Asexuality: “Identity over society’s fixation with sex”

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Sexuality is a spectrum and it doesn’t matter where you fall

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Today, we recognize that sexuality and gender fall on a spectrum. Sexual orientations such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality are well-known, but I’d like to talk about a lesser known one: asexuality. Not everyone is — or wants to be — sexually active.

I wrote to my friend, Tab*, who is asexual, asking her some questions to hopefully shed some light on the nuanced meanings of asexuality and how she navigates relationships.

The Varsity: According to Wikipedia, asexuality is “the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity.” Do you agree with this definition and can you elaborate on what asexuality means to you?

T: I definitely agree with the first half, but I also make the distinction between sexual attraction and interest or desire.

A friend of mine once used the analogy of looking at a beautiful painting in a museum: you think the painting is beautiful, but you don’t want to take it home and have sex with it. That is not to say that people are ‘just objects’ to asexuals, but rather that no matter how aesthetically pleasing they are to me, I just don’t want to have sex with them. They are about as sexually attractive as a painting.

TV: I’m sure there is a stigma around being asexual, especially in a heterosexual and sex-driven society where every form of media is filled with innuendos and sexual references. How do you reconcile your own identity with society’s idea of what a person should be?

T: I think that being asexual doesn’t necessarily mean being sex-repulsed or ‘prudish.’ Nor does it necessarily mean having a low sex drive… or not having any romantic feelings at all. Society, or at least North American society, definitely puts a lot of emphasis on sexual attractiveness as a measure of value, or as something to strive for.

I think it took me a long time to kind of condition myself, or kind of learn to first accept that I won’t be like any of the hypersexual or super beautiful, stereotypical models, celebrities, and characters I often see in [media], but that was okay, and I still had value to other people.

I think that finding out that there was a sort of label for the way I felt about others, sexually, helped me out a lot in accepting that I wasn’t just strange or destined to have no meaningful romantic relationships in my life, which is something that weighs on my mind. I have other things to offer other than just being a sexual partner. Is it actually that important to me to be attractive or valued by people who only consider my sexual value? I figured the answer was no, and that it was kind of BS that I’d be considered less of a person just because I didn’t find people sexually attractive. I never really reconciled my identity with society’s idea of a person more than I just prioritized my identity over society’s fixation with sex.

TV: There’s a lot of emphasis on hookup culture especially with dating apps like Tinder. What does a relationship mean to you? How do you navigate dating and meeting people, especially in university?

T: I’ve been pretty removed from the whole hookup culture. I mean, I have Tinder, but it’s definitely more of a time-waster. To be honest, I’m absolutely trash at navigating the dating scene. I have a lot of my own personal issues to deal with, not to mention I’m the kind of person who mostly keeps to myself. Hookup culture is still definitely something I keep in mind though, and it often intrudes with whenever I get a message or match on Tinder, or some person talks to me for longer than I deem strictly necessary in a social exchange. So, even taking sexual orientation out of the equation, the dating scene is already hard to navigate.

That being said, I have an all-together probably too romantic idea of a relationship. I don’t think I’m quite made for casual dating — if I find interest in someone deeply enough to pursue some sort of deeper relationship, I definitely am in it for the long term.

I’d love for someone to be comfortable with, who inspires me to be a better person, who I change and grow with, who I trust. A person who is worth going the distance for, and who’s as committed to me as I am to them. That sounds awfully idealistic, but that’s probably my best idea of a relationship.

TV: There’s this idea that to be intimate means to have sex — what do you think about this idea of intimacy? And what does intimacy mean to you instead?

T: When I wrote cringy poetry as an edgelord high schooler, I actually wrote about this. My idea of intimacy hasn’t actually changed much since then, although it’s defined itself a bit more. There’s definitely intimacy to be had in sex… baring yourself to another person and trusting that they want you and will accept you as you are. So there’s nothing wrong with saying having sex is intimate.

I think the mistake is when people say that sex is the ‘ultimate’ form of intimacy, or even the only form. I think that as a baseline, intimacy is being able to be vulnerable around another person, not just by being able to share problems and stuff with your partner, but to be able to really experience and share the simple intimacies in life, like waking up and going to sleep in the same bed as the person you love, being able to spend time doing nothing but enjoying each other’s presence, being secure and content. It’s almost hard to describe, but like, if you’ve ever seen a couple that are just so in love… that are just so happy to be with their partner, that it’s almost embarrassing to be witnessing it? That’s the kind of intimacy I’d love to have.

TV: Do you feel pressured to be sexually active?

