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Finding power through play: How BDSM can fuel confidence


By Emerald Bensadoun

Marianne LeBreton is suspended in mid-air, tied in an upside-down futumomo, legs bound together. The ropes cascade in intricate patterns, beginning at her ankles and working their way all the way around her wrists. The ropes arch her body backward. Her breathing steadies. Serenity washes through her. The slight discomfort of certain positions causes slow burns to spread across her body—but the pain is secondary to the relief. LeBreton becomes entrenched in a state of flow. Her mind is quiet. She’s enjoying the intensity, both emotionally and physically.

For LeBreton, bondage has become a meditative experience. When it comes to receiving pain, which she enjoys, it takes a certain focus and determination. LeBreton finds rope— especially Japanese rope bondage—to be particularly meditative. She equates BDSM to an empowering “sense of calm,” but it didn’t start out that way.

“What colour should it be?” thought LeBreton. She wanted her boyfriend to like it. As an 18-year-old student on a budget, it couldn’t be too expensive. For almost a week she scrolled through the internet until she finally came across what she was looking for. It was even in her price range. This was the one. Satisfied, she clicked “purchase.” LeBreton had just bought her first flogger—a whip with long tendrils coming out the end. “It felt like the beginning of something for me,” said LeBreton.

When asked about her first experience with BDSM, she grins from ear to ear, trying to visualize the details. “There wasn’t Fifty Shades of Grey but there was hentai,” she says. At the age of 13, LeBreton became fascinated with Bondage Fairies, an erotic manga about highly sexual, human-shaped female forest fairies with wings who work as hunters and police protecting the forest.

Now 30, LeBreton has an MA in sexology from Université du Québec à Montréal and owns KINK Toronto, an up-and-coming BDSM boutique in Toronto’s Annex. BDSM, she says, is about much more than pain—it’s about empowerment. LeBreton says we could use a little more playfulness in our lives. More sensuality. More discovery. “That’s usually what I hear from customers who are curious; they are excited and thrilled to be daring and to be doing this for themselves or their partners,” says LeBreton. “It’s definitely a journey of self-discovery and acceptance.” In her workshops, being naked and engaging in play publicly, she says, has helped with her confidence and body image.

In 2015, Christian Joyal, who has a PhD in psychology from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, and his colleagues published a paper on fantasies; ranging from sex in a public places, to tying up a sexual partner, to watching same-gender sex and pornography. But there were also fantasies about being dominated sexually. These were present in 65 per cent of women and 53 per cent of men; dominating someone sexually, present in 47 per cent of women and 60 per cent of men; being tied up for sexual pleasure which appealed to 52 per cent of women and 46 per cent of men.

“From what we’ve seen, most people have a very strict image of what [BDSM] should look like, which is very restricting,” she says. BDSM, she notes, doesn’t have to involve leather. It doesn’t have to involve pain. Another mistake is attributing masculine or feminine traits to erotic behaviour. For many people, BDSM is a healthy way to express their sexuality and grain a sense of control in their lives and of their bodies.

In her workshops, being naked and engaging in play publicly, she says, has helped with her confidence and body image

When it comes to dominance and submission, negotiations, and boundaries, safety and consent are crucial. While the words “dominant” or “top” may conjure up images of complete control, those in the BDSM world know that the submissive, or “bottom” hold true power. “The bottom is the one who gets to decide what they would like, what they do not want, what their limits are,” says LeBreton, “It’s the top’s responsibility to follow that through. Of course some people have very specific kinks where it’s kind of like ‘I want you to take control.’ But that’s negotiated and within limits set by the bottom.”

Feeling in control can also be about letting go. Relinquishing that sense of control they exert in every other part of their lives can be therapeutic. For this reason, LeBreton says that men, especially those in positions of higher power, will often identify as submissives in the bedroom.

Alex Zalewski says he’s always been a little rough. But in a seven-year “vanilla” relationship, it was difficult to break routine. Months later, for the first time in Zalewski’s life, he felt horribly unsure of himself. He’d been flirting with a new girl for some time whose friends invited him to their apartment. But he was confused. “Spit in my mouth,” she demanded. “Slap me.” Zalewski was torn between arousal and inner turmoil. If there was one thing he’d ever been taught from a young age, it’s that good boys don’t hit women.

