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Masturbating has a number of health benefits for women too, so why aren’t we talking about them?

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May is National Masturbation Month

By Erika Lust

The idea that women enjoy sex still hasn’t quite reached societal acceptance. There is no purer example of this than the taboo which surrounds a woman enjoying the pleasure of masturbating.

Masturbation is widely accepted as an essential part of health and hygiene – for men.

Women’s reproductive health is a politicised and much-discussed topic, with conversation ranging from the accessibility of birth control to the necessity of abortion clinics. The discussions focus mainly on preventing pregnancy, rather than a woman’s own sexual well-being and pleasure.

By ignoring the health benefits of masturbation for women – reduced stress, sleep induction, endorphin production, increased resistance to infection, decreased anxiety levels – and focusing mainly on protection, the stigma around female masturbation strengthens and consequently so does the idea that women receive sex, as opposed to enjoy it.

Even referring to the act as “female masturbation” implies it is something separate and not normal – there’s masturbation, and there’s “female masturbation”.

The stereotype of the women who masturbates

Society has long decreed women should only exhibit passive feelings towards sex. The same double standard that exists for dating and having sex with multiple people exists for masturbation. This stereotype of what type of woman masturbates is not only incredibly false but another toxic form of slut-shaming.

Men are encouraged to masturbate, which allows them to explore their bodies and find out what makes them feel good. When women are afraid to masturbate they are robbed of this experience, they don’t know how to make themselves orgasm and they don’t feel as comfortable telling their partner what they like.

Many women have their first sexual experience with another person, but most men have theirs with themselves. So from the very beginning, women learn about sex and pleasure in relation to another person, rather than something they can do for themselves.

End the control of women’s bodies

If women learn how to pleasure themselves without a man, it threatens to undo the patriarchal structure of our society. Our patriarchal society which attaches so much fear and fascination to female sexuality. What is more threatening to the male ego than a woman who can please herself?

It’s time to throw away the shame surrounding masturbation. The stigma isn’t going to end until women speak openly about it. So if you watch an amazing porn film or have fun with a new sex toy, share your discovery with your friends.

By talking about it we can break the misogynistic control and repression of the female body. And if we can bring masturbation into the broader discourse around women’s health, maybe we can bring a larger change in society’s views of women.

Complete Article HERE!

 

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Masturbation—Get Down With Yourself!

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May is National Masturbation Month.

By Molly Lloyd

Alrighty folks, it’s about time we talk about masturbation. I’ve been thinking about sex a lot recently (thank you, women’s, gender and sexuality studies and educational studies for allowing me to do both my capstones on sex education). But before we can really talk about sex – and I mean really talk about sex – we have to be able to talk about masturbation first, right? Right.

This is a topic of conversation that makes most people uncomfortable. Masturbation, among many other sexual things, is not really something we talk about. Our culture tends to avoid conversations surrounding positive sexual experiences, because we have a deeply ingrained fear of sexuality. For the most part, people’s experiences talking about masturbation have been limited to preteen and teenage boys making jokes about their taste in porn and making obscene gestures towards one another. It’s never something that’s talked about seriously and I’m almost positive that most sex education classes avoid the topic. Conversations surrounding pleasure and desire are usually absent from sex education classes because adults and educators worry that discussing these topics will encourage young people to have sex.

Back in the 19th century, masturbation of any sort by any kind of person has been seen as impure and people would go to great lengths to keep children and teens from exploring themselves. It was rumored that masturbating would cause hair to grow all over your palms and that losing one drop of semen was the equivalent to losing ten drops of blood. It was common practice to make young boys wear belts with spikes surrounding the penis, to “discourage” them from developing erections. Women, on the other hand, had to be treated for “hysteria” (a made up disease, from the Greek word “hysterika”, meaning “womb”) because they orgasmed so infrequently and their husbands only cared about their personal pleasure.

