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What it’s like to talk to your doctor about sexual health when you’re bisexual

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There’s a misconception that bi people are just going through a phase — but what if our doctors believe it too?

“Are you sexually active?”

I’d been dreading this question since losing my virginity to a female friend a few weeks earlier, not long after my 16th birthday. Somehow, the harsh fluorescent lights in my doctor’s examination room made this query seem even more menacing.

“Yes,” I said, but there was an ellipsis in my voice. A hesitation. An unspoken “but . . . ”

“You’re using condoms, right? So you don’t get pregnant?” she prompted, and I didn’t know what to say, because we weren’t. We didn’t need to. It was the wrong question.

“Uh, I’m not having sex with a guy,” I managed to stammer.

My doctor peered at me over her wire-rim glasses, “Oh,” she replied.

There are a lot of things a teenager might be nervous to disclose to their doctor — a marijuana habit, some worrying mental health symptoms, a secret relationship their parents don’t know about. While we should all feel free to tell our doctors what’s really going on with us, it’s particularly egregious that so many of them are still in the dark about something so basic as sexual orientation, making these already-difficult situations even more challenging.

The day of my first difficult conversation about my sexual health, my doctor didn’t give me any medical advice on the sex I was having. She didn’t suggest my partner and I use dental dams or latex gloves. She didn’t suggest we get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). She didn’t ask whether my partner was cis or trans. She didn’t ask what sexual orientation I identified as (bisexual, for the record). She didn’t even ask me if I had any questions for her. She just moved on to the next part of our checkup.

I didn’t recognize these as problems at the time; I was too young and nervous to question the approach of my all-knowing doctor. Everything I later learned about safer sex — with the other cis girl I was seeing at that time, and with other partners later on — I learned from the internet. And while the internet can be a great resource for such information, doctors should be a better one.

Bisexuals are told all the time — both implicitly and explicitly — that we’re not queer enough to align ourselves with queerness, or that we’re too queer to align ourselves with straightness. I still find it hard to push back against these stereotypes today, at 25.

These presumptions are particularly upsetting in medical situations, where many of us already feel nervous and unempowered and, for many queers, apprehensive. The medical system has oftentimes failed us and our queer foreparents: inequitable health care access due to poverty, doctors’ lack of knowledge about LGBT identities and sexuality and the pathologization of queerness are just a few examples.

Two years later, in a different relationship with a person of a different gender, I returned to my doctor. I was a girl on a mission.

“I’m seeing someone new and I’d like to get an IUD,” I told my doc, with all the bravery and resolve I could muster as a meek 18-year-old still coming to terms with her sexuality.

“I thought you were a lesbian?” she replied coolly, barely looking up from her computer screen.

“No, I’m bisexual,” I clarified, my voice only shaking a little.

Medically speaking, it shouldn’t actually matter what word(s) I use to define my sexual orientation; my doctor should want to know, instead, what sexual activities I am participating in. I could’ve been a lesbian having sex with a man (they do exist!). I could’ve been having sex with a trans woman or a nonbinary person who had the ability to get me pregnant. There was no reason for my doctor to assume I was a lesbian in the first place, nor that a risk of pregnancy during sex meant my existing sexual orientation was being challenged.

I was reminded of a story I had read online. An American photographer I followed, Brigid Marz, wrote on Flickr that she and her girlfriend went to a hospital to get treatment for her flu symptoms. A staff member asked Brigid if there was any chance she might be pregnant, and she laughed, indicated her girlfriend, and said no. She’d dated and had sex with men before, but not recently enough that she could be pregnant. Months later, she received a $700 medical bill, $300 of which was for a pregnancy test she’d neither authorized nor needed.

“I am so sick of being treated differently just because I have boobs,” she wrote, but I would argue she was treated differently because she is non-monosexual – she is neither completely straight nor completely gay. Our medical system seems to assume everyone is one or the other, sometimes even when we’re loudly asserting otherwise.

In the end, my doctor refused to prescribe me an IUD on the basis that I was “just casually dating” and should wait until I was “in a serious relationship” before committing to a long-term birth control method that reflected my relationship status. She prescribed me the pill instead — the hormonal content of which exacerbated my mental health conditions for years, something the non-hormonal copper IUD may not have done.

What rankled me was that I was in a serious relationship at the time. My doctor may have assumed my relationship was casual because I was now with a man and I was previously with a woman, or she may have simply thought I was too young for the IUD — but I think it was because of negative stereotypes about bisexual people.

Bi folks’ relationships and attractions are often written off as “just a phase” or “just for fun.” We’re told we don’t know what we really want or who we really like — or, worse, that we’re intentionally playing with partners’ hearts, never intending to pursue commitment or depth in our relationships.

