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How did evolution change our sexual organs? It’s time to learn the history of sex

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Porn images are everywhere but we need better ways to teach children about love, intimacy and yes, masturbation

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At the start of this third millennium, sex seems to be all around us – within easy reach, on our screens, constantly talked about in the media. What used to be concealed, shameful and forbidden only a century ago is today regarded as evidence of progress in the freedom of thought. Artists use sex to push the limits of creativity: Paul McCarthy’s “butt plug” sculpture, for example, was installed at the Place Vendôme in Paris in 2014, even though it provoked outrage among residents.

The sexual metaphor is ever-present. Paradoxically, however, sex is rarely explained and almost never taught. Do you know how our sexual organs changed when we evolved from animal to human? When did the first couple show up? Where does our sense of modesty come from? Or eroticism? Or love, that most momentous of human concerns? What about our earliest customs? Which ancient civilisation championed equality between men and women? And why was masturbation frowned upon?

Sex is one of those realities that for a long time we neither wanted to see nor hear about. The sexual liberation of the 1970s – which was, in my opinion, the biggest social revolution in the history of humanity – signalled the transition from a traditional male-dominated society to one in which sex with all its nuances could finally be examined openly and understood. But as sex has dared to uncover itself, to live, to speak, we face the challenge of expressing what for so long has been kept under wraps. How are we to communicate what so recently caused so much shock and outrage?

In the west, the union of two individuals is in complete flux, with a drop in those getting married (in France 57% of births now happen outside marriage); same-sex marriage; and the option of “slices of life”, relationships with different partners in the course of a lifetime. But however free our customs may be, censorship persists when it comes to the communication of sex, the words, the particular way of defining sexuality and the idea of sensuality. Literature and fiction have always attempted to push the boundaries of this censorship: in the 18th century we had Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s Dangerous Liaisons; and in the 21st, EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey. But mostly our discussions fall somewhere between sincerity and provocation as we attempt to understand intimacy and the fullest expression of sexual pleasure.

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No history book will delve too deeply into the sexual realm, yet it’s clear that history is a timeline of instructions and condemnations about sexuality. Each culture, each religion, each era has defined its own normality.

But without learning the history of love and intimacy, how can we understand the extraordinary evolution in customs that has led us from an existence ordered by family and society, and reinforced by religion, to the freedoms we know today? In his collection of aphorisms, Monogamy, the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips says that “most people would not live as a couple if they had never heard of it”. In this, he is reflecting the artificial nature of our customs and the need for a way to express our thoughts on sex, intimacy and being with other people.

We know today that human sexuality is not innate: it is learned and constructed through the images that society offers us. Even among our cousins, the primates, who live in a natural habitat, sexuality is learned through experience – young monkeys witness the courting and frolicking of the adults. The need for a model is evident: a young chimpanzee isolated from its peers is incapable of mating when it reaches adulthood.

Yet there is a fundamental difference: we invented modesty. Humans always make love away from the group. This is one of the great problems with sexuality: on the one hand it requires education; on the other, culture and religion collude to suppress sexual education.

The physician Thomas Beddoes was probably the first person to teach a course in sex education, complete with public demonstrations on the differences between men and women, in the early 19th century. But in the following two centuries, sex education failed to gain ground. Opposition was widespread and aggressive, on the part of the church as well as among teachers.

Sex education classes were subsequently written into law, but, in reality, rarely delivered. Sex education is today well established in Quebec and the Scandinavian countries, where primary school-age children are educated about gender differences and roles, as well as sexual orientation. In the Netherlands, where a complete programme of sex education is delivered from primary school, the rates of teenage pregnancies and abortions are among the lowest in the world.

But other western countries such as France and the UK provide little more than a perfunctory discourse on contraception and safeguarding against STDs. In France, a 2001 law stipulates three classes of sex education a year in middle and secondary school. However, as teachers have no training in this very particular field, it is often organisations such as those devoted to family planning that ensure these classes go ahead. In most cases, they rarely take place at all, and when they do they are limited to the three Ps: “prevention, pill, protection”, in other words, information on fertility and STDs. In this educational void the internet and porn offer themselves as models.

