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7 Tips For Better Sex

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By Chloe Kraven

sensual

Sex is a craft; and just like any other craft, one improves with study and practice. In our Western Society, sex is taboo, and most of us look on it with varying degrees of shame and embarrassment, but this need not be the case. Whatever your feelings are personally about sex, the fact remains that the more you practice sex with one partner or with many, the better at it you will become. This holds especially true if you take interest in actually being good at it, which is a loaded situation, especially for women. You don’t want to be ‘too good’ because then you’ll raise suspicions about how many men you’ve slept with, but you also want to be ‘good enough’ to please your partner and keep them satisfied.

So as I’ve mentioned, for many sex is a minefield, both emotionally, psychologically and physically. Since I am not a licensed therapist, I cannot walk you through the emotional or psychological aspects of this situation; however, since sex is my craft, something I’ve spent years and years of my life indirectly studying and practicing, I can offer you some physical tips to improve the quality of sex you are or will have. Whether you’re a male or a female, gay or straight or bi, in a monogamous relationship or seeing multiple partners, these tips should improve the sex you’re having. They are general, all around tips for increasing satisfaction and intimacy levels.

Let’s get started!

7. Just Relax!black-lesbian-couple

First of all, sex, as mentioned above, is a very loaded experience for many people. Even for men, despite what most women thing. Men, as much as women, and perhaps more so, experience a large amount of anxiety when it comes to sex, even if they don’t show it, or don’t admit to. Mostly, men are anxious about the actual performance, and if they are with a new partner, being able to please their partner. This is a huge male insecurity—to somehow come up short on actually pleasing the person they are with. Women tend to be more insecure about their looks and their bodies; but either way, there’s a ton of anxiety that happens whenever sex is involved.

Anxiety has no place in the bedroom, though. It makes sex a rushed and shameful affair, and anyone would be hard pressed to enjoy sex if they are too worried about their performance or their looks. So relax! Maybe have a drink beforehand (but not too many!), take a hot bath, sit and meditate for a while. Do something that loosens you up and gets you out of your head, and into your body. Sex is best experienced in a physical way, so when you’re having it, the place to be, mentally, is inside your body, not your head! This is especially true for women, because so much of our orgasm is mentally based. If you can’t let go and get outside of your own insecurities, you’re never going to have a great orgasm. Men as well can experience performance problems if they are too nervous, so do what you can to minimize the anxiety, and also know that whoever your partner is, they obviously like you enough to want to have sex with you, so bare it all! What have you got to lose?

And women—know that not all men are into the type of so-called perfect bodies you see in the magazines. Plenty of men love a muffin top, or a tummy, so even if you think your body isn’t perfect, chances are the man you’re seeing probably disagrees with you. For every body type, there is a man who fetishizes it. Got stretch marks? Some men love that. Saggy boobs? There’s a man who loves those too. And men, your woman wouldn’t be with you in the first place if you didn’t satisfy her. Women don’t need or generally want a 12” penis and 3 hours of hard sex. Your 5” or 4” one is great because it’s attached to you, and so what if you only last 5 minutes? You’re your own worst critic and probably comparing yourself to male porn actors, which is absolutely ridiculous because no woman wants to have sex like that. Don’t aspire to it!

6. Be Gentle

senior coupleAgain, most people don’t want or even like porn sex in real life! Women like a soft touch, and most men like to start off slow, even if they enjoy harder stuff later on. The most erotic thing to both sexes is a soft and velvet touch.

Caress and undress your partner like they were a porcelain doll, and move with caution around them. Do not throw your entire body weight on top of them or accidentally smack them in the face with your elbow because you were not paying attention to where they were anticipating a move. Be aware of your own body and how it’s interacting with your partners, which is a key part of what I mean when I say ‘be in your body’. Be aware of where it is and what it’s doing. And make full use of subtle touches; a piece of hair that drags slowly across their face, or a breath of hot air from your mouth before placing your lips on their stomach. Sex is about the small, gentle, intimate moments between two individuals, and whether you’re going to see this person again or not should be irrelevant. If you’ve chosen to be intimate with someone, no matter who they are or what they mean to you, they deserve to be treated with respect and care because it’s a scary thing indeed to be intimate with anyone. We forget that sometimes, we forget the bravery involved in sex and intimacy, and how much we all risk in sharing this with each other.

So be gentle physically and emotionally with your partner. If they want something rougher later on, you can build to that. It helps to also ask your partner what they want out of the sexual encounter and what type of sex they generally like; however, most people who really enjoy rough sex with share that with you before starting sex, or pretty blatantly indicate it once sex has begun. If you are with a partner who enjoys rough sex, please do remember that human beings are fragile and even then start slowly and build pressure. If they like to be choked, don’t start with a full on grasp of the throat. Start with a gentle but firm grasp of the neck and continue to apply pressure, while gauging their reaction. This applies to all sorts of situations, anal included. Always start slow and gentle.

5. Move Slowly

Slow is always sexy. Always. Sure, there are times, especially towards the end of sex that things torsocan get faster and heavier, but in the initial seduction and foreplay of sex, rushing things and moving fast is really a buzz kill. Unless you’re having a quickie in the coat closet, take your time to enjoy your partner.

