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Nienke Helder designs therapy tools for women recovering from sexual trauma

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Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Nienke Helder has created a set of sensory objects that can be used to rehabilitate women affected by sexual abuse.

Presented at this year’s Dutch Design Week, Sexual Healing is designed to help women who are suffering from trauma-induced sexual problems, such as pelvic muscle blockage.

According to the designer, current treatment available often focuses on a clinical perspective – putting too much emphasis on physical issues, rather than the psychological aspects of trauma.

From her own experience, Helder recognised the frustration this can cause, which prompted her to develop an alternative therapy which focuses more on the emotional aspects of sexual trauma.

“I was really frustrated with the way we treat these kinds of issues. In my opinion, the treatments that I got only made it worse,” she told Dezeen.

“It was totally taking me away from the sexual context; it became really clinical. It was so focused on this end goal of penetration that I totally lost all fun in my sexuality.”

The designer worked with medical experts and women in recovery to develop a set of five objects which invite users to discover their own sexual pleasure.

The objects encourage women to explore what feels good to them, which in turn, relieves fear and pain, and help them regain a sense of security about their bodies.

The first object is an ergonomically shaped mirror that lights up.

“Research shows that if you look at your own vulva, it increases your body positivity a lot. But if you have a trauma, it can really be confronting to look at your own body,” Helder said.

She made the mirror in such a way that it only shows exactly what you hold in front of it, allowing users to take their time and slowly start exploring their own bodies.

The second object is a brush made from horsehair, which is meant to help users become comfortable with being touched again. It also enables them to invite their partner to the healing process.

“If you have a trauma, it can be really difficult to talk about it. But by giving someone an object and making them part of the therapy, it opens a lot of doors for conversation,” Helder explains.

Two of the objects focus on biofeedback and are designed to help the user detect if they are feeling tense or stressed.

“Trauma creates certain reflexes in your body that comes from your subconscious mind,” the designer said. “To break that cycle, you need to rationally understand what is causing these processes in order to overcome them emotionally.”

One is a sensor that is meant to be placed on the abdomen. The device lights-up when the user’s breathing becomes tense, functioning as a signal to relax again.

A second is an object that measures the pressure in pelvic floor muscles. If the user tenses up, the device starts to vibrate, signalling the need to relax.

The final object is a kimono made of silk jersey, which emphasises the need to feel warm and relaxed in the bedroom.

“I made it because the bedroom is one of the coldest rooms in the house,” said the designer. “As I mentioned in my project video, it is important to keep your socks on when having sex because women could not have an orgasm when they have cold feet.”


 
Mental health is becoming an increasingly explored topic in design, particularly among graduates.

At last year’s Design Academy Eindhoven graduate show, designer Nicolette Bodewes presented a tactile toolkit designed to be used in psychotherapy sessions, while Yi-Fei Chen channelled her personal struggle with speaking her mind into a gun that fires her tears.

Helder’s Sexual Healing project was presented at this year’s Design Academy Eindhoven‘s graduate show as part of the annual Dutch Design Week event, which took place from 21 until 29 October 2017.

Complete Article HERE!

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Exploring the controversial fetish of race play

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Having spent a lot of my life writing about sex, and exploring all the millions of ways in which people have sex, I can say that very little has ever shocked me. 

One of the few things to ever leave me slightly open mouthed is the concept of race play.

For the uninitiated, race play is a subset of BDSM where the focus of the imbalance in the role play stems from the races of the people in question.

In practice this often presents as people of colour role playing as slaves, or people of Jewish heritage role playing as prisoners.

We did warn you this was controversial stuff.

But it’s also popular. On the kinky dating site and forum Fetlife, the fetish has hundreds of groups dedicated to it and thousands of users who openly subscribe to being a fan.

Yet even in the fetish scene, where most things are fair game, race play is controversial.

Sophia*, 34, told Metro.co.uk that she felt ostracized on the fetish scene: ‘I have friends who are open about doing rape play or age play, but race play is a hard limit.