Even in this day and age in the United States, many people are taught that their sexual desire and want to masturbate are wrong, dirty or something to be ashamed of—this is especially something that happens to girls and women. People will go an incredibly long time in their life without ever having explored themselves or orgasmed because they’re scared or they feel ashamed. Since coming to Macalester, I have met plenty of cis women who are scared of and disgusted by their vaginas and don’t feel comfortable exploring themselves. Let’s destigmatize masturbation and pleasure!

Knowing what you prefer and what works for you can allow you and your partner(s) to have sex where it is easier for you to orgasm (assuming that that is a thing you want!). On top of having better sex and more orgasms, there are – according to Planned Parenthood – some added health benefits to masturbation, including: -Releasing sexual tension -Reducing stress -Helping you sleep better -Improving your self-esteem and body image -Helping treat sexual problems -Relieving menstrual cramps and muscle tension -Strengthening muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas Some people even claim that masturbating until orgasm can help with headaches and migraines—something to consider, for sure. So there you have it! An invitation to go for it; touch yourself!

I would encourage everyone – seriously! everyone – to take some time this weekend and get to know themselves; figure out what you like and don’t like, what gets you going! Knowing how your body works is an essential first step to taking ownership of your body and sexuality. Personal empowerment comes from personal knowledge, and masturbating can be a way of gaining that personal knowledge.

To end this piece, I will leave you with a quote from Audre Lorde – a prominent feminist writer from the second wave and a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” – about her ideas surrounding the erotic and ask you to think about how masturbation could improve your (sex) life.

“The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”

Complete Article HERE!

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These Fun Online Cartoons Give Kids Honest Advice About Sex

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AMAZE’s YouTube series gives kids sex education, along with some fun, like an unlubricated condom struggling to get down a slide.

By Ben Paynter

In the cartoon, two animated condoms try to go down a pair of side-by-side slides. The first zips down easily, a look of satisfaction on its face, while the second gets stuck and appears disappointed. “Some condoms have lubricant to make them more comfortable during sex, while others do not,” explains a female narrator in a voiceover.

In the next scene, the stuck condom appears to have learned this. It applies its own water-based lubricant and cheers as it continues the ride. “Non-lubricated condoms can be used with water-based lubricants, such as commercial lubricant you can buy in the drug store near the condoms,” adds the narrator. Cue the flashing red Xs that cross out an oil can and Vaseline container, along with a verbal warning that Vaseline or other oil-based lubricants should always be avoided because they break down the condom.

The same balance of humorous imagery and important information happens throughout the three-minute episode, which covers the entire act of sex, from safely opening and putting on a condom, to consummating the act and cleaning up afterward. But that video, entitled “How To Use The Contraception Effectively,” is one of over 50 that are now freely available online at AMAZE, a YouTube-based sexual education program that has more than 5 million views.

It took a team of health nonprofits to make this happen. Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health combined forces to launch the venture in October 2016. Their efforts are supported by the WestWind Foundation, which works globally to improve future generations’ quality of life through environmental protection and better access to reproductive health services. In April 2018, AMAZE released a Spanish-language version to reach more kids in Latin American countries.

WestWind conceived of AMAZE as a supplemental resource for kids with questions that go beyond those being addressed in their classroom sexual education programs. After all, when kids go online to learn about sex, they often find porn, which doesn’t model healthy sexual behaviors. But as the current administration has continued to express support for an abstinence-only class curriculum–the political code word is “sexual risk avoidance”–and pushed to remove contraception from family planning service grants, WestWind has tried to cover nearly every corner of traditional sexual education and emerging topics that school programs may be too polite to discuss openly, like pornography and masturbation.

Episodes like “Porn: Fact or Fiction” and “Masturbation: Totally Normal” rank among the top five episodes on the site, all of which range from about a minute and a half to three minutes. But there are other heavily visited topics, too, including the top signs of puberty for both boys and girls, and an animation called “Expressing Myself. My Way” that’s about gender identity and acceptance. These all have garnered from 250,000 to more than 1 million views.