Move slowly and pour like water over your partner. A large part of sex is just simply the way you move—be smooth and have rhythm. The best sex is always with people who have a kinesthetic intelligence; i.e. they are very gifted with the way they move. Not all of us can be so gifted and some of us are clumsy and awkward, but that’s where practice comes in. Practice moving in slow motion, trying to feel all parts of your body at once and to glide them over things very slightly. It helps to be in good physical shape, not for looks, but simply because being in good shape makes this aspect of sex much easier. If you’re strong enough to hold yourself up off of your partner instead of laying, full body weight on top of them, it’s much more enjoyable for your partner; plus, later on, once the sex gets going, you’re going to be able to have better rhythmic strokes and you’ll be able to last longer on top and not end up sweaty and winded after 2 minutes of pumping.

Foreplay is an important, if not the most, important part of sex, and when you’re playing with your partner, do it slowly. Most people rush through foreplay or forget it all together, skipping straight to the actual insertion. This is a mistake because foreplay is the singular best way to build intimacy between partners. Sticking something inside of someone doesn’t build intimacy—laying next to each other, gazing into each others eyes, and running ones fingers across one’s skin, that does. The act of sex, in and of itself, is not intimate which is why porn stars don’t fall in love with each other. If you’re with a person you love deeply, or desire to, give them the time to get to know your body as well as your mind and soul. Use your hands to caress their hair and their head while you’re kissing them, and pull them closer to you, or sit on their lap and use your breath to tickle their earlobes. Ears are such an underrated erogenous zone on both men and women.

Even if you’re not trying to emotionally connect with your partner, these slow, sexy moments do help turn them on. Women especially need a lot of foreplay to get close to orgasm, and most men forget this or rush through it, despite wanting to please their partner. Men, in general, watch too much porn and focus too much on the orgasm a woman has during penetration, which is a mistake. Most women don’t orgasm from penetration, despite misleading porn movies. So if you’re genuine and want to please a woman, give her slow foreplay! There’s a reason the word ‘slowly’ shows up often in erotica—it is simply sexier.

4. Skin To Skin Contact

nude-black-couple-photographyOne of the greatest things in sex is the feeling of another human being’s skin touching your skin. It’s an underrated pleasure, and one that many people don’t notice until they haven’t experienced it for a while. Skin to skin contact stimulates a vast variety of neurotransmitters in our brain that bring us feelings of connection and empathy with each other. Not only that, but the feeling of another human’s skin on yours is also a very big turn on. No matter how badly you may want to keep your bra on if you’re ashamed of your boobs, or no matter how much you might want to be lazy and not get fully undressed, I urge you to get over your fear and don’t be lazy and go ahead and get fully naked. You cannot have a truly enjoyable sexual experience without a bit of skin to skin contact.

Even if you’re in a hurry and having a quickie, make time to touch each other. Put your hands up her shirt or down her pants, or kiss his neck and let your hands brush against his stomach. Make sure that your bodies touch and get close to each other; sex should be intimate even if it’s with someone you’re not interested in falling in love with. If the sex is robotic and lacking in human connection, you’re doing a disservice to your partner and it borders on being unhealthy. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to love someone to be intimate with them, and everyone deserves human compassion and care if they are willing be to brave enough to be intimate with you. So make and effort to connect with your partner through skin to skin contact and other things, such as kissing and eye contact.

And lastly, one of my favorite things to do is to smell your partner. Not smell their cologne or their perfume, but to really smell their body and their scent. This is especially important for couples who are in love, as smelling your partner should turn you on and help stimulate you for sex. One of the largest signs of basic compatibility is finding your partner’s natural body scent attractive. It’s also, on the scientific side, a good indicator of reproductive compatibility and a sign of a good genetic match for you.

3. Focus On Your Partner

Focusing on your partner is so important! For a mutually satisfying sexual experience, you must always keep an eye on your partner’s reactions to your sexual moves. Do not just continue doing what you’re doing, and as assume that because a previous sexual partner enjoyed your technique, that your current sexual partner will enjoy it as well. This also applies to what you see in pornography—just because a woman paid to pretend she enjoys some sexual move you saw in a porn does not mean a real woman, or the woman you are with, will enjoy it as well. Always keep an eye out to gauge how your partner is reacting to how you’re treating them and if they look uncomfortable or even bored, switch it up!holding hands

This is especially important during intercourse, because you can learn a lot about your partner and their likes and dislikes by just watching their body react to the things you’re doing together. A man’s body is more obvious about whether it likes or dislikes something, but women have tell tale signs of arousal too; namely, perky nipples, flushed cheeks or faces, and becoming lubricated. If you’re having sex and you don’t see these signs of arousal, switch it up and try something else. Don’t keep doing what you’re doing, and expect your partner to tell you if they dislike something. A lot of people have a hard time voicing their feelings during sex, or in the bedroom, so it’s always good to either make the first move yourself and ask “are you enjoying this?” or if they are obviously not, try something else or ask them what they would prefer. Women especially think that being assertive and knowing what they like and dislike during sex and voicing these opinions and thoughts is a turn off for most men, and are unlikely to really be sexually forward in that manner. However, women should remember that in general, this is NOT true and that most men actually love a woman who knows what she likes and dislikes and who isn’t afraid to tell them straight away!

Which leads me too….

