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Why LGBT-inclusive relationships and sex education matters

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By Hannah Kibirige​

Today the Government launched a public consultation on what relationships and sex education should look like in England’s schools. While that might not be the first thing on your Christmas list, it’s been hanging around at the top of ours for a while, and is a vitally important step forward for all young people.

So why is it something we should all care about? Earlier this year, the Government committed to making age-appropriate relationships and sex education compulsory in all of England’s schools in 2019.

Currently, only certain secondary schools are required to teach this subject, and the guidance for teachers has sat untouched since 2000. To say that plenty has changed in those 17 years would be an understatement. Back then, Bob the Builder was Christmas number one, Facebook was just a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye, and Section 28 – the law which banned the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality – was still in force.

It was a different world – and the guidance reads that way. It makes little mention of online safety, and no mention at all of LGBT young people and their needs. We have, however, made progress. At primary level we work with hundreds of schools to help them celebrate difference. This includes talking about different families, including LGBT parents and relatives.

Teaching about the diversity that exists in the world means that children from all families feel included and helps all young people understand that LGBT people are part of everyday life. Lots of schools, including faith schools, have been doing this work for years. Different families, same love. Simple.

At secondary level, a growing number of schools are meeting the needs of their LGBT pupils. But Stonewall’s research shows that these schools are in the minority: just one in six LGBT young people have been taught about healthy same-sex relationships, and many teachers still aren’t sure whether they are allowed to talk about LGBT issues in the classroom.

Too many LGBT pupils still tell us that relationships and sex education simply doesn’t include them. As LGBT young people are left unequipped to make safe, informed decisions, most go online to find information instead. It will come as no surprise that information online can be unreliable, and sometimes unsafe.

In schools that teach about LGBT issues, LGBT young people are more likely to feel welcomed, included and accepted. When young people see themselves reflected in what they learn, it doesn’t just equip them to make safe, informed decisions, it helps them feel like they belong and that who they are isn’t wrong or defective. Providing all young people with inclusive relationships and sex education as part of PSHE is a key way to do this.

Every young person needs to feel accepted, understood and included. The Government has recognised that, and is clear that future relationships and sex education will be LGBT-inclusive. Now is our chance to have a say on what that should look like. Now is our chance to give all young people the information and support they need to be safe, happy and healthy, now and in the future.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s How Long ‘Sexual Afterglow’ Actually Lasts, According to Science

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Turns out great sex makes you feel good for longer than you think.

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We already know sex is really good for you, and can basically double as medicine. I mean, it increases your immunoglobulin A levels and makes your immune system stronger, protects against certain cancers, helps you sleep betterand it relieves stress and keeps your mental health in check.

That said, it’s no surprise that an activity as healthy and fun as sex leaves you feeling happy and serene, in something commonly known as the sexual “afterglow.”

According to research published in the scientific journal Psychological Science, it turns out that splendid post-coital “glow” is actually all emotional, and comes from the happiness you feel courtesy of the “love hormone” oxytocin.

This actually makes a lot of sense, considering most would argue that a solid romp in the sheets leaves you a sweaty, drained, sleepy mess, even though you feel pretty damn amazing on the inside.

For their research, scientists analyzed the results of two separate studies that each surveyed 100 newlywed couples, where the couples filled out sex diaries for two weeks and recorded how many times they had sex, and how they felt about their relationships in the days following sex.

Not surprisingly, the couples reported increased sexual satisfaction on the days they fooled around, but more importantly, it was discovered that they had higher feelings of intimacy and happiness, a.k.a. the “afterglow,” that lasted for two whole days after a roll in the hay.

Nah, she just got laid.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that during the afterglow phase, a man’s sperm quality actually decreases, but begins to recover after the third day.

It’s believed that this 48-hour afterglow and the two day decrease in sperm quality work together as an evolutionary remnant intended to keep the happy couple together for at least two days after a good lay, since sperm can only survive for a maximum of two days in the female reproductive tract. And when you can’t bust a high-quality nut for two days, it gives the previously deployed sperm a better chance of reaching the egg.