‘I feel like I’m not even allowed to talk about it, like it’s somehow this line we’re not allowed to cross. As a Jewish woman, I do feel ashamed of the types of role play I enjoy, but I can’t help it. It’s something that is deeply ingrained in me.’

Race play is a complicated and confusing area. The idea that someone might reenact genuine traumas that their ancestors experienced, but for sexual gratification, is a confusing one to anyone who isn’t that way inclined.

My stance on sex and sexuality is always, and will always be, that what you do in your bedroom is no one’s business but your own. As long as it’s consensual, why would anyone need to have any kind of opinion on your sexual fantasies?

In my experience, BDSM can be a way of working out some issues. Having been called bossy, argumentative and controlling for my entire life (thanks for that, society!) I found that being sexually submissive helped to soothe the concern that maybe I was all of those things.

I talked to Master Dominic, a professional dominant and sexual education expert about this complicated but compelling area of fetish, specifically why people enjoy it.

‘It’s always hard to definitively explain why people are into something specific,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Everyone has their own spin on it.’

‘The taboo nature of it is certainly a big aspect, but that can come from a few different places. It can be a relatively simple “pushing the envelope is sexy” sort of thing, or it can come from a place of internalised racism.

‘The latter takes much more consideration, empathy and communication to navigate.

Master Dominic echoed my own sentiment – that sex and fetishes can be used to explore ingrained issues. He explained:

‘People turn to sex and fetish to process and own something traumatic or troubling, and whilst I absolutely think that you are completely within their rights to do so, you do need to try to dissect it a little so there’s an understanding of the context and the need.’

What Master Dominic hits on here is something to be aware of when dealing with more niche fetishes. Those that make us uncomfortable, or that feel out of kilter with an otherwise politically correct outlook on life, can be the hardest to navigate.

‘It can be tough, for sure, especially when one of you is not part of an ethnic minority’ says Dominic.

‘It’s been one of the toughest learning curves in my career, as a middle class white man, to understand.

‘So yes, it is part of the BDSM spectrum in a lot of ways and it shouldn’t be gasped at or judged. Nobody should be policing how anybody else relates to and expresses their race, heritage, gender identity, or sexuality. It’s theirs to own and express as they wish.’

Negotiating race play from the side of the person of colour is fraught enough, but what happens if you’re a white person who has a race fetish? Is it okay to find it arousing? Or is it just your racism adopting a different guise?

Therapist Sarah Berry, who specialises in sex and sexuality explains: ‘We all have different preferences of what we find arousing and may well be more judgmental than political correctness dictates, for example hair colour, height, weight, salary.

‘If someone only goes for a certain race it could be part of this. Or it could be that someone has ideas based around stereotypes or that person being perceived as more “exotic”. If someone is having a hook-up or relationship and is finding it hard to have these stereotypes challenged then this could be troubling.

‘I think, as with many things, it is nuanced and complicated – certainly not a black and white issue.

‘It’s important, if you do exhibit this tendency, to be challenged or to see that race isn’t the only defining factor of the rounded human that they are with. If someone wanted to exert power over someone else that they do not respect because of their race or any other reasons then this is not healthy.

‘Likewise if someone felt they needed to punished for race or other reasons by someone they perceive as superior then this is also not healthy.’

No kinky person wants to refuse their sexual desires on the basis of politically correctness, but no decent person wants their partner to feel fetishised for their race.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Shaming of Sexuality: America’s Real Sex Scandal

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In early September, the Twitter account of Texas Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz “liked” a post containing explicit pornographic video content. Once noticed by other Twitter users, the news shot around social media; many were both shocked and amused by the public slip-up by the typically straight-laced Senator. For his part, Cruz blamed the error on a staffer, denying that he was the one who had liked the post.

