenish vaginal tissue. Long-acting mosturizers help plump up tissue and increase lubrication, but sometimes not enough. Women are advised to “use it or lose it” – regular intercourse can keep the tissues more elastic – but not if it is too painful.

Systemic hormone therapy that increases the estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone throughout the body can be effective, but if used over many years it carries health risks, and it is not always safe for cancer survivors.

Local estrogen creams, suppositories or rings are safer since the hormone stays in the vaginal area. But they can be messy, and despite recent studies showing such therapy is not associated with cancer, some women are uncomfortable with its long-term use.

In recent years, two prescription drugs have expanded the array of options. Ospemifene, a daily oral tablet approved by the FDA in 2013,activates specific estrogen receptors in the vagina. Side effects include mild hot flashes in a small percentage of women.

Prasterone DHEA, a naturally occurring steroid that the FDA approved last year, is a daily vaginal insert that prompts a woman’s body to produce its own estrogen and testosterone. However, it is not clear how safe it is to use longterm.

And then there is fractional carbon dioxide laser therapy, developed in Italy and approved by the FDA in 2014 for use in the U.S. Similar to treatments long performed on the face, it uses lasers to make micro-abrasions in the vaginal wall, which stimulate growth of new blood vessels and collagen.

The treatment is nearly painless and takes about five minutes; it is repeated two more times at 6-week intervals. For many patients, the vaginal tissues almost immediately become thicker, more elastic, and more lubricated.

Mrs. Harding began using it in 2016, and after three treatments with MonaLisa Touch, the fractional CO2 laser device that has been most extensively studied, she and her husband were able to have intercourse for the first time in years.

Cheryl Edwards, 61, a teacher and writer in Pennington, New Jersey, started using estrogen in her early 50s, but sex with her husband was painful and she was plagued by urinary tract infections requiring antibiotics, along with severe dryness.

After her first treatment with MonaLisa Touch a year and a half ago, the difference was stark.

“I couldn’t believe it… and with each treatment it got better,” she said. “It was like I was in my 20s or 30s.”

While studies on MonaLisa Touch have so far been small, doctors who use it range from cautiously optimistic to heartily enthusiastic.

“I’ve been kind of blown away by it,” said Dr. Streicher, who, along with Dr. Millheiser, is participating in a larger study comparing it to topical estrogen. Using MonaLisa Touch alone or in combination with other therapies, she said, “I have not had anyone who’s come in and I’ve not had them able to have sex.”

Cheryl Iglesia, director of Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington D.C., was more guarded. While she has treated hundreds of women with MonaLisa Touch and is also participating in the larger study, she noted that studies so far have looked only at short-term effects, and less is known about using it for years or decades.

“What we don’t know is is there a point at which the tissue is so thin that the treatment could be damaging it?” she said. “Is there priming needed?”

Dr. Millheiser echoed those concerns, saying she supports trying local vaginal estrogen first.

So far the main drawback seems to be price. An initial round of treatments can cost between $1,500 and $2,700, plus another $500 a year for the recommended annual touch-up. Unlike hormone therapy or Viagra, the treatment is not covered by insurance.

Some women continue to use local estrogen or lubricants to complement the laser. But unlike hormones, which are less effective if begun many years after menopause, the laser seems to do the trick at any age. Dr. Streicher described a patient in her 80s who had been widowed since her 60s and had recently begun seeing a man.

It had been twenty years since she was intimate with a man, Dr. Streicher said. “She came in and said, ‘I want to have sex.’” After combining MonaLisa Touch with dilators to gradually re-enlarge her vagina, the woman reported successful intercourse. “Not everything is reversible after a long time,” Dr. Streicher said. “This is.”

But Dr. Iglesia said she has seen a range of responses, from patients who report vast improvement to others who see little effect.

“I’m confident that in the next few years we will have better guidelines (but) at this point I’m afraid there is more marketing than there is science for us to guide patients,” she said. “Nobody wants sandpaper sex; it hurts. But at the same time, is this going to help?”

The laser therapy can also help younger women who have undergone early menopause due to cancer treatment, including the 250,000 a year diagnosed with breast cancer. Many cannot safely use hormones, and often they feel uncomfortable bringing up sexual concerns with doctors who are trying to save their lives.

