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4 things we really need to stop saying (and believing) about depression and sex

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It’s time to change your mind

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I always say that sex and depression is the intersection of two taboo topics.

It’s especially hard to talk about the two together because, frankly, it can be hard to talk about either topic separately.

Today, we’re going to look at some commonly held (and oft-repeated) beliefs that really need to be retired in the name of destroying the stigma around these important topics.

Also, they are just not true.

Depression is hard enough to cope with on its own. Don’t make it worse by piling on unfair, untrue cliches. Know the truth about sex and depression and help end the stigma.

Depressed people don’t want to have sex anyway

In 2014, I launched a survey on the impact of depression and its treatment on sexual function and relationships.

A total of 1,100 people took that survey.

In 2015, I started interviewing participants and only then did I spot the massive flaw in my survey: it only allowed for people to give responses about decreased libido.

When I conducted a second round of interviews in 2016 I asked, ‘Did depression impact your sex life? If so, how?’ and more than 29% of the respondents reported increased sexual activity during depressive episodes.

Don’t stick it in the crazy

Stop with this. It’s ableist and frankly it’s ridiculous.

Depression is not an STI and we don’t need to quarantine all the people with depression so they don’t sexually infect you.

Certainly you get to choose who you do and do not engage in sexual activity with, but reciting a (not at all clever) catchphrase, that is based in nothing, about dismissing an entire group of people just helps further stigma and makes people feel like they need to hide their own mental illness struggles.

Sex isn’t important enough to worry about when you’re fighting depression

A scenario that came up over and over in my research was patients being dismissed by doctors or the other people in their lives when they objected to sexual side effects because sex isn’t important enough to worry about ‘at a time like this’.

In some cases, the respondents believed it – ‘I didn’t worry about sex because there were more important things to worry about!’

Listen, yes, sometimes depression treatment is a fight to stay alive and we do whatever it takes, other times, it’s about maintenance and we are allowed to want more than just survival.

People with depression are allowed to want to actually live, and for a lot of people that includes sex.

You have to love yourself first before you can love anyone else

A lot of people will never love themselves.

When we tell people they are ineligible for love until they have hit this self-love goal (I know no one who has done this), what we are really doing is telling them that they have to be a better person in order to be loved.

Another variation on this is, ‘you have to get yourself together first’.

These are all nonsense, and the domain of people who want others to believe that relationships shouldn’t involve any baggage.

Everyone’s got baggage. You don’t need to pretend yours isn’t there to be loveable.

Complete Article HERE!

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A Sexless Marriage

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Name: Tammy
Gender: Female
Age: 36
Location: Springfield IL
My parents were Laurel Canyon hippies of the first order, free love, drugs and all that stuff. I used to be disgusted by all the sex my parents were having with other people. I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t just want to be with one another or divorce and remarry someone else. As soon as I could, I left the west coast for the Midwest. Now all these years later my own marriage is in trouble. My husband unilaterally ended our sex life after the birth of our last child three years ago. I haven’t let myself go. I’m still very attractive and have even improved my body after the babies. But nothing I do brings him back to bed. He said that we have children now, and people with children don’t do that sort of thing!

To spite him for shutting me out, I turned to another man for sex. I just wanted to feel desirable again. I fear my affair will be found out and it will destroy my marriage. Funny thing, my parents with all their multiple sex partners remained happily married for 51 years till my father’s death two years ago. They were honest about their lives; I am not! I feel ashamed, but I am also having the best sex of my life and I won’t give it up.

My husband is a decent man and a good father. How can I continue to live this lie? If I come clean it will likely break up my family and I’ll look like a cheating slut. Is there any other option? I wish I could have been more accepting of my parent’s lifestyle; maybe the karma wouldn’t be so rough now.

Ahhh, bad luck doll! That karma thing sure enough can be a bitch.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this same story from a frustrated and desperate man or woman trapped in a sexless marriage, I’d have enough money to lay down my keyboard, give up my status as the most fabulous and revered sexpert in the universe and retire to Maui. Unfortunately, by the time I hear from most of the people they have already suffered through years of abstinence, all the while begging and pleading for the sex they want and need. By the time they write to me it’s often way too late. The die is cast. They’re married with kids and often have a stray affair workin’ on the side. As you suggest, Tammy, it’s a pretty unbearable situation.

