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Negative Attitudes Slow Acceptance of Bisexuality

By Rick Nauert PhD

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Although positive attitudes toward gay men and lesbians have increased over recent decades, a new study shows attitudes toward bisexual men and women are relatively neutral, if not ambivalent.

Researchers at Indiana University Center for Sexual Health Promotion say their study is only the second to explore attitudes toward bisexual men and women in a nationally representative sample. Investigators define bisexuality as the capacity for physical, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to more than one sex or gender.

The study is also the first to query attitudes among a sample of gay, lesbian and other-identified individuals (pansexual, queer and other identity labels), in addition to those who identify as heterosexuals.

The study, led by Dr. Brian Dodge, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science and associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, was recently published in PLOS ONE.

The nationally representative sample was taken from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion’s 2015 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior.

“While recent data demonstrates dramatic shifts in attitude (from negative to positive) toward homosexuality, gay/lesbian individuals, and same-sex marriage in the U.S., most of these surveys do not ask about attitudes toward bisexuality or bisexual individuals,” Dodge said.

“And many rely on convenience sampling strategies that are not representative of the general population of the U.S.”

The study looked at five negative connotations, found in previous studies, associated with bisexual men and women — including the idea that bisexuals are confused or in transition regarding their sexual orientation, that they are hypersexual and that they are vectors of sexually transmitted diseases.

The research showed that a majority of male and female respondents, more than one-third, were most likely to “neither agree nor disagree” with the attitudinal statements.

In regard to bisexual men and women having the capability to be faithful in a relationship, nearly 40 percent neither agreed nor disagreed.

Those who identified as “other” had the most positive attitudes toward bisexuality, followed by gay/lesbian respondents and then heterosexuals.

Age played a factor in the results, with participants under the age of 25 indicating more positive attitudes toward bisexual men and women. Income and education also played a role: Higher-income participants were more likely to report more positive attitudes toward bisexual men and women, in addition to participants with higher levels of education.

Overall, attitudes toward bisexual women were more positive than attitudes toward bisexual men.

“While our society has seen marked shifts in more positive attitudes toward homosexuality in recent decades, our data suggest that attitudes toward bisexual men and women have shifted only slightly from very negative to neutral,” Dodge said.

“That nearly one-third of participants reported moderately to extremely negative attitudes toward bisexual individuals is of great concern given the dramatic health disparities faced by bisexual men and women in our country, even relative to gay and lesbian individuals.”

Bisexual men and women face a disproportionate rate of physical, mental, and other health disparities in comparison to monosexuals — those who identify as exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual, Dodge said.

Although research has not determined the cause, Dodge said that negative attitudes and stigma associated with bisexuality could play a role.

Data from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior shows that approximately 2.6 percent of adult men and 3.6 percent of adult women in the U.S. identify as bisexual.

For females, that number is more than double the number of women who identify as lesbian, 0.9 percent. When it comes to adolescents, 1.5 percent of male adolescents (age 14 to 17) and 8.4 percent of female adolescents identify as bisexual.

Dodge said he hopes the results emphasize the need for efforts to decrease negative stereotypes and increase acceptance of bisexual individuals as a component of broader initiatives aimed at tolerance of sexual and gender minority individuals.

“After documenting the absence of positive attitudes toward bisexual men and women in the general U.S. population, we encourage future research, intervention, and practice opportunities focused on assessing, understanding, and eliminating biphobia — for example, among clinicians and other service providers — and determining how health disparities among bisexual men and women can be alleviated,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

A graphic history of sex: ‘There is no gene that drives sexuality. All sexuality is learned’

Changes in sexuality over time have made the modern family what it is. What next? Homa Khaleeli asks the authors of a groundbreaking graphic guide, The Story of Sex

The Story of Sex … some images from the book. Illustration: Laetitia Coryn

The Story of Sex … some images from the book. Illustration: Laetitia Coryn

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Philip Larkin famously announced that sexual intercourse began in 1963 (“Between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban / And the Beatles’ first LP”). Being French, and a psychiatrist to boot, Philippe Brenot takes a rather longer view. In his latest book, The Story of Sex, a bestseller in France, he runs an anthropological eye over the sexual mores of human societies from prehistoric times to today. Yet Brenot believes that the sexual revolution did spark a dramatic change, creating the modern couple, which is the basis of our families today. Now, however, he thinks this partnership of equals is under assault from all sides.

