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There Really Isn’t Any Bad News for People Who Like to Masturbate

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by Martha Kempner

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Masturbation is such an under-appreciated form of sexual activity. It has been blamed in urban legends for everything from hairy palms to lack of productivity, and has a reputation of being reserved for those who can’t find anyone else to have sex with them. But that’s just not true. Most people masturbate. It feels good. It carries no risk of pregnancy or disease. It can take as much or as little time as you have. And it’s relaxing. So why have media outlets warned readers that they might be doing it too much or the wrong way?

Recently, in a December 15 article titled “We’ve Got Bad News for People Who Love Masturbating,” Maxim’s Ali Drucker tells readers: “If you or someone you love frequently enjoys doing the five-finger shuffle, there’s a study that suggests they might face negative effects over time.” The article actually points to three pieces of “research” that seem to suggest masturbation isn’t as good as other forms of sexual behavior, that one can become addicted to it, and that the “grip of death” can make men incapable of experiencing pleasure any other way.

Well, RH Reality Check has good news—these conclusions are largely based on junk science and misunderstandings.

masturbationThe first study Drucker cites, originally published in Biological Psychology, is called, “The post-orgasmic prolactin increase following intercourse is greater than following masturbation and suggests greater satiety.” Prolactin is a hormone that is released by the pituitary gland. Its main function is to stimulate milk production when a woman is lactating, but it also plays a role in the sexual response cycle. According to the study, which was first published about ten years ago, prolactin is released after orgasm as a way to counteract the dopamine released during arousal. Some scientists believe that the more satisfying the experience is, the more prolactin levels will go up afterward.

For this study, Stuart Brody and his colleagues compared data showing prolactin levels after penile-vaginal sex to those after masturbation and found that levels after intercourse were 400 percent higher than after masturbation. They interpreted this to mean that intercourse is more physiologically satisfying than masturbation.

On the surface, this conclusion isn’t surprising. Many people don’t view masturbation as the same as a shared experience with a partner. It doesn’t tend to produce the same physical or psychological feelings. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun and satisfying way to spend a few minutes (or hours, if you’re ambitious or bored).Masturbate-a-Thon_Logo

When I read the study, I did not interpret it to say that intercourse was better than masturbation, just that our biological reactions to different sexual behaviors were different. I had never read anything by Professor Brody before and reached out to him, assuming that people were overstating his results and that he did not mean to discourage masturbation. I thought, what sex researcher would ever want to discourage masturbation?

However, he replied, “Instead of any fresh quotes, I attach my review paper on the evidence regarding health differences between different sexual behaviors.” He sent me a different article, a literature review in which he says in no uncertain terms that penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) is the best kind of sex and that “sexual medicine, sex education, sex therapy, and sex research should disseminate details of the health benefits of specifically PVI.”

masturbating womanAs a sex educator, I can’t imagine telling anyone that penile-vaginal sex is inherently better. For one thing, not everyone is in a couple, and not all couples have a penis and a vagina between them. And even for cisgender heterosexual couples, PVI is only one of countless potentially pleasurable behaviors. Moreover, many women find it less satisfying and less likely to end in orgasm than behaviors that incorporate clitoral stimulation.

But Brody not only thinks it’s the best form of sex—he thinks we sometimes do it wrong. He writes that “PVI might have been modified from its pure form, such as condom use or clitoral masturbation during PVI.” He also explains that Czech women who were vaginally orgasmic were more likely than their peers who didn’t have orgasms through PVI to have been taught during childhood that the vagina is “an important zone for inducing female orgasm,” concluding that “sex education should begin to be honest” about sexual behaviors.

I thought we’d moved on from the idea that we should all be having heterosexual, penile-vaginal sex in its “pure form” (missionary position?) and that women who couldn’t orgasm this way were both bad at sex and shit out of luck.

Colleagues in the field told me that many of them ignore Brody’s studies because he makes wild inferences based on soft science and, as implied by his research, is wedded to the idea that for sex to have the most benefits it needs to include PVI.

