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Study Finds Stereotypes About Boys, Girls Begin at Early Age

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Girls look in a mirror as they put makeup on during a beauty and fashion fair inspired by the U.S. “Beautycon” event, a gathering of fashion bloggers and YouTube personalities, May 28, 2016, in Paris. Researchers found that in most of the world’s cultures, by the time girls are 10 years old, they have been taught that their key asset is their physical appearance.

By Carol Pearson

Whether children live in Baltimore, Beijing, Nairobi or New Delhi, by the time they are 15, boys are told to go outside and have adventures, while girls are told to stay indoors and do housework. Furthermore, most girls are told that if they are raped or have sex, they are the ones at fault.

A new study by adolescent-health specialists interviewed 450 poor children and their parents about gender expectations in a total of 15 high-, low- and middle-income countries. The children included in the study, the first of its kind, were between the ages of 10 and 14.

“When we started this work, there was no research at all, no understanding at all of young adolescents,” said Robert Blum, director of the Global Early Adolescent Study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. “There was an assumption that these were young children, and they aren’t cued into gender-based violence, gender messages, rape and things of that nature.

“What we see is that around the world, young people have keen awareness, and they’re very cued in to what’s going on.”

The key finding was that rigidly held and enforced gender expectations are linked to increased lifelong health risks — everything from HIV and depression to violence and suicide.

Messages internalized

“We found children at a very early age, from the most conservative to the most liberal societies, quickly internalize this myth that girls are vulnerable and boys are strong and independent,” Blum told VOA. “And this message is being constantly reinforced at almost every turn, by siblings, classmates, teachers, parents, guardians, relatives, clergy and coaches.”

The researchers found that in most cultures, by the time girls are 10 years old, they have been taught that their key asset is their physical appearance.

Lead researcher Kristin Mmari said no matter where they are, girls are concerned about their bodies, and others’ attitudes to them. “In New Delhi, the girls talked about their bodies as a big risk that needs to be covered up, while in Baltimore, girls told us their primary asset was their bodies and they need to look appealing, but not too appealing.”

Indian youth hold candles during a protest against sexual violence in New Delhi, Feb. 9, 2015.

Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli of the World Health Organization said violence against women is so pervasive that one in three women experience violence from their husbands or other sexual partners. “Social norms accept that a woman has to be beaten,” Chandra-Mouli said.

He and other researchers involved in the study of adolescents’ gender norms discussed their findings at the National Press Club in Washington.

Pressure on boys

The researchers found that boys do not emerge unscathed from gender expectations. They found that the pressure boys face to become physically strong and independent make them more likely to be victims of physical violence and homicide, and more likely to take up unhealthy habits like tobacco, drug and alcohol use.

The study was a collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the World Health Organization. The Journal of Adolescent Health has published a supplement to its October issue incorporating a number of articles on the subject, along with commentaries by Blum, Chandra-Mouli and others.

Adolescents are torn between opposing expectations, the study showed, especially girls.

In Shanghai, for example, girls are told they should be economically independent, and that they should not rely on men for financial support. At the same time, girls are told their husbands will divorce them if they don’t do housework.

The goal was to understand the factors in early adolescence that predispose young people to subsequent sexual health risks and promote healthy sexuality.

The conclusion was that societies wishing to have healthier adolescents and young adults, free of gender stereotypes, must intervene, where necessary, before children reach age 10. Chandra-Mouli said WHO hopes to use the data from the study to shape programs to change misunderstandings about gender norms.

Blum said the researchers will measure changes in their subjects three times over five years to see how perceptions of gender affect individuals’ lives and how programs change the outcome.

Complete Article HERE!

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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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Don’t Kink Shame Me, Bro

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“Meet me in the play room in fifteen minutes,” My freshman hallmates and I quoted, putting on our most seductive voices, waggling our eyebrows, and then doubling over with laughter for weeks after a large group of us went to see the first Fifty Shades of Grey movie at the Movie Tavern on Valentines day. Although BDSM and kink continue to have a hay day in pop culture, many people (especially those not informed about, involved in, or interested in kink) like to joke about fetishes and fantasies. So what do you do when, as one anonymous reader asked me this past week, your partner takes you into their confidence, shares one of their kinks with you, and you’re super not into it?