Did you get all that?

What’s more is that the researchers had the couples reevaluate their relationships four to six months later, and found that those who felt the strongest afterglows were more satisfied with their relationship months later, meaning the better the sex is, the better the relationship. But that’s not too surprising, is it?

“Our research shows that sexual satisfaction remains elevated 48 hours after sex,” says lead author, Dr. Andrea Meltzer. “The afterglow appears to last approximately the same length of time that it takes for peak sperm concentration to be restored.

“And people with a stronger sexual afterglow — that is, people who report a higher level of sexual satisfaction 48 hours after sex — report higher levels of relationship satisfaction several months later.”

To conclude, let’s sum up the entire study into one simple sentence: You feel sexually satisfied for two whole days after sex, and it’s only because you subconsciously want to knock up your lady with your high-quality sperm. The end.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Erotic Fan Fiction Might Be the Key to a Better Sex Life

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By Jandra Sutton

Where I come from, sex is taboo. I never learned how to use a condom, I never learned anything about birth control, and abstinence was preached above all else. I was even given a fake plastic credit card as a symbol of my pledge to remain abstinent, a tiny golden card that told us of the “importance of abstinence” that we could carry around in our wallets, intended as something that would remind us of the gift and value of our virginity, along with our commitment to not have sex—and yes, I attended public school.

At the private Christian university I attended, it got worse instead of better. Professors gave talks about how masturbation was evil and addicting, not to mention the sins of pornography. We were told that pornography was basically a gateway drug to sexual promiscuity and broken relationships. Pornography was whispered about in church like it was heroin, making it one of the worst things in which you could possibly indulge. Sex and everything related to sexuality quickly became terrifying, although of course, I was still curious, but clueless. TV and movies were all I had to learn about sex, but I soon discovered that the library scene in Atonement doesn’t quite count as a proper sexual education.

I’ve recently started coming to terms with sexuality, however. I’ve realized that there are issues with my limited knowledge of sex that aren’t just dangerous (hello, condoms) but severely limiting in terms of my relationship with my husband—yup, I’m married now.

So what options are left? My conservative upbringing made it uncomfortable (and embarrassing) to talk to a professional about sex, and I could never dream of mentioning my burgeoning sex life with my friends. Hell, even writing an article about sex is enough to make me blush. Like right now.

Weirdly enough, fan fiction saved my sex life. It’s strange to admit, especially to countless strangers on the internet, but it taught me that sexuality isn’t just OK, it’s a part of life and something to be embraced.

I stuck with fan fiction about fictional characters, mainly because I was (and am) uncomfortable with reading fan fiction about real people—especially sexual scenarios—but also because it allowed me to explore without any secondhand embarrassment. I didn’t want to watch porn or hear about real people having sex because, truthfully, I couldn’t handle it. Sticking with the fictional, however, lowered the barrier of entry (pun intended).

By reading about characters with whom I already identified, fan fiction taught me that I’m not a light switch to be turned on and off when convenient. I knew that arousal was different for men and women, but I assumed that I was defective if I couldn’t get “into the mood” without proper, erm, stimulation. Even then, there were times that sex still wasn’t on my agenda, but I had no guidelines for how to deal with that except TV shows where the woman would feign a headache (and be portrayed as a frigid b*tch for doing so).

Fan fiction provided me with a safe space to explore my sexuality. With only one sexual partner in my life, I’d never had the opportunity to discover what I liked in bed. Sex, as I soon discovered, isn’t something to be ashamed of—and it shouldn’t be.

Not knowing anything about the different types of foreplay, role-playing, different positions, masturbation, and more, I came into my marriage relationship as a virtual tabula rasa. And while that could be viewed as a good thing depending on your personal beliefs, it definitely made sex awkward. I had a vague idea of things I thought I should be doing, but I had no idea how to do them. I didn’t know how to take an active role in pleasing my husband, and I had even less of an inkling on how to enjoy myself in the process. Sure, I could talk to my spouse about these issues—and did—but it often left me feeling deficient.

