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How the internet and technology can help with gay male sexual health issues

 

by Craig Takeuchi

Thanks to the internet and social technology, it’s now far easier for gay men or men who have sex with men (MSM) to access information and content about LGBT issues in the privacy of their own home or from remote locations outside of city centres than having to go to bookstores, libraries, or public places, or traveling or relocating to cities, as in the past.

But what are some effective ways to use this access to (and dissemination of) information when it comes to sexual health issues, such as sexually-transmitted infections (STIs)?

A panel discussion at the 12th annual Gay Men’s Health Summit held by the Community-Based Research Centre at SFU Harbour Centre in November addressed this topic.

Panel members from organizations across Canada discussed how internet and mobile technology can be used for campaigns to improve gay male health and combat stigma.

Getting the sex you want

Toronto’s Dan Gallant from the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance of Ontario talked about their website The Sex You Want.

The alliance is a network of frontline workers, researchers, policy makers, community members, and more who are addressing the sexual health needs of Ontario men.

The Sex You Want, which has been in development for over a year, is designed to help reduce gaps in knowledge that contribute to stigma, to help empower gay men in making informed decisions about sex, and to raise awareness of various options for prevention strategies.

Gallant said they have tried to incorporate both scientific evidence and a sex-positive attitude incorporated into content, while making it enjoyable to browse through.

In line with all of that, they chose to use a variety of forms of communication, including text, infographics, and comics, along with illustrations and animation instead of photos to avoid any complications of individuals revoking the use of their image.

Getting checked online

Troy Grennan, a physician lead at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, talked about how stigma can lead to the avoidance of healthcare, including seeking STI testing, treatment, or information.

He pointed out how mobile and internet technologies can help to address gaps and overcome barriers to testing and care. For instance, online resources can help to reach MSM (men who have sex with men, who may not identify as LGBT) or men who live in rural areas who face greater challenges in getting tested and may be at greater risk of infection.

For instance, Grennan pointed out that many Vancouver clinics are facing increases in capacity and often have to turn away people, particularly individuals with non-urgent issues, due to lack of time.

Other issues include clinic hours, whether or not male or female service providers are available as options, and finding providers who are easy to talk to about LGBT issues.

He said that the internet and technology can play a role in home-testing, partner notification (or the use of electronic means to inform others that they may have been exposed to possible infection) online outreach (to have online conversations and ask questions), online counselling, sending test results by email or text messages, medication reminders, and check-ins about symptoms.

Grennan explained that BCCDC’s website Get Checked Online is like a virtual clinic which helps to “improve sexual health by increasing uptake in frequency of testing, acceptability of testing, and also, as a result of all that, improve increased timeliness of diagnosis, which again are critical factors in times where there are high rates in STIs.”

At the site, users can fill out account profile, which helps to determine what testing is necessary. If testing is needed, users can print out a requisition form, which they can take to LifeLabs location in B.C. At the labs, specimens are taken, such as blood and urine. Self-collected swabs for throat and rectal samples were introduced a few months ago.

Users receive an email notification when results are ready. If there are any positive results or problems with samples, users receive a message that they need to call to speak with someone.

Getting the Buzz

RÉZO codirector Frédérick Pronovost from Montreal talked about how his organization developed the app MonBuzz as an online intervention to inform users about the risks of substance use in relation to sexual health.

He said the app was designed to help individuals make informed decisions about drug use as well as to provide information and resources for MSM populations who are sometimes challenging to reach.

Pronovost said that when they conducted focus groups, participants said they wanted something that informed them about risk but wasn’t judgmental or a killjoy. They also didn’t want anything that overly referred to substance use or sexual identity.

He explained that they had to balance the needs of gay communities with their scientific team and IT firm in creating something achievable yet affordable.

Getting on Facebook

SFU PhD student and BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS research assistant Kiffer Card presented some of the results of a study on how Facebook is used to spread messages.

