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3D-printed sex organs help blind students learn about sexual health

3D-printing technology is letting blind students experience comprehensive, accessible sex ed for the first time ever.

3D-printed sex organs help blind students learn about sexual health

By Katie Dupere

Advocates and researchers collaborated to create more than 18 3D figures that model sex organs during a various states of arousal. They range from a flaccid penis to a dilated vaginal opening, allowing students to “feel” their way though sexual health lessons.

While it may be a NSFW (let alone not-safe-for-school) endeavor, these models are game-changers for blind students who often need to learn about sexual health through verbal instruction alone.

Sex ed classes overall often rely on dull videos and static illustrations, and while that type of stale education is a disservice to all students, it presents a unique problem for blind students.

“That approach does a blind student no good whatsoever because they, of course, cannot see the pictures and videos.” Dr. Gaylen Kapperman, a professor at Northern Illinois University who was involved with the project, told Mashable via email.

Studies show that 61% of blind adults or those with low vision say their vision status had a negative impact on the way they were able to participate in sex education.

It’s a gap advocates and researchers at Benetech, a nonprofit organization specializing in tech for good, set out to solve by creating these models of various penises and vulvas.

“3D models are the only types of models that make any sense to blind people,” Kapperman said. “Many people believe that if you provide raised-lined 2D tactile pictures of sex organs that blind people will be able to generalize this information. [That approach] makes no sense whatsoever for blind persons.”

But these models don’t only break sex ed barriers for blind children. Researchers say the models could make the instruction more meaningful for sighted kids, too.

The project’s goal is to eventually provide open-source 3D printing files for teachers. This means school districts would only have to finance the materials and printers to make the models.

Many experts predict the technology will become a staple for schools anyway. Once a school district owns a printer, 3D printing is a low-cost way to create models for classroom instruction, making it ideal for schools on a budget.

A sizable 90% of blind students attend school with sighted children, relying on modified lessons to fully absorb material. But there are only about 61,700 blind students in the U.S. Buying commercial models of genitalia already on the market can cost up to $500 per model — something low-funded schools would likely be reluctant to do, especially when only a handful of blind students may ever pass through their district.

To develop prototypes, Benetech partnered with LightHouse for the Blind and Northern Illinois University, where the models were first tested on blind college students. The project was funded entirely by a private Benetech donor.

Now in the second phase of the pilot program this spring, the models will make their ways into the hands of middle school and high school students — the target demographic.

By the end of the 2017 school year, researchers hope to have feedback from students on the current prototypes. Then they’ll release files with detailed printing instructions for classroom use.

Benetech plans to offer pre-printed models to accommodate schools without 3D printers, for a fee much lower than commercial models.

“It is our hope that these models will be an effective teaching tool for teachers to communicate sex education in a way that works for students who are blind and visually impaired,” said Dr. Lisa Wadors Verne, program manager of education and partnerships at Benetech.

Complete Article HERE!

What getting intimate at 60 really means

Most people assume getting saucy under the sheets it just for the young, but what about the young at heart?

By Ashley Macleod and Marita McCabe

Sexuality encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction and what we think, feel and believe about them. It has been a research focus for over a hundred years, and highlighted as an important part of the human experience. Since the first studies on human sexuality in the 1940s, research has consistently demonstrated that sexual interest and activity are sustained well into old age. However, only a fraction of the research has explored sexuality in the later years of life.

Most of the early research on sexuality and ageing looked at the sexual behaviours and biology of older adults, generally ignoring the wider concept of sexuality. When researchers did discuss sexuality more broadly, many referred to sexuality as the domain of the young, and emphasised this was a major barrier to the study of sexuality in older adults.

Sexuality in later life ignored

Towards the end of the 20th century, research expanded to include attitudes towards sexual expression in older adults, and the biological aspects of sexuality and ageing. Consistently, the research showed sexual expression is possible for older adults, and sustained sexual activity into old age is more likely for those who had active sex lives earlier in life.

By the late 1980s, there was a strong focus on the biological aspects of ageing. This expanded to include the reasons behind sexual decline. The research found these were highly varied and many older adults remain sexually active well into later life.

