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What straight couples can learn from gay couples

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When I embarked on the seven-year journey that would result in a trilogy of comedy shows and my first book, I had no idea what a huge part sexual orientation would play.

Yes, I’m a lesbian and that has influenced much of how I’ve socialised and dated for the 20 years or so since I came out. Yet, as I talked to more and more LGBT people – particularly those a little older than me who had experienced way more discrimination – I realised that being forced to think ‘outside the box’ around the concepts of love and family had resulted in some very self-aware, savvy and compassionate strategies for coping with the complexities of human relationships.

While I welcome the progressive legal changes that have seen a huge rise in acceptance for LGBT people, I worry that a blanket assumption that we all aspire to marry, have children and be ‘normal’ means that we might lose sight of some of the very best of these pioneering ideas.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin used the term ‘consciously uncoupling’

Open relationships can be incredibly successful. Gay men fairly typically negotiate sexually open partnerships and have done for many decades. However, what is less widely-reported is just how good they are at remaining emotionally faithful to a primary partner. Their separation rates are the lowest of any section of society. Figures from 2013, from the Office of National Statistics, showed that civil partnership dissolution rates were twice as high for female couples as they were for male. While early divorce statistics in the UK evidence that ratio increasing further still.

So what are the relationships lessons straight couples can learn from the gay community?

1. An ex can be a best friend

Long before American author and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas devised the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ and Gwyneth Paltrow made it famous, lesbians were the godmothers of the concept of compassionate endings.

Recently, Dr Jane Traies conducted the first comprehensive study of older lesbians in the UK. She told me, “It’s not uncommon for a lesbian’s ex-partner to be her best friend.” She described one couple, now in their seventies, one of who had previously been in a straight marriage. The other had always been openly gay and had many more significant exes, who they would regularly spend time with. The central relationship seemed to be richly rewarded by having this framework of other ongoing connections supporting it.

2. ‘Living Apart Together’ can be great

Although the idea of ‘LAT’ couples is now more widely discussed, it was the LGBT community who originally piloted this idea. As my friend, the gay poet Dominic Berry, points out, “Perhaps if people are doing something widely viewed as deviant, making another deviance from the norm isn’t too big a jump.”

A lot of the automatic assumptions that are made about relationships – that you must get married, be monogamous, have children, move in together – have been cheerfully dispensed with. In many cases, an alternative romantic framework suited the individuals in the relationship much better.

Some straight couples can be reluctant to talk openly about sexuality

3. Talking about love, desire and sex is good

When I conducted a survey for my comedy show, I asked respondents if they actually  discussed sex and fidelity with a partner. One straight woman wrote, ‘Good lord no! It’s one thing to do the deed but we’re too uptight to actually talk about it. Thank goodness.’

My gay friends, by contrast, tend to have spent so many years agonising about their sexual identity that discussion of it with friends and families has been essential as part of the ‘coming out’ process. In many cases, this had lead to a readiness to air other really important questions around desires, boundaries and consent once they were in an adult relationship.

4. ‘Family’ doesn’t have to mean blood

When I arrived in London as a young student in the Nineties, the LGBT community provided me with the strongest sense of belonging I have ever experienced.

In the face of prejudice and discrimination, gay people historically partied hard together and took more care of one another within the bubble of separatism. They cultivated a concept of ‘friends as family’, something the writer Armistead Maupin refers to as ‘logical family’.

5. Love isn’t like it is in the movies

Because films depicting same-sex relationships have generally been far-removed from the sugary rom-com ideal, gay people are more pragmatic and realistic about the extreme challenges of falling in and out of love and staying together.

In 2017, we may not be facing quite as much adversity as the characters depicted in Carol or Brokeback Mountain, but we know that the ‘fairy tale’ romance is a load of old hokum.

6. Rules are made to be broken

When the activism group Gay Liberation Front formed in the early Seventies, they gleefully celebrated their difference from the oppressive, beige ‘norms’ that most of society were having to follow. This resulted in an inclusive, embracing atmosphere and a sense of fun and freedom for anyone who wanted to reinvent and rethink traditional relationships and try out different models of being together.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Tips for Introducing Sex Toys to Your shy Partner

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Trust and vulnerability are required for this experimental play.

