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How To Be A Good Partner To A Survivor Of Sexual Assault

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

January 20, 2018 San Francisco / CA / USA – “Me too” sign raised high by a Women’s March participant; the City Hall building in the background.

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The #MeToo movement has banded survivors of sexual assault together and forced a challenging discussion about how women and girls are treated in our society. But one of the toughest conversations still rarely seems to happen: how do you treat a romantic partner who is a survivor of sexual assault?

One in six women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, so it is likely you may have dated, or are dating, a survivor. Still, few people, outside of trained professionals, are receiving an education about how to sensitively help their partners through the healing process.

“I think it can help to just normalize that [sexual assault] is something many people have experienced,” Laura Palumbo, the communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), told A Plus.

The NSVRC, which provides resources and tools for people trying to prevent sexual violence and to help those living in the aftermath of it, also touches on best practices for being a partner to a survivor. Palumbo explained that for survivors of sexual assault, male of female, deciding whether to tell your partner is one of the hardest things to do.

Survivors may fear being criticized for their stories, or simply not being believed. They may also find it difficult to find the right time to confide in a partner, especially if it is a new relationship.

“It’s something that takes a lot of bravery and vulnerability to share,” Palumbo said. “That’s something for someone on the receiving end to consider: how you respond to someone who shares their experience of sexual assault makes a huge impact in how comfortable they are and their perceptions of whether or not you’re a safe person to talk about this with.”

The first step, Palumbo said, is simply believing what your partner is telling you. Do your best to make it clear that you trust their story, that you believe the assault happened, and that you know it wasn’t their fault.

“They may not want to talk about it in great detail either, and those are all normal ways for a survivor to feel,” Palumbo said. “You should follow their cue about what they are comfortable sharing and not press them for any more info or detail than what they have felt comfortable sharing already.”

If you’re in a new relationship, Palumbo says there are no tried-and-true telltale signs that a partner may have been the victim of an assault in the past. Some victims may have visceral reactions to scenes of sexual assault in movies or on television, but plenty of people who aren’t survivors have those reactions, too. The key is doing your best to pick up on certain signals that may repeat themselves, and adjusting your behavior accordingly. If a partner has a strong negative reaction like that to a scene of sexual violence, you should normalize the reaction and make it clear you noticed it — and then do your best to communicate to your partner that you’re happy to avoid that kind of content in the future.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

Ultimately, being a supportive partner is about listening with care and focus. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape says you should avoid threatening the suspect who may have hurt your partner, maintain confidentiality no matter what, and — if the survivor hasn’t yet already — encourage them to seek counseling.

“The other step we can’t emphasize enough is really just about being a good listener,” Palumbo said. “What a good listener means in this context is just listening actively and listening to what your loved one is sharing without thinking about how you’re going to respond to them, if you’re going to be able to say the right thing or if you are going to have advice, because they really don’t need to hear that from you.”

There is no one way to approach this conversation, but the NSVRC’s guidelines provide a general rulebook. Palumbo says it’s also important to consider the misconceptions and stereotypes about sexual assault survivors and move past them, focusing on the individual you’re in a relationship with. Because of these misconceptions, many people believe survivors of sexual violence don’t want touch or physical contact and end up being less sexual. On the contrary, research shows that’s not the case. While some survivors do withdraw from sexual activity, most “continue to be sexual beings,” Palumbo said.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

“People who experience sexual violence are just like the rest of us in terms of having different sexual preferences and needs and their level of sex and frequency,” she added.

One way to be sure about what your partner is comfortable with is asking for consent to physical touch, particularly during conversations about the their past assault.

“There are going to be times where they may be really receptive to being asked for physical support, such as a hug or other physical intimacy, and there are going to be other times where that is not their preference,” Palumbo said. “By asking and always checking in with the person and being aware of their needs, you can make sure you’re respecting their preferences and re-establishing their preferences of security, safety and control.”

Finally, Palumbo said, be aware that a lot of survivors remain sex positive after their assaults. Some are into consensual alternative forms of sexuality like BDSM, others are comedians who joke about their experiences on stage, and some remain angry or upset about their experience for a long time. Some studies have found that certain rape survivors even have sexual fantasies about rape later in life.

