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Nienke Helder designs therapy tools for women recovering from sexual trauma

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Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Nienke Helder has created a set of sensory objects that can be used to rehabilitate women affected by sexual abuse.

Presented at this year’s Dutch Design Week, Sexual Healing is designed to help women who are suffering from trauma-induced sexual problems, such as pelvic muscle blockage.

According to the designer, current treatment available often focuses on a clinical perspective – putting too much emphasis on physical issues, rather than the psychological aspects of trauma.

From her own experience, Helder recognised the frustration this can cause, which prompted her to develop an alternative therapy which focuses more on the emotional aspects of sexual trauma.

“I was really frustrated with the way we treat these kinds of issues. In my opinion, the treatments that I got only made it worse,” she told Dezeen.

“It was totally taking me away from the sexual context; it became really clinical. It was so focused on this end goal of penetration that I totally lost all fun in my sexuality.”

The designer worked with medical experts and women in recovery to develop a set of five objects which invite users to discover their own sexual pleasure.

The objects encourage women to explore what feels good to them, which in turn, relieves fear and pain, and help them regain a sense of security about their bodies.

The first object is an ergonomically shaped mirror that lights up.

“Research shows that if you look at your own vulva, it increases your body positivity a lot. But if you have a trauma, it can really be confronting to look at your own body,” Helder said.

She made the mirror in such a way that it only shows exactly what you hold in front of it, allowing users to take their time and slowly start exploring their own bodies.

The second object is a brush made from horsehair, which is meant to help users become comfortable with being touched again. It also enables them to invite their partner to the healing process.

“If you have a trauma, it can be really difficult to talk about it. But by giving someone an object and making them part of the therapy, it opens a lot of doors for conversation,” Helder explains.

Two of the objects focus on biofeedback and are designed to help the user detect if they are feeling tense or stressed.

“Trauma creates certain reflexes in your body that comes from your subconscious mind,” the designer said. “To break that cycle, you need to rationally understand what is causing these processes in order to overcome them emotionally.”

One is a sensor that is meant to be placed on the abdomen. The device lights-up when the user’s breathing becomes tense, functioning as a signal to relax again.

A second is an object that measures the pressure in pelvic floor muscles. If the user tenses up, the device starts to vibrate, signalling the need to relax.

The final object is a kimono made of silk jersey, which emphasises the need to feel warm and relaxed in the bedroom.

“I made it because the bedroom is one of the coldest rooms in the house,” said the designer. “As I mentioned in my project video, it is important to keep your socks on when having sex because women could not have an orgasm when they have cold feet.”


 
Mental health is becoming an increasingly explored topic in design, particularly among graduates.

At last year’s Design Academy Eindhoven graduate show, designer Nicolette Bodewes presented a tactile toolkit designed to be used in psychotherapy sessions, while Yi-Fei Chen channelled her personal struggle with speaking her mind into a gun that fires her tears.

Helder’s Sexual Healing project was presented at this year’s Design Academy Eindhoven‘s graduate show as part of the annual Dutch Design Week event, which took place from 21 until 29 October 2017.

Complete Article HERE!

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Exploring the controversial fetish of race play

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Having spent a lot of my life writing about sex, and exploring all the millions of ways in which people have sex, I can say that very little has ever shocked me. 

One of the few things to ever leave me slightly open mouthed is the concept of race play.

For the uninitiated, race play is a subset of BDSM where the focus of the imbalance in the role play stems from the races of the people in question.

In practice this often presents as people of colour role playing as slaves, or people of Jewish heritage role playing as prisoners.

We did warn you this was controversial stuff.

But it’s also popular. On the kinky dating site and forum Fetlife, the fetish has hundreds of groups dedicated to it and thousands of users who openly subscribe to being a fan.

Yet even in the fetish scene, where most things are fair game, race play is controversial.

Sophia*, 34, told Metro.co.uk that she felt ostracized on the fetish scene: ‘I have friends who are open about doing rape play or age play, but race play is a hard limit.

‘I feel like I’m not even allowed to talk about it, like it’s somehow this line we’re not allowed to cross. As a Jewish woman, I do feel ashamed of the types of role play I enjoy, but I can’t help it. It’s something that is deeply ingrained in me.’

