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What asexuality can teach us about sexual relationships and boundaries

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There is an expectation that everyone feels sexual attraction and sexual desire and that these feelings begin in adolescence. Assumptions about sex are everywhere – most of time we don’t even notice them. Music videos, films, reality shows, advertising, video games, newspapers and magazines all use sexual content which supports the idea that sexuality, attraction and desire are normal. There is, however, a group of people that are challenging this sexual assumption, who identify as asexual.

Asexuality was once thought of as a problem which left people unable to feel sexual attraction to others. Upon the discovery that some people had little or no interest in sexual behaviour, researchers in the 1940s called this group “asexuals”, and labelled them as “Group X”. There was no more discussion of “Group X”, and asexuals and asexuality were lost to history, while studies of sexuality grew and flourished.

Even today, asexuality still seems to be something of a mystery for many people – despite more people talking about it, and more people identifying as asexual. Asexuality is difficult for a lot of people to understand. And research shows that as a sexual identity, people have more negativity towards asexuals than any other sexual minority.

What is asexuality?

What exactly asexuality is, is very much still being decided – with a lot of debate going on as to whether it is a sexual orientation or a sexual identity. There have also been discussions about whether it is a medical condition or if it should be seen as a problem to be treated.

But it seems that for many, being asexual is less about a traditional understanding of sexual attraction and behaviour, and more about being able to discuss likes and dislikes, as well as expectations and preferences in the early stages of a relationship. In this way, it is a refreshing way of being honest and clear with potential partners – and avoiding any assumptions being made about sex. Maybe because of this approach, a growing number of self-identified asexuals see asexuality as less of a problem, and more of a way of life.

Discussions about sex and sexuality during the early stage of a relationship can make partners and potential partners more respectful towards a person’s choices and decisions. They also can reduce the potential of others making requests that may make someone uncomfortable, or which carry subtle elements of coercion.

Redefining boundaries

In this way, then, with its need for honesty and clarity, asexuality is an insightful way of looking at sexuality, and the ways in which non-asexuals – also known as allosexuals in the asexual community – interact with others on a close and intimate level.

According to one asexual, her friends’ reactions to her “coming out” were underwhelming – mainly because it is an orientation defined by “what is not happening”. But for self-identified asexuals, there is actually a lot happening. They are exploring and articulating what feels right in the context of intimacy. They are considering different aspects of relationships and partnerships. They are talking to others about their experiences. And they are looking for people they can share a similar experience with.

Asexuals are thinking carefully and critically about what it means to be close to someone, and in doing so, many of them have an understanding of non-sexual practices of intimacy. By doing all of this, they are developing a very unique skill set in a culture which is often considered to be over sexualised.

At a time when there is a growing recognition that many teenagers struggle to understand what a healthy romantic relationship actually looks like, asexuality gives us a new way of understanding relationships – both sexual and asexual, romantic and unromantic. And this could have a huge potential to help others understand closeness in relationships where there is an absence of sexual intimacy.

Complete Article HERE!

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Masturbation Tips for your Queerest, Sexiest Spring Ever

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Masturbation, more than any other sex act, is a time to be completely selfish and all about yourself.

By Cameron Glover

May is here, which means that it is finally National Masturbation Month! You may have seen the memes or innuendo-laced content swirling around social media, but this month is more important than you may know. Masturbation Month has evolved to become one of the most ambitious nationwide efforts to create more inclusive, welcoming sex education.

The month actually has political roots: it was started back in 1995 in San Francisco as a response to the forced resignation of the first Black U.S. Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders. Elders gave a speech for the United Nations World AIDS Day in 1994, where a member of the audience asked her about “masturbation’s potential for discouraging early sexual activity.” Yeah, you read that right. Her response (which was: “I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught”) caused such a backlash that it led to her forced resignation.

While this instance highlights the unaddressed and still unresolved issues of misogynoir within this country’s healthcare and politics, it also makes us even more aware of how access to sexuality education remains inadequate. Following the incident with Elders, a local sex toy and education shop, Good Vibrations, continued to push for a conversation around Elder’s forced resignation and the importance of masturbation.