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The very first time I remember seeing a sex toy was at a “Passion Party” hosted in the apartment of one of my college friends. The entire event was incredibly awkward and I remember doing my best to just relax and have fun. We played games where we talked openly about our sex lives and previous sexcapades.

Throughout the party, different toys were described and passed around for each of the attendees to get a little hand only experience. The entire soiree was filled with nervous giggles and an almost palpable sexual electricity.

Towards the end of the party, we were given little ordering sheets of paper and were instructed to walk past a table with each toy laid out on display. I remember being so nervous to make a choice and even more nervous if I were to choose one that had to be delivered to my apartment where I lived with my high school sweetheart at the time.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the small purple vibrator I choose was the last one the party rep had in stock and available to take home. I left the event with giddiness and an excitement I hadn’t yet felt before.

Interestingly, those positives were countered by slight thoughts that yielded shame as well. I grew up in a Catholic environment and I always struggled with the idea of self-pleasure, sex used as a means for pleasure, sex outside of marriage and orgasm through means other than my spouse.

I also knew that if I wanted to bring my new purchase into the bedroom with my partner, I would have to get over more than just how to figure out which way the batteries went.

Since that time in my life, my how things have changed. Now, sex and sexuality empowerment and exploration is a fabric of my being and what I spend most of my days helping people with. I can’t help but relive a portion of the story above every time I have conversations with clients and friends who are looking to play with sex toys of any sort for the first time.

If my first experiences, with even the most basic toys, were awkward and slightly shame-filled, I can only imagine there are plenty of other people out there who are just as shy to the idea.

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Sharing from personal experience and from the experience of some of the people I have worked with, here are a few good things to know when considering adding sexy playthings into some of your sexy time.

  1. Sex toys are meant to aid in your sexual pleasure not replace your partner. If your partner makes a suggestion for the addition or exploration of sex toys, it does not mean you are not pleasing them. If anything, that is a sign that your partner trusts you enough to be vulnerable while in the midst of a very sacred, personal act.
  2. Make your decision based off of a conversation. I suggest creating a sex toy “want, will, won’t” list so you can determine your comfort level and your boundaries along with the comfort level and boundaries for your partner. Once you have a better understanding of dynamics and preferences you can make an informed sex toy purchase. Toys can be used for all sorts of play. It’s best to create your lists with open communication. Maybe take the BDSM Test at www.bdsmtest.org to help with your decision.
  3. I suggest your first sex toy purchase include a blind fold for sensory deprivation. This enhances other active senses and can make the person who is blindfolded feel less exposed when play time begins, while the person learning to give pleasure through sex toy play has the opportunity to relax and explore without eyes on them the entire time.
  4. Have a safe word and when playtime begins and continues communicating. Tell your partner when something feels good and when something does not. I find that a blindfold helps with the comfort level around keeping communication free flowing as well.
  5. All sex toys are not created equal. Choose toys that are made of high quality, non-toxic material.
    Some toys are waterproof and some are not. Make sure to check before you play, just in case your sexy session decides to change environments.
  6. Knowing about the toy does not take the fun out of it! The more information you get on sex toys that interest you, the easier it is to enjoy the experiences that include them.
  7. Get help where you need it if you are dealing with sexual shame from any area of your life.
    I needed to heal from shame surrounding my faith and regarding the lack of healthy sex related information provided to me while growing up.Step one is identifying the problem areas and then gaining assistance and support in healing from wounds that exist in those areas.

There are plenty of resources available and people like myself and other sex experts that specialize in sex education and step one is identifying the problem areas and then gaining assistance and support in healing from wounds that exist in those areas. There are plenty of resources available and people like myself and other sex experts that specialize in sex education and sexuality empowerment that can assist you on your journey. When you treat the core area of discomfort and/or pain, adding things like sex toys into your life can lead to magical, orgasmic experiences.

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Sex toys can be a fun way to spice things up in the bedroom, but they can also be a way to further connect with yourself and your partner.

Understand that sometimes things don’t go according to plan and choose to laugh when things go a little different to your expectations. Always give certain toys and instances a second chance and remember to breathe and be present.

Sex is fun and pleasure is good for you.

Complete Article HERE!

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Who’s avoiding sex, and why

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By Shervin Assari

Sex has a strong influence on many aspects of well-being: it is one of our most basic physiological needs. Sex feeds our identity and is a core element of our social life.