Race play is a complicated and confusing area. The idea that someone might reenact genuine traumas that their ancestors experienced, but for sexual gratification, is a confusing one to anyone who isn’t that way inclined.

My stance on sex and sexuality is always, and will always be, that what you do in your bedroom is no one’s business but your own. As long as it’s consensual, why would anyone need to have any kind of opinion on your sexual fantasies?

In my experience, BDSM can be a way of working out some issues. Having been called bossy, argumentative and controlling for my entire life (thanks for that, society!) I found that being sexually submissive helped to soothe the concern that maybe I was all of those things.

I talked to Master Dominic, a professional dominant and sexual education expert about this complicated but compelling area of fetish, specifically why people enjoy it.

‘It’s always hard to definitively explain why people are into something specific,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Everyone has their own spin on it.’

‘The taboo nature of it is certainly a big aspect, but that can come from a few different places. It can be a relatively simple “pushing the envelope is sexy” sort of thing, or it can come from a place of internalised racism.

‘The latter takes much more consideration, empathy and communication to navigate.

Master Dominic echoed my own sentiment – that sex and fetishes can be used to explore ingrained issues. He explained:

‘People turn to sex and fetish to process and own something traumatic or troubling, and whilst I absolutely think that you are completely within their rights to do so, you do need to try to dissect it a little so there’s an understanding of the context and the need.’

What Master Dominic hits on here is something to be aware of when dealing with more niche fetishes. Those that make us uncomfortable, or that feel out of kilter with an otherwise politically correct outlook on life, can be the hardest to navigate.

‘It can be tough, for sure, especially when one of you is not part of an ethnic minority’ says Dominic.

‘It’s been one of the toughest learning curves in my career, as a middle class white man, to understand.

‘So yes, it is part of the BDSM spectrum in a lot of ways and it shouldn’t be gasped at or judged. Nobody should be policing how anybody else relates to and expresses their race, heritage, gender identity, or sexuality. It’s theirs to own and express as they wish.’

Negotiating race play from the side of the person of colour is fraught enough, but what happens if you’re a white person who has a race fetish? Is it okay to find it arousing? Or is it just your racism adopting a different guise?

Therapist Sarah Berry, who specialises in sex and sexuality explains: ‘We all have different preferences of what we find arousing and may well be more judgmental than political correctness dictates, for example hair colour, height, weight, salary.

‘If someone only goes for a certain race it could be part of this. Or it could be that someone has ideas based around stereotypes or that person being perceived as more “exotic”. If someone is having a hook-up or relationship and is finding it hard to have these stereotypes challenged then this could be troubling.

‘I think, as with many things, it is nuanced and complicated – certainly not a black and white issue.

‘It’s important, if you do exhibit this tendency, to be challenged or to see that race isn’t the only defining factor of the rounded human that they are with. If someone wanted to exert power over someone else that they do not respect because of their race or any other reasons then this is not healthy.

‘Likewise if someone felt they needed to punished for race or other reasons by someone they perceive as superior then this is also not healthy.’

No kinky person wants to refuse their sexual desires on the basis of politically correctness, but no decent person wants their partner to feel fetishised for their race.

Complete Article HERE!

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With midlife comes sexual wisdom

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Research shows women’s sexuality adapts with aging

by Madison Brunner

While women experience changes with the menopausal transition that can negatively affect their sex lives, they often adapt behaviorally and psychologically to these changes, according to a qualitative study by University of Pittsburgh researchers.

The results of the study, which included individual and focus group interviews, will be published online in the journal Menopause on November 1.

Midlife, which is defined as 40 to 60 years old, can bring physical, psychological, social and partner-related changes. Menopause-related vaginal dryness or pain, aging joints and reduced flexibility may lead to negative changes in sexual function for some women. Additional contributing factors such as career, financial and family stress, and concerns about changing body image, may add to decreased frequency of sex, a low libido and orgasm difficulties. However, not all changes are negative. The positive psychological changes aging brings—such as decreased family concerns, increased self-knowledge and self-confidence, and enhanced communication skills in the bedroom—may lead to improvements in sexual satisfaction with aging.