“If you’re a 40-year-old and you get cancer, your vagina might look like it’s 70 and feel like it’s 70,” said Maria Sophocles, founding medical director of Women’s Healthcare of Princeton, who treated Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Harding.

After performing the procedure on cancer survivors, she said, “Tears are rolling down from their eyes because they haven’t had sex in eight years and you’re restoring their femininity to them.”

The procedure also alleviates menopause-related symptoms in other parts of the pelvic floor, including the bladder, urinary tract, and urethra, reducing infections and incontinence.

Ardella House, a 67-year-old homemaker outside Denver, suffered from incontinence and recurring bladder infections as well as painful sex. After getting the MonaLisa Touch treatment last year, she became a proslyter.

“It was so successful that I started telling all my friends, and sure enough, it was something that was a problem for all of them but they didn’t talk about it either,” she said.

“I always used to think, you reach a certain age and you’re not as into sex as you were in your younger years. But that’s not the case, because if it’s enjoyable, you like to do it just as much as when you were younger.”

Complete Article HERE!

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7 contraception options that won’t screw with your hormones

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Plus the pros and cons of each.

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Hormones are what make the world go round. They play a massive part in influencing your bodily functions, your mood, your behaviour, and of course, your sex life – which is why, when yours are out of whack, it can have an enormous impact on your whole damn existence.

Hormones can also be a big factor in the type of contraception you use, and increasing numbers of women are looking for non-hormonal methods of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you’re one of them, here are seven contraception methods you could consider:

1. Male condoms

What is it?
Probably the most familiar method of non-hormonal contraception, male condoms are thin latex sheaths that go over the penis during sex.


Pros and cons:

“They’re really easy to use and you only need to use them when you have sex,” says Sue Burchill, head of nursing at sexual health charity Brook. “They protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy. Plus, they are available for free from Brook services (for under 25s), some youth clinics, contraception and sexual health clinics and some GPs. You can also buy them at any time of day from supermarkets, vending machines in public toilets, petrol stations etc, even if you’re under 16. They also come in different shapes, sizes, textures, colours and flavours which can make sex more fun.”

Condoms are the only type of contraception that a man can use to control his own fertility, but they do also have some potential disadvantages. “Some people are allergic to the latex used in condoms. This is rare but if you or your partner is allergic, it’s possible to use latex free polyurethane condoms,” Sue adds. “Sometimes they can split or slip off – if this happens or you are worried you may need emergency contraception.”

2. Female condoms

What is it? Female condoms, sometimes known as ‘femi-doms’, are similar to male condoms, except they’re worn internally, inside the vagina, instead of going over the penis.

Pros and cons:
Like their male counterparts, female condoms also protect you against STIs and pregnancy, and are available for free within many of the same services. You can also put them in before you have sex (up to eight hours before).

If they’re not used properly, however, female condoms can slip or get pushed up into the vagina – and again, if this happens, you might need to seek emergency contraception. “You need to make sure the penis goes into the condom and not between the condom and the vagina,” advises Sue. It’s also worth noting that female condoms are not always available at every contraception and sexual health clinic and can be more expensive to buy than other condoms.

3. IUDs

What is it?
Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are t-shaped plastic devices that contain copper, and stop an egg from implanting in your uterus. They need to be fitted by your doctor or nurse.

Pros and cons:

IUDs are often recommended for women who cannot use contraception that contains hormones, like the pill or the contraceptive patch. They provide a long-term solution that once fitted, can prevent pregnancy immediately, and for up to 10 years (depending on what type of IUD you go for). They don’t interrupt sex, or mess with your fertility, and, crucially, you don’t have to remember to pop a pill every day for it to be effective. “The IUD is not affected by vomiting, diarrhoea or other medicines like other methods of contraception,” Sue notes – in fact, it can even be fitted as a method of emergency contraception.

This is not to say that the IUD has no potential pitfalls – “it does not protect against STIs, and your periods may be heavier, more painful or last longer,” she adds. There are also several risks, although slim and unlikely, that come with fitting and using the IUD – you may get an infection when it’s inserted, it can be be pushed out or displaced, and there is very minor chance of perforation of the uterus. If you do somehow get pregnant when you’re using one, there is also a small risk of ectopic pregnancy.

