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The Effects of Rape & Sexual Abuse on the Male

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By Male Survivors Trust

Slowly but surely, the common myth held that sexual abuse/rape happens to women only is fading, but when a man is sexually assaulted or raped, and grows up believing that myth, he feels even more isolated and alone. This page tackles some of the issues that are rarely talked about, yet have a huge impact on almost all male survivors, and if left unsaid and sorted out, can stop them from recovering fully, leaving a residue of bad feelings and fears behind. Some of the things that can trigger you off and leave you feeling as if you’re back at the point of being abused are as follows.

bryan_tony_boxThe smell of others, especially aftershave or other body smells, can cause you to flashback and trigger bad memories Many male survivors state that when having sex with a partner, that they feel dirty, and unclean once they have reached ejaculation, and this is connected to the sight, feel and sensation of seeing their semen, which reminds them of being abused, and that alone can ruin any sexual relationships they may have.

You may also feel wrong, bad and dirty, so will need to bathe often, usually after having sex with partners, and if masturbating, will only do so as a function, not for pleasure, because the sensation and good feelings have been taken away and you’re left feeling dirty and ‘wrong’ again. There’s also the fact that you can get obsessed with masturbation , not just once a day, but several times a day, which can increase when you feel stressed, lonely, screwed up, etc.

Many male survivors hide behind the fact that they remain non sexual, and in doing so, are not seen as being sexual beings, Others eat, drink, misuse drugs to stop people getting too close to them. By taking on the work that’s needed, you can remove the ghosts of the past and can regain control of your life

Male Survivors share many of the same feelings of female sexual assault survivors. Common feelings such as;

BODY IMAGE* Do you feel at home in your body?* Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself sexually with another?* Do you feel that you are a part of your body or does your body feel like a separate entity?* Have you ever intentionally and physically hurt yourself?* Do you find it difficult to listen to your body?

EMOTIONS * Do you feel out of control of your feelings?* Do you feel you sometimes don’t understand all the feelings you are experiencing?* Are you overwhelmed by the wide range of feelings you have?

RELATIONSHIPS * What’s your expectations of your partner in a relationship?* Find it too easy to trust others?* Find it too hard to trust anyone?* Find it difficult in making commitments?* Still feel alone, even though in a relationship?* Is it hard for you to allow others to get close to you?* Are you in a relationship with some-one who reminds you of the abuse, or who is no good for you?

SELF-CONFIDENCE * Do you find it difficult to love yourself?* Do you have a hard time accepting yourself?* Are you ashamed of yourself?* Do you have expectations of yourself that aren’t realistic?

SEXUALITY * Do you enjoy sex, really enjoy it?* Do you find it difficult to express yourself sexually?* Do you find yourself using sex to get close to someone?* End up having sex because it’s expected of you?* Does sex make you feel dirty?* Are you “present” during sex?

MAJOR SEXUAL SYMPTOMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE

  1. Difficulties in becoming aroused and feeling sensations
  2. Sex feels like an obligation
  3. Sexual thoughts and images that are disturbing
  4. Inappropriate sexual behaviors or sexual compulsivity
  5. Inability to achieve orgasm or other orgasmic difficulties
  6. Erection problems or ejaculatory difficulty
  7. Feeling dissociated while having sex
  8. Detachment or emotional distance while having sex
  9. Being afraid of sex or avoiding sex
  10. Guilt, fear, anger, disgust or other negative feelings when being touched

EXISTING EFFECTS ON MALE SURVIVORS.

Listed below are some of the current effects that sexual abuse, and after-effects it has upon a male Survivor.

Nightmares, (Intense, violent, sexual) – A real fear that everyone is a potential attacker. Intense shame. – Intense anger. – Intense guilt. – Fear in expressing anger/difficulties in being angry. A need to be in control. – A need to pretend they are not in control. A fear of being seen/fear of exposure.- Running away from people/situations. A fear of intimacy. – “Avoidism”. – Memories of physical pain. – Intense sexual flashbacks. Intruding thoughts. – Sexual dysfunction. – Asexual feelings. – Feeling unreal. – Self doubt. – Jealousy. – Envy. Sexual acting out. – Fear of men. – Fear of women. – Fear of speaking out. – Inability to relax. Disconnection with feelings. – Feeling alone. – Poor choice of partners. – “Out of body” experiences. Linking abuse to love. – Keeping secrets. – Forgetting childhood experiences. – Detached from reality. Inability to comfort their children. – Feeling inadequate. – Unable to accept compliments. – Low self esteem. Isolation. – Addictions/crime. – No emotions. – Fear of others motives. – Inability to say no. – Fear of rules.

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COMMON REACTIONS TO SEXUAL ABUSE/RAPE

Emotional Shock: Feeling numb. Being able to stay so calm? Unable to cry.

Disbelief and/or Denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just imagined it. It wasn’t really abusive.

Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.

Shame or Guilt: Feeling as if it’s your fault, or you should’ve been able to stop it. If only you had…

Depression: How are you going to get through the day. Feeling so tired! It feels so hopeless.