Fan fiction, however, let me read about healthy sexual relationships without feeling embarrassed or overwhelmed. I could delve into different sexual scenarios on a whim, and I was in control of the process. It allowed me to explore (or avoid) whatever I wanted, which I could then take back to the bedroom thanks to the support of my husband.

Given that women are more often stimulated by the written word than men, fan fiction helped cultivate a healthy sexual appetite within my relationship that had been previously inaccessible to me. Fanfic is often more female-friendly than porn in that it often gives women a more dominant role, especially one in which the female orgasm is just as important (if not more so) than the male’s, along with the ability to choose a story that has a plot (not just sex), making it more immersive in the process. Not only that, this makes erotic fan fiction more approachable—and beneficial—to people like me, who are interested in learning but are often uncomfortable with blatant displays of sexuality.

Honestly, I’m beyond grateful for erotic fan fiction. It’s free. It’s safe. It’s empowering. Why shouldn’t women—and men—be free to imagine themselves having kick-ass sex? And instead of taking away from my relationship, reading about sex this way has enriched our sex life in ways that I definitely didn’t expect. I learned that sex is normal, it’s healthy, and it’s whatever the f*ck I want it to be, because it’s mine (and my husband’s). The concept of “should” doesn’t belong in the bedroom.

Fan fiction doesn’t just offer readers the opportunity to escape, it also reminds us that sexuality— whatever form that may take for you—is perfectly normal. It’s OK to have experience, and it’s OK not to. Sometimes we feel like we need to be having sex (and lots of it), but we’re also expected to be the perfect blend of sexy and innocent, knowing exactly how to drive our partners wild, all while feeling incredibly confident in the bedroom and seeming like eternal virgins. The challenge for women can seem insurmountable, especially when the pressure to perform sexually can absolutely kill the mood.

I’d spent so much time worrying about how to do sex “right” that I forgot the importance of enjoying myself throughout the process. Yes, I want to please my partner, but my own pleasure should be of primary concern, as well. Over the course of our lives, women are subtly taught to view themselves as objects, and sexual objectification is no different. We exist as more than objects to fulfill our partners’ sexual desires, and in my experience, fan fiction can help teach that. As more and more women see and experience relationships—even fictional ones—in which a woman’s sexual enjoyment is just as valuable as a man’s, she can see her own pleasure as increasingly important.

And if you’re looking for an easy introduction to erotic fan fiction, a quick trip to Google will help you find a whole host of steamy scenarios. Start with something simple, like a longer fanfic that simply has sex woven into the broader plotline, or dive right in with a collection of smutty one-shots (these are short, one-chapter-length snippets).

Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own are both great places to start, and you can even search based on your favorite pairing or how smutty you want the story to be. Want to imagine yourself as the object of Thor’s affection? It’s definitely doable with a quick search. Or if you’re just dipping your toes in, you can even filter the search results according to rating: If you’re more comfortable keeping it PG-13, do that. Want something more mature? Opt for that! Go forth and embrace your sexuality, find what works for you, and know that wherever you’re at is a great place to be.

Complete Article HERE!

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New treatments restoring sexual pleasure for older women

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By Tara Bahrampour

When the FDA approved Viagra in 1998 to treat erectile dysfunction, it changed the sexual landscape for older men, adding decades to their vitality. Meanwhile, older women with sexual problems brought on by aging were left out in the cold with few places to turn besides hormone therapy, which isn’t suitable for many or always recommended as a long-term treatment.

Now, propelled by a growing market of women demanding solutions, new treatments are helping women who suffer from one of the most pervasive age-related sexual problems.

Genitourinary syndrome, brought on by a decrease in sex hormones and a change in vaginal pH after menopause, is characterized by vaginal dryness, shrinking of tissues, itching and burning, which can make intercourse painful. GSM affects up to half of post-menopausal women and can also contribute to bladder and urinary tract infections and incontinence. Yet only 7 percent of post-menopausal women use a prescription treatment for it, according to a recent study.

The new remedies range from pills to inserts to a five-minute laser treatment that some doctors and patients are hailing as a miracle cure.