For Zalewski, empowerment is a quiet confidence, and feeling a level of control that builds pleasure from the knowledge that he is fulfilling his partners’ desires. Zalewski, who lives in Toronto’s downtown core, offers relationship and personal coaching for various clients in his spare time, but he doesn’t charge money for it. The women in his life kept asking him for advice on BDSM. He decided he would try his best. In 2016 he created Authentic Connections, to help people overcome their barriers in exchange for a relationship they’ve always wanted. His goal was to have someone open up to him enough about the types of barriers that were preventing his clients and their partners from having the sex life they wanted to have.

“What are your fantasies? What are your desires? What do you want out of your partner or partners?” He would ask them. Once he could get them to admit what they actually wanted, they would work out a plan. Develop themselves, develop their skills to be able to do the things that would help them achieve their goals. Zalewski says a lot of the time, this is the most difficult step for the people he’s met with. It’s hard for people to step outside their comfort zones sometimes, he says, because they’ve been conditioned into associating kink and BDSM with abuse and mental instability.

A person becomes curious in BDSM. They don’t tell their friends. Maybe they’re afraid of being ridiculed or judged. Maybe rejection. But maybe it’s none of those things. Maybe they just want to keep their personal life, personal.

In 2006, the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality published an article that compared BDSM practitioners to published norms on 10 psychological disorders. Compared to the normative samples, those who actively engage in BDSM had lower levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological sadism, psychological masochism, borderline pathology and paranoia.

But just because a person likes to be controlled in the bedroom doesn’t necessarily mean those needs translate into the real world and can have dangerous implications for parties involved.

Jen Chan was 16. Her boyfriend was 24. He was her dominant and she was his submissive. “That was generally the dynamic of how our relationship went,” she says. But chipping away at her self-esteem, her boyfriend would pressure her into doing things she wasn’t sure if she was comfortable with, and she would go along with them, afraid of appearing inexperienced and childish to her older boyfriend. While BDSM allows you to play out different scenarios from that of everyday life, she says her first experience with dominance and submission was just an extension of the life she already had.

It’s hard for people to step outside their comfort zones sometimes, he says, because they’ve been conditioned into associating kink and BDSM with abuse and mental instability.

After their relationship ended, Chan says it took her several years until she felt confident enough to engage in BDSM again. Coming out as queer, she says, has also made all the difference. Chan now identifies as a switch, which is someone who enjoys partaking in both dominant and submissive roles, or both topping and bottoming.

“There is something very staged, controlled and intentional about BDSM, at least that’s the way I interact with it,” says Chan, who adds that her empowerment with BDSM lies in feeling like she’s doing something adventurous in an environment of her choice. Feeling satisfied sexually, she says, has made her feel more confident in the real world.

Is what you’re doing safe? Is what you’re doing consensual? Zalewski says risk awareness, the amount of risk a person is comfortable taking in order to attain the pleasure plays a large role in BDSM. From flesh hook suspension to unprotected sex, it’s important to understand the personal level of risk you are comfortable with when it comes to the acts you want to perform.

Chan says that while engaging in BDSM gave her the opportunity to try new things and step into new roles, most importantly, it allowed her to reclaim control, sexually. As a person begins to immerse themselves in BDSM, Chan says, they start to learn more about what makes them comfortable, where their boundaries lie, all while pushing themselves to continually learn new things—and to her, that’s all empowerment really is.

Complete Article HERE!


Sex education at the push of a button: the apps changing lives worldwide


From dealing with harassment to frank advice about STIs, these female app developers are providing vital, candid knowledge

The Ask Without Shame app provides information about sex to young people and has 60,000 users across Africa.


Accurate information about sex and healthy relationships leads to greater gender equality worldwide, a report by the UN’s world heritage body Unesco found. It also leads to better sexual health, as well as less sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unintended pregnancies.

Yet many young people still don’t get the accurate information they need. Technology is one way to bring it to them. The revised international technical guidance on sexuality education, released by Unesco in January, said new technology offers “rich opportunities” to reach young people – if it’s used intelligently.

These women, from around the world, are working hard to found apps and use new technology to educate communities on sexual health.