He said that they took a look at several Vancouver organizations serving local gay community by examining metrics and how users interacted with content

In a close-knit community like Vancouver, he said that they found that dedicated efforts zeroing on specific issues can have an influential effect throughout the city, as in the example of CBRC’s Resist Stigma campaign.

“We see that not only did Resist Stigma increase their discussion around stigma but a lot of the other community-based organizations [did] too and it shows that a focused effort can actually improve the theme or the topic for all the other organizations as well,” he said.

Other findings revealed that Facebook posts in the morning performed better than during or after work hours, there was little difference between post performances on weekdays or weekends, positive messages performed more effectively than things like sarcasm, and asking questions also heightened engagement.

Complete Article HERE!

Are We Wrong About Male Sexuality?

Is male sexuality inherently predatory and threatening? Are Donald Trump’s comments and Brock Turner’s behavior typical?

Is male sexuality inherently predatory and threatening? Do all guys just want to grab women’s private parts, as Donald Trump suggested? Was Brock Turner’s jail sentence of six months and registering as a sex offender too harsh for “20 minutes of action”, as his father complained?

Many people believe rape is an inevitable by-product of male sexuality because the male sex drive is impossible to control. They may even believe that sexual desire causes guys to make bad decisions. They are dangerously incorrect and we all pay the price.

The reality is that most men are quite capable of controlling their sexual urges, which is why the vast 001majority of men are not rapists. In fact, most men are not particularly interested in having many partners. Researchers consistently find approximately 15% of men in their 20s have three or more partners per year, and only about 5% of all guys have three or more partners for three straight years. On college campuses, surrounded by thousands of other unmarried people their same age with a minimal level of adult supervision, only 25% of undergraduate men say they want two or more partners in the next thirty days. Yes, males have greater desire for and greater experience with promiscuity than women, but it’s a minority of guys who are driving the differences: three-fourths of male college students aren’t interested in having multiple short-term partners and more than four-fifths of guys in their 20s aren’t being promiscuous. So much for “hookup culture.” Most men don’t desire a promiscuous sex life. If you can get a man to talk about a sexual experience he regrets, you’ll probably hear a story about a drunken hookup.

Instead of recognizing and acting on the reality, we continue to minimize guys’ ability to control their sexual desires and instead give responsibility to others. Because we think guys can’t control themselves, we give girls and women responsibility for not dressing provocatively, not “leading him on,” and proving they gave a clear – and clearly understood – no. Guys seem to have little responsibility for knowing their own limits or being decent listeners. (Not good listeners; “no” is about as simple as it gets.) “Bathroom bills” in North Carolina make transgender individuals responsible for preventing the rape of women in restrooms; why not make it illegal to falsely claim a Trans identity?

Female victims clearly pay the price, as the letter from Brock Turner’s victim demonstrates. The experience and its associated trauma are awful. Not being listened to, as in the Bill Cosby case, just makes it worse.

Victims of male-on-male sexual assault suffer many of the same outcomes, with an additional dose of shame for not being able to defend themselves. Mental health problems may be compounded by the lack of public and professional knowledge regarding male sexual assault victims, leading to less effective treatment.

002Some institutions have also paid the price of male sexual predation. They assumed rape was inevitable and then tried to act like it never happened. The Catholic Church has paid tens of millions in settlements. Football programs from Penn State to Baylor to Sayreville, NJ have paid, with reputations tarnished and jobs lost. At this level, the cost is paid not just by the perpetrators and those who covered for them, but many others who genuinely didn’t know. Some of those innocents, continuing to trust the organizations and relying on their faulty knowledge of male sexuality, lash out at the victims.

Although the cost is much smaller at the individual level, all men suffer from the notion that “men are dogs,” because any misbehavior of his reinforces that notion. Further, he is incapable of refuting the global charge because the group “men” is more likely than the group “women” to be lewd or commit any type of sexual assault. Most women date men, and when they spend time and energy trying to figure out if he’s a dog or a good guy, they’re paying the price of our misunderstanding.