All of these, Palumbo said, are normal and common reactions.

“Survivors are, even after they experienced some form of sexual harm, still going to move forward in their life as a human being,” Palumbo said. “There really is no script. That is something that comes up when a person is talking about their values or expectations for a relationship.”

Complete Article HERE!

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‘If We Want To End Sexual Violence, We Need To Talk About Female Desire’

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“Good sex is about more than lack of violence or fear.”

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It might seem strange to be talking about pleasure and desire when we are surrounded by stories of rape and harassment. Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves? Shouldn’t we concentrate first on stopping those crimes before we ask for sex that might actually work for us?

I don’t think so. The worst men—and the worst lovers—I have known were the ones who didn’t understand that women, too, want things from sex. That sex is not simply something we give to men—or something men take from us.

These were the men who commented, with a mixture of surprise and revulsion, on how much I actually seemed to enjoy the sex we had, how I acted as though we were sexual equals, as though my own desire mattered—and how unusual that was. I’ve never known what to say to that. I’ve never known whether to pity their ignorance or worry about the other women they have been with, about how those women may have felt forced to deny their desire, to keep their sexual agency secret, even in bed.

Study after study shows that women want sex just as much as men do—but they’re often afraid of the consequences of saying so. The story we tell about how women should behave sexually is one of hesitancy, of submission, of waiting for the man to make the first, second, and last moves. Cajoling a woman into sex is considered normal, hence much of the confusion about women who are now complaining, often for the first time, about men who pressure us into sex we don’t want to have.

Good sex is about more than lack of violence or fear. But there are still too many people out there who believe that it is enough for sex to not be painful or frightening for a woman. One recent study showed that 32 percent of college-age men said they would commit or had committed acts of violence against women that courts would describe as rape, but when asked if they would ever rape a woman, most said no. This is rape culture; nonconsensual sex is normalized and, as long as we don’t call it rape, tolerated.

There are still very few societies that are truly comfortable with women having sexual and reproductive agency—in other words, the right to choose when and if and how we have sex, and when and if and how we have children. All over the world, including in the United States, the basic assumption made about women by their governments and employers and families is that we do not deserve to decide what happens to our bodies—and we cannot be trusted to tell the truth about our experiences. This is sexual repression, and we must fight it.

We must also fight against internalizing it. The consequences of capitulating to what our bodies seem to want—whether it be an orgasm or another slice of cake—are made very clear to girls long before puberty turns up the dial on desire. We must not be too hungry, too horny, too greedy for anything in life, or we will become ugly, unlovable. Women who eat too much, talk too much, shag too much—women who want too much—will face shame, stigma, and ostracism. We must not lose control.

When you’ve learned to be suspicious of your own appetites, it takes time to treat yourself and your body with more kindness. How can we be honest with anyone else about our desires when “slut” is still one of the worst things you can call a woman, when women who openly enjoy or seek out sex are shamed for it, and men who do the same are celebrated?

For women and queer people, for anyone whose sexuality has been treated as abnormal and punished, and particularly for those who’ve survived sexual violence, it can be very hard to be honest about what we might want in bed, even with ourselves. That’s alright. It’s okay not to know what you want, as long as you know that the wanting itself is okay. This isn’t going to change overnight. But I know I’ve had more positive experiences than negative ones when I insisted on making my desires clear. Being able to ask for what you want is the first step toward real sexual liberation. The sort that works for everyone.

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Welcome To The Wacky World Of Fetish Porn

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By Sarah Raphael

In 2017, Pornhub boasted an average of 81 million active users a day, culminating in 28.5 billion visits over the course of the year. For comparison, Twitter had 100 million active users per day, and the BBC had a global average of 372 million people per week. As responsible citizens, we like to keep abreast of current affairs, and it appears we like porn just as much.

According to Pornhub’s survey, the most searched terms on the site last year were, in order: lesbian, hentai (anime/ manga porn), milf, stepmum, stepsister, and mum. Lesbian is perhaps unremarkable, since it appeals to several genders and orientations, but hentai at number two is a surprise, and it only gets weirder from there. Hentai loosely translates from Japanese as ‘a perverse sexual desire’ – but when manga and mummy porn are among the top six search terms of 81 million watchers a day, is it time we reconsider what constitutes ‘abnormal sexual desire’?

