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Financial Domination: Inside the Erotic Fetish That Controls Men’s Wallets

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A financial dominatrix rarely takes off her clothes or engages in sex. But she might have to talk a lot of shit about a client’s FICO score or let him listen in while she splurges at Saks with his cash.

 

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The first time Ceara Lynch dipped a toe in the world of sex work, she was 17 and a long way from home. A high school student who had grown up in the Portland, Oregon, area, Lynch was doing a semester abroad as an exchange student in Japan. She didn’t know the language, or anyone who spoke English. She was bored and lonely. So she did what people do now when faced with social isolation: connected with friends, and strangers, online.

“This one guy started randomly talking to me after he saw my profile on some site,” Lynch remembers. Though it wasn’t an adult platform, she explains: “To be straightforward: He was a big pervert.”

This stranger on the Internet had a host of fetishes—golden showers, pantyhose, you name it—stuff that seemed shocking at the time, though Lynch wouldn’t blink twice about anymore. He wanted to meet up; she said absolutely not. “I was young, but I wasn’t stupid,” she points out with a laugh.

When the man finally accepted that there would be no IRL meet-up, he asked her if she’d do something else: let him buy a bottle of her urine. At first she thought no way. But the more that Lynch considered the offer, the more she felt like, “What did I have to lose?” She packed up her pee and sent it away to the address he provided. Two weeks later an envelope arrived in the mail—containing $250 cash. That’s when she recognized a potential business opportunity. “I thought: If guys like this found me by accident, what would happen if I went looking for them?”

Lynch started selling her used underwear, among other things, online through an auction site that is best described at eBay but for fetishes. Guys would bid for her garbage, her used tampons, excrement, “all this wild stuff,” she recalls. But when she started to get messages from men begging to be her “money slave” she had to do some research to figure out what they meant. Eventually she stumbled on the kink she was looking for: financial domination. That was 10 years ago. And it’s how she’s been making her living ever since.

At its most basic level, financial domination is pretty much what it sounds like: domination whereby, instead of a bondage or ball gag, money is the means of (consensual) abuse. When you scratch below the surface though, that’s where it gets a little tougher to understand—as Lynch explains it, all BDSM is an exchange of power, and financial domination isn’t any different, but it’s not a kink most people understand unless they’re into it.

A financial dominatrix might be paid by her submissive to talk shit about his FICO score or tell him she’s going to spend all his money, even if she never actually has access to his accounts. Or maybe she has his credit card numbers and he gets off on the fear that one day she’ll decide to max it out; in other cases, he might send her, via Venmo or another money-sharing app, a certain amount of cash and want to listen in while she’s shopping so he knows how she’s spending it. The whole point is that the submissive gets off on the idea of losing power over his money—it’s his form of waiting for the bullwhip to crack.

FinDom for short, the fetish falls under the BDSM umbrella, can take on a variety of forms, and is admittedly fairly niche; it also goes by other names, like financial slavery. A financial dominatrix rarely—if ever—takes off her clothes or has sex with a client. According to Lynch, the fact that she doesn’t is an integral part of her brand.

“I don’t get naked in my videos. That’s kind of important for my image actually. If I were to do that, I would certainly gain another audience,” she says. “But I would lose a lot of them too, because the whole idea is that my submissives aren’t worthy of seeing me naked. Also I just don’t want to.”

FinDoms—who are typically women, though not always—might be called money mistresses, while submissives are referred to as cash cows, money slaves, or pay pigs, among other epithets. Unlike a sugar baby, a woman who has an emotional or sexual relationship with her client in exchange for cash, she’s demanding and assertive, not supplicant or sweet. But though the specifics of a relationship dynamic might vary, in a culture that equates money with power, and sex with power, financial domination can sound, at least in theory, like the ultimate aphrodisiac to some.