But despite evidence adults continue to desire and pursue sexual expression well into later life, both society in general and many health professionals have inadvertently helped perpetuate the myth of the asexual older person. This can happen through an unintentional lack of recognition, or an avoidance of a topic that makes some people uncomfortable.

Why does this matter?

These ageist attitudes can have an impact on older adults not only in their personal lives, but also in relation to their health needs. Examples include the failure of medical personnel to test for sexually transmissible infections in older populations, or the refusal of patients to take prescribed medications because of adverse impacts on erection rigidity. We need more health practitioners to be conscious of and incorporate later life sexuality into the regular health care of older adults. We still have a long way to go.

By ignoring the importance of sexuality for many older adults, we fail to acknowledge the role that sexuality plays in many people’s relationships, health, well-being and quality of life. Failure to address sexual issues with older patients may lead to or exacerbate marital problems and result in the withdrawal of one or both partners from other forms of intimacy. Failure to discuss sexual health needs with patients can also lead to incorrect medical diagnoses, such as the misdiagnosis of dementia in an older patient with HIV.

It’s not about ‘the deed’ itself

In a recent survey examining sexuality in older people, adults aged between 51 and 89 were asked a series of open-ended questions about sexuality, intimacy and desire, and changes to their experiences in mid-life and later life. This information was then used to create a series of statements that participants were asked to group together in ways they felt made sense, and to rank the importance of each statement.

The most important themes that emerged from the research encompassed things such as partner compatibility, intimacy and pleasure, and factors that influence the experience of desire or the way people express themselves sexually. Although people still considered sexual expression and sexual urges to be important, they were not the focus for many people over 45.

Affectionate and intimate behaviours, trust, respect and compatibility were more important aspects of sexuality than intercourse for most people. Overall, the message was one about the quality of the experience and the desire for connection with a partner, and not about the frequency of sexual activities.

People did discuss barriers to sexual expression and intimacy such as illness, mood or lack of opportunity or a suitable partner, but many felt these were not something they focused on in their own lives. This is in line with the data that shows participants place a greater importance on intimacy and affectionate behaviours such as touching, hugging and kissing, rather than intercourse.

These results help us challenge the existing stereotype of the “asexual older person” and the idea intercourse is necessary to be considered sexually active. They also make it clear researchers and health practitioners need to focus on a greater variety of ways we can improve the experience and expressions of sexuality and intimacy for adults from mid-life onwards beyond medical interventions (like Viagra) that focus on prolonging or enhancing intercourse.

Complete Article HERE!

How friends with benefits can actually make a friendship stronger

By Jack Rushall

When I was an insecure 16-year-old, I came out to my female best friend. What followed was just as bold, but it involved both of us: We hooked up.

Our sexual escapade developed into casual encounters that spanned a year-and-a-half. Of course, our friendship inevitably veered into unsettling romantic terrain, like a car creeping into a bike lane. We stopped being physical after concluding that emotional attraction can’t compete with innate sexual desire. Two years later, she had a boyfriend and I had my OkCupid profile set exclusively to men. We began texting. Now, we are tentatively planning on becoming housemates. Platonic housemates.

Our history may read a bit unusual, but it speaks for quite a few modern friends with benefits (or FWBs). With the rise of dating apps, sex is boisterously unromantic; one 2009 study of college students found that two-thirds had been in this type of relationship and a third were still in one. Still, there’s a common perception – in romantic comedies and in the media – that such pairings are unhealthy and ruin friendships.

“I think, in general, there’s a backlash toward casual sex anything,” explains Jesse Owen, the chair of the counseling psychology department at the University of Denver. “Friends with benefits can threaten the traditional relationship. This idea of friends with benefits is like saying: ‘This person is not your true love, and you’re continually in search of something better.’ True love is what sells on TV and in the movies.”

In 2013, Owen conducted a study measuring how many FWBs ultimately remained close after the benefits expired. He took 119 male and 189 female university students and found that 80 percent of FWB pairings continued being friends. And 50 percent of FWBs claimed to feel closer to their former partner after they went back to being platonic.

“People feel closer after intimacy because they feel that they know somebody, and they’d like for that relationship to continue,” Owen explained. “It’s a different sense of intimacy because there’s this idea of actually caring about the person and following their life story. Even when the intimacy stops, the nature of the friends with benefits is a true friendship. They got to experience more intimate moments that most normal friendships actually involve.”