But millions of people spend at least some of their adulthood not having sex. This sexual avoidance can result in emotional distress, shame and low self-esteem – both for the individual who avoids sex and for the partner who is rejected.

Yet while our society focuses a lot on having sex, we do not know as much about not having it.

As a researcher of human behavior who is fascinated by how sex and gender interact, I have found that sexual avoidance influences multiple aspects of our well-being. I also have found that people avoid sex for many different reasons, some of which can be easily addressed.

People who have more sex report higher self-esteem, life satisfaction and quality of life. In contrast, lower frequency of sex and avoiding sex are linked to psychological distress, anxiety, depression and relationship problems.

In his landmark work, Alfred Kinsey found that up to 19 percent of adults do not engage in sex. This varies by gender and marriage status, with nearly no married males going without sex for a long duration.

Other research also confirms that women more commonly avoid sex than men. In fact, up to 40 percent of women avoid sex some time in their lives. Pain during sex and low libido are big issues.

The gender differences start early. More teenage females than teenage males abstain from sex.

Women also are more likely to avoid sex because of childhood sexual abuse. Pregnant women fear miscarriage or harming the fetus – and can also refuse sex because of lack of interest and fatigue.

The most common reasons for men avoiding sex are erectile dysfunction, chronic medical conditions and lack of opportunity.

For both men and women, however, our research and the work of others have shown that medical problems are the main reasons for sex avoidance.

For example, heart disease patients often avoid sex because they are afraid of a heart attack. Other research has shown the same for individuals with cerebrovascular conditions, such as a stroke.

Chronic pain diminishes the pleasure of the sexual act and directly interferes by limiting positions. The depression and stress it causes can get in the way, as can certain medications for chronic pain.

Metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity reduce sexual activity. In fact, diabetes hastens sexual decline in men by as much as 15 years. Large body mass and poor body image ruin intimacy, which is core to the opportunity for having sex.

Personality disorders, addiction and substance abuse and poor sleep quality all play major roles in sexual interest and abilities.

Many medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, reduce libido and sexual activity, and, as a result, increase the risk of sexual avoidance.

Finally, low levels of testosterone for men and low levels of dopamine and serotonin in men and women can play a role.

For both genders, loneliness reduces the amount of time spent with other people and the opportunity for interactions with others and intimacy. Individuals who are lonely sometimes replace actual sexual relations with the use of pornography. This becomes important as pornography may negatively affect sexual performance over time.

Many older adults do not engage in sex because of shame and feelings of guilt or simply because they think they are “too old for sex.” However, it would be wrong to assume that older adults are not interested in engaging in sex.

Few people talk with their doctors about their sexual problems. Indeed, at least half of all medical visits do not address sexual issues.

Embarrassment, cultural and religious factors, and lack of time may hold some doctors back from asking about the sex lives of their patients. Some doctors feel that addressing sexual issues creates too much closeness to the patient. Others think talking about sexuality will take too much time.

Yet while some doctors may be afraid to ask about sex with patients, research has shown that patients appear to be willing to provide a response if asked. This means that their sexual problems are not being addressed unless the doctor brings it up.

Patients could benefit from a little help. To take just one example, patients with arthritis and low back pain need information and advice from their health care provider about recommended intercourse positions so as to avoid pain.

The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” culture should become “Do ask, do tell.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How Lube, Dildos And Dilators Are Helping Cancer Survivors Enjoy Sex After Treatment

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Tamika Felder, a cervical cancer survivor, founded the nonprofit Cervivor to help fellow survivors navigate the jagged path back to sexual health.

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“I don’t know if readers are ready for what I’ve got to say!” Tamika Felder chuckles over the phone. “I just don’t think they’re ready.”

If you’re a cancer survivor, you should be, because Felder, 42, is an intimacy advocate who dedicates her life to helping cancer survivors navigate the oftentimes brutal path back to sex and pleasure. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 25, and spent the next year getting chemotherapy, radiation and a radical hysterectomy. She wound up with “bad radiation burns from front to back” as well as vagina atrophy, shrinkage and dryness, all of which led to painful sex.

“I knew at 25 this just couldn’t be it for me. I knew I wanted to have sex again, and I wanted to have good sex again,” she says. “It takes time, but it’s absolutely possible.”

