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Let’s talk about intimacy – and why it makes for better love and sex

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The key to a great relationship is more than physical – it’s about taking off the mask and really revealing yourself

Embracing intimacy – the best way to forge a real connection.

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Is there anything we still need to know about sex? Apparently, yes: and the missing ingredient is a gamechanger not just for individuals, but entire nations.

Sex has been centre-stage in western culture for decades, but what has been absent, according to Adam Wilder, creator of the world’s first Festival of Togetherness, is the magic element that makes it all meaningful.

“The holy grail,” he says, “is intimacy. Intimacy’s the real taboo in our society – it’s the thing we fear, because it’s about taking off the mask that so many of us hide behind. But it’s the key to being freer, happier and more alive and it could change not only our personal lives, but the political decisions we take as a society.”

Wilder hopes his festival, in central London on 20-21 May, will herald “the next revolution we need to embark on – a revolution that will transform everything we thought we knew about sex”.

Sex and intimacy, says Wilder, are closely connected. But in the decades since the sexual revolution of the 1960s the focus has been more and more on sex and less and less on intimacy. “Of course, you can have sex without intimacy, just as you can have intimacy without sex. But when you put the two together you have an experience that is in a different ballpark when it comes to fulfilment,” he says. “The problem is, people are afraid of intimacy, they’re afraid to articulate the desires that could lead to real intimacy – but if we don’t articulate those desires we will never experience the potential of a relationship.”

So scary is the word intimacy, says Wilder, that he has shied away from using it while planning his festival. “When I talk to people about it, I talk mostly about human connection, about enriching relationships and about togetherness, because these are words people seem more comfortable with.”

The festival focuses on learning the skills the organisers say are essential to allowing ourselves to practise intimacy. “But this isn’t hippy stuff: what I’m interested in is ordinary people who don’t like words like ‘consciousness’ and ‘tantra’,” says Wilder. “I want to make intimacy more visible in our culture, and that means drawing everyone in. Intimacy is something everyone can gain from, whether they are in a relationship or not.”

The movie Lost in Translation, starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, has much to share about intimacy, says Wilder. The plot centres on a growing closeness between an ageing movie star and a young college graduate that far outweighs the connection she feels for her husband, a photographer who is away on an assignment.

The festival’s highlights include a “cuddle workshop” that, according to the programme, promises to “explore touch outside the sexual realm”, a session on “mindfulness for better sex” and a session on language and communication skills that help build intimacy into relationships. One of the most exciting workshops, Wilder hopes, is called the Soulmate Delusion.

“There is this idea in Disney films that so many of us buy into, that’s about connecting with one person who is right for you, and who will change your life. But the truth is, that’s a view that is a really damaging for relationships in the 21st century. As soon as things start to go wrong you think, uh-oh, he’s not my  soulmate.”

Wilder’s event seems to be tapping into a broader zeitgeist. Last week saw the launch of the Amorist, writer Rowan Pelling’s new magazine, which aims “to counter the modern tendency to see sex through a purely functional prism”.

… and they all lived happily ever after. Nice idea, but you have to work on it.

Pelling agrees with Wilder that intimacy, not sex, is fundamental. “Is sex better with intimacy? The answer is almost always yes. I’m really shocked by how many people say they’ve never been to bed with someone who looked them in the eye, particularly at the point of orgasm. Of course there’s something about people being in their box and having fantasies during sex, but if people are having a lifetime of sex without eye contact, it’s an indication of how common it is to be physically close to someone, yet remain disconnected.

“There’s something peculiarly British about it. What it means is you can have had many lovers, yet not ever had something as fundamental as intimate sex.”

Wilder says feelings of isolation and a lack of true human connection have fed into the seismic political shifts that produced Brexit and elected Donald Trump as US president. That is the view, too, of philosopher Shahidha Bari of the Institute of Art and Ideas, who is one of the people behind an event called Love in the Time of Tinder taking place this weekend in Hay-on-Wye.

Amid talks, debates and workshop about the meaning of love, whether it can be chemically engineered and how it can be used to change society, the weekend also encompasses the idea that these things matter in a global, and not just a personal, landscape.

