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Why (Some) Women Love Strap-Ons

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Last week, I found myself at Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles, eating a gluten-free scone and fuming about gender, as one does in 2016. On the receiving end of my rant was my friend “Lori,” a 23-year-old MFA student studying queer theory. I was saying something like, “Sure, it’s cool that we live in this post-everything world where gender is over and hetero-normativity is off-trend and all the rules of sexuality have been thrown out the window. Life is more free now. But we’re also being forced to ask ourselves some serious questions. Like, ‘Does shaving my armpits make me a bad feminist?’ And, more pressingly, ‘Is my strap-on a symbol of male supremacy?’ And if so, should I set it on fire as a performance art piece?”

Lori sipped her green juice and rolled her eyes. “I love wearing a strap-on,” she said, casually flipping her long curls behind her shoulders. “Even though my dildo is bright pink and it’s this laborious process to strap yourself in, something about it still feels real. It’s some Freudian bullshit, but it just feels so fun and powerful to have a penis.” This wasn’t the “feminist” answer I was expecting.

A few nights later, I met my friend “Claire,” a 31-year-old screenwriter, for drinks at the Sunset Tower. Claire is somewhat of a unicorn in that she’s a straight woman who gets off on wearing a dildo. “Think about it: Men are the ones with a prostate. Why isn’t every woman fucking her boyfriend with a strap-on?” Claire asked, as an elderly man played jazz piano in the background. “It’s crazy, you actually feel like you have a dick. I’ve been pegging this guy I met at a Dave Matthews concert.”

Claire admitted that this was not a bucket-list moment for her. “I knew what pegging was because of that Broad City episode where Abbi pegs her crush, but I was never like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t wait until the moment when I finally get to peg someone.’ ” Her tone turned almost motherly.“I think every woman should experience fucking a man at some point in her life, even just as a therapeutic tool. It’s very empowering. I never thought this would be part of my life story, but here I am. I’m fucking a man.”

After meeting through friends at said concert last fall, Claire and her pegging partner, “Jim,” bonded on a party-bus ride back to West Hollywood, talking about sex.They ended up back at Jim’s apartment, where he produced a double-sided glass dildo—one end for the pegging, the other end shaped like a hook, to be inserted inside a vagina. “It’s essentially a strapless strap-on,” Claire explained. “It’s the chicest kind. I could never go back from this.”

She liked it far more than she expected to. “It’s such a shift in the power dynamic. I kept thinking, I’m literally penetrating someone right now. Plus, it’s a vaginal workout because you have to grip the dildo with your vagina while you use it. It’s basically exercise, which I love. I’m very health-conscious,” she said, gulping her second martini. For the next two months, the two met up for sex regularly. “He would get a colonic every time before I came over,” she said enthusiastically. “He was really on point about his whole anal grooming and cleansing journey.”

Beyond the thrill of the power shift, what Claire didn’t expect was how intimate the sex would be. “The person has to be very trusting of you. You have to listen to their physical cues and gauge if they’re having pleasure or if you’re hurting them. You have a lot of control, and that became very sexy to me. Before Jim, I’d always thought of myself as submissive, but through that experience I accessed a totally different side of myself.”

She made it sound so bizarrely appealing. I wondered if I should resurrect my strap-on from the junk box under my bed, where it’s been in exile since my breakup with my now ex-girlfriend four months ago. When I met my ex, one of the first things I did was run to a sex store and buy a large purple dildo and leather harness. It was my first same-sex relationship, and I was like, “This is what lesbians do, right?” As it turned out, we used the strap-on only like four times in our three-year relationship—partly because it quickly dawned on me that I didn’t need to imitate heterosexual sex in order to validate my queer sex. In the years that followed, I found it insulting when people would ask me, “But don’t you miss dick?” As if the penis is the holy grail of pleasure. Similarly, my androgynous girlfriend resented the fact that just because she wore boys’ clothes, people assumed she wanted a penis. (One day, I remember, she put on the strap-on, looked down, and said, “Wait, I’m gay and dicks are weird. Why is this thing on me?”)

But my worst fear is being one of those cyber-feminists who’s offended by everything, so in order to challenge my aversion to strap-ons, I organized a queer, roundtable lunch with strap-on loving Lori and my particularly opinionated friend Mel, a 37-year-old queer actress.

“My hand is my sexual object,” said Mel, displaying the hand in question, with its immaculately manicured fingernails. “A lot of women get off wearing a strap-on, either psychologically or because of the way it rubs against their clit, but I don’t. I feel erotic pleasure through my fingers. It’s sexual reiki: If I can make you come with my hand, then can I extend that power five inches in front of my hand? Ten inches? Can I sit across the room from you and make you come? When you’re at that level, a fucking phallus seems like kindergarten for me.” The conversation became heated very quickly.

