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Female sex tech pioneers are turning pleasure into empowerment

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Women are founding startups to design sex toys and wearables that appeal to female sensuality and increase representation in the tech industry

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The percentage of female leaders working in technology is notoriously low and the sex tech industry fares no better. But there has been a surge in the number of sex tech businesses founded by women in recent years – so much so that 2017 has been hailed the year of the ‘vagina-nomics’ by the intelligence agency JWT. But how is the rise of female sex tech disrupting the industry and empowering women?

For years sex toys have largely been designed around the idea that they can only be effective for women if they’re penis-shaped.

“It’s a misconception that largely stems from the fact we’ve mostly had men designing sex toys and, well, God forbid women would find anything other than penises pleasurable,” says Alexandra Fine, clinical psychologist and co-founder of sex tech company Dame Products.

“In this same vein, there are design flaws – like on-off buttons facing the wrong direction or small quirks that give away the fact that women haven’t been designing these toys.”

Because gaudy sex toys aren’t for everyone, they’re now being joined by delicate, intuitive products that wouldn’t look out of place in an Apple store. These are lifestyle products that are customisable and personalised, rather than simply bigger and faster because technological advances allow it.

“Women are driving a huge increase in demand for sex toys which are ergonomically designed and beautiful,” says Stephanie Alys, co-founder of Mystery Vibe, the company behind Crescendo, the world’s first completely bendable smart vibrator.

Wisp, a sex tech start-up run by Wan Tseng, is designing wearables that recognise, for women, sexuality is not black and white.

“Our products don’t resemble things that go in holes, it just feels a bit too male,” says Tseng. Instead Wisp’s products are designed to be worn like jewellery and tap into the arousing sensations of touch, breath and smell.

“For lots of women, a good sexual experience is not just about orgasming, but everything up until orgasm. We want to empower women and help them relax and get into the mood.” It’s a concept that some men have struggled to grasp, according to Tseng. The first collection will release arousing scents, while another product in development simulates the warm sensation of breath blown gently into the ears.

Last year Alys co-founded a collective for women in the UK sex tech industry, to complement the New York-based Women of Sextech group. “The women in the industry are really up for collaborating and supporting one another.” She adds they are driven to “close the orgasm gap” – referring to the fact that men tend to climax more than women – and “help create a more sex-positive and equal society”.

The wealth of data that can be collected from smart sex tech should mean the offering will continue to improve. Mystery Vibe plans to incorporate sensors into its products that learn what stimulation methods work best, unveiling more data about the often elusive female orgasm.

Having a woman behind the creation of sex products means the stock is more relatable to other women – something that Fine believes has been missing. The company was the first to successfully fund the Fin sex toy on Kickstarter, bringing sex toys closer to being treated like any other consumer product.

Women-led companies are recognising that, just as not all women are turned on by toys that are flesh-coloured and phallic, not all women see simultaneous orgasming with their partner to be the holy grail of sexual fulfilment.

Fine, of Dame Products, adds: “I think our culture sometimes promotes orgasms over factors like intimacy and overall pleasure. Most people aren’t trying to attain the rare simultaneous climax – they want to share pleasure with their partner in a more general, less goal-oriented sense.”

Women are also harnessing sex tech to create products with women’s sexual fitness in mind. Tania Boler is co-founder of Elvie, which has created the Elvie Trainer – a mint-coloured, pebble sized kegel trainer that connects to a smartphone app to track and improve a woman’s pelvic floor muscles.

She argues the more traditional offering of kegel trainers have not been designed from the perspective of the user; they’re hard, clinical, cumbersome. Boler, who has a PhD in women’s health, was dismayed to discover there are only a few recognised scientific studies about the anatomy of the human vagina, despite half the population of the planet being in possession of one.

“Pelvic floor is the most important but most neglected muscle group in a woman’s body – a stronger pelvic floor means higher levels of arousal, more lubrication and stronger orgasms for women – and yet the product has been accused by some in the past of being anti-feminist because it means men enjoying tighter sex,” says Boler.

“This is about breaking taboos and realising pleasure and sensuality can be enjoyed for both sides.”

Stories about sex robots which allow men to act out rape fantasies have sparked outrage from women’s rights activists. It is not just heartening but essential that women are part of the sex tech movement if it is to be maximally beneficial, responsible and healthily balanced, says sex educator Alix Fox. “That’s not to say that left to their own (vibrating, thrusting) devices, all the sex tech men create would be damaging – not at all,” she adds.

“But in this era of technological boom, when the digitised and the mechanised is infiltrating almost everything from our boardrooms to our bedrooms, we must include women – lots of women, diverse women – in every conversation and at every stage.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Nienke Helder designs therapy tools for women recovering from sexual trauma

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Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Nienke Helder has created a set of sensory objects that can be used to rehabilitate women affected by sexual abuse.

Presented at this year’s Dutch Design Week, Sexual Healing is designed to help women who are suffering from trauma-induced sexual problems, such as pelvic muscle blockage.

According to the designer, current treatment available often focuses on a clinical perspective – putting too much emphasis on physical issues, rather than the psychological aspects of trauma.