Whether you believe this explanation or not, the idea of Cruz publicly revealing a pornography habit and preference is simultaneously absurd and infuriating. Both of these reactions are a result of Cruz’s staunchly conservative views on sex and sexuality. In 2007 as Texas solicitor general, he defended a law banning the sale of sex toys in the state, arguing that no right existed “to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” Though he did not personally fight to preserve Texas’ anti-sodomy laws in 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, his negative attitudes towards LGBTQ+ causes are well-established: He called the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in favor of marriage equality “fundamentally illegitimate” and supported North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” referring to transgender women as “men” in the process. When pressed in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on the Texas sex toy law, Cruz backtracked on his previous position, calling the sex toy law “idiotic” and “a stupid law” before adding, “consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms.” If Cruz truly feels that way, then his past attempts at legislation appear either opportunistic or self-contradicting.

Cruz is far from alone among politicians who have contributed to legislation and rhetoric against private consensual sexual practices. As stated above, it took until 2003 for the Supreme Court to strike down anti-sodomy laws, and, as of 2014, a dozen states still technically had those laws on their books. (In fact, several states have actually been stricter against sodomy than bestiality – including Texas, which has had an anti-sodomy law on the books since 1974 but only made bestiality a crime in 2017.) The sale of sex toys is currently punishable in Alabama by a fine of up to $10,000 and a full year in jail, and last year a US appeals court upheld a similar law in Georgia. Also last year, Utah Governor Gary Herbert declared pornography and pornography addiction a “public health crisis” via a signed resolution, continuing a long trend of political attempts to push back against pornography.

What is most interesting about these types of consensual sex-related laws and attitudes in the United States is that support for them seems to be in direct conflict with the amount of people who participate in said sex acts. Utah residents, for example, actually buy more internet porn per person than those of any other state according to a 2009 study (though it’s a solidly red and majority Mormon state). Only 29 percent of Americans consider watching porn “morally acceptable,” and only 39 percent would “oppose legal restrictions on pornography.” However, between 75 and 80 percent of Americans age 18 to 30 report watching porn at least once a month, and a 2015 Marie Clare study of people 18 and older found that 92 percent of respondents watch porn at least a few times a year, and 41 percent at least every week. Statistically, then, a good number of those who find porn “morally unacceptable” and wouldn’t necessarily fight against anti-porn laws watch porn themselves. In the same vein, there are a number of famous cases of politicians and activists with anti-LGBTQ+ standpoints later being revealed as LGBTQ+ themselves.

So why the hypocrisy? Why do a considerable number of Americans support legislation and rhetoric against sex acts they themselves enjoy? The answer lies squarely on the shoulders of the country’s odd relationship with sex and the public discussion of it. In the US, hyper-sexualization is not simply tolerated but rampant. Everything from M&M’s to sparkling water seems to ascribe to the idea that “sex sells,” their sexed-up ads running on television in plain sight. But once a certain fairly arbitrary line is crossed, the conversation is seen as “too explicit” and gets tucked away in the corner. This creates an environment where pornography, masturbation, sex toy use, and homosexuality are seen as shameful, leading to the statistical discrepancies laid out above. Indeed, in that same Marie Claire poll, 41 percent of respondents said they “don’t want anyone to know about” their porn watching and another 20 percent feel “embarrassed” and “ashamed afterward.”

The don’t-ask-don’t-tell culture around sex in the United States makes it is quite possible that support for sex-based legislation comes more from perceived societal pressure than from personal concern about the issues at hand. In other words, there are potentially more people who support restricting pornography or the sale of sex toys simply because they feel that others expect them to, even if they personally use pornography or sex toys, than there are people who don’t participate and find said actions immoral enough to be worthy of legislative restriction.

American public and social discourse about sex is an unruly, multi-faceted mess, and not one that can be untangled in a day. But if attitudes around sex were to thaw, and people were free to talk more openly about their habits, the stigma and taboos surrounding certain aspects of sexuality – many of which are overwhelmingly common and actually healthy – could be eliminated. This change could come from the top down, with politicians and medical professionals emphasizing the need for healthy sex discourse, or, more likely, from an effort by the populace (which may already be underway) to tear away the curtains. New sex education programs – which are far easier to talk about than actually implement – could put more emphasis on the healthy aspects of sex and sexuality. Celebrities could also speak out, using their platforms to acknowledge the realities of human sexuality. If all this were to happen, eventually laws could be pulled back, and politicians could potentially stop feeling pressure to espouse hypocritical views on sexuality. Maybe then Ted Cruz could truly act on his belief that “consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Does Smoking Pot Lead To More Sex?