This is quite evidently the worst possible model, and the reason why a more reliable source of knowledge is indispensable, from primary school through to the last year of secondary. The average age at which children are first exposed to pornography is 11. Such an artificial vision of sex has altered our most intimate behaviour and has become the frame of reference not just for our teenagers but for us all. It makes us ask ourselves: am I sexy enough, am I the best lover?intimacy2

Nothing could be more damaging than these images devoid of explanation. We can’t stop young people from encountering porn, but a formal, educational approach would allow our society to explain its context and prevent misunderstandings that could otherwise compromise a fragile or still developing personality.

A genuine sex education should take the bio-psychological, emotional and social aspects of sexuality into account, should allow children to understand differences between the sexes, interpersonal relationships, the importance of developing critical thinking, an open mind and respect for the other. We must banish negative terms (sin, adultery, prostitution, Aids and STDs) in favour of positive schooling that allows children to understand desire, pleasure and excitement; the importance of sensitivity in love; the importance of masturbation, even. We must understand that everything can be taught, even the practicalities of how people live together, and we should start in primary school with discussions not only of genital differences but about the variations between boys and girls, the significance of love and of respect that may help with later relationships, notions of gender equality and domestic violence.

Only by speaking frankly, lightheartedly and wide-rangingly about sex, love and intimacy can we provide an education that enables adolescents, both boys and girls, to begin their lives with a better understanding of human relationships.

Complete Article HERE!

11 Sex Positive Things You Can (And Should) Say To Your Son

By Sabrina Joy Stevens

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“Uh oh! You see how our kitty is arching her back and moving away from you? That means she doesn’t like how you’re playing with her right now. She’s using her body to tell you to leave her alone. Let’s go play with something else together.” I have conversations like that with my almost 2-year-old son multiple times a week, not only because I want him to be a respectful friend and pet owner, but because that’s one of the many sex positive things you can say to your son that don’t necessarily even have to do with sex, but do lay an important foundation for his sexual behavior in the future.

Sex positivity is simply the idea that sex and sexuality are normal and positive parts of life, as long as they’re expressed in healthy, respectful, and consensual ways. Sex positive people recognize that sex should feel good emotionally and physically which means everyone involved needs to feel knowledgeable and comfortable enough with their own bodies and their partners to give and get what they want out of any sexual interaction. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation and mythology about sex that prevent people from living their sexual lives this way, which is a source of much needless trauma and pain in our lives. However, as parents we can end that cycle, by ensuring that our kids know the truth about their bodies, about their rights and boundaries, and about sex itself.

As sex positive parents and parents of sons in particular we have a special responsibility to make sure our sons don’t grow up with the kind of shame and misunderstandings that not only put them at risk of harm, but may make them a danger to others in their future sexual interactions. Our sex negative culture teaches us all many lies about male sexuality, including that boys and men are inherently bad and sexually aggressive. Yet, the mythology goes, because they have these “base” desires, it’s OK for them to trick, manipulate, or even force women and girls into sex. This is rape culture in a nutshell, and it’s on us to stop it. As parents, we have a huge role to play in interrupting these kinds of messages before they shape our sons’ behavior (whether our sons are gay or straight).

The following kinds of sex positive statements can help us raise boys into men who are safe for others to be around, and capable of having the kinds of fulfilling, satisfying relationships we hope will enrich their lives.

“Yep, That’s Your Penis!”

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I find myself saying this at nearly every diaper change, usually in between saying things like, “Yep, that’s your nose!” or “Yep, that’s your knee!” Even as little babies, our sons notice their bodies during diaper changes, bath time, and any other time, really. It’s important to use those moments to make sure they learn the proper language for all of their body parts from a young age, and to treat their private parts as no more inherently shameful as any other body part.

“It’s OK To Touch Yourself, As Long As You Have Privacy”

Eventually, boys and girls alike discover that touching their private parts can feel good. That’s a perfectly healthy development. Instead of shaming or punishing them for doing so, sex positive parents model setting boundaries and reinforce the normalcy of sexual pleasure by letting them know it’s OK, but that they should only do so in their own private spaces (like alone in their own bedrooms, or when they bathe themselves).

