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

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“Sex is great, but safe sex is better

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

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

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

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

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

1. Chlamydia

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

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

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

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

How to treat it

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

2. Genital Warts

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

Treatment

Creams and freezing can get rid of them.

3. Genital Herpes

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

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

Treatment

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

4. Gonorrhoea

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

Like Chlamydia though, the symptoms are not always present.

Treatment

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

5. Pubic lice or ‘crabs’

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

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

Treatment

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

6. HIV

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

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

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

Treatment

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Rethink Intimacy When ‘Regular’ Sex Hurts

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There’s no rule that says sex has to be penetrative.

By Breena Kerr

When sex hurts, women often feel alone—but they’re not. About 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal intercourse, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine which surveyed a subsample of 1,738 women and men ages 18 and older online.

Awareness of painful vaginal sex—sometimes lumped under the term Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)—has grown as more women talk about their experiences and more medical professionals start to listen.

Many conditions are associated with FSD, including vulvodynia (chronic vulva pain), vestibulodynia (chronic pain around the opening of the vagina), and vaginismus (cramping and tightness around the opening of the vagina). But they all have one thing in common: vaginal or vulval pain that can make penetrative sex anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to physically impossible. However, you can absolutely still have sex, which we’ll get to in a minute.

First and most important, if you are experiencing any type of genital pain, talk to your doctor.

There’s no reason to suffer in silence, even if it seems awkward or embarrassing or scary. Your gynecologist has heard it all and can help (or they can refer you to someone who can). The International Pelvic Pain Society has great resources for finding a licensed health care provider who specializes in genital pain.

“We don’t yet know why women get vestibulodynia or vulvodynia,” Kayna Cassard, M.A., M.F.T., a psychotherapist who specializes in vaginismus and other pelvic pain issues, tells SELF. “[There can be] many traumas, physical and psychological, that become internalized and add to vaginal pain. Women’s pain isn’t just ‘in their heads,’ ” Cassard says.

This kind of pain can affect anyone—regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status—but it can be particularly difficult for someone who mostly engages in penetrative sex with their partner. The important thing to remember is that you have options.

Sex does not have to revolve around penetration.

Hell, it doesn’t even need to include it. And for a lot of people, it doesn’t. Obviously, if P-in-V sex is what you and your partner are used to, it can be intimidating to consider redefining what sex means to you. But above all, sex should be pleasurable.

“The first thing to do is expand what ‘counts’ as sex,” sex educator and Girl Sex 101 author Allison Moon tells SELF. “Many people in heterosexual relationships consider only penis-in-vagina to count as sex, and everything else is some form of foreplay,” she says. But sex can include (or not include) whatever two consensual people decide on: oral sex, genital massage, mutual masturbation, whatever you’re into.

“If you only allow yourself one form of sex to count as the real deal, you may feel broken for enjoying, or preferring, other kinds of touch,” Moon says.

To minimize pain, give yourself time to prepare physically and mentally for sex.

That might sound like a lot of prep work, but it’s really about making sure you’re in the right mindset, that you’re relaxed, and that you’re giving your body time to warm up.

Heather S. Howard, Ph.D., a certified sexologist and founder of the Center for Sexual Health and Rehabilitation in San Francisco, publishes free guides that help women prepare physically and mentally for sex. She tells SELF that stretching and massaging, including massaging your vaginal muscles, is especially helpful for women with muscle tightness. (Too much stretching, though, is a bad idea for women with sensitive vaginal skin that’s prone to tearing.)

Starting with nonsexual touch is key, as Elizabeth Akincilar-Rummer, M.S.P.T., president and cofounder of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, tells SELF. This puts the emphasis on relaxation so you don’t feel pressured to rush arousal.

Inserting a cool or warm stainless steel dilator (or a homemade version created with water and a popsicle mold) can also help reduce pain, Howard says. Women can tailor the size and shape to whatever is comfortable. If a wand or dilator is painful, however, a cool cloth or warm bath can feel soothing instead. Again, do what feels good to you and doesn’t cause pain.

