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Healing Sexual Trauma through Sensate Focus

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One of the most difficult things for me to deal with as a therapist is the aftermath of sexual trauma. And I know that the trouble I have with this is only a tiny fraction of the difficulty my client has as he or she faces his/her past. I share with you a correspondence I’ve had with a 36-year-old man from Boston named Trent.

Dr. Dick,
When I was 10 years my parish priest molested me. It went on for over a year. Mostly, I’ve been able to put this behind me. I’ve been married over a year to this really great gal. She’s been very understanding and supportive, and we love each other very much. A couple of weeks ago when we were having sex, my wife started to massage my bottom. This was the first time someone touched me there since I was 10. At first it felt good, but then I remembered how I felt when I was a kid and freaked out. I started to cry. My poor wife was devastated at the thought of triggering this painful memory. I told her it wasn’t her fault, but we haven’t had sex since. I’m worried, but I don’t know what to do.

Working through a sexual trauma, like the one Trent experienced as a kid, is difficult. But it is essential for regaining a healthy sense of the sexual self. I told Trent—and this applies to any anyone else who has had regrettable early sexual experiences in their past—that I strongly suggested that he and his wife engage a sex-positive therapist to help them get back on track.

Many people have dealt with some kind of sexually related trauma in their lives.  However, some trauma is more severe than others. Emotional scar tissue and painful memories may linger, but you can learn to insulate yourself from the disruptive effects of the past in the present. Thanks to the indomitable human spirit, most of us live through our difficulties and go on to develop healthy, integrated sex lives.

Sensate focus is a process that helps individuals move through painful sexual memories and heal the rift between the affected parts of the body and the pleasure they can produce. I thought this technique would be of particular value for Trent because of something he’d said: “At first it felt good, but then I remembered how I felt when I was a kid and freaked out.” This tells me that he was able to enjoy the sensations before the association with the molestation kicked in and ruined everything. Sensate focus offers a way to short-circuit this disruptive connection and rewire it for pleasure instead of pain.

What follows are structured therapeutic touching exercises for couples. They are not a prelude to sex. You need to be clear on that. Your genitals will be involved. There will be pleasure and arousal, for sure. But the object of this process is to desensitize the trigger (in Trent’s case, his butt), then re-sensitize it for pleasure. These exercises take about an hour one day a week over the course of a month. If you embark on this course, make sure that you dedicate that kind of time commitment. Please, don’t short-change yourselves; this is an investment in your sexual health and wellbeing.

You and your partner will take turns being the one touched and the one doing the touching. Both of you will have 30 minutes to touch and 30 minutes to be touched: 15 minutes lying on your front; 15 minutes on your back.

Week 1—Breaking the Ice
Structured touching will be unfamiliar to you at first. I want you to use this first session to connect with each other in a sensual and playful way. I want each of you to explore every inch of your partner’s body from head to toe, first the back of the body then the front. This first week, however, avoid one another’s genitals.

This isn’t massage, where touch is directed toward pleasuring your partner. Sensate focus exercises are about gleaning information. Focus on how it feels to touch different parts of your partner’s body in a non-seductive way. Be aware of the different textures contours and temperatures. Use different pressures—heavy and light; different strokes—long and short. Use fingertips, palms, the back of your hands and forearms.

When you’ve finished the first 30 minutes, swap places. This will work best if the one being touched relinquishes control as much as possible. Keep verbal communication at a minimum. Once the hour is over, thank one another for the experience and get on with the rest of your day. Don’t try to process things right then and there, just sit with the sensations. Or better still; write your feelings in a journal that you might want to share later.

Week 2—Making Things More Interesting
Building on what you learned in the first week; this time, kick it up a notch by expanding the structured touching to include anal and genital areas. These are sexually charged zones, but the touch must remain non-seductive. Begin the exercise with some full-body touching before moving on to the new areas. Again, the emphasis is on obtaining information and awareness of physical sensations.

This is where things got a bit challenging for Trent. When his wife touched his butt, I told him I wanted him to want stay in the moment and focus on who was touching him and why. Trent’s wife was not touching him in a sexual manner; she was gathering information.

Staying in the present helps take the edge off. If anxiety builds, deep breathing can help you to relax. Your partner will probably be very nervous too, so breathing together can be helpful.

A guided touch technique can also be useful. Place one of your hands on top of your partner’s and guide it over your trigger area. Try using more or less pressure as you see fit. Remember your trigger spot is just like every other part of your body. Even though an early trauma has sensitized this area to be off bounds, sensate focus exercises will re-sensitize and reintegrate it with the rest of your body. You’ll have to trust me on this.

Week 3—Mutual Touching
This week, we move on to mutual touching. However, it must remain structured and non-seductive, both in the giving and receiving. Mutual touch will provide a more natural form of physical interaction than the previous weeks. You’ll also be shifting attention from how it feels to touch to being aware of how your partner is receiving your touch. Keep verbal communication to a minimum. Let your body tell your partner how you are enjoying the touch. If you must talk, assign a number code to the touch you are receiving: 5 being, ho-hum, 1 being Yowsa!

Remember, no matter how sexually aroused you become, this is not a prelude to sex. If you need to release your sexual tension, feel free to masturbate afterward. No partnered sex during the exercises. Okay?

Week 4—Bringin’ It Home
This last week of exercises continues the mutual touching, with a focus on overcoming any final reservations you have about your trigger zone and the pleasure you derive from it. More of your partner’s touch should focus on that area. For Trent, I advised that his wife include a nice lotion or personal lube for this investigation. (Touching with a wet hand is different from touching with a dry hand.) While concentrating on his butt with one hand, I suggested she fondle his genitals with the other. By playing with the energy around Trent’s sphincter, his wife was able to redirect it and help him reconnect his ass to the rest of his body.

