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Long-term sexual satisfaction: What’s the secret?

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Once the flutters of a new relationship are over, for many, the slog of everyday life sets in. But how do you keep the spark alive?

Sex is a key factor in most romantic relationships. In fact, earlier this year, Medical News Today reported that the “afterglow” that newlywed couples feel for up to 2 days after having sex is associated with greater marital satisfaction.

But last week, a new study showed that 34 percent of women and 15 percent of men who had lived with their partner for at least 1 year had lost interest in sex.

There are many factors that can affect sexual desire. Find out how much sex has the greatest effect on happiness, why some people lose interest, and what factors contribute to long-term sexual satisfaction.

How much sex is enough?

In a 2016 paper, Amy Muise, Ph.D. – a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto Mississauga in Canada – explains that there is plenty of evidence that “[…] the more sex people reported, the happier they felt.”

However, Dr. Muise also questions whether trying to have sex as “frequently as possible” is actually going to have the desired effect, particularly in light of the busy lives that many people lead.

Is the pressure of having frequent sex getting in the way of happiness?

Dr. Muise reports a clear relationship between the frequency of sex and happiness. What she found was that people who had sex once per week or more often were significantly happier than those who had sex less often.

But study participants who had sex on several occasions per week were not happier than those who had sex once each week.

The results were true for individuals who were in a romantic relationship, including women, older participants, and those in long-term relationships who tend to have less sex.

Interestingly, having sex had a greater effect on the participants’ happiness than income. So if sex makes us happy, why do so many people lose interest?

Who loses interest in sex?

There is plenty of evidence that being in a long-term relationship, being a woman, and increasing age are linked to a drop in sexual frequency.

Last year, MNT reported that women’s sexual desire decreased in long-term relationships. However, over the 7-year study period, the participants’ ability to reach orgasm improved – especially in those who had been in the same relationship the entire time.

So, for women, staying with a partner means better orgasms but less interest in sex, according to the research.

Last week, we reported on a new study published in BMJ Open that adds to the body of evidence showing that women’s interest in sex decreases in relationships.

Prof. Cynthia Graham, from the Centre for Sexual Health Research at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, found that more than 34 percent of women who had lived with their partner for at least 1 year lacked interest in sex, while only 15 percent of men did.

The biggest turn-offs

Prof. Graham identified a number of factors that were associated with the drop in sexual desire found in her study.

For women, these were having young children, having been pregnant in the past year, living with their partner, being in a longer relationship, not sharing the same level of sexual interest, and not sharing the same sexual preferences.

For both genders, health conditions (including depression), not feeling close to their partner during sex, being less happy with their relationship, and having sex less often than they were interested in all contributed to a drop in sexual interest.

Age was another factor. Men experienced the lowest levels of interest in sex between the ages of 35 and 44, while for women, this was between 55 and 64.

Julia Velten, Ph.D. – a postdoctoral fellow at the Mental Health Research and Treatment Center at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany – reported that when men felt that their partner expected them to always initiate sex, it had a negative effect on their sexual satisfaction.

Sexual desire discrepancy, which is the difference between the actual and desired frequency of sex, was a negative factor for both men and women.

Sexual function also played a role for the couples in Dr. Velten’s study. Men were affected by their partner’s lack of sexual function, such as lack of arousal, while women were more affected by the partner’s distress about their own sexual problem, such as erectile dysfunction.

How does masturbation fit into the picture?

On this topic, research findings do not agree. In a study involving couples living in Prague, Kateřina Klapilová, Ph.D. – from the Department of General Anthropology at Charles University in Prague – found that for women, masturbation negatively affected their sexual satisfaction.

But masturbation had no effect on men in these couples.

Meanwhile, Prof. Graham found that men who had recently masturbated were less interested in sex, while masturbation was not related to a change in women’s sex drive.

Prof. Graham told MNT that in her previous research, she had “found striking gender differences in factors associated with frequency of masturbation in men and women.”

She added that “when men were having less partnered sex, they tended to masturbate more often, whereas the reverse was true for women.”

With 51.7 percent of male and 17.8 percent of female participants reporting to have masturbated in the 7 days prior to study interviews, this is clearly a factor that is important in many relationships.

But just how masturbation contributes to or distracts from long-term sexual satisfaction remains to be seen.

With significant levels of both men and women reporting a drop in sexual interest and satisfaction, is there a secret to keeping the spark alive?

The secret to sexual satisfaction

Dr. Klapilová’s study found that for both men and women, penile-vaginal intercourse and the consistency of being able to reach vaginal orgasm were associated with sexual satisfaction.