From her own experience, Helder recognised the frustration this can cause, which prompted her to develop an alternative therapy which focuses more on the emotional aspects of sexual trauma.

“I was really frustrated with the way we treat these kinds of issues. In my opinion, the treatments that I got only made it worse,” she told Dezeen.

“It was totally taking me away from the sexual context; it became really clinical. It was so focused on this end goal of penetration that I totally lost all fun in my sexuality.”

The designer worked with medical experts and women in recovery to develop a set of five objects which invite users to discover their own sexual pleasure.

The objects encourage women to explore what feels good to them, which in turn, relieves fear and pain, and help them regain a sense of security about their bodies.

The first object is an ergonomically shaped mirror that lights up.

“Research shows that if you look at your own vulva, it increases your body positivity a lot. But if you have a trauma, it can really be confronting to look at your own body,” Helder said.

She made the mirror in such a way that it only shows exactly what you hold in front of it, allowing users to take their time and slowly start exploring their own bodies.

The second object is a brush made from horsehair, which is meant to help users become comfortable with being touched again. It also enables them to invite their partner to the healing process.

“If you have a trauma, it can be really difficult to talk about it. But by giving someone an object and making them part of the therapy, it opens a lot of doors for conversation,” Helder explains.

Two of the objects focus on biofeedback and are designed to help the user detect if they are feeling tense or stressed.

“Trauma creates certain reflexes in your body that comes from your subconscious mind,” the designer said. “To break that cycle, you need to rationally understand what is causing these processes in order to overcome them emotionally.”

One is a sensor that is meant to be placed on the abdomen. The device lights-up when the user’s breathing becomes tense, functioning as a signal to relax again.

A second is an object that measures the pressure in pelvic floor muscles. If the user tenses up, the device starts to vibrate, signalling the need to relax.

The final object is a kimono made of silk jersey, which emphasises the need to feel warm and relaxed in the bedroom.

“I made it because the bedroom is one of the coldest rooms in the house,” said the designer. “As I mentioned in my project video, it is important to keep your socks on when having sex because women could not have an orgasm when they have cold feet.”


 
Mental health is becoming an increasingly explored topic in design, particularly among graduates.

At last year’s Design Academy Eindhoven graduate show, designer Nicolette Bodewes presented a tactile toolkit designed to be used in psychotherapy sessions, while Yi-Fei Chen channelled her personal struggle with speaking her mind into a gun that fires her tears.

Helder’s Sexual Healing project was presented at this year’s Design Academy Eindhoven‘s graduate show as part of the annual Dutch Design Week event, which took place from 21 until 29 October 2017.

Complete Article HERE!

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10 tips for good sex in long-term relationships – for men and women

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Penguins play before mating.

By Isabel Losada

Make pleasure a priority

A happy and nourishing sex life (for both partners it’s necessary to emphasise) is good for your mental health and your physical health. Tender and loving intimacy is central to your well-being and so your family’s happiness and this impacts on – well, everything.

Don’t compare your sex life to the absurd but Oscar-winning performances of porn stars

Real sex isn’t like that.  Neither of you has to perform. If you make your body feel good and your partner’s body feel good and you’re both happy in the moment and the following day  – that’s good sex.  There is no way anyone can fail if you feel loved and nourished.

Don’t get stuck in a routine

The sensation that can be experienced in our bodies is as wonderful and varied as food can be. Hopefully you don’t always go to your local Indian restaurant and order the same vindaloo. If you do you’re missing out on all the more subtle and interesting flavours. Broaden your knowledge about how to please and be pleased.

Women:

You must be honest about the sensation in your body no matter how difficult it is for you to give honest feedback.  I know it’s annoying but men can’t read our minds and if we exaggerate the pleasure we say we feel we don’t help the men or ourselves.  Don’t go down that path.

Men:

A lot of what you are told about having to be ‘longer, harder, stronger’ etc is all nonsense designed to make you feel you need to buy products.  Ignore those spam emails but please do learn the art of stroking a clitoris – (details in the book.)

Learn about women’s arousal

Both partners have a responsibility to ensure that the woman has as much pleasure in bed as the man.  (Clue – it’s usually more complex and subtle) How can a woman really desire her partner unless she receives genuine pleasure from them?

Don’t think about other things when you’re in bed with the person you love

It’s rude! ‘Listen’ to the touch and the sensation in your body when you’re having sex.  Allow yourself to enjoy every second. If you find yourself thinking about other things – don’t be cross with yourself just go back to ‘listening’ to the sensation. Make relaxed time for pleasure.

Don’t have any goals

Women don’t chase orgasms and men don’t put pressure on a woman to orgasm. Sex is not a performance and orgasm is an involuntary state. Just breathe, explore all sensation and remove all pressure. The only aim is to enjoy. There is no way for either men or women to fail in bed. Breath. Touch. Laugh.

Women and men:  Make sure you know what your pelvic floor muscles are

They are the ones you use to ‘hold wee’. Exercise these muscles every day; you’ll never buy incontinence pads and it will improve your sex lives too. There is an app from the NHS called ‘Squeezy’ – use it. Five times a day. Thank me in six months.

