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What it’s like to be a male sexual surrogate

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The Sessions looked at the work of sexual surrogates

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For most adults, sex is an activity that can bring joy, frustration, contentment or disappointment – the full range of human responses. But for a few people, the very thought of sexual contact with another human being causes such anxiety that they can never get close to the act.

For them, psychosexual therapy is usually a good choice. And in a few cases, this can involve a particular form of therapy: use of a sexual surrogate.

Sexual surrogates are trained and professional stand-in partners for men and women who have severe problems getting to an intimate/sexual relationship. Normally, the client will be undergoing counselling with a psychosexual therapist, and then, in parallel with that, will have ‘bodywork’ sessions with a surrogate partner.

Andy, 50, is a psychosexual therapist who also worked as a surrogate for a number of years. Clients tend to be aged from their mid-thirties to around fifty and most came to him through word of mouth. “Some people have never experienced sexual intimacy,” he explains. “I had one client who had never gone beyond kissing.” Others have experienced abuse and have negative connotations around sex or have physiological problems.

“I would usually do between six and ten monthly sessions of three hours each. The first sessions would be about getting comfortable being in a room with a man. So I will say, ‘So you’re in a room with a man, how does that feel for you?’ And perhaps it reminds them of being a teenager so we’ll talk about what that teenage part of them needs – to be more confident, say.”

Although the sessions would build towards penetrative sex, it would be a long way down the line. But some clients want to take things too quickly, he says. “If they want to rush into sexual intimacy or penetration then I’ll slow them down and ask them where that comes from. Most of them do need to slow down because they’re rushing into what they think is the goal of sex.”

After a few sessions, Andy would bring touch into the sessions. “I would ask them what sort of touch they would want to receive. And they might like to receive some sort of massage, fully clothed or partly unclothed. Sometimes we would sit opposite each other on the sofa and find out what happens in her system if one of us leans closer. Does she get excited? Does she want to run away? Does she want to reach out and have more contact?”

Once the client was comfortable with touching, nudity would be introduced. “I might do an undressing process where I would invite them to take off one piece of clothing and each time to name a limiting belief that stops them really enjoying and celebrating their body and allowing pleasure in it. ‘One thing that stops me is my belief that I’m unattractive and my bum’s too big.’ They would take off that piece of clothing and that belief. Then I would offer feedback about what I see, so, ‘Your breasts feel very sensual and feminine to me’.”

Sexual surrogacy has been operating in Britain for a few decades, introduced from America, where it was also the subject of the Oscar-nominated film The Sessions, based on the true story of partially paralysed polio survivor Mark O’Brien and Cheryl Cohen-Greene, the surrogate he worked with to overcome his problems.

While most surrogates are female working with male clients, there are a handful of male surrogates in Britain who work with female clients. Male surrogates tend to be mid-thirties and older.

For many men, being hired to act as an intimate partner for a woman they barely know would be a strange situation. So how did Andy feel during these sessions? “Sometimes it was quite challenging, sometimes engaging, sometimes arousing,” he recalls. “And client reactions were very varied too. Some would feel ashamed, sometimes emotional or physical discomfort. Or they would feel excitement and confidence. It was moment to moment – it’s like how you feel in a relationship, you feel many things.

“It’s an interesting line to walk. There are many clients that I have worked with who I really liked and I enjoyed the work with them both sexually and emotionally but I’m also aware that I’m not there to be in a relationship with them.”

He is glad he did the job but it did cause him difficulties, not least in relationships with his own partners, whom he always made aware of his work. “I supported many women through a very challenging and sometimes life-changing process,” he says. “But I found that ultimately it took too great a toll – energetically, physically and emotionally. I was putting myself in situations of intimacy with a client that I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen. And I found that draining. I would sometimes ask, ‘Why did I do that to myself?'”

Overall he believes they key to sexual surrogacy involves being realistic about what will come of it.

“I think surrogacy is to be entered into with as much self-awareness as the client can muster,” he says. “While it can point them in the right direction, it’s not the answer. Ultimately, they have to find confidence within themselves. It can be a step on that journey.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Talk To Your Doctor About Sex When You Have Cancer

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More people are surviving cancer than ever before, but at least 60 percent of them experience long-term sexual problems post-treatment.