Felder founded Cervivor, a nonprofit that educates patients and survivors of cervical cancer. She also works with both women and men struggling to regain their sexuality and intimacy post-treatment. Many survivors aren’t aware that there are items, exercises and treatments that can help them. Felder spoke with Newsweek about what people can do to experience pleasure again, even if it’s different than it used to be.

What exactly do you do?
I am not a doctor, I’m patient-turned-advocate who is passionate about the total life beyond cancer—and that includes the sensual side. Cancer treatments are saving our lives, but they’re also damaging our lives. I knew one guy who had to have his penis removed. That’s a life-saving surgery but how do you help that patient navigate life after? I’ve counseled women who survived gynecological cancer, whose vaginal canals meshed so close together that their doctor can’t even fit a speculum inside. What does that do for the quality of life for a woman like that? You have to offer alternatives! Maybe she can’t have penetration through the vaginal canal, but I expect the medical community—her hospital or cancer center—to help her navigate to a good quality of life. Because part of a good quality of life beyond cancer is your sexual self. Doctors have to talk more freely about that.

What if they don’t?
If your clinical team doesn’t raise the concern with you, you need to speak up. Email them or call them on the phone if it’s too hard to do it face-to-face. Find your voice. If something is not functioning the same way or how you think it should be functioning, speak up.

Now that you’ve identified a problem, what are some of the ways to deal with it?
Dilators: Whether you have a partner or it’s all about self love, dilators are important because they stretch out your vagina. Start with a small size dilator and move up. If you need something more, take a field trip to a toy store and get different sized dildos and vibrators. With some cancers, if you don’t use your dilators, your vaginal canal—or whatever is left of it—can close back up, so it’s important to follow those suggestions. Other people think, If I’m not dating now it’s not an issue. No! You need to deal with it now so when you’re intimate with another person you can be ready. Practice makes perfect.

Lubrication: If you’ve had any type of gynecological cancer, lube is going to be your best friend. After chemotherapy and especially radiation, your vagina can be very dry. Women deal with it as we age, but radiation causes you to go into menopause early. For cervical cancer, not only do you have external radiation but also internal radiation. Lube is important when you become sexually active again, because your body isn’t producing moisture on its own. Otherwise you’ll have abrasive sex—it will hurt to enter the vaginal walls.

You have to find out what works for you. Coconut oil is perfect for putting in your vagina and using as lube. A little goes a long way. I also like Zestra, an arousal oil. It’s a natural lubricant. For women who may have slow libidos, you put it on your clitoris and labia and experience what some people call a tingling experience. They call it the “Zestra Rush.” It’s a slow progression of warming up and you’re like, Oh! It still works!

Pocket Rockets or Lipstick Vibrators: These bring blood flow back to the vulva. I don’t care if you’re a southern Baptist from the Bible Belt, I want you to get a pocket rocket and take it with you when you travel and use that sucker so it can help the blood flow. There are lots of fun toys out there that can help. My favorite one is the Ultimate Beaver. Order discreetly online or take a fun field trip to an adult toy store.

Mona Lisa Touch: There are new therapeutic procedures, like the Mona Lisa touch laser treatment, that helps with vaginal rejuvenation. If you’re a reality TV fan like myself, you might think, it sounds like what the Real Housewives do! It’s not just something that rich people do. In many cases, insurance won’t cover it, but we’ve seen with the right doctor and the right type of letter, they’ve gotten insurance to cover it. Or, you may find a doctor willing to donate or discount services. Take a chance and write them, saying, “This is what happened to my vagina after cancer, and this is how you can help.”

Pay Attention to Pain: Make sure you heal properly. You may have healed on the outside but it doesn’t mean you’re healed internally. If you’re properly healed but still experience pain, have a conversation with your doctor.

What pitfalls should people be aware of?
A lot of people focus on what their body was like before cancer. I hate to say, “You have to give that up,” but you do in order to move forward. Your body has changed. Your objective shouldn’t be an orgasm, because maybe your body won’t do that again. It pains me to know that women have vaginal canals that have closed and they’re just living a life where they think they can’t have pleasure stimulated vaginally anymore. It’s not fair. They weren’t given the resources to help them along the way.