While financial domination is better known than it used to be, it remains a highly niche fetish that sex researchers don’t know much about, much like BDSM itself. Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., is an award-winning sex researcher and psychology professor whose book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life hits shelves this summer, explains that the lack of qualitative and quantitative data on this sexual proclivity has much to do with the fact that we literally haven’t been asking people about it. Questions about FinDom have yet to appear on national sex surveys, which also means that we have little way of knowing if it’s more or less popular now than it used to be.

At least one thing is clear, though. “The Internet has allowed people with interest in BDSM to find a like-minded community.” That’s the medium through which most FinDoms work, whether via chat, video, pay-per-minute calls, and “ignore lines,” which are exactly what they sound like: a line that a sub calls into with the express purpose of paying for the pleasure of being ignored.

If you think it sounds easy, Lynch wants to correct the record: “You see a lot of girls try and get into it by just setting up a Twitter account. But if you’re going hunting for these guys, you’re just not going to find them.”

In a way, a successful financial dominatrix is just like any other online influencer. It’s all about building a brand, creating content, and connecting with followers in a way that brings them back for more. “Offering webcam, making videos, having an Instagram and Twitter presence”—in other words, diversifying revenue streams so that you’re widening your reach and depending less on one-on-one interactions. Maybe you also dabble in foot fetish or humiliation (Lynch also refers to herself as a humiliatrix). “If you keep doing that, and putting it out there, every once in a while, you’ll catch what I like to call a white whale,” she says, “one of those guys who surfaces, gives you a ton of money and then disappears.”

Speaking of money, by now you’re probably wondering what a financial dominatrix actually commands for her services. That answer depends on a range of variables. But Lynch breaks it down by the things she actually sells. “My webcam rate is $10 per minute, and my prerecorded videos, which usually run about 10 minutes, are around $10. If I guy wants a custom video, those start at $250 or so, and scale up depending on how elaborate their idea is. Then I have my phone lines: Talking to me is $5 per minute. With the ignore line, the guy just calls me and then I put the phone down, and I get paid for as long as he stays on the line.”

Other FinDoms Glamour spoke to for this story said they wouldn’t get on the phone for less than $50, and that their financial domination “side hustle” might yield $30,000 a year. Lynch is less inclined to share an exact figure, but it’s worth mentioning that, when we spoke, she was in the midst of a three-month trip through Asia, and that this duration of travel is a pretty normal part of her lifestyle. “I make six figures, I’ll say that,” she says. She’s used the money to buy a few investment properties, and has been an incorporated business for 10 years.

Another FinDom Glamour emailed with shared that, over the past 19 years, her financial domination business has afforded her the kind of lifestyle where she could be available and present for her four kids every day. When we connected, she was currently taking her youngest on a class trip to Disney World before heading back to work after the vacation.

Of course, on top of the rates and attention for pay, there’s also another financial element: spending sub’s money. Tatiana, a 30-year-old West Coast-based financial dominatrix, relayed an exchange with a client who transferred $450 into her Venmo account—under the condition that she go shopping and let him listen into how he spent her money.

The phone stayed in her purse, from which she could hear him loudly protesting the conversations about specific items she was having with the salespeople—the resistance, and the sub’s inability to do anything about it, is part of the kink. When she pouted about the fact that he hadn’t sent her enough to buy a pair Louboutin booties, he eventually wound up sending her an extra $200. “I viewed it as a tip,” she says.

Lynch recalled a time that a sub wanted to be “tag-teamed” by herself and another FinDom: He paid for an hour of their cam time each, set up his credit card information with Saks Fifth Avenue sites, and requested that they tell him what they were buying as they shopped the site. “I think we ended up spending something like $10,000 between us just in that hour,” she says.

But it’s not all shopping sprees and big spenders. “The thing about this fetish is that you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of money to have it,” she says. “You might just get off on the idea of it.”

“For instance, I had a guy one time call me on my talk line, just for a quick chat. He wanted me to tell him how rich I am, how I want all his money, how greedy I am. Then, at the end, he hung up and paid me maybe $10.”