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So you’ve survived cancer. You’ve endured brutal treatments that caused hair loss, weight gain, nausea, or so much pain you could barely move. Perhaps your body looks different, too—maybe you had a double mastectomy with reconstruction, or an orchiectomy to remove one of your testicles. Now you’re turning your attention back to everyday life, whether that’s work, family, dating, school, or some combination of all of those. But you probably aren’t prepared for the horrifying side-effects those life-saving measures will likely have on sex and intimacy, from infertility and impotence, to penile and vaginal shrinkage, to body shame and silent suffering.

More than 15.5 million Americans are alive today with a history of cancer, and at least 60 percent of them experience long-term sexual problems post-treatment. What’s worse, only one-fifth of cancer survivors end up seeing a health care professional to get help with sex and intimacy issues stemming from their ordeal.

Part of the challenge is that the vast majority of cancer patients don’t talk to their oncologists about these problems, simply because they’re embarrassed or they think their low sex drive or severe vaginal dryness will eventually go away on their own. Others try to talk, but end up with versions of the same story: When I went back to my doctor and told him I was having problems with sex, he replied, ‘Well, I saved your life, didn’t I?’ And many oncologists aren’t prepared to answer questions about sex.

“Sex is the hot potato of patient professional communications. Everyone knows it’s important but no one wants to handle it,” says Leslie Schover, a clinical psychologist who’s one of the pioneers in helping cancer survivors navigate sexual health and fertility. “ When you ask psychologists, oncologists and nurses, ‘Do you think it’s important to talk to patients about sex?’ they say yes. And then you say, ‘Do you do it routinely?’ They say no. When you ask why, they say it’s someone else’s job.”

Schover spent 13 years as a staff psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and nearly two decades at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. After retiring last year, she founded Will2Love, a digital health company that offers evidence-based online help for cancer-related sex and fertility problems. Will2Love recently launched a national campaign called Bring It Up! that offers three-step plans for patients and health care providers, so they can talk more openly about how cancer treatments affect sex and intimacy. This fall, the company is collaborating with the American Cancer Society on a free clinical trial—participants will receive up to six months of free self-help programming in return for answering brief questionnaires—to track the success of the programs.

Schover spoke to Newsweek about the challenges cancer patients face when it comes to sex and intimacy, how they can better communicate with their doctors, and what resources can help them regain a satisfying sex life, even if it looks different than it did before.

NEWSWEEK: How do cancer treatments affect sex and intimacy?
LESLIE SCHOVER: A lot of cancer treatments damage some of the systems you need to have a healthy sex life. Some damage hormone levels, and surgery in the pelvic area removes parts of the reproductive system or damages nerves and blood vessels involved in sexual response. Radiation to the pelvic region reduces blood flow to the genital area for men and women, so it affects erections and women’s ability to get lubrication and have their vagina expand when they’re sexually excited.

What happens, for example, to a 35-year-old woman with breast cancer?
Even if it’s localized, they’ll probably want her to have chemotherapy, which tends to put a woman into permanent menopause. Doctors won’t want her to take any form of estrogen, so she’ll have hot flashes, severe vaginal dryness and loss of vaginal size, so sex becomes really painful. She’ll also face osteoporosis at a younger age. If she’s single and hasn’t had children, she’s facing infertility and a fast decision about freezing her eggs before chemo.

What about a 60-year-old man with prostate cancer?
A lot of men by that age are already starting to experience more difficulty getting or keeping erections, and after a prostatectomy, chances are, he won’t be able to recover full erections. Only a quarter of men recover erections anything like they had before surgery. There are a variety of treatments, like Viagra and other pills, but after prostate cancer surgery, most men don’t get a lot of benefit. They might be faced with choices like injecting a needle in the side of the penis to create a firm erection, or getting a penile prosthesis put in to give a man erections when he wants one. If he has that surgery, no semen will come out. He’ll have a dry orgasm, and although it will be quite pleasurable, a lot of men feel like it’s less intense than it was before. These men can also drip urine when they get sexually excited.

Why are so many people unprepared for these side-effects?
If you ask oncologists, ‘Do you tell patients what will happen?’ a higher percentage—like in some studies up to 80 percent—say they have talked to their patients about the sexual side-effects. When you survey patients, it’s rare that 50 percent remember a talk. But most of these talks are informed consent, like what will happen to you after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. And during that talk, people are bombarded by so many facts and horrible side-effects that could happen, they just shut down. It’s easy for sex to get lost in the midst of this information. By the time people are really ready to hear more about sex, they’re in their recovery period.