“So is penis envy actually a thing?” I asked. “I just don’t understand why, if you’re queer, you need to bring a fake dick into the bedroom.”

“I know lesbians who, when they go on a Tinder date, will pack their penis in their bag,” said Mel. “Like, that’s their dick. They’re not trans, but they want to be able to fuck their girl without using their hands. When I was younger I wanted that,” she recalled. “I didn’t want a dick all the time, but I wanted to be able to fuck a girl and choke her with both hands, basically.”

“I don’t care to over-intellectualize or over-politicize it,” said Lori. “If you like being fucked by a strap-on, it’s not a reflection on your sexuality. I get where you’re coming from, but if it feels good, then what’s the problem? My girlfriend and I aren’t secretly wanting to have sex with a man.”

This made sense to me. If the point of sex is to create intimacy and to give and receive pleasure, then why restrict yourself from something that feels good just because of the patriarchy or whatever? After all, being a lesbian isn’t about hating dicks, and using a strap-on isn’t about wanting to be a man.

Through my own queer experience, in fact, I’ve learned that it often isn’t true that the more “masculine” or butch woman would be the one to wear a strap-on in the relationship. Mel put it well: “Our default is to think that, in a power dynamic, masculine is top and feminine is bottom. But a butch woman will often want to be subjugated sexually because she has to armor herself in the world so much. She has to be tough, just like a man does. It’s like the Wall Street guy who sees a dominatrix on the weekend. That’s why they say, ‘Butch in the streets, femme in the sheets.’ ”

Speaking of femme tops, I told them about Claire and her pegging saga, which incited a literal round of applause. “I wish more guys would get into pegging,” Mel said. “I think if men knew more about what it was like to get fucked, they would be better at fucking. The only reason men don’t get pegged more often is because of gay shame and bottom shame. It’s really hard for straight men to bottom because they think it’s emasculating, when in reality it can be super hot.”

Beyond all the politics, one can’t deny that strap-ons have a lot of advantages. You never have to worry about a dildo being soft or too small or diseased, and it won’t accidentally get you pregnant. As Mel put it: “When you’re having sex with a real penis, sex becomes all about what feels good for the penis, and then the penis has to throw up all over your tits. But a strap-on is just for the woman’s pleasure. The dildo doesn’t need to be satisfied.”

“That’s true,” Lori agreed. “Dildos are not demanding at all.”

“It’s just a hands-free device,” added Mel. “Like a selfie stick.”

Complete Article HERE!

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8 Steps for Choosing a Strap-On Harness for Men

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By Mistress Kay

Strap-on fun isn’t just for women. Men can have fun, too. Use these 8 steps to choose the best strap-on harness for your needs.

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Did you know that even if you have a penis that you can still wear a strap-on harness? Yes, manufacturers make strap-on harnesses for the male-bodied as well as the female-bodied. While males can definitely wear strap-on harnesses designed for women, some find that the pressure it places on the penis and testicles to be uncomfortable. Strap-on harnesses for male bodies are designed with a penis in mind, providing much better comfort.

Strap-ons for people who have a penis can be used for a variety of play times. Some people like to use them as an alternative to penetrative sex (or in kinky contexts, as a “punishment” where the wearer doesn’t get to be directly involved in stimulation). Other people like to strap them on to continue the penetrative action after the penis has gotten soft (due to orgasm or other reasons). Yet others like to explore the idea of double penetration.

Complete Article HERE!

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Butt Stuff, Part One

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A sexual-health professional reminds us that, however open-minded and experienced we think we are, there’s always something to learn about anuses and rectums.

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As a sexual-health professional, I find that people have many questions about putting things in their butt — and about butts in general. I can’t possibly cover everything ass-related in a single column, so we will break it in two. Speaking in my capacity as the Director of the Safe and Supportive Schools Project at the GSA Network and someone who holds a Ph.D. in health promotion, I give you Butt Stuff, Part One.

Let’s start with some basics. When I refer to the “ass” or “butt,” I’m referring to the whole thing: the gluteus maximus muscle, the anus, and the rectum. Our butts serve a number of purposes, from sitting, standing, and walking to pooping and farting. The rectum and the anus contain a great deal of nerve endings, including ones that generate a pleasurable feeling when stimulated — think about that sensation of feeling full you get when you need to poop, and how good it feels when you take a big dump — making it part of an erogenous zone (an area on the body it feels pleasurable to touch and stimulate).