My first thoughts are that by the time things get to the point of sheer desperation, a happy ending is virtually impossible. A lot of people are gonna get hurt regardless of how this resolves it self. If that’s a given, maybe you should be asking yourself; what can be salvaged from the impending wreck?

Tammy, you write something very telling in your message when talking about your parents. You say, “They were honest about their lives; I am not!” In the end, if you can reclaim your integrity, regardless if it means the demise of your marriage and family, as you currently know it, you will have regained something of inestimable value.

I also want to address your comment: “If I come clean it will likely break up my family and I’ll look like a cheating slut.” Perhaps, but at least you’ll no longer be a lyin’, cheatin’ slut. Come on, how could what others think of you trump what you already think of yourself. You are down on yourself because you expect sex in your marriage. And when that disappeared, you didn’t shut down as a sexual being. Does that equation make you so bad, a slut even?

I wholeheartedly believe that married people deserve a rich and fulfilling sex life, unless there’s mutual agreement for another arrangement. Unilaterally depriving a spouse of a rich and fulfilling sex life is an act of sexual violence. It’s the kind of sexual violence that will cause frustration, anger and desperation. And inevitably lead to infidelity, which in turn destroys the marriage and traumatizes the kids. So Tammy, if you are a cheating slut, what does that make your husband? Neither you nor your old man is without blame. So time to buck up, darlin’, and do the right thing. Regardless of how the chips fall.

And one more thing, you say you were disgusted by your parent’s hippy, free love lifestyle — at least they were open an up-front with you about who they were. Consider the trauma your kids will experience when they learn dear old mom was bumping someone other than dear old dad. What kind of example are you setting for them? You see where the honesty thing is a good idea right from the get go, huh?

Ok, so I think there’s a consensus that the truth must be told. I suggest that you generously offer your husband the first right of refusal. He may not deserve it, but that’s the way to go nonetheless. Offer to stay with him and raise your kids together, but not in a sexless marriage. If he can’t bring himself to bone you the way you need it, when you need it, with vigor and passion; then he needs to free you up to find that bone in someone else’s drawers. And if he can’t live the cuckold life he ought at least to be man enough to leave the marriage with as little stink as possible.

Good luck

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Why Men Wake up With Erections

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Have you ever wondered why men often wake up with an erection?

The morning penile erection, or as it is medically known, “nocturnal penile tumescence”, is not only an interesting physiological phenomenon, it can also tell us a lot about a patient’s sexual function.

Morning penile erections affect all males, even males in the womb and male children. It also has a female counterpart in the less frequently discussed nocturnal clitoral erection.

What causes erections?

Penile erections occur in response to complex effects of the nervous system and endocrine system (the glands that secrete hormones into our system) on the blood vessels of the penis.

When sexually aroused, a message starts in the brain, sending chemical messages to the nerves that supply the blood vessels of the penis, allowing blood to flow into the penis. The blood is trapped in the muscles of the penis, which makes the penis expand, resulting in an erection.

Several hormones are involved in influencing the brain’s response, such as testosterone (the main male hormone).

This same mechanism can occur without the involvement of the brain, in an uncontrolled reflex action that is in the spinal cord. This explains why people with spinal cord damage can still get erections and why you can get erections when not sexually aroused.

What about erections while we sleep?

Nocturnal penile erections occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep (the phase during which we dream). They occur when certain areas of the brain are activated. This includes areas in the brain responsible for stimulating the parasympathetic nerves (“rest and digest” nerves), suppressing the sympathetic nerves (“flight and fight” nerves) and dampening areas producing serotonin (the mood hormone).

Sleep is made up of several cycles of REM and non-REM (deep) sleep. During REM sleep, there is a shift in the dominant system that’s activated. We move from sympathetic (fight and flight) stimulation to parasympathetic (rest and digest) stimulation. This is not found during other parts of the sleep cycle.