“If we can get love right in our individual lives, we might start to get things better in the political arena,” says Bari. “We think of love these days as an app on our phones, but in fact it’s a model of ethical relationships.

“There’s something miraculous about love, which allows us to care for someone to whom we are not genetically related. Love isn’t some sentimental thing, it’s about recognising this miracle for what it is, and learning from it for the rest of our lives.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why do people visit a dominatrix?

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These men explain the appeal

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Everyone recognizes the popular image of the dominatrix standing over a cowering man, usually with a whip in her hand.

‘S&M’ has been a popular theme in art and films for a very long time, although it’s now generally referred to as BDSM (a surprisingly recent term which covers a whole heap of different kinky activities).

The development of the internet has made it easier than ever to find people willing to indulge your kinks and the pro-domme business is more popular than ever. But what makes men want to pay for the privilege of being hurt and humiliated?

I spoke to two men who use professional domme services and asked them – why?

Jason

‘I had fantasies around pain and punishment from a very young age. When I was about eight I was left in a car by my parents while they went to a dinner.

‘Unable to sleep I came across the hard case my father kept his glasses in and smacked myself with it. I guess it developed from there.

‘In my teens I bought a riding crop and had to create a complex lie to explain its presence in the house when it was found. Ours, by the way, was a loving, completely abuse-free family with almost no corporal punishment.

‘My first marriage was completely vanilla. When we separated I finally went to see a Domme I found in the back pages of a London newspaper.

‘She tied me to a chair and beat me so hard the bruises lasted a fortnight. At first I was too shocked and horrified to enjoy it but by the end I was surfing a huge wave of pain and endorphins and I floated out of her apartment.

‘I’m more masochistic than submissive, so it’s about pain more than humiliation. It’s hard to explain.

‘It’s the intimate interaction with the Domme, the sense of giving up all control to her, it’s the extreme sensations she causes and the beautiful clarity of focus that comes from the need to master them.

‘It’s the floaty subspace that pain can take you to, it’s the sense of having been challenged and survived. It’s all those things and more.

‘[If you want to visit a domme] think carefully about what you want to explore and read a lot of Dommes’ websites first.

‘Make it clear you are inexperienced and ask for an introductory session where you can try different aspects of BDSM at a mild level.

‘Be patient though – like any sex workers, Dommes unfortunately have to filter out a lot of timewasters and abusive people for each genuine new client.’

Stefan

‘A girl I played with at primary school would spank me if I misbehaved in the games we were playing – I think I was supposed to be a very disobedient puppy.

‘I then went to a boys’ school so met very few girls until sixth form college. We played a card game called ‘rappsies’ – if you lost you would have your knuckles hit with the pack of cards. I did my best to always lose to the girls.

‘I was a late starter outside my fantasy life. I studied hard and went to university before losing my virginity.

‘I’ve been with the same woman all my adult life – she shared my fantasies for a long time but then her interest in sex gradually waned away to nothing.

‘I could find fellow kinky people on the internet but I wasn’t looking for a relationship outside my marriage.

‘My wife is my wife and I love her but she no longer seems to have the need to have a sexual relationship, whereas I still enjoy sex – or at least my version of sex.

‘There can be pain but it is always balanced with pleasure – have you ever had a sore tooth that you bite on every now and again just to see?

‘The dommes I visit are all incredibly attractive and I have the need to please them. They all seem to genuinely enjoy what they do and ensure I get the experience I desire.

‘Strangely I don’t see being pissed on or spat on as being humiliated, I find it incredibly personal and intimate. It’s all down to the scenario.

‘I feel honoured – I’m getting exactly what I asked for. I would say I enjoy sensual domination and wouldn’t visit a domme who I thought didn’t care for me.

‘The mistresses I see (and their partners) are all regularly tested for STI’s so I feel that I’m not really putting myself at that much of a risk – and I get tested regularly too.

‘I don’t think [fetishes] have a psychological trigger. Probably I have a need to be liked and accepted by a woman, but what heterosexual man doesn’t? In my work life I’m generally the one in charge, on call 24hrs a day.

‘I have taken part in cuckold sessions where the mistress has sex with another man while I am ‘forced’ to watch, then to have to clean up the mess. Again I actually enjoy watching the mistress enjoying herself (I knew it was something she was looking forward to!).