Try receiving your wire’s touch in different positions. Being proactive will facilitate the healing. While she is touching your trigger area, move your butt toward her to meet the caress. You’ll immediately see how being in control will help you move beyond any remaining anxiety. You are not just being passive recipient anymore; you are actively involved with inviting the pleasure. If there are still reservations, take it slow until they too, melt away.

Once he’d freed up his ass for pleasure, I told Trent be sure to incorporate butt play into his future lovemaking repertoire, but I also reminded him to take as much time as he needed to resolve the issue. There is no quick fix. I assured him, though, with diligence and care, sensate focus would remove the fear and shame of the molestation, and replace it with a sense of wholeness, joy and pleasure.

Good luck

Making a Marriage Work; A Primer For Sexual Success

I’m preparing a workshop for recently engaged couples. I expect there will be about a dozen couples attending. While most of the participants will be preparing for their first marriage, there will be at least two couples working on their second marriage. My experience tells me that regardless of how many turns one takes on the merry-go-round anxiety about sexual compatibility, particularly for the long haul, abounds.

One of the best resources out there for those considering a sexually exclusive traditional marriage is Esther Perel’s controversial book, Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic.  Her thesis is that increased emotional intimacy between partners often leads to less sexual passion. I’ve been preaching the same sermon for nearly 30 years. But I assure you; there are ways around this predictable stumbling block.

Here we have Paige, age 22 from Tulsa. OK.

I am engaged to a wonderful guy. I’m excited about my upcoming marriage, but I’m also afraid that it will fail. I know you are going to think we’re freaks, but my fiancé and I have decided to save ourselves for after we are married. Some of our friends even our recently married friends are having trouble with their relationship and with the divorce rate so high, what are the chances that my marriage will work? Do I just have cold feet or am I not ready to get married?

First off, I don’t think you’re a freak for reserving full sexual expression till after you’re married. It wasn’t too long ago when that was the norm. But even people who enter marriage as established sex partners aren’t assured success.

I caution you to jettison any Pollyanna notion you might have about marriage being a breeze, or that all you need is love. These are dangerous fictions. Your recently married friends have problems because there are always problems in a marriage. It’s the nature of relationships. Hopefully, the problems you guys will face won’t be insurmountable, but sure as shootin’ problems will be your constant companions, even big problems. So count on it and prepare yourself accordingly.

You can also be assured that the problems you will encounter, regardless of their nature, will impact on your sex life together. Money concerns, the stresses of a career, kids, in-laws, you name it will all influence how you perceive your spouse. Nothing dampens ardor like financial difficulties or meddlesome relatives.

So Paige, rather than focus on the nature of your sex life as you enter your marriage, may I suggest that you concentrate on the bigger picture. And in order to do that you need to ask; why do most traditional, sexually exclusive marriages flounder? They crumble because they can’t bear up under the strain of the couple’s expectations for each other. Simply stated, they want too much from their spouse. They expect companionship, economic support and family for sure, but they also expect their partner to be their best friend, confidant and passionate lover. That’s a pretty tall order to fill for a single individual. Who wouldn’t have cool feet, or even be frozen in place, faced with those daunting expectations.

A lot of engaged couples overly concern themselves with the sexual viability or their relationship. My sense is that sexual concerns, by themselves, don’t tax a marriage to the point of breaking. You’ll notice that I said, ’sexual concerns, by themselves’. While sex and intimacy issues are indeed real and sometimes overwhelming, it’s the underpinnings of the relationship that bring these sexual issues into stark relief. Let me give you an example.

Say I’ve just spent 60 hours this past week at work; I get snarled in traffic on my commute every single day. I drag my sorry ass home to a loving partner, who may have been looking forward to an amorous night of sex play. But I’m completely fagged out, so to speak. I simply don’t have an interest in the old slap and tickle. It’s not that I don’t love my spouse; I do! I don’t have the energy to even squeeze one off by myself, let alone please and pleasure my partner.

Or say I’ve been caring for a house full of sick, ornery kids all day; and freaking out about our family’s precarious financial situation. I have barely the time and energy to rustle together some grub for the brood, when my loving partner, who may have been looking forward to an amorous night of sex play, arrives back at the homestead with stars in his/her eyes. I’m exhausted; and the idea of a tussle in the sack is the last thing on my mind. It’s not that I don’t love my spouse; on the contrary. I just don’t feel attractive, interesting, or more importantly, randy.

As these examples point out it’s not that the sexual energy has flown the coop. More often than not couples who face the tribulations of life together redirect their energy into resolving more pressing concerns than gearing up for sex. The reason I know this for certain is, if I were to take this stressed out couple away from the humdrum of their day-to-day, and land them on a tropical beach without a care in the world; I know for certain they’d fuck like bunnies.

Another example, say a couple is joined at the hip; you know the ones I’m talking about. Where one or the other partner can hardly take a trip to the loo without their spouse traipsing along. Many couples think this kind of closeness is a sign of their love and fidelity, and it may very well be for them. But I can guarantee this kind of familiarity will also stifle sexual passion. The truth of the matter is erotic fervor is dependent on at least a modicum of mystery. If I know my partner like the back of my hand, I’m less likely to see him/her as a sexual object; in the same sexual way as when we were courting.

This also can be proven. Why is the chick at work, who I have virtually nothing in common with, such a turn on? How is it that my yoga instructor, someone I hardly know and who pays me no attention, make me wet? It’s the mystery or the forbidden that jacks up the sexual tension.

The way I see it is passionate sex is dependent on a good deal of sexual tension. This kind of tension dissipates with time and it takes a great deal of work to keep that tension alive. Most couples don’t invest that kind of energy; even though they may pay lip service to the notion that they want the passion to continue.

Intimacy, on the other hand, is dependent on domestic tranquility, in other words, the elimination of tension in the relationship; regrettably this also includes sexual tension. And since most couples desire intimacy over sex they choose (either consciously or not) the path of domestic tranquility. But the result can be the kind of sexual frustration so many married people report.