Ruth Nabembezi, 22, founder of Ask Without Shame

Ruth Nabembezi, founder of Ask Without Shame.

When Nabembezi was just 16 years old, her older sister Pamela, who was 23, became very thin, started losing her hair and developed a skin rash. She was HIV positive, but a lack of awareness of the virus and Aids meant she didn’t get medical treatment straight away. “She was taken to a witch doctor to be cleansed of demons,” Nabembezi says. When she eventually did get taken to hospital, it was too late and she died there.

Since then, Nabembezi has wanted to help people access accurate information about sexual health. “In Uganda, anything related to sexuality is a taboo,” she says. Last year the government even branded better sex education an “erosion of morals”. Young people have to find their own information from peers, Nabembezi says. As a result, many end up believing harmful myths, such as if you sleep with a virgin, you can’t catch HIV.

Nabembezi created Ask Without Shame after joining a Social Innovation Academy when she finished school, because she wanted to change things. The mobile app, free phone line and text message service provide information about sex to young people through their phones. Questions are answered by doctors, nurses and counsellors.

The app has more than 60,000 users, mostly from Uganda and other African countries. But Nabembezi wants more. “I’d like to see it in every country in the world,” she says.

Beverly Chogo, 23, founder of Sophie Bot

Chogo created Sophie Bot in 2016 after watching her friend go through a traumatic abortion in Kenya. “It led to a lot of bleeding and abdominal pain,” Chogo says. At the time, Chogo didn’t understand what was happening to her friend. “It was a lot of trauma that she wasn’t prepared for,” Chogo says. “From that moment on I wanted to do something.”

And so the Sophie Bot was born. Chogo created the artificial intelligence (AI) Sophie Bot along with a team of three others whom she met at university in Kenya. Unsafe abortion is a major public health crisis in the country and a leading cause of preventable death and illness among women and girls. Young people can ask the Sophie Bot questions about anything, from STIs to family planning and it gives automated responses. Chogo says some people have even asked how to make sex more kinky or pleasurable, although she points out that’s not what it was originally set up for. The bot then gives automated responses.

Sex is still taboo in many African communities and so technology has been “very instrumental,” Chogo says. “Almost everyone has a smartphone.” The Sophie Bot is on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Telegram messenger. It’s had over 1,500 downloads so far, but “now we want to reach more people,” Chogo says. “The sky’s the limit.”

Heather Corinna, 47, founder of Scarleteen

US-born Corinna first set up the Scarleteen website, a platform which provides information about sex and relationships for young people, in 1998. Corinna – who identifies as non-binary and uses the “they” pronoun – had no idea it would become their second job. For the next year, Corinna taught a class of kindergarten children during the day – and then taught a “global online classroom” about sex during the evenings.

It all started when Corinna uploaded fiction about women’s sexuality online. Unexpectedly, they started to get letters from young women asking basic questions about sex. There wasn’t a resource for Corinna to direct them to, so they set up their own: Scarleteen. The website was one of the first of its kind and published questions, along with Corinna’s empathetic responses. “People wrote me long letters, so I wrote them back,” Corinna says.

It wasn’t easy and Corinna was stalked and harassed online, just for talking to young people about the topic of sexuality – but they didn’t give up. “I’m rebellious,” Corinna says. “When people give me grief I go in hard.” Twenty years later, Corinna now runs Scarleteen with a team of global volunteers.

Mia Davis, 25, founder of Tabu

Davis grew up in the American midwest and had an abstinence-based religious education that was “pretty limited” when it came to sexuality. As a result, she was ashamed of her body. “I was always learning from a boyfriend,” the Stanford University graduate says, “but now I realise they didn’t know what they were talking about either.”

So in 2016, the user-experience designer set-up Tabu. One thing that stands out is its colourful design. “A lot of sexual health content can either be too in your face, or is just images that you wouldn’t want anyone to see,” Davis says. “So instead we wanted it to be really fresh and to make it pop.”

Movements like #MeToo, where people have come forward about harassment, have highlighted the need for better sex and relationship education, Davies says. And advances in mobile technology mean that it’s more possible than ever to provide it. “There’s a lot of unlearning to do,” she says. “And it’s coming to a head now.”