Several studies have shown that arousal may increase your threshold for pain tolerance (not to mention it makes sex more enjoyable). So don’t skimp on whatever step is most arousing for you. That might mean some solo stimulation, playing sexy music, dressing up, reading an erotic story, watching porn, etc.

And of course, don’t forget lubrication. Lube is the first line of defense when sex hurts. Water-based lubricant is typically the safest for sensitive skin. It’s also the easiest to clean and won’t stain your clothes or sheets. Extra lubrication will make the vagina less prone to irritation, infections, and skin tears, according to Howard. But some people may also be irritated by the ingredients in lube, so if you need a recommendation, ask your gynecologist.

Now it’s time figure out what feels good.

Women with pain often know what feels bad. But Howard says it’s important for them to remember what feels good, too. “Lots of people aren’t asking, ‘What feels good?’ So I ask women to set what their pleasure scale is, along with their pain scale. I ask them to develop a tolerance for pleasure.”

To explore what feels good, partners can try an exercise where they rate touch. They set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and ask their partner to touch them in different ways on different parts of their body. Sex partners can experiment with location, pressure, and touch type (using their fingertips, nails, breath, etc.) and change it up every 30 seconds. With every different touch, women should say a number from 0 to 10 that reflects how good the touch feels, with 10 being, “This feels amazing!” and 0 meaning, “I don’t like this particular kind of touch.” This allows women to feel a sense of ownership and control over the sensations, Howard says.

Another option is experimenting with different sensations. Think tickling, wax dripping, spanking, and flogging. Or if they prefer lighter touch, feathers, fingers, hair, or fabric on skin are good options. Some women with chronic pain may actually find it empowering to play with intense sensations (like hot wax) and eroticize them in a way that gives them control, according to Howard. But other women may need extremely light touch, she says, since chronic pain can lower some people’s general pain tolerance.

Masturbating together can also be an empowering way for you to show a partner how you like to be touched. And it can involve the entire body, not just genitals, Akincilar-Rummer says. It’s also a safe way for you to experience sexual play with a partner, when you aren’t quite ready to be touched by another person. For voyeurs and exhibitionists, it can be fun for one person to masturbate while the other person watches. Or, for a more intimate experience, partners can hold and kiss each other while they masturbate. It feels intimate while still allowing control over genital sensations.

If clitoral stimulation doesn’t hurt, feel free to just stick with that.

It’s worth noting that the majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob/gyn in West Palm Beach, Florida, tells SELF. Stimulating the clit is often the most direct route to arousal and climax and requires no penetration.

Some women won’t be able to tolerate clitoral stimulation, especially if their pain is linked to the pudendal nerve, which can affect sensations in the clitoris, mons pubis, vulva, vagina, and labia, according to Howard and Akincilar-Rummer. For that reason, vibrators may be right for some women and wrong for others. “Many women with pelvic pain can irritate the pelvic nerve with vibrators,” says Akincilar-Rummer. “But if it’s their go-to, that’s usually fine. I just tell them to be cautious.”

For women with pain from a different source, like muscle tightness, vibrators may actually help them become less sensitive to pain. “Muscular pain can actually calm down with a vibrator,” Howard says. Sex and relationship coach Charlie Glickman, Ph.D., tells SELF that putting a vibrator in a pillow and straddling it may decrease the amount of direct vibration.

Above all else, remember that sexual play should be fun, pleasurable, and consensual—but it doesn’t need to be penetrative. There’s no need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable physically or emotionally or worsens your genital pain.

Complete Article HERE!

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How many times do women need to explain that penetration isn’t everything before everyone gets it?

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This week, sex therapist Dr Janet Hall advised MamaMia of a catchy new term for sex that doesn’t just involve placing a penis inside a vagina and wriggling it about.

‘Introducing outercourse’, said MamaMia, explaining that ‘outercourse’ counts ‘kissing, massaging, using vibrators, touching erogenous zones, clitoral stimulation, oral sex or toe-sucking. Basically, everything else that might come with sex, but isn’t penetration.’