“[This] was started because there was a lack of information for 10- to 14-year-olds, especially for today’s 10- to 14-year-olds,” says Kristen Mahoney, a consultant with the organization’s reproductive health and rights program. “The important thing is we’re trying to meet youth where they’re at and provide accurate information at a time that’s got to be really confusing to them. We want to be one of those resources that if they go online will be one of the first they find to help them through that difficult time.”

The core online curriculum covers standard national sex ed topics, but is also informed through viewers’ responses and feedback through associated Twitter and Instagram accounts. To determine the approach of each show, those nonprofit groups conducted surveys and focus groups with the target audience, kids between the ages of 10 and 14.

While the development team settled on short animated videos that incorporate some humor, they’ve worked hard to make sure that lightheartedness doesn’t obscure the broader lessons, which are often shared visually and verbally. To demonstrate the right way to put on a condom, for instance, the episode shows an actual cartoon penis instead of confusing things with some symbolically phallic object. “The humor level has to be very clear that you know it’s fun jokes, but this is actual factual information and not misleading information,” adds Mahoney.

Advocates For Youth already supplies a sexual education curriculum called Right, Respect and Responsibility to more than 50 school districts around the country, reaching about 2.3 million kids, and has added AMAZE content in supplemental lessons with that program. Planned Parenthood has also included the channel as a supplement in another sex education program that exists outside of schools.

In June, the group will release a 10-video series called AMAZE Academy that’s aimed at teaching parents who watch these videos alongside their kids how to ask questions that encourage openness and more learning. That will be followed by another series aimed at younger kids (in the 5 to 10 range) who are interested in things like where babies come from or the names of different body parts.

In May 2017, the YouTube Social Impact Lab awarded AMAZE a grant to work with Kivvit, a strategic advisory, on how to expand its online search optimization, presence, and reach. YouTube appears interested in what it takes to provide accurate educational information online, and is working closely with AMAZE to ensure its content isn’t inadvertently flagged or censored.

By becoming an online-first resource independent of school systems, AMAZE also has the ability to react quickly to what’s happening in the news. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the channel decided to green-light an episode about sexual assault. Kids have proven curious about that buzzword too, and are learning how to find a health answer. “What is Sexual Assault” is currently one of the site’s most popular videos.

Complete Article HERE!

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Should sex toys be prescribed by doctors?

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Talk about good vibrations

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They are far more likely to be found in your bedside drawer than your local surgery, but sex toys can bring more than just benefits in the bedroom; they could boost your health too.

So should GPs stop being shy and recommend pleasure products? Samantha Evans, former nurse and co-founder of ‘luxury sex toy and vibrator shop’ Jo Divine certainly believes so. Challenging stuffy attitudes could change people’s lives for the better.

“I have encountered several doctors including GPs and gynaecologists who will not recommend sex toys because of their own personal views and embarrassment about sex. However, once healthcare professionals learn about sex toys and sexual lubricants and see what products can really help, they often change their mind.”

Samantha says increasingly doctors are seeing vibrators as the way forward for helping people overcome intimate health issues.

In 2015, she was asked to put together a sexual product brochure for the NHS at the request of Kent-based gynaecologist Mr Alex Slack. The document contains suitable sex toys, lubricants and pelvic floor exercisers that can help with a range of gynaecological problems.

But sex toys can also be beneficial for many other illnesses too, Samantha reveals.

“Often people feel their body is being hijacked by their illness such as cancer and being able to enjoy sexual pleasure is something they can take back control of, beyond popping a pill. Using a sex toy is much more fun and has far fewer side effects than medication!”

Here are just some of the reasons it’s worth exploring your local sex shop (or browsing online) to benefit your health:

1. Great sex is good for you

One area sex toys can help with is simply making sex more enjoyable, helping couples discover what turns them on.