Nicole Prause, a researcher who has written critiques of Brody’s work, told me via email that, “His work almost exclusively uses data from other researchers, not his own, meaning the design is never really appropriate for the claim he is actually trying to make.” She went on to say that Brody’s studies on orgasm are often based on self-report, which is notoriously unreliable. Although the study Maxim cites was based on blood tests, “He has never once verified the presence of orgasm using a simple physiological measure designed for that purpose: anal EMG. Many women are thought not to be able to reliably distinguish their orgasm, so his purely self-report research is strongly suspect. If this is his area of focus, he should be studying it better than everyone else,” she concluded.female_masturbate.jpg

But Brody’s research on prolactin isn’t the only questionable science that Maxim relies on for its cautionary tale on masturbation. The article goes on to discuss the role of oxytocin and dopamine and points out that there’s less oxytocin released during masturbation. This is probably true—oxytocin is known as a bonding hormone and is triggered by contact with other people, so it’s not surprising that it’s not released when you’re orgasming alone. The Maxim article, however, argues that if the brain is flooded with dopamine (a neurochemical) during masturbation without the “warm, complacent, satisfied feeling from oxytocin,” you can build up a dopamine tolerance, or even an addiction, and get into “a vicious cycle of more masturbation.”

David Ley, PhD, a clinical psychologist and sexuality expert, explained in an email that many people describe dopamine as the “brain’s cocaine,” but this is an overly simplistic way of looking at it. It doesn’t mean we’re at risk of desensitizing our brain or getting addicted to jerking off. Ley wrote:

It appears that there are many people whose brains demonstrate lower sensitivity to dopamine and other such neurochemicals. These people tend to be “high sensation-seekers” who are jumping out of airplanes, doing extreme sports, or even engaging in lots of sex or lots of kinky sex. These behaviors aren’t caused by a development of tolerance or desensitizing, but in fact, the other way around—these behavior patterns are a symptom of the way these peoples’ brains work, and were made.

OK, dopamine isn’t cocaine and neither is masturbation: We’re not going to get addicted if we do it “too” much.

But, wait, Maxim throws one more warning at us—beware the “death grip.”

Though the article describes this as “the idea that whacking off too much will damage your dick,” the term, which was coined by sex advice columnist Dan Savage, is more about getting too accustomed to one kind of stimulation and being unable to reach orgasm without it. There is some truth to this—if you always get off using the same method, you can train your body to react to that kind of stimulation and it can be harder (though rarely impossible) to react to others. There are two solutions, neither of which involve giving up on masturbation: Retrain your body by taking some time off from that one behavior and trying some others, either by yourself or with a partner, or incorporate that behavior into whatever else you’re doing to orgasm (like clitoral masturbation during intercourse).

male_masturbationIn fairness, the Maxim article ends by acknowledging that masturbation can have benefits, but I still think it did its readers a disservice by reviewing any of this pseudoscience in the first place. As Ley said in his email, “This article, targeted towards men (because we masturbate more), is still clearly pushing an assumption that there is a ‘right kind of sex/orgasm’ and that masturbation is just a cheap (and potentially dangerous) substitute … That’s a very sexist, heteronormative, and outdated belief based on a view of sex as procreative only.”

So for a different take on it all: Sure, there might be more prolactin and oxytocin produced during intercourse than masturbation, but that does not mean that masturbation isn’t enjoyable or worthwhile. You won’t become addicted to it, but you might want to mix up how you get to orgasm or just incorporate your preferred stroke into all other sexual activity.

What you shouldn’t do is view the Maxim article—or any of the research it cites—as reasons not to stick your hands down your own pants.

Complete Article HERE!

7 Tips For Better Sex

By Chloe Kraven

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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!

Scar Tissue

First Name: Luke
Age: 38
Gender: male
Location: Australia
Hi I was born with hypospadias and had 3 operations when I was young. I have bad scarring from the operations. My question is can I get plastic surgery to get rid of scarring and to get my penis head sculptured to look more normal?

First, a quick review of what hypospadias is for those unfamiliar with the term. It’s an abnormality of the urethra in some men. It involves an unusual placed urinary meatus (piss slit). Instead of opening being at the tip of the glans (or dickhead), a hypospadic urethra opens anywhere on a (raphe) line running from the tip of the dude’s cock along the underside of the shaft to where the base.

hypospadic 2This happens when a guy’s dick does not fully develop in the womb.