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In every group the researchers studied, the more marijuana people smoked the more sex they reported having.

By Angus Chen

Tobacco companies put a lot of effort into giving cigarettes sex appeal, but the more sensual smoke might actually belong to marijuana.

Some users have said pot is a natural aphrodisiac, despite scientific literature turning up mixed results on the subject.

At the very least, a study published Friday in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that people who smoke more weed are having more sex than those who smoke less or abstain. But whether it’s cause or effect isn’t clear.

The researchers pulled together data from roughly 50,000 people who participated in an annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey during various years between 2002 and 2015. “We reported how often they smoke — monthly, weekly or daily — and how many times they’ve had sex in the last month,” says Dr. Michael Eisenberg, a urologist at Stanford University Medical Center and the senior author on the study. “What we found was compared to never-users, those who reported daily use had about 20 percent more sex. So over the course of a year, they’re having sex maybe 20 more times.”

Women who consumed marijuana daily had sex 7.1 times a month, on average; for men, it was 6.9 times. Women who didn’t use marijuana at all had sex 6 times a month, on average, while men who didn’t use marijuana had sex an average of 5.6 times a month.

When the researchers considered other potentially confounding factors, such as alcohol or cocaine use, age, religion or having children, the association between more marijuana and more sex held, Eisenberg says. “It was pretty much every group we studied, this pattern persisted,” he says. The more marijuana people smoked, the more they seemed to be having sex.

Now, that association doesn’t necessarily mean the weed is responsible for the heightened sex drive, says Mitch Earleywine, a psychologist at the University at Albany who has studied cannabis and sex but wasn’t involved in this work. “In some surveys, we saw that people [who used cannabis] did have sex more, but it seemed to be mediated by this personality type that’s willing to try new things or look for thrills,” he says. In other words, it seems that people who like to smoke weed may have other character traits that lead them to be lustier.

Or maybe it really is the weed. “It’s possible it makes men or women more interested in sex,” Eisenberg says. In one study, researchers found they were able to induce sexual behavior by injecting a cannabinoid, the class of psychoactive compounds in marijuana, into rats. But people aren’t rats, of course.

Another study published in 2012 found that women became more aroused when watching erotic films when they had cannabinoids in their system. But that might just be because weed seems to heighten sensory experiences overall. “It gets people to appreciate the moment more anyway,” psychologist Earleywine says. “They like food more, find humor in things more easily, so it wouldn’t be stunning to think they would enjoy sex more.”

Whatever the connection, Eisenberg says his results leads him to think that pot, unlike tobacco which can depress libido and performance, isn’t going to take the steam out of one’s sex drive. “One question my patients always have is will smoking marijuana frequently negatively impact my sexual function?” Eisenberg says. “We don’t want people to smoke to improve sexual function, but it probably doesn’t hurt things.”

Not everyone agrees with that conclusion. “It’s a lot of stretch here,” says Dr. Rany Shamloul, a researcher at Ottawa Hospital in Canada who focuses on sexual health and function. He didn’t work on the latest study. In an odd Catch-22, Shamloul says that recent research suggests cannabis might actually make it harder for a man’s penis to become erect, even if weed might turn people on. “Recent studies have shown cannabinoid receptors in the penis itself, and experiments in the lab show an inhibitory response,” he says. “There was basically a mixed result. Cannabis might increase [sexual arousal] frequency in the brain, but also decrease erectile function in the penis.”