“Having great sex can promote health and wellbeing by improving your mood and physically making you feel good. Using a sex toy can spice up a flagging sex life and bring a bit of fun into your life. A sex toy will make you feel great as well as promoting your circulation and the release of the “feel good factors” during an orgasm.”

2. Sex toys can rejuvenate vaginas

Some of the most uncomfortable symptoms of the menopause are gynaecological. Declining levels of the hormone oestrogen can lead to vaginal tightness, dryness and atrophy. This can lead to painful sex and decreased sex drive.

But vibrators can alieve these symptoms (by improving the tone and elasticity of vaginal walls and improving sexual sensation) and also promote vaginal lubrication.

Sex toys can also be useful following gynaecological surgery or even after childbirth to keep the vaginal tissue flexible, preventing it from becoming too tight and also promoting to blood flow to the area to speed up healing, says Samantha.

3. Sex toys help men too

Men can benefit from toys too, says Samantha. She says men who use them are less likely to be burdened with erectile dysfunction, difficulty orgasming and low sex drive.

“They are also more likely to be aware of their sexual health, making them more likely to notice any abnormalities and seek medical advice,” she points out.

Male products can help men overcome erectile dysfunction, following prostate surgery or treatment, diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injury and neurological conditions by promoting the blood flow into the erectile tissues and stimulating the nerves to help the man have an erection without them having to take Viagra.

4. Sex isn’t just about penetration

There’s a reason sexperts stress the importance of foreplay. Most women just cannot orgasm through penetration alone no matter how turned on they are. Stimulating the clitoris can be the key to satisfying climaxes and sex toys can make that easier. Vibrators can be really useful for vulval pain conditions such as vulvodynia where penetration can be tricky to achieve.

“By becoming aware of how her body feels through intimate massage and exploration using a vibrator and lubricant and relaxation techniques, a woman who has vulvodynia can become more relaxed and comfortable with her body and her symptoms may lessen. It also allows intimate sex play when penetration is not possible,” says Samantha.

5. Vibrators can be better than medical dilators for vaginismus

Vaginismus, a condition in which a woman’s vaginal muscles tense up involuntarily, when penetration is attempted is generally treated using medical dilators of increasing sizes to allow the patient to begin with the thinnest dilator and slowly progress to the next size. But not all women get on with these, reveals Samantha.

Women’s health physiotherapist Michelle Lyons, says she often tries to get her sexual health patients to use a vibrator instead of a standard dilator.

“They (hopefully) already associate the vibrator with pleasure, which can be a significant help with their recovery from vaginismus/dyspareunia. We know from the research that low frequency vibrations can be sedative for the pelvic floor muscles, whereas higher frequencies are more stimulating. After all, the goal of my sexual rehab clients is to return to sexual pleasure, not just to ‘tolerate’ the presence of something in their vagina!”

Samantha Evans’ sex toy starter pack

1. YES organic lubricant

“One of the best sexual lubricants around being pH balanced and free from glycerin, glycols and parabens, all of which are vaginal irritants and have no place in the vagina, often found in many commercial sexual lubricants and even some on prescription.”

2. A bullet style vibrator

“This a good first step into the world of sex toys as these are very small but powerful so offer vibratory stimulation for solo or couples play, especially if you are someone who struggles to orgasm through penetrative sex.”

3. A skin safe slim vibrator

“A slim vibrator can allow you to enjoy comfortable penetration as well as being used for clitoral stimulation too. Great for using during foreplay or when penetration is uncomfortable.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Be A Good Partner To A Survivor Of Sexual Assault

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

January 20, 2018 San Francisco / CA / USA – “Me too” sign raised high by a Women’s March participant; the City Hall building in the background.

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The #MeToo movement has banded survivors of sexual assault together and forced a challenging discussion about how women and girls are treated in our society. But one of the toughest conversations still rarely seems to happen: how do you treat a romantic partner who is a survivor of sexual assault?

One in six women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, so it is likely you may have dated, or are dating, a survivor. Still, few people, outside of trained professionals, are receiving an education about how to sensitively help their partners through the healing process.