This shift in balance drives the parasympathetic nerve response that results in the erection. This is spontaneous and does not require being awake. Some men may experience nocturnal penile tumescence during non-REM sleep as well, particularly older men. The reason for this is unclear.

The reason men wake up with an erection may be related to the fact we often wake up coming out of REM sleep.

Testosterone, which is at its highest level in the morning, has also been shown to enhance the frequency of nocturnal erections. Interestingly, testosterone has not been found to greatly impact visual erotic stimuli or fantasy-induced erections. These are predominantly driven by the “reward system” of the brain which secretes dopamine.

Men don’t wake up with erections because they’ve been having sexy dreams.

Since there are several sleep cycles per night, men can have as many as five erections per night and these can last up to 20 or 30 minutes. But this is very dependent on sleep quality and so they may not occur daily. The number and quality of erections declines gradually with age but they are often present well beyond “retirement age” – attesting to the sexual well-being of older men.

It’s also important to highlight the counterpart phenomenon in women, which is much less researched. Pulses of blood flow in the vagina during REM sleep. The clitoris engorges and vaginal sensitivity increases along with vaginal fluidity.

What’s its purpose?

It has been suggested “pitching a tent” may be a mechanism for alerting men of their full overnight bladder, as it often disappears after emptying the bladder in the morning.

It’s more likely the reason for the morning erection is that the unconscious sensation of the full bladder stimulates nerves that go to the spine and these respond directly by generating an erection (a spinal reflex). This may explain why the erection goes away after emptying one’s bladder.

Scientific studies are undecided as to whether morning erections contribute to penile health. Increased oxygen in the penis at night may be beneficial for the health of the muscle tissues that make up the penis.

What does it mean if you don’t get one?

Loss of nocturnal erection can be a useful marker of common diseases affecting erectile function. One example is in diabetics where the lack of morning erections may be associated with erectile dysfunction due to poor nerve or blood supply to the penis. In this case, there’s a poor response to the messages sent from the brain during sleep which generate nocturnal erections.

It is thought nocturnal erections can be used as a marker of an anatomical ability to get an erection (a sign that the essential body bits are working), as it was thought to be independent of psychological factors that affect erections while awake. Studies have suggested, however, that mental health disorders such as severe depression can affect nocturnal erections. Thus its absence is not necessarily a marker of disease or low testosterone levels.

The frequency of morning erections and erection quality has also been shown to increase slightly in men taking medications for erectile dysfunction such as Viagra.

So is all this morning action good news?

While some men will put their nocturnal erections to good use, many men are not aroused when they have them and tummy sleepers might find them a nuisance.

Since good heart health is associated with an ability to have erections, the presence of nocturnal erections is generally accepted to be good news. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important in avoiding and even reversing erectile dysfunction, so it’s important to remember to eat healthily, maintain a healthy weight, exercise and avoid smoking and alcohol.

Complete Article HERE!

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Senior citizens are having more sex and enjoying it more than younger people

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Those age 70 and up are having more sex and enjoying it more than younger people. But they don’t kiss and tell.

A study published in March in the Archives of Sexual Behavior noted a decline in sexual frequency among Americans of all ages. The sole exception: people over 70.

By Kevyn Burger

Gray-haired customers sometimes sidle up to Smitten Kitten owner Jennifer Pritchett and say with a smile, “Bet you don’t get someone my age in here often.”

The owner of the south Minneapolis adult store smiles right back. “And then I say, ‘Well, you’re wrong. We see people your age every day,’ ” said Pritchett.

Conventional wisdom holds that couples in their golden years prefer to limit their affection to holding hands, a peck on the cheek, maybe a little nighttime cuddle. But a growing body of research reveals that America’s seniors are plenty active between the sheets.

A study published in March in the Archives of Sexual Behavior noted a decline in sexual frequency among Americans of all ages. The sole exception: people over 70.

In the most recent survey for the study, which has been conducted since 1972, millennials and Gen X’ers showed a drop in the number of times they have sex per year, compared with previous years. But the baby boomers and their parents are having sex more often than their cohorts reported in the past.