The lag inaddressing GSM has been due in part to a longstanding reluctance among doctors to see post-menopausal women as sexual beings, said Leah Millheiser, director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University.

“Unfortunately, many clinicians have their own biases and they assume these women are not sexually active, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth, because research shows that women continue to be sexually active throughout their lifetime,” she said.

With today’s increased life expectancy, that can be a long stretch – another 30 or 40 years, for a typical woman who begins menopause in her early 50s. “It’s time for clinicians to understand that they have to bring up sexual function with their patients whether they’re in their 50s or they’re in their 80s or 90s,” Dr. Millheiser said.

By contrast, doctors routinely ask middle-aged men about their sexual function and are quick to offer prescriptions for Viagra, said Lauren Streicher, medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause.

“If every guy, on his 50th birthday, his penis shriveled up and he was told he could never have sex again, he would not be told, ‘That’s just part of aging,’” Dr. Streicher said.

Iona Harding of Princeton, New Jersey, had come to regard GSM, also known as vulvovaginal atrophy, as just that.

For much of their marriage, she and her husband had a “normal, active sex life.” But after menopause sex became so painful that they eventually stopped trying.

“I talked openly about this with my gynecologist every year,” said Mrs. Harding, 66, a human resources consultant. “There was never any discussion of any solution other than using estrogen cream, which wasn’t enough. So we had resigned ourselves to this is how it’s going to be.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that the same generation who first benefited widely from the birth control pill in the 1960s are now demanding fresh solutions to keep enjoying sex.

“The Pill was the first acknowlegement that you can have sex for pleasure and not just for reproduction, so it really is an extension of what we saw with the Pill,” Dr. Streicher said. “These are the women who have the entitlement, who are saying ‘Wait a minute, sex is supposed to be for pleasure and don’t tell me that I don’t get to have pleasure.’”

The push for a “pink Viagra” to increase desire highlighted women’s growing demand for sexual equality. But the drug flibanserin, approved by the FDA in 2015, proved minimally effective.

For years, the array of medical remedies has been limited. Over-the-counter lubricants ease friction but don’t replenish vaginal tissue. Long-acting mosturizers help plump up tissue and increase lubrication, but sometimes not enough. Women are advised to “use it or lose it” – regular intercourse can keep the tissues more elastic – but not if it is too painful.

Systemic hormone therapy that increases the estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone throughout the body can be effective, but if used over many years it carries health risks, and it is not always safe for cancer survivors.

Local estrogen creams, suppositories or rings are safer since the hormone stays in the vaginal area. But they can be messy, and despite recent studies showing such therapy is not associated with cancer, some women are uncomfortable with its long-term use.

In recent years, two prescription drugs have expanded the array of options. Ospemifene, a daily oral tablet approved by the FDA in 2013,activates specific estrogen receptors in the vagina. Side effects include mild hot flashes in a small percentage of women.

Prasterone DHEA, a naturally occurring steroid that the FDA approved last year, is a daily vaginal insert that prompts a woman’s body to produce its own estrogen and testosterone. However, it is not clear how safe it is to use longterm.

And then there is fractional carbon dioxide laser therapy, developed in Italy and approved by the FDA in 2014 for use in the U.S. Similar to treatments long performed on the face, it uses lasers to make micro-abrasions in the vaginal wall, which stimulate growth of new blood vessels and collagen.

The treatment is nearly painless and takes about five minutes; it is repeated two more times at 6-week intervals. For many patients, the vaginal tissues almost immediately become thicker, more elastic, and more lubricated.

Mrs. Harding began using it in 2016, and after three treatments with MonaLisa Touch, the fractional CO2 laser device that has been most extensively studied, she and her husband were able to have intercourse for the first time in years.

Cheryl Edwards, 61, a teacher and writer in Pennington, New Jersey, started using estrogen in her early 50s, but sex with her husband was painful and she was plagued by urinary tract infections requiring antibiotics, along with severe dryness.

After her first treatment with MonaLisa Touch a year and a half ago, the difference was stark.

“I couldn’t believe it… and with each treatment it got better,” she said. “It was like I was in my 20s or 30s.”

