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What a leather convention can teach everyone about sex and consent

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I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

“Hotel is closed for private event” read the signs affixed to the front of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last weekend. A steady stream of people, mostly men, many in leather harnesses, some in collars and on leashes, and some simply in jeans and sweaters, walked in and out in an almost continuous stream.

Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL), now in its 48th year, is a three-day long celebration of the leather community, a subculture that celebrates various sexual kinks, many centered around leather and toys. Bears, daddies, pups and others identifying with various subsets roam the Hyatt Regency, participating in conference-like demonstrations about suspension (BDSM where you’re bound and hung) and electro (BDSM involving electric shocks), buying handcrafted leather goods and sex toys, and, of course, partying. (Actual sex was not part of the convention but no doubt took place in private.) It’s a predominantly LGBTQ centric space, although look closely enough and you’re sure to find people on every part of the gender and sexuality spectrum.

My first MAL was in the winter of 2016. I’d just gone through a breakup and my friend had suggested that perhaps it would be good for me to explore life beyond my comfort zone. “Just get ready,” he’d said, “it may be more than your little vanilla heart can handle.” And he wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

That first year I met Adam, a dentist in town from Texas just for MAL. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said back in a hotel room he was sharing with a friend of mine.

“Do I look that out of place?” I asked. I’d put on a leather jacket to try to blend in.

“Not out of place,” he said, “just kind of shocked.”

And shocked I was. Not necessarily at anything that was going on at the hotel that night, but more so at the fact that for the better part of my life I’d allowed myself to believe that this kind of sexual openness was only available to a certain kind of person.

“Where I grew up, there wasn’t really anything like this,” said Anthony, a 30-year-old living in Arlington, Va., who grew up in Portsmouth. (The sources for this story preferred that only first names be used, for privacy reasons). “There was no kink culture, and I really wanted to explore it. Everyone here was super welcoming, and that’s why I keep coming back.”

This was a common sentiment. “It’s a different part of the gay family,” said Garret, 28, who lives in Washington. “We all have different interests … and if nobody else respects that, come to MAL because they do here.”

Respect, as it turns out, is a dominating theme throughout the course of the weekend. You might expect that when many attendees are walking around in only a jockstrap and a harness, but it is pleasantly surprising to see how strictly they adhere to that principle. In the era of #MeToo, when more and more queer folks are being vocal about the role consent plays in queer spaces, perhaps the leather and kink communities have something to teach the general public about active and enthusiastic consent.

Ask for permission before petting. Hold out your hand and let the pup come to you first. If the pup doesn’t, or turns or growls, let them be as they may not want to or have permission. This is rule No. 5 as listed on the board outside the 10th anniversary mosh at the MAL Puppy Park, a yearly tradition in which individuals who participate in pup play — a BDSM role-play wherein one participant acts as the “pup” and one as the handler — have an opportunity to interact with other pups. Other rules include: Nudity is not permitted in public spaces, genitals cannot be exposed and DO NOT pull on a pup’s tail or collar. It can cause injury and is disrespectful. Change some of the verbiage and perhaps these would be appropriate guidelines to post at the Academy Awards.

“It’s where I met my current roommate,” said Allyn, a 31-year-old originally from Wisconsin who now lives in Washington, of his first MAL experience. “It was exhilarating. I’d never seen anything like it. It make me feel brave and nervous at the same time.” He didn’t speak to his would-be roommate the first night they met, however. “I mean, I had a ball gag in at the time,” he recounted.

Zack, 23, from Baltimore, also used the world “exhilarating” when describing his first MAL experience. “I got chills coming down the escalator into the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to Folsom I’ve ever been too,” a reference to the San Francisco street fair that’s the world’s largest leather celebration.

Everyone I spoke to talked about descending that escalator on the evening of the opening party. It is truly a complete sensory experience. The sight, sound and smell of wall-to-wall leather and latex on every kind of body, not just seen but celebrated and appreciated.

While I was talking to Garret about the weekend, someone he appeared to know approached him, whispered something in his ear and, after he nodded yes, lifted Garret’s arm and began to sniff his armpit. Garret continued to answer my questions without pause. “There may be something over here that’s not your thing, but then you’ll look over there and see something going on that you’re totally into,” he explained “Don’t be shy, don’t judge other people for something you don’t understand. And above all, come and have a good time. No one is here to be spectacled. It can be a learning and cultural experience.” The sniffer had moved on to his other armpit by the time he finished talking.