I’ve been to a lot of wedding; and I’ve officiated at more than I can count. I’ve helped numerous couples construct their vows. Generally the first thing they want to say to each other is something like: “I promise to be your best friend, your confidant; your constant companion. Sound familiar? I thought it might. What I never hear is: “I promise to always be up for all your hot monkey love.” Not only would that vow be a showstopper; it would be an impossible promise to keep, unless you’re a blow-up doll. Frankly, it’s so much easier being a best friend or confident than the sexual siren that will be the answer to all your erotic dreams after we’re married for a few years.

Sexual exclusivity is at the heart of the romantic ideal. That’s why sexual infidelity is such a bugaboo in our culture. But the truth of the matter is, sustaining a model where marriage is the font from which all fulfillment flows is simply unrealistic. Maybe if we expect sexual exclusivity from our spouse, we ought to manage our other expectations of him/her (best friend, confidant, etc.) more pragmatically.

I am of the mind that since more than 50% of marriages in this country end in divorce; we must look at the relationship model we are laboring under. Maybe the romantic ideal is simply an illusion. I mean we can’t honestly try to explain away the divorce rate by saying all these couples simply married the wrong people. Know what I mean?

The parameters of a healthy, successful marriage will need to expand and contract with the stresses put upon it; it is after all a living entity. The balance between dependence and independence will constantly shift; so will the power dynamic in the relationship. Carve these things in stone and you will be mark a grave, not milestones on a path to growth.

Good luck

Men Fake Orgasms, Too, and We Can Blame the Patriarchy

By Christina Cauterucci

M:F couple

As the punch line of plenty a hackneyed sitcom and amateur stand-up routine, the faked orgasm has long been relegated to the sphere of women’s work. That might be why, every time a new study about men’s feigned orgasms pops up, the internet reels in disbelief.

“WHAT? How did we not know this before?” wondered Cosmopolitan on Friday in response to a new Canadian survey of 230 men age 18 to 29 who’d faked orgasms with their current partners. On average, the men reported pretending to orgasm during a full quarter of their sexual encounters. In 2014, Time Out New York was “surprised” when a “whopping” 30.6 percent of its survey participants (fewer than 100 New York men) admitted to faking orgasms. But that number wasn’t too far off from the results of a 2010 University of Kansas study, which saw 25 percent of its 180 male respondents say they’d faked it. That figure rose to 28 percent when researchers narrowed it down to those men who’d had penile-vaginal sex. Some have used these facts to stir anxiety and self-conscious terror in women who have sex with men: “Has YOUR man ever faked his orgasm?” the Daily Mail asked when the Time Out survey dropped.

Luckily, this new Canadian survey doesn’t lend itself to knee-jerk sexual dread. Instead, it delves into the reasons why men fake orgasms and how those reasons correlate to their relationship satisfaction. Previous studies have shown that men’s rationales for feigning orgasm are not so different from the reasons why women play pretend in bed. Both have reported that they fake because they’re intoxicated, to arouse their partner, and to end sex sooner; the most common reason among both genders is preserving partners’ feelings. This new survey indicates that men who pretend to orgasm because they want to avoid having a talk about their sexual needs are less likely to be satisfied in their relationship and in bed. The study’s authors say these men “might be contributing to [their] own low desire and satisfaction by reinforcing unsatisfying sexual activity by feigning orgasm rather than communicating [their] sexual needs and desires.”

But the root cause of this problem—faked orgasms as sub-ins for honest conversations about sexual desires—lie in gender norms that compel men to strive for unrealistic benchmarks of sexual performance. “The image is that men are always up for sex, which makes you feel under pressure to perform even when you don’t want to,” Harvard urologist Abraham Morgentaler said of men’s reasons for faking.

man:woman love

Those same improbable expectations have given rise to women’s pretend orgasms, too. The authors of a 2010 study that found up to 80 percent of women faked orgasms wrote that women often do so “because their men are so goal-directed they won’t stop until a woman climaxes.” Our social construction of sexual pleasure has pegged men’s orgasms as simple—inevitable, even—and women’s orgasms as complicated reflections of their male partner’s sexual abilities. The authors of the new Canadian survey write that these reductive ideals may encourage men to feign orgasm to “appear normal” and women to fake it so their partners’ egos don’t crumble. In fact, they argue, the entire phenomenon of fake orgasms is a direct result of a patriarchal culture that enforces stringent gender norms:

Orgasm simulation constitutes a “complex emotional response to the intensely patriarchal culture in which women have sex” where the relative invisibility of women’s orgasm contributes to a constant cultural anxiety surrounding its authenticity. This anxiety, coupled with the cultural association of sexual technique with masculinity, creates an obligation for women to meet a standard of loud and exaggerated display of pleasure, providing fertile grounds for orgasm-simulation, which ultimately serve to privilege male sexuality.

At first, the knowledge that men, too, feel so much pressure to orgasm that they sometimes fake it makes the whole concept of the fake orgasm seem less insidious: Women aren’t the only ones who are sometimes more concerned with their partners’ feelings than they are with their own pleasure or desire to stop having sex. But when the rationale rests on gendered expectations, it still serves to uphold roles that form the foundation for toxic masculinity. It also paves the way for the profoundly sad possibility of repeated sexual encounters wherein both partners fake their orgasms to please or impress the other. That specter comes courtesy of a society that prizes orgasm over the complex reality of sexual pleasure.

Complete Article HERE!

Scents and Sensibility

“Sexual chemistry” is more than just a way of talking about heated attraction. Subtle chemical keys actually help determine who we fall for. But here comes news that our lifestyles may unwittingly undermine our natural sex appeal.

