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Women don’t need to ‘switch off’ to climax, orgasm study shows

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Not switching off

By Helen Thomson

The most detailed study yet of orgasm brain activity has discovered why climaxing makes women feel less pain and shown that ‘switching off’ isn’t necessary.

It’s not easy to study the brain during orgasm. “A brain scanner like fMRI is the least sexy place in the world,” says Nan Wise at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. “It’s noisy, claustrophobic and cold.” There is also the problem of keeping your head still – movement of little more than the width of a pound coin can render data useless.

Despite these hurdles, Wise and her colleagues recruited 10 heterosexual women to lay in a fMRI scanner and stimulate themselves to orgasm. They then repeated the experiment but had their partners stimulate them.

Wise’s custom-fitted head stabiliser allowed the team to follow brain activity in 20 second intervals to see what happens just before, during, and after an orgasm.

Pain relief

Back in 1985, Wise’s colleagues Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk, both at Rutgers, discovered that, during self-stimulation and orgasm, women are less likely to notice painful squeezing of a finger, and can tolerate more of this pain. They found that women’s ability to withstand pain increased by 75 per cent during stimulation, while the level of squeezing at which women noticed the pain more than doubled.

Now Wise’s team has explained why. At the point of orgasm, the dorsal raphe nucleus area of the brain becomes more active. This region plays a role in controlling the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which can act as an analgesic, dampening the sensation of pain.

Her team also saw a burst of activity in the nucleus cuneiformis, which is a part of brainstem systems that are thought to help us control pain through thought alone.

“Together, this activity – at least in part – seems to account for the pain attenuating effect of the female orgasm,” says Wise.

Turn on, not off

Wise’s team also found evidence that overturns the assumption that the female brain “switches off” during orgasm.

In 2005, Gert Holstege at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands used a PET scanner to analyse brain activity in 13 women while they were resting, faking an orgasm and being stimulated by their partner to orgasm. While activity in sensory regions of the brain increased during orgasm, activity fell in large number of regions – including those involved in emotion – compared with their brain at rest.

Based on this finding, it was suggested that women have to be free from worries and distractions in order to climax. From an evolutionary point of view, the brain might switch off its emotional areas because the chance to produce offspring is more important than the immediate survival to the individual.

But the new study saw the opposite: brain activity in regions responsible for movement, senses, memory and emotions all gradually increased during the lead-up to orgasm, when activity then peaked and lowered again. “We found no evidence of deactivation of brain regions during orgasm,” says Wise.

The difference between the two studies may be because PET can only get a small snapshot of brain activity over a short period of time, unlike fMRI scanners.

Better understanding

It’s not yet clear why pain sensation decreases during orgasm, or if men experience the same phenomenon. It may be that, in order to feel pleasure in the brain, the neural circuits that process pain have to be dampened down.

Whipple suggests that the pain-dampening effects of the female orgasm could be related to child birth. Her research suggests that pain sensitivity is reduced when the baby’s head emerges through the birth canal. Vaginal stimulation may therefore reduce pain in order to help mothers cope with the final stages of birth, and promote initial bonding with the baby.

The ability to study what happens during stimulation and orgasm could be used to better understand and treat those who have mood disorders like anhedonia – the inability to experience pleasure, says Wise. “We know so little about pleasure in the brain, we are just now learning the basics.”

You might wonder what it’s like to participate in such experiments. Wise says people often think her participants must be exhibitionists, but it’s not the case, she says. “Some women do like that aspect, but most are doing it because it’s empowering to them. Some find it difficult to orgasm, others don’t. One of our participants in this experiment was a 74-year-old lady who had two fabulous orgasms in the machine. I said to her, ‘You go girl!’ ”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Can’t I Orgasm During Sex? Chronic Pain And 5 Other Factors That Affect Ability To Climax

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Imagine this: You and your partner are getting hot and heavy in between the sheets. You’re feeling sexually aroused — but you’re unable to climax. In frustration you ask yourself: “Why can’t I orgasm during sex?”

The Kinsey Institute indicates 20 to 30 percent of women don’t have orgasms during intercourse, compared to only 5 percent of men who don’t climax every time they have sex. Men and women who are unable to sustain an erection or reach orgasm, respectively, are usually labeled as having some type of sexual dysfunction. However, the inability to orgasm could be triggered by several issues that range from physiological to psychological.