Another thing about being a financial dominatrix versus a real-life dungeon master is that it removes the element—and some of the potential danger—of working in the BDSM world. Because doms and subs tend not to exchange real identifying information, it allows for more anonymity (for example, Ceara Lynch is not Ceara Lynch’s real name), and the fact that interactions largely happen online on or the phone adds a protective layer into the practice.

Over the last decade Lynch can recall being doxxed only once, and when she reported it to police, they basically told her there was no recourse. In the end, she decided the best way to deal with it was to ignore it, and eventually the guy just faded away. “Unfortunately, if someone really wanted to find a lot of personal information about me, they could. There’s only so much I can do about it. It’s just kind of a risk I’m willing to take.”

Subs are obviously going out on a limb too. Sydney Lee, a dominatrix whose YouTube channel AstroDomina is devoted to explaining kinks of all kinds to the layman viewer, describes how her pay pigs getting aroused by the idea that she could financially ruin them at any moment.

“It’s a deep mental fetish, and it definitely takes more than a random pretty girl saying, ‘Give me money,’” she says in a video devoted to FinDom. That comment echoed an observation Lynch made about supply and demand—and why it’s harder to be a successful financial dominatrix than it might seem. Which makes sense, given that capitulation to the dom is part of the kink.

“One thing about financial domination is that there’s this element of humiliation that goes along with it,” explains Lehmiller. “What we know now from a lot of research is that physical pain and psychological pain activate the same areas of the brain and have similar effects. One of those effects makes us focus more on the here and now, allowing us to experience other things more intensely—for example, if you experience pain and then have sexual stimulation afterward, it might feel more intense.” In the case of financial domination, it’s not hard to see how chasing intensity might put a submissive on the road to financial ruin. It’s the kind of costly thrill you don’t want to be addicted to unless you can afford it.

Lee, of AstroDomina, positioned it in her FinDom video like this: “Handing over money is the ultimate representation of surrender or submission for most money slaves.” And with all the ways to connect and spend money these days, it’s never been easier for subs to find their financial doms or make deposits into their accounts.

Lynch has watched the landscape change a lot over the years. “When I first started, there were about five girls doing this,” she says. “But now there’s this huge influx of girls trying to do it because it seems easy. Once, one of my slaves gave me his log-in to Twitter and I went through his DMs—there were all these women trying to hustle him, like, ‘Hey bitch, pay me.’ I’ve had the luxury of time to build my brand, and I don’t mean to talk shit; however girls make it work, they make it work. But I thought it was fascinating because I have never sent a message to a guy first. They come to me.”

She used to think she would be out of the business by now, and, in a way, she’s a little surprised at how in-demand she continues to be.

“In the adult industry youth and beauty are your main currency—I imagined that mine would be up by now. But I make more and more money every year. It’s really confusing and unexpected. I always told myself I would keep doing it until it makes sense not to. I have my bachelor’s, but it’s not a very useful bachelor’s, so I’ve thought about going back to school one day.”

But even though she know she has plenty of options on the table, Lynch says, at this point, it doesn’t make sense to set FinDom aside—she just doesn’t have a reason to. “I make a lot of money. I travel. I have a really cool life right now. My focus is to make as much money as I can for the future, put it into real estate and other investments. Once the reason to stop arrives, I just want to have a good nest egg to explore the rest of my life.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What it’s like to work at a foot fetish party

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‘I haven’t eaten tonight – well I have, but I haven’t digested anything!’

I’m talking to Clive*, a TEFL teacher in his 30s who does a funny little laugh at this point.

The joke is that Clive has spent the evening ‘eating’ women’s feet, at an event where men with a foot fetish can taste the toes of multiple women in one night.

‘I’ve had a few foot sessions with escorts,’ says Clive, ‘but these parties are much more fun.’

At the event undercover, I’m standing with Clive at the nibbles counter, where there’s a strong smell of cheesy Doritos, only I’m not sure it’s coming from the crisps.

