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Vaginismus: a major psychological reason women experience pain during sex

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If you have never heard of vaginismus, it’s time to get it on your radar.

Don’t suffer in silence

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Aly Dilks, sexual health expert and clinical director at The Women’s Health Clinic, says: ‘It is the term used to describe recurrent or persistent involuntary tightening of muscles around the vagina whenever penetration is attempted,’

According to Vaginismus Awareness, the condition affects at least two in every 1,000 women at some point in their lifetime.

Approximately 10% of adult women have experienced painful intercourse in the past six months.

‘It’s not fully understood why the condition happens [but] factors can include thinking the vagina is too small, negative sexual thoughts – thinking sex will be painful and cause damage – and previous sexual abuse,’ says Ms Dilks.

She also lists damage to the vagina – common during childbirth or an episiotomy, a painful first sexual experience, relationship problems, and fear of pregnancy as other potential triggers.

Pain is not limited to sex.

Some women find inserting tampons or fingers painful; others find any type of penetration intolerable.

Unlike other causes of vaginal pain, such as an infection, vaginismus is a psychological problem that cannot be cured with a straightforward prescription.

There’s effective treatment

Help is available beyond search engine suggestions

This is not to say it can’t be treated: Vaginismus Awareness reports a 95% chance of treating this psychological condition effectively, and many women receive referrals to a sex therapist as a first port of call.

Colin Richards is a relationship and sex mentor and the founder of Intimacy Matters.

He says: ‘As a practitioner who works with both the psychological and physiological, about 20% of female clients that come to me for treatment around sexual performance come with some level of vaginismus.

‘The psycho-sensual treatment I offer involves talking through the psychological influences, followed by sensual massage that is given in controlled, professional space.

‘It allows the new emotional tools to emerge in an authentic, non-judgemental way.’

Both Ms Dilks and Mr Richards also suggest vaginal trainers: four, smooth, plastic penis-shaped objects in different sizes.

They can be used in the privacy of your own home, at your own pace. Ms Dilks says: ‘Once you feel comfortable inserting the smallest one, you can move on to the second size, and so on.’

‘It doesn’t matter how long it takes – whether it’s days, weeks, or months.’

Vaginismus is just one of many types of sexual frustrations and fears women face but, says Mr Richards, it is probably the most challenging for the sufferer.

That challenge is perpetuated by a lack of awareness and the taboo that still surrounds female sexuality, even when women talk to one another.

Yet it can have major implications on a woman’s sex life, self-esteem, body image and her relationships.

Hope for sufferers

Women can be reluctant to talk about their sex life, even with other women

If you have pain during sex, during your period, or if there’s anything that concerns you about your sexual health, don’t suffer in silence; women have been doing that for too long, and vaginismus is something for which there is a proven treatment.

Mr Richards says: ‘In my experience, if one can get to the root psychological cause of the anxiety or fear, then the vaginismus can be removed completely.

‘I have seen improvement over a period of three to six appointments.

‘As the mind learns that sexual penetration is not painful or wrong, and is, in fact, pleasurable, the body soon responds and lets go of the need to tense up.

‘[The woman] remains calm, and feels familiar with the situation, and so confident that everything should be fine.’

Complete Article HERE!

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Consent doesn’t end with dating – husbands have to ask their wives for sex too

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Many of the female survivors I’ve worked with said that having sex with their husbands felt like rape. They would be shocked when I told them that their experiences had, in fact, been rape

Men are socialised to feel ownership over women’s bodies, regardless of their pain or happiness. Women are conditioned to accept degrees of male aggression

By Hera Hussain

Thanks to the #MeToo movement the topic of consent is now on the agenda. The conversation is centred on dating and hooking up, teaching us how to navigate those confusing moments between going home and actively saying, or hearing, the word “yes”. What isn’t being expressed is that consent is something that happens every time we agree to sleep with someone – whether on a first date, or after 30 years of marriage. At every point in a relationship someone has the right to say no, and to be listened to.

It’s frightening for many to think that partners we trust, love and may even desire might force us into something they’re enjoying, when we’re not, but it happens in too many relationships.

Many of the female survivors I’ve worked with have expressed, quite reluctantly, that having sex with their husbands felt like rape. They would be shocked when I told them that their experiences had, in fact, been rape. And these women aren’t an anomaly. One study reported that nearly one in three women has experienced sexual violence within an intimate relationship.

I can never forget when one woman I worked with asked me, embarrassed, how sex was for another married woman. She asked me if it was supposed to feel good. Or the woman who would go to extreme lengths to avoid sleeping with her husband, pretending to be sick or on her period. And another who would lock the door and sleep in the guest room when her husband would come staggering home from a night out. There are so many more stories like these.