Over twenty years later, there’s still heavy stigma and shame around masturbation. This is especially true for marginalized people, who have dealt with a disproportionate lack of access to sexuality resources that include them.

Here are a few tips to help make this Masturbation Month the best yet:

Set The Mood

Masturbation gets a bad rep — most people see it as a downgrade from sex with a partner, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Masturbation/solo sex sessions/whatever you want to call it can be a sacred, special practice. If you’re having trouble getting into the mindset of masturbation as sex, trying incorporating the same things that you do when you prepare for sex with a partner. Wear that lingerie that makes you feel desirable and sexy; put on your favorite scents; even read your favorite sexy novel or erotic fanfiction.

No matter the method, take the time to have a ritual to make the experience as special as if you were preparing to have an experience with a partner. Masturbation can be an important part of showing yourself self-love, so why not honor that?

Choose The Right Lube

If there’s anything that you should incorporate immediately into your masturbation (or sex in general) routine, it should be bringing in the lube. Now despite what you may think, lube isn’t only for if you have a problem with lubrication, it can actually help intensify sensation and increase pleasure, which is exactly what we want during a solo session. Even if getting a new sex toy isn’t an option (and we’ll get to those in a minute), new lube can be more affordable and is a good way to spice things up without going too far out of your comfort zone.

I suggest that everyone have both a water-based lube and a silicone-based lube — I recommend this one for your silicone option and that one for the water-based lube. If you do have sex toys, not every toy can be used with each lube; as a rule of thumb, silicone toys should only be used with water-based lube as silicone breaks down silicone. Try different brands to see which feels right for you.

Switch Up the Method

If you’re someone who has sex or masturbates frequently, there can often be the issue of being less stimulated by the same old positions. An easy solution for this can be to just switch it up! Yes, it’s good to know which go-to positions or angles can get you off in a pinch, but masturbation is a special time where exploration is actually encouraged. Try using slower methods — use your hands and fingers to slowly build up pleasure in less-sensitive areas, followed by focus on areas with a higher concentration of nerve endings, like the clitoris, the head of the penis, or the anus.

Invest in a New Toy

If you’re financially able, investing in a good, quality sex toy can be a huge improvement for your solo sex sessions. For people with vulvas, I highly recommend a G-spot vibrator like the OVO E3, but brands like njoy and Fun Factory have quality, reasonably priced toys for a variety of interests.

My girl Sophie does the best monthly roundups on when good toys go on sale. Do your research, have fun, and make sure to

Have Fun!

Seriously. Sex and so much of our lives can be heavy and serious. Masturbation, more than any other sex act, is a time to be completely selfish and all about yourself. What gets you off? What makes you feel sexy? Lean into that and don’t forget to enjoy yourself.

Complete Article HERE!

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This Female Filmmaker Is Changing the Porn Industry—One Perfectly Lit Sex Scene at a Time

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Catching up with Erika Lust.

By:Lindsay Brown</a

Since we last spoke to Erika Lust, her star has continued to rise. She was recently honored with the Maguey Award at the Guadalajara International Film Festival—a prize that celebrates “the career and achievements of a person who, through her work, has transformed sexual diversity, breaking down barriers and showing new paradigms of sexuality and gender.” Indeed, the Barcelona-based erotic filmmaker is transforming the porn industry. Lust has spent the last ten years elevating porn’s aesthetic, using her role behind the camera to put the focus on female pleasure. (Lest you think that sounds like a lot of gentle lovemaking, I can assure you that you’re wrong; it’s intense and X-rated—from a female gaze—and it will absolutely get you off.)

On the heels of her first American screening in L.A., we spoke to Lust about her revolt against male-centric content, the importance of ethical porn, and why audiences are so hungry for her style of sexual storytelling.

You’re often described as an erotic filmmaker, perhaps because the word “porn” doesn’t seem to do your films justice. Does the word “porn” get a bad rap, and how do you deal with that?