This condition has levels of severity, from the hardly noticeable to very obvious. Some children are born intersexed, and have ambiguous genitalia, which requires sexual reassignment surgery. But I’ll save that discussion for another time.

Some guys, particularly those with conspicuous hypospadias can develop a complex about their appearance. This in turn, impacts on their self-image and complicates their ability to form lasting sexual/partner/marriage relationships. Severe hypospadias can also interfere with procreation. Other men, perhaps those with less conspicuous or severe hypospadias show little to no concern for the appearance of their dick and live completely normal lives. Hell, I even know a few porn stars with hypospadias.

Some parents of children with mild hypospadias seek a surgical correction to the problem. I view hypospadias.jpgthis as a highly risky means to solve a less relatively innocuous cosmetic problem. There are men who were operated on as a child who now, as adults, resent the interference. Are you one such man, Manson? You say you’ve had three surgeries. As you may know, matters are often made worse rather than better through surgery. And of course, there’s always the risk of complications, infections and the like. There are, however, more serious cases of hypospadias that demand reconstruction. If your dick issue is causing you anxiety or low self-esteem, help is available. Check out: The Hypospadias and Epispadias Association.

Back to your presenting question, Luke. Like I suggest above, just about every effort I’ve seen to surgically improve hypospadias or correct the after effects of those “improvements” have only made matters worse. That being said, my information is based in the past. Has the art of plastic surgery improved with time? Probably. But has it improved so much that it can erase the scar tissue on your cock? I simply don’t know. I suppose everything depends on the amount of scaring you have and the skill of the surgeon.

Have you consulted a plastic surgeon? That’s where I’d begin. You’ll want to be honest with them about your expectations and expect honesty from them about the likely outcome.

In the end, Luke, you may simply wish to leave well enough alone.

Good luck

Getting Behind America’s Anal Sex Fetish

By Mark Hay

Anal sex

On 18 May 2011 , the prolific dominatrix-turned-pornstar Asa Akira sent her Twitter followers one brief, but provocative message: “Ass is the new pussy.”

Although Akira was not the first to utter this smutty axiom, the tagline has been pegged to her name. That may have made it easy for many to dismiss the concept as nothing more than a shocking, perhaps self-promotional assertion by a savvy performer sometimes known as porn’s ” Ass Queen .” But the starlet wasn’t just blowing smoke out of her buttocks. She was channeling a growing and convincing body of data on the inexorable rise of heterosexual anal play in America.

We can actually track the rise of heterosexual anal sex over the past quarter century thanks to your tax dollars. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a series of studies in which they asked huge groups of people the same nosey questions about their sex lives— including whether men had ever put their penises “in a female’s rectum or butt” and if women had experienced a man putting his penis in their rectums (or butts) . In 1992, 20 percent of women and 26 percent of men aged 18 to 59 had reached fifth base with an opposite sex partner at least once. In 2005, the figure was 35 percent of women and 40 percent of men aged 25 to 44. In 2011, it was 39 percent of women and 44 percent of men aged 15 to 44. In some smaller age subgroups, the prevalence of anal experimentation was even more common.

The CDC didn’t ask whether people had heterosexual anal sex on the reg (probably because it’s hard to measure what “the reg” means), experimented with other forms of anal play, or tried male-recipient butt stuff. The best numbers we get regarding frequency are studies that look at what proportion of people had heterosexual anal sex in the last year, or the last time they had sex, which is a weak proxy at best. But it give us a sense that recurrent hetero butt sex is on the rise as well as one-off experiments.

A 2010 study also suggests that experimentation with wider forms of anal play may be even more common than experimentation with anal sex amongst heterosexual couplings. Among its subjects, 43 percent of women and 51 percent of men surveyed in heterosexual couples copped to testing out anilingus, anal fingering, or anal toy play at least once. A 2008 study suggests that at least some self-identified heterosexual men are receiving anal pleasure as well (mostly fingering, some anilingus). We have no good data to compare that to in terms of trends. But given the taboos against men receiving anal play, any male-receiver experimentation seems, anecdotally at least, like a pretty big sign of the times.