In his masterpiece podcast The Butterfly Effect, journalist Jon Ronson interviews the founders of Anatomik Media, a company based in LA which produces made-to-order fetish videos for private clients. The videos, produced by the company’s founders, husband and wife duo Dan and Rhiannon, cost anywhere between a few hundred and several thousand dollars, and the clients will often send a script or a specific set of instructions for how the fetish fantasy should play out. Some of the videos they talk about on the podcast include burning a man’s very expensive stamp collection, and pouring condiments like ketchup on a woman in a paddling pool. “We take everyone’s fetish very seriously, we don’t laugh at them,” Rhiannon tells Jon. In the same episode, Jon interviews fetish actress/ producer Christina Carter, who stars as Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman vs. The Gremlin, a custom video series for a private client in which Wonder Woman is controlled by a gremlin who hits her over the head to keep her in the room. Jon emails the client to ask where this scenario came from and eventually he replies, saying that his mother left when he was five and he remembers watching her leave; the inference is that he is the gremlin in the scenario, trying to make his mother (Wonder Woman) stay

“I don’t consider any of the fetishes people come to see me to explore as being ‘unusual’,” Miss Bliss, a 31-year-old pansexual, feminist dominatrix with 10 years’ experience in the sex work industry, tells me over email. “I try and break down barriers, not reinforce them. I teach my clients that it takes courage to embrace one’s desires and strength to experiment and understand and indulge in them, regardless of what their particular fetish is. There are no unusual fetishes, just unusual societal standards.” The services Miss Bliss offers include ‘corporal punishment’ (spanking, slapping, whipping, etc), ‘foot/high heel worship’, ‘wax play’, ‘puppy play’ (being treated like a dog), ‘adult baby care’ (being treated like a baby) and ‘consensual blackmail’, which, as she explains, is an act “involving one person or people giving written or verbal permission to release sensitive and potentially damaging information, and/or agreed-upon falsehoods/embellishments if previously agreed-upon actions/terms are not met.” On her website, the explanation is a little easier to comprehend: “Beg and plead with me not to release any intimate images, videos and messages to your partner, family, co-workers or on social media.” Miss Bliss says she sees the game of consensual blackmail as “just another way of stripping someone of ego, control and power, which allows the person to be vulnerable and in a constant state of heightened excitement.”

Humiliation is a common theme in Miss Bliss’ services, and an inherent part of BDSM. “When conducted consensually, safely and appropriately, it can be incredibly liberating,” she explains. “People enjoy humiliation as a way to break down the boundaries we put up in our day-to-day lives and stay ‘safe’ behind. It opens a door to vulnerability, repressed emotions and allows feelings like control, responsibility and ego to take a back seat in a safe environment.” Miss Bliss describes an “outpouring of emotion” from some clients after a session and includes aftercare as part of the package – “to build the submissive back up so they feel supported, nurtured and protected.”

When I ask why Miss Bliss thinks people end up in her dungeon or domestic space, she answers: “For so many reasons. A lot to do with their upbringing, their relationship with others and themselves, the power struggle they feel in their careers… Everyone wants to feel heard, to be seen and to feel understood. Coming to see a professional who bears no judgement, has only the best intentions and understands boundaries and respect is one of the most healthy ways to work through psychosexual subjects. It is certainly a form of therapy.”

When you put it like that, it’s hard to remember why stigma exists at all around fetish. And yet, if you found out your colleague watched hot wax porn every night, you might raise an eyebrow, or if someone in your circle revealed that they were a client of Miss Bliss and enjoyed puppy play on a Saturday, you might fall off your chair – because these things aren’t talked about and they come as a shock.

“There’s generally two reasons that fetishes are talked about in the public domain,” explains Professor Mark Griffiths, a chartered psychologist and professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, over the phone, “either because somebody has been criminally arrested because the fetish constitutes some kind of criminal activity or it’s people who are written about because they’re seeking treatment for their fetish. But I would argue with the vast majority of fetishes – what we call non-normative sexual behaviours – there’s absolutely no problematic element for anyone engaging in them.”