As seen in the recent high-profile cases, women continue to face a higher standard of scrutiny for experiencing abuse than abusers do for inflicting it. “If it was so bad, why didn’t she just leave?” people ask me. There are many reasons why women don’t leave an abusive situation.

Psychological barriers can prevent recognition of abuse, women are socialised to fear the anger of men who don’t get their way, and, for many women, leaving simply isn’t an option as there’s nowhere to go. After all, in England alone, nearly 200 women and children are turned away from domestic violence refuges every single day.

Clearly, we’re going wrong somewhere. Men are socialised to feel ownership over women’s bodies, regardless of their pain or happiness. Women are conditioned to accept degrees of male aggression, and will often temper their response knowing that they risk being seriously hurt or even killed if they fail to comply.

If we’re serious about changing gender power dynamics for good, we need to take the NSPCC’s advice and teach children about consent from a young age. This begins with making PSHE education, including lessons on consent, taught by trained teachers, statutory in all schools.

Consent can’t begin and end with dates. Consent can’t be the absence of a “no”. It can’t be an extra. It can’t be a one-off check. Consent has to be affirmative and enthusiastic every single time, from the first time to the last time.

Complete Article HERE!

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If You Want A Sexy Night, Ask Your Partner These Questions

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By Kasandra Brabaw

The hottest sex I’ve ever had started with a question, when a former partner leaned in close to my ear and said, “What have you always wanted to do?” We had amazing sex that night, because I finally felt free to speak up about different positions I had wanted to try, like face-sitting. But that one question also opened us up for more creative sex for the rest of the time that we were together. We tried ice play, and hot oil massage candles, and had a thrilling almost-got-caught moment in a bar bathroom.

While a lot about seduction can be non-verbal, that night helped me recognize that asking questions can be just as sexy as lighting candles and dimming the lights.

“Questions like that can build the anticipation and the foreplay,” says Megan Flemming, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist in New York City. She suggests building that anticipation throughout the day, by posing sexy questions to your partner in text or email in the morning, that way they’ll be thinking about what they want to do to you (or have you do to them) all day. Logan Levkoff, PhD, a sexual health educator and member of the Trojan™ Sexual Health Advisory Council, says that Post-It notes could also be a fun and sexy way to build this anticipation for anyone who feels too awkward talking “dirty.”

While it’s generally good practice to ask questions about what your partner wants from sex, there are certain ways to bring it up that will make it feel less like a clinical Q&A and more like the beginning of an adventurous night. Ahead, we’ve rounded up a few questions you can use as inspiration to get the conversation — and the foreplay — flowing.

What’s the best sex you’ve ever had?

Why it works: Asking your partner to describe their best sexual experience (in vivid detail, of course) not only gives you an idea of what they want in bed, but also serves as verbal erotica.

What do you think about anal sex/BDSM/other kinks?


Why it works: Asking about kink in a noncommittal way tells your partner that you’re interested in hearing about their kinks, which will help them open up about any they’ve been wanting to explore. If it feels too awkward to bring up, you can always say that you read about anal sex or bondage or whatever else you want to try on a website or in a magazine, and you just want to know their thoughts.

What’s your biggest sex fantasy?

Why it works: Have your partner describe exactly what they’ve been fantasizing about, and then do it (as long as it’s legal and consensual, of course). Win-win.

What movie scene really turns you on?

Why it works: Movies and TV can help you realize fantasies you never even knew you had. Have your partner tell you which scene gets them going, then watch it together for inspiration.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Grace and Frankie’ raises an interesting question: Where are all the sex toys for seniors?

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The struggle is real.

It isn’t every day you see a sex toy on a billboard, and it’s even more rare you’ll see one in the hands of a person in their seventies.

But thanks to Grace and Frankie, the Netflix sitcom starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, that’s exactly what people saw when the show’s third season premiered last year. The series, which centers around two friends who face many challenges while trying to create a vibrator for seniors, has brought to light an interesting real-life question: Where are all the sex toys for older people?

Last season followed the unlikely roommates as they conceptualized, prototyped, and focus-grouped the “Ménage à Moi.” It’s a vibrator made for and — perhaps more importantly — marketed to older women, particularly those who have a hard time using traditional models because of their arthritis.

Their fictional creation has a soft grip gel sleeve, is lightweight, can be easily repositioned, and even features glow-in-the-dark control buttons. Sounds ideal — except no such thing exists in the real world.

There’s no question about it, Grace and Frankie (which returns to Netflix for a fourth season on Jan. 19) is in uncharted sex-positive territory. While sex toys have made a fleeting appearance in other popular TV shows, basing a major series storyline around them is on another level. And having the sex toy be the brainchild of postmenopausal women who talk openly about their experiences developing and using it? Well, that’s pretty subversive.