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Whether you’re shy or reserved or outgoing and outspoken, you must, either verbally or nonverbally, communicate with your partner! This is very, very important and it is one of the most important things to do if you’re looking to have better sex!

kissing.jpgSex is all about learning what another person likes and learning what you like. Sex is about exploration, and if you’ve chosen to include another partner, it is very important that you share that experience with them. You cannot properly share the experience or have any intimacy with someone who you don’t communicate with. Whether it’s telling them your life’s story and all of your personal turn ons, or simply telling them “faster” or “slower”, communication helps both of you figure out how to please each other. Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot, as human sexual preferences are infinitely variable. What works for one person, won’t for another; what is appealing to one man or woman, is disgusting to another one. Don’t ever assume that you know everything there is to know about sex, or that you know the one true way to great sex and that you will force that one way of having sex onto every partner you may have! The most important thing to remember is that there is no one right or wrong way to have sex because every single person has a special and different sexual “formula” that they prefer and the only way to figure out this formula is to communicate with your partner!

There are two ways to communicate—either verbally or non-verbally. You can either talk to your partner and ask them outright what they like or prefer, or if that’s uncomfortable, be very aware of their reactions to the moves you make in bed. It’s often easy, if you’re paying attention, to figure out what someone prefers in bed. If they are into slow, soft sex, if you experiment and go faster, they will give you signs of discomfort. Obviously it’s easier and more ethical to ask up front, but many, many people are too uncomfortable with the topic of sex to be that forthright. So switch things up and gauge reactions and find out what turns on your partner and what doesn’t, and don’t for a minute think that you can “change someone’s mind” or “turn them on” to a sex act, such as anal, that they show a fundamental dislike towards. Not everyone likes the same thing, and just because your ex-girlfriend was really into anal does NOT mean all women are into it! We are all born with our own sexual formula and it doesn’t change, in general, ever; and if it does change, it’s a self discovered change, and it happens when we are ready to explore more or different sides of our own sexuality. You cannot force anyone to like or to try a sexual experience simply because you want to, or because you yourself enjoy it. That is always unethical and uncalled for.

On the flip side of this, it is also advisable for you to be expressive in your enjoyment during sex. Be appreciative of your partner when they are doing something you are really enjoying! Be vocal, be intimate—grab their butt and pull them deeper into you or closer to you, or reach up and kiss them passionately! It’s never attractive to be a dead fish in bed (male or female). People want to know how you’re feeling, what’s going on with you, and there’s no better reward for good sex than returned passion. Don’t be afraid to look stupid, and don’t be self-conscious; sex has no room for such hang ups. Let the feelings and sensations flow through you and generously release passion. Your partner will love it, guaranteed.

1. Eye Contact

This is the very first thing I say to people who ask me how to have better sex. Eye contact. And I always get the same response, every time: “But isn’t that creepy/weird/uncomfortable/awkward??”.

I feel complete when I'm with you

I feel complete when I’m with you

Short answer: NO. I’m not asking you to stare at your partner, unblinkingly, for 10 minutes straight. I’m simply telling you to make prolonged eye contact with them while being intimate. Eye contact, more than anything else, builds intimacy and connection and eyes express more emotion than words, pictures and hand gestures combined.

Women especially feel awkward making strong eye contact with men because it’s inherently an aggressive thing to do. If you think about it, we find eye contact to be aggressive even in normal situations; aggressive and intrusive. However, if you ask a man what makes a blow job average or phenomenal, chances are he will say ‘eye contact’. So there is a fine line between staring too long and not at all, but I have a 3 to 4 second rule that seems to work well. If you’re having intercourse or oral, take a moment to look deeply into your partners eyes for 3 to 4 seconds, and if you want the connection, bare your soul in those moments. It’s difficult to describe how one bares ones soul through a look, but if you just think about an emotion you’d like to convey while looking at your partner, chances are it will come through your eyes. So if you’re truly enjoying yourself, look deeply at your partner with joy and happiness. They will pick up on that emotion, somehow. That’s the mystery and beauty of human connection; somehow, these things transfer.

Take my word for it—eye contact is sexy and it helps build intimacy and helps further communication between both partners!

I hope that this helps everyone who is looking for a better sexual experience, and remember that while love is not mandatory for all sexual activities, mutual respect and intimacy is! No matter who you are intimate with, whether it’s a one night stand, an escort, your wife, or your girlfriend or possibly a third partner, everyone who is brave enough to get naked and expose themselves to you deserves both respect and mutual intimacy. We must all remember and respect the power that the act of sex holds, and so while it can be fun and light hearted, it must always stem from a mutual and equal point of openness and willingness to be vulnerable with each other.

Complete Article HERE!

BDSM Bottom skills

By

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So much “how to BDSM” material is really “how to top.”  Which is understandable, up to a point. The top performs most of the obvious physical parts of the scene–they’re the one who has to know how to tie a knot or swing a flogger.  The top is likely to also be dominant, which means that they’re going to be the one in charge of planning the scene and directing it.  And the top is also expected to take more responsibility for a scene, because bottoms might be immobilized (or go off into la-la land) and need their tops to watch out for their safety.

001There’s also a certain bias in BDSM-land toward thinking tops and dominants should be the authorities and their experiences should be prioritized, because… well, partly because they’re more often men.  And partly because they’re in charge in their scenes/relationships so it’s only logical that they be in charge everywhere, even though it’s not like the community agreed to submit to them.  So the majority of kink community leaders, authors, and teachers are tops.

As a result of these factors, you can come away from a lot of kink books or conferences thinking that bottoming is… standing there.  (For advanced bottoming, you might kneel or lie down.)  It seems like a purely receptive thing.  Like a beanbag could do it, if you could teach a beanbag to moan and occasionally offer to get people drinks.

This is not the case.  Bottoming well, in a way that creates a great experience for yourself and your top, requires effort and skill.  We are not canvases for the art of BDSM; we are artists too.  Here’s some of the things I’ve learned (or am learning, or need to learn) about being on the bottom:

• Know your desires.