T: Not enough to make me actually have sex with anyone just for the sake of relieving the pressure, but I definitely feel a bit pressured… Sometimes wondering if I should just have sex with someone just to say I’ve had the experience and can surely say it’s not something I like. Most of the time, I think that’s pretty ridiculous though, because I don’t think it’ll change my attraction. Part of me feels that I should have sex just to experience some sort of intimacy… or that I should at least say yes to sex if my partner asks for it. I think some part of me still considers my lack of sexual attraction abnormal in a sense, such that I should be the one accommodating others’ sexual desire instead of the other way around. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky to have understanding and accepting people around me.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s How To Decide On A Safe Word

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No matter who you’re sleeping with, how long you’ve been sleeping with them, and what type of sex you’re having — if you’re not feeling it anymore, you’re allowed to tap out at any point, for any reason. While it’s important to discuss consent and knowing what you and your partner(s) are comfortable with before turning up the heat, knowing something like how to decide on a safe word can be a great way to keep everyone safe and comfortable during sex.

“A safe word is a word selected by sexual partners together that when used indicates one partner would like to pause sexual activity for any reason,” McKenna Maness, sex educator and former education and prevention coordinator at The Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP), tells Elite Daily. “Perhaps sex got too intense, or the partner is physically uncomfortable or in more pain than they would like to be, or roleplaying crossed into something less desirable for that person, they’re overstimulated— in any of these cases, the partner who would like to stop can say their safe word and the other partner would know that it is time to stop immediately and check in!”

Although having a safe word can be a tool for communicating with your partner(s), it it no way means that partner(s) are allowed to skip the boundary convo or try something new without first getting consent. “It should not be your goal to make someone use their safe word. A safe word exists for reasons of safety. Boundaries are made for a reason and not everyone likes theirs’ pushed. At the same time, it does not make you weak to safe word out,” Lola Jean, sex educator and mental health professional says.

“Safe words” have roots within the BDSM community and are often associated with more kinky types sex. Additionally, expressing when you’re not feeling something or need a time out, can be useful in all types of sexual activity — from bondage and role play, to gentle spooning and basic missionary. Whether you’re going at it and your legs are in a weird position so it kind of hurts, or you want to check to make sure your contraceptive is in place, a “safe word” is nothing more than a signal that you need to stop and check in.

“You always have the right to stop whatever you and your partner(s) are doing to each other for any reason — communication is key and safe words facilitate that!” Maness says. If you just got your IUD replaced or you’ve had the worst day ever and can’t stop thinking about your terrible coworker Shannon, you may not realize that you’re not trying to have sex tonight until you’ve started to have sex. Safe words, then, are like an immediate “eject button” from sex, without feeling pressure to explain what you’re feeling in the moment, before winding down the physical touching or expressing everything on your mind to your partner(s).

When choosing a safe word, it may be helpful to pick a universal phrase — like traffic light colors. “It’s easier to remember the difference between yellow and red even when in the depths of sub space,” Jeans says. “You can add words like ‘Red Stop’ to end completely as opposed to just “Red” to stop what you are currently doing.” If your first grade teacher ever used a paper traffic light as a public-shame discipline system (I’m triggered) or if you’ve ever been in a moving vehicle, it’s easy to remember that “Red means stop.” Words like traffic light colors, that hold deep cultural significance can be great choices for a safe word, as you’re unlikely to forget them.

If you’re not a big talker during sex or a verbal safe word doesn’t feel comfortable, Maness suggests incorporating a physical “safe word” or a physical signal that you need a time out. Yet, like a safe word, a physical tap-out should be a motion you wouldn’t otherwise do during sex. “Maybe tapping your partner’s shoulder or winking, a peace sign or crossed fingers — as long as they will see it and understand it,” Maness says.

If you’re someone who likes to laugh or joke during sex, it may be a good fit for you and your partner(s) to choose a funny safe word. “My safe word is ‘Mike Pence’ because that would make someone stop dead in their tracks during a scene to question what was going on —plus I do like a safe word that makes me giggle,” Jean says. Although humor may play an important role, Jean also speaks to the importance of finding a word that’s memorable and literally easy to say. “When choosing a safe word, it’s important that it is something you can easily remember and say. It should be a word that would likely not come up within play or a word you don’t say very often. (I rarely would use Mike Pence’s name in my sexy times.) Mike Pence is also an easy two syllable punch.”