Although I have yet to be brave enough to buy and wear a harness to MAL myself, each year I attend I move closer toward that goal. At the very least, the event has highlighted for me the fact that there is an exciting world beyond the “vanilla” one I’d relegated myself to — and has given me a better understanding of the queer community as a whole. At one point, in the leather market, a man who had recently undergone top surgery was trying on a new harness next to a group of folks signing to one another, while feet away a $1,400 bejeweled pup hood was on sale. Only at MAL.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Best Sex Takeaways From 2017

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By Leigh Weingus

In 2017, the trends surrounding sex were focused on having an open mind. What does a “normal” sex life look like? And can we redefine virginity for ourselves? There was also a decent amount of science surrounding gender equality in the bedroom (yes, we are talking about the complex nature of the female orgasm here).

While there was more than enough sex advice to go around this year, here are the most valuable bits from 2017.

Thanks to an uptick in social media use and a decrease in face-to-face interactions, new research finds that teenagers are now having sex later than ever. As a result, more people than ever are dealing with anxiety surrounding “late-in-life virginity.” And if you ask sex and relationship experts about it, they’ll tell you “virginity” as a concept is outdated.

“We really must speak more broadly about sex as a whole range of intimate possibilities, not just penetrative sex,” says Debra Campbell, couples therapist and author of Lovelands. “The idea of being a ‘virgin’ is really a bit outdated. It’s something that used to be important for the same socio-economic and religious reasons as marriage, but times have changed.”

How much sex should you actually be having? Studies show that having sex once a week is the “magic” number if you want to get all the benefits (overall well-being and relationship satisfaction), but if the real women we polled are any indication, “normal” doesn’t actually exist.

“Usually the frequency with which we do it comes in ‘spells,'” said one 29-year-old woman. “We’ll do it a bunch for a few weeks and then not as much for a few weeks. I’d say it’s changed since we first started dating. Truthfully, it took a while to actually get to the sex part, so we’d get more creative with what we did. That was really fun, actually. Now that we’re married, we try to find new ways to be adventurous.”

You can sleep in a separate bedroom from your partner—or have different sleep schedules—and still have a great relationship and sex life. Because let’s face it: There’s no bigger turnoff than losing a night of sleep because your partner was snoring or making a lot of noise when they came into your bedroom at 2 a.m.

“This is a fascinating dilemma because the research on sleep and couples clearly shows that we think we sleep better when we’re with our partner, but we actually sleep better when we sleep alone,” says David Niven, Ph.D. and author of 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships. “So there’s a very natural tension between the person who feels deprived when their partner stays up four hours later and the person who feels deprived when they are expected to come to bed four hours before they feel ready.”

The female orgasm has long been a mystery, and for years scientists didn’t care to spend time or resources trying to understand it. But the tides have changed in 2017, and a study on over 1,000 women between the ages of 18 and 94 shed some interesting light on what works and what doesn’t.

We learned a lot from that study, but here are some highlights: When it comes to manual and oral sex, about 64 percent of women said they enjoy an up-and-down motion on the vulva, and 52 percent also enjoyed circular movements. Just under a third of women said they liked “side-to-side movements.”

As for the clitoris, three-fourths of women were big fans of a circling motion, switching between different types of motions, and varying the intensity of touch.

Complete Article HERE!

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Hot Wheels

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Name: Michael
Gender: Male
Age: 23
Location: Minneapolis
I’m a 23-year-old bisexual paraplegic. Hey ya have to be available for whatever comes your way when you’re in a chair, right? I got this way in a really stupid alcohol related diving accident three years ago. So OK, I fucked up.
I was just getting my groove on sexually before the accident, nothing serious, fooled around with my cousin Jack and got a severe case of blue balls with this chick, Amber, I used to date. Anyhow, I’m finding it hard to connect with guys or girls for a bit of fun so I thought I’d write you and ask for advice. By the way, the equipment still works, sort of.
I think most people think disabled people can’t have or don’t want sex. I would like to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t pity me, but is hot for me. I have this really developed upper body, like a gymnast, and people tell me I have a handsome face. That should be enough to get me laid, right? Is there such a thing as a wheelchair fetish?