“If Your Friends Say ‘Stop’ While You’re Playing, That Means You Stop Right Away”

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Consent and boundaries are fundamental concepts in all relationships, not just sexual ones. That’s why teaching consent can and should happen in lots of other, totally non-sexual contexts from a very early age, including when they’re learning how to play fairly with friends.

“It Looks Like That Dog/Cat/Friend Doesn’t Want To Be Touched. Let’s Leave Them Alone.”

I don’t use words like “sex positive” or “consent” when I help my son interact with our or others’ pets (or with new people, for that matter). That’s what I’m thinking about, though; teaching him how to read others’ body language for signs that indicate their openness or unwillingness to be touched. Those are skills he’ll need in a variety of future situations, sexual and otherwise.

“Can I Hug You?”

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Again, consent consent consent. Asking before giving our sons affectionate touches is how we both honor their right to govern their own bodies, and model how they should do that for others.

“Ask Before Giving Hugs Or Other Nice Touches”

Just like we should always ask them before giving touches, we’ll need to remind them to ask, too. These reminders are more effective if we always ask them, so they know what asking looks like in practice.

“Adults Have Sex To Make Babies…”

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When our sons ask where babies come from, we should tell them the truth (in age-appropriate ways). We don’t need to give very young children all the details or lots of concepts they can’t understand. However, by telling them the simple truth that grown ups usually make babies by having sex (putting their private parts together in a way that lets a man’s sperm meet a woman’s egg inside her body) is better than lying to them, or treating the subject like a shameful secret they’re not allowed to know yet.

“…And Also Because Sex Feels Good…”

Older kids and teenagers eventually need to understand that sex doesn’t always result in pregnancy, and that making children isn’t the only reason people have sex. They also need to know sex is supposed to feel good, physically and emotionally, for everyone involved.

It’s incredibly important that our sons understand that their partners deserve and should expect sexual pleasure just as much as they do, once they are mature enough to actually have sex.  When boys and men don’t understand that their desire is normal and healthy and that girls and women experience desire too we run the risk of having things like pressuring or drugging someone in order to meet their sexual needs, seem “normal.” They need to understand that that is rape, and that they don’t need to resort to coercion or rape to experience sexual release. If they are safe, comfortable, respectful, caring people, they can cultivate the kinds of relationships in which they can have truly (and mutually) fulfilling sex.

“…But That’s Only True When You’re Mature And Ready Enough To Have Sex”

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Some critics of the notion of sex positive parenting worry that being honest about sexual pleasure will make kids vulnerable to sexual abuse. However, kids who misunderstand sex, or who feel too ashamed to discuss their bodies with the trusted adults in their lives, are far more easily manipulated into situations where they can be sexually abused. Abusers use kids’ innate curiosity about sex, their desire to be cooperative, and their body shame against them, and exploit their shame and lack of language about sex to maintain the silence they need to get away with abuse.

Again, sex positivity revolves around the notion that sex should feel physically and emotionally good. That means all participants need to be in a position to freely consent to sex, which children fundamentally can’t. Even if any sexual contact they experienced were to incidentally feel good physically, the emotional damage of adults (or even more powerful and/or older kids) manipulating or forcing them into sexual conduct fails that fundamental test.

So it’s important to ensure our kids know that sex isn’t fundamentally bad, and that it is inappropriate for anyone to try to engage them in any kind of sexual conduct from inappropriate touching, to asking them to look at others’ private parts or have theirs looked at, to taking inappropriate photos of them, and so forth while they are young.

“No One Should Ever Touch You In A Way That Doesn’t Feel Good…”

Our sons need to understand that they have a right to decide who touches them, and when and how, and that if that doesn’t feel good to them, that they can ask and/or do whatever else they need to do to make it stop. They need to understand that this is true for any kind of touch, whether it’s a prospective hug from a relative, or a sexual touch from a future sex partner.