By Elizabeth Svoboda

illustrated sex

Psychologists Rachel Herz and Estelle Campenni were just getting to know each other, swapping stories about their lives over coffee, when Campenni confided something unexpected: She was living proof, she said, of love at first smell. “I knew I would marry my husband the minute I smelled him,” she told Herz. “I’ve always been into smell, but this was different; he really smelled good to me. His scent made me feel safe and at the same time turned on—and I’m talking about his real body smell, not cologne or soap. I’d never felt like that from a man’s smell before. We’ve been married for eight years now and have three kids, and his smell is always very sexy to me.”

Everyone knows what it’s like to be powerfully affected by a partner’s smell—witness men who bury their noses in their wives’ hair and women who can’t stop sniffing their boyfriends’ T-shirts. And couples have long testified to the ways scent-based chemistry affects their relationships. “One of the most common things women tell marriage counselors is, ‘I can’t stand his smell,'” says Herz, the author of The Scent of Desire.

Sexual attraction remains one of life’s biggest mysteries. We might say we go for partners who are tall and thin, love to cook, or have a mania for exercise, but when push comes to shove, studies show, the people we actually end up with possess few of the traits we claim to want. Some researchers think scent could be the hidden cosmological constant in the sexual universe, the missing factor that explains who we end up with. It may even explain why we feel “chemistry”—or “sparks” or “electricity”—with one person and not with another.nice boobs

Physical attraction itself may literally be based on smell. We discount the importance of scent-centric communication only because it operates on such a subtle level. “This is not something that jumps out at you, like smelling a good steak cooking on the grill,” says Randy Thornhill, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico. “But the scent capability is there, and it’s not surprising to find smell capacity in the context of sexual behavior.” As a result, we may find ourselves drawn to the counter attendant at the local drugstore, but have no idea why—or, conversely, find ourselves put off by potential dating partners even though they seem perfect on paper.

Though we may remain partially oblivious to scent signals we’re sending and receiving, new research suggests that we not only come equipped to choose a romantic partner who smells good to us, but that this choice has profound biological implications. As we act out the complex rituals of courtship, many of them inscribed deep in our brain, scent-based cues help us zero in on optimal partners—the ones most likely to stay faithful to us and to create healthy children with us.

At first blush, the idea of scent-based attraction might seem hypothetical and ephemeral, but when we unknowingly interfere with the transmission of subtle olfactory messages operating below the level of conscious awareness, the results can be both concrete and devastating. When we disregard what our noses tell us, we can find ourselves mired in partnerships that breed sexual discontent, infertility, and even—in extreme cases—unhealthy offspring.

The Scent of Desire

When you’re turned on by your partner’s scent, taking a deep whiff of his chest or the back of her neck feels like taking a powerful drug—it’s an instant flume ride to bliss, however momentary. Research has shown that we use scent-based signaling mechanisms to suss out compatibility. Claus Wedekind, a biologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, created Exhibit A of this evidence by giving 44 men new T-shirts and instructing them to wear the shirts for two straight nights. To ensure that the sweat collecting on the shirts would remain “odor-neutral,” he supplied the men with scent-free soap and aftershave.

hair pullAfter the men were allowed to change, 49 women sniffed the shirts and specified which odors they found most attractive. Far more often than chance would predict, the women preferred the smell of T-shirts worn by men who were immunologically dissimilar to them. The difference lay in the sequence of more than 100 immune system genes known as the MHC, or major histocompatibility complex. These genes code for proteins that help the immune system recognize pathogens. The smell of their favorite shirts also reminded the women of their past and current boyfriends, suggesting that MHC does indeed influence women’s dating decisions in real life.

Women’s preference for MHC-distinct mates makes perfect sense from a biological point of view. Ever since ancestral times, partners whose immune systems are different have produced offspring who are more disease-resistant. With more immune genes expressed, kids are buffered against a wider variety of pathogens and toxins.

But that doesn’t mean women prefer men whose MHC genes are most different from theirs, as University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Martha McClintock found when she performed a T-shirt study similar to Wedekind’s. Women are not attracted to the smell of men with whom they had no MHC genes in common. “This might be a case where you’re protecting yourself against a mate who’s too similar or too dissimilar, but there’s a middle range where you’re OK,” McClintock says.

Women consistently outperform men in smell sensitivity tests, and they also make greater time and energy sacrifices on their children’s behalf than men do—in addition to bearing offspring, they look after them most of the time. These factors may explain why women are more discriminating in sniffing out MHC compatibility.

Men are sensitive to smell as well, but because women shoulder a greater reproductive burden, and are therefore choosier about potential mates, researchers are not surprised to find that women are also more discriminating in sniffing out MHC compatibility.

Unlike, say, blood types, MHC gene complements differ so much from one person to the next that there’s no obvious way to reliably predict who’s MHC-compatible with whom. Skin color, for instance, isn’t much help, since groups of people living in different areas of the world might happen to evolve genetic resistance to some of the same germs. “People of different ethnicities can have similar profiles, so race is not a good predictor of MHC dissimilarity,” Thornhill says.

And because people’s MHC profiles are as distinct as fingerprints—there are thousands of possible gene combinations—a potential sex partner who smells good to one woman may completely repel another. “There’s no Brad Pitt of smell,” Herz says. “Body odor is an external manifestation of the immune system, and the smells we think are attractive come from the people who are most genetically compatible with us.” Much of what we vaguely call “sexual chemistry,” she adds, is likely a direct result of this scent-based compatibility.our what?

Typically, our noses steer us in the right direction when it comes to picking a reproductively compatible partner. But what if they fail us and we wind up with a mate whose MHC profile is too similar to our own? Carol Ober, a geneticist at the University of Chicago, explored this question in her studies of members of the Hutterite religious clan, an Amish-like closed society that consists of some 40,000 members and extends through the rural Midwest. Hutterites marry only other members of their clan, so the variety in their gene pool is relatively low. Within these imposed limits, Hutterite women nevertheless manage to find partners who are MHC-distinct from them most of the time.

