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How to Rethink Intimacy When ‘Regular’ Sex Hurts

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There’s no rule that says sex has to be penetrative.

By Breena Kerr

When sex hurts, women often feel alone—but they’re not. About 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal intercourse, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine which surveyed a subsample of 1,738 women and men ages 18 and older online.

Awareness of painful vaginal sex—sometimes lumped under the term Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)—has grown as more women talk about their experiences and more medical professionals start to listen.

Many conditions are associated with FSD, including vulvodynia (chronic vulva pain), vestibulodynia (chronic pain around the opening of the vagina), and vaginismus (cramping and tightness around the opening of the vagina). But they all have one thing in common: vaginal or vulval pain that can make penetrative sex anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to physically impossible. However, you can absolutely still have sex, which we’ll get to in a minute.

First and most important, if you are experiencing any type of genital pain, talk to your doctor.

There’s no reason to suffer in silence, even if it seems awkward or embarrassing or scary. Your gynecologist has heard it all and can help (or they can refer you to someone who can). The International Pelvic Pain Society has great resources for finding a licensed health care provider who specializes in genital pain.

“We don’t yet know why women get vestibulodynia or vulvodynia,” Kayna Cassard, M.A., M.F.T., a psychotherapist who specializes in vaginismus and other pelvic pain issues, tells SELF. “[There can be] many traumas, physical and psychological, that become internalized and add to vaginal pain. Women’s pain isn’t just ‘in their heads,’ ” Cassard says.

This kind of pain can affect anyone—regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status—but it can be particularly difficult for someone who mostly engages in penetrative sex with their partner. The important thing to remember is that you have options.

Sex does not have to revolve around penetration.

Hell, it doesn’t even need to include it. And for a lot of people, it doesn’t. Obviously, if P-in-V sex is what you and your partner are used to, it can be intimidating to consider redefining what sex means to you. But above all, sex should be pleasurable.

“The first thing to do is expand what ‘counts’ as sex,” sex educator and Girl Sex 101 author Allison Moon tells SELF. “Many people in heterosexual relationships consider only penis-in-vagina to count as sex, and everything else is some form of foreplay,” she says. But sex can include (or not include) whatever two consensual people decide on: oral sex, genital massage, mutual masturbation, whatever you’re into.

“If you only allow yourself one form of sex to count as the real deal, you may feel broken for enjoying, or preferring, other kinds of touch,” Moon says.

To minimize pain, give yourself time to prepare physically and mentally for sex.

That might sound like a lot of prep work, but it’s really about making sure you’re in the right mindset, that you’re relaxed, and that you’re giving your body time to warm up.

Heather S. Howard, Ph.D., a certified sexologist and founder of the Center for Sexual Health and Rehabilitation in San Francisco, publishes free guides that help women prepare physically and mentally for sex. She tells SELF that stretching and massaging, including massaging your vaginal muscles, is especially helpful for women with muscle tightness. (Too much stretching, though, is a bad idea for women with sensitive vaginal skin that’s prone to tearing.)

Starting with nonsexual touch is key, as Elizabeth Akincilar-Rummer, M.S.P.T., president and cofounder of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, tells SELF. This puts the emphasis on relaxation so you don’t feel pressured to rush arousal.

Inserting a cool or warm stainless steel dilator (or a homemade version created with water and a popsicle mold) can also help reduce pain, Howard says. Women can tailor the size and shape to whatever is comfortable. If a wand or dilator is painful, however, a cool cloth or warm bath can feel soothing instead. Again, do what feels good to you and doesn’t cause pain.

Several studies have shown that arousal may increase your threshold for pain tolerance (not to mention it makes sex more enjoyable). So don’t skimp on whatever step is most arousing for you. That might mean some solo stimulation, playing sexy music, dressing up, reading an erotic story, watching porn, etc.