4. Cervical caps or diaphragms

What is it? These are dome-shaped devices which look similar, but diaphragms fit into the vagina and over the cervix, whilst caps need to be put onto the cervix directly. They need to be fitted by a professional on the first occasion, and used in conjunction with spermicide for maximum effectiveness.

 


Pros and cons:
“They can be put in before sex so they don’t disturb the moment (you will need to add extra spermicide if you have sex more than three hours after putting it in),” says Sue. “They are not affected by any medicines that you take orally, and don’t disturb your menstrual cycle” – although it is recommended that you do not use the diaphragm/cap during your period, so you will need to use an alternative method of contraception at this time.

And the downsides? As with pretty much all methods except condoms, they don’t provide protection against STIs, and they’re also not as effective at preventing pregnancy as other methods (around 92-96%, compared with 98% for male condoms, for instance). “They can take a little getting used to before you’re confident using them,” Sue admits, “Some women can develop the bladder infection cystitis when using diaphragms or caps – check with your doctor or nurse if you need further advice. Some people may be sensitive to latex or the chemical used in spermicide.”

5. Sponges

What is it? As you might imagine from the name, the sponge is a… well, sponge, which contains spermicide to help to prevent pregnancy. They’re a single use option, and cannot be worn for more than 30 hours at a time.

Pros and cons:

Sponges provide protection from pregnancy on a two-fold basis – the spermicide slows sperm down and stops them from heading towards the egg, and the sponge itself covers your cervix, to block them if they do get there. They are easy to use, but require a little bit of prep – you have to wet the sponge to activate the spermicide, and then insert it, as far up as you find comfortable. They also need to be left in your vagina for at least six hours after having sex, so you have to remember to include this in your 30 hour calculation. It shouldn’t happen, but if the sponge breaks into pieces when you pull it out, you need to contact your doctor right away.

Once again, there’s no STI protection, and you can’t use them when you’re on your period, or have any form of vaginal bleeding, as this could increase your chances of getting toxic shock syndrome. They’re also not recommended for women who’ve had physical trauma in the area, or given birth, been through miscarriage or abortion recently. If you’re unsure, talk to a professional before making your purchase (because unlike many other options, sponges aren’t given out for free).

6. Natural family planning

What is it? Natural family planning involved monitoring your fertility signs, such as cervical secretions and basal body temperature, to find out when during the month you can have sex with a reduced risk of pregnancy.


Pros and cons:
It can be used to plan pregnancy as well as avoid pregnancy, if you’re thinking of starting and family – and if you’re not, it does not involve taking any hormones or other chemicals or using physical devices, like many other methods do. The NHS states that it’s up to 99% effective if the method is followed precisely – but you need proper teaching about the indicators, and because it can be tricky to master, mistakes happen, so it’s generally around 75% mark instead.

You’ll still need to consider protection from STIs, and use a different form of contraception if you want to have sex during your fertile times. “You need to keep daily records, and some things such as illness or stress can make results difficult to interpret,” says Sue. “It can take longer to recognise your fertility indicators if you have an irregular cycle, or have stopped using hormonal contraception. It demands a high level of commitment from both partners.”

7. Tubular occlusion

What is it? Tubular occlusion, or female sterilisation, is a surgical method of contraception that involves using clips or rings to block your fallopian tubes. It is thought to be more than 99% effective, and doesn’t effect hormone levels – you’ll still get your period if you have it done.

Pros and cons:

If you’re certain that sterilisation is the right option for you, it means that you no longer have to worry about pregnancy (although the same can’t be said for STI’s, which you’ll still need protection from). There shouldn’t be any impact on your sex drive, and rarely has any other long-term effects on your health.

However, as with any operation, there are potential complications, including internal bleeding, infection, or damage to your other organs. The chance of sterilisation failing is around in 1 in 200, but it can happen, and if it does occur, there’s a higher chance of the pregnancy being ectopic. Surgeons are generally more willing to carry out sterilisation on women who are over 30 and have already had children, but you can request it whatever your circumstances. It’s likely you’ll be referred to counselling before making your final decision, because of the permanent nature of the choice that you’re making.