While studies on MonaLisa Touch have so far been small, doctors who use it range from cautiously optimistic to heartily enthusiastic.

“I’ve been kind of blown away by it,” said Dr. Streicher, who, along with Dr. Millheiser, is participating in a larger study comparing it to topical estrogen. Using MonaLisa Touch alone or in combination with other therapies, she said, “I have not had anyone who’s come in and I’ve not had them able to have sex.”

Cheryl Iglesia, director of Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington D.C., was more guarded. While she has treated hundreds of women with MonaLisa Touch and is also participating in the larger study, she noted that studies so far have looked only at short-term effects, and less is known about using it for years or decades.

“What we don’t know is is there a point at which the tissue is so thin that the treatment could be damaging it?” she said. “Is there priming needed?”

Dr. Millheiser echoed those concerns, saying she supports trying local vaginal estrogen first.

So far the main drawback seems to be price. An initial round of treatments can cost between $1,500 and $2,700, plus another $500 a year for the recommended annual touch-up. Unlike hormone therapy or Viagra, the treatment is not covered by insurance.

Some women continue to use local estrogen or lubricants to complement the laser. But unlike hormones, which are less effective if begun many years after menopause, the laser seems to do the trick at any age. Dr. Streicher described a patient in her 80s who had been widowed since her 60s and had recently begun seeing a man.

It had been twenty years since she was intimate with a man, Dr. Streicher said. “She came in and said, ‘I want to have sex.’” After combining MonaLisa Touch with dilators to gradually re-enlarge her vagina, the woman reported successful intercourse. “Not everything is reversible after a long time,” Dr. Streicher said. “This is.”

But Dr. Iglesia said she has seen a range of responses, from patients who report vast improvement to others who see little effect.

“I’m confident that in the next few years we will have better guidelines (but) at this point I’m afraid there is more marketing than there is science for us to guide patients,” she said. “Nobody wants sandpaper sex; it hurts. But at the same time, is this going to help?”

The laser therapy can also help younger women who have undergone early menopause due to cancer treatment, including the 250,000 a year diagnosed with breast cancer. Many cannot safely use hormones, and often they feel uncomfortable bringing up sexual concerns with doctors who are trying to save their lives.

“If you’re a 40-year-old and you get cancer, your vagina might look like it’s 70 and feel like it’s 70,” said Maria Sophocles, founding medical director of Women’s Healthcare of Princeton, who treated Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Harding.

After performing the procedure on cancer survivors, she said, “Tears are rolling down from their eyes because they haven’t had sex in eight years and you’re restoring their femininity to them.”

The procedure also alleviates menopause-related symptoms in other parts of the pelvic floor, including the bladder, urinary tract, and urethra, reducing infections and incontinence.

Ardella House, a 67-year-old homemaker outside Denver, suffered from incontinence and recurring bladder infections as well as painful sex. After getting the MonaLisa Touch treatment last year, she became a proslyter.

“It was so successful that I started telling all my friends, and sure enough, it was something that was a problem for all of them but they didn’t talk about it either,” she said.

“I always used to think, you reach a certain age and you’re not as into sex as you were in your younger years. But that’s not the case, because if it’s enjoyable, you like to do it just as much as when you were younger.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A history of sexual depictions in art

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‘Sex has been evoked in ways that simultaneously challenge, repress and embrace its notions’

Even though the existence of humankind is dependent on sex, it has always been a taboo topic of discussion.

The entire history of art, from ancient to contemporary, has portrayed sex in very overt ways, bringing the subject of sex into the institution of art museums. Because of the lack of recorded history about sex, these frank depictions of sexuality in art visually uncover the way sexuality was viewed over time. These works of art can help us understand attitudes towards sex as they were transformed and shifted geographically through time.

Studying erotic art exposes the open attitude ancient Romans had towards sex. Statues, frescoes and household decorative items from ancient Rome prove that sex was an integral part of their everyday lives and that they were not afraid to show it.