And of course, don’t forget lubrication. Lube is the first line of defense when sex hurts. Water-based lubricant is typically the safest for sensitive skin. It’s also the easiest to clean and won’t stain your clothes or sheets. Extra lubrication will make the vagina less prone to irritation, infections, and skin tears, according to Howard. But some people may also be irritated by the ingredients in lube, so if you need a recommendation, ask your gynecologist.

Now it’s time figure out what feels good.

Women with pain often know what feels bad. But Howard says it’s important for them to remember what feels good, too. “Lots of people aren’t asking, ‘What feels good?’ So I ask women to set what their pleasure scale is, along with their pain scale. I ask them to develop a tolerance for pleasure.”

To explore what feels good, partners can try an exercise where they rate touch. They set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and ask their partner to touch them in different ways on different parts of their body. Sex partners can experiment with location, pressure, and touch type (using their fingertips, nails, breath, etc.) and change it up every 30 seconds. With every different touch, women should say a number from 0 to 10 that reflects how good the touch feels, with 10 being, “This feels amazing!” and 0 meaning, “I don’t like this particular kind of touch.” This allows women to feel a sense of ownership and control over the sensations, Howard says.

Another option is experimenting with different sensations. Think tickling, wax dripping, spanking, and flogging. Or if they prefer lighter touch, feathers, fingers, hair, or fabric on skin are good options. Some women with chronic pain may actually find it empowering to play with intense sensations (like hot wax) and eroticize them in a way that gives them control, according to Howard. But other women may need extremely light touch, she says, since chronic pain can lower some people’s general pain tolerance.

Masturbating together can also be an empowering way for you to show a partner how you like to be touched. And it can involve the entire body, not just genitals, Akincilar-Rummer says. It’s also a safe way for you to experience sexual play with a partner, when you aren’t quite ready to be touched by another person. For voyeurs and exhibitionists, it can be fun for one person to masturbate while the other person watches. Or, for a more intimate experience, partners can hold and kiss each other while they masturbate. It feels intimate while still allowing control over genital sensations.

If clitoral stimulation doesn’t hurt, feel free to just stick with that.

It’s worth noting that the majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob/gyn in West Palm Beach, Florida, tells SELF. Stimulating the clit is often the most direct route to arousal and climax and requires no penetration.

Some women won’t be able to tolerate clitoral stimulation, especially if their pain is linked to the pudendal nerve, which can affect sensations in the clitoris, mons pubis, vulva, vagina, and labia, according to Howard and Akincilar-Rummer. For that reason, vibrators may be right for some women and wrong for others. “Many women with pelvic pain can irritate the pelvic nerve with vibrators,” says Akincilar-Rummer. “But if it’s their go-to, that’s usually fine. I just tell them to be cautious.”

For women with pain from a different source, like muscle tightness, vibrators may actually help them become less sensitive to pain. “Muscular pain can actually calm down with a vibrator,” Howard says. Sex and relationship coach Charlie Glickman, Ph.D., tells SELF that putting a vibrator in a pillow and straddling it may decrease the amount of direct vibration.

Above all else, remember that sexual play should be fun, pleasurable, and consensual—but it doesn’t need to be penetrative. There’s no need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable physically or emotionally or worsens your genital pain.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘I’m 62 and my sex life is more important now than ever’

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‘I don’t believe I shouldn’t have a sex life just because I haven’t met ‘the one’’

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Sex is just as important for women after 50: that’s what the European Court of Human Rights made clear when it ruled that the judges who reduced a 50-year-old woman’s compensation for a botched gynaecological operation had discriminated against her.

Maria Morais, who is Portuguese and has two children, sought compensation on the grounds that she was unable to continue a normal sex life, but the judges in the original case had argued that the importance of sex declines for women as they get older.

The European Court of Human Rights found that this constituted sexual discrimination, and that the judges had “ignored the physical and psychological importance of sexuality for women’s self-fulfilment and other dimensions of women’s sexuality”.

