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Writing Graphic Sex Scenes Can Be a Feminist Act

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‘We don’t put enough value on female pleasure in our culture’

By Stef Penney

Why is there explicit sex in my new book? Because I’m a feminist.

Under A Pole Star, my third book, is a novel about late 19th century arctic explorers that features, alongside ice, ambition and rivalry, more than one sexual relationship. And there’s a lot of detail. My central characters fall in love, and yes, they have a lot of sex. I was nervous about how the passages would be received. One Amazon reviewer has already complained about “copious quantities of copulation.” The specter of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award, given annually to authors of “poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction,” hovers over us all, tittering. Some judge writing explicitly about sex to be less than literary — or worse, discrediting of female characters. But why should achieving romantic and sexual satisfaction — one of the most difficult challenges we face as humans — be redacted or blurred?

There’s a problem with leaving “it” up to the reader’s imagination: Every reader will fill your tasteful ellipsis with something different — possibly with unachievable fantasy, with prejudices, with bad experience, with pornography. I wasn’t going to do that to my characters. I felt I owed it to readers to treat the characters’ intimacy with the same precision and seriousness I would any other intense human experience.

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I’ve read too much bad sex in otherwise good books: bizarre, metaphorical sex; coy, breathless sex; baffling, what-just-happened-there sex; most of all, phallocentric, male-experience-dominated sex. Too often, in sex scenes between a man and a woman, the woman’s sensations are barely mentioned, as if her experience is incomprehensible or irrelevant. It’s important to ask why this is — and the fact that a lot of those writers are male is not a satisfactory answer. We don’t put enough value on female pleasure in our culture. The way we write about sex only exacerbates that problem.

In my quest for knowledge and precedent, I sought out scientific research, erotic poetry and literature. I trawled the Internet as much as I could bear. I wanted to dissect the composition of sex scenes — and waded through many, many passages that didn’t come close to answering essential questions: Did she climax? Has this man heard of a clitoris? What were they using for contraception? Some uncovered even more questions about our culture’s perception of female sexuality: Did men in D.H. Lawrence’s time really accuse women of “withholding” their orgasms, as happens to Lady Chatterley? Because that’s absurd.

There’s so much ignorance, confusion and frustration out there. Delving into sex forums online, I was shocked by the prevalence of questions from women like, “How do I know if I’m having an orgasm?” The fact that so much confusion prevails is no surprise: studies have found that more men orgasm more frequently than women and 40% of women have sexual dysfunction, which can make it difficult to achieve climax. One study found that 80% of women fake orgasms.

The more I read, the more I realized how important it would be for me to write my scenes in steamy, awkward, mutual and real graphic detail. I wanted to write about a sexual relationship in a way that convinced me and reflected what I know to be true about female sexuality — that it’s complicated, beautiful and worth equal attention. So I included accounts of great sex, horrible sex, indifferent sex, sex that just doesn’t work despite both partners’ best intentions — and I showed how and why they were different.

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I wanted to create a story that honored the sexual biographies of both partners from both points of view, that showed how they reach the point where they come together and why their relationship is the way it is. And while we’re on the subject of coming together, simultaneous orgasm was one myth I encountered over and over again in my research that was never going to get an outing here.

When my friends began to read my book and wanted to talk about it, I learned things I’d never known about them, and I became more forthright in turn. We tumbled through a flood of questions. Why had we never talked about our sexual pleasure in explicit detail before? Why did we not achieve good, orgasmic sex until our mid-twenties, or later? Why were we too ignorant, too embarrassed to ask? Why did we expect so little in bed?

One reason, we all agreed, was that we’d had to learn about good sex through trial and error, because that behavior wasn’t modeled for us in a healthy, explicit way.

We need to be able to talk, teach, learn, write and read about sex, honestly and seriously, without — or in spite of — derision and censure. Unless we share specifics, we’ll never understand one another’s experiences. You can’t support women’s empowerment without frank and open discussion of their sexuality.

Complete Article HERE!

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GQ Suggests ‘Having Sex with Men Doesn’t Make You Gay’

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In 2017, it’s weird to think that straight men are still asking the question, “Does having sex with a man make me gay?” Our friends at GQ recently investigated a bit deeper into the subject.

GQ interviewed a few guys who identify as straight who’ve all had same-sex sex with other men (gay or straight). Even after having sex with men, they still lean towards the straight side of the spectrum and identify as heterosexual.