Powerlessness: Will you ever feel in control again?

Disorientation: You don’t even know what day it is. You keep forgetting things.

Flashbacks: Re-living the assault! Keep seeing and feeling like it’s happening again.

Fear: Scared of everything. Can’t sleep, Having nightmares. Afraid to go out. Afraid to be alone.

Anxiety: Panic attacks. Can’t breathe! Can’t stop shaking. Feeling overwhelmed.

Anger: Feel like hurting the person who attacked you!

Physical Stress: Stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. Feeling jittery and don’t feel like eating.

UNIQUE ISSUES FACED BY MALE SURVIVORS
There is great denial of the fact that men are sexually abused. Other than in prisons, most of us don’t ever hear about the topic of male sexual abuse. The need to deny is often deeply rooted in the mistaken belief that men are immune to being victimized, that they should be able to fight off any attacker if they are truly a “real man.” Another related ‘belief’ is that men can’t be forced into sex. These mistaken beliefs allow many men to feel safe and invulnerable, and to think of sexual abuse as something that only happens to women. Unfortunately, these beliefs also increase the pain that is felt by a male survivor of sexual abuse. These ‘beliefs’ leave the male survivor feeling isolated and ashamed. Below are some of the unique problems and concerns that male survivors do experience: For most men the idea of being a victim is extremely hard to handle. Boys are raised to believe that they should be able to defend themselves against all odds, or that he should be willing to risk his life or severe injury to protect his pride and self-respect. How many movies or TV shows depict the hero prepared to fight a group of huge guys over an insult or name-calling? Surely then, men are supposed to fight to the death over something like unwanted sexual advances…right?

These beliefs about “manliness” and “masculinity” are deeply ingrained in many men and lead to intense feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy for the male survivor of sexual abuse. Some male survivors even question whether they deserved to be sexually abused because, as they think that they failed to defend themselves. Male survivors see their assault as a loss of manhood and feel disgusted with themselves for not “fighting back.” These feelings are normal but the thoughts attached to them are not true. Remind yourself that you did what seemed best at the time to survive–there’s nothing un-masculine about that.” As a result of guilt, shame or anger some men may punish themselves by exhibiting self-destructive behaviour after being sexually abused. For some men, this means increased alcohol or drug use. For others, it means increased aggressiveness, like arguing with friends or co-workers or even picking fights with strangers. Some men pull back from relationships and wind up feeling more and more isolated. Male survivors may also develop sexual difficulties after being sexually abused. It may be difficult to resume sexual relationships or start new ones because sexual contact may trigger flashbacks, memories of the abuse, or just plain bad feelings. It can take time, so don’t pressure yourself to be sexual before you’re ready.

For heterosexual men, sexual abuse almost always causes some confusion or questioning about their sexuality. Since many believe that only gay men are sexually abused, a heterosexual survivor may believe that he must be gay or that he will become gay. Furthermore, abusers often accuse their victims of enjoying the sexual abuse, leading some survivors to question their own experiences. Being sexually abused has nothing to do with sexual orientation, past, present or future. People do not “become gay” as a result of being sexually abused. However, there are certain issues that are different for men:

Concerns about sexuality and/or masculinity

Medical procedures

Reporting crime to law enforcement agencies

Telling others

FINDING RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

No matter what is said or done, no one “asks for” or deserves to be assaulted. Sexual abuse/rape is nothing to do with someone’s present or future sexual orientation. Sexual abuse comes from violence and power, nothing less. Unfortunately, the health profession are reluctant to recognise that men can be sexually assaulted. This also includes the Police Forces, though that is slowly improving at last This attitude, combined with ignorance affects the way they treat men who have been raped/sexually abused, often using a stereotyped view of masculinity, rather than focus on the physical assault, the crime becomes the focus of the medical exam or police investigation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Recognize that men and boys can and are sexually assaulted.

Be aware of the biases and myths concerning sexual abuse.

Recognize that stereotypes create narrow definitions of masculinity, and make it even harder for male survivors to disclose their rape/abuse.

As individuals and as a community, that we work harder to combat and challenge those attitudes.

It is important that male rape survivors have support, and are allowed to make their own decisions about what course of action to take. All too often, they feel forced to make statements or act against their abusers, without having had the time and space to think it through. I never advocate they prosecute their abusers, I suggest they perhaps begin their personal journey to recover from the traumas they are left with.

NOTHING JUSTIFIES SEXUAL ABUSE!

It doesn’t have to be this way though, you can overcome the issues listed and can recover. Just in case you need a reminder;

Men of all ages, and backgrounds are subjected to sexual assaults and rape.

Offenders are heterosexual in 98% of the cases.

Both heterosexual and homosexual men get raped.

Rape occurs in all parts of society.

Men are less likely to report being raped.

A PERSONAL VIEW.