Many people — those assigned male at birth, typically — also have a prostate gland, which is responsible for producing the white, milky fluid that we associate with semen and which serves as a suspension and protective fluid for sperm. In other words, it helps get sperm out of the body from the testicles and, in procreative sex, into the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg.

The prostate is located approximately between the rectum and the bladder, and it can feel quite pleasurable when stimulated by a finger, sex toy, penis, or anything else inserted into the rectum. Some people really, really like it when the area around the anus or between the anus and genitalia — the taint — the rectum, and/or the prostate are stimulated. Other people don’t really care one way or the other, and some just plain don’t like it. All of that is great! It takes all types of people to make butt-play and butt-sex fun.

Also, the older you get, the easier it is to be ashamed of slang terms you hear but don’t know the meaning of. Don’t just laugh along and hope no one exposes your naivete; let a professional help you out! Sure, you know what tops and bottoms are, but versatile people enjoy getting things inserted in their ass and inserting things in other people’s asses. (If they’re lucky and there are enough people or toys, a versatile person can be a top and bottom at the same time!) Rimming or tossing salad means licking, sucking, and lightly biting the asshole and the area around it. Fingering and fisting are pretty self-explanatory, but pegging is when someone puts a dildo, usually a strap-on, or a dick in another person’s ass.

I was around 12 or 13 when I discovered the joy of sticking things up my rear end. I used to keep a stash of Hustler magazines hidden under the folded towels in the bathroom for jerking off every chance I got. (Hustler was the only one I had access to that had pictures of hard cocks in it!) In that same cabinet under the sink, there was always a jar of Vaseline and a toilet plunger. During one of my multiple-times-a-day jack-off sessions, I decided to rub some Vaseline on the handle of the plunger and stick it up my ass. The world ended, stars collided, and I’m still trying to get other people to put things in my butt to this day.

Just as with most sexual things, there is a great deal of stigma, shame, and guilt about engaging in ass play, mostly around being worried that people will think you are gay — who cares?! — or that it is unsanitary and unhealthy. We will tackle that thoroughly in a future column, but if you want to experiment, here are a few simple pointers: Wash your ass, thoroughly, with soap and water. Use a lot of lube — the more, the better. Relax and don’t force anything. Start small: a finger, a small butt-plug, or a dildo. (Go to a sex-toy store and ask. The staff will be delighted to help out a newbie!) Lastly, if at first you don’t succeed, try again — and if you don’t like it, that’s cool. Maybe try being a top.

Next time, I’ll go a little deeper — wink, wink — laying down the real shit about shit for you about whether or not you should douche, and why straight guys have to call it pegging. Until then, go play with yourself, or help out a friend.

Complete Article HERE!

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Does Weed Hurt or Help Your Sexual Performance?

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Should weed and sex be combined? What effect can cannabis have on your sexual performance?

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What are two of the most titillating subjects to talk about? Sex and weed, right? Well, strap in, sweetheart, because we’re about to talk about both. In high school, a gym teacher posing as a health professional probably taught you that cannabis is bad for you and so is sex. Hopefully, by now, you have realized that the exact opposite is true. Safe sex is healthy, and as it turns out, cannabis can also play a part in your overall wellbeing. But should weed and sex be combined? What effect can cannabis have on your sexual performance? The answer is overwhelmingly positive.

Psychology 101

Pop quiz: what are the four stages of the human sexual response cycle, as described by Virginia E. Johnson and William H. Masters? Gold star if you said excitement phase, plateau phase, orgasmic phase, and resolution phase. Here’s how pot factors in.

Excitement Phase

According to Masters and Johnson’s revolutionary 1966 book Human Sexual Response, the first stage of the human sexual response cycle is the excitement phase. Also known as arousal. In this first phase, for all sexes, the genitals become engorged and more sensitive.

Consuming marijuana, a well-known aphrodisiac, before engaging in sex can increase and heighten arousal by helping blood flow, particularly in these vital areas. This is especially helpful for those struggling with erectile dysfunction. If prescription potency pills (like Viagra) aren’t for you, there are certain strains of pot that are said to be even better.

Plateau Phase

This second phase is characterized by increased sexual pleasure and stimulation. Know what else can increase pleasure? Marijuana is known to enhance sensation, especially during sex, and especially for women. One study even said that 90% of women who incorporated weed in their sex lives reported increased sexual pleasure. But don’t feel stiffed, dudes; 75% of men reported the same thing.