The few couples with a high degree of MHC similarity, however, suffered higher rates of miscarriage and experienced longer intervals between pregnancies, indicating more difficulty conceiving. Some scientists speculate that miscarriages may be the body’s way of curtailing investment in a child who isn’t likely to have a strong immune system anyway.

What’s more, among heterosexual couples, similar MHC profiles spell relational difficulty, Christine Garver-Apgar, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, has found. “As the proportion of MHC alleles increased, women’s sexual responsiveness to their partners decreased, and their number of sex partners outside the relationship increased,” Garver-Apgar reports. The number of MHC genes couples shared corresponded directly with the likelihood that they would cheat on one another; if a man and woman had 50 percent of their MHC alleles in common, the woman had a 50 percent chance of sleeping with another man behind her partner’s back.

The Divorce Pill?

Women generally prefer the smell of men whose MHC gene complements are different from theirs, setting the stage for the best biological match. But Wedekind’s T-shirt study revealed one notable exception to this rule: women on the birth-control pill. When the pill users among his subjects sniffed the array of pre-worn T-shirts, they preferred the scent of men whose MHC profiles were similar to theirs—the opposite of their pill-free counterparts.

This dramatic reversal of smell preferences may reflect the pill’s mechanism of action: It prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg, fooling the body into thinking it’s pregnant. And since pregnancy is such a vulnerable state, it seems to activate a preference for kin, who are genetically similar to us and likely to serve as protectors. “When pregnant rodent females are exposed to strange males, they can spontaneously abort,” Herz says. “The same may be true for human females.” What’s more, some women report a deficit in sex drive when they take the pill, a possible consequence of its pregnancy-mimicking function.

The tendency to favor mates with similar MHC genes could potentially hamper the durability of pill users’ relationships in the long term. While Herz shies away from dubbing hormonal birth control “the divorce pill,” as a few media outlets have done in response to her theories, she does think the pill jumbles women’s smell preferences. “It’s like picking your cousins as marriage partners,” Herz says. “It constitutes a biological error.” As a result, explains Charles Wysocki, a psychobiologist at Florida State University, when such a couple decides to have children and the woman stops taking birth control, she may find herself less attracted to her mate for reasons she doesn’t quite understand. “On a subconscious level, her brain is realizing a mistake was made—she married the wrong guy,” he says.

“Some couples’ fertility problems may be related to the pill-induced flip-flop in MHC preferences,” Garver-Apgar adds. No one has yet collected data to indicate whether the pill has created a large-scale problem in compatibility. Still, Herz recommends that women seeking a long-term partner consider alternative birth control methods, at least until they get to know their potential significant other well and are sure they like the way he smells. “If you’re looking for a man to be the father of your child,” she says, “go off the pill before you start your search.”

If you were on the pill when you met your current partner, the situation is more complicated. Once a relationship has progressed to long-term commitment, says Herz, a woman’s perception of her partner’s smell is so intertwined with her emotional reaction to him that it could be difficult for her to assess his scent as if he were a stranger. “If she’s in love, he could smell like a garbage can and she’d still be attracted to him.”

Crossed Signals

The pill subverts a woman’s ability to sniff out a compatible mate by causing her to misinterpret the scent messages she receives. But it may warp olfactory communication channels in the other direction as well, distorting the signals she sends—and making her seem less appealing to men, an irony given that women typically take the pill to boost their appeal in a partner’s eyes.

Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico and author of The Mating Mind, noticed the pill’s connection to waning male desire while studying a group of exotic dancers—women whose livelihoods depend on how sexually appealing they are to male customers. Non-pill-using dancers made about 50 percent more in tips than dancers on oral contraceptives. In other words, women who were on the pill were only about two-thirds as sexy as women who weren’t.

Why were the pill-takers in the study so much less attractive to men? “Women are probably doing something unconsciously, and men are responding to it unconsciously,” says Miller. “We just don’t know whether it has to do with a shift in their psychology, their tone of voice, or if it’s more physical, as in the kind of pheromones they’re putting out.”

The biggest earners in Miller’s study were non-pill-using dancers at the time of ovulation. Other studies have shown that men rate women as smelling best when they are at the most fertile point of their menstrual cycles, suggesting that women give off scent-based signals that broadcast their level of fecundity. “The pill might be producing cues that a woman is in the early stage of pregnancy, which would not tend to elicit a lot of male sexual interest,” Miller says. “It makes sense for men to be sensitive to that and for them not to feel the same chemistry with the woman.”

Drowning in Fragrance

The pill isn’t the only way we might confound sexual chemistry. Every day, far more people may be subverting their quest for love with soap and bottled fragrances. In ancestral times, smelling ripe was just a fact of life, absent hot showers and shampoo. This held true well into the 19th century, when the miasma of body odor in Parisian streets grew so thick that it was dubbed “The Great Stink of 1880.” Back when a person’s scent could waft across a room, a mere handshake could provide valuable information about attraction.

Since the 20th-century hygiene revolution and the rise of the personal-care industry, however, companies have pitched deodorants, perfumes, and colognes to consumers as the epitome of sex appeal. But instead of furthering our quest to find the perfect mate, such products may actually derail it, say researchers, by masking our true scent and making it difficult for prospects to assess compatibility. “Humans abuse body smell signals by hiding them, masking them, putting on deodorant,” says Devendra Singh, a psychologist at the University of Texas. “The noise-to-signal ratio was much better in primitive society.”

Miller argues that modern hygiene may be such an impediment to sexual signaling that it could explain why so many people in our culture get so physical so fast. “Hunter-gatherers didn’t have to do a lot of kissing, because they could smell each other pretty clearly from a few feet away,” Miller says. “With all the showering, scents, and soap, we have to get our noses and mouths really up close to people to get a good idea of their biochemistry. People are more motivated to do a lot more kissing and petting, to do that assessment before they have sex.” In other words, the need to smell our mates—and the comparative difficulty of doing so in today’s environment of perfumes and colognes—may actually be driving the sexual disinhibition of modern society.