The belief that the male population is the stronger sex, especially when it comes to sex, is deeply ingrained, believed, and supported within our culture, but not all men and boys are physically or emotionally strong, which explains why there are male “victims” of sexual abuse/rape. Male child sexual abuse is perpetrated by both men and women, of any sexual persuasion, with no regard towards the “victims” sexuality or safety. It holds scant regard for who we are, and is about gaining power and control over the “victim”. As children, we are placed in the care of our parents/guardians, family, family friends, schools, and more often than not, sometimes strangers. The ‘Danger Stranger’ campaign focused on the danger of strangers, with the intent of scaring children into not trusting strangers, but plainly ignored the fact that parents, siblings, family members, and those other “nice people” especially those people known as the “Pillars of Society”, are much more likely to sexual abuse children. As a result of our sexual abuse, we grow up with many mistaken beliefs, and many Survivors have fallen into a myriad of roles that include alcoholism, crime, depression, self harming, people pleasing, hardworking, etc. But, far from being powerless, we have drawn upon considerable reserves of inner strength to deal with, adjust and cope with the invasion of our bodies and minds.

Our previous actions in dealing with life may not have been what we wanted to do, and may have caused more pain on the way, but surely we have arrived at a time when we all need to face our past, forgive OUR actions, and move away from the guilt, shame and fear that has haunted us for so long. This possibly took many forms, but is something that we all need to forgive ourselves for, as long we don’t intend to ‘return there’. Some thoughts to have plagued male survivors have been “Perhaps I was to blame” “I should have told someone” “I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time” “I deserved it” “Maybe I gave out the wrong signals” “Maybe I’m gay”………,What we don’t want to hear is pity, or told “how awful” “so sad”, “poor little boy” as that concept is dis-empowering and perpetuates pity for the ‘victim’ and we are then seen as “not quite right”.

We are OK, we are capable of living our lives, and we are more than capable of overcoming the traumas that our abuser(s) left behind. I subscribe to the belief that in order to heal fully you have to face your abusive past, however difficult that may be, but in doing so, you can move on emotionally, forgive your actions, find inner peace, and be the person you want to be, not who ‘they’ wanted you to be. Please break the silence and demand the right to be recognized! If you want to join, we will support you in your struggle, be ‘here’ for you when you need us, and help you understand who you are, and what you want to be. The next step is from victim, to SURVIVOR, which is possible. It’s not easy, and involves you telling someone else all those deep hidden secrets, but once started, DON’T STOP!

Complete Article HERE!

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IM Distress Signals

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When I first began writing this advice column, back in the Paleolithic era, most correspondence came via snail mail. Those were the days, huh? Email replaced letters as the dominant means of communication about 8 years ago, and so it remains today. Lately, there’s been yet another innovation — the Instant Messenger. Never fear, Dr Dick stands at the ready to console and advise even at cyber speed.
Instant messenger technology allows me to do something I’ve never been able to do before, save the whole shebang as a single document. This, dear readers, will provide you, as you will see below, an intimate vantage point to a crisis as it is being reveled.
What follows is an abridged version of an exchange I recently had with a good friend. This is someone I deeply respect and admire. However, my friend has been through a terrible lot this past year and the signs of stress are beginning to show. His judgment, generally razor sharp, is now clouded and he is consumed with self-doubt.

William: Hey Dick, I have a question. Do you know the current social standards surrounding marijuana use?

DD: Are there current standards? I didn’t get the memo.

William: Smart ass!
Let me put it a different way, is daily, long-term use of pot a sign of an addiction?

DD: Probably. Certainly designates one as a heavy user.
There is a simple test. Can/will the user go 48hrs without?

William: Here’s the deal, a guy I hang with smokes every time we get together. He says it relaxes him after a hard day. I told him I thought that was a rationalization. I don’t drink daily; so I have to deal with life as it presents itself, rough edges and all.

DD: I guess you told him, huh?

William: I know I can’t drink every day without it becoming a problem for me, but am wondering if pot smokers think daily usage is different than what I think about daily drinking?

DD: See my comments above.

William: My friend’s paternal grandfather was an alcoholic; his dad neverglory_hole_d29.jpg drank. My friend admits to doing 200 hits of acid in high school and crystal when first arriving in town 10 years ago. He claims he hasn’t done either for 7 years.
Trouble is my Dad was an angry alcoholic so this guy’s marijuana use triggers feelings of abandonment and flashbacks of abuse in me.

DD: Right about now you should be hearing yourself say out loud: “Whoops, where did I put my car keys? Gotta run! Call me when you get home from Betty Ford”

William: I confronted my friend about his pot consumption and he got all defensive. He countered with, “what am I supposed to do, not smoke while you’re around? He was already high when we had this exchange. He said I should have warned him about not smoking before he rolled the joint he just smoked.

DD: Wait a minute; he’s saying his drug “(ab)use” is now your issue? Why does this stink to high-heaven?
Here’s a tip; don’t be surprised when you confront a pot-head, while he’s ripped, about his habit and he gets, as you say, “all defensive”.
William, I’m pretty confident that was not a teachable moment, don’t you agree?