She points to the “special role that vaginal orgasm (as distinct from other orgasm triggers) had in maintaining higher-quality intimate relationships.”

Anik Debrot, Ph.D. – alongside Dr. Muise and other colleagues from the University of Toronto Mississauga – recently studied the link between affection and sexual activity.

In her study paper, which was published this year in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, she explains that “when engaging in sex, people not only seek an intimate connection, but indeed experience more affection, both when having sex and in the next several hours.”

“Thus, sex within romantic relationships provides a meaningful way for people to experience a strong connection with their partner,” she adds.

To her, this indicates that sex is important in romantic relationships because of the emotional benefits that we feel. Dr. Debrot suggests, “[When sex may be impaired], affection could help maintain well-being despite decreased sex frequency.”

The effect of time

A study by Prof. Julia Heiman, from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington, studied 1,000 couples in five countries (Brazil, Germany, Japan, Spain, and the United States).

Although the length of the couples’ relationships ranged from 1 to 51 years, half had been together for at least 25 years.

Prof. Heiman found that “[w]omen reported significantly more sexual satisfaction than men and men more relationship satisfaction.” In particular, “Men who valued their partner’s orgasm were more likely to report relationship happiness.”

Women’s sexual satisfaction increased from 40 percent at the start of the relationship to 86 percent once they had been with their partner for 40 years.

From these studies, penile-vaginal sex, affection, and the time spent in the relationship are key ingredients to a happy sex life. But there is one more factor that could be key: open communication.

Talking about sex

In Dr. Velten’s study, open communication about sexual wishes and frequencies had a positive effect on the quality of sex that the participants reported.

Likewise, participants in Prof. Graham’s study who found it easy to talk about sex with their partner were more interested in sex.

She told MNT that “[their] findings underline that open communication with a partner about sex is one of the most important things you can do to try to maintain sexual interest in a relationship.”

Sexual desires and preferences are, by nature, intrinsically personal and individual. Research in this field is complex, and while studies can show associations and trends, they will not be able to tease apart the reasons for an individual’s sexual satisfaction.

I don’t think that there is any ‘secret’ to long-term sexual satisfaction! Human sexuality is too diverse and ‘fluid’ for this to be the case – but […] open communication about sex with a partner should go some way to preventing sexual problems from developing.”

— Prof. Cynthia Graham

Talking about sex may be a good starting point. Finding a way to fit sex into the pressures of daily life may be challenging, but affection and time together might well help.

Complete Article HERE!

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Don’t Kink Shame Me, Bro

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“Meet me in the play room in fifteen minutes,” My freshman hallmates and I quoted, putting on our most seductive voices, waggling our eyebrows, and then doubling over with laughter for weeks after a large group of us went to see the first Fifty Shades of Grey movie at the Movie Tavern on Valentines day. Although BDSM and kink continue to have a hay day in pop culture, many people (especially those not informed about, involved in, or interested in kink) like to joke about fetishes and fantasies. So what do you do when, as one anonymous reader asked me this past week, your partner takes you into their confidence, shares one of their kinks with you, and you’re super not into it?

Here’s my vanilla disclaimer. I’m not exactly the most kink-savvy individual, so I’ve had to do a little research for this article. I’m also not a sex therapist, just your friendly neighborhood feminist. But I do know about the power of opening dialogues about sex in a patient and respectful manner. Are consent and open conversation kinks? If so, I’m on board.

1. Do not shame them for having a certain kink. Their interest in a little role play does not make them immature; their interest in BDSM doesn’t equate a twisted mind and a tortured past (*cough* Christian Grey *cough*). If your partner has shared their kink with you and you don’t understand it, don’t tear them down for it, ask questions.

Know that just because your partner is a very kinky girl/guy/non-binary/gender-queer individual, the kind you don’t take home to mother, doesn’t mean that they’re a super freak. But you already know this. You want to support them, you don’t want to kink shame them, you want them to be having good sex that feels good and excites them. But if you’re not kinky, or kinky in the same way that your partner is, you’ll need to identify which aspects of their kink make you personally uncomfortable, and voice your discomforts clearly and kindly, without implying that they should be uncomfortable or feel bad about having a certain kink. After all, they’ve shared a very vulnerable part of themselves with you.

2. Do not shame or degrade yourself (unless you’re into that). Especially if your partner has a strong interest in a particular kink, you may find yourself wondering: what about me as I normally am isn’t enough for my partner? Please, please know that your partner’s kink does not mean that anything is wrong with you, or that you are lesser or not enough just because they want to experiment with adding a new twist to sexual activities. Furthermore, if you don’t want to try out their brand of kink “play,” that doesn’t make you closed minded or cruel, and it certainly doesn’t make you “bad” at sex.