So, what makes someone gay? According to GQ, it depends on how you define the “label.” In this day and age, everything has a label — too many if you ask me. Regardless of social labeling, it’s important to recognize how people associate that label within their self-identities — “if we remove the label of ‘gay’ from sex acts we traditionally assume are only the domain of gay men, does this mean you can take part in them and still be straight?”

James, a 28-year-old man who participated in the study, said he used to get regular blowjobs from a gay pal when he was a teenager. As a 17-year old, blowjobs weren’t exactly hidden around every corner, but for a coming of age teen with raging hormones, it seemed like the perfect deal for both him and his straight counterpart.

Another participant named Mark, also 28, said that his colleague’s boyfriend once went down on him in a club bathroom. Another time, he got a blowjob from a stranger in front of his girlfriend at a sex party. Even now, he says he knows he’s straight.

GQ asserts that at the end of the day, having sex with a man isn’t a sign of queerness — just as imagining pushing your evil boss under a truck means you’re a homicidal maniac. When people find themselves in sexually charged situations, primal instinct takes over, and shit happens.

Is sex just sex? If you ask me, the answer is yes.

There’s a difference between sexuality and orientation. Sexuality exists within us all; sometimes, we have sex with people we don’t necessarily find physically attractive; at times we do it to pass the time, and other times we have it because we crave sex. This is normal human sexuality — gay, straight, male, female; we can get off on all of it any given time.

Having sex with a man doesn’t mean you’re gay, but don’t forget the sacrifices your gay brothers make so you can have that freedom to choose.

However, orientation is the sexual compass we use to navigate the sensual universe; it’s who we are in our hearts. It’s how our spirits identify itself in life, and that affects whom we love, how we love and how we live. It’s larger than just sex.

“Gay sex acts aren’t something to be ashamed of,” GQ suggests. “If you’re man enough to do it and still call yourself straight, be man enough to talk about it. Don’t let it be a dirty little secret; own your sexuality — whatever that may by — with pride.”

Men are sexual people. Why have we created this stupid notion that getting off diminishes our manhood? Trust me; it’s an ideology crafted by religion, cultural norms and, most importantly, habit.

Let’s break the habit.

Complete Article HERE!

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More than a third of Americans in relationships are sexually unsatisfied

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By SWNS

Over a third of Americans in a relationship are not satisfied with their sex life, according to a new study.

The study of 1,000 American relationships saw 34 percent of people unable to rate their sex life as either “satisfying” or “very satisfying.”

One in six (16 percent) say their current spouse or partner rarely or never satisfy them sexually.

Women were twice as likely as men to describe their sex life as “boring” (12 percent vs. 5 percent), while interestingly, men were far more likely to describe their sex life as “erotic” than women (33 percent vs. 18 percent).

According to a new survey, the biggest barriers to a better sex life were a lack of foreplay, sex being over too quickly, and simple lack of communication.

Not having enough orgasms, only trying one or few sex positions, and a lack of oral play also made the top 10 most common reasons for sexual dissatisfaction, while for others, lack of cuddling was an issue.

Not having enough orgasms, only trying one or few sex positions, and a lack of oral play also made the top 10 most common reasons for sexual dissatisfaction, while for others, lack of cuddling was an issue.

The survey also found that action between the sheets typically lasts for 19 minutes, but results show that “ideally” it should last at least 23 minutes for men and women to be satisfied — 22 percent longer than the current average time.

And while Americans have sex an average of 2.5 times a week, men would ideally like to have sex five times a week and women four times a week.

But both genders seem to agree that the best way for their partner to get them in a romantic mood when they’re not in the mood to begin with is as simple as a kiss.

Aside from kissing women differ in opinions with men saying the next best way is through lingerie or sexy attire followed by hugging, and women saying their second choice is hugging followed by going on a romantic dinner or date.

Researchers said: “Our goal is to help people rediscover sex and empower lovers to achieve sexual harmony. In recent years, sex toys have become an increasingly popular solution for couples looking to spice up their sex lives. We see more and more people experimenting with toys, role playing, gender-bending, and BDSM. People are definitely opening up to new bedroom ideas to enhance sexual intimacy. “

If you’ve ever been too afraid to ask your partner how many people they’ve slept with, you might not have to. The survey found that on average, men sleep with 16 partners, while women sleep with an average of 10.