On sofas all over the room, men are ‘worshipping’ the feet of women who call themselves ‘femdoms’ and ‘foot goddesses.’ Having paid up to £70 to attend the party, the men then pay £20 for every ten minutes they spend kissing, licking and sucking the feet of the ‘foot models.’

It’s not just the sofas that are in demand – the floor is scattered with men being trampled, a practice that consists of standing on a man’s body – and sometimes his face.

I’m initiated into trampling by Brian, one of the two foot fetishists who run the party. Brian, who’s in his late 40s, works in IT. He spends most of the five hour event lying on his back, by the wall, while women stand on his face. When I see him at the end of the night, his hair is matted to the back of his head.

‘No need to stand on my chest first, you can stand straight onto my face,’ says Brian, with scant regard for his eye sockets. I don’t want to shatter Brian’s cheekbones, but I’ve been warned not to show hesitation.

‘Do it without a shred of concern for his safety,’ say the Model Rules and Guidelines I’ve been sent before the party. ‘They enjoy the idea of a sexy girl using them as a rug,’ the rules explain, and so, ‘your being scared of hurting him simply kills the fantasy.’

Taking this on board, I stand on Brian’s face and miraculously it doesn’t crumble. Every couple of minutes, he taps my ankle. This is my cue to step off, so he can turn his head, alternating between left, right and centre.

‘You don’t need to move about,’ says Brian, before my feet obstruct his mouth. ‘Just stand there…’

Unaware that I’m a journalist, Brian’s co-conspirator Tom recruited me for the party via emails and an interview in a Battersea pub. Tom, who’s in his early 30s, tells me there’s a lot of competition to be a foot model at the monthly parties: ‘All the girls want to do it again – it’s a way to make good money without actually having sex.’

Despite Tom’s persistence, I dodge going to his flat for the ‘second part of the interview’ and so he insists on conducting it at the start of the party, if I’m to be allowed to stay.

Swooping in as soon as he spots me, Tom (who’s made several references to having a girlfriend) leads me to a private room, and sucks my feet while maintaining eye contact the entire time.

Later that night I talk to a guy who says he’s heard Tom and Brian personally road-test newbie foot models. I confirm this is true, and he says (as if they’ve hit the jackpot): ‘of course they do! Perk of the job isn’t it!’

The night’s theme is Playboy Bunnies, but getting ready in the locker room at the start of the night, not all the foot models are putting on bunny ears and bowties.

‘I’m just wearing a jumper,’ says one. ‘The guys don’t care what you wear. They only care about your feet.’

One woman shaves her legs in the sink, while another asks for help applying fake tan to her back. Foot models who’ve done it before tell me it’s easy money and several women say they’ve done it for years, supplementing incomes as cam models and dominatrixes.

A woman wearing footless fishnet tights and a leotard says some guys and goddesses haven’t been allowed back after they were caught having sex in the private rooms. The guys had apparently handed out coke to make the models livelier. Now the doors to the private rooms must be kept half open.

Held in the city, at a venue that’s a yoga studio by day and swingers’ club by night, each private room contains a wipe-down ‘bed’, odourless foot spray, and a roll of kitchen towel. Fetishists who want to worship privately pay an extra £20 for the use of a room but the party’s code of conduct still applies: ‘Don’t trample his groin, no matter how much he might want you to. It’s not allowed.’

I spend ten minutes in a private room with Ali, a dentist from Woking who’s in his late forties. Looking at my shoes, he says, ‘will you leave them on for a bit?’ Then he sniffs them and whimpers, as if he’s a kitten and my shoes are drenched in catnip.

Finally Ali removes my shoes from my feet, and deeply inhales the inner soles. At this point, he makes a funny face, as if he’s cum in his pants.

Back in the main room I meet Jay, an investment banker with a well-groomed beard and a Barbour-style gilet. In his early 30s, he sits on the sofa and hits himself in the face with the sole of my foot, saying: ‘I’m a dirty boy! I’m dirty!’