Below are six causes of why you have trouble orgasming during sex.

Tight Condoms

Condoms are often seen as an “evil” necessity that reduces sensitivity and sensations for men. The truth is condoms can inhibit male orgasm if they do not fit properly. A condom that is too tight can feel like the penis is in a chokehold, which can be distraction, and make it difficult to keep an erection. A 2015 study in journal Sexual Health found about 52 percent of men report losing an erection before, or while putting a condom on or after inserting into the vagina while wearing a condom.

Stress

High levels of stress impact your psychological and physiological health, which can interfere with the ability to orgasm. This makes it harder to concentrate on the sensation and relax during sex. Women with high salivary cortisol and stress levels have significantly less desire to masturbate or have sex with their partner.

Stress causes us to produce fewer sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, and more cortisol and stress hormones. When the body releases cortisol, a fight-or-flight response kicks in, and redirects the blood flow away from the sex organs, causing you to breathe shallowly.

couple-holding-hands

Depression

Depression affects your mood, and even the desire to have sex. A 2000 study in the American Family Physician found 70 percent of adults facing depression without treatment had problems with their sex drive. This is because sexual desire starts in the brain as sex organs rely on chemicals in the brain to jumpstart your libido, and change blood flow. Depression disrupts these brain chemicals, making sexual activity more difficult to initiate and enjoy.

Chronic Pain

More than 75 million people live  with persistent or debilitating pain, according to the national pain foundation, which can often lead to a low sex drive. Chronic pain sufferers find it difficult to feel pleasure during sex since the body hurts all the time. This is unfortunate since having an orgasm can alleviate some pains and aches.

Prescription Meds

Drugs tend to be among the most common causes of sexual problems. Prescription meds are responsible for as many as one of every four cases of sexual dysfunction. A 2002 study published in Family Practice found statins and fibrates (used in lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol) may cause erectile dysfunction, while later research has found both men and women taking statins showed increased difficulty achieving orgasm. The levels of sexual pleasure declined along with LDL cholesterol.

Negative Body Image

When you feel good about your body, you tend to feel better psychologically as well. The mind-body connection is imperative in sexual pleasure. For example, if you feel bad about your body, it;ll become more difficult to enjoy sex and have orgasms. A 2009 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found women between the ages 18 to 49 who scored high on a body image scale were the most sexually satisfied. Positive feelings associated with weight, physical condition, sexual attractiveness, and thoughts about our body during sex help promote healthy sexual functioning.

Complete Article HERE!

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Max, Part 2 — Podcast #114 — 04/15/09

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Hey sex fans,

We’re back with my guest, Max, the Seattle-based bondage artist, educator and Dom.  This is Part 2 our chat in this podcast series called Sex EDGE-U-cation.   As you know, max-picthis series is all about the world of fetish sex, kink and alternative sexual lifestyles.

Max and I will be exploring all sorts of interesting topics; not least among them is his polyamorous life with Mistress Matisse and the oh so charming Lorelei.

If you somehow missed Part 1 of our conversation, look for last week’s podcast, #113 on the PODCAST PAGE at the top of this page.  Or simply use the site’s search function.  Type in podcast #113; don’t forget to include the # sign.

Just a quick aside…as most of you know I was one of the many presenters at the Seattle Fetish & Fantasy Festival this past weekend.  When I wasn’t teaching I had an opportunity to sit in on a couple of the other fine workshops offered by some of the Northwest’s most illustrious kink educators.  And I’m here to tell you, as delightful and informative and Max is in this podcast conversation, this medium does not compare to Max in front of a live audience with a length of rope in one hand and beautiful Lorelei in the other.  They are phenomenal together, and not to be missed.

Max and I discuss:

  • The role of endorphins and adrenaline in power play.
  • BDSM as both recreation and catharsis.
  • Polyamory, a working definition.
  • Poly-fidelity and cohabitation.
  • Developing a vocabulary for discussing poly structures.
  • Managing a poly relationship — jealousy and compersion.

Be sure to visit Max at his website HERE!

See a slideshow of some of Max’s work.  Click on the thumbnails below.

[nggallery id=8]

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: FetishMovies.com.