A missed opportunity

Senior sexuality is often used as an ageist punchline — even in some of the most “progressive” of shows. The most recent season of Broad City, for example, featured an older woman named Garol shopping for a comically large dildo.

But beyond jokes, there’s a persistent lack of representation of older adults in sexual scenarios. It’s almost enough to make you think that older people have lost their interest in sex, which is a generalization that’s simply not true.

​According to a 2017 survey conducted by the sex toy company TENGA, the​ average baby boomer reported masturbating an average of 3.3 times a week (compared to 6.3 for millennials and 4.6 times for Gen X-ers.) ​A​ 2010 study conducted by AARP found that 28 percent of older adults had sexual intercourse at least once a week, and 85 percent of these men and 61 percent of the women agreed sex is important to their overall quality of life.

“In our society and culture, we see sexuality displayed by a lot of very young people. But sexuality most certainly doesn’t turn off,”  said Lisa Lawless, a psychotherapist and owner of a boutique sex toy business and online resource center. “We have customers well into their eighties, and even their nineties.”

But often, she notes, they don’t know quite where to start.

This is why advocates of a less ageist, more sex-positive culture say they’re hopeful Grace and Frankie can serve as a pivotal moment for making senior sexuality a more mainstream topic.

Grace and Frankie inspect their creation.

Emily Ferry is the prop master on Grace and Frankie, and she scoured both the web and brick-and-mortar stores to find inspirations for the Ménage à Moi vibrator that would eventually appear on the show.

“There was nothing that I could find that was aimed at older women,” said Ferry, estimating that her team charged 40 vibrators to the production studio as part of their research. “There were some items that [would make] someone say, ‘This would be good for older women,’ but there was nothing that had been manufactured with the older woman in mind.”

A baby boomer herself, Ferry says that many women she’s spoken with in her peer group have expressed an interest in buying a real-life version of the product. “I want one of those, how do I get one of those?” they ask her.

It’s easy to understand why Ferry’s peers are having a hard time: There really aren’t many sex toys specifically marketed to older users. Until now, this is something that demographic has been forced to navigate for themselves.

Senior sex ed

Watching Joan Price give a webinar on sex toys for seniors, it’s easy to imagine that she was equally adept in two of her earlier careers: a high school English teacher and physical fitness instructor. She speaks breezily about the sex toys she recommends for seniors, talking for over an hour straight. It’s clear she’s perfectly comfortable holding a rabbit vibrator up to her face to demonstrate size. Her curly grey hair bobs as she earnestly impersonates different styles of buzzing vibration pattern. In one taped presentation, she wears a silver clitoris ring and t-shirt emblazoned with a Magic Wand design under the words “Knowledge is power” that she shows off proudly.

“Sex toys are a gift to seniors,” the 74-year-old award-winning author tells Mashable.

“So many things change as we age, or our medical conditions can get in the way. There are so many things going on, but for every problem there is a solution.”

Joan Price teaching one of her webinars

Price has been blogging about sex from a senior’s perspective for the past 13 years. It’s a job she kind of fell into after meeting her “great love” Robert, an artist and teacher, at age 57. Their sexual relationship inspired her to publish her first book, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Touring the country and checking her inbox, she found she was among the lucky ones.

While she was having great partnered sex, many of her peers were not. She decided she was going to help. She has since written two more books about sexual pleasure for older adults and has reviewed over 100 sex toys from the senior perspective. She also travels to sex-positive feminist stores like the Pleasure Chest, Tool Shed, and Smitten Kitten to hold workshops and help educate retail staff on this topic.

The criteria Price uses to determine whether or not a sex toy might be especially appealing to those in her age group are wide-ranging. She asks herself: Does it give off vibrations strong enough for those who are finding they now need extra sensation? Is it ergonomic? Lightweight? Can it go for long periods of time without overheating or running out of charge, seeing as arousal now takes longer? Can the controls be easily identified without having to reach for reading glasses? If it’s insertable, will it be an appropriate size for those who are now more likely to experience vaginal soreness and decreased elasticity?

Lawless also acknowledges that the seniors who call her customer service line with trepidation about buying these products — often for the first time — have distinct preferences and inquiries. Take USB chargers, for instance, which can be confusing to those who are less tech-savvy. And if a USB charger seems intimidating, forget the whole new world of WiFi-enabled teledildonic toys.

Designing with older people in mind

Despite the specific needs of older adults, both Lawless and Price are hesitant to say a hypothetical sex toy specifically built for and marketed to older adults (like the Ménage à Moi) is wholly necessary. After all, they tell Mashable, there are already ergonomically-designed vibrators on the market that do meet many of the physical needs of, say, an arthritic older person.

Are glow-in-the-dark control buttons really a make-or-break feature? What about instruction manuals printed in a larger font size? It’s hard to say for sure. But regardless, this Grace and Frankie plot point does reflect how older adults are notably underrepresented in the booming adult product market. Online, where most people shop for their pleasure products, it’s rare you’ll stumble across photos of older models or language in product descriptions that address their particular concerns.