Scents and SensibilityOther scientists counter that odor detection is a bit subtler. For one thing, it’s possible we select store-bought scents to complement our natural odorprints, rather than mask them entirely: One study found that people with similar MHC profiles tend to go for the same colognes. And Garver-Apgar points out that in spending hours together each day, partners have ample opportunity to experience each other sans artificial scents. “Once you’re in a close enough relationship,” she says, “you’re going to get a real whiff at some point.”

Scents and Sensibility

There’s no way to know whether couples who shell out thousands of dollars to fertility clinics—and those who struggle to make a relationship work because “the chemistry just isn’t there”—suffer MHC incompatibility. We might never know, since a multitude of factors contributes to every reproductive and romantic outcome. But we can, at least, be cognizant of the importance of natural scent.

“Scent can be a deal breaker if it’s not right, just like someone being too stupid or unkind or short,” says Miller. Nevertheless, smell isn’t the be-all and end-all of attraction, but one of a constellation of important factors. Armed with knowledge of how scent-based attraction operates, we have some power to decide how much priority we want to accord it. Is it more important to be with the partner who smells amazing and with whom you have great chemistry, or with the one who may not attract you quite as much on a physical level but is honest and reliable?

“People tend to treat this as an either-or situation: Either we’re completely driven by pheromones, like moths, or we’re completely in charge of our own destiny,” University of Chicago psychologist McClintock says. “But it’s not a wild idea that both factors are involved.” While people like Estelle Campenni have reaped untold benefits by trusting their scent impressions, it’s ultimately up to us how highly we value what our noses tell us.—Elizabeth Svoboda

Follow Your Nose

How to put your nose to work in choosing a partner—or evaluating an existing one.

Think twice about opting for the pill if you’re seeking a long-term partner. The first few weeks of a relationship are critical to assessing compatibility, so make sure your nose is up to the task.

Try a fragrance-free week. Eliminate factors that could throw your nostrils off. Have your partner set aside scented shower gels in favor of fragrance-free soap, nix the cologne, and use only unscented deodorant.

Keep smell’s importance in context. If you sometimes find your partner’s scent off-putting, don’t panic; it doesn’t necessarily mean fertility issues are in your future. Connections between MHC compatibility and conception problems have yet to be confirmed in large-scale population studies, so don’t plunk down big bucks for MHC testing at this point.

Complete Article HERE!

7 Tips For Better Sex

By Chloe Kraven

sensual

Sex is a craft; and just like any other craft, one improves with study and practice. In our Western Society, sex is taboo, and most of us look on it with varying degrees of shame and embarrassment, but this need not be the case. Whatever your feelings are personally about sex, the fact remains that the more you practice sex with one partner or with many, the better at it you will become. This holds especially true if you take interest in actually being good at it, which is a loaded situation, especially for women. You don’t want to be ‘too good’ because then you’ll raise suspicions about how many men you’ve slept with, but you also want to be ‘good enough’ to please your partner and keep them satisfied.

So as I’ve mentioned, for many sex is a minefield, both emotionally, psychologically and physically. Since I am not a licensed therapist, I cannot walk you through the emotional or psychological aspects of this situation; however, since sex is my craft, something I’ve spent years and years of my life indirectly studying and practicing, I can offer you some physical tips to improve the quality of sex you are or will have. Whether you’re a male or a female, gay or straight or bi, in a monogamous relationship or seeing multiple partners, these tips should improve the sex you’re having. They are general, all around tips for increasing satisfaction and intimacy levels.

Let’s get started!

7. Just Relax!black-lesbian-couple

First of all, sex, as mentioned above, is a very loaded experience for many people. Even for men, despite what most women thing. Men, as much as women, and perhaps more so, experience a large amount of anxiety when it comes to sex, even if they don’t show it, or don’t admit to. Mostly, men are anxious about the actual performance, and if they are with a new partner, being able to please their partner. This is a huge male insecurity—to somehow come up short on actually pleasing the person they are with. Women tend to be more insecure about their looks and their bodies; but either way, there’s a ton of anxiety that happens whenever sex is involved.

Anxiety has no place in the bedroom, though. It makes sex a rushed and shameful affair, and anyone would be hard pressed to enjoy sex if they are too worried about their performance or their looks. So relax! Maybe have a drink beforehand (but not too many!), take a hot bath, sit and meditate for a while. Do something that loosens you up and gets you out of your head, and into your body. Sex is best experienced in a physical way, so when you’re having it, the place to be, mentally, is inside your body, not your head! This is especially true for women, because so much of our orgasm is mentally based. If you can’t let go and get outside of your own insecurities, you’re never going to have a great orgasm. Men as well can experience performance problems if they are too nervous, so do what you can to minimize the anxiety, and also know that whoever your partner is, they obviously like you enough to want to have sex with you, so bare it all! What have you got to lose?

And women—know that not all men are into the type of so-called perfect bodies you see in the magazines. Plenty of men love a muffin top, or a tummy, so even if you think your body isn’t perfect, chances are the man you’re seeing probably disagrees with you. For every body type, there is a man who fetishizes it. Got stretch marks? Some men love that. Saggy boobs? There’s a man who loves those too. And men, your woman wouldn’t be with you in the first place if you didn’t satisfy her. Women don’t need or generally want a 12” penis and 3 hours of hard sex. Your 5” or 4” one is great because it’s attached to you, and so what if you only last 5 minutes? You’re your own worst critic and probably comparing yourself to male porn actors, which is absolutely ridiculous because no woman wants to have sex like that. Don’t aspire to it!

6. Be Gentle

senior coupleAgain, most people don’t want or even like porn sex in real life! Women like a soft touch, and most men like to start off slow, even if they enjoy harder stuff later on. The most erotic thing to both sexes is a soft and velvet touch.