It’s also important for our sons to understand that not all sexual touches will feel good to them, that that is normal, and that it’s OK for them to demand that it stops (even if the person touching them is female). Our culture teaches boys and men that “real men” always want and enjoy sexual touch, and that straight men always enjoy touches they receive from women. These myths not only leave them vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, but leaves them without social support and understanding if these things happen to them.

“…And You Should Never Touch Anyone Else In A Way They Don’t Want And Like”

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And of course, our sons need to know that just like they have a right not to experience touches they don’t want, everyone else they meet has that same right and expectation of them. Recognizing that all the people they meet have the same rights they do, and that other people have their own complex mixes of desires, fears, curiosities and discomforts like they do, will help them avoid becoming a danger to others, and lay the foundation for the kinds of mutually fulfilling relationships we want for them in the future.

Complete Article HERE!

Apple’s Health App Now Tracks Sexual Activity, and That’s a Big Opportunity

By Lux Alptraum

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It’s no secret that Apple has a fraught relationship with sex. Since the debut of the iOS App Store, the company’s made every effort to keep its wares “family friendly” (read: porn free), often employing a very, very broad definition of what, exactly, constitutes porn.

But as iOS has moved more and more into the health space, Apple’s had to contend with the reality that sex isn’t just some seedy business it can push into the corner, but instead an integral, and unavoidable, part of healthy human life. And that’s starting to change the way the company interacts with sex… at least a little bit, anyway.

Case in point: take a look at how HealthKit handles sex. Initially, the combination of health tracking app and developer tools was completely sex free, refusing to even acknowledge the existence of menstruation. After pushback from angry female users (who reminded Apple that, even though it involves a vagina, menstruation isn’t some pervy thrill), the Health app was updated to sync with period tracking and fertility apps. In its current iteration, it even allows users to track their sexual activity. Yes, your HealthKit is also a HumpKit.

At first glance, the sexual activity tracking function appears to be extremely limited. As one iPhone user noted, it only integrates with period tracking and fertility apps (in spite of the fact that there are plenty of apps specifically designed to track sexual activity itself). Viewed this way, the Health app assumes that boning is purely about reproduction—whether you’re trying to get pregnant, or trying to avoid it—and the only people who need to keep track of when and how and with whom they’re doing the dirty are people at risk of getting pregnant.

The updated Health app has more options for reproductive health.

The updated Health app has more options for reproductive health.

But there’s more to Apple’s sexual activity tracker than just app integration. Users have the ability to manually input every time they get down and dirty (noting date, time, and whether or not protection was used), allowing users to create a calendar of when, and how, they’re having sex. While this may seem like nothing more than a virtual bedpost for would-be Casanovas to etch notches into, it’s actually a great step forward for sexual health tracking—and, hopefully, for the tech world’s attitude towards sex.

Why would Health app users want to track their sexual activity (aside from the standard baby making or baby avoiding reasons)? Well, for starters, STIs. If your latest health check up turned up a chlamydia infection, it’s helpful to have access to data that allows you to pinpoint when you may have become infected—and how many partners you may have spread that infection to.

Although the app does not currently allow users to indicate who they were having sex with (perhaps due to privacy concerns, although existing sex tracking apps like Bedpost have been navigating that issue for almost a decade), having a baseline for when an infection might have occurred is at least a good start.

On the flip side of the STI equation, people managing chronic STIs might want to keep tabs on their sexual activity as part of their strategy for keeping partners safe (something that would be even more useful when combined with a log of herpes outbreaks, for instance).

And even users in committed, monogamous relationships where there’s zero risk of STI transmission can still find value to keeping tabs on their sexual activity. Just like mindfulness and nutrition and exercise and sleep, sex is an important part of life that has an impact on wellbeing and general health. If the frequency with which you’re having sex is affecting your stress level, or your emotional wellbeing, or your general health and happiness, that’s useful and important information to have.

The sex tracker is basic, but still useful.

The sex tracker is basic, but still useful.

As the app itself notes, “sexual activity can affect both physical and emotional health,” and keeping track of when you’re boning can provide a better, broader understanding of what, exactly, is affecting your health.

Apple has long viewed sex as something taboo—and when it comes to porn and sexual entertainment, that probably won’t change anytime soon. But the latest iteration of Health is a step in the right direction.