If you don’t know what you like, you’re not likely to get it.  I’ve talked about this so much on the blog, I don’t want to belabor the point.  Just… have some idea of why you’re bottoming in a BDSM scene instead of back at home knitting.  (Knitting fetishists please disregard.)  (That is not entirely a joke.)  Or if you don’t, at least be aware that you don’t know, and able to say “I’m experimenting right now and finding out what appeals to me.”

• Speak up for yourself.

When I first started playing, I had the idea in my head–maybe not in words, but definitely in 006feelings–that the best bottoms were the ones who were least demanding.  That for me to be an excellent bottom, I should take as much pain as I could stand and allow my top to do whatever they wanted.  I certainly noticed that I enjoyed some activities more than others, but I felt like asking for the ones I wanted would be rude or “topping from the bottom” or selfish or something.  So I just felt happy when I got things I liked, felt sad or annoyed when I got things I didn’t, and never gave any external indication of either.

Eventually I burned myself out on the stoicism thing.  I could only suppress my specific desires and limited pain tolerance for so long.  So I became a really grouchy, persnickety bottom.  No, I don’t like that.  Don’t like that either.  Yellow.  Yellow to that too.  Maybe we should just take a break.  It was frustrating, but it was actually progress–being able to say what I didn’t like without being able to say what I liked wasn’t very fun, but it beat the heck out of not being able to say either.  My tops were stuck playing “Marco Polo” with my desires, but at least they weren’t unwittingly hurting me.

And then–embarrassingly recently–I realized that asking for what you like isn’t presumptuous or un-bottomly, it’s something that a good top actually wants you to do.  Depending on the sort of scene you’re doing, they might not give you everything you like (or they might make you earn it), but they still need to know.  Otherwise they don’t know which parts are punishment and which are reward for you, and they’re not in control of the experience they’re creating for you.

• Look out for your safety.

005This is a responsibility tops and bottoms share.  It’s more the top’s, because they have more control and because they’re going to be at fault if the bottom gets hurt, but it’s an important bottom skill to be able to help the top keep you safe.  This means knowing and sharing the limitations of your body and your mind, it means using your safewords when you need to, and it means double-checking the top when they do something potentially unsafe.  Your top should notice on their own if they’re cutting off your circulation or positioning you in a way that would be disastrous if you fell, but even good tops can miss things, and it’s a good idea to also do your own safety checks.

(If you’re way off in subspace you may not be able, and then it really is the top’s responsibility alone.  But it’s a good thing to do if you can.)

• Play along.

This isn’t a simple directive but a whole set of skills that depend on how you play.  This is the physical, immediate side of bottoming, and it’s a whole lot more than standing there.  It’s positioning yourself to assist with an elaborate rope tie.  It’s being able to absorb blows.  It’s knowing when to push back, when to yield, and when to stand firm.  This really depends on what specific kinks you do, and it’s mostly stuff you have to learn “on the job.”  And it is things you have to learn.  “Standing there” looks like a no-brainer, but standing in a way that makes it easy for your top to do their job and supports you when you go wibbly and looks good and feels good?  Takes a little bit of brain.

• Give good feedback.004

In two ways.  There’s the practical feedback, the “oh yeah just like that,” the “wow, I’m really just melting away into the wall here,” and the “okay, that was the bad ow.”  And there’s the feedback that tops appreciate and get off on, the… well, actually, the first two sentences above are pretty good examples of that too.  I’m not talking about playing it up and putting on a performance, but a lot of tops really like hearing how much impact they’re having on you.  Giving them that, especially if they’ve asked for it, is good bottoming.

• Know how to cook what you eat.

I don’t think this is a requirement for everyone (well, nothing here is required, we’re all different and all learning, please don’t take this post as a list of “things bottoms must do”), but it’s something I value for myself.  I like to know how to perform all the skills that I enjoy having done to me.  I hardly ever top, but I know how to tie a rope harness and where to aim a flogger.  Having this knowledge helps me communicate better with my top, know what I can do to make their job easier, understand and process the sensations I’m receiving, and it gives me a whole lot of appreciation for how much energy my top is putting into the scene.

• Process the experience.

This is the internal work of bottoming, and I don’t know what I’m going to write in this section, because it’s… magic or neurology or something.  Also a lot of deep breathing.  This is where you take in pain, discomfort, fear, and/or humiliation, and you turn them into something wonderful for yourself.  And very often it is an effort.  It can take focus and intention to turn a spanking from “my butt hurts, ow, my butt hurts again” to “my butt hurts in a way that is giving me the most amazing pleasure.”  Or when it isn’t pleasure, “my butt hurts and I am strong and I am taking it.”  It’s almost a kind of meditation.

Everything else on this page is about bottoming.  It’s all the logistics around bottoming.  But this part?  This is bottoming.  This is why you aren’t home knitting.  And there’s nothing easy or passive about it.

•Give aftercare.

002Tops drop too.  Tops (at least a lot of them) also get into an altered state when they’re playing and they can also come down hard.  So tops might need cuddling and talking after scenes, or they might need to drink water and stretch out and cool off, or they might want to mellow out and enjoy the lingering buzz.  It’s good bottoming to be attentive to their aftercare needs as well as your own, and to check up on them a bit after the scene.

Just standing there? Bottoming in BDSM is goddamn hard work, and it deserves to be talked about.

Complete Article HERE!