Caress and undress your partner like they were a porcelain doll, and move with caution around them. Do not throw your entire body weight on top of them or accidentally smack them in the face with your elbow because you were not paying attention to where they were anticipating a move. Be aware of your own body and how it’s interacting with your partners, which is a key part of what I mean when I say ‘be in your body’. Be aware of where it is and what it’s doing. And make full use of subtle touches; a piece of hair that drags slowly across their face, or a breath of hot air from your mouth before placing your lips on their stomach. Sex is about the small, gentle, intimate moments between two individuals, and whether you’re going to see this person again or not should be irrelevant. If you’ve chosen to be intimate with someone, no matter who they are or what they mean to you, they deserve to be treated with respect and care because it’s a scary thing indeed to be intimate with anyone. We forget that sometimes, we forget the bravery involved in sex and intimacy, and how much we all risk in sharing this with each other.

So be gentle physically and emotionally with your partner. If they want something rougher later on, you can build to that. It helps to also ask your partner what they want out of the sexual encounter and what type of sex they generally like; however, most people who really enjoy rough sex with share that with you before starting sex, or pretty blatantly indicate it once sex has begun. If you are with a partner who enjoys rough sex, please do remember that human beings are fragile and even then start slowly and build pressure. If they like to be choked, don’t start with a full on grasp of the throat. Start with a gentle but firm grasp of the neck and continue to apply pressure, while gauging their reaction. This applies to all sorts of situations, anal included. Always start slow and gentle.

5. Move Slowly

Slow is always sexy. Always. Sure, there are times, especially towards the end of sex that things torsocan get faster and heavier, but in the initial seduction and foreplay of sex, rushing things and moving fast is really a buzz kill. Unless you’re having a quickie in the coat closet, take your time to enjoy your partner.

Move slowly and pour like water over your partner. A large part of sex is just simply the way you move—be smooth and have rhythm. The best sex is always with people who have a kinesthetic intelligence; i.e. they are very gifted with the way they move. Not all of us can be so gifted and some of us are clumsy and awkward, but that’s where practice comes in. Practice moving in slow motion, trying to feel all parts of your body at once and to glide them over things very slightly. It helps to be in good physical shape, not for looks, but simply because being in good shape makes this aspect of sex much easier. If you’re strong enough to hold yourself up off of your partner instead of laying, full body weight on top of them, it’s much more enjoyable for your partner; plus, later on, once the sex gets going, you’re going to be able to have better rhythmic strokes and you’ll be able to last longer on top and not end up sweaty and winded after 2 minutes of pumping.

Foreplay is an important, if not the most, important part of sex, and when you’re playing with your partner, do it slowly. Most people rush through foreplay or forget it all together, skipping straight to the actual insertion. This is a mistake because foreplay is the singular best way to build intimacy between partners. Sticking something inside of someone doesn’t build intimacy—laying next to each other, gazing into each others eyes, and running ones fingers across one’s skin, that does. The act of sex, in and of itself, is not intimate which is why porn stars don’t fall in love with each other. If you’re with a person you love deeply, or desire to, give them the time to get to know your body as well as your mind and soul. Use your hands to caress their hair and their head while you’re kissing them, and pull them closer to you, or sit on their lap and use your breath to tickle their earlobes. Ears are such an underrated erogenous zone on both men and women.

Even if you’re not trying to emotionally connect with your partner, these slow, sexy moments do help turn them on. Women especially need a lot of foreplay to get close to orgasm, and most men forget this or rush through it, despite wanting to please their partner. Men, in general, watch too much porn and focus too much on the orgasm a woman has during penetration, which is a mistake. Most women don’t orgasm from penetration, despite misleading porn movies. So if you’re genuine and want to please a woman, give her slow foreplay! There’s a reason the word ‘slowly’ shows up often in erotica—it is simply sexier.

4. Skin To Skin Contact

nude-black-couple-photographyOne of the greatest things in sex is the feeling of another human being’s skin touching your skin. It’s an underrated pleasure, and one that many people don’t notice until they haven’t experienced it for a while. Skin to skin contact stimulates a vast variety of neurotransmitters in our brain that bring us feelings of connection and empathy with each other. Not only that, but the feeling of another human’s skin on yours is also a very big turn on. No matter how badly you may want to keep your bra on if you’re ashamed of your boobs, or no matter how much you might want to be lazy and not get fully undressed, I urge you to get over your fear and don’t be lazy and go ahead and get fully naked. You cannot have a truly enjoyable sexual experience without a bit of skin to skin contact.

Even if you’re in a hurry and having a quickie, make time to touch each other. Put your hands up her shirt or down her pants, or kiss his neck and let your hands brush against his stomach. Make sure that your bodies touch and get close to each other; sex should be intimate even if it’s with someone you’re not interested in falling in love with. If the sex is robotic and lacking in human connection, you’re doing a disservice to your partner and it borders on being unhealthy. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to love someone to be intimate with them, and everyone deserves human compassion and care if they are willing be to brave enough to be intimate with you. So make and effort to connect with your partner through skin to skin contact and other things, such as kissing and eye contact.

And lastly, one of my favorite things to do is to smell your partner. Not smell their cologne or their perfume, but to really smell their body and their scent. This is especially important for couples who are in love, as smelling your partner should turn you on and help stimulate you for sex. One of the largest signs of basic compatibility is finding your partner’s natural body scent attractive. It’s also, on the scientific side, a good indicator of reproductive compatibility and a sign of a good genetic match for you.