We can and must do better. We can learn the facts about men’s ability and willingness to control themselves, and give credit to the majority of men for being responsible adults. We can also put responsibility on the minority of men who disgrace the whole group, and teach them how to do better.

 

Are you getting any closer? A pocket-sized primer on female sexuality

By Clarissa Fortin

Stay curious between the sheets, friends.

Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality
by Sarah Barmak
(Coach House Books, 2016; $14.95)

If it weren’t for Sarah Barmak’s Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality I might have gone for years of my life without ever finding out what my clitoris actually looks like.

“Illustrations of it resemble a swan with an arched neck,” Barmak writes. “When I saw an closerillustration of the clitoris’s true shape for the first time I felt like a blind man finally seeing a whole elephant when all he’s ever known was the tip of it’s trunk.” I realized while reading those sentences that no one in my Catholic high school health class ever bothered to show me such an image and I’d never thought to seek one out.

I consider myself a feminist and a sexually liberated woman. Yet, there are still surprising gaps in my understanding of my own body. And that’s why a book like Barmak’s is important. Closer tackles its subject with eloquence, intelligence and humour.

The book is split into five essays that tackle the “fear of pleasure,” the history of female sexuality, the science and psychology of the orgasm, the “female sexual underground” and the politics of acknowledging female desire.

While each essay has its own strengths, I think the most effective chapter is “A History of Forgetting.” This section aligns the historical “discovery” and “loss” of the clitoris with the individual experience of a woman named Vanessa — an actual interview subject.

We first meet Vanessa on the table at the doctor’s office filming herself masturbating in order to prove to the doctor that she can indeed ejaculate. We learn that Vanessa has been having a series of problems — pain after sex, recurring yeast infections and so on — that no doctors can figure out.

From here Barmak momentarily leaves Vanessa’s story behind and turns her attention to the clitoris itself, noting that “the mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003, years before we got around to doing an ultrasound on the ordinary human clit.”

While the tendency is to see history as ever moving forward and progressing, Barmak counters that “women’s sexuality began by being celebrated, then was feared as too potent, before being downplayed and denied in the scientific era.”

The Christian church, the scientific revolution and various other factors resulted in a demonization and rejection of female bodies. It’s a generalized historical account to be sure, but Barmak does point readers in the direction of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, a much more comprehensive book on the subject.

What makes this essay so powerful is the way it revisits and concludes with Vanessa and her struggle. Her story held up against the larger history of the clitoris itself demonstrates all too well an overall contempt for and neglect of the female genitalia.

Along with research and anecdotes, Barmak amasses a diverse collection of interviews with doctors, researchers and sex educators. I was excited to learn many factoids that I will surely whip out at dinner parties in the future — for instance, vaginal self stimulation actually blocks pain in women, and even women who are paralysed can sometimes still feel sexual pleasure because of nerves which bypass the spinal cord and communicate directly with the brain!

Barmak combines this research and traditional journalistic writing with first-person narration, bringing her own experience into the story. This means attending seminars and workshops, watching a demonstration of a female orgasm at Burning Man, and getting a vaginal massage.

Barmak is open about her own skepticism and trepidation during these investigations. “I like to consider myself open to new things,” she writes. “Yet, the idea of a strange lady’s gloved fingers all up in my jade palace falls somewhat outside my personal boundaries.” She goes through with it and the personal account makes for a richer narrative overall.

A note about the term “woman”: Barmak uses it throughout the book to generally refer to the cisgendered female experience. If I have any strong critique of the book it is that by celebrating the distinctly female anatomy, the book sometimes verges on unintentionally emphasizing a gender binary. This is something Barmak herself seems aware of. She notes on pg. 21 that “the word woman can refer equally to cisgender, intersex, genderqueer and transgender women all representing varied shades of experience.” While it’s good that the acknowledgement is there, I think a declaration like this belongs even earlier on as a note for readers to keep in mind before the book even begins.

That said, Barmak does make an effort to include the experiences of typically marginalized women such as trans women and women of colour in her narrative. “Being white affords privileges even in non-mainstream spaces of revolt such as sexuality,” she notes.