Sex doesn’t stop at a certain age

In popular culture, portrayals of relationships among older people are becoming more common, implying a greater acknowledgement of older women’s sexuality

In popular culture, portrayals of relationships among older people are becoming more common, implying a greater acknowledgement of older women’s sexuality. The film It’s Complicated (2009) starred Meryl Streep (inset), whose character has an affair with her ex, played by Alec Baldwin, decades after their divorce. This year, Hampstead saw Diane Keaton as a widow falling in love with a man living wild on Hampstead Heath, played by Brendan Gleeson.

Data backs up her case, too. In 2014, a Saga survey of 9,685 people aged over 50 found three-fifths are sexually active and 23 per cent are having sex once a week.

Research released by the Longevity Centre in 2016 showed that 60 per cent of men and 37 per cent of women aged over 65 had sexual activity in the past year.

Caitlin (not her real name), 62, needs no court ruling or Hollywood film to tell her that her sex life is important. She has been in a number of monogamous relationships, but is now having intimate relationships with more than one man.

Having an active sex life makes me feel alive. There’s a deliciousness about it.

I’m single and I have sex regularly, but I’ve been celibate in an earlier relationship when my partner lost interest. I have also been a mistress, where I discovered the thrill of coming to terms with my non-vanilla side. I feel more in touch with my sexuality now than I ever have done.

Sex is not the be all and end all. While I’m passionate about sex for those who want it, I’m also very aware that other people can get satisfaction from other things. But I think if one has the desire, sex is such a fabulous, life-enforcing thing at any age. It’s just a marvellous sensation.

Being 62 doesn’t mean I have to settle

I talk openly about my sex life with my close friends; it’s a running joke with them about what my neighbours would make of me.

I’m not hankering for my ‘one and only’. If I met them, that would be delightful. But I don’t believe I shouldn’t have a sex life just because I haven’t met ‘the one’. You can have good enough relationships that are absolutely fine without being the big thing. I don’t like compromising – just because I’m 62, it doesn’t mean I have to settle.

It would be fabulous to meet somebody who ticks all of the boxes, but I don’t feel I’m missing out because I haven’t got that. Having a sense of adventure and not knowing who I may meet is great fun.

I wanted to be open minded about sex

‘I was stood in the college library and thought, ‘I’m going to go and masturbate’

I grew up in a village South Wales and lost my virginity aged 18 to the man I thought I was going to marry. It was a huge thing because I was still a practising Catholic and it was not the done thing to have sex at school.

At that age, I wanted to be open minded about sex. I enjoyed it. I loved the power of being able to turn a man on, But with everything around you [at that age] you have a patriarchal version of sexuality. The whole thing of ‘what is sexy’ comes from the images you see.

I never masturbated as a teenager – I think I was quite proud that I didn’t. Then I got into this relationship and started to think there must be more to sex than this. When I was 19, I was stood in the college library and thought, ‘I’m going to go and masturbate.’ And I went back to my room and I did!

I began exploring my sexuality in my forties

‘I set myself a goal of being able to use a computer.’

I’ve always had sexual fantasies about spanking, which meant I had a life time of growing up with these suppressed fantasies that I thought were sort of dangerous.

I began exploring my sexuality in my forties when I posted adverts in a magazine. I met someone I thought I was going to be with for the rest of my life when he responded to my advert.

He already knew that I had these fantasies from reading my advert. Our sex life was completely vanilla but fantastic and very active until about six years in, when he developed an illness and went off sex. He seemed almost relieved of the burden.

I cared about him and so I put up with it and set myself a couple of personal goals. One was to learn to use a computer properly. Another was to start creative writing – I had always wanted to write erotica.

Things changed with this exploration of female sexuality and fantasies. I realised I wasn’t going to bring the world crashing down because I have sexual fantasies.

Age 56, I started advertising for lovers

‘I discovered this community out there with the same interest.’

Writing erotica was fun and I was curious to find out if what worked for me sexually worked for other people. I discovered this community out there with the same interest and it brought me back to life.