Professor Griffiths has written extensively about fetish on his blog, and says he almost always concludes his posts with the fact that we just don’t know enough about fetishes or how many people have them because the studies that have been conducted are so small. “We recently interviewed eight dacryphiles – people who are sexually aroused by crying,” he says, “and found that there were three completely different types of dacryphile even in the sample of eight people. Half were ‘sadistic’ dacryphiles where their pleasure came from making other people cry, three people were ‘compassionate’ dacryphiles who were sexually aroused by men crying, and one person’s particular fetish was when people are about to cry and their lower lip starts to wobble – that was the sexually arousing part – so we called that a ‘curled lip’ dacryphile. These eight people were from one forum – the crying forum – but there could be many other types of dacryphile.”

Having researched and written about all sorts of fetishes, from bushy eyebrow fetishes to injection fetishes, shoe fetishes and fruit fetishes, Professor Griffiths reaffirms that “the vast majority of people with fetishes don’t have psychological problems or mental disorders, it’s just something they like. We have to accept, in terms of how we develop sexually, that there are going to be lots of different things that get people aroused, and some things are seen as normal, and others are seen as strange and bizarre. For example, if you’ve got a fetish for soiled underclothes – which is called mysophilia – that’s more embarrassing to talk about than if you’ve got a fetish just for knickers. One is seen as bizarre, one isn’t.”

Professor Griffiths’ first port of call in his research on fetish is online forums – like the crying forum – where people connect with others who have the same or a similar fetish. Natasha (not her real name) uses online forums to explore her fetish, which is hair, specifically haircuts, known as trichophilia. “I masturbate while watching videos of women having their hair cut,” she explains on email. “It freaks me out that I like it, I used to be really scared of having my hair cut when I was a child, and somehow as I got older, it became a sexual thing.” Natasha goes on websites such as Extreme Haircuts and Haircuts Revisited and watches videos of and reads stories about women having their hair cut. “I feel like a freak,” she tells me, “but there’s a whole world of haircut porn on the internet, so I’m not the only one.” Natasha says that discovering porn catered to her fetish was liberating, but she still deletes her search history so that her boyfriend doesn’t find out.

“We are led to believe that there are few options in which we can express our sexuality healthily, when nothing could be further from the truth,” says Miss Bliss. “This, in conjunction with the various religious messages which restrict our sexual expression, leaves people feeling so isolated, which is what I am here to change.” Miss Bliss is on a mission to open up sexuality and empower people to explore their kinks in a safe, consensual setting.

Whether we know about it or not, the world of fetish and its many online and offline facets has a place in our society. It might be something we frown at, but there’s no denying that people have a need and are using these services – Pornhub search terms are the tip of the iceberg. As Professor Griffiths concludes: “It might be non-normative, but that doesn’t mean it’s abnormal.” Who knows what dreams may come when you approach the dungeon.

Complete Article HERE!

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Jimmy Kimmel destroyed Trump’s plan for abstinence-only sex ed with an amazing pamphlet.

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By upworthy.com

Abstinence-only sex education is making a comeback.

The Department of Health and Human Services is shifting away from comprehensive sex education — in which abstinence is only one component of instruction — and toward a model that emphasizes delaying sex.

If you’re there thinking, “Wait, what?” You’re not the only one.

Jimmy Kimmel, (almost) everyone’s favorite late-night comedian, had a lot to say about the issue. Buckle up, folks, it’s going to get bumpy.

Kimmel, who’s no stranger to calling out controversial issues, found it hypocritical that the Trump administration is asking to earmark $75 million to champion the euphemistically titled “sexual risk avoidance education” considering the latest of the president’s many scandals.

So the comic did what he does best, lighting up Trump’s plan with his own abstinence-only pamphlet.

 

The video’s funny, but here’s something a little less hilarious: A focus on abstinence-only education is terrible for teens.

Organizations receiving Sexual Risk Avoidance Education funding, for instance, would have to teach teens about contraception from a theoretical rather than a practical perspective. Huh? Exactly. Instructors will still present the idea that birth control and barrier methods exist somewhere out in the real world, but non-prescription contraception won’t be distributed or even demonstrated.