William: The problem is he’s generally stoned by the time we get together, so there’s no real good time to talk to him.
I even entertained the idea of smoking with him to get in the same mind set. Instead, I drank a half a bottle of wine. I realized later that both options were self-defeating.

DD: At least you’re clear on that. In this instance, sinking to the lowest common denominator is not a good idea.

William: Bottom line is I feel he needs to smoke to be around me.

DD: I suggest that he needs to smoke around everyone and everything, not just you.

William: I am thinking this is an indicator of his low-self esteem.

DD: You betcha! Aren’t all addictions?

William: Maybe I am projecting.

DD: What if you are? It doesn’t diminish the fact you called it right.

William: I also questioned what type of relationship we are forming if all our time together happens while he’s in an altered state.

DD: That’s easy, a codependent one!

William: I’ve been thinking, maybe he needs to smoke to have sex. Maybe that’s the only way he can cope with his guilt or shame. When he smokes he likes to top me. But when I top him, he’s a very passive. I told him what I like sexually, so he knows. But he doesn’t even try to please me. He doesn’t play with my nips when I top, which is the only way I can cum. When I bottom it’s simply out of desire for intimacy, it doesn’t do anything for me sexually.

DD: YIKES! Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Like my momma always used to say, “if it has four wheels or a dick you know you’re gonna have trouble with it.”

William: For example, when I realized I wasn’t going to get what I wantedmale_art2.jpg sexually the other night, I shut down. I got him off and he fell asleep.
He knows me well enough to know when I’m pissed. So the next time we were together, he asked if he had done something wrong. He’s a fuckin’ genius! He asked if he had been too passive as a bottom. Unfortunately, he was pretty stoned at this point, so I thought any further discussion would be fruitless.

DD: Again, YIKES! Any more red flags and this would be a Chinese New Year Parade, for christ sake!

William: If I dump him, am I throwing the baby out with the bath water?

DD: Darlin’, there is no baby in the bath water! There’s just a fucked up stoner dude who is taking you for a ride. He’s welcome to live his life as he so chooses. You, on the other hand, need to find someone a less fucked up.

William: I like him, he is smart, affectionate and we have the same analytical way of thinking.

DD: When he’s not stoned, ya mean.
Here’s a suggestion, why not keep him as a friend. Have dinner together occasionally, enjoy his sparkling conversation and then, quick as you can, get back in your car and go home.

William: He takes care of my physical needs, except sexually. There is, after all, more to a relationship than sex.

DD: EXCEPT SEXUALLY????? That’s like saying he takes care of your nutrition needs, except for the protein and carbohydrates. Sheesh!
You’re right, there is more to a healthy relationship than sex. But given that you are an intensely sexual man, why would you start a relationship with a deficit like this?

William: This is triggering my deep-seeded feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, which I fully accept as my own shit. I want to please him, so I did not ask him to stop smoking around me. But I did tell him how “not present” he is to me when he smokes prior to sex.

DD: I am so amazed that you are bottoming for this dude. What’s up with that? You hate being a bottom. Listen darlin’, you are way too needy at this point to be looking to someone like this to even begin to meet your needs.

William: He said that he did not think his personality changed when he smokes. But yet he thinks people liked him better when he’s got a buzz on.

DD: Where did you find this guy? Does he live under a bridge?

William: Is this a glitch in a new relationship? Do you think I should hang in there during this adjustment period?

DD: This is scariest thing you’ve said up to this point.
GLITCH??? Are you serious? Does a stripped down, burnt out skeleton of a car on the what_a_ride.jpgside of the road, suggest to you that the owner is having a problem with his windshield wipers? Good lord, man, what can you be thinking?
What follows comes from the deepest recesses of my heart, William. I put this out there because you are my friend. The fellow you describe would be a handful for you if you were at your peak of your emotional and psychological powers. But even then, I’d suggest you avoid him like the plague.
But now, dear William, you are in crisis. You’ve had a terrible lot happen to you this past year. You are hanging on by a thread. I support and encourage all your efforts to find your balance in your life once again, because you are a good and resilient person.
I empathize with your desire to connect with someone who will love you, stand by you and care for you during this difficult time. This is decidedly not the time to be taking on dead weight.
Look to yourself, care for yourself, nurture yourself, love yourself, heal yourself. Come back to us refreshed and whole. Then, and only then, will you be able to take on a complete wreck of a project like this dude.
Count on me to walk through this with you. Thanks for letting me be part of your life. Remember, I’m only as far away as your Instant Messenger.

Over and Out!

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LGBTQ kids are missing out on sex education—and it’s up to schools to change that

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Last year, California officially mandated LGBTQ history lessons in public schools, vowing to teach “the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” and their impact on both the state’s and the country’s history.

This was a victory for LGBTQ rights, because it’s a rarity; in most states—in all but nine to be exact—schools don’t even cover LGBTQ sexuality, let alone queer history.

When surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), only 12 percent of millennials said they received sexual education material that covered sex between gay partners—even though 20 percent of millennials consider themselves LGBTQ. American sex ed is “primarily or exclusively focused on heterosexual relationships between cisgender people,” according to a different study conducted by Planned Parenthood and the HRC.