The Secret Museum in Naples exhibits ancient Roman works of people having sex, phallic statues and beastiality, which is sexual relations between a human and an animal. Although the ancient Romans were seemingly comfortable with sex, the museum is called The Secret Museum because King Naples I of Naples deemed the works inappropriate and demanded they be locked away. Art’s attempts to comfortably illustrate sex have been historically shunned and disapproved because it is considered taboo.

Mesopotamian art (c. 4500-539 BCE), like ancient Roman art, portrayed sex openly. Observing these works reveals the sex customs in the culture as well. For example, it was a custom for every woman to perform a specific type of prostitution at least once in their life. This ritual was for women to sit outside the Temple of Ishtar and have sex with a man who chooses them. Mesopotamian plaques frankly evoke people having sex as well as this ritual of prostitution.

Western culture is particularly known to disapprove of open sexuality. But, Western artists rebelled against this notion, especially with the introduction of Modernism. Prior to what we call Modern art (1860s-1970s), was the Renaissance in Europe. Renaissance art is typically more discrete with depictions of sex and sexuality. Because it is inspired by classical antiquity, nudity is common among the works. This portrayal of nudity is not shunned because it depicts religious figures and figures of the past.

As a response to urbanization and industrialization, Modern art took a major turn from classical antiquity, which created a shift in subject matter. This introduced illustrations of what were contemporary figures rather than ancient ones. Suddenly, sex and nudity were deemed inappropriate and tasteless. Modern artists have intentions of being radical, disregarding this response to their work.

Modern artists in Europe explored how the rapid urbanization and industrialization of the time period commodified sex and alienated figures of the modern. Egon Schiele frankly depicts sex to address this condition of modernism in his work “Two Women Embracing” (1915). The drawing portrays two women being sexually intimate in front of a blank background.

Although the figures are embracing, the perspective and the background make them appear as if they are floating in a space of loneliness and alienation. This melancholy feeling of isolation that stems from modernization is a condition that Modern artists repeatedly evoked. Schiele expresses this feeling through a depiction of sex to elicit that even in the highest forms of intimacy, feelings of loneliness exist.

“Two Women Embracing” and the rest of Schiele’s works were extremely radical for the time. In fact, Schiele was forced to spend time in jail as a pornographer. His frank representations of sexuality were so incredibly radical because of his depictions of modern subjects and lesbianism. Schiele revolutionarily instigated a discussion about sex and sexuality in the Western world where it had been neglected and shunned.

Following Modern art is what we call Contemporary art, which was produced from the late 20th century to the 21st century today. Performance art was a medium introduced with Contemporary art. The medium aimed to create a bodily encounter between the artist and the viewer. Many performance artists took advantage of the live relationship between artist and viewer to bring sex into their workplace.

A lot of performance art would be considered abject art — art that works to introduce the bodily functions that are silenced and taboo into the museum. When a viewer encounters an abject work of art, they are forced to think about their own body and what they repress everyday. Abject artists oftentimes work with the concept of sex in an attempt to dismantle its history as something forbidden and address issues about sex and sexuality.

Vito Acconci’s abject work titled “Seedbed” (1972) encounters the viewer in a shocking and vulnerable way. It was a performance piece in which Acconci said sexual comments to the audience members walking past a little wooden square in the corner of a museum. During the performance, he hid under a ramp so the viewers could hear his vulgar comments out of a speaker yet they could not see him. Under the ramp, Acconci was masturbating to those who encountered the wooden square. By making the repressed sexual act of masturbation a public performance, Acconci attempted to break stigmas about sex while simultaneously addressing issues of sexual objectification.

The Contemporary artist Carolee Schneemann evoked sex through performance art as well. In her 1964 performance “Meat Joy,” men and women wrestled sexually with meat in an orgy encounter. She provoked the viewer to look at sex in a profoundly unusual way. Through this seemingly odd performance, Schneemann confronted the audience with this overt sexuality in an attempt to reject the notion that sex should be repressed.

Throughout the history of art, sex has been evoked in ways that simultaneously challenge, repress and embrace its notions. From ancient art to contemporary, artists have continuously worked to make sex a comfortable topic that should be embraced and addressed openly.

Complete Article HERE!

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