Men:

Take the 21-day challenge of not ejaculating for that time, either during lovemaking or on your own. It’s an ancient tantric discipline. You’ll learn a lot about holding your own arousal level and being more aware of your partner’s. It leads to some great sensation and ultimately more connected and rewarding sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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8 Things That Happen to Your Body During Sex

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Your heart quickens. Your hormones flow. See what else is happening, head to toe, in the heat of the moment.

Ever wondered what happens to your body during a steamy session between the sheets? From the good (happy hormones! increased sensitivity!) to the not-so-good (increased risk of urinary tract infections, for example), here are eight things that happen when you’re having sex.

1. Happy hormones are released. Sex stimulates the secretion of hormones such as oxytocin, which makes you feel connected to others, and dopamine, which activates the brain’s reward center. The result: You feel satisfied and close to your partner.

2. Blood vessels widen. What do dilated blood vessels do for you? “Your clitoris and vulva become engorged, as do the vessels in the vaginal wall,” says urologist and sexual-health expert Jennifer Berman, MD. “This leads to more secretions and lubrication.” Your face and chest can also get flushed.

3. Sensitivity skyrockets. Your erogenous zones, including the nipples, ears, neck, and genital area, become extra sensitive because of increased blood flow and the release of sensation-enhancing neurotransmitters.

4. Bacteria may build up. During sex, bacteria from the vagina and anus can get into the urethra and multiply, leading to a urinary tract infection. Tip: Pee immediately after the act to flush out bacteria.

5. You burn (some) calories. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a 154-pound person would burn 21 calories during six minutes of sexual activity. So a roll in the sack isn’t as effective as spin class, but a sexy half hour could torch around 100 calories.

6. Your heart races. Like any aerobic activity, sex raises your heart rate. It peaks when you orgasm and settles back to its baseline within 10 to 20 minutes, research shows.

7. Your muscles tense. “During orgasm, the pelvic floor muscles involuntarily contract,” says Dr. Berman. Actively tensing and releasing those muscles during sex can help boost engorgement, arousal, and pleasure. Kegels, anyone?

8. You feel relaxed. Your big O may be the ultimate chill pill: Orgasms trigger an increase in prolactin, a calming hormone that reaches its highest levels when we’re asleep.

Complete Article HERE!

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This Is How Masturbating Can Transform Your Sex Life

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A relationship expert explains what it means to own your pleasure.

By Wendy Strgar

For many of us, taking responsibility for our pleasure begins with healing our relationship with our body. We may think that we can experience true pleasure only when we look a certain way. When I lose ten more pounds, I’ll deserve a little pleasure. If my tan gets a little deeper, then I’ll really be able to feel good. <

Actually, the reverse is true: Opening yourself up to more sexual pleasure will make you recognize the beauty in your body as it is, and inspire you to treat it better. And here’s the thing: If you sacrifice your access to pleasure to the false belief that sexual satisfaction will find you when you are fitter or more beautiful, you will miss out on your own life. Make a decision now to stop comparing yourself to the myriad Photoshopped images of models that even models don’t look like. Instead, dedicate yourself now to finding ways to live more deeply in your body.

Sex is something you do with your body, so how you feel about and treat your body is a direct reflection of the respect you hold for your sex life. Resolve to treat your body with a little more attention and loving kindness, and it will reward you by revealing its capacity for pleasure—sexual and otherwise.

If your body needs coaxing, there is something very simple you can do to deepen your relationship with it and explore your pleasure response: masturbate. Even with all the benefits masturbation can bring to a couple’s sex life, it is still a behavior that many people are not comfortable sharing with their partners or even talking about.

In addi­tion to the religious condemnation that has long been associated with self-pleasure, the practice was not long ago considered an affliction that medical doctors used the cruelest of instruments and techniques to control. So it’s not surprising that self-reporting of this behavior still hovers at 30% to 70% depending on gender and age.

Yet there are many benefits to a healthy dose of solo sex. First and foremost, it teaches us about our own sexual response, and personal experience is an invaluable aid when communicating with our part­ner about what feels good and what doesn’t. The practice of solo sex is helpful for men who have issues with premature ejaculation, as it familiarizes them with the moment of inevitability so that they can better master their sense of control. Masturbation can also be a great balancer for couples with a disparity in their sex drive, and solo orgasm can serve as a stress reliever and sleep aid just as well as partnered plea­sure can.

A 2007 study in Sexual and Relationship Therapy reported that male masturbation might also improve immune system function­ing and the health of the prostate. For women, it builds pelvic floor muscles and sensitivity and has been associated with reduced back pain and cramping around menses, as it increases blood flow and stimulates relaxation of the area after orgasm.

The one caveat is that masturbation, like anything else, serves us well in moderation. Becoming too obsessed with solo sex play, often enhanced by visual or digital aids, has been known to backfire and lead to loss of interest in the complexity and intensity of partner sex. There are also some forms of masturbation that can make partner sex seem less appealing because the form of self-stimulation is so different from what happens in the paired experience. If you are experiencing less desire or ability to respond to your partner, ask yourself what you can do to make your solo experience more compatible with your partner’s ability to stimulate you.

Complete Article HERE!

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