3. Turn offs and “I” statements: Try to explain what about your partner’s kink turns you off or makes you uncomfortable or hesitant, for example, “Being covered in chocolate sauce during sex is a turn off for me. It would make me feel messy and you know how I feel about cleanliness. I would be more focused on how I was going to get the chocolate stains off my sheets than the sex.” Or “Being tied up is a turn off for me because being unable to have full control of my body makes me feel used and objectified.” As an aside, when discussing domination/submission based kinks in particular, you may want to discuss with your partner how your intersecting experiences of power/powerlessness, privilege and oppression affect your comfort levels during sex, as well as how they may turn each of you on or off from certain fantasies.

In general, it may take some more discussion for your partner to fully understand the exact lines and nature and your boundaries and feelings about a fantasy, just as it may take you time to understand their reasons for being turned on by a specific fantasy. They may offer compromises, such as, “Okay, well if cleanliness is the problem, would you be comfortable getting drenched in chocolate sauce in the shower instead?” And if they do offer a compromise that you are still uncomfortable with, it’s still okay to say no. It is always okay to say no.

4. Turn Ons. Offer alternatives! For example, “I’m not comfortable being in a threesome, but I’m super turned on by mutual masturbation. Is that something that you would be interested in?” Or, “As a vegan, the idea of wearing leather during sex is uncomfortably unethical for me, but I’d be down to wear stockings or high heels. Do either of those things turn you on?”

5. Checklists: Before trying anything tremendously new, make like Fifty Shades of Grey and exchange a checklist (I’d hesitate to recommend a binding contract…pun absolutely intended) of sexual acts/behaviors that you both would be comfortable either giving or receiving to help facilitate conversation about exactly what you are and aren’t comfortable with. There are some great lists to be found online, and all are as customizable as you’d like to make them. Maybe you’ll find yourself intrigued by some elements of your partner’s fantasies but not others. Like Anastasia Steele, you too can say yes to light power play, but no to fisting. As one movie-goer cried out, Rocky Horror style, during the non-disclosure agreement scene of the original Fifty Shades of Grey, a few years ago at the Movie Tavern, “Yes! You go girl! You set your boundaries!”

6. What if your partner finds that they cannot be aroused without the object of their fetish? Your partner may have a diagnosable fetishistic disorder. **Note: sexual fantasies are completely normal to have, and having kinks does not mean that you have a fetishistic disorder. According to Psychology Today “A diagnosis of fetishistic disorder is only used if there is accompanying personal distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning as a result of the fetish.” The key word there is distress. If you or your partner’s kinks aren’t distressing either of you, then don’t worry about it. But if your partner does find their kink distressing, inhibitive to normal interactions, or disordered, consider opening a gentle, supportive dialogue with them about seeking help from a sex therapist. There is nothing shameful about anyone seeking out the help they need, if it turns out they do need it.

7. What if you and your partner are just not sexually compatible? Not sharing kinks should not have to be the end of a sexual relationship, but if it’s a real deal breaker for you or your partner, you both need to be honest with yourselves and each other about what you want out of a sexual relationship. If your partner will really only feel sexually liberated if they can regularly release their inner dominatrix and you’re not into that, it’s probably for the best that you both seek out different partners.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to talk to kids about sex

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

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

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

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

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

Fill in gaps and debunk myths

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

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

Admit discomfort and stay calm

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

Talk about your family’s values

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

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

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

Share personal stories with caution

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

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

Address stereotypes and gender differences

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

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

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

Use media and other sources to start a conversation

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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In college, sexual empowerment is more important than ever

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Hook-up culture shouldn’t be ignored; it should be empowered.

By Kelsey Thompson

Of the many anxieties incoming college students face, like heart attack-inducing syllabi or annoying roommates, one is particularly dreadful: hook-up culture.

The transition from high school to college is marked by increased independence and exposure to new people and experiences. So things get especially complicated when relationships and sex come into play. While that’s not to say that everyone attending college is interested or engaging in uncommitted sex, the amount of sex college students are having does create an environment where sexual education is not only advisable, but imperative.

From freshmen orientation onward, Syracuse University promotes conversations that extend beyond the cringe-inducing PowerPoints of middle school sex ed classes. With mandatory events like Speak About It, a monologue-based performance that highlights both the positives and negatives of sex, students are encouraged to take accountability for their sex lives without being condemned for it.

Michelle Goode, a health promotion specialist at the university’s Office of Health Promotion, said having positive conversations about sex makes students more likely to practice safely, protecting both themselves and their partners.