While some friendships can tighten following the benefits, negotiation is necessary. Similar to real romantic relationships, communication provides stability. For example, after my high school friend and I stopped sleeping with each other, we decided to end our friendship as well. If we had noted that the intimacy was drowning our friendship, perhaps we wouldn’t have needed years of distance.

“Friends with benefits is a term for ambiguity; it conveys what Facebook would call ‘It’s Complicated,’ adds Kendra Knight, a communications professor at DePaul University who has studied FWBs. “Success depends on what each person is hoping for out of the relationship. If two friends find themselves sexually involved and they are relatively symmetrical with what they’re hoping for – like, ‘this is fun!’ or ‘let’s just get to know each other better’ – and they mutually negotiate the cessation of the sexual intimacy, there shouldn’t be many drawbacks.”

Another finding from Owen’s work is that there was no difference in FWBs remaining friends post-benefits along gendered lines, or even in terms of mismatched sexual orientations. For instance, if a gay male and his straight female buddy experiment while he sorts out his sexuality, this couple is not more likely than a heterosexual male-female pair to remain friends post-sex.

“It shouldn’t make a difference,” says Owen, admitting many participants in his study could have been closeted college students. “In all cases, communication is key.”

In retrospect, my ongoing foray with my straight female friend helped both of us during those vulnerable, John Hughes years. The result of our intimacy was a determination to seek relationships that are more fulfilling, both inside and out. For us, the “benefits” outweighed the costs.

Complete Article HERE!

Happy in a low-sex marriage

By Nara Schoenberg

For many writers, it would have been an occasion to celebrate: Hazel McClay’s book group had chosen to read an anthology containing an essay that McClay herself had written.

But McClay’s essay was about being happy in a low-sex relationship, a sensitive topic in a culture where intense desire is widely celebrated. Hazel McClay is a pen name, so no one in her book group knew that she was the author; in fact, she hadn’t talked about her essay with anyone — not even her boyfriend, who had since become her husband. “This should be interesting,” she thought when she learned she would be hearing her book group’s unfiltered feedback, and so it was.

First, McClay sat through the comments of a woman who seemed to think the essay was a celebration of sexual relationships that start awkwardly but improve markedly over time. The woman explained — in some detail — that this had been her own experience with her husband.

An awkward silence followed, and when no one came to the speaker’s rescue, she turned back to the essay.

“This sounds like a wonderful relationship,” she said.

“Sounds like a boring relationship to me,” another woman said, and then she and her friend burst out laughing.

McClay, whose essays appear in the recent book “The Bitch Is Back: Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier” and the 2002 best-seller “The Bitch in the House,” is tackling one of the few remaining taboo topics in a time of marked sexual frankness. We have respectful news articles about the polyamorous, who openly engage in multiple romantic relationships, and we have blogs and Facebook pages for asexuals, who may have no interest in sex at all. A popular reality TV show, “Sister Wives,” tells the story of a man with multiple wives. But low-sex marriages that are neither unhappy nor dishonest? When was the last time you heard about one of those?

“It really is something under the radar,” said McClay, a writer and editor in her early 50s.

“There is a bit of shame attached to it because there’s kind of a pressure to be highly sexed and highly performing sexually in this culture. And so if you’re not, that’s considered to be a problem.”

A much-quoted 2016 study in the journal Social and Psychological Personality Science found that, on average, couples in romantic relationships who have sex once a week are happier than couples who have sex less frequently. (Having sex more than once a week wasn’t associated with additional happiness.)

But the study looked at averages; it didn’t rule out the possibility that some individuals are very happy in low-sex marriages.

About 40 percent of married couples in part of the study were having sex, but less than once a week, co-author ‪Amy Muise said in an email exchange.

Asked what percentage of that group reported being very happy, Muise said she hadn’t broken down the data in that manner.

In “The Bitch Is Back,” McClay writes that she and her husband, “Charlie,” laugh a lot, love each other deeply, and have a son who’s thriving.