They go on to note that outercourse shouldn’t be thought of as foreplay, as it’s not an add-on to sex, but something that’s absolutely essential to female pleasure.

Which is all true, and incredibly important to point out.

The issue is that ‘outercourse’ has been picked up and spread around the internet as a catchy new sex trend, as if it’s an easy ‘trick’ to get women off.

Which is a bit irritating really, because women have been saying over and over that we need more than just a poke with a penis to enjoy sex.

So why is the world still not getting it? Why is the revelation that the penis isn’t a magic orgasm stick still being treated as truly shocking news?

The ‘penetration is everything’ idea has been f***ing over women who have sex with men for ages. Women are being left unsatisfied or putting up with painful sex, because we’re taught that foreplay is just build-up to the main event – and the main event is all about the man getting off.

There’s an orgasm gender gap as a result (straight women have been shown to have the fewest orgasms out of everyone else having sex), and an oral sex gender gap, proving that the importance of non-penetrative sex is huge.

There’s a load of reasons men and women expect that five minutes of foreplay is enough before popping a penis into a vagina.

Think of sex scenes in films, which go from ripping each others’ clothes off to the woman gasping as she’s penetrated in a matter of seconds.

Think of sex education, which mentions that the penis becomes erect before penetrating vagina, but rarely makes any reference to the process the vagina needs to go through before being penetration-ready – because our sex education focuses more on sex for the purposes of reproduction (for which a female orgasm isn’t essential) rather than sexual pleasure.

Think of porn, which will more often show bow jobs than a man going down on a woman, which shows fingering as sharp-nailed fingers sliding in and out as the woman writhes around in ecstasy, which shows women reaching orgasm within seconds of a dildo or dick entering her.

We’re taught about foreplay as an afterthought, as a ‘nice to have’ instead of a ‘need to have’.

And it’s women who are missing out as a result.

A recent study from OMGyes found that just 18% of women can orgasm from penetration alone (again, this isn’t surprising or new. Countless other studies have found similar results), and that 36% of women need clitoral stimulation to have a chance of climaxing.

Rushing through the non-intercourse bits of sex is leaving women unsatisfied and pressured into faking orgasms – because they’ve been taught that they’re supposed to be able to come from a few quick pumps of a penis, and feel like they’re failing, or there’s something wrong with them, if they don’t.

None of this should be news. We’ve known for decades that the clitoris is hugely important, and women have reported for decades that they feel more pleasure through oral or manual stimulation than penetrative sex.

And yet, penetration is still held up as the be all and end all. We still place value on the idea of losing ones virginity as having penetrative sex, ignoring that for many women who have sex with women, this definition would make them virgins after multiple sexual partners.

Sex is not just penis in vagina. Foreplay is not an optional add-on. Sex is oral, and touching, and sucking, and all the other stuff that gives us pleasure.

If you’re bothered about women’s pleasure, sex needs to involve things other than penetration for much, much longer than a half-hearted five minutes. Foreplay shouldn’t just be a chunk before the good stuff – for many women, it is the good stuff, the bit where they’re actually likely to have an orgasm.

Touching the clitoris orally or with your fingers, kissing, caressing. It’s incredibly difficult for a woman to even get wet without that stuff, let alone have any chance of achieving orgasm.

We need to stop viewing an erection as the start of sex and ejaculation as the end. If a woman is not aroused, if she’s not experienced genuine pleasure, sex isn’t done – and the only way to get that done is the stuff that isn’t penetration, because your penis, shockingly enough, is not uniquely gifted to give orgasms.

Basically, if you’re not doing the stuff that isn’t penetration, you’re not doing sex.

Listen to women. Value our pleasure. Stop viewing our bodies as mysterious, otherworldly things that can’t be understood when we keep shouting exactly what we want (decent oral, clitoral stimulation, more of the stuff that isn’t penetration).

If you’re confused, ask women what they want. Then give it to them for an adequate chunk of time – not as a starter for sex, but as an essential part of the entire experience.

Complete Article HERE!