Complete Article HERE!

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How giving up porn could help your sex life

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For many of us, watching porn can be like eating a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream; regularly done, enjoyable – no doubt – but can also often leave us feeling, well, a tad ashamed…

by Edward Dyson

However, pushing aside those pride-deprived moments spent reaching for discarded socks, could it be true that by indulging our cravings for explicit material on the web – c’mon now, you all know the sites… – we might actually be damaging our mental health? Not to mention our sex lives (you know, the one we’re supposed to be doing… in person?)

Earlier this year pop star Will Young opened up about having a porn problem, sharing with fans that his childhood trauma and shame was at the root of his dependency on several vices. These included alcohol, shopping but – the one that grabbed the most headlines, predictably – was the revelation that he had developed an obsessive level of consumption when it came to pornography, which he believes he used to ‘fill a void.’ And if the rich and famous feel empty enough to be filling their voids with porn, exactly what hope is there for the rest of us – the great unwashed?

Admittedly, most of us probably won’t have thought into the matter too deeply, and while we might not be broadcasting the number of weekly web wanks we’re racking up, neither are we too worried that a cheeky three-minute viewing of a US College Boys video might, in fact, be a reflection of some underlying issue. Most of the time, it’s fair to say most of us have already forgotten about the content we’ve, ahem, enjoyed – before the Kleenex has even been safely disposed of.

But it isn’t just the original Pop Idol winner who began to wonder whether there might be a darker side to viewing all this badly-shot -and even more terribly acted – footage we’re apparently so fond of. Recent research suggests that by watching porn, we could be debilitating our ability to form healthy sexual relationships – in the living breathing world – and could potentially be inflating any pre-existing mental health issues we might already be dealing with, whether or not we’re aware of these threats.

Many psychological experts have repeatedly stated that – despite being laughed off by naysayers for obvious reasons – porn obsession is undeniably real, and forms as a type of process behavioural dependency. The reaction of the brain to this material can be very similar to the stimulation that happens after taking drugs. And in even more limp news, doctors have also reported on the growing trend amongst men who struggle to get an erection with a real-life partner because they’re so used to using explicit imagery in order to help them get off.

And, let’s face it, it’s all very much out there, readily available for the watching. According to the website Paint Bottle, 30 per cent of all data transferred online is porn, and Virginia lawmakers claim that all pornography is “addictive,” can promote the normalisation of rape, can lessen the “desire to marry, equate violence with sex,” as well as encouraging “group sex,” (not necessarily a bad thing… who are we to judge?) and –of course – “risky sexual behaviour and infidelity,” among other effects.

But are they all just taking it too seriously? Perhaps being a little too prude-ish… right in front of our salads?

Sex guru Jerry Sergeant – a self-confessed former sex and porn obsessed himself – believes that one vital component to a healthy sex life is to quit porn and traditional masturbating, and instead follow a tantric path.

Never mind cold turkey. This here is cold jerk-y. (Sorry.)

Speaking about the perils of consuming X-rated content to Gay Times, he warned: “Porn is dangerous, and people do get obsessed with it. I was for many years. At my worst, I was watching videos on the internet all the time, every day, four hours on end. When I stopped, it was like being a heroin addict going clean. It’s just a fantasy, but it means people are no longer looking in the most important places for what they want.”

And the damage it does to us when we are forming our ideas about sex during our younger years is difficult to reverse, he admitted.

“It’s almost a violation,” Jerry says. “I believe meditation, and tantric sex should be taught in schools. Unfortunately, the schooling system takes kids outside of themselves, and just pushes facts, figures and information on them.”

Tantric sex in schools? Well, beats PE, that’s for sure. But now, not only does Jerry not watch porn – (never, not even Justin Bieber’s nude leaks, for crying out loud!) – but he doesn’t even masturbate. No, never. Now that’s a hard one… (so to speak.) He explains: “What a load of people don’t know is, you can have the most incredible orgasm all on your own, without ever putting your hand on your penis. Masturbating tantrically is extremely powerful.”