Among the companies that are consciously working to address and court this demographic is Tantus, which has been actively creating sex toys with disabled users in mind for years. There’s also the Fiera pre-intimacy vibrator for generating arousal, whose creators told Mic it’s made with seniors in mind.

And then there’s Hot Octopuss’ “guybrator” products like the PULSE III, which does not require the penis to be erect for use. This can be of significant benefit to older people who may have issues with erectile function. In an email to Mashable, Hot Octopuss founder Adam Lewis said the technological basis for this product came from “a medical device that was used in hospitals to allow men with spinal cord injuries and severe erectile dysfunction to ejaculate.”

“As a company we feel strongly that the industry needs to change its approach to aging and sex (and disability and sex, which is a different but associated debate),” he adds.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Talk Dirty Without Being a Bad Man

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A useful guide for filthy allies.

By Sophie Saint Thomas

The word “slut” can either be hot as hell—as when used consensually in bed—or problematic as hell. Name-calling is a really enjoyable part of kinky dirty talk, but in the era of #MeToo it can feel very weird and even anti-feminist. But calling her a slut when she asks you to is actually extremely feminist: She’s vocalizing her desires, and you’re following her rules. And you may feel like a creep, but if it’s what gets her off, you’re being a good partner by satisfying her desires (and you might enjoy it yourself). There’s a big difference between consensual name-calling and malicious name-calling in, say, the workplace. Just because someone is into erotic massage roleplay doesn’t mean they want to be taken advantage of by a professional masseuse when they go to the spa after a long week of work. In fact, I can assure you that they do not. Context is everything. Sometimes people just want some love and kinky sexual healing from their partner. Using the word “slut” in bed is no different. Scared? Turned on? Both? Good. Read on and I’ll explain everything.

Know That This Kind of Thing Doesn’t Make Her a Bad Feminist

The #MeToo movement has some men tripped up about sex and dating. That confusion is good—if we’re confused, at least we’re thinking. Women have tried to make it clear that sexual assault is not sex, and sexual harassment is not flirting. We’re not trying to malign sex. We still want to enjoy healthy partnerships and get laid. Healthy romantic and sexual relationships are consensual and they put all partners on an equal playing field, even if one of you is very rich and famous. Speaking specifically to kink, and even more specifically to name-calling in bed, what happens within a consensual relationship is incomparable to the heinous non-consensual treatment women experience in the workplace. (And at the pet store, the bank, on airplanes, etc.) In a healthy and consensual relationship, the bedroom is a safe space. It’s there for making love and getting off and exploring desires. If your girlfriend’s boss called her a slut at work, she’d feel the distinct stabbing pain of sexual harassment. She’d go through the brutal mental process of wondering if reporting him will cost her her job. But if she asks you, her lover and partner, to call her a slut in bed because it turns her on, she’s bravely sharing her kinks because she wants to get off.

And It’s Okay If You Like It Too!

When you call someone a filthy name in bed, you’re not just doing them a favor—it doesn’t make you a bad man to get off from it, too. Sexual pleasure is a two-way street. If I asked someone to call me a slut during sex and they were like, “Fine, I guess, but for the record I do not approve, though I’ll still bone you,” I’d be like, “Gross, stop kink-shaming me, and no, thank you.” If verbal humiliation is a hard limit (something that you don’t want to try) just say so: “Hey, I respect that you’re into that, but I just don’t think I’m up for it.” Any type of sex should involve enthusiastic consent from both of you. Just don’t make her feel bad about herself for expressing her healthy (yes, healthy!) desires. And if name-calling and dirty talk turns you on, lean in. Enjoy it. You obtained consent. You’re grown-ups. Give the woman what she wants.

Cuddles, Please

Verbal humiliation can get a little intense. Even I, a well-adjusted sexual creature with few hang-ups and a church-less childhood, will occasionally try something filthy AF and afterwards say, “But you love me and think I’m a goddess, RIGHT?” So after you call your partner a slut (or whatever word she wants to hear) and you both come your faces off, make sure to practice aftercare. Aftercare is what the kink community calls checking in with one another after sex. Everyone should do it, whether you spit on one another on the bathroom floor or have missionary sex in the dark. After you call your girlfriend a slut during sex, make sure to hold and cuddle her. She knows, intellectually, that you think highly of her, and she knows that the dirty talk was part of hot consensual sex. But sex, especially sex that’s emotionally or physically intense, is best followed with snuggling and reassurance of feelings. So after you call her names whilst inside of her, hold her tight and tell her how you worship the ground she walks on. And NEVER call her a slut outside of dirty talk. Duh.

Complete Article HERE!

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