Maness too agrees that choosing a safe word ideally means picking something unforgettable. “It has to be something you will absolutely be sure to remember during sex. If you are single or non-monogamous, you can choose one just for yourself and communicate it before sex, and if you have a partner you consistently hook up with, whatever that looks like for you, you can decide together what to use,” Maness says. “It could be parachute. It could be persimmon. It could be shovel. Just make sure it’s memorable and you both/all know what it means.”

Maness also suggests thinking about a word you wouldn’t otherwise say when having sex. Something completely random like an inanimate object, an inside joke, or something otherwise unfamiliar to the communication you and your partner(s) typically have during sex. Though it may feel right to have your safe word be something silly or totally random, using it is a serious move. “Using a safe word — even with a long term partner — has a certain weight to it that other words do not. A safe word means business. It means slow the f*ck down and check in with your person,” Jean says.

Of course just like finding the right safe word for you, understanding exactly what your safe word will mean is another important conversation. “It’s important to set forth what the safe word or signal means too— usually it means ‘stop now’ but you could also ask your partner to give you physical space when you use it, or tell them you want comfort and aftercare at the point where you use it,” Maness says. “Using a safe word is revoking consent in that moment. Your partner shouldn’t take offense, or be upset or hurt. You aren’t necessarily ending the sex permanently, although if you are that’s fine too.”

If using a safe word means your boundaries were crossed, you may want to further discuss with your partner how you’re feeling and what you need to feel comfortable and safe when having sex. Your safe word could mean anything from, “Your knee is knocking into my hip and it kinda hurts can we switch positions” to “I don’t like where this is going, we need to stop”. Having an open dialogue with your partner about what your safe word means and how it will be used is just as important as choosing the right word for you. “It’s a great tool that just requires honest/open conversation,” Maness says.

If you are thinking about the right safe word for you, take time to ponder your personal boundaries, preferences, and the types of sex you do and (maybe more importantly) do not want to be having. During any sexual encounter — a LTR, one night stand, or super hot orgy with ninety people — the most important thing factor is active consent. When it comes to deciding on a safe word, you get to choose how it’s used, when it’s used, and what it means.

Complete Article HERE!

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What is autosexuality?

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A growing number of people are pledging undying love to themself

A newspaper interview by a woman who is planning to marry herself has triggered fresh debate about this growing phenomenon of self-love.

Talking to the Metro, self-described autosexual Ghia Vitale, a writer from New York, said: “I’ve been attracted to myself for as long as I’ve been cognisant of attraction.”

The newspaper notes that this sexual identification has been “seldom talked about” – so what does it mean?

What is the definition of autosexuality?

In 2013, Psychology Today blogger Leon Seltzer described autosexuality, or autoeroticism, as “one of the ‘fuzziest’ concepts in the entire field of human sexuality”, with “little consensus on what it actually means”.

The Medical Dictionary defines autosexual as “characterised by sexual physical self-contact (e.g., masturbation, erotic fantasies or rituals)”.

According to Seltzer, autosexuals “are attracted primarily – sometimes exclusively – to their own bodies”, and autoeroticism “involves a whole range of sexual behaviours and attitudes”.

“Many individuals fitting this designation might self-stimulate only when other alternatives aren’t feasible,” he adds. “Some might find themselves turned on both by themselves and others. Others might be aroused (or arousable) solely by themselves – whether through sight or touch.”

It may involve “being autoromantic – experiencing the relationship with yourself as romantic”, says Metro.

“It can mean being turned on by your own look and nudity, getting butterflies when you think about yourself, being excited to spend time alone, and masturbating to the idea of yourself. It’s all the feelings we get for a potential new suitor but for ourselves,” the newspaper continues.

Is it a new concept?

No. In his book Freud and Autosexuality, sychoanalysis researcher and professor Michel Herve Bertaux-Navoiseau writes that although “the Greeks didn’t have a word to designate autosexuality”, philosophers of the time “did not make any difference between making love with one’s clitoris or foreskin or with two sexes”.

Psychology Today’s Seltzer also cites the Greeks. “As the original Narcissus of Greek mythology became enamoured of his own image (as reflected in a pool of water), so can pronounced autoerotics be physically attracted to – or titillated by – themselves,” he says.

What else do psychologists say?

Seltzer argues that autosexuality “isn’t a one-dimensional phenomenon”, adding: “Moreover, it cannot be overemphasised that very few individuals do not – to whatever degree – exhibit certain autoerotic elements in their sexuality.”

Dr Michael Aaron, author of Modern Sexuality, tells lifestyle site Refinery29: “It is very common for people to be aroused by themselves [to varying degrees]. Some experience it more like an orientation, in that they feel more aroused by themselves than by others.