But in an age where people are too busy to even pick up the phone and order their own takeaway – thanks Hungry House! – can we reasonably expect people to take the time to bring themselves to orgasm with just the power of their mind?

Jerry assures us: “It’s worth it. OK, so what you do is start with something that can be quite tough at first: you have to give yourself an erection without thinking of something sexual.”

Does the men’s rugby team count? Apparently not, as Jerry continues: “Perhaps think about a partner, or someone you know would like to be with, and imagine yourself getting to that state – then squeeze the muscles that are just between your anus and testicles, squeeze them for ten seconds, then release for ten seconds… squeeze again, release again. Eventually you’ll start getting an erection, and the more excited you get, eventually you will come to the point where orgasm happens.”

Blimey. Who needs porn when even the tantric guide is this steamy? “I’ve taught this to a lot of people,” Jerry says, unfazed. “Close your eyes, take long deep breaths, and settle into a space, and combine it with meditating if you can. You can light candles or incense, really relax and enjoy stimulating yourself. And it doesn’t have to be done alone, either.”

Phew. We were beginning to worry that all this tantric malarkey might be so enjoyable it might make the idea of partners redundant… “Another way, which is really cool, is to do this with a partner, sit opposite each other, breathing together, getting into a rhythm and building it up,” he shares. “Tense those muscles, and let them go, continue that process thinking of only each other, not physically touching each other, and then experience it together. The more you practise it, the closer you’ll come to reaching orgasm at exactly same time. It’s a mind-blowing experience – you connect on such a deeper level.”

This may be all very well and good for those who have enough time in the day for hour long sessions of mental self-pleasure. But how does it help with our actual sex lives?

Jerry promises: “Once you’ve learnt to harness and keep that energy inside of you, you’ll never go back to normal orgasms again. It’s like having a big carrot being dangled in front you, then nothing’s there – an anti-climax. It can last for at least 30 seconds, sometimes a minute and a half if you’re doing it and holding it… your whole body vibrates and vibrates. Compared to a ten second shot, which is wasted time, it’s just amazing. This will follow into your regular sex life, and this kind of orgasm will become your norm.”

He adds: “The beautiful thing this is, if you’re on the right frequency, you’ll meet the right person who will also be open to learning all about it.”

It’s certainly a tempting prospect. Jerry admits he’s not only more sexually satisfied now than he was when he was porn obsessed – spending thousands paying for sex and drugs – but he’s also generally happier in himself.

That doesn’t mean the journey is easy though. “I remember when I first found out, to start with – to masturbate while staying in your body and mind took a lot of practice,” he admits. “And I was practising a few times a day and would get it wrong; I was doing it two or three times a day, then once a day, then whenever I felt like it really. But I would suggest not having sex while you’re mastering this technique, then when you do, you can start experimenting, perhaps tantrically with a partner, or friend, in an open relationship, there are lots of options, and it can be really exciting.”

And even if the tantric route is not the right path for everyone, Jerry is adamant that quitting porn should be something everybody at least attempts. Basically, try to give a toss…

“I would suggest not watching anything for a month, first of all. Treat it like Dry January is to alcohol,” he says. “See how much you actually miss it. You might surprise yourself.”

To continue that comparison, highlighting the darker sides to the relationship you have with a certain vice, be it alcohol or porn, shouldn’t mean condemning every beer bottle – or every piece of voyeuristic sex – straight to Room 101. Plenty of people can enjoy a drink in moderation, and plenty of people also have a healthy relationship with porn. Most certainly, not everyone who partakes in a cheeky bit of ManHub or XTube is secretly turning into Michael Fassbender’s character in Shame – giving his tripod todger third degree burns from office computer misuse and compulsive masturbating. However, because watching porn is, by its very nature, a solo activity, rather than a social one – rarely discussed even with the closest of friends – as a habit that could spiral: it’s easy to take your eye of the ball, (or balls…)

Sure, we count the calories of our food, and the number of alcoholic drinks – that we can remember, anyway – largely due to fears that are related to social judgement and obvious physical effects. But usually, unless you’re really quite brazen, regardless of how much porn you’re watching, those around you will generally be none the wiser.