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A 101 Guide to Knowing Thyself (And Understanding Everyone Else)

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By Rahel Neirene and 
Jacob Anderson-Minshall

Where society once only recognized homosexuality and heterosexuality, there’s a growing awareness of — and terms for — a much larger, ever-expanding galaxy of sexual orientations. The same can be said for genders: While many only recognized male and female, and masculinity and femininity, we are witnessing an explosion of terms and identities, often coined by those who find “LGBT” too narrow. Many of these other labels have been around for decades or longer, but are only gaining broader attention now. Here’s a short guide to our fabulous new world.

SEXUALITY:
Beyond gay, lesbian, or straight.

Androsexual: Someone attracted to masculinity, whether in men, women, or others.

Asexuality: An orientation characterized by an absence of sexual attraction or desire for partnered sex. Asexuality is different from celibacy. Some asexual people do have sex and/or masturbate. There are many ways of being asexual.

Bisexual: Someone attracted, romantically and/or sexually, to people of more than one sex or gender. Their identity remains bisexual no matter who they are in a relationship with — their orientation does not vacillate from gay to straight based on the gender of their current partner.

Demisexual: Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after forming an emotional bond.

Graysexual: Someone whose sexuality is between absolute asexual and sexual.

Gynesexual: An attraction to females or femininity, the latter in women, men, or others.

Heteromantic: A person with a romantic, but not necessarily sexual, attraction to members of another sex or gender.

Panromantic: A person who has romantic, but not necessarily sexual, attractions to people of all genders and sexes.

Pansexual/Omnisexual: Those who have or are open to having romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes, including those who are trans or intersex. (Many bi people identify with this definition as well.)

Polyamory (or Poly): Being in or being open to having romantic relationships with more than one person at a time, generally with the knowledge and consent of their partners.

Polysexual: Attraction to multiple genders or forms of gender expression, but not all.

Queer: Nonconforming sexual attraction, may include to those who are trans or gender variant.

GENDERS:
Beyond male/female and masculine/feminine.

Agender: Having no gender identity, or having a gender identity that is neutral.

Androgynous or androgyne: Having a gender identity or expression that includes both masculine and feminine elements, often to the point where one’s gender isn’t readily apparent to others.

Bigender: Having two gender identities, which may be experienced simultaneously or at separate times. According to the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, which runs an “Identity a Day” online education series, “The two genders may be male and female, but they might also include other nonbinary gender identities.”

Gender Fluid: When one’s gender identification or presentation shifts between two or more genders.

Gender Nonconforming: Gender expressions or roles that are outside those expected by society. They’re not confined by conventional definitions of male and female, and can include people who identify as trans or genderqueer.

Genderqueer: A person whose gender identity or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal expectation for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them.

Gender Variant: Varying from the expected characteristics of one’s assigned gender or sex.

Intersex: Those who have a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit medical definitions of female or male. This happens in around one in every 1,500 to 2,000 births, according to the Intersex Society of North America, making it about as common as red hair. An intersex person might be born appearing female but with male chromosomes or internal anatomy, or born with genitals that seem outside defined male and female types. Many who are intersex have been forced, as children, to undergo surgeries that attempt to make their sexual organs conform to medical expectations. They may identify as intersex, male or female, or any of the other gender IDs here.

Neutrois: Similar to agender — a neutral or even genderless identity.

Trans or Transgender: This has become somewhat of an umbrella term for anyone with any type of gender variance. But for some it is more specific, representing those who identify or express a gender at opposition with the gender they were assigned at birth. While some trans people merely alter their identification or external expression, others pursue medical interventions like hormone treatment and gender affirmation surgeries. People who are trans often identify as either male or female, but may not do so.

Transsexual: A gender identity that is generally specific to those who are trans and undergo medical intervention to transition from the sex (male or female) they were assigned at birth to the sex they identify as being authentically. Transsexuals often view gender as binary, identify as male or female, and may accept more traditional gender roles.

Two-Spirit: A person of Native American descent whose body simultaneously houses both a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit. As an umbrella term, it may encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described as queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, genderqueer, or having multiple gender identities.

Of course there are also dozens of micro-identities too, like subcategories of gay men (bears, twinks) or lesbians (AGGs, femmes — and others detailed at bit.ly/20LezIDs).