“In fact, if you bring a mirror into your sex life, you can transition those feelings of arousal into an experience that you can enjoy with partners. And if you’re really into having sex in front of mirrors, there’s actually a name for that fetish – katoptronophilia.”

Self-outed autosexual Vitale claims that sex researcher Bernard Apfelbaum was the first to coin the term. In an article on blogging platform Medium, Vitale argues that the true number of autosexuals is underestimated and understudied.

She asks: “Is it because it’s still so stigmatised nobody ‘believes’ it’s real and thus, never sincerely studies it? Or is it because autosexuality is actually quite rare and there aren’t enough folks who manifest behaviour in the same way to properly qualify it?”

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexually Submissive Men Have Something to Say

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Learn About the Complex and Varied Experiences of Sexually Submissive Men

by Aysha White

It’s pretty much unquestionable that BDSM is having its 15 minutes of fame culturally.

The massive popularity of the book 50 Shades of Grey and it’s inevitable, on-screen adaptation prove that the public is eager to learn more about the world of BDSM, which commonly stands for bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, though there are variations under that moniker.

It’s not surprising that BDSM is enjoying more mainstream success; a study revealed that 51 per cent of men and approximately 39 percent of women were sexually aroused by the idea of having a dominant or submissive sexual partner. These results also reveal that more men than women are attracted to the idea of having someone be sexually submissive to them.

What is lacking about the mainstream depictions of BDSM is variety. 50 Shades of Grey centres around the love/sex story of two characters, the naive/innocent student journalist Ana and the mysterious and damaged businessman Christian Grey (the namesake of the movie).

A lot of cultural dialogue around the subject, including mainstream media sources, have imposed a heterosexual idea that reinforces existing gender binaries, where the man is the dominant partner and the woman the submissive.

It ignores the experiences of sexually submissive men and dominant women, arguably because they flout social customs. We live in a sexist patriarchal culture that promotes and profits off the physical and emotional submission of women.

Men who are sexually submissive are essentially giving the finger to social norms, and that isn’t comfortable to people who promote a mainstream, church-on-Sundays, mashed-potatoes-every-Wednesday kind of existence.

Pseudonyms have been used for the people interviewed, to protect their privacy, as well as their current and future employment opportunities.

Calvin Hobbes

Hobbes is a submissive latex-loving man,] who loves to serve his Mistress. “I feel complete when I’m submissive—whether that’s in a sexual context or in terms of being obedient to my partner in day-to-day life,” said Hobbes.

He views his sexuality as kinky or submissive, though he can often enjoy vanilla sex. Vanilla, in the context of the kinky community, is meant to describe sex that doesn’t have any BDSM elements to it, but it can also be used to describe people who don’t practice BDSM.

Hobbes described himself as essentially straight, but does experience occasional attraction towards other men.

“I think a lot of submissive people, of whatever gender, find that being submissive is a release from responsibility in other aspects of their life—whether it’s work, family, or just being responsible for your own behaviour and emotional state,” he said.

Hobbes began to realize he was interested in being dominated by a woman around the age of 16 or 17. “I think that from a fairly early point in my adolescence, I felt that women were more in touch with their sexuality than men. That awareness came across to me as a type of power that I found very appealing,” he said.

As a teenager, he felt confused about all of the new things he was feeling, and by the conflicting societal messages he received about how to behave. “The idea of a woman who knew what she wanted and unambiguously asserted that was delightful.”

“For over a year now I’ve been in love with a beautiful dominant woman who loves having me as her slave. The connection there, and how happy and proud she makes me feel to be her slave, makes me want to be completely open about the nature of our relationship,” he said.

Catiya Kass, his Mistress, described being a female dominant as an empowering kinda of experience. She said the intimacy it created between her and Hobbes led her to fall in love with him quicker.

“We’re socialized to defer to a man’s needs, and this relationship style flips that on its head. Through prioritizing my pleasure together we’ve discovered my body is capable of more than I ever thought possible—hands-free orgasms, orgasms from inflicting pain, multiple orgasms (current record is 54 in one day!). This has made me appreciate and love the body that I live in, and given my slave even more reason to worship it,” said Kass.

Believing in destiny is a personal choice, but if you do believe in it, you might see these two as an example.

Kass reached out to two online profiles in one week, one kinky and one vanilla. Long story short, they both belonged to Hobbes, which he subsequently revealed to her. The two have built a successful sexual and romantic relationship, built on open communication about their interests, needs, wants, and boundaries. The full-time domination that they engage in together has been a new experience for both of them.