In my experience, this is about as true for bisexual people as it is for straight or gay people — some folks are looking for serious relationships and some just aren’t — but this assumption weighs most heavily on bisexuals. Whether or not my doctor was consciously aware of the stereotypes she was affirming that day, it’s clear to me that my relationship would not have been written off as “casual” if I identified as straight or gay.

If I could go back and talk to myself when I was a shy and shaking 16-year-old in my doctor’s office, I’d tell her to advocate for herself. I’d tell her to ask the questions she wanted answered, and double-check the answers on Scarleteen later. I’d tell her it was okay if she didn’t even know what questions to ask.

I’d tell her to be unashamed of her burgeoning bisexual identity, because it’s nothing to feel shifty about. But mostly, I’d wish I didn’t have to tell her all these things. Her doctor shouldn’t have made her doubt all this in the first place.

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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Marijuana And Sex: How Much Weed Is Too Much?

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If you don’t know about the ‘bidirectional effect.’ you need to read this.

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It’s not a secret that medical cannabis has been proved beneficial to those seeking pain management, alleviating chronic ailments and improving appetite. And for millennia it has been reported that marijuana and sex go together, too.

A new study released this month reveals that cannabis use, indeed, can improve sexual function — but it depends on the amount you and your partner partake.

Cannabis and Sexuality,” a report authored by Richard Balon and published in Current Sexual Health Reports, suggests that low doses of marijuana enhances sexual desire, while higher doses may lead to a bad sex. Says the report:

Cannabis has bidirectional effect on sexual functioning. Low and acute doses of cannabis may enhance sexual human sexual functioning, e.g., sexual desire and enjoyment/satisfaction in some subjects. On the other hand, chronic use of higher doses of cannabis may lead to negative effect on sexual functioning such as lack of interest, erectile dysfunction, and inhibited orgasm. Studies of cannabis effect on human sexuality in cannabis users and healthy volunteers which would implement a double-blind design and use valid and reliable instruments are urgently needed in view of expanded use of cannabis/marijuana due to its legalization and medicalization.

Of course, this is not new to anyone who has smoked a joint and is not a virgin. Another study, released late last year, concluded:

“For centuries, in addition to its recreational actions, several contradictory claims regarding the effects of cannabis use in sexual functioning and behavior (e.g. aphrodisiac vs anti-aphrodisiac) of both sexes have been accumulated. … Marijuana contains therapeutic compounds known as cannabinoids, which researchers have found beneficial in treating problems related to sex.”

But dosage is important. Too much pot can be unhealthy for male sexuality. “You get that classic stoner couch lock and lose your desire to have sex at all,” according to Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer at HelloMD. Perry suggests that men should consume cannabis that contains 10-14 percent THC.

Although it appears women have a different tolerance when it comes to cannabis and sexual activity, it is recommended to start with low doses before escalating the high.

According to HelloMD:

One reason why this may be so is that cannabis consumption is known to stimulate the production of oxytocin in the body. The production of oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone, is closely related to the endocannabinoid system. Oxytocin is involved in a variety of human interactions, including sexual intercourse. Oxytocin is often released during orgasm, creating a bond between sexual partners that brings them closer together. The increased oxytocin production experienced while using cannabis during sex leaves me feeling deeply connected to my partner on a physical and spiritual level. Cannabis helps us achieve a level of closeness and unity that is truly unique.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘I finally felt like one of the guys’

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How toxic masculinity breeds sexual abusers

By Jane Gilmore

“I’m a guy. I’m supposed to have sex. I’m supposed to be like every other guy. And so I’m like them, but [when I did this to the girls, I thought] I’m even better than them [dominant popular boys], because I can manipulate. They don’t get the power and the excitement. They have a sexual relationship with a girl. She can say what she wants and she has the choice. But the girls I babysat didn’t have the choice.”

This was Sam* explaining why he abused two girls, aged six and eight.

Sam, 18, was a foster child, abandoned by his biological parents and adopted when he was five by what he says was a loving, affectionate family. His adoptive parents both worked, but his mother did all the cooking, cleaning and caring for the children. His father “mowed the lawn, loafed around and worked with his tools”; he was in control of the family.

Sam was never the victim of physical or sexual violence at home, and he never committed any violence against his family.

School was a very different experience for him. He was short and heavy, and was subjected to constant bullying by the “popular dominant boys”. They told him he was “fat” and a “wimp”, that he would never fit in. He couldn’t play sport nor fight back when he was beaten up at school; the boys he perceived as popular and dominant shamed him by feminising him.

Sam understood this as his failure to be a “real man”. He wasn’t masculine enough for the “cool” boys to accept him. His body “served as an antagonist in his construction of masculinity”.