The academic, who has the wonderful title of director of sexology at Paris Descartes University, has spent his life studying sexuality. The Story of Sex is an irreverent, graphic novel (in both senses), filled with fascinating – if alarming – history. Cleopatra used a vibrator filled with bees; the word “trousers” was considered to be positively pornographic in Victorian England. Illustrator Laetitia Coryn’s extremely cheeky, but never sordid, pictures liven up the page and keep the narrative zipping along. The book was a real collaboration, says Coryn, who says it was made easier by Brenot’s firm ideas – and the fact he liked her jokes.

The illustrator admits she hesitated slightly over collaborating on the book. “I told my publisher we have to be careful with the drawings and with the jokes – we have to be sensitive,” she says, because she wanted the book to have as wide an audience as possible. “I didn’t put any porn in it!” As a reader, however, the frankness of the pictures still shocked me (you, er, might not want to whip out the book on public transport or in the office).

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Philippe Brenot and Laeticia Cory.

Talking to Brenot over the phone (through charmingly accented English that becomes somewhat eccentric as he struggles with the complexities of his ideas) it’s impossible to escape the psychiatrist’s anxiety about our attitudes to love and intimacy today. We have never been freer to define our own relationships, and follow our own pleasure, he says, but despite this we are far from satisfied; and the modern couple is looking dangerously fragile.

“It’s incredible the difficulties couples have,” Brenot declares, in a tone that makes me imagine he is throwing his hands in the air in despair. Of the couples he sees in therapy, he says, “there is nothing wrong with them psychologically, but still they cannot communicate quietly, live calmly and have sexual fulfilment”.

While we think of lovers as a timeless relationship model, it has been the family that has been paramount in society for most of history, the 68-year-old says. “The couple used to get together for the sake of the family,” he explains. And the idea of equality in long-term pairings is even more recent, with “traditional” marriages putting men firmly in charge of their spouses.

“Love marriages have only been widespread for a century or so, and homosexuality was condemned until very recently,” Brenot notes.

“Since the 1970s, we have begun to invent modern couples with respect for each other and equality between the sexes,” he says. “This only came about after ‘marriage’ as a concept began dying out. Not because people stopped getting married, but because marriage stopped being seen as a sacred union – couples instead started developing on their own terms.”

Yet the rise in divorces since the 1970s and breakups of long-term relationships shows that the modern couple is not surviving, Brenot argues. In part, he says, this is because we are demanding more than ever before.

“It is difficult to live intimately, because we want perfect love and perfect sex and that is very difficult in a long-term relationship. We want a lot more than a reliable person to raise kids with.”

The solution, he says, is for us all to learn more about sex – which is where his book comes in. “It’s not possible to understand our intimate sex lives without looking at centuries of history, and even the origins of human life,” he says. “We understand what we live today if we understand from where we came.”

For instance, he says, if we look at the way relationships were formed in early human societies we can see echoes of our own problems. “We came from primates, but in chimp society there are never couples or families. There are lone males and females with children.” It was only as our brains evolved and emotions developed – including love – that monogamous relationships set in. For the first time (“somewhere between 1 million BC and 100,000BC”), it was possible to know the paternity of a child.

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While the beginning of family life may sound like a wonderful moment, Brenot argues that it was also the start of women’s subjugation, with men taking possession of their female partner and offspring – which traditional marriage legalised. “Paternity is the beginning of male domination,” says Brenot simply. “The day that happened, men took possession of women.”

In the animal kingdom, Brenot argues, there is none of the domination of female partners that has been a hallmark of human societies through history, nor is there domestic violence. Instead, among animals “males fight against other males and females fight with other females,” he says.

“Violence between men and women is only in humans – because of marriage, which puts men above women.”

During antiquity, meanwhile, a woman’s role was to provide a child – and female sexual pleasure was dismissed. But this role was also a dangerous one. “There were so many impediments to female pleasure. In the 18th and 19th centuries, one in six pregnant women died in childbirth. Then there were the infections and sexual violence.”