I started communicating with a man online. We discovered we were both in sexless relationships. I had never been unfaithful and took monogamy very seriously but I was getting to the point where I couldn’t continue like this. I told my partner I was going to struggle to stay faithful if our relationship remained non-sexual.

Suddenly, we had a fantastic sex life again. But it only lasted a fortnight.I told my partner again that I would not be able to be faithful in a sexless marriage and he left me. The man I was talking to online became my lover.

I began putting adverts out online to meet other people and started having other sexual partners. I was 56 at this time.

Sex has to be intimate

We have the rituals you have as a couple; going out together, watching TV, going on holidays

For me, there has to be a level of intimacy in sexual encounters. I met a couple of guys where there was a coldness and that is just not right for me. But there can be a level of intimacy without love.

There’s a chap I’ve been seeing for a few years and we’re very comfortable with each other. We have the rituals you have as a couple; going out together, watching TV, going on holidays.

I see other people because the time we have together is limited and I want more. The ages of the people I see varies; I recently stopped seeing someone who was five years older. The oldest chap I was seeing was about 69. But I’ve also had relationships with people in their thirties and forties.

I’ve now moved back to the village where I grew up. I’m part of the Women’s Institutes and I’ve done relatively serious things work wise. It’s just nice that there is this other part of you that is private, such fun and so life-enhancing.

Complete Article HERE!

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Consent and BDSM: What You Should Know

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Because there are no fifty shades of grey, just black and white.

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We can say “Consent is sexy” all we want and wear it on every crop top we own, but with a rising interest in kink and BDSM, and the ever-prevalent rape culture, understanding the intricacies of consent can become more complicated — and are more important than ever.

You know basically the entire plot of Fifty Shades? Like how Ana is an unknowing virgin who’s whisked into a life of BDSM with a handsome, extremely screwed up billionaire? Well, I’d argue that though Ana is presented a contract, she isn’t truly consenting to almost anything that happens to her in Fifty Shades.

Sure, she’s into the white wine kisses and the grey tie bondage part, but Christian Grey essentially coerced an inexperienced novice into a world of kink— she consented, but she didn’t even know what she was consenting to. That is problematic and it is wrong. Others will disagree with me. Critics of this stance say that Ana said ‘yes,’ therefore her consent was given.

How can a clear willingness or unwillingness to participate in a sexual act become so many shades of grey, when it should be black and white?

It is so essential to a teen’s educational understanding, this is the teen’s guide to understanding consent in BDSM.

The blurred lines are confusing AF

When it comes to mainstream representations of BDSM in the media, understanding where bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism aligns with consent can be confusing. It’s not just hazy for teenagers, trust me. The lines appear blurry for pretty much anyone without a deep understanding of kink.

What you may not know is that consent is actually the foundation of BDSM play. Before you can “play,” you need to discuss the boundaries and comforts levels of each person involved in the scene.

“Consent is just as important in vanilla sex, but often, we get so used to the vanilla experience that we forget to ask for or enthusiastically express consent. In BDSM, however, you’re off the established script. Experimenting with bondage or other non-vanilla play is different from the kind of sex we’re used to seeing in the movies or on TV, which makes it essential that you and your partner communicate regularly and clearly to make sure that everything you’re doing is okay and enjoyable.” Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D., author, former dominatrix, tells Teen Vogue.

How can you be a sexual slave to someone, and also be fully willing? How can you want to be spanked, or whipped, or punished and be down for it at the same time? How does the person you’re having this kinky sex with know where the limits lie? How do you say yes or no?

Trying BDSM means having a trusting relationship

First and foremost, BDSM play should only be tried with someone you trust implicitly. Scenes should be discussed thoroughly beforehand, and between partners who know what they are doing — don’t go tying any crazy knots if you don’t know how to tie knots, or dripping regular candle wax that isn’t meant for bodies on someone’s skin.

If you want to use a crop on your partner, you must have a thorough understanding of the boundaries. You have to ask if your partner is fine with it. BDSM is absolutely NOT about causing someone harm or pain who doesn’t want pain inflicted upon them.