How did you redefine sex and intimacy for yourself?
In my own eyes and my husband’s eyes, I’m a perfect 10, but if I’m walking down the street, I don’t look like the magazine covers. I’m a plus size woman but I do love myself. It starts with that. Part of the homework I give men and women— When you look at yourself, tell me what you see. They always start out with the negative. I’ve never had anyone, no matter the age group, in all my cancer talk about sex and intimacy, who’s started with anything good. So I flipped it: Tell me what you love about yourself? You can go get these toys and procedures, but at the end of the day, the true pleasure comes from how you feel about yourself. That’s going to make your sexual self stronger. I’m not saying, don’t go for pleasure, but it really is how you feel about yourself.

Where can people go for more help?
Sites like Memorial Sloan Kettering and Dana Farber have amazing resources. Find out if your cancer center has a program to help cancer patients reclaim their sensual side, like this one at Dana Farber. Or find someone in your local area through the American Society of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

Complete Article HERE!

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Straight Men and Women Both Secretly Want to Be Dominated

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By Emily Gaudette

No, you get on top.

On Tuesday, Aella, a popular redditor and social media exhibitionist, conducted an anonymous survey hoping to discover how “fucked up” her own sexual interests were when compared to the average. According to her Reddit post, she asked 479 cis women, 1432 cis men, and 61 people who identified as “other” what they were most interested in trying sexually. She then asked respondents to rate how “taboo” they believed their curiosities were. Her findings are pretty illuminating, and it’s clear why you don’t ever hear about professional submissives; only dominatrixes make money because the demand is high.

Everybody surveyed, regardless of gender identity, were interested in trying new sexual positions, and the whole group agreed that non-missionary positions aren’t really “taboo” anymore. Non-missionary and light bondage, meaning slightly controlling your partner’s mobility during sex, were the only acts that men and women agreed on wanting to try. However, when asked whether they’d like to get gently tied up or tie their partner up, most men and women answered, “Tie me up, please.” That means we have a surplus of submissives walking around, and perhaps not enough dominants in the world to satisfy them.

Everyone is secretly hoping they’ll hear this in the bedroom soon.

The second tier of popularity included women using sex toys (men were super into that idea) and “females submitting” (women wanted to try this out a little more than men). Generally, male survey respondents liked the idea of watching (or simply knowing about?) their female partner using a vibrator, but they recognize that vibrator use among women isn’t really that rare. Similarly, women were pretty sure that submissive play wasn’t that taboo, but they were still interested in trying it out.

As for the most taboo stuff we all want to try but are too embarrassed to bring up, men thought their interest in “incest roleplay” was a risky move, and women expressed interest in “heavy bondage” and “rape-play,” though they admitted that both kinks were controversial. That means a lot of women in the world are trying to figure out how to say, “pretend I don’t want it,” and a lot of men are simultaneously thinking, “But what if you were my cousin?”

George Michael is apparently not alone in his interests.

There’s a hilarious part of Aella’s graph in which the men taking her survey seem to just name a bunch of taboo stuff they don’t actually want to do. Vore (cannibalism), scat (playing with feces), bestiality (sex with non-human animals), pedophilia (assaulting children), necrophilia (having sex with a human dead body), sounding (inserting a vibrating rod into one’s urethra), and “creepy crawlies” (pouring insects on someone) were simply called “taboo” by men, though their interest in all of those activities were low.

In 2014, a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine asked similar questions of respondents, though rather than have its users suggest their own kinks, it simply had them describe their interest level in a pre-determined list of activities. Their data showed the highest interest across gender identities for “having sex in an unusual place,” though being dominated by a partner was popular among everybody back then, too.

It’s also notable that a majority of those surveyed wanted to be dominated.

By synthesizing some of the comparative data, a curious look at sexuality emerges: As it turns out, there are way more hopeful “subs” among us hoping to be lightly tied up by a “dom.” Straight men and women know that this desire isn’t all that unusual, but they’re still very interested in trying it out and rank it high on their sexual “to-do lists.”

You can check out Aella’s full color-coded graph below. Her second survey, focusing on romantic relationships and monogamy, is available for users to take now.

Men tended to call things “taboo” more often, and they knew about a lot of sexual activities they didn’t necessarily want to try.

Complete Article HERE!

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