BDSM Versus the DSM

A history of the fight that got kink de-classified as mental illness

A history of the fight that got kink de-classified as mental illness

By Merissa Nathan Gerson

Asking your partner to tie you to the bedpost, telling them to slap you hard in the throes of lovemaking, dressing like a woman if you are a man, admitting a fetish for feet: Just a few years ago, any of these acts could be used against you in family court.

This was the case until 2010, when the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would be changing the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism (a variant of cross-dressing) in the next edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 2013. The new definitions marked a distinction between behavior—for example, playing rough—and actual pathology. Consenting adults were no longer deemed mentally ill for choosing sexual behavior outside the mainstream.

The change was the result of a massive effort from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group founded in 1997 “to advance the rights of and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities.” At the time, these types of sexual behavior, by virtue of their inclusion in the DSM, were considered markers of mental illness—and, as a result, were heavily stigmatized, often with legal repercussions. In family court, an interest in BDSM was used as justification to remove people’s children from their custody.

“We were seeing the DSM used as a weapon,” says Race Bannon, an NCSF Board Member and the creator of Kink-Aware Professionals, a roster of safe and non-judgmental healthcare professionals for the BDSM and kink community. (The list is now maintained by the NCSF.) “Fifty Shades [of Grey] had not come along,” says Bannon, an early activist in the campaign to change the DSM. “[Kink] was still this dark and secret thing people did.”

Since its first edition was published in 1952, the DSM has often posed a problem for anyone whose sexual preferences fell outside the mainstream. Homosexuality, for example, was considered a mental illness—a “sociopathic personality disturbance”—until the APA changed the language in 1973. More broadly, the DSM section on paraphilias (a blanket term for any kind of unusual sexual interest), then termed “sexual deviations,” attempted to codify all sexual preferences considered harmful to the self or others—a line that, as one can imagine, is tricky in the BDSM community.

The effort to de-classify kink as a psychiatric disorder began in 1980s Los Angeles with Bannon and his then-partner, Guy Baldwin, a therapist who worked mostly with the gay and alternative sexualities communities. Bannon, a self-described “community organizer, activist, writer, and advocate” moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and soon became close with Baldwin through their mutual involvement as open participants in and advocates for the kink community. “I’m fairly confident that I was the first licensed mental-health practitioner anywhere who was out about being a practicing sadomasochist,” Baldwin says.

002

The pair was spurred to action after the 1987 edition of the DSM-III-R, which introduced the concept of paraphilias, changed the classifications for BDSM and kink from “sexual deviation” to actual disorders defined by two diagnostic criteria. To be considered a mental illness, the first qualification was: ‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’ The second: ‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’

“1987 was a bad shift,” Wright recalls. “Anyone who was [voluntarily] humiliated, beaten, bound, or any other alternate sexual expression was considered mentally ill.”

With the new language, Baldwin says, he quickly realized that laws regarding alternative sexual behavior would continue to be problematic “as long as the psychiatric community defines these behaviors as pathological.”

“I knew there were therapists around the world diagnosing practicing consensual sadomasochists with mental illness,” he says.

At the time that the new DSM was published, Baldwin and Bannon were planning to attend the 1987 march on Washington, D.C., in support of gay rights; after the new criteria came out, they decided to host a panel discussion for mental-health professionals in the State Department auditorium, where they announced the launch of what would come to be known as “The DSM Revision Project.”

“We asked how many people in the room were mental-health professionals,” Baldwin says, and “two-thirds of the people in the room raised their hands. And we said, ‘The way this needs to happen is, licensed mental-health practitioners need to write the DSM committee that reviews the language of the DSM concerned with paraphilias.’”

Around 40 or 50 people left the session with the information needed to write the letters. “We did not know exactly what would result,” Bannon recalls. “We did not think we would see dramatic changes suddenly.”

They didn’t—but the changes they did see were positive. The next edition of the DSM, published in 1994, added that to be considered part of a mental illness, “fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors” must “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

“This was a definite improvement from the DSM-III-R,” says Wright, who later took over leadership of the DSM Revision Project from Bannon and Baldwin.

“These criteria gave [health professionals] wiggle room to say, ‘They have issues, but it is not about their kink. For the vast majority, it is just the way they have sex,’” Bannon explains. “Rather than saying, ‘Because you are into this method of sexuality, you are sick,’ [they could say], ‘Pathologically, if this impacts your life negatively, then you have a problem.’”

But the new language in the 1994 DSM also allowed for wiggle room of a different kind: The threshold of “significant distress” was often loosely interpreted, with the social stigma of kink, rather than kink itself, causing the negative impact on people’s lives. Workplace discrimination and violence were on the rise, according to a 2008 NCSF survey, and people were still being declared unfit parents as a result of their sexual preferences: Eighty of the 100 people who turned to the NCSF for legal assistance in custody battles from 1997-2010 lost their cases.

A few years after the 1994 DSM was published, Wright decided it was time to fight for another revision. When she founded the organization in 1997, the NCSF’s goal was a change to the APA’s diagnostic codes that separated the behavior (e.g., “he likes to restrict his breathing during sex”) from the diagnosis (e.g., “his desire to restrict his breath means that he must be mentally ill”). The next DSM, the group argued, should split the paraphilias from the paraphilic disorders, so that simply enjoying consensual BDSM would not be considered indicative of an illness.

Their efforts were largely ignored by the APA until early 2009, when Wright attended a panel discussion at New York City’s Philosophy Center on why people practice BDSM. Among the panelists was psychiatrist Richard Krueger, whose expertise included the diagnosis and treatment of paraphilias and sexual disorders.