The study and others like it seem to indicate that the quality — not just the quantity — of sex improves with age. The National Commission on Aging reported that the majority of the over-70 set find sex to be more emotionally and physically satisfying than when they were middle-aged.

Those conclusions are in line with a 2015 British study that found half of men and almost a third of women above 70 reported having sex at least twice a month. It was the first British study on sexual health to include octogenarians. It documented that a sizable minority of those in their 80s still masturbate and have sex.

Many people are, especially younger people.

“We see a consistent disbelief that older people are sexually active,” said Jim Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging.

But Firman is adamant that those antiquated, ageist attitudes shouldn’t put a damper on the love lives of older Americans.

“We can’t let expectations of younger people control what we do,” he said. “Physical contact is a universal need and should be normalized and encouraged as part of aging. We should break those taboos or exceptions that say otherwise.”

Different, but ‘still hot’

Pritchett is all about breaking taboos.

In addition to its selection of vibrators, lubricants and videos, Smitten Kitten maintains a lending library. The books that fly off the shelves the fastest are about sex in later life.

“That’s kind of telling about how hungry people are for this information,” Pritchett said. “Sex ed in school is based around reproduction. When you’re older, family planning is not part of your sexuality. What’s left is pleasure.”

The most popular of the books on the store’s shelf were written by Joan Price, who bills herself as an “advocate for ageless sexuality.” Her bestsellers include “The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50,” “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex” and “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty.”

“My mission is to help people maintain or regain a satisfying sex life, with or without a partner” said Price, 73, who lives in California and regularly lectures, blogs and offers webinars on topics such as senior-friendly sex toys and satisfying sex without penetration.

Price said she got interested in creating content about sexuality for underserved seniors when, at 57, she met a man and “had the best sex of my life.” The longtime health and fitness writer couldn’t find any resources that reflected her experience, so she tackled the subject herself, becoming an erotic cheerleader for her cohorts.

“Sex has no expiration date, but things change — our bodies, our hormones, our relationships,” she said. “Expectations have to change. Responses are slower, we need more sensation, more stimulation to be aroused. We may have to redefine or reframe sex, but it can still be hot.”

Price, who’ll lead workshops at Smitten Kitten on June 4-5, preaches about the importance of communication between older partners.

Silenced by sex shaming

For Carol Watson, 67, flexibility is the key.

Still bawdy about her body, the Minneapolis woman is semiretired from her work at a nonprofit but retains a full-time interest in intimacy.

Starting when she went to college in 1967, she said, she’s “cut a wide swath.”

“That was the Summer of Love, the year birth control pills became readily available,” said the married mother of two adult children. “There was no AIDS, no Hep-C, nothing that couldn’t be solved with a shot of penicillin. We were the generation that could have sex without consequences — and we did. I’ve had many partners and no regrets.”

When her libido flagged a decade ago, Watson asked her doctor for an estrogen prescription for both a patch and cream.

“I’m happy sex is still part of my life. It keeps me young,” she said. “It’s stress relief, validation. It’s about joy.”

Describing herself as “on the far end of the bell curve,” Watson enjoys sex several times a week, within her marriage and with other partners, and said she has no plans to slow down.

“My mother died at 92 and Dad lived to be 96. I’m going to live to be 120 and I’m not willing to let sex fade into the distance.”

Watson’s frankness makes her a bit of an outlier.

While sex may be more common among older adults than younger ones, talking about senior sex still seems off limits. And that only perpetuates the myth that seniors have little interest in it.

“It’s still a sex-shaming society for older people and they internalize that,” said Pritchett. “It’s too bad because the shame keeps seniors in the dark. Old bodies are just as worthy of pleasure as young ones.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Casual Sex: Everyone Is Doing It

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Part research project, part society devoted to titillation, the Casual Sex Project reminds us that hookups aren’t just for college students.