While 19 percent of Americans say they would be too shy to ask their partner to include the use of sex toys, two thirds think sex toys are acceptable.

Those who do use sex toys believe the main purpose is to supplement the penis, and 46 percent of respondents are more concerned about their functions than aesthetics or stylization.

That said, only 34 percent would be happy giving a sex toy as a gift, and 43 percent would be happy to receive one, even though 49 percent say it would make their sex lives more pleasurable.

Respondents also found that other ways to make your sex life satisfying is through foreplay, communication, different sex positions, oral play, cuddling, frequent orgasms, and a confident partner.

When it comes to honesty, 83 percent of respondents say they’re honest with their partner about how satisfied they are with their sex life, but 35 percent also claim to have been so unsatisfied that they’ve come up with excuses to not have sex.

The top excuses are tiredness, not feeling well or pain, headaches, having to get up early the next day, or having your period or cramps. On the extreme, three in eight respondents say they’ve even gone so far as pretending to be asleep to avoid sex.

Another issue that hinders sexual pleasure is personal insecurity: 65 percent of respondents related concerns about their performance in bed, worries or doubts about body image, and wondering whether or not they were “doing something right.”

Distractedness during sex isn’t as uncommon as you might think: 31 percent of people admit they’ve thought about someone other than their partner during sex; 30 percent wonder if other people can hear, and 20 percent worry if their partner is actually enjoying it.

Researchers added, “Even with all the new and exciting toys and props available to help people improve their sex lives, communication between partners and lack of intimacy remain the biggest challenges to maintaining healthy relationships over time.“

Top 10 fantasies

  1. Receiving oral sex
  2. Having sex outside
  3. Role play
  4. Being dominated
  5. Being tied up
  6. Having sex with a celebrity
  7. Anal sex
  8. Threesome
  9. Watching each other masturbate
  10. Ménage à trois (threesome)

Top 10 things people would like to change/incorporate into their sex life

  1. More sex positions
  2. Sex toys
  3. Longer intercourse
  4. Foreplay
  5. Change of venues/rooms
  6. Dirty talk
  7. Pornography
  8. Costumes
  9. Other people
  10. Shorter intercourse

Top 10 things that lead to bad sex

  1. Lack of foreplay
  2. It’s over too quickly
  3. No communication
  4. Rarely or never orgasm
  5. One or few sex positions
  6. No oral play
  7. No cuddling
  8. No talking/moaning
  9. Partner is not open to change
  10. Partner lacks confidence

Complete Article HERE!

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Are you a pervert? Challenging the boundaries of sex

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Are you a pervert?

I believe you are.

This statement might offend you. Perhaps you wonder what would compel me to say something like that about you, especially since we’ve never met. However, a voice deep down inside of you might wonder if I am right. Maybe that voice is telling you that thing you did or liked may make you abnormal.

Whatever your take on this may be, I invite you to open your mind and explore what might be beyond your comfort zone. Let me entice you with a little bit of what I research as a neuroscientist of sexual behaviour.

Throughout history, those who have not lived under the conformity of social standards of sexuality have been tortured, ostracized, convicted and, in general, have lost their social standing.

In fact, non-conventional sexual practices – and fetishes – are not deviant. Yet there’s a well-established tradition of judging them as if they are. The repercussions of this societal judgment cause the social stigmatization of people we most likely don’t know at all.

One of the most common targets is the Bondage, Domination/Submission, Discipline and Sado-Masochism (BDSM) culture.

Why has society condemned certain intimate practices between consenting adults but not others? The answer possibly lies in wherever our society sets moral standards — generally biased, limited and sometimes political. Instead, normality should be derived by scientific and quantified results.

The Victorian church set sexual standards

The word pervert did not originally mean sexual deviant, but atheist. Pervert described someone who would not ascribe to the normal (church) rules. People who resisted the morality dictated by the church were people who debauched or seduced.

Additionally, the word contains the suffix ‘vert’, meaning to turn, as in, convert. Therefore, pervert described a person who turned away from the right course. The word changed from the moral heretic to the immoral sexual deviant in the Victorian era, when scholars used it to describe patients with “atypical” sexual desires. I imagine in the Victorian era that even a foot fetish would have been considered a perversion.