‘It’s role play and I enjoy my role. Life is all about experiences – why leave this world knowing you have missed out on some that were within your grasp?’

What’s it like to be one of the women providing these services? I spoke to professional domme Ms Slide, who gave me the lowdown on dominating men for a living.

Have you always been interested in kink?

‘Dominatrix work has always been an integral part of who I am. Everyone has their own individual kinks and fetishes and I’m no different.

‘Practices perceived as unconventional are too often stigmatised. There is no such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to consenting adult sexuality.’

How did you end up being a domme?

‘Kink was something that always fascinated me and I crossed over into the fetish scene from goth and cosplay.

‘Friends of friends began to contact me privately for sessions before I ever advertised as a pro-domme.

‘My career started almost by accident, but it’s something I love and will continue to do for as long as I’m able.

‘I am also a writer and illustrator and am now privileged enough to be able to take months out from pro-domming if I have a big project on the go, but I don’t ever see myself stopping entirely. It’s who I am.’

Where does the law stand re domme work?

‘UK law is tricky about what does or doesn’t constitute sex work.

‘Sex workers are all equally stigmatised (and put in danger) because of the legislation around how many of us can work together in one place without it being classed as a ‘brothel’.

‘The proposed criminalisation of all clients – the ‘Nordic Model‘ – would push our work underground, making the most vulnerable of us take greater risks for less money and undermining our safety.

‘Solidarity is important. Whatever our circumstances – whatever kind of sex work we do and whatever reason we have for doing it – we deserve the same rights and safety as workers in any other industry.

‘The law should protect us, not harm us – this can only be achieved through full decriminalisation, destigmatisation and unionisation.’

Is there a typical client?

‘No! The stereotypes you see on television of rich old bankers are largely inaccurate (unless that’s the demographic you specifically choose to market to – some dommes specialise).

‘Most of my clients have been men, but not all. I choose clients depending on how compatible we are.

‘If they have the wrong attitude, or have interests outside of what I enjoy, they don’t get to meet me.’

Do your friends and family know about your work?

‘I’m largely ‘out’ to friends and family, which is a privilege that many don’t have.

‘I have had problems in the past due to people’s misconceptions about kink and sex work which just makes me more determined to challenge the media misrepresentations of who we are and what we do. We are real people, not stereotypes.’

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Aftercare Is The BDSM Practice That Everyone Should Be Doing

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By Sophie Saint Thomas

If you’re unfamiliar with the BDSM scene, you might think it’s all whips, handcuffs, and pleasurable pain, but there’s one important element that BDSM practitioners have built into their sex lives to make sure that everyone involved feels safe and cared for after play time is over: a practice known as aftercare. And whether you’re into BDSM or have more vanilla tastes, aftercare is something everyone should be doing.

In the BDSM world, aftercare refers to the time and attention given to partners after an intense sexual experience. While these encounters (or “scenes,” as they’re called) are pre-negotiated and involve consent and safe words (in case anyone’s uncomfortable in the moment), that doesn’t mean that people can forget about being considerate and communicative after it’s all over. According to Galen Fous, a kink-positive sex therapist and fetish sex educator, aftercare looks different for everyone, since sexual preferences are so vast. But, in its most basic form, aftercare means communicating and taking care of one another after sex to ensure that all parties are 100% comfortable with what went down. That can include everything from tending to any wounds the submissive partner got during the scene, to taking a moment to be still and relish the experience, Fous says.

Specifically, with regards to BDSM, the ‘sub-drop’ is what we are hoping to cushion [during aftercare],” says Amanda Luterman, a kink-friendly psychotherapist. A “sub-drop” refers to the sadness a submissive partner may feel once endorphins crash and adrenaline floods their body after a powerful scene (though dominant partners can also experience drops, Fous says).

Of course, you don’t have to be hog-tied and whipped to feel sad after sex. One 2015 study found that nearly 46% of the 230 women surveyed felt feelings of tearfulness and anxiety after sex — which is known as “postcoital dysphoria” — at least once in their lives (and around 5% had experienced these feelings a few times in the four weeks leading up to the study). Experts have speculated that this may stem from the hormonal changes people (particularly those with vaginas) experience after orgasm, but many also say that it can come from feeling neglected. The so-called “orgasm gap” suggests that straight women, in particular, may feel that their needs in bed are ignored. And Luterman says that people in general can also feel lousy post-sex if they’re not communicating about what they liked and didn’t like about the experience.

