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5 common questions about vaginas answered

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A sexual health nurse reveals all

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

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

1. Is my vaginal normal?

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

2. What should my vagina smell like?

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

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

3. What should my vagina look like?

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

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

4. Is my discharge normal?

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

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

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

5. How do I keep my vagina clean?

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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

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“Sex is great, but safe sex is better

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

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

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

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

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

1. Chlamydia

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

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

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

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

How to treat it

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

2. Genital Warts

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

Treatment

Creams and freezing can get rid of them.

3. Genital Herpes

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

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

Treatment

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

4. Gonorrhoea

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

Like Chlamydia though, the symptoms are not always present.

Treatment

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

5. Pubic lice or ‘crabs’

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

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

Treatment

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

6. HIV

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

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

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

Treatment

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Bugs, Boners and BDSM: A Day in the Life of a Dominatrix

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Because quirks can be quirky.

By Andre Shakti

“We’ve got a live one, ladies!” Svetlana called out from the office. The scantily clad women seated around the kitchen table barely flinched.

Tuesdays were notoriously slow, with our phone lines typically dominated by time wasters. We called them “wankers,” the men who contacted us under the guise of arranging an appointment while having no intention of following through; simply calling up a domination house and confessing their fantasy to a live woman got them off. Sometimes all we could hear would be the wet slapping sound that accompanied them masturbating while they spoke to us; hence, “wankers.”

“Is it a wanker?” Lydia called back. She sat directly across from me at the table; Minna lounged to my right, and Cynthia leaned against my left side. We were an unusually small staff for an evening shift, but none of us minded. Fewer girls meant less competition

“No,” Svetlana replied, shuffling into the room wearing nothing but tattered SpongeBob SquarePants bedroom slippers. “Believe it or not, he put down a deposit. He’ll be here in an hour, and he’s not picky about appearance.” She maintained a quirky little smile as she delivered the information.

The three of us immediately perked up. If a client didn’t voice a preference for aesthetics, it evened the playing field. He could be anyone’s mark, although your skill level, number of years spent at the house, and relationship with the house manager all factored in.

“Please tell me he wants bondage,” Lydia purred. She was a whiz with rope, and a bombshell to boot. If the client had requested shibari, it’d be an easy match.

Svetlana’s grin stretched wider. “Oh, he wants bondage. But there’s a catch. You ladies know what an entomologist is?”

“Uh, is that an ENT? An ear, nose and throat doctor?” Minna guessed.

“Someone who studies insects,” I offered. As if on cue, Lydia and Minna pushed themselves violently away from the table in unison.

I’ve always gravitated toward creepy-crawlies. When most young girls my age were experimenting with makeup, I was scaling trees and pulling rat snakes out of neighbors’ birdhouses. Home videos of my childhood soccer games document me decked out in my goalie uniform, kneeling in the grass to trap a grasshopper as the ball whizzes by my head and my parents groan in disappointment

“Indeed!” Svetlana crowed. “The guy wants to book two girls. It’ll be a Snidely Whiplash gender-swap role play — you know, the cartoon villain that ties girls to train tracks? You girls will tie him down and torture him, except you’ll be torturing him with giant bugs.”

Lydia and Minna were already on their feet and backing away, their hands fluttering around their heads like moths around a light. Cynthia and I gazed up at Svetlana, barely able to contain our excitement.

The Divine Ms. Shakti.

Cynthia was the “evil genius” of the house. She went on to become one of the biggest fetish porn stars of the modern era; during one interview she disclosed — in earnest — that if she hadn’t found the sex industry, she’d probably be a serial killer. It almost goes without saying that she was my favorite co-worker.

Cynthia and I spent the next 45 minutes cleaning ourselves up and prepping one of the playrooms for the session. Before we knew it, the doorbell rang and we ushered a small, bespectacled older man — let’s call him Ned — into the session room. Ned was pale and slightly stooped, with a subdued manner that conveyed his reverence. This was not his first rodeo

We exchanged pleasantries and confirmed the requests he’d made over the phone. Ned proceeded to methodically unpack the cheap Styrofoam cooler he’d brought with him. Out came half a dozen small, identical Tupperware containers, each housing a different species of insect. First came the crickets, then the mealworms. The centipedes followed, as did the giant millipedes and hissing cockroaches. Finally, a pair of wolf spiders emerged to complete the collection.

With each unveiling, Cynthia and I cooed our mounting anticipation. I prematurely fondled one of the millipedes, allowing it to encircle my forearm as Cynthia stripped Ned nude. Together we tied him efficiently to the floor, stretched out on his back between a leather spanking bench and an elaborate canopied bondage bed. Once he was secured, we stepped back, surveying our work. Ned struggled pathetically. Cynthia’s eyes flashed, and I knew we’d transitioned seamlessly into our scene

“Do you hear that sound, Cynthia?” I tilted my head to the side. “It sounds almost like … a train!”

On cue, I pressed play on my phone, and the sound of a distant locomotive burst from the speakers. Ned squealed.