“People have so many ideas about what porn is, and most of those ideas have bad connotations around them. It’s related to mainstream porn that we are used to online today—this kind of ‘Pornhub’ porn. That is very different from my kind of porn. I show explicit sex, obviously, and the conventional porn is also showing explicit sex. But I am trying to do much more with my films. I am a filmmaker. I love film—that is my big passion.”

How would you explain the difference between your movies and mainstream porn to someone who hasn’t seen your films?

“It’s like the difference between eating fast food, and eating at a small little family-owned restaurant. You know, where the owners go to the market and pick out the ingredients themselves…where the owners are elaborating on an old recipe, trying everything out and deciding how it is going to look…caring about the quality.”

The fast-food analogy is such a perfect way to describe mainstream porn sites. A lot of it literally looks greasy, gross, and borderline unhealthy.

“Ha! Exactly!”

What do you think the problem is with mainstream pornography?

“My problem with porn is not the explicit sex in it, [it’s that] it’s so aggressive, so misogynistic, many times so racist, and sometimes even homophobic. It looks like [men] are more interested in punishing women, instead of, you know, coming together and just having a fabulous time! That is what sex should be about, right? But mainstream porn is all about fetishizing people based on body type, age, and race. It takes [away] the humanity of people, and that’s sad, because that’s the interesting part.”

Would you say your films are designed for women?

“I would say…my films are made from a female perspective with a female gaze, but they really are for everyone. I think men will find great benefits from watching real pleasure from women on screen.”

They might learn something!

“Exactly! Many men are confused about what pleasure really looks like. I mean, if you go to Pornhub or something like that, [the women] are all screaming from penetration, and we know that’s not true. We all know that most women need some sort of clitoral stimulation to create those kinds of screams.”

One of the differences between your films and mainstream porn is the casting. You have a lot of diversity. Can you tell us about your casting process?

“It’s totally essential. Without the right actors, you can’t really make it, and it’s something we have really been working a lot with over the last year, to get better at it. I work with a great casting director who is an actress, as well. But [it] is not easy to find the right people… You have to make an effort.”

You’ve been making films for over 10 years now, but recently your company has started to invest in other women’s films as well, financing projects. How important do you think it is to have representation behind the camera?

“I think it’s ridiculous that [mostly] men are telling the sexual stories of humanity. I started financing other women because I realized that I cannot change an industry by myself. The project is growing and has become bigger, and now I have the means to fund other films by women.”

You’ve spoken a fair bit about the importance of ethical porn. Can you elaborate on what that means in practice when it comes to your company?

“Ethical porn means taking care of your cast and crew—making sure that they’re comfortable, that they understand the contract they’re signing and the type of sex they’re agreeing to beforehand. All the sexual acts are negotiated up front, so there are no surprises. And then basic things; that they have water and snacks, that they have blankets, and that they have time to have a break. I hear from women that they feel so safe on my sets, because they are surrounded by sisters.”

You recently hosted a sold-out screening at the legendary Mack Sennett Studios in L.A., which was your first time screening in the States. What do you look forward to at these events?

“I love the audience interaction. I love to communicate with the audience, to answer their questions, to feel the energy in the room. When it comes to the screening in America, it’s particularly special because we really are a small art house European film company.”

Have you found difference between American viewers and Europeans? Do you think there is a different sensibility there about sex and sexuality?

“Absolutely. But even within Europe there are differences. In Germany, for example, they are very open-minded. America is a little bit more…hypocritical when it comes to porn. [Americans] want it, but they don’t want it. They are so drawn to porn privately, but then they don’t want to talk about it as much.”

You’ve mentioned that just how comedy is supposed to make you laugh and horror is supposed to make you scared, porn is supposed to turn you on. Has anyone ever enjoyed the films a little too much during a screening?

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything bad. Mostly people are behaving very well! But when you say that, it sounds like that could be the plot of a new movie!”

Complete Article HERE!