Pop culture’s gotten wise to this trend over the past few years, showcasing anal play in mainstream shows like Broad City , Girls, and How to Get Away with Murder and how-to guides in mainstream publications like Cosmo, Ebony , and GQ. An inevitable deluge of think pieces have followed, pinning this sexual trend on everything from anal sex’s overrepresentation in porn to widespread social liberalization . Some spill cartridges of ink, decrying heterosexual anal sex as a painful fetish foist upon women (especially those looking to keep their vaginal virginity intact, but still eager to be sexual or please a man), while others write tomes on how to have good heterosexual anal sex and play.

Yet for all that we’ve collectively bickered, raved, and railed about this widely acknowledged trend, almost no one’s investigated what America’s changing anal inclinations have meant for the sex market— namely brothel owners, pornographers, and toy manufacturers . To find out, I reached out to a few makers and shakers in the sex industry to get a quick look at how America’s smut mongers have responded to the rise of hetero anal sex.

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Art by Peter Johann Nepomuk Geiger

PORN IN THE HETERO ANAL-ERA

According to Pornhub, the king of dirty search data, the heterosexual anal revolution correlates with exactly the trends you’d imagine. Anal-related porn searches still represent less than 10 percent of all queries on their site. However, anal is a more common term among straight content searches than gay ones and its pervasiveness in hetero searches is rising rapidly. Pornhub crunched the numbers for VICE and found that between 2009 and 2015 , anal-related searches increased by 120 percent in America. That’s significantly higher than the 78 percent increase in anal-related searches globally. The increase was steeper among male than female users, but anal-related tags were still the 18th most searched most searched terms among the site’s female clientele.

(As a side note, Pornhub’s investigation found that users aged 18 to 24 are actually 33 percent less likely to look for anal content than users aged 35 to 44, which is unexpected given how often we talk about hetero-anal as a young person’s game. But that 18 to 24-year-old demographic is 290 percent more likely to search for My Little Pony porn than any other age bracket, which is certainly its own can of worms.)

mage by Paul Avril

Image by Paul Avril

Yet, despite this clear demand spike, and the excitement a first-time anal scene can generate for a female performer, anal-focused heterosexual videos make up a small portion of the market. A Pornhub investigation last year revealed that just 7 percent of their straight content has an “anal” tag on it. And it doesn’t seem like porn studios are making any notable move to increase the volume of anal-focused content they create.

“I don’t think the overall production has gone up,” says Holly Kingstown, the editor of Fleshbot and a fixture of the adult industry since 1999 who’s held every job possible save actress. “In your talent pool, there are still [only] a certain number of girls who will do [anal]. And how many of that scene can you do with that girl?”

“There are performers who are willing to do it,” possibly due to industry pressures and consumer demand. “But in terms of the quality, when you’re talking about DVD sales…” she adds, before pausing briefly. “You can get a crappy internet scene or two out of a girl, but if she’s not really good at it, you’re not going to get that too many times. And when you’re talking about a girl who does it just to get a scene, it’s usually not going to be a girl who loves it or does it very well. So she’s not going to get that much work.”

Kingstown does believe that there’s more consumption of the anal-focused content that already exists. But the absolute number of anal-focused titles available for consumers is fairly static.

What has changed, says Kingstown, is the tone and packaging of the anal porn that gets made. Towards the early 2000s, when Kingstown was still working at Buttman Magazine, she and a her colleagues realized that more couples, versus angry men looking for painal (grimacing girls , visibly suffering and un-lubed ass-ramming), were exploring their content. Adjusting to this mass market, pornographers shifted to portraying anal as pleasurable and normal versus painful and sick, which had apparently been the norm for the bulk of anal porn content up to that point.