BDSM should never be done only to please another person. You should only engage in a sexual act if you feel comfortable doing it. There is nothing OK about coercing someone to try something they have zero interest in trying.

Both parties must give enthusiastic consent for a BDSM scene to work. Meaning, both parties have to be totally feeling this 100%. It does not mean one person feels lukewarm.

‘Yes’ does not mean ‘yes to all’

When it comes to consent, saying ‘yes’ to one thing in the bedroom does not mean you’ve said yes to all things in the bedroom. If you clearly discuss certain things as having “blanket consent,” it means you are fully comfortable with certain things happening without being asked, such as biting or tickling. You can always take away this kind of consent, as with all consent.

“Blanket consent is a different approach to consent—instead of asking if what you’re doing is okay every time you do something different sexually (regular consent), you tell your partner to stop if something they’re doing starts to cross a line.” Says LaMorgese.

When venturing into kink, both partners must stay within the previously discussed scene. For example, if you have agreed to let your partner tie you to the bed and use a feather tickler on your body, that is fine. But, if your partner then brings out a whip and hits you with it, without having asked if you were OK with that, it’s NOT OK.

For instance in Fifty Shades, Christian’s contract comes with some heavy baggage: “A ‘yes’ is only meaningful if it can be taken away at any time without consequences. ‘You must sign this BDSM contract or I will break up with you and fly away on my helicopter’ is not actually good consent.” Laura Schroeder, an Account Director at Fun Factory tells Teen Vogue.

Make sense? The ‘yes’ you give has to come with no strings attached. You are not subject to the will of the dom, unless you WANT to be. End of story.

BDSM covers a lot of territory

BDSM is not all about chains, whips, and ball gags, despite what you’ve seen in the movies. It is about the giving and receiving of control over anything else. Both the submissive and dominant consent to the submission and domination.

That’s actually what makes BDSM so erotic to many who enjoy it.

For subs, it is the release of control to someone who lets you escape from your worries; for the dom, having control in the bedroom can often substitute for a perceived lack of control in his or her everyday life.

Just because BDSM covers a lot of different behaviors, doesn’t mean you’re expected to try every single thing. You may be down to try some light spanking, but that doesn’t mean you want hot wax dripped on you; you might want to be in control during one sexual encounter, but want to give it up to your partner in another, “Like the word ‘sex,’ ‘BDSM’ covers a lot of different behaviors and activities, and trying one doesn’t meant that you have to try all of them.” Schroeder says.

It also doesn’t look any particular way

You and your partner are human beings. BDSM does not always look the same for every couple and that is completely fine.

For instance, Schroder tells us that a someone may like to have their lower lip bitten between kisses or perhaps one partner wants to use a sex toy and kneels in front of the other to present it for approval. These actions are about control rather than pain.

At the end of the day, remember that kink is just a game. It’s not something to be afraid of. If you’re with someone you trust, and understand the boundaries, it can be super fun and pleasurable.

Most importantly, remember that the fun starts and stops with your consent. If something is making you feel weird, gross, or just plain sucks, tell your partner to stop. Consent is the most valuable and sacred part of BDSM. It is about exploring boundaries and learning about yourself — it’s about growing, not losing something.

Complete Article HERE!

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New Film Explores Wonder Woman’s Origins In BDSM And Feminist Kink

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Wonder Woman is one of DC Comic’s most iconic heroes. She’s more popular than ever after the record-smashing success of this year’s Wonder Woman movie. But not many people know about the character’s origins in BDSM and kink.

A new film by director Angela Robinson, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, hopes to change that.

The sex-positive origins of Wonder Woman

If you’ve ever picked up any of the early edition comics, their raunchiness might come as a surprise. There’s spanking, sadomasochism, bondage and double entendres galore.

The origins of these unorthodox comics can be traced to their creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, who combined an interest in bondage and submission with feminist principles. In addition to his sex-positive ideals, he believed that women were superior to men and should rule the world.