In his early years at high school when Sam started learning about sexuality, most of his understanding came from listening to the boys’ conversations there.

“Kids were talking at school about blow jobs and getting laid, telling dirty jokes and about having sex and stuff like that,” he said.

His understanding of sex and his own sexuality was that he had to have sex to be a proper man.

“Well, I’m a guy, so this is something that every guy does, that I want to be part of. I want to be like the other guys. I want to know what it feels like. I want to know what goes on.”

He didn’t think he could have relationships with girls his own age because he believed what the popular boys had told him for years – that his body and personality were not acceptably masculine, and therefore no girls would like him.

So at 15 he started babysitting for local families, and sexually abused the little girls in his care. He deliberately chose girls he saw as quiet and vulnerable. He didn’t use physical force, he used coercion, fear and control to manipulate his victims into submitting to the abuse.

“I felt that I was No.1. I didn’t feel like I was small any more, because in my own grade, my own school, with people my own age, I felt like I was a wimp, the person that wasn’t worth anything. But when I did this to the girls, I felt like I was big, I was in control of everything.”

This terrible and tragic story comes from a paper written by James Messerschmidt, a professor of criminology at the University of Southern Maine. It’s a summary of several books and papers he’s written about the relationship between violence and masculinity, or at least the twisted version of masculinity too often imposed on boys and young men.

Zack*, the other boy in Messerschmidt’s paper, had very similar experiences. He was bullied for being short, overweight, bad at sport and wimpy. Zack, like Sam, decided that sex was a way to prove to himself and others that he was a “real man”, and he started sexually abusing a vulnerable young girl.

“It made me feel real good. I just felt like finally I was in control over somebody. I forgot about being fat and ugly. She was someone looking up to me, you know. If I needed sexual contact, then I had it. I wasn’t a virgin any more. I wanted control over something in my life, and this gave it to me. I finally felt like one of the guys.”

It would be comforting to think of Sam and Zack as aberrations: tragic, but unusual in their experiences.

Sadly, the truth is that they are likely to be typical of the boys and young men who turn to violence to confirm their male identity and align with what they think is a desirable masculinity.

Study after study after study after study after study has found that domestic and sexual violence is usually based on a need for control, based on toxic misunderstanding of what gender roles should be.

These studies include wide-ranging research, surveys and interviews with both victims and offenders. They all show that violence is most likely to occur in cultures that strongly enforce gender roles and unequal power relationships between men and women.

The notion that “real men” are sexually powerful, dominant, strong and never to be rejected does enormous damage to boys and men, which in turn leads to them doing enormous damage to girls and women.

Boys who fail the masculinity test suffer excruciating rejection, and this doesn’t just reinforce toxic masculinity in the boys seen to fail, but also confirms it for the boys who pass.

Anna Krien’s 2013 book Night Games was a searing insight into the world of “successful” masculinity in Australia, where the young men who achieved all the “real man” targets of being tall, strong, powerful and excelling at sport lived in a culture of sexual entitlement and an expectation that everyone would see women as objects, not people.

Sam and Zack’s stories are the ones we need to tell people who think anti-bullying and respectful relationship education in schools is a waste of time, or worse, a means of diminishing men.

Our schools are littered with potential Sams and Zacks, and with the boys they thought of as popular and dominant. All of them are damaged by the ideas they teach each other about being a real man.

And all of them damage women when they carry those ideas into adulthood.

* Not his real name

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Talk to Your Younger Sibling About Sex

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Since older siblings can sometimes be the best sex-ed teachers, here are four important topics to cover and a few links about how to get the conversation started.

Positive sexuality is at the forefront of conversations being had by student activists on college campuses. Dismantling the societal constructs of traditional masculinity and femininity and redefining campus sexual scripts are priorities aiming to decrease sexual assault rates and increase discussion about what perpetuates them.

As a result, college students are in a prime position to be instigators of conversations amongst younger groups, because they are at the core of the rapidly changing dialogue prompting social changes that support young adults in expressing their sexuality and promoting safe sexual climates for everyone.

Being a mentor to the younger kiddos in your life, and more specifically the youngsters in your family, can be a tricky yet invaluable role to fill. If you decide to open up a conversation about sex with younger siblings, some awesome topics to include are consent, gender identities and expressions, contraceptives, birth control and the construct of virginity. There are certainly other categories to include, and questions will likely arise about the many nuances of sex, but starting with broad ideas essential to healthy sexuality will set up the conversation to be productive and meaningful.

1. Consent

It’s never too early to start introducing principles of consent into children’s lives, nor is it ever too late. If your siblings are elementary school-aged, having a conversation with them about consent does not have to centered around sex, because consent is applicable to any and all interactions, whether sexual intentions are present or not.