Here’s my vanilla disclaimer. I’m not exactly the most kink-savvy individual, so I’ve had to do a little research for this article. I’m also not a sex therapist, just your friendly neighborhood feminist. But I do know about the power of opening dialogues about sex in a patient and respectful manner. Are consent and open conversation kinks? If so, I’m on board.

1. Do not shame them for having a certain kink. Their interest in a little role play does not make them immature; their interest in BDSM doesn’t equate a twisted mind and a tortured past (*cough* Christian Grey *cough*). If your partner has shared their kink with you and you don’t understand it, don’t tear them down for it, ask questions.

Know that just because your partner is a very kinky girl/guy/non-binary/gender-queer individual, the kind you don’t take home to mother, doesn’t mean that they’re a super freak. But you already know this. You want to support them, you don’t want to kink shame them, you want them to be having good sex that feels good and excites them. But if you’re not kinky, or kinky in the same way that your partner is, you’ll need to identify which aspects of their kink make you personally uncomfortable, and voice your discomforts clearly and kindly, without implying that they should be uncomfortable or feel bad about having a certain kink. After all, they’ve shared a very vulnerable part of themselves with you.

2. Do not shame or degrade yourself (unless you’re into that). Especially if your partner has a strong interest in a particular kink, you may find yourself wondering: what about me as I normally am isn’t enough for my partner? Please, please know that your partner’s kink does not mean that anything is wrong with you, or that you are lesser or not enough just because they want to experiment with adding a new twist to sexual activities. Furthermore, if you don’t want to try out their brand of kink “play,” that doesn’t make you closed minded or cruel, and it certainly doesn’t make you “bad” at sex.

3. Turn offs and “I” statements: Try to explain what about your partner’s kink turns you off or makes you uncomfortable or hesitant, for example, “Being covered in chocolate sauce during sex is a turn off for me. It would make me feel messy and you know how I feel about cleanliness. I would be more focused on how I was going to get the chocolate stains off my sheets than the sex.” Or “Being tied up is a turn off for me because being unable to have full control of my body makes me feel used and objectified.” As an aside, when discussing domination/submission based kinks in particular, you may want to discuss with your partner how your intersecting experiences of power/powerlessness, privilege and oppression affect your comfort levels during sex, as well as how they may turn each of you on or off from certain fantasies.

In general, it may take some more discussion for your partner to fully understand the exact lines and nature and your boundaries and feelings about a fantasy, just as it may take you time to understand their reasons for being turned on by a specific fantasy. They may offer compromises, such as, “Okay, well if cleanliness is the problem, would you be comfortable getting drenched in chocolate sauce in the shower instead?” And if they do offer a compromise that you are still uncomfortable with, it’s still okay to say no. It is always okay to say no.

4. Turn Ons. Offer alternatives! For example, “I’m not comfortable being in a threesome, but I’m super turned on by mutual masturbation. Is that something that you would be interested in?” Or, “As a vegan, the idea of wearing leather during sex is uncomfortably unethical for me, but I’d be down to wear stockings or high heels. Do either of those things turn you on?”

5. Checklists: Before trying anything tremendously new, make like Fifty Shades of Grey and exchange a checklist (I’d hesitate to recommend a binding contract…pun absolutely intended) of sexual acts/behaviors that you both would be comfortable either giving or receiving to help facilitate conversation about exactly what you are and aren’t comfortable with. There are some great lists to be found online, and all are as customizable as you’d like to make them. Maybe you’ll find yourself intrigued by some elements of your partner’s fantasies but not others. Like Anastasia Steele, you too can say yes to light power play, but no to fisting. As one movie-goer cried out, Rocky Horror style, during the non-disclosure agreement scene of the original Fifty Shades of Grey, a few years ago at the Movie Tavern, “Yes! You go girl! You set your boundaries!”

6. What if your partner finds that they cannot be aroused without the object of their fetish? Your partner may have a diagnosable fetishistic disorder. **Note: sexual fantasies are completely normal to have, and having kinks does not mean that you have a fetishistic disorder. According to Psychology Today “A diagnosis of fetishistic disorder is only used if there is accompanying personal distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning as a result of the fetish.” The key word there is distress. If you or your partner’s kinks aren’t distressing either of you, then don’t worry about it. But if your partner does find their kink distressing, inhibitive to normal interactions, or disordered, consider opening a gentle, supportive dialogue with them about seeking help from a sex therapist. There is nothing shameful about anyone seeking out the help they need, if it turns out they do need it.