For men, of course, things were different. “Men have always done what they wanted,” says Brenot.

Even for men, sex for pleasure was something that happened “outside the home – for instance with prostitutes. Women were seen either to provide offspring or pleasure.” In ancient Rome, these rules were so strictly upheld that women could take their husbands to court for ejaculating anywhere but inside her body during intercourse, “because sex within marriage was for procreation, and the wife’s role was to receive sperm”.

Even during periods that today we think of as being golden ages for same-sex relationships, such pleasures were “reserved for the elite” – and the reality was often less accepting than we think. In ancient Greece, for instance, it was only the man who was “receiving” who was not stigmatised in a pairing. Similarly for the libertines in the 18th century, “there was a fluid sexuality, but it was also the top end of society – the intelligentsia and aristocracy. Throughout the centuries and the world’s rural populations, to be gay – or for women to have control of their own sexuality – has always been frowned upon.”

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Today too, Brenot argues, while much has been written about more people exploring fluid sexualities, entering polyamorous relationships and breaking down gender norms, “we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this is trickling down to all sections of society”. And he warns too about a backlash from “new moralists” who oppose gay marriage, and will, no doubt, do the same for trans rights and alternative relationships as they gain more legal rights. Coryn says this is one of the reasons she enjoyed creating the book. “In France, people who don’t want gay people to be married, is a huge phenomenon. It’s awful. We say in the book this is a misunderstanding of sexuality; homosexuality is normal. I hope this is one topic on which people will change their mind in reading the book.”

For heterosexual couples, relationships began to look up about the time of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Up until this period, “men were having fun outside the home – hunting animals or chasing women. While women were always at home,” says Brenot. But the new spirit of education and the pursuit of knowledge changed this. Finally, says Brenot, men and women could be friends and even have platonic love.

Yet it took contraception for men and women to gain a semblance of equality. Previously “women were immobilised by marriage. They can’t get out of it, they don’t have the possibility of working or being free. The story of sex is, first of all, the story of marriage and the difficulties [it creates] for women.”

To start combating the problems that these historical inequalities have left us with, the psychiatrist insists, we need better sexual education, and one that starts at an early age. “People think sexuality is just an instinct,” he says, “that it is natural like eating and drinking. No. There is no gene that drives sexuality. All sexuality is learned.”

Because of this, says Brenot, the models for our sexuality are very important. Today, talking about sex is still taboo, and the dissemination of pornography has filled the void. “People say pornography changes adolescent life. But it changes everyone’s sexuality,” he says. “We have sex differently now; we try to imitate what we see [on our screens]. People feel bad and say, ‘I can’t do what they do.’”

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To displace this dangerous model, “sexual education should teach the rules that should govern relationships; it should teach us about communication, about consent and respect. This is not natural [to us]. We have to learn this.”

Coryn says that while the Story of Sex is not a sexual education manual, “we wanted it to be uninhibited”, to make talking about sex seem as natural as it should be.

“From the time children are little girls and boys, we have to teach them that everyone should be respected and to start accepting difference,” says Brenot. But, he says, while men and women are equal, that does not mean that they are the same. Railing against the teaching of “gender studies” departments, he says that a refusal to admit this difference is allowing gender inequality to become entrenched.

“They say, ‘Don’t speak of differences – a man is the same as a woman. Society is guilty of making differences, but underneath we are the same.’”

Unpicking these ideas, he says, is the only way to combat our most pressing problems. For example, “physical strength is different from a very young age. So [children] need to understand boys are stronger and take that into account – because that is the start of domestic violence, which is a real problem.”

If we leave this teaching too late, he says, the battle is already lost: “In children’s fairy stories it is the boy who seduces the girl, so there is power play early on.” Then there is the fact men have always been free to have multiple partners throughout history, because men don’t get pregnant. It is only by introducing the idea early on that “contraception is a joint responsibility” that we can challenge this.