When it comes to bedroom activities, we often believe that most things we don’t do are wrong and sick. We often judge other people’s realities and behaviours from our limited and biased scope and experience.

Let’s talk about sex and bondage

BDSM is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of consensual sexual or erotic practices. BDSM communities commonly welcome anyone who identifies with their practices. Consider it akin to a book club if you like to read, or like an orchestra if you want to play classical music.

You may imagine or know some of the BDSM practices. But what makes you part of the BDSM culture? Well, there are no rules, but there are three fundamental principles that guide any BDSM practice: consent, safety and respect.

Physical and psychological well-being are a priority over anything: There is no pleasure in a sexual act when one of the parties is not enjoying it.

BDSM practices may require painful and risky stimulation carried out with extreme care. Just as in several other fun activities, such as playing a sport, practice makes perfect. There is only one way of doing things — the right way — and anyone who engages in these practices within the community knows health and safety comes first.

A vintage illustration from the 1950s for an erotic tale, Bizarre Honeymoon.

Normal and sexually satisfied

BDSM and other non-conventional sexual practices are more familiar than you may know. Research has shown that fetishes and BDSM-like practices are very common in the general population. Normal, everyday people commonly fantasize about BDSM-like experiences.

As well, BDSM practitioners and submissive-identified females in particular appear to be more sexually satisfied than the general population. Other studies have revealed increased pleasure, enjoyment and positive effects during BDSM versus non-BDSM sexual experiences.

Although BDSM practitioners were previously believed to have a history of sexual abuse and trauma, studies by medical researcher and professor Norman Breslow in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality showed these initial ideas were based on hypothetical case studies and not empirical evidence.

As well, more recent studies show that BDSM practitioners do not generally report sexual abuse or childhood trauma. BDSM practitioners also display less depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms compared to “normal” population standards. Furthermore, BDSM practitioners also report significantly less benevolent sexism, rape myth acceptance and victim-blaming attitudes compared to college students and the general population.

Even male and female rats have been known to develop fetishes.

A universe of possibilities

All these differences do not necessarily mean one needs to embrace more BDSM-like practices. Instead, it’s an invitation to stop judging others, and instead, embrace and enjoy our sexual lives. Fetishes can simply be the expression of our experiences and versatile sexuality in terms of practices, toys or objects that can be incorporated into our intimacy.

It’s up to each individual to choose what is right for themselves. The notion of abnormality in sexuality — with its medical and psychological labels of illness — came about to explain a deviant pattern in the reproductive aspects of mating. But humans, in general, engage in sex because they like it, not necessarily because they want to reproduce. Thus, in the eyes of those who may believe sex only serves for reproduction, any “deviation from reproductive sex” may be abnormal.

There is a universe of possibilities out there to which only you should set the boundaries. Our time in this world is too short and uncertain to deprive ourselves of the pleasures of the flesh and senses simply because someone has a negative opinion about it.

So, let me ask again, are you a pervert?

Complete Article HERE!

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How to talk to kids about sex

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“I do know how babies are made,” my then-8-year-old son recently told his 13-year-old sister. She ignored him. “Mom, he really doesn’t,” she said. “You better tell him before he goes to camp and hears it from older kids.” She was right. I had talked to him about love for years, but I must have glossed over the mechanical piece.

According to Deborah Roffman, a teacher and author of “Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ ‘Go-To’ Person About Sex,” I was late to the game. “If we’re not deliberately reaching out to kids by third grade, almost everything they learn after that is going to be remedial,” she says. “Sexual intercourse in the service of reproduction is thoroughly age-appropriate for 6-year-olds.”

Not long after I got my son up to speed, I taught middle school health and wellness for the first time. No amount of parenting readies you for a roomful of curious 13-year-olds. To prepare me, my principal showed me questions kids had asked in the past. “How many times can you ask a girl out before it becomes sexual harassment?” “Is it possible for a boy to put his privates in the wrong hole?” “What are all the different sex positions?”

Well, okay then. I could do this. As Roffman notes, these conversations are simply part of the nurturing process, and we miss the big picture when we focus on “the talk.” “That’s where I start with parents. It’s about how we can raise sexually healthy young people from birth,” she says.

Kids have five core needs when it comes to sexuality, Roffman explains. They need affirmation and unconditional love; information about healthy and unhealthy behaviors; clarity about values such as respect and integrity; appropriate boundaries and limits; and guidance about making responsible, safe choices. Within that framework, here are seven tips to help parents raise kids who know how to make well-considered decisions.