“You still see the stuff where you’ll see a woman called an ‘anal whore.’ But you also see the tone overall to be a bit more… I want to say woman-positive,” says Kingstown. “For example, I’m looking at my desk and I’ve got James Deen Loves Butt here. This isn’t James Deen Loves Sodomizing Little Girls and Making Them Cry . That title would sell too, but to a whole different audience. There’s Anal Warriors, where women are shown as strong and powerful and in control of the sex that they’re having. There’s a whole ton of these kinds of movies where the women who enjoy anal are shown as strong and powerful.”

But even if movies today portray anal sex as pleasurable, they still don’t paint it realistically. They don’t focus on the time and preparation most (s)experts agree good anal requires . They often show a ramrod, angled experience that wouldn’t be pleasant for more than a few women in the world. Of course, a lack of realistic sexuality is a chronic problem in all niches of fantasy-driven porn.

We’re seeing a lot more prolapses. We’re seeing double anal. It used to be five anal scenes, done, not four anal scenes and a double penetration. They can go further, so they do. –Holly Kingstown

This pleasurable-looking anal, says Kingston, is now treated like a run-of-the-mill aspect of porn rather than a specialty act. Whereas in the past, you might stuff all your anal content into one niche film, nowadays directors think nothing of nonchalantly inserting an anal scene into a larger project. The overall amount of anal content remains the same—it’s just not as clustered into niche markets and individual movies. Yet, as anal becomes a normal part of heterosexual porn for a wider audience, a small audience craving painful or extreme porn, for whom anal is now too passé and mainstream, has started demanding more physically taxing and (Kingston believes) potentially dangerous ass play acrobatics from the limited actress pool.

“You see a lot more circus stuff than you used to,” says Kingstown. “We’re seeing a lot more prolapses. We’re seeing double anal. It used to be five anal scenes, done, not four anal scenes and a double penetration. They can go further, so they do. And physically, there’s only so far that you can go with your body [as a performer].”

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SEX TOYS IN THE HETERO-ANAL ERA

“Anal sex has always been a frequent topic of conversation with our [mostly heterosexual] customers,” Claire Cavanah, co-founder of Babeland, told VICE when we asked for data on anal-related sex toy sales. The Seattle-based outfit with three outlets in New York is often hailed as one of the most accessible and acclaimed sex toy shops in America—a profile that lends it a large consumer base. “The ‘How to Have Butt Sex’ content on Babeland.com is the number one viewed piece of our [editorial] content. It has almost double the number of eyes on it as the ‘How to Give a Blow Job’ article, which is the second most viewed [item]. We don’t have data before 2009, but it’s always been number one.”

A Babeland survey of 18,412 customer respondents in 2009 (not a reliable sample, due to self-reporting issues, but still one of the better pieces of data you can find on this subject matter) also found that, 60.5 percent of men and 40.1 percent of women had tried using a butt plug, 56.8 percent of men and 31.7 percent of women had tried using an anal dildo, 51.8 percent of men and 29.2 percent of women had tried using an anal vibrator, and 37.4 percent of men and 27.8 percent of women had tried using anal beads.

Yet even with a high baseline of anal interest, Babeland has seen an increase in anal-related sales. Between 2012 and 2015, the genre averaged about 5 percent growth per year. As of 2015, Cavenah estimates that such toys, specifically made with anal in mind, make up about 16 percent of Babeland’s sales.

hug in the butt

What’s more significant to Cavenah and company, they say, is how they’ve witnessed the tone and level of openness their customers use when talking to them about purchases and proclivities evolve. The hushed voices and seedy aura customers once took into transactions has faded away. And as people get more open, comfortable, and explicit with their anal sex toy needs, toy makers have responded to their feedback with a deluge of new, specifically anal-targeted sex toys , including smaller models marketed towards anal beginners. Babeland’s also noticed more luxury anal sex toys coming onto the market—products made of metal or glass, substances with higher price points—which suggests the emergence of a fair number of swankier, less bashful customers.

“We’ve definitely seen a shift in more interesting, innovative, and high-quality butt toys from some of the leading sex toy companies,” says Cavenah. “Je Joue debuted a remote-controlled vibrating prostate stimulator this spring. Anal toys come with vibrators, apps, and magnetic resistance that creates a pulsating sensation. There are also lubricants, such as Sliquid [Naturals] Sassy , that are marketed specifically for anal use.”

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