That’s why it remains, and will surely continue to remain, a habit that can only truly be monitored through maintaining a strong sense of self-accountability, and perhaps asking yourself some tough questions. Has your relationship with porn ventured into unhealthy territory?

Below are a few signs that your relationship with sexually explicit content might have got, ahem, out of hand…

So… do you have a problem?

1. Excessive time spent viewing porn

An obvious one, but a good place to start. Now, of course there are no NHS guidelines – like there are with alcohol – as to what counts as excessive. But a helpful question to ask yourself might be: does the time dedicated to this activity impact heavily on your day-to-day life? Signs could be: regularly finding yourself late for work because of watching porn. Watching inappropriate content on work (and not just NSFW gifs, we’re talking extended disabled lavatory visits….) Or cancelling on friends. Put simply, just because you have a wank doesn’t mean you have to be a wanker.

2. Notable negative consequences

Related to point one, but if you can link things that are going wrong in your life to your relationship with porn, then that’s a huge red flag that things might have got spiralled somewhat out of control. Are you left financially struggling because you’re spending so much of your income on explicit websites? Is it causing problems at work or in your relationship? This leads nicely to…

3. Loss of interest in sex

Whether in a relationship or not, if – like the growing trend that doctors have noticed emerging – your dependency on porn is so strong that you struggle to become aroused in real life scenarios, then this is definitely a major problem. Most people seeking a satisfying sex life with a partner – or multiple partners – should be fine to consume porn outside of that, usually privately, but if it becomes all you find yourself interested in, then this habit might just have slipped into compulsive territory.

4. A constant need to go further

Kinkiness is an interesting subject. We all have our little kinks, and it’s sometimes tricky to know how normal – or abnormal – these are. But a tell-tale sign that porn might be having a negative effect on your mental health is if you’re constantly feeling like you need to keep actively seeking more and more extreme, and unusual, content. If there’s material that a month ago was turning you on, and now you’re craving something that takes it on even further – and this is part of a pattern – then it also might be part of a problem…

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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Some drugs can cause unwanted sexual side effects in men

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You might assume that erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a normal problem that men face as they age. But because men (and women) take more medications as they age, the experts at Consumer Reports’ Best Buy Drugs report that side effects from those drugs are a little-known yet common cause of ED.

“Many medications can affect things like erectile dysfunction, desire and ejaculation in different ways and through different mechanisms of action,” says J. Dennis Fortenberry, former chair of the board of the American Sexual Health Association and the Donald Orr Professor of Adolescent Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Medications that can have these effects include high blood pressure drugs such as beta blockers, including atenolol (Tenormin), clonidine (Catapres), metoprolol (Lopressor) and methyldopa (Aldomet), and diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril).

Popular antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), duloxetine (Cymbalta), fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil) can cause sexual problems such as delayed ejaculation, reduced sexual desire in men and erectile dysfunction. Lesser-known drug types that can also cause such sexual problems include antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and antifungal drugs such as ketoconazole (Nizoral).

Surprisingly, heartburn drugs, including famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac) are known to reduce sexual desire in men. In addition, reduced desire and erectile dysfunction have been reported in men taking the powerful painkillers oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), muscle relaxers such as baclofen (Lioresal), and even over-the-counter ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

And perhaps not surprisingly, the more drugs a man takes, the greater his odds are of experiencing an issue. For example, in a 2012 study of men ages 45 to 69, those who took three to five drugs were 15 percent more likely to have erectile dysfunction than men taking two or fewer. Men who took six to nine drugs were 51 percent more likely to have erection problems.

What you can do

Before making any change to your medications, talk with your doctor, says David Shih, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and executive vice president of strategy on health and innovation at CityMD, a network of urgent care centers in the New York metro area and Seattle.

If appropriate, your physician can make changes such as “lowering the medication dose, switching to a new medication or a combination therapy of lower doses each,” notes Shih.

Your doctor may also suggest temporarily stopping a medication — often referred to as taking a “drug holiday” — before having sex, if that is possible.

If you’ve just started taking a new drug, sexual side effects may disappear as your body adjusts. But if after a few months they don’t, discuss it with your physician. He or she will want to rule out other conditions that could cause your sex drive to take a nose-dive.