During the meeting, Wright says, “I brought up the point that the DSM manual caused harm to BDSM people because it perpetuated the stigma that we were mentally ill. [Krueger] heard me and said that was not what they intended with the DSM.” Krueger, it turned out, was on the APA’s paraphilias committee, and following the meeting opened up an email dialogue between Wright and the other committee members, in which Wright provided documentation about the violence and discrimination kinky people experienced. “I credited that to the DSM,” she says. “Courts used it. Therapists used it. And it was being misinterpreted.”

Over the next year, “I sent him information, he gave it to the group, they asked questions, and I responded. It was very productive,” Wright recalls. “We [the NCSF] felt we were heard, we were listened to—and they took [our arguments] into account when they changed the wording” of the DSM in 2010.

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Another major factor in the NCSF’s favor was a paper, co-written by sexual-medicine physician Charles Moser and sexologist Peggy J. Kleinplatz and published in 2006 in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, titled “DSM IV-TR and the Paraphilias: An Argument for Removal.” According to Wright, the paper, which “summed up opinions of mental-health professionals who thought you shouldn’t include sexual activity in the DSM,” played a significant role in the paraphilia committee’s eventual shift in language.

In February 2010 the proposed change was made public—clarifying, Wright says, that “the mental illness [depends on] how it is expressed, not the behavior itself.” The new guidelines drew a clear difference, in other words, between people expressing a healthy range of human sexuality (for example, a couple that likes to experiment, consensually, with whips, chains, and dungeons) and sadists who wish others genuine harm (for example, tying and whipping someone in a basement without their consent).

The DSM-5 was released in May 2013, its contents marking a victory for the NCSF, Bannon, and Baldwin. The final language states: “A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.”

“Now we are seeing a sharp drop in people having their children removed from their custody,” Wright explains. Since the change, according to the NCSF, less than 10 percent of people who sought the organization’s help in custody cases have had their children removed, and the number of discrimination cases has dropped from more than 600 in 2002 to 500 in 2010 to around 200 over the last year.

“The APA basically came out and said, ‘These people are mentally healthy,’” Wright says. “‘It’s had a direct impact on society.”

Complete Article HERE!

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Vagina

By Nell Frizzel

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Lying across a turquoise rubber plinth, my legs in stirrups, a large blue sheet of paper draped across my pubes (for “modesty”), a doctor slowly pushes a clear plastic duck puppet up my vagina and, precisely at that moment, Total Eclipse of the Heart comes on over the radio and it’s hard not to love the genitourinary medicine, or GUM, clinic.

I mean that most sincerely: I love the GUM clinic. It is wonderful beyond orgasm that in the UK anyone can walk into a sexual health clinic—without registering with a doctor, without an appointment, without any money, without a chaperone—and get seen within a few hours at most. It brings me to the point of climax just thinking about the doctors and health professionals who dedicate their life to the nation’s ovaries, cervixes, vaginas, and wombs.

And yet, not all women are apparently so comfortable discussing their clitoral hall of fame with a doctor. According to a recent report commissioned by Ovarian Cancer Action, almost half of the women surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 said they feared “intimate examinations,” while 44 percent are too embarrassed to talk about sexual health issues with a GP. What’s more, two thirds of those women said they would be afraid to say the word “vagina” in front of their doctor. Their doctor. That is desperately, disappointingly, dangerously sad.

In 2001, I went to see a sexual health nurse called Ms. Cuthbert who kindly, patiently and sympathetically explained to me that I wasn’t pregnant—in fact could not be pregnant—I was just doing my A-Levels. The reason I was feeling sick, light-headed, and had vaginal discharge that looked like a smear of cream cheese was because I was stressed about my simultaneous equations and whether I could remember the order of British prime ministers between 1902 to 1924. My body was simply doing its best to deal with an overload of adrenaline.

Back then, my GUM clinic was in a small health center opposite a deli that would sell Czechoslovakian beer to anyone old enough to stand unaided, and a nail bar that smelled of fast food. I have never felt more grown up than when I first walked out of that building, holding a striped paper bag of free condoms and enough packets of Microgynon to give a fish tits. My blood pressure, cervix, heartrate, and emotional landscape had all been gently and unobtrusively checked over by my new friend Ms. Cuthbert. I had been given the time and space to discuss my hopes and anxieties and was ready to launch myself, legs akimbo, into a world of love and lust—all without handing over a penny, having to tell my parents, pretending that I was married or worry that I was being judged.

My local sexual health clinic today is, if anything, even more wonderful. In a neighborhood as scratched, scored, and ripped apart by the twin fiends of poverty and gentrification as Hackney, the GUM clinic is the last great social leveler. It is one of our last few collective spaces. Sitting in reception, staring at the enormous pictures of sand dunes and tree canopies it is clear that, for once, we’re all in this together. The man in a blue plastic moulded chair wishing his mum a happy birthday on the phone, the two girls in perfect parallel torn jeans scrolling through WhatsApp, the guy with the Nike logo tattoo on his neck getting a glass of water for his girlfriend, the red-headed hipster in Birkenstocks reading about witchcraft in the waiting room, the mother and daughter with matching vacuum-sized plastic handbags talking about sofas, the fake flowers, Magic FM playing on the wall-mounted TV, the little kids running around trying to say hello to everyone while the rest of us desperately avoided eye contact—the whole gang was there. And that’s the point: you may be a working mum, you may be a teenager, you may be a social media intern at a digital startup, you may be a primary school teacher, you may be married, single, a sex worker, unemployed, wealthy, religious, terrified, or defiant but whatever your background, wherever you’ve come from and whoever you slept with last night, you’ll end up down at the GUM clinic.