“I like challenging and pushing my sub to explore boundaries, such as wearing his collar or latex in public.”

Hobbes likes employing latex in his sexual practices, describing it as the most sensual material he knows. “I find that the way it stretches as you move makes it feel almost like wearing a lover that caresses you all over at once. It’s sublime,” said Hobbes.

Hobbes noted that the process of getting dressed in it, including the application of polish to make it shine, can be a be a sensual form of foreplay as people run their hands over each other’s bodies. “I find that wearing latex makes my sense of stimulation less penis-focused and more of an all-over bodily experience,” he explained.

Hobbes pointed out that while for women being objectified is a form of misogyny, for men, not used to being seen for their appearance, the experience can create the opposite feeling. He feels like in the context of sexual submission, being treated like an object, “to be used and admired,” and the feeling of being completely and totally wanted provide him with an ego boost.

“I feel that being submissive is really part of how I was born. But I do think there’s something to the idea of submission being a release from being smart all the time, and from overthinking things.”

“There’s definitely a threshold one crosses into ‘subspace,’ where you stop thinking about what’s happening to you and how it could go next, and reach this mindful or meditative state of complete acceptance, let go of responsibility, and just enjoy existing for your partner’s pleasure,” said Hobbes, pointing out that the feeling can be especially strong if his Mistress is flogging or pegging him, or else having him placed in full body, restrictive bondage.

Flogging means being whipped. Pegging is a gender flipping sexual act, of a woman penetrating a man anally, usually with a strap-on.

Afterwards, he explained that the dominant will release the submissive, a practice known as aftercare. It’s meant to ensure they are physically recovering from the scene, as well as emotionally supporting their process of re-attaching to responsibility and being in charge of themselves again.

“Mistress and I don’t have a relationship where we ‘play’ occasionally. I’m always submissive to her, she’s always dominant over me, sometimes it just becomes more intense. I find that the more intense the dynamic between us becomes at any given time, the more I crave for it to become even more intense, and I slip deeper into submission,” explained Hobbes.

“Women who are self-assured, smart, know that they’re capable of taking care of themselves, and know what they want have always made me melt,” he continued.

Hobbes said that he derives a lot of fulfillment from serving women and knowing he’s making someone he loves happy. He feels that being submissive removes some of the guesswork out of relationships, as he’s comfortable following orders, trusting that his Mistress wouldn’t abuse her power over him.

“Dominance isn’t about abuse, or manipulation. It’s about care, and earning authority. And submission isn’t about weakness, it’s about confidence, dependability, and trust,” said Hobbes.

He pointed out that many people who are not a part of kinky society may not understand the amount of time, effort, and negotiation of boundaries that gets put into establishing a healthy kinky relationship.

Hobbes doesn’t believe in the idea of divine powers influencing life on Earth. “There is no cosmic judge who wants us to avoid certain foods, wear certain clothes, or gets angry if we fuck or fall in love in certain ways.”

He said that having an open-minded yet rational attitude has made him more open to alternative life choices, like BDSM and polyamory. “We’re on our own, but we’re free to live our lives how we see fit, and find meaning and value in our relationships, our work, and our communities,” Hobbes explained.

“Letting someone else be in charge is really nice. It’s a strange irony I suppose, that politically I identify as an anarchist—the pacifist type, not the Molotov cocktail type—and believe very strongly in egalitarianism and individual freedom. But I feel so happy being owned, commanded, restrained, and objectified by the woman I love, where that power imbalance is consensual,” he said.

Logan Roland

“I’ve never been a leader or anything. I like following a lot more” said Logan Roland, a cross-dressing submissive man who works at a John Deere factory where the overt masculinity contrasts with his private and overly feminine desires.

Roland describes himself as a straight man. “I like it in the back for sure [but] I don’t think I’d let a guy do me,” he said “I’m straight but also really feminine. I don’t mind plugs and toys with [male genitalia], but wouldn’t want to be with a man.”

He likes using toys such as butt plugs to give him that feeling and likes to leave them inside his rectum, experimenting with different lengths of time, or vibration. He also really loves being restrained.

Roland explained that he had always been curious about the act of cross-dressing since childhood, when he first started to try on women’s clothes.

He began understanding how he was aroused by BDSM practices. He enjoyed seeing girls tied up in cartoons and movies. He began to experiment with touching himself and tying up his ankles with belts or long socks, until “I got better things like actual ropes and cuffs.”