The topic is something “that requires far more depth and attention than this little book can offer,” Barmak says and while this seems like a partial cop-out for having only a few pages devoted to women of colour and trans women specifically, Barmak makes a valid point. Issues regarding sexuality faced by marginalized women warrant entire books altogether, preferably penned by a writer who has lived those experiences.

Nevertheless, I think this book would have been more complete with a sixth section devoted specifically to these issues.

At its core this book is compassionately optimistic, celebrating the innate complexity of sexual pleasure itself and arguing in favor of orgasms for all, something I can definitely get behind.

Sex educator and vlogger Lindsay Doe has a motto she repeats at the end of each of her videos: “stay curious.” Closer isn’t the definitive book about female sexuality and it doesn’t claim to be. But it made me curious about my own body, and even more curious about the wonderfully vast array of experiences we humans have between the sheets.

I recommend it to my friends of all genders, my boyfriend, my sisters, and especially the woman who started it all, my mother.

Complete Article HERE!

4 Stupid Female Masturbation Myths We Wish Would Disappear

By Coleen Singer

Women may be more empowered about their sexuality than ever before, but there are still a few myths about female masturbation that just won’t die.

Masturbation Myths

I still don’t understand why female masturbation is still shrouded by so much misinformation. We live in the age of information. Women are more empowered about their own sexuality than ever before. Yet, without fail, most TV shows and movies portray female masturbation as some mythical thing, one that often involves ridiculously impractical rituals that most women just don’t have time for. We need to clear this right up. I know that writing just one article isn’t going to magically remove the misinformation, but we have to start somewhere, right? Here area few incorrect assumptions I often see in the media and daily life about female masturbation.

We Make a “Night” Out of It

The biggest misinformation I see in the media is that when women masturbate we do shit like light candles, wear sexy things, maybe have a bath – you know make a “night” out of it.

What?! This is certainly worth doing, but it isn’t routine for any woman I know – nobody has time for that! Plus, women are perfectly capable of masturbating without any fanfare: before we sleep, when we wake up, because we’re bored, as a quickie before we leave the house. You know, just like men. The best part is that many of us can do it multiple times in a row, because multiple orgasms.

 

Complete Article HERE!

The Downside Of Being A Male Escort

Awhile back I responded to a young fellow who was considering Turning Pro to pay down his mounting bills.  I began my response to him by saying:

You betcha I have suggestions…a lot of ‘em, don’t ‘cha know.

Being hot and liking sex are great assets if you decide to turn pro, but you’ll need way more than that. Being a sex worker is not like having sex for love or even having recreational sex. You will be exchanging sex for money and that makes it a business proposition. Therefore you’d be wise to approach this with as much forethought as you would any other career move. It is, after all, the world’s oldest profession.

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Here’s another perspective by TotallyOz

Becoming a gay male escort can be one of the most exciting decisions you will ever make. As an escort you will be able to make a good deal of money, have lots of personal freedom and not have to deal with the grind of being in an office or cubicle every day.

That said, being a male escort is not all wine and roses. Like any job, there are some downsides that you need to consider before you make the plunge. Not everyone is meant to be an escort, and you should fully understand all of the risks and consequences before you make your choice to enter the world of pay for gay.

While every situation is different, there are some common challenges that nearly every male escort must face. Please, before you make your decision, read carefully and make sure that you can live with the following risks.

sweatpantsFamily Pressure on Gay Male Escorts. Face it. Nobody wants their son to grow up to be a gay escort. If you do become a rent boy you are going to either have to come up with a cover story to explain your income or else have the most understanding family in the history of the known world. No matter what you tell them, they are not going to believe that you don’t have sex with these guys for money. On the other hand if you seem to be unemployed but have lots of income they might come up with even worse fantasies of what you do for a living or think you are a drug dealer. While you may be able to come up with a good cover story, you need to make sure that you will be able to lie to your family for a long time without feeling like shit.