The comics were created with the help of his wife, Elizabeth Holloway (who came up with the iconic quip, “Suffering Saffo”) and his former student Olive Bryne. The three were in a polyamorous relationship and had four children together.

Robinson’s new film aims to explore the dynamics between the Marstons and Olive Byrne, and shed light on the enormous influence the women in William Marston’s life had on his work. In exploring the sex-positive origins of the Wonder Woman comics, Robinson will touch on the topics of polyamory, bisexuality and feminism, as they were viewed in 1940s America.

The film has a stellar cast and team behind it. Angela Robinson, the film’s director, was behind one of the top queer cult classics of the noughties, D.E.B.S. She’s also been a writer on The L Word and True BloodTransparent creator, Jill Soloway, is producing the film, which will star Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, and Luke Evans.

Watch the trailer for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women below:

Complete Article HERE!

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5 problems sex can (probably) fix

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Everyone’s sex life hits a slump, but if you’re feeling blah, try out these sexy ideas.

By Kimberly M. Aquilina

Lazy please-don’t-smell-my-breath morning sex. Make up sex. Christening your new apartment sex. Sloppy, dirty-talk-fueled drunk sex.

We can make sex fit into whatever situation we’re in, but can it be a quick fix?

“Sex can be a tremendous resource for managing emotions, coping with stress, reducing heart rate, regulating breathing, grounding yourself in the present and connecting with others,” Angie Gunn, clinical social worker and sexuality expert at Talkspace, told She Knows. “Sex can also be a resource for more complex challenges like relationship conflict, boredom or feeling distress in your life.”

OK, so the tango-for-two can’t fix all. Remember the rumors that Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck were thinking of having a fourth child to save their marriage? That’s an example of something sex can’t fix.

But below are some things it can fix (and if it doesn’t work, at least you’ll have fun trying!)

You and your lady have been bickering.

If you or your partner are feeling nitpicky and are squabbling a lot, try an amped up — and a little kinky — activity to release the stress.

“This can include mutual spanking, hard and enthusiastic penetration and even a bit of BDSM if that’s something you both agree to try,” Coleen Singer, sexpert at Sssh.com, an erotic entertainment website for women, told She Knows.

“The sheer physicality of rough sex can shed some built-up emotional tension between you. Just be careful not to go overboard with this technique and establish a safe word so you can put on the breaks if anything becomes uncomfortable or painful.”

Even in the most intense BDSM play, consent and respect are key. And don’t forget the aftercare! After a rigorous romp, be sure to shower each other with gentle affection and bask in the afterglow together.

 

One (or both) of you have P.M.S.

Studies have shown that the “feel-good hormones” like oxytocin released during sex can help alleviate pain.

“Period cramps put your body under a lot of stress, leading to more pain and mood swings,” Singer told She Knows. “When we orgasm, the body releases oxytocin and dopamine along with other endorphins that can ease any PMS and period-related pains. Those hormones are far stronger than any over-the-counter painkillers.”

Your sex life has lost some of that “oomph.”

No matter how much you love each other, sex can become routine, boring and less of a priority. Bring back that spark with some role playing.

Get dressed up like you would when you were single, go to a bar (or coffee shop) and pretend you are complete strangers. Introduce yourselves, flirt and buy a round of drinks.

Bring sexy to the max and spring for a hotel room to invoke the feel of a forbidden one-night stand.

 

Stress has turned your vagina into a desert.

Stress can zap libido, but it can also give you a jolt better than a 2 p.m. protein bar or coffee break.

If you know you’re going to have a busy week, start your day with a quickie to alleviate anxiety. Your coworkers will be in awe at how cool and collected you stay while facing deadlines.

You’re just in a funk.

If you just feel blah and need some excitement in your life, make a sex life bucket list. Having sex outdoors, roleplaying or trying a new position can give you that extra pep in your step. The orgasms help, but just having something to look forward to can pull you out of your slump.

 

Complete Article HERE!

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