“I think it can help to just normalize that [sexual assault] is something many people have experienced,” Laura Palumbo, the communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), told A Plus.

The NSVRC, which provides resources and tools for people trying to prevent sexual violence and to help those living in the aftermath of it, also touches on best practices for being a partner to a survivor. Palumbo explained that for survivors of sexual assault, male of female, deciding whether to tell your partner is one of the hardest things to do.

Survivors may fear being criticized for their stories, or simply not being believed. They may also find it difficult to find the right time to confide in a partner, especially if it is a new relationship.

“It’s something that takes a lot of bravery and vulnerability to share,” Palumbo said. “That’s something for someone on the receiving end to consider: how you respond to someone who shares their experience of sexual assault makes a huge impact in how comfortable they are and their perceptions of whether or not you’re a safe person to talk about this with.”

The first step, Palumbo said, is simply believing what your partner is telling you. Do your best to make it clear that you trust their story, that you believe the assault happened, and that you know it wasn’t their fault.

“They may not want to talk about it in great detail either, and those are all normal ways for a survivor to feel,” Palumbo said. “You should follow their cue about what they are comfortable sharing and not press them for any more info or detail than what they have felt comfortable sharing already.”

If you’re in a new relationship, Palumbo says there are no tried-and-true telltale signs that a partner may have been the victim of an assault in the past. Some victims may have visceral reactions to scenes of sexual assault in movies or on television, but plenty of people who aren’t survivors have those reactions, too. The key is doing your best to pick up on certain signals that may repeat themselves, and adjusting your behavior accordingly. If a partner has a strong negative reaction like that to a scene of sexual violence, you should normalize the reaction and make it clear you noticed it — and then do your best to communicate to your partner that you’re happy to avoid that kind of content in the future.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

Ultimately, being a supportive partner is about listening with care and focus. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape says you should avoid threatening the suspect who may have hurt your partner, maintain confidentiality no matter what, and — if the survivor hasn’t yet already — encourage them to seek counseling.

“The other step we can’t emphasize enough is really just about being a good listener,” Palumbo said. “What a good listener means in this context is just listening actively and listening to what your loved one is sharing without thinking about how you’re going to respond to them, if you’re going to be able to say the right thing or if you are going to have advice, because they really don’t need to hear that from you.”

There is no one way to approach this conversation, but the NSVRC’s guidelines provide a general rulebook. Palumbo says it’s also important to consider the misconceptions and stereotypes about sexual assault survivors and move past them, focusing on the individual you’re in a relationship with. Because of these misconceptions, many people believe survivors of sexual violence don’t want touch or physical contact and end up being less sexual. On the contrary, research shows that’s not the case. While some survivors do withdraw from sexual activity, most “continue to be sexual beings,” Palumbo said.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

“People who experience sexual violence are just like the rest of us in terms of having different sexual preferences and needs and their level of sex and frequency,” she added.

One way to be sure about what your partner is comfortable with is asking for consent to physical touch, particularly during conversations about the their past assault.

“There are going to be times where they may be really receptive to being asked for physical support, such as a hug or other physical intimacy, and there are going to be other times where that is not their preference,” Palumbo said. “By asking and always checking in with the person and being aware of their needs, you can make sure you’re respecting their preferences and re-establishing their preferences of security, safety and control.”

Finally, Palumbo said, be aware that a lot of survivors remain sex positive after their assaults. Some are into consensual alternative forms of sexuality like BDSM, others are comedians who joke about their experiences on stage, and some remain angry or upset about their experience for a long time. Some studies have found that certain rape survivors even have sexual fantasies about rape later in life.

All of these, Palumbo said, are normal and common reactions.

“Survivors are, even after they experienced some form of sexual harm, still going to move forward in their life as a human being,” Palumbo said. “There really is no script. That is something that comes up when a person is talking about their values or expectations for a relationship.”

Complete Article HERE!

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