Brianna Rader, 26, founder of Juicebox

Rader is about to launch a new version of Juicebox, an app that provides personalised coaching for sex and relationships through your phone. She has been passionate about sex education for years, even getting condemned by lawmakers in the state of Tennessee for running a series of sex education events called Sex Week at her university.

Attitudes towards sex education are changing. Even just a few years ago it was different, she says. But now people are more open to these conversations and are making the most of mobile and new technologies. “[Sex ed tech founders] are not just providing PDFs and booklets,” Rader says. “We are going much further than that.”

Complete Article HERE!


Over-65s would quite like more sex, please


Getting older doesn’t mean your sex life has to slow down… although we’d recommend taking things slowly and carefully when it comes to trying more acrobatic positions.


Just because you’re over the age of the people shown banging on TV doesn’t mean you suddenly turn off your sexual desire and live a solitary, pleasure-less existence.

Older people have sex too. And actually, they’d quite like to have more of it.

A study by Independent Age of 2,002 older British people found that 52% of over-65s feel they don’t have enough sex, and would like to have more.

The research also found that over-65s are less willing to mess around with three date rules and delaying the inevitable, with nearly a third saying they’re happy to have sex on a first date.

One in 10 over-75s were found to have had multiple sexual partners since turning 65. So, yes, older people are still in the dating game. Watch your backs, because my grandma would steal your man.

Lucy Harmer, director of services at Independent Age, said: ‘Age is no barrier to having a sex life, and a lot of older people are more sexually active than many people may think.

‘Strong relationships are important in later life, and ideas about friendship, romance and intimacy may well change throughout life.

‘Close relationships can offer emotional support, and can make a difference by staving off loneliness and giving you resilience and support to get through difficult patches in life. However, sex, dating and relationships can be complex, and that does not stop when we get older.’

The research proves that old age really isn’t a barrier to still having a satisfying sex life. Which is great, really, as another recent study found that sex is best when you’re in your sixties. Score.

Match’s Singles in America survey found that your sex life reaches its peak in your sixties, finding that of the 5,000 single people they surveyed, single women say they have the best sex at 66, while men have their best sex at 64.

This is likely down to having had plenty of experiences and knowing exactly what gets you off as a result – as well as feeling free to experiment.

When you’re single in your sixties, you may be hitting the dating scene for the first time after a lengthy marriage, giving you a sense of freedom to try everything once and live without barriers.

All of which sounds wonderful, but there’s a risk involved in all these over-sixties getting frisky – many of them aren’t that cautious when it comes to using protection.

There’s been a rise in cases of chlamydia and gonorrhoea in elderly people since the 90s, and experts blame fresh attitudes to casual sex without updated sexual education to match.

Older people’s sex lives are often ignored by medical professionals, who assume that as you get older your sexual desire dwindles. That means questions about protection aren’t asked, and as post-menopausal women aren’t worrying about getting pregnant, contraceptive methods get thrown out of the window.

This is especially risky considering that many older people have compromised immune systems that could put them in serious danger should they develop an STI.

The lesson here? Let’s stop pretending over-60s are having a sex-free existence. They’re quite clearly not. Once we accept and celebrate that we can focus on making sure they know the importance of regular STI tests and using condoms and dental dams.

Stay safe out there, nan.

Complete Article HERE!


Consensual sex is key to happiness and good health, science says




It’s not just that sex is fun – it’s also good for your physical and mental health.

Some of my research is focused on how men and women differ in the links between sexuality, mental and physical health, and relationship quality. In this article, I write from my findings and that of others on how sex is important to our love, mental health, relations and survival. At the end, I suggest a solution for individuals who are avoiding sex for a common reason – chronic disease.

Good sex makes us happy

Good sex is an inseparable part of our well-being and happiness. Those of us who engage in more sex report better quality of life. Sexual intercourse is linked to high satisfaction across life domains. In one of my studies on 551 married patients with heart disease, individuals who had a higher frequency of sexual intercourse reported higher marital quality, marital consensus, marital coherence, marital affection expression and overall marital satisfaction. These results are replicated in multiple studies.

In a study by another team, partners who both experienced orgasm during sex were considerably happier. These findings are shown inside and outside of the United States.