There is another issue that may throw cold water on cannabis’ potential as a love enabler. A frequent side effect of marijuana is a dry mouth, and University at Albany’s Earleywine points out that one’s mouth might not be the only thing turning arid. “Drying of the mucus membranes is a pretty consistent effect of the plant. Women should keep that in mind when considering cannabis as a sexual aid. I know that some products have THC or cannabinoids in a lubricant, but I haven’t seen any actual data on that,” he says.

Stanford’s Eisenberg says his study doesn’t prove the idea that marijuana is getting people into the sack, though he says that is a possibility. There’s really only one conclusion he can safely draw from the work: Cannabis users are doing it more.

Complete Article HERE!

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A Very Sexy Beginner’s Guide to BDSM Words

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Me talk dirty one day.

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The vocabulary of BDSM can be intimidating to newcomers (newcummers, heh heh). What is your domme talking about when she tells you to to stop topping from the bottom and take off your Zentai suit for some CBT? What, while we’re at it, is a domme? So, let’s start with the basics: “BDSM” stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism, the core pillars of kinky fun. Beyond that, there’s a whole language to describe the consensual power exchange practices that take place under the BDSM umbrella. At press time there’s still no “kink” on Duolingo, so here’s a handy glossary of some of the most common BDSM terms, from A to Z.

A is for Aftercare
Aftercare is the practice of checking in with one another after a scene (or “play session,” a.k.a., the time in which the BDSM happens) to make sure all parties feel nice and chill about what just went down. The dominant partner may bring the submissive ice for any bruises, but it’s important to know that aftercare involves emotional care as well as physical. BDSM releases endorphins, which can lead to both dominants and submissives experiencing a “drop.” Aftercare can help prevent that. There’s often cuddling and always conversation; kinksters need love too.

B is for Bondage
Bondage is the act of tying one another up. In most cases the dominant partner is restraining the submissive using ropes, handcuffs, Velcro, specialty hooks, clasps, or simply a belt if you’re on a budget.

C is for CBT (Cock and Ball Torture)
In BDSM, CBT does not refer to cognitive behavioral therapy, it refers to “cock and ball torture,” which is exactly what it sounds like: The dominant will bind, whip, or use their high-ass heels to step on their submissive’s cock and balls to consensually torture them.

D is for D/S
D/S refers to dominance and submission, the crux of a BDSM relationship. While kinky people can be on a spectrum (see: “Switch”), typically you’re either dominant or submissive. If you take away one fact from this guide, it should be that even though the dominant partner in D/S relationship may be slapping, name-calling, and spitting on the submissive, BDSM and D/S relationships are all about erotic power exchange, not one person having power over another. The submissive gets to set their boundaries, and everything is pre-negotiated. The submissive likes getting slapped (see also: “Painslut”).

E is for Edgeplay
Edgeplay refers to the risky shit—the more taboo (or baddest bitch, depending on who you’re talking to) end of the spectrum of BDSM activities. Everyone’s definition of edgeplay is a little different, but blood or knife play is a good example. If there’s actually a chance of real physical harm, it’s likely edgeplay. Only get bloody with a partner who knows what they’re doing without a doubt and has been tested for STIs. You don’t have to get maimed to enjoy BDSM.

F is for Fisting
Fisting is when someone sticks their entire fist inside a vagina (or butthole). Yes, it feels good, and no, it won’t “ruin” anything but your desire for vanilla sex. Use lube.

G is for Golden Showers
A golden shower is when you lovingly shower your partner with your piss. It’s high time for the BDSM community reclaimed this word back from Donald Trump, who, may I remind you, allegedly paid sex workers to pee on a bed that Obama slept in out of spite. This is not the same thing as a golden shower. Kink is for smart people.

H is for Hard Limits
Hard limits are sexual acts that are off-limits. Everyone has their own, and you have to discuss these boundaries before any BDSM play. Use it in a sentence: “Please do not pee on me; golden showers are one of my hard limits.”

I is for Impact Play
Impact play refers to any impact on the body, such as spanking, caning, flogging, slapping, etc.