“The prescribing physician will need to explore if these symptoms are from cardiovascular disease, depressive disorder, diabetes, neurological disease and other illnesses,” says Shih.

Even suffering from sleep apnea is known to affect sexual interest or response.

That’s why, if you experience ED, it’s important to get to your doctor’s office for a detailed discussion about what could be causing it.

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We Need To Talk About LGBTQ Students & Sex Ed

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By Kimberly Truong

It’s no secret that the state of sex education in America can be dire — so much so that when Refinery29 polled more than 500 of our staffers and readers about their sex ed, we found that nearly a third described their respective experiences as “terrible.”

But if sex ed already fails to be comprehensive in general, often neglecting subjects like consent and pleasure, imagine how unhelpful it can be for students who identify as LGBTQ.

In fact, according to a 2016 report from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), LGBTQ students are even less likely than their peers to find sex ed useful. In a survey of 1,367 students, almost half (46.5%) of LGBTQ students who received sex ed said they didn’t find it useful, while less than a third (29.9%) of their non-LGBTQ peers reported the same.

These results aren’t exactly surprising. For starters, a 2015 study from the Public Religion Research Institute found that a mere 12% of millennials reported that their sex education classes even discussed same-sex relationships in the first place. And, sadly, most of the dialogue around LGBTQ sex ed is about how terrible it can be. A cursory Google search for “LGBTQ sex ed” will bring up front-page results like “The Quest For Inclusive Sex Ed” and “LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education.” Not to mention, what we learn about virginity and safer sex often neglects to cover what those topics might entail for people who aren’t heterosexual. In fact, sex ed can fail to acknowledge that even what’s considered sex in the first place can differ depending on the person.

Discussing sexual orientation and LGBTQ issues in a positive way, however, is crucial to inclusive and useful sex ed that sets up students for safer, consensual sex lives (which is a pretty bare minimum goal). Noreen Giga, senior research associate for GLSEN, tells Refinery29 that even when LGBTQ issues are included in sex ed or other health discussions, they can be covered in a stigmatizing way, like “only talking about the LGBTQ community when talking about harmful behaviors” — for example, only discussing HIV/AIDS when it comes to transgender people and gay men.

“That’s just talking about the community in a negative way and not providing any positive information or representation around LGBTQ youth, especially when it pertains to healthy sexual behavior,” Giga says. “HIV can be an issue in the LGBTQ community, but that doesn’t mean that’s what health education should focus on — it needs to focus on preparing young people to engage in safer sex practices.”

It’s no wonder, then, that GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey found that less than 6% of LGBTQ middle and high school students in the U.S. learned about LGBTQ issues in a positive way during health classes. So where does that leave the remaining 94% of LGBTQ students? In an educational environment that either covers these issues in a negative way or completely ignores them. And that’s unacceptable.

“There are so many barriers when it comes to sex education overall that when you move down the line to thinking about comprehensiveness and inclusivity, it’s a huge challenge,” Giga says.

While it’s clear that educators have to make sure that sex education really prepares everyone — not just straight people — the rest of society needs to do our part and examine our own biases to help make that possible. Positive, comprehensive LGBTQ sex ed isn’t a straightforward issue that can be solved with any one solution. But in a world where parents can be outraged over children learning about different sexualities in school, and health teachers can be suspended for teaching students about gender identity, perhaps we can start by helping people better understand orientations and identities that are different from their own.

We may have a ways to go before sex education really addresses the issues it needs to in order to help us all lead healthier, more enjoyable lives, but we do have to start somewhere — even if that means having conversations that make us uncomfortable. (Need help? Our Gender Nation glossary is a great place to start.)

“We need to let go of this fear that you need to know all these answers [about sexual education], or this idea that young people need to feel shame when asking these questions [about sexual health],” Giga says. “Sexual health education is crucial, not only to students’ current well-being, but also the rest of their lives. It plays a part in having healthy relationships, learning to negotiate better health care, communicating with doctors, and even in how we think about gender roles.”

Bottom line: Everyone deserves education that helps them make healthy choices about their bodies and their relationships, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity happens to be

Complete Article HERE!

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