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Zhana Vrangalova had hit a problem. On a blustery day in early spring, sitting in a small coffee shop near the campus of New York University, where she is an adjunct professor of psychology, she was unable to load onto her laptop the Web site that we had met to discuss. This was not a technical malfunction on her end; rather, the site had been blocked. Vrangalova, who is thirty-four, with a dynamic face framed by thick-rimmed glasses, has spent the past decade researching human sexuality, and, in particular, the kinds of sexual encounters that occur outside the norms of committed relationships. The Web site she started in 2014, casualsexproject.com, began as a small endeavor fuelled by personal referrals, but has since grown to approximately five thousand visitors a day, most of whom arrive at the site through organic Internet searches or referrals through articles and social media. To date, there have been some twenty-two hundred submissions, about evenly split between genders, each detailing the kinds of habits that, when spelled out, can occasionally alert Internet security filters. The Web site was designed to open up the discussion of one-night stands and other less-than-traditional sexual behaviors. What makes us engage in casual sex? Do we enjoy it? Does it benefit us in any way—or, perhaps, might it harm us? And who, exactly, is “us,” anyway?

Up to eighty per cent of college students report engaging in sexual acts outside committed relationships—a figure that is usually cast as the result of increasingly lax social mores, a proliferation of alcohol-fuelled parties, and a potentially violent frat culture. Critics see the high rates of casual sex as an “epidemic” of sorts that is taking over society as a whole. Hookup culture, we hear, is demeaning women and wreaking havoc on our ability to establish stable, fulfilling relationships.

These alarms have sounded before. Writing in 1957, the author Nora Johnson raised an eyebrow at promiscuity on college campuses, noting that “sleeping around is a risky business, emotionally, physically, and morally.” Since then, the critiques of casual sexual behavior have only proliferated, even as society has ostensibly become more socially liberal. Last year, the anthropologist Peter Wood went so far as to call the rise of casual sex “an assault on human nature,” arguing in an article in the conservative Weekly Standard that even the most meaningless-seeming sex comes with a problematic power imbalance.

Others have embraced the commonness of casual sex as a sign of social progress. In a widely read Atlantic article from 2012, “Boys on the Side,” Hanna Rosin urged women to avoid serious suitors so that they could focus on their own needs and careers. And yet, despite her apparent belief in the value of casual sex as a tool of exploration and feminist thinking, Rosin, too, seemed to conclude that casual sex cannot be a meaningful end goal. “Ultimately, the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women,” she wrote.

The Casual Sex Project was born of Vrangalova’s frustration with this and other prevalent narratives about casual sex. “One thing that was bothering me is the lack of diversity in discussions of casual sex,” Vrangalova told me in the café. “It’s always portrayed as something college students do. And it’s almost always seen in a negative light, as something that harms women.”

It was not the first time Vrangalova had wanted to broaden a limited conversation. As an undergraduate, in Macedonia, where she studied the psychology of sexuality, she was drawn to challenge cultural taboos, writing a senior thesis on the development of lesbian and gay sexual attitudes. In the late aughts, Vrangalova started her research on casual sex in Cornell’s developmental-psychology program. One study followed a group of six hundred and sixty-six freshmen over the course of a year, to see how engaging in various casual sexual activities affected markers of mental health: namely, depression, anxiety, life satisfaction, and self-esteem. Another looked at more than eight hundred undergraduates to see whether individuals who engaged in casual sex felt more victimized by others, or were more socially isolated. (The results: yes to the first, no to the second.) The studies were intriguing enough that Vrangalova was offered an appointment at N.Y.U., where she remains, to further explore some of the issues surrounding the effects of nontraditional sexual behaviors on the individuals who engage in them.

Over time, Vrangalova came to realize that there was a gap in her knowledge, and, indeed, in the field as a whole. Casual sex has been much explored in psychological literature, but most of the data captured by her research team—and most of the other experimental research she had encountered—had been taken from college students. (This is a common problem in psychological research: students are a convenient population for researchers.) There has been the occasional nationally representative survey, but rigorous data on other subsets of the population is sparse. Even the largest national study of sexual attitudes in the United States, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of close to six thousand men and women between the ages of fourteen and ninety-four, neglected to ask respondents how many of the encounters they engaged in could be deemed “casual.”