Which is why it seems such a vulvic shame that so many women feel scared to discuss their own bodies with the person most dedicated to making sure that body is OK. “No doctor will judge you when you say you have had multiple sexual partners, or for anything that comes up in your sexual history,” Dr. Tracie Miles, the President of the National Forum of Gynecological Oncology Nurses tells me on the phone. “We don’t judge—we’re real human beings ourselves. If we hadn’t done it we probably wish we had and if we have done it then we will probably be celebrating that you have too.”

Doctors are not horrified by women who have sex. Doctors are not grossed out by vaginas. So to shy away from discussing discharge, pain after sex, bloating, a change in color, odor, itching, and bleeding not only renders the doctor patient conversation unhelpful, it also puts doctors at a disadvantage, hinders them from being able to do their job properly, saves nobody’s blushes and could result in putting you and your body at risk.

According to The Eve Appeal—a women’s cancer charity that is campaigning this September to fight the stigma around women’s health, one in five women associate gynecological cancer with promiscuity. That means one in five, somewhere in a damp and dusty corner of their minds, are worried that a doctor will open up her legs, look up at her cervix and think “well you deserve this, you slut.” Which is awful, because they won’t. They never, ever would. Not just because they’re doctors and therefore have spent several years training to view the human body with a mix of human sympathy and professional dispassion, but more importantly, because being promiscuous doesn’t give you cancer.

“There is no causal link between promiscuity and cancer,” says Dr. Miles. “The only sexually transmitted disease is the fear and embarrassment of talking about sex; that’s what can stop us going. If you go to your GP and get checked out, then you’re fine. And you don’t have to know all the anatomical words—if you talk about a wee hole, a bum hole, the hole where you put your Tampax, then that is absolutely fine too.”

Although there is some evidence of a causal link between certain gynecological cancers and High Risk Human Papilloma Virus (HRHPV), that particular virus is so common that, ‘it can be considered a normal consequence of sexual activity’ according to The Eve Appeal. Eighty percent of us will pick up some form of the HPV virus in our lifetime, even if we stick with a single, trustworthy, matching-socks-and-vest-takes-out-the-garbage-talks-to-your-mother-on-the-phone-can’t-find-your-clitoris partner your entire life. In short, HRHPV may lead to cancer, but having different sexual partners doesn’t. Of course, unprotected sex can lead to an orgy of other sexually transmitted infections, not to mention the occasional baby, but promiscuity and safe sex are not mutually exclusive. And medical professionals are unlikely to be shocked by either.

We are incredibly lucky in the UK that any woman can stroll into a sexual health clinic, throw her legs open like a cowboy and receive some of the best medical care the world has ever known. We can Wikipedia diagrams of our vaginas to learn the difference between our frenulum and prepuce (look it up, gals). We can receive free condoms any day of the (working week) from our doctor or friendly neighborhood GUM clinic. We can YouTube how to perform a self-examination, learn to spot the symptoms of STIs, read online accounts by women with various health conditions, and choose from a military-grade arsenal of different contraception methods, entirely free.

A third of women surveyed by The Eve Appeal said that they would feel more comfortable discussing their vaginas and wombs if the stigma around gynecological health and sex was reduced. But a large part of removing that stigma is up to us. We have to own that conversation and use it to our advantage. We need to bite the bullet and start talking about our pudenda. We have to learn to value and accept our genitals as much as any other part of our miraculous, hilarious bodies.

So come on, don’t be a cunt. Open up about your vagina.

Complete Article HERE!

Penis politics: Sex, size and stereotypes in the gay community

When it comes to penis size, gay men face a host of preconceptions about masculinity and race

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Recent studies have shown that actual penis size is smaller than men are claiming. According to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, the average male penis measures 5.6 inches when erect; the Journal of Urology puts it at a slightly smaller 5.08 inches. This is considerably smaller than previous numbers from Alfred Kinsey, Durex and the Definitive Penis study, which averaged 6.25 inches in their estimates. The difference between the two estimates: surveys like Durex’s rely on self-reporting, and men are likely to overestimate. As Tom Hickman wrote in “God’s Doodle”: “What is incontrovertible is that where men and their penises are concerned there are lies, damned lies, and self measurements.”

Just ask any gay man looking for a hook-up on Grindr. “If a guy tells you his size and you meet up, you realize he must have a different ruler,” said Noah Michelson, editor of The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section. Michelson believes that the reason men are likely to overreport their penis size is because of the “cultural currency” the gay community places on having a large penis. “I think there’s something to do with internalized homophobia or insecurities about being a man,” Michelson said. “You want to have a big dick and you want to be with a big dick. You want to be with a ‘man.’”

Michelson argued it’s not just about having a large penis; it’s what that penis signifies. “Having a big dick means that you’re ‘masculine’ and you wield a lot of power, because we assign so much power to the phallus itself,” he told me. “You’re a dominator and a conqueror.” Michelson said that this idea is largely informed by pornography, a strong force in shaping desire in the gay community; but for those who don’t fit into that “porn culture,” it leads to a feeling of being left out. “It’s totally a lottery,” Michelson explained. “And you either win it or you don’t.”