Today’s modern couple, he points out, faces new challenges from the rise in options for dating to “new forms of relationship,” says Brenot. Yet Coryn stresses, as does Brenot, that there has never been a better time for people to live in terms of sexuality. Yet one thing has not changed, says Brenot – everyone still wants to find somebody to love. “People are afraid to be alone at the end of their life. They are afraid not to find the perfect person to live with. It is a difficult problem for everyone today.

“We have to learn how to live together anew.”

Complete Article HERE!

11 Sex Positive Things You Can (And Should) Say To Your Son

By Sabrina Joy Stevens

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“Uh oh! You see how our kitty is arching her back and moving away from you? That means she doesn’t like how you’re playing with her right now. She’s using her body to tell you to leave her alone. Let’s go play with something else together.” I have conversations like that with my almost 2-year-old son multiple times a week, not only because I want him to be a respectful friend and pet owner, but because that’s one of the many sex positive things you can say to your son that don’t necessarily even have to do with sex, but do lay an important foundation for his sexual behavior in the future.

Sex positivity is simply the idea that sex and sexuality are normal and positive parts of life, as long as they’re expressed in healthy, respectful, and consensual ways. Sex positive people recognize that sex should feel good emotionally and physically which means everyone involved needs to feel knowledgeable and comfortable enough with their own bodies and their partners to give and get what they want out of any sexual interaction. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation and mythology about sex that prevent people from living their sexual lives this way, which is a source of much needless trauma and pain in our lives. However, as parents we can end that cycle, by ensuring that our kids know the truth about their bodies, about their rights and boundaries, and about sex itself.

As sex positive parents and parents of sons in particular we have a special responsibility to make sure our sons don’t grow up with the kind of shame and misunderstandings that not only put them at risk of harm, but may make them a danger to others in their future sexual interactions. Our sex negative culture teaches us all many lies about male sexuality, including that boys and men are inherently bad and sexually aggressive. Yet, the mythology goes, because they have these “base” desires, it’s OK for them to trick, manipulate, or even force women and girls into sex. This is rape culture in a nutshell, and it’s on us to stop it. As parents, we have a huge role to play in interrupting these kinds of messages before they shape our sons’ behavior (whether our sons are gay or straight).

The following kinds of sex positive statements can help us raise boys into men who are safe for others to be around, and capable of having the kinds of fulfilling, satisfying relationships we hope will enrich their lives.

“Yep, That’s Your Penis!”

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I find myself saying this at nearly every diaper change, usually in between saying things like, “Yep, that’s your nose!” or “Yep, that’s your knee!” Even as little babies, our sons notice their bodies during diaper changes, bath time, and any other time, really. It’s important to use those moments to make sure they learn the proper language for all of their body parts from a young age, and to treat their private parts as no more inherently shameful as any other body part.

“It’s OK To Touch Yourself, As Long As You Have Privacy”

Eventually, boys and girls alike discover that touching their private parts can feel good. That’s a perfectly healthy development. Instead of shaming or punishing them for doing so, sex positive parents model setting boundaries and reinforce the normalcy of sexual pleasure by letting them know it’s OK, but that they should only do so in their own private spaces (like alone in their own bedrooms, or when they bathe themselves).

“If Your Friends Say ‘Stop’ While You’re Playing, That Means You Stop Right Away”

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Consent and boundaries are fundamental concepts in all relationships, not just sexual ones. That’s why teaching consent can and should happen in lots of other, totally non-sexual contexts from a very early age, including when they’re learning how to play fairly with friends.

“It Looks Like That Dog/Cat/Friend Doesn’t Want To Be Touched. Let’s Leave Them Alone.”

I don’t use words like “sex positive” or “consent” when I help my son interact with our or others’ pets (or with new people, for that matter). That’s what I’m thinking about, though; teaching him how to read others’ body language for signs that indicate their openness or unwillingness to be touched. Those are skills he’ll need in a variety of future situations, sexual and otherwise.

“Can I Hug You?”

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Again, consent consent consent. Asking before giving our sons affectionate touches is how we both honor their right to govern their own bodies, and model how they should do that for others.

“Ask Before Giving Hugs Or Other Nice Touches”

Just like we should always ask them before giving touches, we’ll need to remind them to ask, too. These reminders are more effective if we always ask them, so they know what asking looks like in practice.