From its beginnings, sex research has been limited by a social stigma. The field’s pioneer, Alfred Kinsey, spent decades interviewing people about their sexual behaviors. His books sold, but he was widely criticized for not having an objective perspective: like Freud before him, he believed that repressed sexuality was at the root of much of social behavior, and he often came to judgments that supported that view—even when his conclusions were based on less-than-representative surveys. He, too, used convenient sample groups, such as prisoners, as well as volunteers, who were necessarily comfortable talking about their sexual practices.

In the fifties, William Masters and Virginia Johnson went further, inquiring openly into sexual habits and even observing people in the midst of sexual acts. Their data, too, was questioned: Could the sort of person who volunteers to have sex in a lab tell us anything about the average American? More troubling still, Masters and Johnson sought to “cure” homosexuality, revealing a bias that could easily have colored their findings.

Indeed, one of the things you quickly notice when looking for data on casual sex is that, for numbers on anyone who is not a college student, you must, for the most part, look at studies conducted outside academia. When OkCupid surveyed its user base, it found that between 10.3 and 15.5 per cent of users were looking for casual sex rather than a committed relationship. In the 2014 British Sex Survey, conducted by the Guardian, approximately half of all respondents reported that they had engaged in a one-night stand (fifty-five per cent of men, and forty-three per cent of women), with homosexuals (sixty-six per cent) more likely to do so than heterosexuals (forty-eight per cent). A fifth of people said they’d slept with someone whose name they didn’t know.

With the Casual Sex Project, Vrangalova is trying to build a user base of stories that she hopes will, one day, provide the raw data for academic study. For now, she is listening: letting people come to the site, answer questions, leave replies. Ritch Savin-Williams, who taught Vrangalova at Cornell, told me that he was especially impressed by Vrangalova’s willingness “to challenge traditional concepts and research designs with objective approaches that allow individuals to give honest, thoughtful responses.”

The result is what is perhaps the largest-ever repository of information about casual-sex habits in the world—not that it has many competitors. The people who share stories range from teens to retirees (Vrangalova’s oldest participants are in their seventies), and include city dwellers and suburbanites, graduate-level-educated professionals (about a quarter of the sample) and people who never finished high school (another quarter). The majority of participants aren’t particularly religious, although a little under a third do identify as at least “somewhat” religious. Most are white, though there are also blacks, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic groups. Initially, contributions were about sixty-per-cent female, but now they’re seventy-per-cent male. (This is in line with norms; men are “supposed” to brag more about sexual exploits than women.) Anyone can submit a story, along with personal details that reflect his or her demographics, emotions, personality traits, social attitudes, and behavioral patterns, such as alcohol intake. The setup for data collection is standardized, with drop-down menus and rating scales.

Still, the site is far from clinical. The home page is a colorful mosaic of squares, color-coded according to the category of sexual experience (blue: “one-night stand”; purple: “group sex”; gray: the mysterious-sounding “first of many”; and so on). Pull quotes are highlighted for each category (“Ladies if you haven’t had a hot, young Latino stud you should go get one!”). Many responses seem to boast, provoke, or exaggerate for rhetorical purposes. Reading it, I felt less a part of a research project than a member of a society devoted to titillation.

Vrangalova is the first to admit that the Casual Sex Project is not what you would call an objective, scientific approach to data collection. There is no random assignment, no controls, no experimental conditions; the data is not representative of the general population. The participants are self-selecting, which inevitably colors the results: if you’re taking the time to write, you are more likely to write about positive experiences. You are also more likely to have the sort of personality that comes with wanting to share details of your flings with the public. There is another problem with the Casual Sex Project that is endemic in much social-science research: absent external behavioral validation, how do we know that respondents are reporting the truth, rather than what they want us to hear or think we want them to say?