J is for Japanese Bondage
The most well-known type of Japanese bondage is Shibari, in which one partner ties up the other in beautiful and intricate patterns using rope. It’s a method of restraint, but also an art form.

K is for Knife Play
Knife play is, well, knife sex. It’s considered a form of edgeplay (our parents told us not to play with knives for a reason.) If you do play with knives, do it with someone who truly respects you and whom you trust. Often knife play doesn’t actually involve drawing blood, but is done more for the psychological thrill, such as gliding a knife along a partner’s body to induce an adrenaline rush. Call me a prude, but I wouldn’t advise it on a first Tinder date.

L is for Leather
The BDSM community enjoys leather as much as you’d expect. Leather shorts, leather paddles, and leather corsets are popular, although increasingly kinky retailers provide vegan options for their animal-loving geeks.

M is for Masochist
A masochist is someone who gets off on receiving sexual pain.

N is for Needle Play
Also a form of edgeplay (blood!), needle play means using needles on a partner. Hopefully those needles are sterile and surgical grade. Don’t do this with an idiot, please. Most professional dommes have clients who request or are into needle play. It can involve sticking a needle (temporarily) through an erogenous zone such as the nipple or… BACK AWAY NOW IF YOU’RE QUEASY… the shaft of the penis.

O is for Orgasm Denial
You know how sexual anticipation is hot AF? Orgasm denial is next-level sexual anticipation for those who love a throbbing clit or a boner that’s been hard forever just dying to get off—which is to say, almost everyone. The dominant partner will typically bring the submissive close or to the brink of orgasm, then stop. Repeat as necessary.

P is for Painslut
A painslut is a dope-ass submissive who knows what they want, and that’s pain, dammit.

Q is for Queening
Queening is when a woman, a.k.a. the queen you must worship, sits on your face. It’s just a glam name for face-sitting, often used in D/S play. Sometimes the queen will sit on her submissive’s face for like, hours.

R is for RACK
RACK stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink, which are the BDSM community guidelines on how to make sure everyone is aware of the dangers they consent to. Another set of guidelines are the “SSC,” which stresses keeping activities “safe, sane, and consensual.” We kinksters want everyone to feel happy and fulfilled, and only experience pain that they desire—without actual harm.

S is for Switch
A switch is someone who enjoys both the dominant and submissive role. Get thee a girl who can do both.

T is for Topping From The Bottom
Topping from the bottom refers to when a bottom (sub) gets bratty and tries to control the scene even though negotiations state they should submit. For example, a submissive male may start yelping at his domme that she’s not making him smell her feet exactly like he wants. It can be pretty annoying. It can also be part of the scene itself, such as if the submissive is roleplaying as a little girl with her daddy (this is called “age play”).

U is for Urination
Urinating means peeing (duh) and aside from pissing on a submissive’s face or in their mouth you can do other cool and consensual things with urine, like fill up an enema and inject it up someone’s butt! I am not a medical doctor.

V is for Vanilla
Vanilla refers to someone (or sex) that is not kinky. It’s okay if you’re vanilla. You’re normal and can still find meaningful love and relationships no matter how much society judges you.

W is for Wartenberg Wheel
A Wartenberg Wheel is a nifty little metal pinwheel that you can run over your partner’s nipples or other erogenous zones. It looks scary, but in a fun way, like the Addams Family. It can be used as part of medical play (doctor fetish) or just for the hell of it. Fun fact: It’s a real-life medical device created by neurologist Robert Wartenberg to test nerve reactions, but kinksters figured out it was good for the sex, too.

Y is for Yes!
BDSM is all about enthusiastic consent. The dominant partner won’t step on their submissive’s head and then shove it into a toilet without a big ole’ “yes, please!”

Z is for Zentai
Zentai is a skintight Japanese body suit typically made of spandex and nylon. It can cover the entire body, including the face. Dance teams or athletes may wear Zentai, but some people get off on the sensation of having their entire body bound in tight fabric, and wear it for kinky reasons.

Complete Article HERE!

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