“Having more conversations about healthy sexuality and sharing accurate information and resources can be empowering, enhance intimate experiences and relationships, and help counter negative perceptions that perpetuate rape culture and gender-based oppression,” she said.

It’s especially important for women entering college to know their rights and find a sense of empowerment in their sex lives. In a male-dominated culture that simultaneously sexualizes women and condemns them for having sex, education is power. But it’s the university’s responsibility to provide the right tools for effective education.

Beyond university-run performances and events, SU Health Services is an essential tool for new students to utilize when it comes to sexual safety and prevention. Reproductive health counseling, STI screenings, birth control refills and condoms and emergency contraceptives are available for students on a regular basis.

“Programs and services that focus on sexual safety and education not only help students learn about the resources available, but also promote sex-positive messaging, which challenges the negative messaging students may encounter in the media and in pop culture,” Goode said.

But let’s face it — school-based sex education still has a bad rep. While SU provides basic resources and programs on sexual safety, clubs like SASSE take it to the next level.

SASSE, or Students Advocating Sexual Safety and Empowerment, promotes empowerment events, such as performances of “The Vagina Monologues” and condom giveaways, to help erase sexual taboos on campus. Taking advantage of these events can help students understand the reality of sexual empowerment in ways university offices simply can’t.

While college isn’t a constant cycle of frat parties and hook-up buddies, casual sex isn’t something to be afraid of or feel ashamed about. Sex is a natural thing to desire and engage in, and your body count is by no means reflective of your character or worth.

By having frank, open conversations about sexual safety, freshmen can breathe a sigh of relief. Know that while your 15-week class syllabi may be fear-inducing, sex should be anything but.

Complete Article HERE!

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Is being single bad for your health?

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According to a new series of studies from The University College of London, it appears that being single maybe bad for your health – well, sort of.

The researchers did 14 studies on the effect of relationships on the development of dementia. They studied more than 800,000 people over the age of 65 and found that those who weren’t married were at a 42% higher risk of developing dementia. On the other hand, widows only saw a 20% increase in their chances of developing the disease.

It’s not so much the act of marriage itself that’s beneficial, but rather everything that goes along with it. As Dr. Laura Phipps, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, recently told The New York Post, “there is compelling research showing married people generally live longer and enjoy better health, with many different factors likely to be contributing to that link.” She adds, “spouses may help to encourage healthy habits, look out for their partner’s health and provide important social support.”

But before you reach for your phone and begin frantically swiping through Tinder, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First of all, these headlines are nothing new. In the eight years that I’ve been writing about sex and relationships, rarely a season goes by without a shocking headline about how single people are essentially doomed. While I don’t doubt the validity of this research – I watched as my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s steadily went downhill after my grandmother passed away – I also can’t help but think that these kinds of studies help contribute to an overarching sense of “single stigma.”

My first experience with single stigma happened when a coworker inquired about my relationship status and I admitted that I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to marry my boyfriend at the time – or even get married ever, period.

“But aren’t you afraid of growing old alone?” she replied, with a pitying look.

I was 27 and still getting carded on a frequent basis. It seemed almost ludicrous to consider.

Almost a decade later I get carded less frequently, but still routinely find myself confronting the same question. I equate the idea of “settling” with staying in a job that makes me miserable, just so I can collect the pension. At 36, the concept seems just as ridiculous as it did at 27.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. As of the last Canadian census, married people were found to be in the minority for the first time since 1871. Yet, singledom continues to receive a bad rap.

Eric Klinenberg is a New York University sociologist and author of the book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. As he tells The New York Times, “for decades social scientists have been worrying that our social connections are fraying, that we’ve become a society of lonely narcissists.” He says, “I’m not convinced.”

I’m with Klinenberg. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely. In Going Solo, Klinenberg uses data and statistics to show how most solo dwellers are actually deeply engaged in social and civic life. In fact, compared with their married counterparts, they are more likely to eat out and exercise, go to art and music classes, attend public events and lectures, and volunteer.

While I have a lot of friends who are in relationships where both partners support and push each other to be the best version of themselves, this isn’t the case for everyone. In my experience, you know what’s also unhealthy? Staying in a relationship that is no longer working.

I could be biased though. By the end of my last long term relationship, my former partner and I had admittedly let ourselves go. We were drinking. We were smoking. We were eating things that weren’t feeding our health. Since parting ways romantically, we’ve both become healthier. I look forward to sharing the things I’ve learned from my health journey if/when I meet another serious partner.

This is all to say that the studies mentioned above, while interesting and useful, aren’t prescriptive and shouldn’t be used as a guide on how to live your life. Good health and relationships aren’t about statistics, they’re about choosing what works best for you.

Complete Article HERE!

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