Complete Article HERE!

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Yes, I use a wheelchair and I still have sex

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Comedienne Romina Puma dispels some of the most common misconceptions around disabilities

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Disability and sex are two words that, for some reason in our society, do not go together. Most people assume that if you’re disabled, sex is not part of your life. Many find it hard to believe that disabled people date, have relationships or even like to have one-night stands

I’m a comedian who has muscular dystrophy. I’m nearly 40 and, while dating can be difficult for everyone, if you’re disabled, it makes it even harder – trust me. I haven’t been disabled all my life though. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle wasting condition.

I am not your personal Wikipedia/Google, I have feelings.

My sex life before my diagnosis was good. I always seemed to have boyfriends on the go or be having fun with men. I’m not the most beautiful girl, but I know how to seduce a guy, which helps when you are not exactly a Victoria Secret type.

Before I became a full-time wheelchair user, I used to go out on crutches and it was still possible for me to hide the condition and get lucky. But all of a sudden, about three years ago, my condition got worse and I couldn’t walk anymore. Everything changed. Since I have been using a wheelchair, my dating experiences have become a lot less frequent.

Guys ask me all manner of questions – some I don’t mind, but others can take it a step too far. They all want to know…

“Can you have sex?”

This is a common misconception. Most people only think about sex in terms of penetration. How wrong they are. There are so many other ways to reach that goal by exploring each other’s bodies – the pleasure can be so much more. However, the answer is yes, I can and do have sex!

“Can you feel anything?”
Yes, I can! I understand that most people believe the equation: wheelchair user = paralysed = cannot feel anything. But this assumption is wrong, for at least two reasons. One is, if you see someone in a wheelchair, it does not necessarily mean that person is paralysed. Second, there are many bases to explore when having sex. It’s not only about penetration! And toys can also help.

Then we have the strange requests…

“Will you bring your wheelchair?”
No, I just use it for fun and because I’m lazy! Some time ago, I used a profile picture of me sitting sideways on my wheelchair for an online dating website. Aside from not having much luck, one guy asked me if the wheelchair was a prop. After that, I deleted my account. No point staying on that site anymore.

“How long do your batteries last?”
Longer than most men in the bedroom!

“If we have sex, will I get your disease / impairment?”<
Well, Muscular Dystrophy is genetic so no you can’t catch it.

It’s time to #EndTheAwkward

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about disability out there. I think it’s always best to ask a person about their impairment, as long as you aren’t being offensive. Most disabled people prefer to talk about it rather than let things be awkward. But it can be very hurtful when your dream guy asks you all those questions and then they disappear. I am not your personal Wikipedia/Google, I have feelings.

I am part of Scope’s #EndtheAwkward campaign which raises awareness about how awkward the nation is when it comes to disability. Most recently I contributed to the charity’s A to Z of sex and disability . Research by the charity revealed that the majority (67%) of Brits feel awkward around disabled people, and as a result they panic, or worse, they avoid contact altogether. They also discovered that only 5% of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out, or been on a date with, a disabled person. I really do hope campaigns like this will encourage people to see the person and not their impairment, and will help everyone feel less awkward around disabled people.

67% of Brits feel awkward around disabled people

It’s frustrating that most people cannot see passed my wheelchair. I have not changed. I am exactly the same person I was before I started using it. I just get tired way more than I did 10 years ago. In my stand-up shows as a comedienne, I try and change people’s perceptions on sex and disability as much as I can. I’m still waiting for someone in the audience to help me try all the positions in the Kama Sutra but can you believe it – I haven’t had any takers yet!

So I’ve now come up with a plan B – masturbation and sex toys. If guys don’t want me anymore what can I do? I still need to have sex. For me having sex is the best thing ever. It makes me feel better and more confident. Two years ago, I bought my first toy; a very basic rabbit. After that, I tried several other toys, until I finally found the right one for me. Believe me, so far I can easily survive without men. Better to be alone than with someone who does not appreciate me for who I am!

Complete Article HERE!

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