“Adults Have Sex To Make Babies…”

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When our sons ask where babies come from, we should tell them the truth (in age-appropriate ways). We don’t need to give very young children all the details or lots of concepts they can’t understand. However, by telling them the simple truth that grown ups usually make babies by having sex (putting their private parts together in a way that lets a man’s sperm meet a woman’s egg inside her body) is better than lying to them, or treating the subject like a shameful secret they’re not allowed to know yet.

“…And Also Because Sex Feels Good…”

Older kids and teenagers eventually need to understand that sex doesn’t always result in pregnancy, and that making children isn’t the only reason people have sex. They also need to know sex is supposed to feel good, physically and emotionally, for everyone involved.

It’s incredibly important that our sons understand that their partners deserve and should expect sexual pleasure just as much as they do, once they are mature enough to actually have sex.  When boys and men don’t understand that their desire is normal and healthy and that girls and women experience desire too we run the risk of having things like pressuring or drugging someone in order to meet their sexual needs, seem “normal.” They need to understand that that is rape, and that they don’t need to resort to coercion or rape to experience sexual release. If they are safe, comfortable, respectful, caring people, they can cultivate the kinds of relationships in which they can have truly (and mutually) fulfilling sex.

“…But That’s Only True When You’re Mature And Ready Enough To Have Sex”

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Some critics of the notion of sex positive parenting worry that being honest about sexual pleasure will make kids vulnerable to sexual abuse. However, kids who misunderstand sex, or who feel too ashamed to discuss their bodies with the trusted adults in their lives, are far more easily manipulated into situations where they can be sexually abused. Abusers use kids’ innate curiosity about sex, their desire to be cooperative, and their body shame against them, and exploit their shame and lack of language about sex to maintain the silence they need to get away with abuse.

Again, sex positivity revolves around the notion that sex should feel physically and emotionally good. That means all participants need to be in a position to freely consent to sex, which children fundamentally can’t. Even if any sexual contact they experienced were to incidentally feel good physically, the emotional damage of adults (or even more powerful and/or older kids) manipulating or forcing them into sexual conduct fails that fundamental test.

So it’s important to ensure our kids know that sex isn’t fundamentally bad, and that it is inappropriate for anyone to try to engage them in any kind of sexual conduct from inappropriate touching, to asking them to look at others’ private parts or have theirs looked at, to taking inappropriate photos of them, and so forth while they are young.

“No One Should Ever Touch You In A Way That Doesn’t Feel Good…”

Our sons need to understand that they have a right to decide who touches them, and when and how, and that if that doesn’t feel good to them, that they can ask and/or do whatever else they need to do to make it stop. They need to understand that this is true for any kind of touch, whether it’s a prospective hug from a relative, or a sexual touch from a future sex partner.

It’s also important for our sons to understand that not all sexual touches will feel good to them, that that is normal, and that it’s OK for them to demand that it stops (even if the person touching them is female). Our culture teaches boys and men that “real men” always want and enjoy sexual touch, and that straight men always enjoy touches they receive from women. These myths not only leave them vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, but leaves them without social support and understanding if these things happen to them.

“…And You Should Never Touch Anyone Else In A Way They Don’t Want And Like”

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And of course, our sons need to know that just like they have a right not to experience touches they don’t want, everyone else they meet has that same right and expectation of them. Recognizing that all the people they meet have the same rights they do, and that other people have their own complex mixes of desires, fears, curiosities and discomforts like they do, will help them avoid becoming a danger to others, and lay the foundation for the kinds of mutually fulfilling relationships we want for them in the future.

Complete Article HERE!

Why more and more women are identifying as bisexual

By Megan Todd

This is the pro-LGBT rights image that saw an Italian woman suspended from Facebook after the social media site claimed it violated rules on 'nudity and pornography'

This is the pro-LGBT rights image that saw an Italian woman suspended from Facebook after the social media site claimed it violated rules on ‘nudity and pornography’

The Office of National Statistics has released its latest data on sexual identities in the UK, and some striking patterns jump out – especially when it comes to bisexuality.