You’re a fuckin’ treasure, darlin’! I mean it. If you come across as upbeat, self-effacing, humorous, and sexy in person as you do in this message to me you shouldn’t have any problems getting laid. Ahhh, but of course, writing for online sex advice from a total stranger is probably a whole lot easier than wheeling up to another hot dude or sizzlin’ chick and suggesting a torrid session of the old slap and tickle; am I right?

Yet despite the inherent discomfort and difficulty of being that upfront, that’s precisely what is gonna get you laid. It’s all in the presentation Michael. Self-confidence and charm trumps disability every time. Unfortunately, many people think that “paralyzed from the waist down” means “there’s nothin’ goin on down there.” It’s your job to change their perception about that. Now, I’m not suggesting you be a dick about this. Just be your own sweet self and put it out there as natural as can be. You’re entitled to some good lovin’, just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us, you’re gonna have to learn how to ask for what you want.

While I completely understand you’re not looking for a mercy fuck from someone who will take you out of pity. There may be a number of potential partners out there who’d jump your bones as a novelty…at least at first. I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at these folks if I were you. Because a novelty fuck is a teachable moment when you can show the benighted dude or chick what you can do.

If you see yourself as a sexual being and put out a sex-positive vibe, I am confident that you will connect with folks. Make eye contact and smile. If you’re leering at her tits or focused on his package, you’re objectifying a potential partner. You don’t want that to happen to you, so don’t do it to anyone else. Consider coming up with a few choice lines that’ll call attention to all the sexual things you can do. Like, “The old legs don’t work so good, but there’s nothing wrong with my mouth and tongue.” Get the picture?

As for wheelchair fetishists, they’re out there honey. Just like the amputee/devotee fetishists I’ve talked/written about. There are lots of amateur paraplegic porn sites. Just google that you’ll get an eye full. Just think, this could be the beginning of a whole new career move for you.

Do an internet search using the key words wheelchair fetish or wheelchair fetish sites. I did and found a couple of really amazing sites: gimpsgonewild.com and disabledsinglesdating.com/. Check ‘em out.

Just remember, each of us has one kind of disability or another, yours just happens to be really obvious.

Good Luck!

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7 contraception options that won’t screw with your hormones

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Plus the pros and cons of each.

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Hormones are what make the world go round. They play a massive part in influencing your bodily functions, your mood, your behaviour, and of course, your sex life – which is why, when yours are out of whack, it can have an enormous impact on your whole damn existence.

Hormones can also be a big factor in the type of contraception you use, and increasing numbers of women are looking for non-hormonal methods of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you’re one of them, here are seven contraception methods you could consider:

1. Male condoms

What is it?
Probably the most familiar method of non-hormonal contraception, male condoms are thin latex sheaths that go over the penis during sex.


Pros and cons:

“They’re really easy to use and you only need to use them when you have sex,” says Sue Burchill, head of nursing at sexual health charity Brook. “They protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy. Plus, they are available for free from Brook services (for under 25s), some youth clinics, contraception and sexual health clinics and some GPs. You can also buy them at any time of day from supermarkets, vending machines in public toilets, petrol stations etc, even if you’re under 16. They also come in different shapes, sizes, textures, colours and flavours which can make sex more fun.”

Condoms are the only type of contraception that a man can use to control his own fertility, but they do also have some potential disadvantages. “Some people are allergic to the latex used in condoms. This is rare but if you or your partner is allergic, it’s possible to use latex free polyurethane condoms,” Sue adds. “Sometimes they can split or slip off – if this happens or you are worried you may need emergency contraception.”

2. Female condoms

What is it? Female condoms, sometimes known as ‘femi-doms’, are similar to male condoms, except they’re worn internally, inside the vagina, instead of going over the penis.

Pros and cons:
Like their male counterparts, female condoms also protect you against STIs and pregnancy, and are available for free within many of the same services. You can also put them in before you have sex (up to eight hours before).

If they’re not used properly, however, female condoms can slip or get pushed up into the vagina – and again, if this happens, you might need to seek emergency contraception. “You need to make sure the penis goes into the condom and not between the condom and the vagina,” advises Sue. It’s also worth noting that female condoms are not always available at every contraception and sexual health clinic and can be more expensive to buy than other condoms.