Orgasmic Phase

Who doesn’t love an orgasm? Ganja can help you get there. So can the products that combine it with sex, like Foria Pleasure lube and the Sexxpot strain. While it can be agreed upon that stoned orgasms are pretty great for everyone, women especially have experienced longer and more intense climaxes when smoking up before getting down.

Resolution Phase

After orgasm, the muscles in your body relax, breathing slows, and blood pressure drops. There’s also a release of oxytocin. Marijuana is also associated with oxytocin. So it stands to reason that combining sex and pot leads to increased feelings of intimacy, which can lead to a stronger relationship, which in turn, leads to better sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Undoing the STIgma: Normalizing the discourse surrounding STIs

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April is STD/STI Awareness Month.

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Let’s talk about sex. It’s fun, it’s natural.

Now, considering that April is STD/STI Awareness Month, let’s take it one step further and talk about sexually transmitted diseases and infections, or STDs/STIs.

They’re not so fun and not “natural,” per se, but they can and do happen to many people. In fact, according to the American Sexual Health Association, or ASHA, “one in two sexually active persons will contract an STD/STI by age 25” and “more than half of all people will have an STD/STI at some point in their lifetime.”

Yet for the most part, society hasn’t entirely accepted the reality of STIs. Instead, mainstream conversations about STIs rely on seeing them as punchline. This quote from “The Hangover” is a good example: “Remember what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Except for herpes. That shit’ll come back with you.”

If STIs aren’t portrayed as comical, then they’re seen as shameful.

“Some people believe that having an STI is horrible and people who have them are bad,” explained John Baldwin, UC Santa Barbara sociology professor and co-author of “Discovering Human Sexuality.”

In other words, there is a stigma associated with STIs.

“It’s not a death sentence.”

– Reyna Perez

Reyna Perez, the clinic lead for UC Berkeley’s Sexual Health Education Program, or SHEP, defined STI stigma as “shame with oneself (about) having an STI or amongst other people.”

“(They think) they’re ‘dirty’ or (use similarly) negative terms,” Perez said.

She went on to explain that campus students often think contracting an STI is the end of their sex lives and lives in general. But this is not true.

“It’s not a death sentence,” Perez said. “Most of them are curable or at least treatable.”

Despite the prevalence of STIs, people don’t know much about them. This lack of understanding reinforces the misconceptions surrounding them.

To help resolve this issue of ignorance, Baldwin first shed light on the difference between STDs and STIs.

“STD is the common language that a lot of people use and (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC) uses because it communicates with large numbers of people, but medical doctors sometimes like to use ‘STI,’ ” Baldwin explained.

According to Baldwin, the term “STI” is more inclusive because it also considers people who don’t have symptoms but are infected and could infect others.

It’s true: People can be asymptomatic and transmit STIs to their partners.

“Large numbers of Americans have HIV and no symptoms and have sex with lots of others and infect others,” Baldwin said.

Additionally, sexual intercourse isn’t the only method by which STIs can be transmitted, a fact that more people should be aware of. There are many ways in which STIs can be spread, but they often go unnoticed.

According to Perez, “(People) don’t realize how you can contract them and there’s a gap in knowledge.”

Perez said STIs can be transmitted through oral sex or, in rare instances, fingering, which many people are unaware of. She also pointed out that HIV can be spread through non-sexual bodily fluids such as blood and breastmilk.

STIs can also be transmitted by something as simple as skin contact — Elizabeth Wells, lead and co-facilitator of the Sex 101 DeCal, said genital warts and herpes can be spread this way.

Even when it comes to sexual intercourse, the way by which most people believe STIs are spread, people don’t always take preventative measures.

“It’s not like everyone is consistently using condoms or barrier methods,” Perez said.

Another notable fact is that some STIs aren’t even viewed as STIs at all. For instance, cold sores on the mouth region are a form of herpes.

“They don’t realize it until someone brings it up to them,” Perez said. “Once you attach the title of ‘STI,’ suddenly it becomes something to be ashamed of. But it shouldn’t be that way.”

When the facts are laid out like this, it becomes apparent that there’s no reason to make STIs something to feel ashamed about. Many people contract them at some point, and although there are preventative measures such as condoms and other barrier methods, there are many possible avenues through which people can get them.

“Shit happens,” Wells said. “Who are we as individuals and society and people who are sex positive to vilify people that made decisions in the heat of the moment, or it just happens (that) the condom breaks?”

Yet the stigma surrounding STIs persists, largely because of the long societal tradition of suppressing discussions surrounding sex as a whole.