The number of young people identifying as bisexual has apparently risen by 45% over the last three years. Women are more likely to identity as bisexual (0.8%) than lesbian (0.7%), whereas men are more likely to report as gay (1.6%) than bisexual (0.5%). That last finding chimes with other studies in the UK and the US – but why should this be?

Women’s sexuality has historically been policed, denied and demonised in very particular ways, and for a woman to be anything other than passively heterosexual has often been considered an outright perversion. Lesbians have historically been seen as a more dangerous breed, a direct challenge to patriarchal structures, perhaps explaining why women may be more likely to self-identify as bisexual. Some research into women’s sexuality has also suggested that women take a more fluid approach to their relationships than men.

But then there’s the more general matter of how much sexual labels still matter to people – and here, the ONS findings really start to get interesting.

Among young people aged between 16 and 24, 1.8% said they identified as bisexual – exceeding, for the first time, the 1.5% who identified as lesbian or gay. In total 3.3% of young people identified as LGB, a significantly higher proportion than the 1.7% of the general population who identified as such. (Just 0.6% of the over-65s did).

In a society that still tends to see the world in often false binaries – man/woman, gay/straight, white/black and so on – how can we explain such a difference?

A pessimistic view of why more young people are identifying as bisexual rather than as gay or lesbian might be that conservative, rigid and polarised understandings of what gender is still hold sway. This, in turn, might also have an impact on attitudes to sexuality, where an investment in a lesbian or gay identity may be more frowned upon than a bisexual one – which in many people’s minds still has a “friendly” relationship with heterosexuality.

And yet it’s clear that identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual carries less stigma for the younger age group than it does for their elders.

 

Older generations grew up in a time where any orientation besides heterosexuality was taboo, stigmatised and often criminalised. The lesbian and gay movements of the 1970s and 1980s, inspired by the US’s Civil Rights movement, were often staunchly radical; the concept of the political lesbian, for instance, was a very prominent and powerful one. At the same time, both heterosexual and lesbian and gay communities were also marked by misunderstandings and distrust of bisexuality (in a word, biphobia).

But in the UK at least, gay and lesbian identities have lost a good deal of the political charge they once carried. Once “peripheral”, these sexual categories are well on the way to being normalised and commercialised. Many in the community remember or identify with a more radical era of political lesbianism and gay activism, and many of them are dismayed that non-heterosexuals’ current political battles for equality and recognition are often focused on gaining entry to heterosexual institutions, especially marriage.

Bisexuals march at Pride in London.

Bisexuals march at Pride in London.

But that doesn’t mean people have become more rigid in the ways they think about themselves. So while many in society will be the victims of homophobic and biphobic hate crime, things have improved, at least in terms of state policies.

This, alongside the now extensive reservoir of queer thought on gender and sexual fluidity, and the increasing strength of trans movements, may explain why the younger generation are taking labels such as bisexual, lesbian and gay in greater numbers than their seniors. That celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevigne and Anna Paquin have come out as bisexual in recent years can’t have hurt either.

Beyond labels?

The ONS survey raises empirical questions which are connected to those of identity. It specifically asked questions about sexual identity, rather than exploring the more complicated links between identity, behaviours and desires.

The category “bisexual” is also very internally diverse. Many would argue that there are many different types of bisexuality and other sexual identities which the ONS survey does not explore.

This much is made clear by the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle (NATSAL), which has taken place every ten years since 1990 and is perhaps the most detailed picture we have of what people do (or don’t do) in bed. It suggests that the number of people who report same-sex experience is much higher than the number of people who identify as gay or bisexual.

Laud Humphreys’ infamous 1970 book Tearoom Trade, a highly controversial ethnographic study of anonymous sex between men in public toilets, showed us that plenty of people who seek out and engage in same-sex sexual contact do not necessarily identify as exclusively gay or even bisexual – in fact, only a small minority of his respondents did.

However far we’ve come, there’s still a social stigma attached to being lesbian/gay/bisexual. That means the statistics we have will be an underestimate, and future surveys will need a much more complicated range of questions to give us a more accurate picture. If we ask the right ones, we might discover we live in a moment where people are exploring their sexualities without feeling the need to label them.