“With Charlie,” she writes, “I felt, and still feel, like somebody in the world gets me; I feel, at the risk of sounding cliched, loved for exactly who I am. This is something that was missing in every relationship I had before him, including the ones that were filled with sexual passion. … Within weeks of meeting him, I loved him — his brain, his quirks, his humor, and the grounded way he made me feel. I still do.”

They don’t have sex often: at this point, once a month at most. When they do, she’s always glad, but for different reasons: Sometimes because the sex itself is really good, sometimes because she knows sex is important to her husband, even though he doesn’t press the issue or seem dissatisfied.

“I never crave sex,” she writes, “so if I never had it again, I don’t think I’d miss it. If I never had another brownie, now, that would bum me out.”

McClay does have her fleeting moments of self-doubt. At one point, she writes, she tried medication to increase her sex drive; it didn’t work. And there have been rare times when she’s missed feeling the kind of intense passion that makes “your bones seem to melt away underneath your skin.”

“I know that there are women out there who think that (a marriage like mine reflects) a very 19th-century Victorian attitude, and that that’s sort of horrifying to them. And I guess I understand why they would see things that way, and why they would think I had settled for something terrible, and that you should hold out for the whole package,” she said.

“But all I can say to that is, ‘Maybe you’ve never loved somebody the way that I love my husband.’ There are just too many good things here for me to throw it all away and go looking for something I might never find. And again, I can see people saying ‘That’s a very fearful attitude on your part,’ but I don’t think it’s fear. I don’t want to go. I want to be with him.”

Complete Article HERE!

Lacking the desire to have sex with your partner?

Scientists think they know how to cure your problem – and it’s all down to chocolate

Scientists found kisspeptin, which is found in chocolate, helps to make men much more interested in sex and relationships

By Victoria Allen

A ‘chocolate hormone’ could help to get couples in the mood for sex and fall more deeply in love.

Kisspeptin, which is named after a chocolate snack, is the hormone in the brain which kickstarts puberty.

And it may explain something about the behaviour of teenage boys, after scientists found it makes men much more interested in sex and relationships.

Young men injected with the hormone and then given brain scans showed a flurry of activity in the parts of the brain activated by sexual arousal and romance. It means similar injections could be used to help men to start a family.

Professor Waljit Dhillo, the lead author of the research from Imperial College London, said: ‘Our initial findings are novel and exciting as they indicate that kisspeptin plays a role in stimulating some of the emotions and responses that lead to sex and reproduction.

‘Ultimately, we are keen to look into whether kisspeptin could be an effective treatment for psychosexual disorders, and potentially help countless couples who struggle to conceive.’

One in 10 men in the UK are believed to have sexual problems, many suffering a lack of libido caused by relationship issues, stress and anxiety.

This can cause problems for couples trying for a child and advised to have regular sex throughout the month.

But kisspeptin is hoped to hold the answer, following a trial involving 29 healthy young men.

Those injected with kisspeptin, discovered in the mid-1990s in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and named after sweets from the city called Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses, reacted differently to sexual and non-sexual romantic pictures of couples.

In an MRI scanner, where their brains were monitored, there was greater activity in the parts of the brain typically activated by sexual arousal and romance than the men given a placebo.

Professor Dhillo said: ‘Most of the research and treatment methods for infertility to date have focused on the biological factors that may make it difficult for a couple to conceive naturally.

‘These of course play a huge part in reproduction, but the role that the brain and emotional processing play in this process is also very important, and only partially understood.’

The effect is likely to come from kisspeptin’s role in starting puberty, by stimulating the release of reproductive hormones.

A study from Edinburgh University previously found it fuels the production of testosterone, which is key to male libido and fertility

The researchers now want to study how the hormone affects women as well as men, while kisspeptin might also work as an antidepressant.

Volunteers shown negative and fearful emotional faces in pictures said they felt less bad in follow-up questionnaires after receiving the hormone, with less activity in brain structures important in regulating a bad mood.

Dr Alexander Comninos, first author of the study at Imperial, said: ‘Our study shows that kisspeptin boosts sexual and romantic brain activity as well as decreasing negative mood.

‘This raises the interesting possibility that kisspeptin may have uses in treating psychosexual disorders and depression which are major health problems which often occur together, but further studies would be needed to investigate this.’

Complete Article HERE!