Clearly, taking the time to be affectionate and talk more after sex — a.k.a. aftercare — can make sex better for everyone, not just those who own multiple pairs of handcuffs. So what does that mean for you? It depends on the kind of sex you’re having, and who you’re having it with.

Taking the time to be affectionate and talk more after sex — a.k.a. aftercare — can make sex better for everyone, not just those who own multiple pairs of handcuffs.

Like we said, there are lots of guidelines for BDSM aftercare, specifically. If you’re having casual sex, aftercare can mean simply letting your guard down and discussing the experience, something that can be scary to do during a one-night stand. It’s definitely dependent on the situation, but Luterman says that you can just express that you had a good time and see if they’re interested in seeing you again (if those are thoughts you’re actually having). “People want to be reminded that they still are worthwhile, even after they’ve been sexually gratifying to the person,” Luterman says. If your experience didn’t go well, it’s important to voice that, too.

And those in long-term relationships are certainly not exempt from aftercare, Luterman says. It’s something couples should continue to do, especially after trying something new (such as anal sex), she says. Did the sex hurt? Do they want to do it again? What did they like and not like about it? You can’t know what your partner is thinking unless you ask them. Plus, it can be easy for long-term partners to feel taken for granted, so making sure to cuddle, stroke each other’s hair, and savor the moment after sex can make even the most routine sex feel special.

One thing we should all keep in mind? It can also be helpful to continue these conversations when everyone’s vertical (and clothed) and any post-orgasm high has faded.

At the end of the day, aftercare is just a fancy term for making sure everyone’s happy once the sex is over. And while communication needs to be happening before and during sex as well, having these discussions afterwards comes with an added bonus: You can learn from the experience so that the sex is even hotter the next time.

Complete Article HERE!

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What to do when your teen tells you they have a sexually transmitted infection

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By now, most parents likely know that not talking about sex with their teens will not stop them from doing it. And, as a parent, you might even have done some reading on how to have The Talk with your kids. Maybe you think you’ve done everything right when it comes to having important conversations with your teen. Or maybe you’ve been avoiding the discussion because you’re not sure where to start.

No matter which category you fit into, you may still find yourself as the parent whose kid comes home and tells them they think they might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or that they have contracted an STI. The way you respond to that bombshell can make all the difference for your child going forward — in their relationship with you, with future partners, and with themselves. “Often, the response of the people that you confide in when you first have a diagnosis shapes how you see your condition from then on out,” says Myisha Battle, a San Francisco-based sex coach. “It’s important that parents have a response that can potentially produce a positive outcome for kids when they’re disclosing.”

That, of course, is easier said than done. Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen, a sex ed web site for youth, and author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties, says that the groundwork for a positive response begins before your child ever receives a diagnosis. In fact, the way you talk about STIs from the beginning may determine whether your child even comes to you if they’re worried about their sexual health. And that, says Corinna, includes things like not talking about any infectious illness in a stigmatized way. “The closer we get to people, the more susceptible we are to infections,” Corinna explains. So if you wouldn’t talk about getting the chicken pox or a cold from someone as something gross, you shouldn’t talk about STIs that way, either. “When STIs come up in media or if people make a stigmatizing joke, correct it,” Corinna says. “Also important is not assigning value to people who do or don’t have an STI.”

And, no matter how many safer sex conversations you have (or haven’t) had with your kid, even people who do everything right can contract an STI. “STIs can happen even if you use protection and get tested,” says Ella Dawson, a writer who was diagnosed with herpes at 20. According to the CDC, nearly all sexually active people will contract HPV in their lifetime; two in three people worldwide have herpes simplex I and half of new infections are genital. The CDC considers both chlamydia and gonorrhea to be common infections. But, as Corinna points out, “The tricky thing is that when we talk about STIs, we’re talking about easily treatable illnesses like chlamydia versus [something like] HIV.”