Then he covers his face with my feet in the way a child might cover their face with their hands, when they’re being told off. Afterwards he pays me from a wallet full of fifties.

Lee, who’s in his mid-thirties, is a retail manager from Essex. He tells me past girlfriends made him feel ashamed of his foot fetish.

‘We’d be watching TV and I’d start massaging her feet and she’d be like, “eurgh, what are you doing? You’re not into that are you?” and I’d be like, ‘oh, no, I’m not really into it…’”

Lee tells me the parties allow him to meet women who don’t make him feel bad for liking feet. I ask if he’d still come to the parties if he had a girlfriend who let him touch her feet. He tells me: ‘I don’t know, because it might be crossing a line, but I’d miss the parties if I didn’t come anymore – I enjoy meeting people.’

Jack is a high-flying, salt and pepper DILF who says his foot fetish started a year ago: ‘I was having sex, and I realised I was turned on by the woman’s feet.’

Jack then researched foot fetishes online, looking for an outlet. He says: ‘I had a paid session with a foot mistress, but we didn’t connect because she couldn’t relate to me. There seems to be a correlation between having a foot fetish and being submissive, but I am not into subservience or being abused or being called a slave – I just like feet!’

This is Jack’s first foot party, and following up afterwards, he tells me he’s not sure he’d go again.

‘I had fun pushing boundaries, but the men gave me chills,’ says Jack. ‘I had to drink eight mini bottles of Prosecco to zone out of the environment.

‘If the guys had been normal, I might have gone back, but they were bottom feeders. I didn’t want to be around those guys.

‘The girls were mostly very attractive and the guys were losers – that discrepancy made me uncomfortable.’

The evening’s activities lead to an awkward encounter with Jack’s dentist.

‘I’d never had feet in my mouth, so I didn’t know what to do, and I ended up with all these cuts from the girls’ toenails,’ he explains. Eating a snack before bed that night, Jack broke a tooth and had to visit his dentist the next day.

‘I’ve been seeing him for ten years, and now I’m turning up with my mouth in shreds!’ says Jack. ‘His assistant commented – luckily I couldn’t respond at the time so she didn’t expect an answer!’

Jack says going to the party made him realise, ‘my fetish is only two or three out of ten, compared to other guys whose fetish was eight or nine out of ten. I still prefer other parts of a woman, like her breasts and her bum.’

It’s the end of the evening before I realise that the ice-buckets on every table are basically bins. They’re for disposing of the kitchen roll the models have used to wipe the men’s saliva off their feet. I find myself feeling sorry for anyone who’s served their bubbly in these buckets on nights to come.

Then one of the foot models tells me a guy has offered her £500 to sh*t on him, and suddenly saliva doesn’t seem so bad.

Complete Article HERE!

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This is the difference between gender and sexuality

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The two are incredibly different

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Many assume gender identity and sexual orientation are linked, but the two concepts are different and it’s important to know why.

On a very basic level, gender identity is described as being more about who you are, and sexual orientation is defined as who you want to be with.

If someone is transgender, for example, some people assume that they must also be lesbian, gay or bisexual – but this is not the case.

However, gender and sexuality is (obviously) much more complex than this.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is your own personal perception of yourself – and there are many different genders outside of male and female. And importantly, the gender with which someone identifies might not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, gender identity is the “innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.”

Gender is complicated because different genders come with a host of societal expectations about behaviours and characteristics, which can have negative impacts on people.

Societal expectations of gender norms – or gender roles – often dictate who can and should do what.

A Pakistani transgender activist

For instance, women have historically faced setbacks in the workplace, or fewer opportunities, purely because they are women and for no other reason.

Whereas from a traditional viewpoint, men are expected to make decisions, and naturally be authoritative when at work.