But are we headed towards a point where the hetero/homo binary will collapse, and where gender will play less of a role in sexual preference? Given the continued privilege that comes with a heterosexual identity and the powerful political and emotional history of gay and lesbian identities and movements, I don’t think so.

Still, it seems more people may be growing up with the assumption that sexuality is more complicated than we have previously acknowledged – and that this not need not be a problem.

Complete Article HERE!

A slip through the back door does not a gay man make

By JOACHIM OSUR

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When Risper met Tom, she was convinced that he was the Mr Right she had been waiting for. She was thirty-two years old and like any single woman of that age, there was enough pressure from her mum and aunties to get married as quickly as possible.

You see, there is this belief that if you do not marry by a certain age you will remain single forever and may not bear children, so the people who need to be named, those whose names your children should inherit will suffer extinction.

We believe that we live forever by giving our names to newborns from our children. Anyway, that is a story for another day.

And so it was that six months into the relationship Risper and Tom were already having sex. Plans were underway for a wedding.

Tom had already visited Risper’s parents and they were all too thankful to God for favouring their daughter with such a handsome and responsible man – Tom was a doctor, a cardiothoracic surgeon, who had delayed marriage to pursue his specialised medical qualification.

A month before the wedding Risper was seated in front of me at the sexology clinic, weeping. She was weeping because in discovering each other sexually, Tom had ventured into anal sex.

Risper was not psychologically prepared for it. All she could remember was that she heard Tom requesting in the heat of the moment to be allowed to try something new and adventurous. She said okay only to be caught unawares when he penetrated her anus!

“God forgive me, but I have to call off the wedding. I cannot marry Tom! I will not entertain homosexuality; it is evil, it is unacceptable, it is wrong!” Risper said, her eyes red and wet with tears.

NOT HOMOSEXUALITY

But anal sex is not synonymous with homosexuality. Homosexuality is sexual attraction to a person of the same sex. For women, it is called lesbianism (where a woman is attracted sexually to another woman.) Men who are attracted sexually to other men are gay. When a man is sexually attracted to a woman, like in Tom’s case, then he cannot be labeled homosexual.

“But tell me doctor, how do gay men have sex, is it not anal sex?” Risper asked not believing me.

Well, anal sex between men is gay sex but between a man and a woman it is heterosexual anal sex and it does happen. There are heterosexual couples who find it pleasurable and if they mutually enjoy it, they should be allowed to do it.

The scenario is different if one partner is uncomfortable with any type of sexual adventure in a relationship. There should be mutual discussion about it and if one party finds it unacceptable, just keep off.

“My anus hurts! I do not understand why he had to do this to me!” Risper said writhing in pain and ignoring my advice.

Of course if one chooses to have anal sex it must be understood that the anus does not lubricate (a vagina does). Applying a lubricant before penetration is important. Further, one has to be gentle and considerate of the partner’s feelings. It is insensitve to cause pain and injury to one’s partner during sex in the name of adventure.

“In fact, it is unchristian to do what Tom did to me! If I reported him to our pastor, the church would call for prayer and fasting for God to deliver us,” Risper interjected.

And yes, one’s values do matter as far as sexual adventures are concerned. If it is against your values it is better to keep off. There are people who cannot entertain anal sex, oral sex or other forms of sex other than the traditional intercourse where the penis goes into the vagina. This should be respected.

The next day I had a sit-down with both Risper and Tom and reiterated the etiquette of introducing new sexual moves to each other. Tom was saddened to hear that Risper had considered calling off the wedding.

“You know what, doctor? I did what I did to please Risper. I read somewhere that women enjoy it. In fact I forced myself into it and did not enjoy it at all,” Tom explained, gloom painted on his face.

“Well, you have learnt your lesson, in sex sometimes words speak louder than actions and you have to learn to use words more than your actions especially when introducing something new,” I explained, to which Tom nodded vigorously.

So the wedding plans continued and the couple is now married and living happily together. Two years into the marriage, Tom called and informed me that Risper had delivered a bouncing baby girl at dawn. The baby was named after Tom’s mother.

“Thank you for setting us straight on that fateful day, I cannot forget your intervention; it saved my marriage!” Tom said bursting into a loud staccato laughter.

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