This hetero-specific focus creates a multitude of problems for all young people sorting through their anxieties and questions about sex and sexuality. For one, straight students aren’t being forced to acknowledge other sexualities, which can foster bullying and promote a culture of intolerance. For another, a lack of school discussion means most LGBTQ students are being inadvertently told to stay in the closet. And with that messaging, there is the shame and hiding, and then there are the health risks.

Proper safe-sex education is important for all students, and LGBTQ people are no exception: 22 percent of all transgender women are HIV positive, and queer men face a higher risk of contact with HIV or a sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While ignoring queer students may not be a new phenomenon, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be remedied. And perhaps school districts can start by listening to the stories of queer people who have gone through the country’s lackluster sexual education systems. Through them, activists can learn how to fix such a massive gap in sex education.

This is what the queer sex ed gap looks like

Larissa Glasser, a librarian and writer living in Massachusetts, grew up in the 1980s, an era whose approach to sex ed was based in fear and simple authoritarian phrases like “Don’t do it.” Glasser, whose transgender, obviously couldn’t rely on schools to teach her about queer life.

“I was in public school until fifth grade and we had no sex education whatsoever,” she told the Daily Dot. “This was during the Reagan presidency, so all we ever heard about sex was AIDS as a scare tactic to be abstinent.”

Very little accurate information existed about transgender women outside of schools. Glasser was only exposed to trans people through filmmakers like John Waters and Ralph Bakshi.

“Finally, during the 1990s, trans issues were addressed somewhat respectfully in about 10 percent of the films I saw,” Glasser said. “Then I discovered writers like Jean Genet, Angela Carter, and Hubert Selby Jr., who were willing to portray queer femme sexuality in a somewhat positive light.”

Glasser’s experiences mirror many other LGBTQ students’ struggles. Sophie Searcy grew up miles away in Kentucky during the ’90s and 2000s, attending Catholic school all the way through high school, and she too had virtually no experience with LGBTQ education. Queer and trans sexuality just wasn’t discussed.

“The Catholic system I belonged to had a program called ‘family life,’ which was a religious health and sex education program,” Searcy told the Daily Dot. “Very basic facts about anatomy and puberty were explained in gender-separated rooms. There was no mention of safer sex methods, navigating consent, or any LGBTQ issues whatsoever.”

Searcy knew early on that her church wasn’t LGBTQ-inclusive. But looking back on those early years, she realized that queer people were treated as if they simply didn’t exist at all.

“The class explained sex as exclusively between a man and a woman, as if only heterosexual orientations existed,” Searcy said. “Similar to how the class erased all non-hetero orientations, the class explained gender, sexual development, and sexual intercourse in a way that didn’t even acknowledge the possibility of trans people. Boys had penises, girls have vaginas, boys develop into men, girls develop into women, etc., etc., etc.”

In particularly conservative areas, sexual education isn’t just biased—what it is lacking can induce violence. LGBTQ activist and writer Sarah Bess grew up in southeast Missouri in the 1990s, and she was repeatedly harassed, bullied, and physically assaulted across school districts.

“I was this awkward, autistic, queer kid from the middle of nowhere, so I got picked on a lot,” Bess explained. “I dropped out in the seventh grade because I was getting beat up so much and my home life sucked and I really didn’t care about school.”

Bess’s classes didn’t provide a respite from the attacks. “Being gay wasn’t really mentioned as a possibility in my sex ed classes. The existence of trans people definitely wasn’t acknowledged. There was a lot of fear-mongering about pregnancy and STIs, and that’s mostly what I remember,” Bess explained. “I don’t remember anyone at school even mentioning trans people. Beyond transphobic Jerry Springer and Maury Povich episodes, I don’t think we were on anyone’s radar.”

In one case, her sex education teacher enabled a physical assault.

“My seventh-grade sex ed class was taught by a gym coach who watched two boys beat the shit out of me after school one day,” Bess said. “He just laughed, got in his car and drove off.”

When anti-LGBTQ sentiments take hold in a school, then queer students live in an ongoing state of fear. This not just impedes their education, it can be debilitating for their growth and self-esteem—and it can separate queer people from one another by forcing them to stay hidden. For someone like Bess, this was extremely alienating.

“I was in my late teens the first time I knowingly talked to another trans woman online,” Bess explained. “I was in my twenties before I knowingly met anyone like me in person.”

For others, sex education classes could have possibly saved their lives. A 2014 report published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the UCLA Williams Institute reveals that suicide attempt rates are particularly high among transgender and gender non-conforming students who face harassment or bullying at school. Through sex education, though, students could have a better understanding of gender transitioning or normalizing queer sexuality. The more that classrooms validate LGBTQ experiences, the more likely students are to treat their fellow classmates with respect.

“Gender was always conflated with assigned sex and body parts,” Searcy said. “It wasn’t that trans people were portrayed as evil or misguided, but that the possibility of being trans was never even acknowledged.”