According to Jaime Woo, author of the book “Meet Grindr,” which explores how men interact on mobile hookup applications, that game can have very negative consequences for queer men who find themselves on the losing side. That’s why the size issue can seem even more fraught in the gay community than among heterosexuals. “In gay male culture, your sexual worth is very tied to your worth in the community overall,” Woo said. “We don’t have a lot of structure in place for men who aren’t sexually valuable, and they disappear into the background. Gay men have enough issues already, and this is just another way for them to feel bad about themselves, if they’re not packing eight inches under their pants.”

Woo told me that looking for sex on Grindr “makes the expectations much more heightened.” “Grindr has really distorted peoples’ understanding of what average or normal is, and the fact that people can ask if six or seven inches are too small — it’s jaw dropping,” Woo said. “You can be very picky because there is something better around the corner, someone bigger or hotter and someone more your type. It creates a very narrow band of desire.”

Huffington Post writer Zach Stafford argued that in order to hook up, we’re commodifying ourselves for sexual consumption. “On Grindr, you’re literally putting someone in a box,” Stafford explained. “The app’s layout is an actual shelf, like you would see in a grocery store.” In order to participate on the site, Stafford said that you have to learn how to market yourself by those confines. “It’s like being a book on Amazon,” Stafford told me. “You give yourself a little cover and write your summary. You make yourself a product, and when you’re selling yourself, you always go bigger.”

Stafford said our fascination with penis size is inherently tied to capitalism. “Studies have shown that people with larger penises make more money,” Stafford explained. “It’s power in our pants.” Stafford also explained that the correlation between sex and power leads to a skewed power dynamic between tops and bottoms. Research shows that bottoms have smaller penises on average, and are more likely to have penis anxiety and low self-esteem.  In an essay for the Huffington Post, Stafford called it “Top Privilege.” Stafford wrote, “In this line of thought, bottoms are seen ‘less than,’ ‘feminine’ or ‘the woman’ because they are the taker of the phallus.”

But it’s not just an issue of money and gender. Race also plays a large part in how gay men read each others’ bodies, especially for black and Asian men, stereotyped at the ends of the size spectrum. Stafford, who is multiracial, said that men will often approach him in bars to ask about his penis, expecting him to conform to the stereotype. “It creates an enormous amount of pressure for black men,” Stafford stated. “Black men are only seen as a tool — a tool of building and a tool of fucking. They’re reduced to a big penis.” In his case, Stafford said men often fall into two camps: “Either white people look at me as a black man with a big dick, or they see me and fetishize me — they want to dominate me.”

Jay Borchert has had the exact opposite experience. A doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, Borchert (who is white) has frequently dated men of color, causing his romantic experiences to be reduced to a fetish. “People make remarks that I must be in it for the dick,” Borchert told me. “Why can’t I be looking for ass? Why can’t I be looking for mouth? Why can’t I be looking for a person?” People sometimes assume that Borchert adopts the “bottom” role in his sexual relationships, which isn’t the case. Borchert sighed, “It was really frustrating because there’s more to dating and relationships than penis.”

Due to his ethnicity, Thought Catalog writer John Tao has also found himself being put in a box in the bedroom. “Because I’m Asian, I’m automatically categorized as being a bottom,” Tao said. “There’s a perception that I wouldn’t want to top.” Because of this, Tao said that’s the role he’s most often performed in sexual relationships. “All of these people think I’m a bottom, so I’ll just be a bottom,” Mr. Tao explained, “You have to be careful because we internalize these stereotypes about ourselves. Your gay Asian friend might identify as a total bottom, but that could be years of societal expectations.”

Justin Huang, who blogs about his experiences being gay and Chinese at I Am Yellow Peril, agreed that the baggage around penis size can be particularly harmful for Asian-American men. In school, Huang’s friends would often tease him about what they assumed was the size of his penis, which was difficult when coming to terms with his sexual identity. “For a long time, I thought I had a small penis,” Huang explained. “It’s amazing what your brain can train you to see. I didn’t have a lot of respect for my penis. Gay men are emasculated already, so when you’re gay and Asian, you feel doubly emasculated.”

Huang told me that when you’re Asian, you’re expected to perform the stereotype, meaning that guys are very curious to see what’s inside your pants. “I’ve been in straight bars using the bathroom where a guy will lean over and look at my dick, just to see if what they say is true,” Huang said. But Jaime Woo argued that the same isn’t true for white men, whose penis size isn’t policed in the same way. “White men are considered the sexual default, so you’re allowed to have some variability,” Woo said. “White men get to be anything and everything, and there’s no presumption there. So for white men, a big dick is a bonus.”

Huang also argued that these stereotypes are a symptom of our lack of sex education and lack of knowledge about our bodies. “We’re told to hide our penises,” Huang said. “It’s a form of sexual oppression we don’t talk about. You see boobs everywhere. You don’t see penises anywhere, not even HBO. It’s something that’s scandalous and cloaked.” Because of the shame surrounding invisibility, men often place too much emphasis on something so small. “When I think about the guys I’ve been with, I don’t remember the penises,” Huang said. “I remember the boy. A penis doesn’t smile. A penis doesn’t look into your eyes. A penis can’t wrap its arms around you.”

Instead of holding out for an unrealistic fantasy, Justin Huang believes gay men should start embracing each other for exactly who they are. “Gay men need to stop expecting each other to be porn stars,” Huang said. “If you dump a guy just because of his penis size, you are an asshole. So if you love your man, tell him that you like his penis. After all, when you’re dating a guy, you’re dating two people: You’re dating him and you’re dating his penis. We need to start valuing and appreciating both of them.”
 
Complete Article HERE!

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