Sex keeps us alive

Although early initiation of sex such as during adolescence is a risk factor for mortality, having a sound sexual life in adulthood is linked to low mortality. In a seven-year follow-up study of men 17 years old or older, erectile dysfunction and having no sexual activity at baseline predicted increased mortality over time. Similar findings were shown in younger men. This is probably because more physically healthy individuals are sexually active.

No sex and forced sex makes us depressed

There is a two-way road between bad sex and depression. Depression is also a reason for bad sex, particularly for women. And, men who are depressed are more likely to sexually abuse their partners.

And it’s important to note, in the wake of continuing news of sexual assault and abuse, that forced sex in intimate relations make people depressed, paranoid, jealous, and ruins relationships. Couples who experience unwanted sex have a higher risk for experiencing other types of abuse, as bad habits tend to cluster.

Sex different for men and women?

Men and women differ in the degree to which their sexual act is attached to their physical, emotional, and relational well-being. Various reasons play a role among both genders, but for women, sexual function is heavily influenced by mental health and relationship quality.

By contrast, for men sexual health reflects physical health. This is also intuitive as the most common sexual disorders are due to problems with desire and erection for women and men, respectively.

Reasons for avoiding sex

As I explained in another article in The Conversation, sexual avoidance for those who have a partner or are in a relationship happens for a long list of reasons, including pain, medications, depression and chronic disease. Common diseases such as heart disease interfere with sex by causing fear and anxiety of sexual intercourse.

Aging should not be considered as a sexless age. Studies have shown that older adults acquire skills and strategies that can buffer age-related declines in their sexual life, particularly when they are in a positive relationship. This is called seniors’ sexual wisdom.

Back on track

Because people avoid sex for a variety of reasons, there is no single answer for those who want to become sexually active again. For many men, physical health problems are barriers. If they suffer from erectile dysfunction, they can seek medical help for that.

If fear of sex in the presence of chronic disease is a problem, there can be medical help for that as well. For many women, common barriers are relational dissatisfaction and mental health. For both men and women, the first step is to talk about their sexual life with their physician, counselor or therapist.

At least half of all medical visits do not cover any discussion about sexual life of patients. Embarrassment and lack of time are among the most common barrier. So make sure you make time to talk to your doctor or health care provider.

Neither the doctor nor the patient should wait for the other person to start a dialogue about their sexual concerns. The “don’t tell, don’t ask” does not take us anywhere. The solution is “do tell, do ask.”

Complete Article HERE!


7 condom myths everyone needs to stop believing, according to a doctor


It’s time we got real about condoms.


When it comes to condoms, chances are pretty good that you think you know everything there is know on the matter. Like, you’ve been learning about safe sex since eighth grade health class. You’re good.

But where, exactly, does most of your current-day condom knowledge stem from? If it’s sourced from a mix of things your friends have told you, plus whatever memory of eighth grade health class you have stored deep within your temporal lobe, it may not all be entirely accurate. In fact, there are more than a few common condom myths floating around — some of which you may believe as fact.

INSIDER spoke with Dr. Logan Levkoff, a nationally recognized health and sexuality expert who works with Trojan brand condoms, to get down to the bottom of of what you should (and shouldn’t) believe about condoms.

Myth: Condoms haven’t evolved over the past few decades.

Condoms being tested.

Think that condoms haven’t really changed from the time that your parents (and even your grandparents) might have been using them? According to Dr. Levkoff, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“One of [the biggest myths] is when people say that condoms haven’t changed over time, that the condoms that are out today are the same as they were thirty or forty years ago. And it’s just not true,” Dr. Levkoff told INSIDER.

“There are have been a ton of innovations about condoms, condom shape, the use of lube, the thinness of latex, the ribbing. They’re so much better now!”

Myth: Condoms aren’t that effective.

Most of us have heard the same statistics — condoms, when used perfectly, are 98% effective. But “typical” condom use (aka the way most people use them) is 85% effective. Because of this, you may feel as though condoms aren’t so important.

“What we don’t typically tell people is that this “typical” number, that includes people who don”t use condoms all the time. So, is there a surprise that the number is lower if people don’t use them at all?” Dr. Levkoff told INSIDER.