Fill in gaps and debunk myths

Karen Rayne, a sex educator in Texas and author of “GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance and Being You,” says that parents shouldn’t make assumptions about what their kids know. She recalls a student who avoided trampolines because she believed that every time a girl is jostled, an egg dies. Another girl sobbed in a bathroom at a water park when she got her period for the first time. “She was being raised by a single dad who never talked to her about it, and she thought she was dying,” she says.

Yuri Ohlrichs, an author and sex educator at Rutgers Netherlands, says that kids are picking up information from peers and the Internet and that parents need to debunk myths. One boy told him that if you clean your genitals with a medical disinfectant after sex, you can’t get a sexually transmitted disease. “Some of the misconceptions are disturbing, and as responsible adults we can take away the tension they create,” he says.

Admit discomfort and stay calm

For parents, acknowledging discomfort is a good first step. “You can begin the conversation with, ‘This is going to be awkward, but we’re going to talk about it anyway because it’s important,’ ” Rayne says. Even if parents are fine, it doesn’t mean their kids are. “Parents need to normalize the dialogue and provide a space where kids can ask anything,” she says. “If young people say something shocking, it’s okay to say, ‘That’s surprising to me.’ ” Still, she recommends parents stay calm and delay their gut reaction. “Process with a friend, partner or religious figure, and then respond in your best emotional state,” she says.

Talk about your family’s values

When Roffman talks to parents, she asks them to list at least five values they want their children to bring to all sexual situations they encounter in their lives. She then urges them to name those values to their kids as young as possible.

By taking this approach, parents can teach the importance of compassion, honesty and respect long before they broach them in a sexual context. “Parents can say, ‘You’re standing too close to me. You’re not respecting my boundaries,’ and talk to children about how no one is allowed to touch them without their permission,” Roffman says.

Last year, her eighth-graders wanted to teach fifth-
graders about consent. They showed an image of the prince kissing Sleeping Beauty along with nonsexual examples of consent. By the end of the presentation, the students understood why Sleeping Beauty was incapable of agreeing to the kiss.

Share personal stories with caution

Before sharing personal information, parents need to think deeply about why they’re sharing it, Roffman says. “There should be a point to the story. What do they hope their child will learn?” She notes that trying to steer a kid’s behavior is not a good motive. “The goal should be to help your child think through decisions they’re going to make,” she says.

Parents also can draw a line when kids ask intrusive questions. “The act of drawing boundaries is powerful, and parents can say, ‘That’s a personal question, and maybe I’ll answer it when you’re older,’ ” Rayne says.

Address stereotypes and gender differences

Ohlrichs encourages adults to take a positive approach to both male and female sexuality. “Not all boys or men are going out there to have sex as much as they can,” he says, noting that boys have insecurities but may struggle to express them. “We have to make sure that boys understand that you’re just as much a man if you’re not experienced sexually as if you are.”

He also urges parents to explain that although there are no hard-and-fast distinctions, males and females might approach sexual scenarios differently. “Boys don’t always understand that a girl might stop kissing because she’s focused on what’s going on around them,” he says. “Boys might be all green lights, but if a girl hears someone in the house or the boy says something that reminds her of a negative experience, it’s over.” Parents can explain that it’s not necessarily a rejection and that the couple needs to work together to make it comfortable. He also suggests that parents tell teens that if someone is giggling or nervous, “it might not be a positive situation for them.”

Ohlrichs urges parents to address stereotypes about female sexuality, noting that girls throughout the world internalize the idea that they need to protect their reputation. “They’re getting the message that they need to conceal excitement and avoid taking initiative, and it’s still one-sided,” he says.

Use media and other sources to start a conversation

“Everything in life can be connected to human sexuality,” Roffman says, and parents can find natural segues in a variety of topics, such as music and sports. Sexetc.org, a website that is run by teens and affiliated with Rutgers University, features polls that parents can use to start a dialogue. Scarleteen.com also has a parenting section and an adult-moderated dialogue board for teens.

Rayne has used the movie “Wonder Woman” and the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” to talk about gender issues with her own children. She also talks to her kids about sexting and shares other Internet cautionary tales when they unfold publicly. Books about sex, gender and reproduction are readily available in her home.

Complete Article HERE!

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