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Performance Anxiety Doesn’t Mean the End of Your Sex Life… Here’s Why

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Sometimes sex can be stressful, but these steps may help you get your groove back.

by Stephanie Booth

After her first sexual partner belittled her in the bedroom, Steph Auteri began second-guessing herself when it came to sex.

“I felt self-conscious and nervous about being a disappointment to the other person,” the 37-year-old says. “I found myself never feeling sexual, never wanting to be intimate, and never initiating anything.”

Even with different partners, Auteri “went through the motions” of sex, always hoping the act would be over quickly.

“I felt broken,” she admits. “And more than anything else, I felt guilty for being weird about sex. I felt that I wasn’t someone who was worth committing to. Then, I would feel resentful for the fact that I had to feel guilty and would want sex even less. It was a vicious circle.”

“Sex anxiety,” like Auteri experienced, isn’t an official medical diagnosis. It’s a colloquial term used to describe fear or apprehension related to sex. But it is real — and it affects more people than is commonly known.

“In my experience, [the incidence] is relatively high,” says Michael J. Salas, LPC-S, AASECT, a certified sex therapist and relationship expert in Dallas, Texas. “Many sexual dysfunctions are relatively common, and almost all of the sexual dysfunction cases that I’ve worked with have an element of anxiety associated with them.”

How sex anxiety manifests can occur in a wide variety of ways for different people. Women may have a significant drop in libido or interest, have trouble getting aroused or having an orgasm, or experience physical pain during sex. Men can struggle with their performance or their ability to ejaculate.

Some people get so nervous at the idea of having sex that they avoid having it altogether.

However, Ravi Shah, MD, a psychiatrist at ColumbiaDoctors and assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, suggests one of the keys to overcoming sex anxiety is viewing it as a “symptom” instead of a condition.

“You’re getting anxious around sex, but what’s the real diagnosis?” Shah asks.

The link between anxiety and sex

If it seems like just about everyone you know is anxious about something these days — well, that’s because they are. Anxiety disorders are currently the most common mental health issue in the United States, affecting about 40 million adults.

When a person senses a threat (real or imagined), their body instinctively switches into “fight or flight” mode. Should I stay and fight the snake in front of me, or book it to safety?

The chemicals that get released into the body during this process don’t contribute to sexual desire. Rather, they put a damper on it, so a person’s attention can be focused on the immediate threat.

“In general, people who experience anxiety disorders in the rest of their lives are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction, too,” says Nicole Prause, PhD, a sexual psychophysiologist and licensed psychologist in Los Angeles.

Additionally, trauma — such as sexual abuse or sexual assault — can trigger apprehension about sex. So can chronic pain, a change in hormones (like right after giving birth or when going through menopause), and even a lack of quality sex education.

“Abstinence-only education tends to create a stigma and shame around sex that can continue into adolescence and adulthood,” says Salas. “Sex education that focuses only on pregnancy ignores the importance of sexual stimulation and pleasure. This can leave people looking to porn for their sex education… [which] can increase myths of sexual performance and increase anxiety.”

“Some people may have anxiety around sex because they have unrealistic expectations about what healthy sex is,” agrees Shah. “Across both men and women, that has to do with low self-esteem, what sex is like in porn and movies versus in real life, and how much sex they feel they ‘should’ be having.”

“People wrongly believe everyone else is having sex all the time and it’s great and no one else has problems except them,” he adds.

How to alleviate sex anxiety

There are plenty of benefits to maintaining a healthy sex life. Sex improves your bond with your partner, gives your self-esteem a boost, and can lower your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system.

The “feel good” hormones released during sex can even help combat feelings of stress and anxiety.

So how do you get past your current anxiety about sex to reap those benefits?

Talk to your doctor

First, rule out any physical problems.

“Many physiological problems can increase sexual dysfunction, which can then increase sex anxiety,” Salas says. These include chronic health issues like arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can also do a number on your libido.

Explore intimacy in different ways

“Sensate focus” exercises, which involve touching your partner and being touched for your own pleasure, are meant to help you reconnect with both your sensual and sexual feelings.