7. What if you and your partner are just not sexually compatible? Not sharing kinks should not have to be the end of a sexual relationship, but if it’s a real deal breaker for you or your partner, you both need to be honest with yourselves and each other about what you want out of a sexual relationship. If your partner will really only feel sexually liberated if they can regularly release their inner dominatrix and you’re not into that, it’s probably for the best that you both seek out different partners.

Complete Article HERE!

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Butt Stuff, Part One

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A sexual-health professional reminds us that, however open-minded and experienced we think we are, there’s always something to learn about anuses and rectums.

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As a sexual-health professional, I find that people have many questions about putting things in their butt — and about butts in general. I can’t possibly cover everything ass-related in a single column, so we will break it in two. Speaking in my capacity as the Director of the Safe and Supportive Schools Project at the GSA Network and someone who holds a Ph.D. in health promotion, I give you Butt Stuff, Part One.

Let’s start with some basics. When I refer to the “ass” or “butt,” I’m referring to the whole thing: the gluteus maximus muscle, the anus, and the rectum. Our butts serve a number of purposes, from sitting, standing, and walking to pooping and farting. The rectum and the anus contain a great deal of nerve endings, including ones that generate a pleasurable feeling when stimulated — think about that sensation of feeling full you get when you need to poop, and how good it feels when you take a big dump — making it part of an erogenous zone (an area on the body it feels pleasurable to touch and stimulate).

Many people — those assigned male at birth, typically — also have a prostate gland, which is responsible for producing the white, milky fluid that we associate with semen and which serves as a suspension and protective fluid for sperm. In other words, it helps get sperm out of the body from the testicles and, in procreative sex, into the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg.

The prostate is located approximately between the rectum and the bladder, and it can feel quite pleasurable when stimulated by a finger, sex toy, penis, or anything else inserted into the rectum. Some people really, really like it when the area around the anus or between the anus and genitalia — the taint — the rectum, and/or the prostate are stimulated. Other people don’t really care one way or the other, and some just plain don’t like it. All of that is great! It takes all types of people to make butt-play and butt-sex fun.

Also, the older you get, the easier it is to be ashamed of slang terms you hear but don’t know the meaning of. Don’t just laugh along and hope no one exposes your naivete; let a professional help you out! Sure, you know what tops and bottoms are, but versatile people enjoy getting things inserted in their ass and inserting things in other people’s asses. (If they’re lucky and there are enough people or toys, a versatile person can be a top and bottom at the same time!) Rimming or tossing salad means licking, sucking, and lightly biting the asshole and the area around it. Fingering and fisting are pretty self-explanatory, but pegging is when someone puts a dildo, usually a strap-on, or a dick in another person’s ass.

I was around 12 or 13 when I discovered the joy of sticking things up my rear end. I used to keep a stash of Hustler magazines hidden under the folded towels in the bathroom for jerking off every chance I got. (Hustler was the only one I had access to that had pictures of hard cocks in it!) In that same cabinet under the sink, there was always a jar of Vaseline and a toilet plunger. During one of my multiple-times-a-day jack-off sessions, I decided to rub some Vaseline on the handle of the plunger and stick it up my ass. The world ended, stars collided, and I’m still trying to get other people to put things in my butt to this day.

Just as with most sexual things, there is a great deal of stigma, shame, and guilt about engaging in ass play, mostly around being worried that people will think you are gay — who cares?! — or that it is unsanitary and unhealthy. We will tackle that thoroughly in a future column, but if you want to experiment, here are a few simple pointers: Wash your ass, thoroughly, with soap and water. Use a lot of lube — the more, the better. Relax and don’t force anything. Start small: a finger, a small butt-plug, or a dildo. (Go to a sex-toy store and ask. The staff will be delighted to help out a newbie!) Lastly, if at first you don’t succeed, try again — and if you don’t like it, that’s cool. Maybe try being a top.

Next time, I’ll go a little deeper — wink, wink — laying down the real shit about shit for you about whether or not you should douche, and why straight guys have to call it pegging. Until then, go play with yourself, or help out a friend.

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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