Basically, we’re going to have a lot of this:

Probably not the most sound advice to be giving students.

(Thank god for YouTube, right?)

There’s loads of research to back up how much abstinence-only education doesn’t work.

Data shows that abstinence-only education doesn’t actually decrease pregnancy rates among teens. It does the opposite.

And while opponents of comprehensive sex ed think teaching kids about disease prevention and contraception encourages early sexual activity, the flip side is that not teaching these ideas doesn’t make teens less fascinated with sex. It just leaves them confused and without the knowledge they need to make educated decisions about sex.

Laura Lindberg, co-author of a 2017 report that confirmed abstinence-only programs didn’t reduce either teen pregnancy or delay the age of sexual activity, put it bluntly to NPR, “We fail our young people when we don’t provide them with complete and medically accurate information.”

That’s especially evident in the case of Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), whose staunch support of abstinence-only education didn’t prevent the pregnancy of his own 17-year-old daughter in 2014.

Another study found that teens who received abstinence-only education were less likely to use condoms while still engaging in sexual activity.

So what actually reduces rates of teen sex and pregnancy? Comprehensive education and affordable contraception methods.

But being transparent with teens about safe sex is only one piece of the puzzle.

Teaching teens they should wait until marriage can be particularly stigmatizing. As Dr. Terez Yonan, a physician specializing in adolescent medicine told Teen Vogue, the heteronormative framework such programs are based on alienates and sidelines LGBTQ youth. “It isolates them,” she said. “They don’t learn anything about how to have sex with a partner that they’re attracted to and how to do it in a safe way that minimizes the risk of STDs and pregnancy.”

Abstinence-only education also often provides teens with information on relationships and consent that marginalizes and puts pressure on young women.  As Refinery 29 points out, these programs “engage in teaching affirmative consent and violence prevention in ways that perpetuate gender stereotypes, such as putting the onus on young women to be in control of young men’s sexual behaviors.”

But even if the above weren’t true (and all of it is), abstinence-only education is behind the cultural curve in general. Marriage rates are dropping as priorities and cultural ideas about the role of marriage change. Many are waiting until they’re older to get married or deciding not marrying at all. According to 2015 statistics, the average age of first marriage was 27 for a woman and 29 for a man in America.

Are we really expecting teens to wait until they’re almost 30 to figure out the right way to unroll a condom (there’s a reason we need the banana demonstration!) or that lube is a must in the bedroom?

Abstinence-only education, while ostensibly well-intentioned, is also often terrifying.

Take this clip from the 1991 movie “No Second Chance” for instance. It intercuts a teacher threatening an entire classroom with death by venereal disease with grainy stock footage of a man loading a gun.

“What if I want to have sex before I get married?” One nervous student asks.

“Well,” the teacher says, leaning in close, “I guess you just have to be prepared to die.”

It hasn’t gotten much better. While the fashions have changed, a 2015 episode of “Last Week Tonight” made it clear that the message remains the same: Sex before marriage is dangerous, shameful (especially for young women), and morally repugnant.

If we really want to give today’s youth a chance at a bright and healthy future, it’s going to come from frank and open discussions about sex, sexuality, and healthy relationships — not by scaring them into celibacy.

Of course, if we need another idea for how to prevent teens from having sex early, Kimmel has some words of wisdom.

“I didn’t need abstinence education when I was a teenager,” he quipped. “I just played the clarinet.”

Complete Article HERE!

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When the Cause of a Sexless Relationship Is — Surprise! — the Man

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There are varying definitions of a sexless marriage or sexless relationship: no sex in the past year, no sex in the past six months or sex 10 or fewer times a year. According to one study, approximately 15 percent of married couples are sexless: Spouses haven’t had sex with each other in the past six months to one year.

I was once in a sexless relationship.

I have debated admitting this publicly, but my story feels different than the narrative advanced by our patriarchal society. Why? Because I was the one begging for sex from an uninterested male partner. Sex 10 times a year would have been 10 times more than what I was having.