And yet, for all these flaws, the Casual Sex Project provides a fascinating window into the sexual habits of a particular swath of the population. It may not be enough to draw new conclusions, but it can lend nuance to assumptions, expanding, for instance, ideas about who engages in casual sex or how it makes them feel. As I browsed through the entries after my meeting with Vrangalova, I came upon the words of a man who learned something new about his own sexuality during a casual encounter in his seventies: “before this I always said no one can get me of on a bj alone, I was taught better,” he writes. As a reflection of the age and demographic groups represented, the Casual Sex Project undermines the popular narrative that casual sex is the product of changing mores among the young alone. If that were the case, we would expect there to be a reluctance to engage in casual sex among the older generations, which grew up in the pre-“hookup culture” era. Such reluctance is not evident.

The reminder that people of all ages engage in casual sex might lead us to imagine three possible narratives. First, that perhaps what we see as the rise of a culture of hooking up isn’t actually new. When norms related to dating and free love shifted, in the sixties, they never fully shifted back. Seventy-year-olds are engaging in casual encounters because that attitude is part of their culture, too.

There’s another, nearly opposite explanation: casual sex isn’t the norm now, and wasn’t before. There are simply always individuals, in any generation, who seek sexual satisfaction in nontraditional confines.

And then there’s the third option, the one that is most consistent with the narrative that our culture of casual sex begins with college hookups: that people are casually hooking up for different reasons. Some young people have casual sex because they feel they can’t afford not to, or because they are surrounded by a culture that says they should want to. (Vrangalova’s preliminary analysis of the data on her site suggests that alcohol is much more likely to be involved in the casual-sex experiences of the young than the old.)  And the old—well, the old no longer care what society thinks. For some, this sense of ease might come in their thirties; for others, their forties or fifties; for others, never, or not entirely.

This last theory relates to another of Vrangalova’s findings—one that, she confesses, came as a surprise when she first encountered it. Not all of the casual-sex experiences recorded on the site were positive, even among what is surely a heavily biased sample. Women and younger participants are especially likely to report feelings of shame. (“I was on top of him at one point and he can’t have forced me to so I must have consented . . . I’m not sure,” an eighteen-year-old writes, reporting that the hookup was unsatisfying, and describing feeling “stressed, anxious, guilt and disgust” the day after.) There is an entire thread tagged “no orgasm,” which includes other occasionally disturbing and emotional tales. “My view has gotten a lot more balanced over time,” Vrangalova said. “I come from a very sex-positive perspective, surrounded by people who really benefitted from sexual exploration and experiences, for the most part. By studying it, I’ve learned to see both sides of the coin.

Part of the negativity, to be sure, does originate in legitimate causes: casual sex increases the risk of pregnancy, disease, and, more often than in a committed relationship, physical coercion. But many negative casual-sex experiences come instead from a sense of social convention. “We’ve seen that both genders felt they were discriminated against because of sex,” Vrangalova told me. Men often feel judged by other men if they don’t have casual sex, and social expectations can detract from the experiences they do have, while women feel judged for engaging in casual experiences, rendering those they pursue less pleasurable.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise: the very fact that Vrangalova and others are seeking explanations for casual-sex behaviors suggests that our society views it as worthy of note—something aberrant, rather than ordinary. No one writes about why people feel the need to drink water or go to the bathroom, why eating dinner with friends is “a thing” or study groups are “on the rise.”

It is that sense of shame, ultimately, that Vrangalova hopes her project may help to address. As one respondent to a survey Vrangalova sent to users put it, “This has helped me feel okay about myself for wanting casual sex, and not feel ashamed or that what I do is wrong.” The psychologist James Pennebaker has found over several decades of work that writing about emotional experiences can act as an effective form of therapy, in a way that talking about those experiences may not. (I’m less convinced that there are benefits for those who use the site as a way to boast about their own experiences.) “Often there’s no outlet for that unless you’re starting your own blog,” Vrangalova points out. “I wanted to offer a space for people to share.”

That may well end up the Casual Sex Project’s real contribution: not to tell us something we didn’t already know, or at least suspect, but to make such nonjudgmental, intimate conversations possible. The dirty little secret of casual sex today is not that we’re having it but that we’re not sharing our experiences of it in the best way.

Complete Article HERE!

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