“Initially, no genital touching is allowed,” explains Prause. “More touching is gradually added back in as exercises progress, which are often done with a therapist between home sessions. These are done to help identify sources and times of anxiety and work through what those might mean.”

Since anxiety “most often is about something failing around the moments of penetration,” says Prause, you could also choose to avoid that specific act until your confidence builds back. That way, you can learn how to enjoy other pleasurable sexual activities that still provide intimacy, but without the pressure.

Just make sure you talk with your partner if you decide this direction is best for you. As Prause cautions, “There’s no skirting good communication on this one.”

Be mindful

During sex, you may find yourself trying to read your partner’s mind or worrying that you’re not living up to their fantasies. “Mindfulness can help keep you in the present, while managing negative emotions as they arise,” says Salas.

To do that, he urges his clients to view the signals they get from their body as information, rather than judgments. “Listen to your body, rather than try to override it,” he says.

For instance, instead of worrying why you don’t yet have an erection — and panicking that you should — accept that you’re still enjoying what you’re currently doing, like kissing or being touched by your partner.

“Noticing without judgment and acceptance are key aspects of lowering sexual anxiety,” says Salas.

Make sex a regular conversation

“It’s a fantasy that your partner should know what you want,” says Shah. “They don’t know what you want for dinner without you telling them, and the same goes for sexual activity.”

Choose a private moment and suggest, “There’s something I want to talk to you about in regards to sex. Can we talk about that now?” This gentle heads-up will give your partner a moment to mentally prepare. Then approach the heart of the matter: “I love you and want us to have a good sex life. One thing that’s hard for me is [fill-in-the-blank].”

Don’t forget to invite your partner to chime in, too, by asking: “How do you think our sex life is?”

Talking openly about sex may feel awkward at first, but can be a great starting point for working through your anxiety, Shah says.

Don’t discount foreplay

“There are so many ways to get sexual pleasure,” says Shah. “Massages, baths, manual masturbation, just touching each other… Build up a repertoire of good, positive experiences.”

Explore issues of shame

Maybe you’re embarrassed about your appearance, the number of partners you’ve had, a sexually transmitted disease — or perhaps you were raised to believe that your sexuality is wrong.

“When it comes to sex, shame isn’t very far behind,” says Salas. “The problem with shame is that we don’t talk about it. Some of us won’t even own it.” Identify which aspect is causing you to feel ashamed, then consider opening up about it to your partner.

“When people survive sharing the information that they’re most ashamed about, the fears of sharing it lessen,” says Salas. “They realize that they can share this, and still be accepted and loved.”

Seek professional help

If your anxiety isn’t confined to the bedroom, or you’ve tried without success to improve your sex life, seek professional help. “You may need more robust treatment with a therapist or even medication,” says Shah.

Life after sexual anxiety

Steph Auteri didn’t find an instant cure for her sex anxiety. It stuck around for 15 years. Even when she met her current husband, their first sexual encounter was marked by Auteri’s tears and a confession that she had “weirdness” about sex.

An accidental career as a sex columnist helped her slowly start to realize that her anxiety wasn’t so unusual. “People would comment or email me thanking me for being so open and honest about a thing they were also experiencing,” says Auteri, who’s now written a memoir, “A Dirty Word,” about her experience. “They had always thought they were alone. But none of us are alone in this.”

When she and her husband decided to have a baby, Auteri was surprised to find that the more she had sex, the more she desired it. A regular yoga practice also helped her improve a sense of mindfulness, and she started asking her husband for more foreplay and nonsexual intimacy throughout the day.

“I also became more open to intimacy even when I wasn’t necessarily ‘in the mood.’ Although let’s be real,” Auteri adds, “sometimes I’m really not in the mood, and I still honor that.”

And honoring our own feelings is often the first (and biggest) step toward overcoming sex anxiety.

Complete Article HERE!

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Should sex toys be prescribed by doctors?

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Talk about good vibrations

By

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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