Why is it so hard to talk about sex with your oncology team?
It takes courage to say, ‘Hey, I want to ask you about my sex life.’ When patients get their courage together and ask the question, they often get a dismissive answer like, ‘We’re controlling your cancer here, why are you worrying about your sex life?’ Or, ‘I’m your oncologist, why don’t you ask your gynecologist about that?’ Patients have to be assertive enough to bring up the question, but to deal with it if they don’t get a good answer. Sexual health is an important part of your overall quality of life and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to solve or prevent a problem.

What’s the best way for people to prepare for those conversations?
First, because clinics are so busy, ask for a longer appointment time and explain that you have a special question that needs to be addressed. At the start of the appointment, say, ‘I just want to remind you that I have one special question that I want to address today, so please give me time for that.’ Bring it up before the appointment is over.

Second, writing out a question on a piece of paper is a great idea. If you feel anxious or you’re stumbling over your words, you can take it out and read it.

Also, some people bring their spouse or partner to an appointment. They can offer moral support and help them remember all the things the doctor or nurse told them in answering the question.

So you’ve asked your question. Now what?
Don’t leave without a plan. It’s easy to ask the question, get dismissed, and say, I tried. Have a follow-up question prepared. For example, ‘If you aren’t sure how to help me, who can you send me to that might have some expertise?’ Or, ‘Does this particular hospital have a clinic that treats sexual problems?’ Or, ‘Do you know a gynecologist or urologist who’s good with these kinds of problems?’ If you want counseling, ask for that.

What happens if you still get no answers?
I created Will2Love for that problem! It came out of my long career working in cancer centers and seeing the suffering of patients who didn’t get accurate, timely information. When the internet became a place to get health info, it struck me as the perfect place for cancer, sexuality and fertility. Sex is the top search term on the Internet, so people are comfortable looking for information about sex online, including older people or those with lower incomes.

Also, experts tend to cluster in New York and California or major cancer centers. I only know of six or seven major cancer centers with a sex clinic in the U.S. and there are something like 43 comprehensive cancer centers!

We offer free content for the cancer community, including blogs and forums and resource links to finding a sex therapist of gynecologist. We also charge for specialized services with modest fees. Six months is still less than one session with a psychologist in a big city! We’re adding telehealth services that will be more expensive, but you’re talking to someone with expert training.

What can doctors do better in this area?
For health care professionals, their biggest concern is, ‘I have 40 patients to see in my clinic today and if I take 15 extra minutes with four of them, how will I take good care of everybody?’ They can ask to train someone in their clinic, like a nurse or physician’s assistant, who can take more time with each patient, so the oncologist isn’t the one providing sexual counseling, and also have a referral network set up with gynecologists, urologists and mental health professionals.

 

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7 Tips for Introducing Sex Toys to Your shy Partner

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Trust and vulnerability are required for this experimental play.

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The very first time I remember seeing a sex toy was at a “Passion Party” hosted in the apartment of one of my college friends. The entire event was incredibly awkward and I remember doing my best to just relax and have fun. We played games where we talked openly about our sex lives and previous sexcapades.

Throughout the party, different toys were described and passed around for each of the attendees to get a little hand only experience. The entire soiree was filled with nervous giggles and an almost palpable sexual electricity.

Towards the end of the party, we were given little ordering sheets of paper and were instructed to walk past a table with each toy laid out on display. I remember being so nervous to make a choice and even more nervous if I were to choose one that had to be delivered to my apartment where I lived with my high school sweetheart at the time.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the small purple vibrator I choose was the last one the party rep had in stock and available to take home. I left the event with giddiness and an excitement I hadn’t yet felt before.

Interestingly, those positives were countered by slight thoughts that yielded shame as well. I grew up in a Catholic environment and I always struggled with the idea of self-pleasure, sex used as a means for pleasure, sex outside of marriage and orgasm through means other than my spouse.

I also knew that if I wanted to bring my new purchase into the bedroom with my partner, I would have to get over more than just how to figure out which way the batteries went.

Since that time in my life, my how things have changed. Now, sex and sexuality empowerment and exploration is a fabric of my being and what I spend most of my days helping people with. I can’t help but relive a portion of the story above every time I have conversations with clients and friends who are looking to play with sex toys of any sort for the first time.