3. IUDs

What is it?
Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are t-shaped plastic devices that contain copper, and stop an egg from implanting in your uterus. They need to be fitted by your doctor or nurse.

Pros and cons:

IUDs are often recommended for women who cannot use contraception that contains hormones, like the pill or the contraceptive patch. They provide a long-term solution that once fitted, can prevent pregnancy immediately, and for up to 10 years (depending on what type of IUD you go for). They don’t interrupt sex, or mess with your fertility, and, crucially, you don’t have to remember to pop a pill every day for it to be effective. “The IUD is not affected by vomiting, diarrhoea or other medicines like other methods of contraception,” Sue notes – in fact, it can even be fitted as a method of emergency contraception.

This is not to say that the IUD has no potential pitfalls – “it does not protect against STIs, and your periods may be heavier, more painful or last longer,” she adds. There are also several risks, although slim and unlikely, that come with fitting and using the IUD – you may get an infection when it’s inserted, it can be be pushed out or displaced, and there is very minor chance of perforation of the uterus. If you do somehow get pregnant when you’re using one, there is also a small risk of ectopic pregnancy.

4. Cervical caps or diaphragms

What is it? These are dome-shaped devices which look similar, but diaphragms fit into the vagina and over the cervix, whilst caps need to be put onto the cervix directly. They need to be fitted by a professional on the first occasion, and used in conjunction with spermicide for maximum effectiveness.

 


Pros and cons:
“They can be put in before sex so they don’t disturb the moment (you will need to add extra spermicide if you have sex more than three hours after putting it in),” says Sue. “They are not affected by any medicines that you take orally, and don’t disturb your menstrual cycle” – although it is recommended that you do not use the diaphragm/cap during your period, so you will need to use an alternative method of contraception at this time.

And the downsides? As with pretty much all methods except condoms, they don’t provide protection against STIs, and they’re also not as effective at preventing pregnancy as other methods (around 92-96%, compared with 98% for male condoms, for instance). “They can take a little getting used to before you’re confident using them,” Sue admits, “Some women can develop the bladder infection cystitis when using diaphragms or caps – check with your doctor or nurse if you need further advice. Some people may be sensitive to latex or the chemical used in spermicide.”

5. Sponges

What is it? As you might imagine from the name, the sponge is a… well, sponge, which contains spermicide to help to prevent pregnancy. They’re a single use option, and cannot be worn for more than 30 hours at a time.

Pros and cons:

Sponges provide protection from pregnancy on a two-fold basis – the spermicide slows sperm down and stops them from heading towards the egg, and the sponge itself covers your cervix, to block them if they do get there. They are easy to use, but require a little bit of prep – you have to wet the sponge to activate the spermicide, and then insert it, as far up as you find comfortable. They also need to be left in your vagina for at least six hours after having sex, so you have to remember to include this in your 30 hour calculation. It shouldn’t happen, but if the sponge breaks into pieces when you pull it out, you need to contact your doctor right away.

Once again, there’s no STI protection, and you can’t use them when you’re on your period, or have any form of vaginal bleeding, as this could increase your chances of getting toxic shock syndrome. They’re also not recommended for women who’ve had physical trauma in the area, or given birth, been through miscarriage or abortion recently. If you’re unsure, talk to a professional before making your purchase (because unlike many other options, sponges aren’t given out for free).

6. Natural family planning

What is it? Natural family planning involved monitoring your fertility signs, such as cervical secretions and basal body temperature, to find out when during the month you can have sex with a reduced risk of pregnancy.


Pros and cons:
It can be used to plan pregnancy as well as avoid pregnancy, if you’re thinking of starting and family – and if you’re not, it does not involve taking any hormones or other chemicals or using physical devices, like many other methods do. The NHS states that it’s up to 99% effective if the method is followed precisely – but you need proper teaching about the indicators, and because it can be tricky to master, mistakes happen, so it’s generally around 75% mark instead.

You’ll still need to consider protection from STIs, and use a different form of contraception if you want to have sex during your fertile times. “You need to keep daily records, and some things such as illness or stress can make results difficult to interpret,” says Sue. “It can take longer to recognise your fertility indicators if you have an irregular cycle, or have stopped using hormonal contraception. It demands a high level of commitment from both partners.”