Gay Male Escorts Have Boyfriend Problems Too! If you have a serious boyfriend he’s probably not going to be too happy about you having sex with lots of random guys for money. He may be concerned about his health if he does not trust you to use condoms with your date. He may get jealous. Sure, there are lots of guys who might think its cool or get turned on by what you do for a living, but there are also many, many guys who will simply go batshit crazy over the issue. If you are in a relationship, have a talk with your partner before you go on your first date.

Every Gay Male Escort has to Learn how to Deal With Assholes It would be nice to think that every guy who responds to your ad plans on taking you out, giving you money and sucking your cock. But, that’s not the way the world works. Some guys will waste your time by talking to you constantly online, jerking off over your photo and then never bother to call you up. Other clients will ask you if you do things that repel you. You may even get some scary emails from gay bashers. The bottom line is that just like any other job, you may have to deal with some assholes along the way.shower butts

Stalkers are Uncommon but Possible in the Gay Male Escort Community One of the reasons men call up an escort is that they are lonely. This is not a bad thing in and of itself. But, it does mean that some guys will take you more seriously than you might think. After having hot sex with you, they may think they have fallen in love. Part of them might forget that you are only with them for the money and they might think you are in love with them too. Then, they have the potential to become stalkers, either by writing you constantly, getting jealous of your other clients or showing up in unexpected and inappropriate places. You need to find a way to have sex but keep their emotions at arm’s length.

All Gay Male Escorts Need to Watch out for The Money Honey Making a lot of money can be a great thing – and can provide you with more freedom than you have ever had before. But, there is a downside. Money can be seductive and it may be hard for you to ever get out of the business – because you are so used to having lots of cash around. Beyond that when you have more money it’s easy to make poor spending choices. Lots of guys start using way too many drugs – simply because they can suddenly afford to. Make sure that you are mature enough to handle the green before you get paid to handle the cock.

Escorts Can Have Legal Troubles Despite the number of escort ads and agencies that you may see every day, having sex for money is still against the law in most of the country. If you are not careful, the odds are fairly high that you will eventually get arrested. Your name might even get in the paper. Before you become an escort you need to make sure that you can be vigilant enough to not get busted – and that you are emotionally prepared and know what to do if the cops ever do slap the silver bracelets on your sweet ass.

machineryGay Bashing in the Escort World Putting out an escort ad is a big neon sign telling the world that you have gay sex. Some people hate guys who fuck other guys. Therefore there is always the chance that a homophobic fuckwit will make a date with you, simply so he can beat the living shit out of you. Be very, very careful who you meet – and if your instincts warn you away from a guy, take your gut seriously. You only have one life and you don’t want to lose it to a repressed shithead.

How Gay Male Escorts Deal with Ugly Clients Not every guy who calls you up is going to look like Brad Pitt. Some will have a face only a mother can love. Some will be fat, short and out of shape. Others will smell really, really bad. There is nothing you can do about this – if you want to get paid you’ll have to fuck them, even if they look like a prune with a two inch dick. Ask yourself if you are willing to have sex with the ugliest, smelliest person you have ever met. If not, you probably don’t want to become an escort or you will need a great way to talk yourself out of a date once it begins. Most real money in the business is made by repeats and once you get several of them, you will be set.

Gay Male Escorts often get asked to do Kinky Shit Most guys will simply want to suck and fuck with you. But, there are lots of guys out there who call up escorts because they want stuff that their partner is not into. Many of these kinks are silly and harmless – like wanting to jerk off on your feet. Others can be a little bit creepy. When you talk to a new client you need to make sure he understands what you won’t do – and find out if you are willing to do the stuff that will get him off. Otherwise you will just be wasting each other’s time.

Your Regular Sex Life Can Suffer Being an Escort Anything you do for a living can become a drag. If you are getting laid for money five times a week, the last thing you may want to do on your day off is suck dick. Yet, having a normal sex life is a healthy thing. You have to be very careful that you don’t let being an escort take away your essential humanity.

Full Review HERE!