Teaching young kids to ask for permission to hug someone or to sit close to someone plants the seed for healthy habits of asking for and offering consent to grow. If younger individuals become accustomed to asking for consent in small, everyday ways, they will be more aware and respectful of others’ boundaries. As they grow into adolescents and college students, the concepts of consent will be second nature and clearly understood when they do enter into sexual contexts where consent is required.

Regardless of the age of your siblings, consent is applicable to everyone and should be a frequent, continuing conversation. For siblings that are old enough to dive deeper, unpacking the mechanics of genuine and enthusiastic consent can include information about how things such as power dynamics, substances, coercion and intimidation can all influence the improper acquisition of consent. This is also a great time to emphasize that despite the common tactics used to unfairly obtain someone’s consent, the right to enthusiastically consent to sexual activity without the influence of outside factors is omnipresent, powerful and absolute.

Consent is a quintessential component of healthy sexual encounters! For more info on consent, and the “Yes Means Yes” campaign advocating for enthusiastic consent, check out https://www.yesmeansyes.com and have your siblings take a look, too for the scoop on all things consent and respect. As quoted in an article on everydayfeminism.com “conversations about consent—especially if those conversations are with children—are not always easy to have. They are, however, necessary if we’re trying to create a society in which consent is understood and respected by adults and children alike.”

2. Gender Identities

Another frequently skipped-over chapter in the sparse book of sex education in America is the section on gender identity. Thanks to celebrity stories in recent years such as Caitlin Jenner, Jazz Jennings and many other Hollywood young adults openly identifying as gender fluid, bisexual and indicating other identities along the gender-nonconforming spectrum, gender identity and gender rights have become popular topics. While many school sex education programs are a bit behind the times and have yet to add conversations about various gender identities into their curriculum, older siblings can try to fill some of the gaps.

The biggest point to emphasize to a younger sibling is the difference between sex and gender, and that gender is a social construct that is governed by expectations and norms that align with the gender binary system. To expand on that, include notes about how gender is made up of multiple components that fall along a spectrum; there are new models, like the gender unicorn, being developed to illustrate this idea; the colorful and simple designs are engaging for young learners and a great visual representation of the spectrums in general.

Most of all, encourage youngsters to explore and contemplate their own gender identity by questioning the norms they’re conditioned to live in accordance with, and support them unconditionally in their discoveries. Your unwavering love may serve as an example for when they find themselves being a support for a friend or peer one day.

3. Contraceptives

For siblings that are approaching the age of dating and having sex, a little brush up on contraceptive options is a helpful addition to sibling sex-education sessions. This goes for all gender identities, not just the ladies! Everyone should be aware of how to protect themselves and their partner of choice, so that everyone can feel safe and focus on other matters at hand. A quick browse through the “Birth Control” tab on teenshealth.org gives an extensive explanation of the various methods of birth control and contraceptives, the intended uses of each, the effectiveness rates and some FAQs.

While talking with a healthcare provider is the best idea for beginning a birth control plan, providing kiddos with information about their options allows them to reflect on what they’re comfortable with and choose an option that suits them if and when they need it.

4. Virginity

When younger siblings are thinking about becoming sexually active, a chat about the virginity construct can help them reflect on what sex means to them. There is heavy emphasis placed on the “losing of” one’s “virginity” and how the experience is meant to be transformative, pivotal and special. For some, the giving of virginity to another person signifies an act of deep trust, intimacy and comfort. For others, the concept of virginity is merely an ancient phrase sometimes used to label the beginning of their sexual adventures.

There is no right or wrong way to think about a first sexual experience, nor is there a universal definition of what composes the official loss of virginity, which some sex beginners don’t get the chance to contemplate before diving in. The concept of virginity loss is associated with impurity and places the person taking someone’s virginity in a position of power, while the person who “lost” it is seen as sacrificing something valuable.

Contemplating the idea that virginity is not a physical state or thing, but instead a construct that can be accepted or disregarded, allows young people to decide for themselves how they want to think of sex and define it in their own terms. First times are a lot of things, ranging from spontaneous, meaningful, messy, calculated or a combination of everything. Restructuring the way young adults think about their first sexual experiences gives them the power to conceptualize their sexual debuts as they choose to.

Beyond everything, the most important thing about having a conversation with siblings about sex is just to have it (the conversation). In the era of change kids are growing up in, the taboo topic of sex is not yet a conversation of full disclosure, even as it gains traction. Being an advocate for positive sexuality development by starting dialogue can help change this, one awkward chat at a time.

The following websites are excellent resources with information on the topics above and many more! They’ve got tips for curious teens and lots of advice for how to start a conversation.

Complete Article HERE!

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