If my first experiences, with even the most basic toys, were awkward and slightly shame-filled, I can only imagine there are plenty of other people out there who are just as shy to the idea.

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Sharing from personal experience and from the experience of some of the people I have worked with, here are a few good things to know when considering adding sexy playthings into some of your sexy time.

  1. Sex toys are meant to aid in your sexual pleasure not replace your partner. If your partner makes a suggestion for the addition or exploration of sex toys, it does not mean you are not pleasing them. If anything, that is a sign that your partner trusts you enough to be vulnerable while in the midst of a very sacred, personal act.
  2. Make your decision based off of a conversation. I suggest creating a sex toy “want, will, won’t” list so you can determine your comfort level and your boundaries along with the comfort level and boundaries for your partner. Once you have a better understanding of dynamics and preferences you can make an informed sex toy purchase. Toys can be used for all sorts of play. It’s best to create your lists with open communication. Maybe take the BDSM Test at www.bdsmtest.org to help with your decision.
  3. I suggest your first sex toy purchase include a blind fold for sensory deprivation. This enhances other active senses and can make the person who is blindfolded feel less exposed when play time begins, while the person learning to give pleasure through sex toy play has the opportunity to relax and explore without eyes on them the entire time.
  4. Have a safe word and when playtime begins and continues communicating. Tell your partner when something feels good and when something does not. I find that a blindfold helps with the comfort level around keeping communication free flowing as well.
  5. All sex toys are not created equal. Choose toys that are made of high quality, non-toxic material.
    Some toys are waterproof and some are not. Make sure to check before you play, just in case your sexy session decides to change environments.
  6. Knowing about the toy does not take the fun out of it! The more information you get on sex toys that interest you, the easier it is to enjoy the experiences that include them.
  7. Get help where you need it if you are dealing with sexual shame from any area of your life.
    I needed to heal from shame surrounding my faith and regarding the lack of healthy sex related information provided to me while growing up.Step one is identifying the problem areas and then gaining assistance and support in healing from wounds that exist in those areas.

There are plenty of resources available and people like myself and other sex experts that specialize in sex education and step one is identifying the problem areas and then gaining assistance and support in healing from wounds that exist in those areas. There are plenty of resources available and people like myself and other sex experts that specialize in sex education and sexuality empowerment that can assist you on your journey. When you treat the core area of discomfort and/or pain, adding things like sex toys into your life can lead to magical, orgasmic experiences.

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Sex toys can be a fun way to spice things up in the bedroom, but they can also be a way to further connect with yourself and your partner.

Understand that sometimes things don’t go according to plan and choose to laugh when things go a little different to your expectations. Always give certain toys and instances a second chance and remember to breathe and be present.

Sex is fun and pleasure is good for you.

Complete Article HERE!

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Marijuana And Sex: How Much Weed Is Too Much?

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If you don’t know about the ‘bidirectional effect.’ you need to read this.

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It’s not a secret that medical cannabis has been proved beneficial to those seeking pain management, alleviating chronic ailments and improving appetite. And for millennia it has been reported that marijuana and sex go together, too.

A new study released this month reveals that cannabis use, indeed, can improve sexual function — but it depends on the amount you and your partner partake.

Cannabis and Sexuality,” a report authored by Richard Balon and published in Current Sexual Health Reports, suggests that low doses of marijuana enhances sexual desire, while higher doses may lead to a bad sex. Says the report:

Cannabis has bidirectional effect on sexual functioning. Low and acute doses of cannabis may enhance sexual human sexual functioning, e.g., sexual desire and enjoyment/satisfaction in some subjects. On the other hand, chronic use of higher doses of cannabis may lead to negative effect on sexual functioning such as lack of interest, erectile dysfunction, and inhibited orgasm. Studies of cannabis effect on human sexuality in cannabis users and healthy volunteers which would implement a double-blind design and use valid and reliable instruments are urgently needed in view of expanded use of cannabis/marijuana due to its legalization and medicalization.

Of course, this is not new to anyone who has smoked a joint and is not a virgin. Another study, released late last year, concluded:

“For centuries, in addition to its recreational actions, several contradictory claims regarding the effects of cannabis use in sexual functioning and behavior (e.g. aphrodisiac vs anti-aphrodisiac) of both sexes have been accumulated. … Marijuana contains therapeutic compounds known as cannabinoids, which researchers have found beneficial in treating problems related to sex.”