During the course of the study, the researchers interviewed a total of 39 women who were 45 to 60 years old and had been sexually active with a partner at least once in the prior 12 months. Participants chose to take part in either an individual interview or focus group.

“While prior longitudinal studies have documented negative changes in sexual function as women move through midlife, few have highlighted the positive changes,” said Holly Thomas, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine, Pitt School of Medicine. “We found most study participants were prompted to try new adaptive behaviors to overcome negative challenges to maintain their overall sexual satisfaction.”

Such adaptations included using lubricants, different sexual activities/positions and changing priorities, with greater focus on emotional satisfaction. Women also discussed changing their priorities around sex; as they aged, they de-emphasized physical sexual satisfaction and placed more importance on emotional .

“It is important for to recognize that each woman’s experience of during menopause is unique and nuanced, and they should tailor their care accordingly. Midlife can learn strategies, such as adapting sexual behavior and enhancing communication of sexual needs, to help ensure and maintain satisfying as they age,” explained Thomas.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Weird Link Between Your Parents & Your Partner

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There’s A Weird Connection Between Your Parents & Your Sex Life, According To Science

By Kasandra Brabaw

Every once in a while research pops up that claims people often end up with sexual and/or romantic partners who look like one of their parents. Usually this research is pretty heteronormative and focuses on the idea that straight women end up with husbands who look kind of like their fathers or straight men bring home women who look just like mom.

Whatever these studies are trying to say about our lives and their oedipus-like qualities, they’re generally pretty easy to brush off and move on — after all, it’s doubtful that many of us are consciously looking for someone who reminds us of our parents.

But the latest study in this iteration is slightly more nuanced. Researchers at Glasgow University aren’t saying that we want partners who look exactly like our parents, just that it’s likely we’ll end up with someone who has the same eye color as one of our parents. And this time, the study isn’t restricted to straight people, Yahoo reports.

The researchers asked 300 people about the eye color of their parents and the eye color of their partners. They determined through this (relatively small) sample size, that straight women and gay men are more likely attracted to people who have their father’s eye color, and that straight men and gay women are more likely attracted to people with their mothers’.

Now, let’s just take a second to think about this. Obviously, their findings aren’t going to be true for everyone. I, for example, am a gay woman who has mostly dated people who have brown eyes, just like my dad. So even though I have been attracted to people who have the same eye color as one of my parents, it’s not the parent this study says should be my inspiration.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that they only asked 300 people (75 of each gender/sexuality), which is hardly a strong sample size of the whole world. And even if those 300 people were perfect representations of how everyone chooses sexual and romantic partners, let’s remember that there are only so many eye colors to choose from anyway.

If you think about it, most people have either brown eyes, green/hazel eyes, or blue eyes — though some people’s eyes can also look more grey. So, if your parents have two different eye colors like mine do (my dad has brown, my mom has hazel), then you’ve already knocked off two of three possible eye colors. The odds are good that you’ll end up with someone who has the same eye color as your parents, just because that’s how probability works.

Still, there might be some truth to the researchers’ claims that this is another example of “sexual imprinting,” a theory that claims we learn what characteristics to find sexually attractive from our parents. After all, these studies do keep popping up.

Our advice: Just don’t think about it too much. You’re attracted to whoever you’re attracted to, and if that person happens to look a little like your dad around the eyes, then so be it.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Shaming of Sexuality: America’s Real Sex Scandal

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In early September, the Twitter account of Texas Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz “liked” a post containing explicit pornographic video content. Once noticed by other Twitter users, the news shot around social media; many were both shocked and amused by the public slip-up by the typically straight-laced Senator. For his part, Cruz blamed the error on a staffer, denying that he was the one who had liked the post.

Whether you believe this explanation or not, the idea of Cruz publicly revealing a pornography habit and preference is simultaneously absurd and infuriating. Both of these reactions are a result of Cruz’s staunchly conservative views on sex and sexuality. In 2007 as Texas solicitor general, he defended a law banning the sale of sex toys in the state, arguing that no right existed “to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” Though he did not personally fight to preserve Texas’ anti-sodomy laws in 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, his negative attitudes towards LGBTQ+ causes are well-established: He called the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in favor of marriage equality “fundamentally illegitimate” and supported North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” referring to transgender women as “men” in the process. When pressed in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on the Texas sex toy law, Cruz backtracked on his previous position, calling the sex toy law “idiotic” and “a stupid law” before adding, “consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms.” If Cruz truly feels that way, then his past attempts at legislation appear either opportunistic or self-contradicting.