7. Tubular occlusion

What is it? Tubular occlusion, or female sterilisation, is a surgical method of contraception that involves using clips or rings to block your fallopian tubes. It is thought to be more than 99% effective, and doesn’t effect hormone levels – you’ll still get your period if you have it done.

Pros and cons:

If you’re certain that sterilisation is the right option for you, it means that you no longer have to worry about pregnancy (although the same can’t be said for STI’s, which you’ll still need protection from). There shouldn’t be any impact on your sex drive, and rarely has any other long-term effects on your health.

However, as with any operation, there are potential complications, including internal bleeding, infection, or damage to your other organs. The chance of sterilisation failing is around in 1 in 200, but it can happen, and if it does occur, there’s a higher chance of the pregnancy being ectopic. Surgeons are generally more willing to carry out sterilisation on women who are over 30 and have already had children, but you can request it whatever your circumstances. It’s likely you’ll be referred to counselling before making your final decision, because of the permanent nature of the choice that you’re making.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex and relationship education should be about rights and equity not just biology

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For decades, researchers, young people, and activists have campaigned for better sex and relationships education. Yet still today children and young people rarely have the high quality lessons they need in schools around the world.

International research has found that for it to be effective, sex and relationships education needs to start early, as well as be adaptable and needs-led. It must be delivered by well-trained and confident teachers, in partnership with external providers. It also needs to be of sufficient duration – not one-off sessions – as well as relevant, engaging and participatory. And, most importantly, it must be held in a safe, respectful and confidential learning environment, and embedded in a whole school approach.

But if we know what is needed, why are these lessons not in UK schools already? At present, the future of what the sex and relationship education curriculum will look like is still being discussed by politicians in England. Wales, however, is starting to make some headway.

Major reforms in Wales

Since education was devolved to the Welsh government in the 1990s, Wales has sought to embed policy and guidance on its sex and relationships education into a social justice model of rights, equity and well-being.

In March 2017, an expert panel – which I was invited to chair – was established by the Welsh Assembly’s cabinet secretary for education, Kirsty Williams. We were tasked with reporting on how teachers could be supported to deliver high quality sex and relationships education more effectively in schools in Wales. As well as help inform the development of the future curriculum in this area.

Drawing on the available national and international research, we found significant gaps between the lived experiences of children and young people, and the sex and relationships education they receive in school. We also found that the quality and quantity of these lessons vary widely from school to school.

Our panel has now made a series of recommendations to the Welsh government which collectively constitute a major overhaul of sex and relationship education in Wales. This is in line with significant curriculum and teacher training reforms, and is supported by the fact that health and well-being will be a core part of the 2021 Welsh curriculum, with equal status to other areas of the curriculum.

Living curriculum

In our report, we have outlined a vision for a new holistic, inclusive, rights and equity-based sexuality and relationships education curriculum. We concluded that what children and young people need now is a “living curriculum”, relevant to their lives and real world issues.

The idea is that this living curriculum would respond to children and young people’s lives, and enable them to see themselves and each other in what they are learning. It will also evolve to meet changing biological, social, cultural and technological issues and knowledge.

Importantly, we have recommended that sexuality and relationships education should not be relegated to an individual lesson or subject. It should be embedded across the whole curriculum. This means that any subject – science, humanities, or any other – should be able to address key areas of learning about gender, sexuality and relationships. Issues like rights, identity, body image, safety, care, consent, among others will be taught across the school timetable.

To ensure that learning is reinforced beyond the classroom, we have recommended that sexuality and relationships education provision is part of a whole school approach. We also suggest that content and assessment is co-produced with children and young people themselves.

We have also suggested that the name is changed to “sexuality and relationships education”. This is important for children and young people who say that current provision is narrowly focused on the biological at the expense of learning about the social, cultural and political aspects of sexuality.

Making sexuality and relationships education a statutory part of the curriculum is a start, but to achieve all this we need to ensure that those who are delivering it are well-trained, supported and confident. There should be a sexuality and relationships specialist lead educator in every school and local authority. This is in addition to protected time in the curriculum for the topic, so that what is planned for can be delivered on, and not squeezed out by other subjects.

These are significant reforms which will demand investment and planning. But the outcome will be an inclusive, relevant and empowering curriculum that can learn from, respond to and support all children and young people’s needs. Our vision is a sexuality and relationship education curriculum for life long learning and experience.

Complete Article HERE!

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