But dosage is important. Too much pot can be unhealthy for male sexuality. “You get that classic stoner couch lock and lose your desire to have sex at all,” according to Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer at HelloMD. Perry suggests that men should consume cannabis that contains 10-14 percent THC.

Although it appears women have a different tolerance when it comes to cannabis and sexual activity, it is recommended to start with low doses before escalating the high.

According to HelloMD:

One reason why this may be so is that cannabis consumption is known to stimulate the production of oxytocin in the body. The production of oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone, is closely related to the endocannabinoid system. Oxytocin is involved in a variety of human interactions, including sexual intercourse. Oxytocin is often released during orgasm, creating a bond between sexual partners that brings them closer together. The increased oxytocin production experienced while using cannabis during sex leaves me feeling deeply connected to my partner on a physical and spiritual level. Cannabis helps us achieve a level of closeness and unity that is truly unique.

Complete Article HERE!

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Who’s avoiding sex, and why

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By Shervin Assari

Sex has a strong influence on many aspects of well-being: it is one of our most basic physiological needs. Sex feeds our identity and is a core element of our social life.

But millions of people spend at least some of their adulthood not having sex. This sexual avoidance can result in emotional distress, shame and low self-esteem – both for the individual who avoids sex and for the partner who is rejected.

Yet while our society focuses a lot on having sex, we do not know as much about not having it.

As a researcher of human behavior who is fascinated by how sex and gender interact, I have found that sexual avoidance influences multiple aspects of our well-being. I also have found that people avoid sex for many different reasons, some of which can be easily addressed.

People who have more sex report higher self-esteem, life satisfaction and quality of life. In contrast, lower frequency of sex and avoiding sex are linked to psychological distress, anxiety, depression and relationship problems.

In his landmark work, Alfred Kinsey found that up to 19 percent of adults do not engage in sex. This varies by gender and marriage status, with nearly no married males going without sex for a long duration.

Other research also confirms that women more commonly avoid sex than men. In fact, up to 40 percent of women avoid sex some time in their lives. Pain during sex and low libido are big issues.

The gender differences start early. More teenage females than teenage males abstain from sex.

Women also are more likely to avoid sex because of childhood sexual abuse. Pregnant women fear miscarriage or harming the fetus – and can also refuse sex because of lack of interest and fatigue.

The most common reasons for men avoiding sex are erectile dysfunction, chronic medical conditions and lack of opportunity.

For both men and women, however, our research and the work of others have shown that medical problems are the main reasons for sex avoidance.

For example, heart disease patients often avoid sex because they are afraid of a heart attack. Other research has shown the same for individuals with cerebrovascular conditions, such as a stroke.

Chronic pain diminishes the pleasure of the sexual act and directly interferes by limiting positions. The depression and stress it causes can get in the way, as can certain medications for chronic pain.

Metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity reduce sexual activity. In fact, diabetes hastens sexual decline in men by as much as 15 years. Large body mass and poor body image ruin intimacy, which is core to the opportunity for having sex.

Personality disorders, addiction and substance abuse and poor sleep quality all play major roles in sexual interest and abilities.

Many medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, reduce libido and sexual activity, and, as a result, increase the risk of sexual avoidance.

Finally, low levels of testosterone for men and low levels of dopamine and serotonin in men and women can play a role.

For both genders, loneliness reduces the amount of time spent with other people and the opportunity for interactions with others and intimacy. Individuals who are lonely sometimes replace actual sexual relations with the use of pornography. This becomes important as pornography may negatively affect sexual performance over time.

Many older adults do not engage in sex because of shame and feelings of guilt or simply because they think they are “too old for sex.” However, it would be wrong to assume that older adults are not interested in engaging in sex.

Few people talk with their doctors about their sexual problems. Indeed, at least half of all medical visits do not address sexual issues.

Embarrassment, cultural and religious factors, and lack of time may hold some doctors back from asking about the sex lives of their patients. Some doctors feel that addressing sexual issues creates too much closeness to the patient. Others think talking about sexuality will take too much time.

Yet while some doctors may be afraid to ask about sex with patients, research has shown that patients appear to be willing to provide a response if asked. This means that their sexual problems are not being addressed unless the doctor brings it up.

Patients could benefit from a little help. To take just one example, patients with arthritis and low back pain need information and advice from their health care provider about recommended intercourse positions so as to avoid pain.

The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” culture should become “Do ask, do tell.”

Complete Article HERE!

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