Cruz is far from alone among politicians who have contributed to legislation and rhetoric against private consensual sexual practices. As stated above, it took until 2003 for the Supreme Court to strike down anti-sodomy laws, and, as of 2014, a dozen states still technically had those laws on their books. (In fact, several states have actually been stricter against sodomy than bestiality – including Texas, which has had an anti-sodomy law on the books since 1974 but only made bestiality a crime in 2017.) The sale of sex toys is currently punishable in Alabama by a fine of up to $10,000 and a full year in jail, and last year a US appeals court upheld a similar law in Georgia. Also last year, Utah Governor Gary Herbert declared pornography and pornography addiction a “public health crisis” via a signed resolution, continuing a long trend of political attempts to push back against pornography.

What is most interesting about these types of consensual sex-related laws and attitudes in the United States is that support for them seems to be in direct conflict with the amount of people who participate in said sex acts. Utah residents, for example, actually buy more internet porn per person than those of any other state according to a 2009 study (though it’s a solidly red and majority Mormon state). Only 29 percent of Americans consider watching porn “morally acceptable,” and only 39 percent would “oppose legal restrictions on pornography.” However, between 75 and 80 percent of Americans age 18 to 30 report watching porn at least once a month, and a 2015 Marie Clare study of people 18 and older found that 92 percent of respondents watch porn at least a few times a year, and 41 percent at least every week. Statistically, then, a good number of those who find porn “morally unacceptable” and wouldn’t necessarily fight against anti-porn laws watch porn themselves. In the same vein, there are a number of famous cases of politicians and activists with anti-LGBTQ+ standpoints later being revealed as LGBTQ+ themselves.

So why the hypocrisy? Why do a considerable number of Americans support legislation and rhetoric against sex acts they themselves enjoy? The answer lies squarely on the shoulders of the country’s odd relationship with sex and the public discussion of it. In the US, hyper-sexualization is not simply tolerated but rampant. Everything from M&M’s to sparkling water seems to ascribe to the idea that “sex sells,” their sexed-up ads running on television in plain sight. But once a certain fairly arbitrary line is crossed, the conversation is seen as “too explicit” and gets tucked away in the corner. This creates an environment where pornography, masturbation, sex toy use, and homosexuality are seen as shameful, leading to the statistical discrepancies laid out above. Indeed, in that same Marie Claire poll, 41 percent of respondents said they “don’t want anyone to know about” their porn watching and another 20 percent feel “embarrassed” and “ashamed afterward.”

The don’t-ask-don’t-tell culture around sex in the United States makes it is quite possible that support for sex-based legislation comes more from perceived societal pressure than from personal concern about the issues at hand. In other words, there are potentially more people who support restricting pornography or the sale of sex toys simply because they feel that others expect them to, even if they personally use pornography or sex toys, than there are people who don’t participate and find said actions immoral enough to be worthy of legislative restriction.

American public and social discourse about sex is an unruly, multi-faceted mess, and not one that can be untangled in a day. But if attitudes around sex were to thaw, and people were free to talk more openly about their habits, the stigma and taboos surrounding certain aspects of sexuality – many of which are overwhelmingly common and actually healthy – could be eliminated. This change could come from the top down, with politicians and medical professionals emphasizing the need for healthy sex discourse, or, more likely, from an effort by the populace (which may already be underway) to tear away the curtains. New sex education programs – which are far easier to talk about than actually implement – could put more emphasis on the healthy aspects of sex and sexuality. Celebrities could also speak out, using their platforms to acknowledge the realities of human sexuality. If all this were to happen, eventually laws could be pulled back, and politicians could potentially stop feeling pressure to espouse hypocritical views on sexuality. Maybe then Ted Cruz could truly act on his belief that “consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms.”

Complete Article HERE!

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