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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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Why are we shocked to learn Judi Dench still likes sex?

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In a time of rather unsettling news, one might imagine that the fact that Dame Judi Dench, at the age of 82, still rather enjoys sex, wouldn’t rate a mention.

But, alas, here we are.

Judi Dench, left, and Ali Fazal pose during a photo call for the film Victoria And Abdul at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy.

By Annie Brown

n an interview for The Radio Times, Dench spoke about her latest role playing Queen Victoria in the throes of a romantic-tinged friendship with Indian clerk Abdul Karim in the twilight years of her life. The film, Victoria and Abdul, said Dench, explores the quite shocking idea that sex, romance and intimacy isn’t just for the young.

“Well, of course, you still feel desire. Does that ever go? To the older reader, I would say: ‘Don’t give up,'” the Oscar winner said.

Dench then further scandalised everybody by admitting that she doesn’t wear older lady certified undies (beige, bloomer-esque, devoid of any sexiness, one supposes).

“There’s a lovely naughty knicker shop  —  but don’t buy up everything because I’m going there,” Dench said (or perhaps she purred? We weren’t eye witnesses).

Dench also spoke about not needing to fake an attraction to her co-star, Ali Fazal, who plays Abdul Karim,

“He is very, very tall.

Actress Jane Fonda arrives for the photo call for the film Our Souls At Night at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy.

“He is extremely beautiful and he is an utterly delightful, charming man.”

“No acting at all required.”

Needless to say, her admissions attracted a lot of breathy headlines around the world.

In her personal life Dench has also found love once more with conservationist David Mills, 73, following the death of her husband of 30 years, Michael Williams, in 2001.

She told Good Housekeeping recently, “One hot night during the summer we swam and had a glass of champagne in the garden and I said: ‘This is so fantastic’. I get overexcited about things. I love having a laugh.”

Dench joins Jane Fonda, 79, this month in the scandalous act of talking about older people both having sex, and a zest for life.

Speaking at the Venice Film Festival Fonda spilled on filming (and enjoying) sex scenes in her 70s. Because it reflects where she’s at (in the bedroom).

“First of all, we’re braver,” Fonda told The Hollywood Reporter of her sex life now. “What do you have to lose? So my skin sags… so does his. You know your body better, so you’re not afraid to ask for what you need. I think on a love and sex level, it just gets better.”

And here’s the thing, just as in Fonda’s show, Grace and Frankie, in which she and co-star Lily Tomlin have rediscovered their sexual desire after unsatisfying marriages (and created a rather nifty new product line in vibrators designed for older women), older people have sex. And experience desire. And fancy the pants off people.

Something that was reflected in New Zealand’s brand Lonely Lingerie’ decision to cast 56-year-old model Mercy Brewer for its autumn/winter campaign earlier this year. Because, it turns out, (some) women over 30 like nice smalls too – be it for a partner or purely for their own pleasure. Again, wouldn’t it be nice when a woman in her 50s posing in her underwear isn’t celebrated but is, in fact, business as usual?

According to a recent study of 7000 men and women aged between 50 and 90, half of men and almost a third of women aged 70 and over were still sexually active.

As The Conversation reports, about two-thirds of men and more than half of women thought “good sexual relations were essential to the maintenance of a long-term relationship” and “being sexually active was physically and psychologically beneficial to older people.”

Putting to the side sexual problems that can come with age, and creating expectations around what the sex life of an older person ‘should’ look like (it might be swinging from the chandelier! It might be no sex but a nice cup of tea, please! All of which is fine). But it sure would be nice if the news of Judi Dench and Jane Fonda’s sex lives didn’t have such cut-through.

For, surely, we have far more urgent things to be alarmed about.

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

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“Sex is great, but safe sex is better

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

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

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

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

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

1. Chlamydia

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

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

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

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

How to treat it

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

2. Genital Warts

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

Treatment

Creams and freezing can get rid of them.

3. Genital Herpes

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

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

Treatment

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

4. Gonorrhoea

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

Like Chlamydia though, the symptoms are not always present.

Treatment

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

5. Pubic lice or ‘crabs’

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

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

Treatment

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

6. HIV

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

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

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

Treatment

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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