Something else that might affect how involved a parent is or needs to be is how a young person contracted their STI in the first place. Often, STIs are contracted during consensual sexual interactions, but they can also be contracted during abuse or an assault. Corinna says that the biggest concern that they hear at Scarleteen from teens who have STIs is that their parents or caregivers will be disappointed in them. But, more serious than that, are fears that they may be kicked out of their house for having sex. Or, “if it happens in a wanted or ongoing relationship,” says Corinna, “there is the fear that their parents will punish them by refusing to let them see the person anymore.” All of these things may prevent a young person from disclosing their status to their parent or caregiver, or to avoid seeking medical attention all together.

“Teens with STIs need two things,” says Dawson. Those things are “access to medical care, and support. Make sure that your child has gotten a quality diagnosis from a medical professional, and also make sure that they are being treated with respect by their physician,” she says. Then, bombard them with unconditional love and support. It’s also important to do what you can to avoid adding to the shame and stigma your child might already be feeling. “Believe me, they don’t need you to confirm their own feelings of shame and regret,” Dawson warns.

Of course, it’s normal for parents to panic when their kid comes to them with an unexpected revelation like an STI diagnosis, but “it’s important to keep that freak out away from your kid,” says Battle. Corinna encourages parents to put aside their emotional reaction and get themselves educated so they can best help the young person in their lives. “If you’re in denial about [your] young person having sex, try to move past it and help them with what they need. If it’s about you controlling their health care and not giving them access, fix that,” Corinna says. “If you didn’t have conversations about what it means to be sexual with someone else, it’s time to have this conversation.”

Everyone agrees that the best way to be helpful as a parent is to take your lead from your child. “If they are upset, validate that. If they don’t feel bad about it, don’t make it a big deal,” suggests Corinna. Demonizing the transmitter, especially if that person is a partner, is not a helpful tactic and may alienate your child. Also not helpful? Trying to implement behavior modifications that same day, like taking them immediately to buy condoms, because it may feel like blaming. Also, going behind the young person’s back and calling their healthcare provider or their partner or telling a co-parent without getting explicit permission are surefire ways to lose a teen’s trust.

If your child isn’t sure what their diagnosis means, it can be a great time to get educated together. If they’re unsure if they might have an STI, “ask, ‘What are your symptoms? Let’s go to trusted website and find out what next steps should be.’ Or if it’s a diagnosis, it’s still an opportunity to sit down and ask what they learned at the doctor and what they know, so you can understand the next steps,” says Battle. Check out the resources on Scarleteen, the CDC’s website, or the American Social Health Association.

If you haven’t had great sex education yourself, learn along with your teen. After there is some distance, you can initiate another conversation about safer sex and make sure your teen has access to the appropriate supplies to help them avoid an STI in the future.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is letting your child know that an STI does not change the way you see them. This “does not mean your child has erred, ruined their future, or shown their true, negative character. Anyone can get an STI, even if you’re on the Dean’s list,” says Dawson. “What’s really important is that your kid is having a respectful, consensual and healthy sex life.”

Complete Article HERE!

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My Son Might Be Gay. What Should I Say to Him?

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There’s a reason he hasn’t come out to you yet.

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Making your way through this cruel, confounding, ever-changing world is difficult. Something make you anxious this week, or any week? Lay it on me at askdaveholmes@gmail.com. I’m here to help you minimize the damage you will necessarily inflict on the world just by being alive.

So, what’s your problem?

Dave,

I have a 17-year-old son, and I am fairly sure he is gay. He is not out, although I don’t know if he might be to any close friends. What’s hardest for me as his dad is that I know that this time of life can be confusing and frustrating to any kid, and I only know the experience of a straight guy. I can’t imagine how much harder or more complicated it must be for him. I would love to be able to be more supportive of him, but I certainly am not going to confront him.
Since your column a couple of weeks ago was advice for coming out to your family, my related question is: What advice do you have for the family of someone who hasn’t yet come out?
Many thanks,

Mark

Mark, you are one hell of a father, so first and foremost: thank you. You’re attuned to your kid’s developing identity, you’re not trying to change him, and you’re considering how your words and behavior will affect him down the road. I’m not a parent, but I know these are all difficult and necessary things. You are actively improving your son’s quality of life just by thinking about them. Well done.