Cynthia leaped astride Ned, dangling a cricket an inch above his face. His eyes locked on the flailing insect as Cynthia traced his body with it, nose to toes, bathing in his fear. I took hold of my millipede and knelt beside the squirming Ned.

“Look how pathetic he is! I bet this millipede is even bigger than his cock,” I teased, moving the millipede to Ned’s lower abdomen to compare it to his flaccid penis.

“Let me go, please!” Ned screamed.

“Looks like you’re out of luck, Ned,” Cynthia mused, her face an unreadable mask. “The train’s coming around the corner. Sure you can’t get out of those restraints?”

Ned wrenched his hands and feet against the restraints, but remained stuck fast. Beads of sweat formed on a face that was getting redder by the second. I surreptitiously turned the volume up on my phone, simulating the train’s rapid approach.

“Any last words?” I said, locking eyes with Cynthia. As Ned opened his mouth for a final protest, we pried the lids off all the Tupperware containers and let every last insect rain down on his naked body.

Later that evening, I slid into the driver’s seat of my car and placed a small Tupperware container on my lap with care. Ned the millipede made an excellent pet.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Rethink Intimacy When ‘Regular’ Sex Hurts

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

By Breena Kerr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sex does not have to revolve around penetration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now it’s time figure out what feels good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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Yes, I use a wheelchair and I still have sex

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Comedienne Romina Puma dispels some of the most common misconceptions around disabilities

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Disability and sex are two words that, for some reason in our society, do not go together. Most people assume that if you’re disabled, sex is not part of your life. Many find it hard to believe that disabled people date, have relationships or even like to have one-night stands

I’m a comedian who has muscular dystrophy. I’m nearly 40 and, while dating can be difficult for everyone, if you’re disabled, it makes it even harder – trust me. I haven’t been disabled all my life though. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle wasting condition.

I am not your personal Wikipedia/Google, I have feelings.

My sex life before my diagnosis was good. I always seemed to have boyfriends on the go or be having fun with men. I’m not the most beautiful girl, but I know how to seduce a guy, which helps when you are not exactly a Victoria Secret type.

Before I became a full-time wheelchair user, I used to go out on crutches and it was still possible for me to hide the condition and get lucky. But all of a sudden, about three years ago, my condition got worse and I couldn’t walk anymore. Everything changed. Since I have been using a wheelchair, my dating experiences have become a lot less frequent.

Guys ask me all manner of questions – some I don’t mind, but others can take it a step too far. They all want to know…

“Can you have sex?”

This is a common misconception. Most people only think about sex in terms of penetration. How wrong they are. There are so many other ways to reach that goal by exploring each other’s bodies – the pleasure can be so much more. However, the answer is yes, I can and do have sex!

“Can you feel anything?”
Yes, I can! I understand that most people believe the equation: wheelchair user = paralysed = cannot feel anything. But this assumption is wrong, for at least two reasons. One is, if you see someone in a wheelchair, it does not necessarily mean that person is paralysed. Second, there are many bases to explore when having sex. It’s not only about penetration! And toys can also help.

Then we have the strange requests…

“Will you bring your wheelchair?”
No, I just use it for fun and because I’m lazy! Some time ago, I used a profile picture of me sitting sideways on my wheelchair for an online dating website. Aside from not having much luck, one guy asked me if the wheelchair was a prop. After that, I deleted my account. No point staying on that site anymore.

“How long do your batteries last?”
Longer than most men in the bedroom!

“If we have sex, will I get your disease / impairment?”<
Well, Muscular Dystrophy is genetic so no you can’t catch it.

It’s time to #EndTheAwkward

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about disability out there. I think it’s always best to ask a person about their impairment, as long as you aren’t being offensive. Most disabled people prefer to talk about it rather than let things be awkward. But it can be very hurtful when your dream guy asks you all those questions and then they disappear. I am not your personal Wikipedia/Google, I have feelings.

I am part of Scope’s #EndtheAwkward campaign which raises awareness about how awkward the nation is when it comes to disability. Most recently I contributed to the charity’s A to Z of sex and disability . Research by the charity revealed that the majority (67%) of Brits feel awkward around disabled people, and as a result they panic, or worse, they avoid contact altogether. They also discovered that only 5% of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out, or been on a date with, a disabled person. I really do hope campaigns like this will encourage people to see the person and not their impairment, and will help everyone feel less awkward around disabled people.

67% of Brits feel awkward around disabled people

It’s frustrating that most people cannot see passed my wheelchair. I have not changed. I am exactly the same person I was before I started using it. I just get tired way more than I did 10 years ago. In my stand-up shows as a comedienne, I try and change people’s perceptions on sex and disability as much as I can. I’m still waiting for someone in the audience to help me try all the positions in the Kama Sutra but can you believe it – I haven’t had any takers yet!

So I’ve now come up with a plan B – masturbation and sex toys. If guys don’t want me anymore what can I do? I still need to have sex. For me having sex is the best thing ever. It makes me feel better and more confident. Two years ago, I bought my first toy; a very basic rabbit. After that, I tried several other toys, until I finally found the right one for me. Believe me, so far I can easily survive without men. Better to be alone than with someone who does not appreciate me for who I am!

Complete Article HERE!

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