Then came the internet

So if LGBTQ students aren’t able to learn about their bodies from primary and secondary schools, where do they go for information about queer sexuality? Many turn to the internet.

But the internet is a luxury, one that not everyone is able to access—especially those in previous generations. In Bess’s case, this directly impacted her exposure to trans material.

“I didn’t have consistent internet access for most of my life, so I picked up bits and pieces where and when I could,” she said. “I watched a lot of porn with trans women in it and read a lot of gross forced fem erotica, none of which was very helpful for learning about sex.”

Even when internet access is available, its resources aren’t always helpful. Sometimes they can be damaging.

Shortly after Glasser graduated from library school, she stumbled across a gender transitioning guideline called tsroadmap, also known as “Transsexual & Transgender Road Map.” Glasser felt even worse about herself while using the website, in part because the guide relied on rigid stereotypes and generalizations for trans women. In one case, the site demanded that trans women undergo surgeries in order to properly transition, when many trans people prefer not to undergo permanent surgery.

“It was useful at the time,” she said, “but in hindsight, I think its normativity had a fairly toxic effect on my self-esteem when I was at my most vulnerable point.”

Searcy, on the other hand, saw internet access as a major source for learning more about non-hetero sexuality. Some of her biggest resources for her transitioning were writers who have gained significant prominence thanks to the internet’s impact on the trans community.

“Ultimately, a close friend came out as trans which led me to question my own gender and explore resources on my own,” Searcy said. “Julia Serano and Morgan M Page were particularly helpful, as were Imogen Binnie and Casey Plett.”

So while online resources aren’t exactly perfect, the internet has advanced far enough that it can connect trans and queer people with the online communities they need to learn more about themselves. On Reddit, there are subreddits like /r/asktransgender that let trans people learn about undergoing gender transitioning. Sites like Sites like Keshet and Queer Theology provide resources for religious queer and transgender people. Resources like TJOBBANK host employment listings for LGBTQ folks searching for inclusive workplaces. And services like Discord and Slack allow queer and trans users to create their own closed groups where LGBTQ members can hang out, talk about queer life, or get together and play video games. The internet has changed over time, and that means there are more ways for queer and trans people to meet each other than before.

But it’s unfair to relegate LGBTQ students to the internet for advice, often in secret. It can stall LGBTQ kids from coming out, make trans and queer sexuality feel like a taboo, or send the message that queer and trans life isn’t important enough to understand.

Schools are supposed to provide students with learning opportunities that help young kids grow into productive adults. That’s why third graders learn basic reading comprehension skills, and high schools teach American history (albeit often from a very straight, white, male perspective), and middle schoolers get a whole class dedicated to sex and their bodies—so they can go out into the world informed and prepared.

But if schools leave out LGBTQ sexuality and force queer students to learn on their own time, then those schools are failing at their jobs. Why must the burden be on LGBTQ youth to educate themselves?

The solutions that exist

Casey Plett, author of A Safe Girl to Love, lived in an upper-middle class suburb in Oregon during her high school years. At the time, she enrolled in an “internationally-focused hippie-ish sub-program” that seemed more like “actual sex ed taught by Planned Parenthood.” And yet like Glasser and Searcy, she says, “I cannot recall LGBTQ issues ever coming up. Negatively or positively.”

And as for trans issues? “Ha,” she told the Daily Dot. “No. Zero.”

This was in 2001. But she recognizes things have changed since then. LGBTQ equality has become more mainstream, trans rights have entered the news cycle, and queer sex ed has turned into a serious activist rallying point. Today, she thinks there’s solutions that school districts can take to bring LGBTQ education to kids, instead of forcing them to turn to the internet. That is, if they’re willing to put in the effort.

“There are plenty of gay sexual health resources out there,” Plett said. “I’d get a hold of them, pay them to come, and let them take the wheel. And be open and loving and willing to learn.”

Plett is right. Today, many local LGBTQ organizations host workshops for queer youth, providing the resources students need to learn more about their sexuality. Long Island’s Pride for Youth, for example, facilitates workshops on fighting transphobia and working with LGBTQ youth. Other community centers, such as New York City’s Apicha Community Health Center and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, provide training segments for educators, giving them the skills they need to teach LGBTQ-inclusive material in classrooms. And in recent years, Planned Parenthood has both criticized the lack of LGBTQ sex education in public schools, and begun taking a more LGBTQ-inclusive approach to sex education.

Gender therapists and counselors traditionally host workshops for teens as well, allowing them to explore LGBTQ topics in an affirming environment. And programs like the GSA Network even give students the training they need to host workshops and class sessions that can debunk damaging myths about the queer community.

For those who don’t live in “gay-friendly” metropolitan areas, there are also online resources available for classrooms. TED hosts a variety of TED Talks covering LGBTQ issues, from coming out to helping transgender teens. And many educators host lesson plans and teach-ins that are available for free online, allowing students to engage in queer sex education topics through a vetted workshop environment.