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Sex EDGE-U-cation with Max – Podcast #113 – 04/08/09

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Hey sex fans,

Today I have the distinct pleasure of welcoming the Seattle-based, yet internationally known and respected, bondage artist, educator and Dom, who goes by the name Max.  We will be exploring all sorts of interesting topics; not least among them is his polyamorous life with max-picSeattle’s finest professional Dominatrix, Mistress Matisse. This is exciting and thought provoking stuff, sex fans.  You don’t want to miss this.

Max is my latest guest in this new series of podcast interviews I’m doing called Sex EDGE-U-cation .  As you know, we’re taking a look at the world of fetish sex, kink and alternative sexual lifestyles. We are touching on topics both familiar and exotic.  We are chatting with prominent educators, practitioners and advocates of unconventional sexual expressions and lifestyles from all over the world.

Max and I discuss:

  • Seattle being a hotbed of perversion.
  • How BDSM, polyamory and kink infuse his life.
  • His role as an educator and activist.
  • His workshops at The Center For Sex Positive Culture and his private lessons.
  • Safety and compatibility issues between top and bottom.
  • Building intimacy through BDSM.
  • Differentiating between BDSM, kink and genital sex.

Be sure to visit Max at his website HERE!

See a slideshow of some of Max’s work.  Click on the thumbnails below.

[nggallery id=7]

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Stockroom.

drdicksstockroom.jpg

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The Sex Toy Shops That Switched On a Feminist Revolution

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The “White Cross Electric Vibrator Girl” as pictured in a 1911 Health and Beauty catalog.

BUZZ
The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy
By Hallie Lieberman
Illustrated. 359 pp. Pegasus Books. $26.95.

VIBRATOR NATION
How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure
By Lynn Comella
278 pp. Duke University Press. $25.95.

Think back, for a moment, to the year 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Beatles released the “White Album.” North Vietnam launched the Tet offensive. And American women discovered the clitoris. O.K., that last one may be a bit of an overreach, but 1968 was when “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” a short essay by Anne Koedt, went that era’s version of viral. Jumping off of the Masters and Johnson bombshell that women who didn’t climax during intercourse could have multiple orgasms with a vibrator, Koedt called for replacing Freud’s fantasy of “mature” orgasm with women’s lived truth: It was all about the clitoris. That assertion single-handedly, as it were, made female self-love a political act, and claimed orgasm as a serious step to women’s overall emancipation. It also threatened many men, who feared obsolescence, or at the very least, loss of primacy. Norman Mailer, that famed phallocentrist, raged in his book “The Prisoner of Sex” against the emasculating “plenitude of orgasms” created by “that laboratory dildo, that vibrator!” (yet another reason, beyond the whole stabbing incident, to pity the man’s poor wives).

To be fair, Mailer & Co. had cause to quake. The quest for sexual self-knowledge, as two new books on the history and politics of sex toys reveal, would become a driver of feminist social change, striking a blow against men’s overweening insecurity and the attempt (still with us today) to control women’s bodies. As Lynn Comella writes in “Vibrator Nation,” retailers like Good Vibrations in San Francisco created an erotic consumer landscape different from anything that previously existed for women, one that was safe, attractive, welcoming and ultimately subversive, presenting female sexual fulfillment as “unattached to reproduction, motherhood, monogamy — even heterosexuality.”

As you can imagine, both books (which contain a great deal of overlap) are chockablock with colorful characters, starting with Betty Dodson, the Pied Piper of female onanism, who would often personally demonstrate — in the nude — how to use a vibrator to orgasm during her early sexual consciousness-raising workshops in New York. I am woman, hear me roar indeed.

Back in the day, though, attaining a Vibrator of One’s Own was tricky. The leering male gaze of the typical “adult” store was, at best, off-putting to most women. Amazon, where sex toys, like fresh produce, are just a mouse click away, was still a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye. Enter Dell Williams, who after being shamed by a Macy’s salesclerk while checking out a Hitachi Magic Wand, founded in 1974 the mail order company Eve’s Garden. That was quickly followed by Good Vibrations, the first feminist sex toy storefront; it’s great fun to read the back story of Good Vibes’ late founder, Joani Blank, along with radical “sexperts” like Susie Bright and Carol Queen.
Continue reading the main story