Here’s a story to illustrate what you should definitely not do. Years ago, when I was not much older than your son, I was at home on a Sunday night flipping through the TV channels with my mother. Not much was on: a Murder She Wrote we’d already seen; a Parker Lewis Can’t Lose she wouldn’t have understood; probably an actual opera in Italian on A&E or Bravo, because that’s actually what those networks used to give you. I paused on our local PBS affiliate, where a huge choir was singing, and after a few seconds I realized it was the Gay Men’s Chorus of some city or another doing a fundraising concert.

I stopped there, just to see what would happen. At this time in my life, I was 99 percent certain I was gay, though nowhere near ready to spring it on my parents. We had no gay people in our lives back then, no way to gauge my family’s level of tolerance. And here it was: the most passive, least courageous way I could drag the topic into the family room, kicking and singing.

We had no gay people in our lives back then, no way to gauge my family’s level of tolerance.

We watched as they delivered a rendition of what I remember as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” because either they or my memory are unforgivably basic. But it was gorgeous. Stirring and brave and subversive, coming as it did in a time before marriage equality was on the map, a time when you only saw gay people on the news. I got chills.

Then they finished, and my mom turned to me and said, “I really pity them.”

I switched it to Parker Lewis and left the room.

Now, I am comfortable telling you this story now because it was ages ago, she has come a long way since then, and also there’s a zero percent chance she’s ever going to read this because it’s on the computer. But it stands as evidence that sometimes saying nothing is the stronger choice

Good on you for not point-blank asking your son whether he’s gay. You are probably going to be the last person he tells. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t trust you or that you didn’t make it an easy enough process for him. It means one simple, inescapable thing: Once you have told your dad you’re gay, there is no going back. You have given your final answer, and you are locking it in. And what if it all just lifts one day, and you wake up straight, and then you get married and have to spend your whole wedding day wondering whether your dad is thinking about what you told him that one time?

Right now, if your instinct is correct, your son is sorting through all of his competing urges and trying to determine which are his and which belong to society. Right now, everything is possible. You are probably correct that the confusion and frustration he’s experiencing is different than what you and all teenagers have gone through. But as to whether it’s harder, it’s all relative. This is the only adolescence he’s ever going to have. And as you know from personal experience, it’s not like straight teenagers are dying for their parents’ involvement in their relationships and identity development. Right now, he has to be secretive, not because he’s gay, but because he’s 17. And if his personal experience is indeed tougher than his peers’, then he will end up tougher than his peers.

I’d love to say that you should do a big, showy “Hey, I sure do like those gay people” at the dinner table. I want to tell you to find out when Brokeback Mountain is on HBO and then accidentally turn it on right at the beginning when he’s in the room. I wish it were as simple and CBS-sitcommy as invite the gay guy from work to family bowling night. But it isn’t. Don’t do any of these things. At this age, kids are not only wildly self-conscious, they are also you-conscious. They know what you’re trying to do and what you’re asking without asking. Any well-meaning attempt to raise The Topic is only going to make him more nervous.

At this age, kids are not only wildly self-conscious, they are also you-conscious.

The one thing you can do, which I suspect you’re already doing, is to make him feel like a secure and separate person. To chisel away at the shame our culture hangs on all of us. To make him strong in his opinions and choices, even when they wouldn’t be yours. Discuss the news of the day with him, and when he makes a point that differs from yours, thank him for giving you a fresh perspective. Do what you can to make him feel like he can stand on his two feet, even when he’s standing apart from you. It’s a skill he’ll need, no matter which side of the fence he eventually lands on.

No matter what you do, know one important thing: He’s 17, and he’s probably going to react by rolling his eyes and going to his room. That’s what I did when my own father subtly tried to engage with me long ago. Teens can’t help it. It is their job. But trust me: Your son is listening, and he won’t forget it. (And Dad, wherever you are: I see now what you were doing playing so much Wham! in your car, and I appreciate it.)

But again, by simply being the kind of person who asks a question like this, you are doing more than most fathers. This kid is lucky to have you. We all are

Complete Article HERE!

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