Gender also has legal implications. In the UK, anyone who wants to legally change the gender they were assigned with at birth has to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, but it is a lengthy and difficult process so not everyone chooses to do this.

To qualify for the certificate, people must have lived for two years in the gender they identify with and have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is a condition where someone experiences distress because there is a mismatch between their gender identity and biological sex.

What is transitioning?

Transitioning describes the steps which a transgender person may take to live in the gender with which they identify.

The process is different for each person and may include medical intervention such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not everyone wants or is able to have this.

It may involve transitioning socially, either by wearing different clothing, using names or pronouns or telling friends and family.

Gender expression is how someone expresses their gender identity externally, for example, through appearance – clothing, hair or make-up – or through their behaviour.

This is the difference between gender and sexuality

Complete Article HERE!

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These Fun Online Cartoons Give Kids Honest Advice About Sex

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

By Ben Paynter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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‘If We Want To End Sexual Violence, We Need To Talk About Female Desire’

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“Good sex is about more than lack of violence or fear.”

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It might seem strange to be talking about pleasure and desire when we are surrounded by stories of rape and harassment. Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves? Shouldn’t we concentrate first on stopping those crimes before we ask for sex that might actually work for us?

I don’t think so. The worst men—and the worst lovers—I have known were the ones who didn’t understand that women, too, want things from sex. That sex is not simply something we give to men—or something men take from us.

These were the men who commented, with a mixture of surprise and revulsion, on how much I actually seemed to enjoy the sex we had, how I acted as though we were sexual equals, as though my own desire mattered—and how unusual that was. I’ve never known what to say to that. I’ve never known whether to pity their ignorance or worry about the other women they have been with, about how those women may have felt forced to deny their desire, to keep their sexual agency secret, even in bed.

Study after study shows that women want sex just as much as men do—but they’re often afraid of the consequences of saying so. The story we tell about how women should behave sexually is one of hesitancy, of submission, of waiting for the man to make the first, second, and last moves. Cajoling a woman into sex is considered normal, hence much of the confusion about women who are now complaining, often for the first time, about men who pressure us into sex we don’t want to have.

Good sex is about more than lack of violence or fear. But there are still too many people out there who believe that it is enough for sex to not be painful or frightening for a woman. One recent study showed that 32 percent of college-age men said they would commit or had committed acts of violence against women that courts would describe as rape, but when asked if they would ever rape a woman, most said no. This is rape culture; nonconsensual sex is normalized and, as long as we don’t call it rape, tolerated.

There are still very few societies that are truly comfortable with women having sexual and reproductive agency—in other words, the right to choose when and if and how we have sex, and when and if and how we have children. All over the world, including in the United States, the basic assumption made about women by their governments and employers and families is that we do not deserve to decide what happens to our bodies—and we cannot be trusted to tell the truth about our experiences. This is sexual repression, and we must fight it.

We must also fight against internalizing it. The consequences of capitulating to what our bodies seem to want—whether it be an orgasm or another slice of cake—are made very clear to girls long before puberty turns up the dial on desire. We must not be too hungry, too horny, too greedy for anything in life, or we will become ugly, unlovable. Women who eat too much, talk too much, shag too much—women who want too much—will face shame, stigma, and ostracism. We must not lose control.

When you’ve learned to be suspicious of your own appetites, it takes time to treat yourself and your body with more kindness. How can we be honest with anyone else about our desires when “slut” is still one of the worst things you can call a woman, when women who openly enjoy or seek out sex are shamed for it, and men who do the same are celebrated?

For women and queer people, for anyone whose sexuality has been treated as abnormal and punished, and particularly for those who’ve survived sexual violence, it can be very hard to be honest about what we might want in bed, even with ourselves. That’s alright. It’s okay not to know what you want, as long as you know that the wanting itself is okay. This isn’t going to change overnight. But I know I’ve had more positive experiences than negative ones when I insisted on making my desires clear. Being able to ask for what you want is the first step toward real sexual liberation. The sort that works for everyone.

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