The authors of “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” each put in time observing how sex toys are sold, so have firsthand insight into the industry. Whose take will hold more appeal depends on the reader’s interests: In “Buzz,” Hallie Lieberman offers a broader view, taking us back some 30,000 years, when our ancestors carved penises out of siltstone; moving on to the ancient Greeks’ creative use of olive oil; the buzzy medical devices of the 19th century (disappointingly, doctors’ notorious in-office use of vibrators as treatment for female “hysteria” is urban legend); and the impact of early-20th-century obscenity laws — incredibly, sex toys remain illegal in Alabama — before digging deeply into more contemporary influences. In addition to feminist retailers, Lieberman braids in stories of men like Ted Marche, whose family business — employing his wife and teenage children — began by making prosthetic strap-ons for impotent men; Gosnell Duncan, who made sex aids for the disabled and was the first to expand dildo production beyond the Caucasian pink once called “flesh colored”; the Malorrus brothers, who were gag gift manufacturers (think penis pencil toppers); and the hard-core porn distribution mogul Reuben Sturman, who repeatedly, and eventually disastrously, ran afoul of the law. Although their X-rated wares would supposedly give women orgasms, unlike the feminist-championed toys they were sold primarily as devices that would benefit men. Much like the era’s sexual revolution, in other words, they maintained and even perpetuated a sexist status quo.

“Vibrator Nation” focuses more narrowly on women-owned vendors, wrestling with how their activist mission bumped up against the demands and constraints of the marketplace. Those early entrepreneurs, Comella writes, believed nothing less than that “women who had orgasms could change the world.” As with other utopian feminist visions, however, this one quickly splintered. Controversy broke out over what constituted “sex positivity,” what constituted “woman-friendly,” what constituted “woman.” Was it politically correct to stock, or even produce, feminist porn? Were BDSM lesbians invited to the party? Would the stores serve transwomen? Did the “respectable” aesthetic of the white, middle-class founders translate across lines of class and race? If the goal was self-exploration through a kind of cliteracy, what about customers (of any gender or sexual orientation) who wanted toys for partnered play or who enjoyed penetrative sex? Could a sex store that sold nine-inch, veined dildos retain its feminist bona fides? Dell Williams solved that particular problem by commissioning nonrepresentational silicone devices with names like “Venus Rising” from Gosnell Duncan, the man who made prosthetics for the disabled. Others followed suit.

Even so, Comella writes, the retailers struggled to stay afloat: Feminist stores refused, as a matter of principle, to trade on customers’ anxiety — there were none of the “tightening creams,” “numbing creams,” penis enlargers or anal bleaches that boosted profits at typical sex stores. Employees were considered “educators,” and sales were secondary to providing information and support. What’s more, Good Vibrations in particular was noncompetitive; Blank freely shared her business model with any woman interested in spreading the love.

Consumer culture and feminism have always been strange bedfellows, with the former tending to overpower the latter. Just as Virginia Slims co-opted the message of ’70s liberation, as the Spice Girls cannibalized ’90s grrrl power, so feminist sex stores exerted their influence on the mainstream, yet were ultimately absorbed and diluted by it. In 2007, Good Vibrations was sold to GVA-TWN, the very type of sleazy mega-sex-store company it was founded to disrupt. Though no physical changes have been made in the store, Good Vibrations is no longer woman-owned. Although the aesthetics haven’t changed, Lieberman writes, the idea of feminist sex toys as a source of women’s liberation has faded, all but disappeared. An infamous episode of “Sex and the City” that made the Rabbit the hottest vibrator in the nation also portrayed female masturbation as addictive and isolating, potentially leading to permanent loneliness. The sex toys in “Fifty Shades of Grey” were wielded solely in service of traditional sex and gender roles: A man is in charge of Anastasia Steele’s sexual awakening, and climax is properly experienced through partnered intercourse. Meanwhile, the orgasm gap between genders has proved more stubborn than the pay gap. Women still experience one orgasm for every three experienced by men in partnered sex. And fewer than half of teenage girls between 14 and 17 have ever masturbated.

At the end of “Buzz,” Lieberman makes a provocative point: Viagra is covered by insurance but vibrators aren’t, presumably because while erections are seen as medically necessary for sexual functioning the same is not true of female orgasm. Like our feminist foremothers, she envisions a new utopia, one in which the F.D.A. regulates sex toys to ensure their safety, in which they are covered by insurance, where children are taught about them in sex education courses and they are seen and even subsidized worldwide as a way to promote women’s sexual health.

In other words: We’ve come a long way, baby, but as “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” make clear, we still may not be coming enough.

Complete Article HERE!

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