This topic comes up a lot in my work. As a gynecologist, I’m frequently asked about the “right number” of times to have sex a month. The answer is that there isn’t one. If both people are truly happy, then it’s a healthy sex life.

I understand the confusion about frequency. Messaging around sex is everywhere: It’s used to sell almost everything, and news articles remind us that various hormones and neurotransmitters may spike in response to having sex.

Yet a single hormone surge does not a rewarding relationship make, and virtually no one has studied the hormonal impact, on a relationship, of grocery shopping, making dinner or doing the dishes. If a couple doesn’t have sex but they both feel satisfied, then there is no problem. The issue is when there’s a mismatch in desire.

Of course, libido ebbs and flows, and there will be times when one partner is temporarily uninterested. Back in 2003, I was home with two premature infants, both on oxygen and attached to monitors that constantly chirped with alarms. Had even Ryan Reynolds — circa “The Proposal,” not “Deadpool” — shown up, he would have needed to display expertise in changing diapers and managing the regulator on an oxygen tank to interest me.

Looking back on my relationship, the frequency of sex dropped off quickly. I told myself it would get better because there were other positives. I falsely assumed that men have higher libidos, so clearly this was temporary.

Pro tip: Nothing in a relationship ever gets better on its own. You might as well ask the ingredients in your pantry to bake themselves into a cake.

I was embarrassed when my attempts at rekindling the magic — things like sleeping naked or trying to schedule date night sex — fell flat.

I started to circuitously ask friends if they ever felt similarly rejected. The answer was “Not really.” One who was going through an especially acrimonious divorce told me that she and her future ex still occasionally had wild sex. People have needs, after all.

The fact that people who hated each other were having more sex than me did not make me feel better. Not at all.

Eventually I decided that sympathy sex once or twice a year was far worse than no sex. I worried that no intervention would be sustainable, and the time not addressing the issue had simply taken its toll. We were terribly mismatched sexually, and it wasn’t something that he was interested in addressing.

My experience led me to listen differently to women speaking about their sex lives with men, whether in my office or in my personal life. There are spaces between words that tell entire stories. When I ask someone about her sex life and there is a pause or a generic “O.K.,” I say, “You know, the libido issue is often with the man.”

I say this to friends, acquaintances and even people I barely know on airplanes (after they learn what my job is). The responses from women are so similar that I could script it. A pause, then relief that it’s not just them, followed quickly by the desire to hear more. Many tell me intimate details, so glad to have someone in whom they can confide.

Libido can be affected by a number of things, including depression, medication, stress, health, affairs, previous sexual trauma, pornography, pain with sex and relationship dissatisfaction (having sex while going through an ugly divorce is probably an outlier).

Erectile dysfunction is a factor for some men, especially over the age of 40. Other men may have low testosterone (although there is a lot of dispute in this area). There is also the possibility that one partner in a heterosexual relationship is gay.

New love is intoxicating, and I’m not being metaphorical. A functional MRI study suggests that new love activates the reward centers of the brain and, like opioids, increases pain tolerance. I wonder how much the drug that is new love affects libido? If some men and women are simply on a lower libido spectrum in everyday life, might they revert to that once this “love drug” subsides, leaving those with a higher libido frustrated?

I want women to know that if they are on the wanting end for sex, they are not alone. If you love the person you’re with, then the sooner you speak up, the better. You can try what I did — sleeping naked and scheduling sex — because the more you have sex, the more you may want to have it, if you’re doing it right and it feels good. However, if things are not changing in the way you want, you may need help from a couples counselor, a sex therapist, a clinical psychologist or a medical doctor, depending on the situation.

Waiting until months or even years have passed can weaponize the bedroom. It will add so much more complexity because resentment compounds like a high-interest credit card.

Sexuality and relationships are complex, and there are no easy answers. It’s not good or bad to have a high, a medium or a low libido. You like what you like, but if you don’t speak up about what you want, you can’t expect the other person to know.

Our society seems almost built on the erroneous idea that all men want sex all the time, so I imagine it would be hard for men to admit to a lower libido, even anonymously. I have lied about my weight on many forms. That doesn’t make me a broken person; it just proves that a cloak of invisibility doesn’t hide you from yourself. The most damaging lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

Complete Article HERE!

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