3. Focus On Your Partner

Focusing on your partner is so important! For a mutually satisfying sexual experience, you must always keep an eye on your partner’s reactions to your sexual moves. Do not just continue doing what you’re doing, and as assume that because a previous sexual partner enjoyed your technique, that your current sexual partner will enjoy it as well. This also applies to what you see in pornography—just because a woman paid to pretend she enjoys some sexual move you saw in a porn does not mean a real woman, or the woman you are with, will enjoy it as well. Always keep an eye out to gauge how your partner is reacting to how you’re treating them and if they look uncomfortable or even bored, switch it up!holding hands

This is especially important during intercourse, because you can learn a lot about your partner and their likes and dislikes by just watching their body react to the things you’re doing together. A man’s body is more obvious about whether it likes or dislikes something, but women have tell tale signs of arousal too; namely, perky nipples, flushed cheeks or faces, and becoming lubricated. If you’re having sex and you don’t see these signs of arousal, switch it up and try something else. Don’t keep doing what you’re doing, and expect your partner to tell you if they dislike something. A lot of people have a hard time voicing their feelings during sex, or in the bedroom, so it’s always good to either make the first move yourself and ask “are you enjoying this?” or if they are obviously not, try something else or ask them what they would prefer. Women especially think that being assertive and knowing what they like and dislike during sex and voicing these opinions and thoughts is a turn off for most men, and are unlikely to really be sexually forward in that manner. However, women should remember that in general, this is NOT true and that most men actually love a woman who knows what she likes and dislikes and who isn’t afraid to tell them straight away!

Which leads me too….

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Whether you’re shy or reserved or outgoing and outspoken, you must, either verbally or nonverbally, communicate with your partner! This is very, very important and it is one of the most important things to do if you’re looking to have better sex!

kissing.jpgSex is all about learning what another person likes and learning what you like. Sex is about exploration, and if you’ve chosen to include another partner, it is very important that you share that experience with them. You cannot properly share the experience or have any intimacy with someone who you don’t communicate with. Whether it’s telling them your life’s story and all of your personal turn ons, or simply telling them “faster” or “slower”, communication helps both of you figure out how to please each other. Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot, as human sexual preferences are infinitely variable. What works for one person, won’t for another; what is appealing to one man or woman, is disgusting to another one. Don’t ever assume that you know everything there is to know about sex, or that you know the one true way to great sex and that you will force that one way of having sex onto every partner you may have! The most important thing to remember is that there is no one right or wrong way to have sex because every single person has a special and different sexual “formula” that they prefer and the only way to figure out this formula is to communicate with your partner!

There are two ways to communicate—either verbally or non-verbally. You can either talk to your partner and ask them outright what they like or prefer, or if that’s uncomfortable, be very aware of their reactions to the moves you make in bed. It’s often easy, if you’re paying attention, to figure out what someone prefers in bed. If they are into slow, soft sex, if you experiment and go faster, they will give you signs of discomfort. Obviously it’s easier and more ethical to ask up front, but many, many people are too uncomfortable with the topic of sex to be that forthright. So switch things up and gauge reactions and find out what turns on your partner and what doesn’t, and don’t for a minute think that you can “change someone’s mind” or “turn them on” to a sex act, such as anal, that they show a fundamental dislike towards. Not everyone likes the same thing, and just because your ex-girlfriend was really into anal does NOT mean all women are into it! We are all born with our own sexual formula and it doesn’t change, in general, ever; and if it does change, it’s a self discovered change, and it happens when we are ready to explore more or different sides of our own sexuality. You cannot force anyone to like or to try a sexual experience simply because you want to, or because you yourself enjoy it. That is always unethical and uncalled for.

On the flip side of this, it is also advisable for you to be expressive in your enjoyment during sex. Be appreciative of your partner when they are doing something you are really enjoying! Be vocal, be intimate—grab their butt and pull them deeper into you or closer to you, or reach up and kiss them passionately! It’s never attractive to be a dead fish in bed (male or female). People want to know how you’re feeling, what’s going on with you, and there’s no better reward for good sex than returned passion. Don’t be afraid to look stupid, and don’t be self-conscious; sex has no room for such hang ups. Let the feelings and sensations flow through you and generously release passion. Your partner will love it, guaranteed.

1. Eye Contact

This is the very first thing I say to people who ask me how to have better sex. Eye contact. And I always get the same response, every time: “But isn’t that creepy/weird/uncomfortable/awkward??”.

I feel complete when I'm with you

I feel complete when I’m with you

Short answer: NO. I’m not asking you to stare at your partner, unblinkingly, for 10 minutes straight. I’m simply telling you to make prolonged eye contact with them while being intimate. Eye contact, more than anything else, builds intimacy and connection and eyes express more emotion than words, pictures and hand gestures combined.

Women especially feel awkward making strong eye contact with men because it’s inherently an aggressive thing to do. If you think about it, we find eye contact to be aggressive even in normal situations; aggressive and intrusive. However, if you ask a man what makes a blow job average or phenomenal, chances are he will say ‘eye contact’. So there is a fine line between staring too long and not at all, but I have a 3 to 4 second rule that seems to work well. If you’re having intercourse or oral, take a moment to look deeply into your partners eyes for 3 to 4 seconds, and if you want the connection, bare your soul in those moments. It’s difficult to describe how one bares ones soul through a look, but if you just think about an emotion you’d like to convey while looking at your partner, chances are it will come through your eyes. So if you’re truly enjoying yourself, look deeply at your partner with joy and happiness. They will pick up on that emotion, somehow. That’s the mystery and beauty of human connection; somehow, these things transfer.

Take my word for it—eye contact is sexy and it helps build intimacy and helps further communication between both partners!

I hope that this helps everyone who is looking for a better sexual experience, and remember that while love is not mandatory for all sexual activities, mutual respect and intimacy is! No matter who you are intimate with, whether it’s a one night stand, an escort, your wife, or your girlfriend or possibly a third partner, everyone who is brave enough to get naked and expose themselves to you deserves both respect and mutual intimacy. We must all remember and respect the power that the act of sex holds, and so while it can be fun and light hearted, it must always stem from a mutual and equal point of openness and willingness to be vulnerable with each other.

Complete Article HERE!

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