“I think myths occur because we aren’t really clear on the numbers we’re giving and talking about.”

So, if you feel like you can skip a condom because it won’t make that much of a difference whether you use one or not, think again. If you use one, you’ll be in a much better position than you would be if you’d skipped one.

Myth: Sex with condoms isn’t as enjoyable as sex without condoms.

Condom sex = bad sex. Or, at least, this is a commonly-accepted narrative that you’ve probably heard two or three (or 10) times.

As it turns out, this isn’t true at all.

“Because we have these preconceived notions of what condoms are — thick latex, big smell — we perpetuate the message that condoms don’t feel good or condoms aren’t fun. And the reality is that condoms have lower latex odor today and they feel great,” Dr. Levkoff told INSIDER.

Dr. Levkoff also noted that a study done at Indiana University found that people rate sex with condoms equally as pleasurable as sex without condoms.

“And that’s really important, because condoms give us the ability to be fully engaged in the act of sex, to not worry and think about the ‘what ifs.'” Dr. Levkoff told INSIDER.

Myth: You can stop using condoms once you’re exclusive.

There’s something called a “condom window.”

Thinking about dropping condoms now that you and your partner have been dating for a few months? You might want to think again.

“In this business, we call this the ‘condom window,'” Dr. Levkoff told INSIDER. “We know that once someone is sexually active with a partner for a while all of the sudden, they’re like ‘Well, we don’t have to use these anymore.'”

“The reality is, we probably get rid of the condoms earlier than we should. There’s no question, in heterosexual relationship, that dual protection — condoms, plus [another form of birth control] — are really the best way to prevent STIs as well as unintended pregnancy. I would love to say that we live in a world in which we’re all super honest about what we do and who we do it with and what our sexual health status is, but we’re not always. So, until we get to a point where we can be, then it’s always worth having condoms, too.”

Myth: Young people are the only ones at risk for condom misuse and mistakes.

It can be easy to assume that, once you age out of the risk of becoming a teen pregnancy statistic, the rest of your sex life will be safe and surprise free. But if it’s important to be vigilant about safe sex, no matter how old you are — and, according to Dr. Levkoff, many people start to slip up as they get older.

“We are seeing numbers of sexual health issues arise, not just in younger populations, but certainly in aging populations too, who maybe are out dating again and are sexually active and aren’t as concerned about unintended pregnancy,” Dr. Levkoff told INSIDER.

“They might not have grown up in a time of HIV/AIDs and don’t think to worry,” she continued. “That’s also the group where, for the most part, if they saw condoms, they saw the condoms from the sixties, not the condoms from today. So there’s definitely some work to be done there.”

Myth: Condoms stored in wallets aren’t effective.

We’ve all seen that classic Reddit photo of the wallet that developed a permanent ring due to the fact that its owner stored a condom in there for the duration of his college years. And that probably means that you shouldn’t keep condoms in wallets at all, right?

Well, not exactly. Storing condoms in wallets certainly isn’t the best idea — ideally, condoms should be kept in a dark, cool, friction-free environment— but as long as you don’t keep a condom in a wallet for years and years, you should be fine.

“Condoms are medical devices. They’re regulated, so they have to be held to certain standards. But keeping it in your wallet for a little on the chance that you might have a great night, it’s not a big deal,” Dr. Levkoff told INSIDER.

What’s more important is to pay attention to the expiration date on the condom wrapper. “Condoms have expiration dates for a reason, because there is a window that they are most effective,” Dr. Levkoff said.

Myth: Condoms should only be the guy’s responsibility.

Do not rely on anyone for birth control.

If you are a person with a vagina who has sex with people with penises, you may feel that it is the penis-haver’s responsibility to provide the condoms.

Not so, said Dr. Levkoff. “I think there’s nothing more empowering than knowing you can carry a product that takes care of your sexual health. But there’s this idea that, because someone with a penis wears a condom, [they have to be in charge].”

According to Dr. Levkoff, it’s better to think about condoms as though both parties will be wearing them — because, technically, they are.

“If it’s going into someone else’s body, they’re wearing it too. It doesn’t have to be rolled onto you in order for it to be considered use,” Dr. Levkoff told INSIDER.

Complete Article HERE!