These programs and groups normalize LGBTQ sexuality. Workshops talk frankly and openly about what it means to have sex as a gay or transgender person and provide safe sex education to prevent STIs. They also give educators the training they need not just to respect queer students, but to include LGBTQ topics in future lesson plans. If school districts aren’t sure how to approach queer sexuality, here is where they can start.

“It would have been incredible for me to hear the simple facts that sex is complicated and messy but that there are a few universals that we should consider (consent, safer methods, exploration),” Searcy explained, “or that gender is independent of assigned sex and that it might be helpful to consider if my assigned sex did not fit.”

That’s something echoed by Bess, who knows all too well that many school districts are still avoiding LGBTQ topics in their entirety. She insists that the federal government should take a more active role in protecting LGBTQ youth, especially in areas where people are particularly bigoted toward queer students. Many school districts simply aren’t evolving anywhere near the rate of young people’s attitudes toward sexuality.

“It’s been awhile since I was in school, but it doesn’t seem like things are much better now in the places I grew up,” she explained. “Federal intervention is absolutely necessary to protect queer and trans students and educators, especially in rural school districts.”

Safety is where educators need to start if they want to facilitate an open, tolerant conversation about sex and sexuality. With transgender students under attack through outrageous “bathroom bills” across the U.S. and the Trump administration officially rescinding any federal guidelines for protecting trans youth, state and federal intervention is more important than ever.

For example, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially outlawed all forms of discrimination against transgender people in 2015. Discriminatory fines for “willful, wanton or malicious” discrimination is up to $100,000. Massachusetts offers the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, a joint initiative that provides training for school administrators on queer topics and gives students the tools they need to become activists in their school settings.

Fostering change and giving schools a legal incentive to end discrimination is important. Seeing how 42 percent of all queer youth feel their community is not accepting of LGBTQ people, promoting tolerance and opening constructive discussion are the keys to getting there.

Schools teach basic sex education for a reason: Most adults will have sex, and the repercussions of sex are often far-reaching and far-ranging and can be life-changing. But if sex education doesn’t address the current population and the culture, then it’s time for administrators to recognize they’re doing youth a disservice. Making things right could actually save lives.

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The nitty-gritty of middle-age sex

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‘It’s good to experiment’

By Alana Kirk

If you are drinking your morning coffee while reading this, then perhaps this article should come with a warning. There are going to be phrases that we tend not to discuss much in public such as vaginal dryness, loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. However, they are a natural part of life, and if we want to continue to be active sexual people well into middle age and beyond, then we have to acknowledge and then address them, because turning the trials and tribulations of middle-age sex into the joy of sex is not difficult.

Sex is important to all of us, regardless of age. Not only is it excellent for getting the blood pumping and putting a youthful spring in your step, it has a number of other benefits too, such as reducing stress, strengthening your immune system, boosting self-esteem, and relieving depression.

The famous manual, The Joy of Sex, still has some salient advice for middle- aged and older people even though it was written nearly 50 years ago. It’s author Alex Comfort wrote: “The things that stop you enjoying sex in an old age are the same things that stop you from riding a bicycle – bad health, thinking it’s silly and no bicycle”.

Well, we can pump up a flat tyre, add some lubricating oil, and still be having sexual enjoyment with no partner. As recent research has shown, and despite an ageist societal view on the topic, our sexuality doesn’t die with middle and growing age. Our sexual needs and levels evolve and change over the years, and the particular issues that might arise from menopause, for example, do not mean we should give up on it. We just need to learn to adapt.

Emily Power Smith may be Ireland’s only clinical sexologist, and talks to large numbers of middle-aged women in her clinics and at talks around the country. “I’ve spoken and written more on this topic than any other related to sex, and the main driver for women coming to me with an issue is poor education. Generally women are very misinformed about what they should be expecting and are very quick to blame themselves.”

If we look at sexual activity as a life-long issue, there can be plenty of interruptions to the normal flow, including illness, childbirth and child rearing, loss of confidence, menopause, and hormonal fluctuations. Low libido, erectile dysfunction, and vaginal dryness are all just normal challenges that can affect our sexual lives, but importantly, ones that can be easily addressed.

“We do specific menopause consultations and counselling for women who start experiencing changes and want to know that they are a normal part of the ageing process,” says Dr Shirley McQuade, medical director of the Dublin Well Woman Centre. “Many women come in with a specific symptom thinking it’s all over, but in fact nearly all issues can be addressed. You just need to realise that your, and your partner’s body changes.”

So what are the main issues and what can be done about them?

Peri-menopausal symptoms

Menopause can effect every aspect of your being, and symptoms including hot flushes, not sleeping, and poor concentration levels, can affect how you feel about yourself.

“Hormonal changes can mean your libido and sex drive go, as well and the emotional havoc they can play,” explains Dr McQuaid. Mood swings, empty nest syndrome, trying teenagers, or work/life balance can weigh in to make us feel less than energetic about sex.