Baldwin expressed his belief that the stigma stems from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Judeo-Christian culture has been a prominent force that has shaped society’s views for hundreds of years. It frowns upon sexual activity, and looking down on STIs — perceived to be spread through sexual means alone — is part and parcel of that general disapproval.

“Society doesn’t evolve very fast in terms of thinking that I think you still see that mindset permeating today,” Wells said. “(STI stigma) is rooted in this idea that we’re not going to be talking about sex.”

Delving even deeper into the issue of STI stigma shows that it is further problematic because it is linked to racism.

According to a 2015 report by the CDC, STIs are more prevalent among certain racial or ethnic minorities than they are among white people. Being part of a racial or ethnic minority group also entails a plethora of issues that make it generally more difficult to find and receive appropriate sexual health services.

“It’s largely an issue of access, and you’re seeing a lack of comprehensive sexual education in those areas,” Wells said.

To vilify someone for getting an STI when they don’t even have the resources to know how to prevent them is to vilify them for not having access to sexual health resources. It is to vilify them for structural inequalities in access to education — inequalities which they did not ask for and cannot control.

“Being part of a racial or ethnic minority group also entails a plethora of issues that make it generally more difficult to find and receive appropriate sexual health services.”

Not only is it problematic to treat STIs as a taboo subject when this attitude stems from sexually repressive and prejudiced notions, but STI stigma also is harmful because it inhibits people from seeking medical treatment.

“If someone has an STI, we shouldn’t stigmatize them,” Baldwin explained. “We should try to help them get the best medicine and treatment.”

STI stigma also causes “intense emotional distress,” according to Perez.

“It’s so difficult to start support groups at the Tang Center because there’s stigma,” Perez said.

Considering all these facts and issues, the obvious final question is, “How do we get rid of the stigma surrounding STIs?”

One key component is awareness.

Awareness that people with STIs can and do lead normal lives helps. Modern science has allowed for medication that can either cure or treat STIs.

“It’s a world changer,” Perez said.

When engaging in sexual activity during an outbreak, there is also world of possibilities.

“There are creative ways to have sex while having an outbreak,” Perez explained.

She expanded upon this statement to say that, for instance, partners could use strap-on dildos when the involved parties are having a herpes recurrence.

“I believe that we are moving away from the preceding era of ignorance and successfully moving to have more scientific knowledge of STIs and their treatment so that more people are, in fact, getting good care,” Baldwin said. “Our society is moving in the right direction.”

“The need for action if you are diagnosed with an STI is further reason to destigmatize STIs –– so people can recognize the symptoms and be unafraid to seek help.”

To promote awareness, according to Perez, the Tang Center and SHEP offer programs for people who are curious to find out more about STIs as well as for people who have already been diagnosed with an STI who desire health coaching and/or emotional and mental support.

Awareness includes being conscious of preventative measures.

“Just being aware of sexual health resources (is) also really important,” Wells said. “A lot of people don’t know about it because it’s not talked about, because sex isn’t talked about.”

Wells explained that, for instance, people can take pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, before having sex with someone who has HIV or AIDS. This will lower the chance that the partner without HIV/AIDS will also get the infection. Similarly, taking post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, after sex with someone who has HIV/AIDS will help prevent transmission of the disease.

Although STIs aren’t the end of the world, if left undiagnosed or untreated, they can become serious health risks. The need for action if you are diagnosed with an STI is further reason to destigmatize STIs –– so people can recognize the symptoms and be unafraid to seek help.

According to Wells, on the last Friday of every month, the Tang Center offers free STI tests that take approximately 20 minutes. She clarified that there is, however, a six-month period after the initial infection in which the tests might not detect its presence.

Another key factor to destigmatizing STIs is simply talking about them. To emphasize this point, Wells quoted a SHEP saying: “Communication is lubrication.”

In other words, people need to start talking about STIs so that it will become acceptable to talk about them as well as to prevent them.

“It shouldn’t be uncomfortable for people because the way I see it, it’s mutual respect within relationships,” Perez explained. “I’m respecting my partner and getting myself tested and taking preventative measures, and my partner should respect me back by also being open to talking about STIs and … getting tested and (taking) those preventative measures as well.”

The way in which the discussion around STIs is being framed is also something to consider. For instance, discerning between STDs and STIs is important. Likewise, it’s crucial not to define people by their STIs.

“We don’t even like to use the word ‘HIV-positive,’ ” Perez said. “We like to use the phrase ‘a person living with HIV’ because they’re a person first before their STI.”

Awareness and communication aimed at undoing the stigma around STIs are imperative for the sake of public health but also for the sake of true sex positivity.

Complete Article HERE!

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