And while it could certainly benefit from a bit of expansion—recognition of the possibility of multiple partners, a more nuanced reflection of what “protection” might mean for different users, ability to indicate a partner’s gender, just for starters—it’s still a huge step forward from a historically-sex-unfriendly company. Much as we try to deny it, sexuality is a fundamental and important part of human life. It’s wonderful to see Apple finally allowing it to be truly integrated into our tech as well.

Complete Article HERE!

Heightened Awareness: Anxiety Can Lead to Pain During Sex

Clearly anxiety can be an obstacle to a healthy sex life and needs to be talked about.

By Carrie Weisman

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How to Rekindle Sexual Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

New research shows that couples who are responsive outside of the bedroom have more interest in sex

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By Elizabeth Bernstein

How can a couple keep their sexual desire going strong for the long haul?

Be nice to each other.

New research shows one way to keep desire strong is to be responsive to your partner’s needs out of the bedroom.

People who are responsive do three things: They understand what their partner is really saying, validate what is important to their partner, such as his or her attitudes, goals and desires, and care for or express warmth and affection toward their partner.

“Responsiveness creates a deep feeling that someone really knows and understands you,” says Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), a private university in Herzliya, Israel, who is the lead researcher on the new studies. “It makes you feel unique and special, and that is very, very sexy.”

In the beginning of a relationship, neurotransmitters such as dopamine push the partners to have sex as much as possible. Scan the brain of someone in this early, passionate stage of love and it will look very much like the brain of someone on drugs.

The addiction doesn’t last. Research suggests the chemical phase of passionate love typically continues between one and three years. Desire fades for different reasons: the chemical addiction to a partner subsides; people age and hormones decrease; emotional distance can cause passion to drop.

The new research—by psychologists at the IDC, the University of Rochester, Bar-Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel, and Cornell Tech in New York, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology—consists of three studies of more than 100 heterosexual couples each. In the first, partners rated each others’ responsiveness and their own feelings of desire after a back and forth in an online app, where one person described a recent experience and thought his or her partner was responding. It was really a researcher.

In the second study, researchers reviewed videotapes of couples as one partner told a positive or negative personal story and the other responded. Then they were told to express physical intimacy. Researchers coded the subjects’ responsiveness and their expressions of desire.

In the third study, couples were asked to keep a daily diary for six weeks, reporting on the quality of the relationship, how responsive each partner felt the other was, and their level of desire. The participants were also asked to rate whether they felt their partner was valuable that day—someone others would perceive as a good partner—and how special he or she made them feel.

The studies showed that both men and women who felt their partner was more responsive felt more sexual desire for their partner. But women were affected more than men when their partner was responsive, meaning their desire for their partner increased more. The researchers believe women’s sexual desire is more sensitive in general to the emotional atmosphere than men’s.

The new research contradicts a decades-old theory that psychologists call the Intimacy-Desire paradox, which proposes that desire drops as two people become more emotionally intimate. It purports that people seek intimacy in a relationship, but desire thrives on distance and uncertainty.

Dr. Birnbaum says that certain types of intimacy are better for your sex life than others. Impersonal intimacy—familiarity without an emotional component—does kill desire. Think of your partner shaving in front of you or leaving the bathroom door open. But emotional intimacy that makes the relationship feel unique can boost it.

Tips to boost desire in your relationship by being responsive:

Start now. It is better to prevent a decline in desire than to try to revive it when it is lost, Dr. Birnbaum says.

Listen without judging. Don’t interrupt. Don’t spend the time while your partner is speaking thinking about how you will respond. “Most people want to give advice,” says Dr. Birnbaum. “It’s not the same as being there as a warm and wise ear.”

Pay attention to details. Look for ways to show your understanding and support. Does your wife have a big interview coming up and need solitude to prepare? Take the children out to dinner. Is your husband’s team in the playoffs? Don’t ask him to clean the garage right now. Being responsive is often expressed by behaviors, not just words, Dr. Birnbaum says.

Talk about your desire. Share your fantasies. Watch a sexy movie and talk about what parts you liked best.

Complete Article HERE!