“It is really important to take the time for yourself when you are peri-menopausal, to take stock and adjust to the changes that are happening. I see lots of women who have reached senior career level or have lots of people depend on them and it can be difficult because they feel overwhelmed and aren’t giving enough time to themselves to deal with how they feel.”

The advice is to take pressure off yourself, and try and cull some of the responsibilities. Exercise, eat and sleep well and acknowledge that you can seek help if you need it. “I’ve seen women go to cardiologists because they think they have heart problems when they wake up sweating in the night, or go to rheumatologists with joint pain, when in fact they are just the symptoms of hormonal change.”

Hormone Replacement Therapy

HRT is a common treatment for women who are suffering from continued and difficult symptoms, and it only takes two or three weeks to find out if it will work for you. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NicE) in their 2015 recommendations, the benefits of HRT, available in tablet form, gels, and patches far outweigh any risks.

According to Dr McQuaid, it is a positive option to take. “About 15 years ago there were scares about risks relating to heart disease and cancer, but the studies were seriously flawed. For women who take it through their 50s, the benefits are significant.”

HRT is available for as long as your symptoms last, with the average duration being eight years. Despite scaremongering to the contrary, there are no withdrawal symptoms or problems when you stop taking the drug, as long as you leave it long enough for your natural menopause to conclude. HRT masks the symptoms, so if you stop before they have fully receded, they will return.

Not all women experience menopausal symptoms, and for women who do, they do eventually pass.

Vaginal dryness

It is completely normal for most women in menopause to experience dryness. The drop in your body’s oestrogen levels means the vaginal membranes become thinner and drier which can makes for uncomfortable dryness. As a result, thrush and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are also more common. Lubrication is widely available and will transform your sexual experience if dryness is a problem. Dr McQuaid also recommends treating the underlying issue rather than just the symptom. A prescription product, licensed in Ireland as Vagifem, provides low levels of oestrogen to the local area, and if taken over the longer term can alleviate all symptoms of dryness. Regular sexual activity or stimulation from masturbation also promotes vaginal health and blood flow.

Erectile dysfunction

For men who may identify their every maleness with work and sexual ability, a lowering of libido or erectile dysfunction can be catastrophic. However, accepting that this will happen occasionally, and seeing it a normal part of the ageing process and hormonal changes may encourage them to seek help. The advice is to go to your GP to get checked out to make sure erectile dysfunction is not related to vascular changes and bold pressure / diabetes, and then again there is a simple medication solution.

Painful intercourse

Again this can be a common change in sexual experience, usually due to vaginal dryness. However, other reasons could be a prolapse of the uterus or front wall of vagina which can cause discomfort, so the first port of call for any pain is to get examined by your GP or at the Well Women clinics. All issues can be addressed with medication or procedures.

Heavy periods

A common complaint for women entering peri-menopause is very heavy periods, which are caused by the womb being uncomfortable and bulky. Some women from the age of 40 develop fibroids which make the womb heavier and along with hormonal fluctuations, combine to make structural and hormonal changes that affect the flow of periods. Some women have low iron levels, because heavy periods are the main reason for low iron which makes you tired, so it’s important to keep a medical check on your body while going through the menopause.

Traditionally this was often treated by a hysterectomy, whereas today women can access the pill or coil. All countries where the coil has been introduced have seen a significant reduction in hysterectomy operations.

Change of mind

Addressing specific symptoms is only one way of evolving our sexual lives. Changing the way we have sex is another. “I meet women who have only ever used one position, and now that that proves painful they are at a loss,” explains Dr McQuaid. “It’s useful to experiment and change. It’s more interesting too!”

What we need to remember is that sex is not just about intercourse. There is a variety of sensual, loving, exciting activities that can bring joy and satisfaction. For women experiencing menopause especially, they might need and want more touching and foreplay than before, but after years of marriage, it can be more difficult to change. Asking for what you need is important. Tantric sex – slightly ridiculed in the press after Sting and Trudie Styler admitted to it – is encouraged by many counsellors as it focuses on the sensual intimacy rather than an orgasmic goal.

Whatever the issue with sex may be, Dr McQuaid advises you start with a medical to check to make sure everything is okay. Once that is done, it’s just about dealing with specific issues. “I’ve had a 78-year-old woman come to me recently having a little bit of trouble because her partner has been given Viagra. So she went on Vagifem and has no more problems,” says McQuaid. “I have lots of women come to us for help and they’re happy and healthy and they certainly don’t stop having a sex life. Nor should they.”

Psychologically however, it is also important to rise above the social conditioning that we lose our sexiness as we get older. “There is just no scientific evidence to back this up,” explains Power Smith. “Irish women are very quick to blame themselves and feel guilty for not being better, not feeling enough or good enough. In part we are brought up to feel this way with magazines and media, and then when middle age hits, physical things happen to compound that.” She has three golden rules for women in their middle age with regards to keeping their sex lives healthy and functioning: masturbation, lubrication and communication.

So while the number of potential causes of sexual changes and challenges during menopause and middle ageing can seem overwhelming, there are just as many strategies and treatments for overcoming them.

You can go back to drinking your coffee now.

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.

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