He began to understand more about BDSM and the way his own sexuality fit into that by watching related porn on the internet.

Roland is a practitioner of self-BDSM, meaning he experiments with putting himself in bondage positions. He describes the feeling of being tied up as being very comfortable and natural for him, even relaxing enough to fall asleep in.

So far, actually having a Mistress and being her slave remains a fantasy to Roland, but one he is eager to make a reality.

“I would definitely consider being a full-time slave as long as I got to see my family and friends,” said Rolland. “I’ve definitely been getting more into it and wanting a dominant partner.”
“[Following] excites me a lot more. I’d like to not be in control and have someone else controlling everything.”

He is open to the idea of trying to find one on a site like Fetlife—consider it Facebook of the BDSM community—but he lives in small town in Tennessee, meaning he doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of options in close proximity.

“I try to be careful about who I tell about it honestly. I’ve slowly been opening up to more people about BDSM and [my] girly side.”

He thinks that if more people were aware of his interest in submission and cross-dressing, they wouldn’t accept it, and pointed out that dominant men are seen as more acceptable in the mainstream than submissive ones.

Roland has a fondness for women’s skirts and capri pants. He recently tried shaving his legs, which was a positive experience as he continues to experiment with his sexuality in relation to cross-dressing.

He said his ideal outfit to cross-dress in would be “capri pants, a cute top with flip flop sandals, or flats.”

“I honestly love how girl clothes feel. They are so much more comfortable than guy clothes, and it’s also exciting, kind of like a forbidden fruit in a way because of it not being accepted really in the norm of our society now, but I do really love how they feel honestly and I love how cute they are and how [many] more [styles of clothing] girls have over guys.”

Some of Roland’s friends know he likes to cross-dress and are supportive of it. No one in his family, apart from a cousin and his brother, know about his feminine side. When his parents leave town for the weekend, he’s able to dress up in women’s clothes while hanging around the house.

“It definitely sucks hiding my girly side but I’m happy with the time I get to be myself, like at my friends houses or my cousin’s. They both let me dress girly and I’ve done self-BDSM around both. So it’s definitely a nice escape from hiding it a lot and it feels amazing when I get to let it out,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

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A Dating App for Three, Plus

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Nonmonogamous coupling — and “thruppling” — has been lubricated by the internet.

By Haley Mlotek

Feeld is a dating app with options that put the Kinsey scale to shame.

If you’re single, you can set up an account stating your preferences and curiosities, as you might with any other service. The app lists 20 possibilities for sexuality alone, including heteroflexible (straight-ish) and homoflexible (gay, for the most part).

But couples and partners can sign up, too, in service of finding a third — or a fourth.

The app was released in 2014 by Dimo Trifonov and Ana Kirova, two graphic designers living in London, as 3nder (pronounced “Thrinder”). They hoped to appeal to individuals and partners looking to join or have threesomes. But after Tinder filed a lawsuit and the company rebranded as Feeld (as in “playing the”), the founders said they welcomed the opportunity to expand the mission of the app.

“Feeld is a platform for alternative dating, for people who are beyond labels,” Ms. Kirova said in an interview. “They can meet each other without the necessity of coming from a very defined place with a very defined requirement.”

According to the company, the majority of Feeld users are between the ages of 26 and 32, and they cluster in major cities: New York, London, São Paulo, Los Angeles and Paris. About 35 percent are on the app with a partner, and 45 percent identify as something other than heterosexual. (Gender options include nonbinary, intersex and two-spirit, as well as gender-nonconforming, genderqueer and gender-questioning.)

Feeld facilitates types of sexual attachment that are not exactly novel, but are often described in novel terms. (See “thrupple,” a term sometimes used to describe a romantic partnership for three people.) And it’s certainly popular, or at least, of growing interest to many. The company did not provide the most up-to-date download information (in 2016, it reported 1.5 million downloads), but says there are currently 12,000 connections made on Feeld and an average of 100,000 messages sent on a daily basis.

It’s not just the vocabulary of sex and sexuality that has evolved.

The rhetoric of relationships has become increasingly about labor (a lasting romance takes work), and the rhetoric of labor has become about relationships (each company is a family). Consequently, start-up origin stories are often expressed as love stories — the result of passion and ambition, open communication and ready collaboration. For Mr. Trifonov and Ms. Kirova, who began dating six years ago, those semantics are true in every sense. They made Feeld as much for their users as for themselves.

Mr. Trifonov said that they had been together for two years when Ms. Kirova revealed she also had feelings for a woman. “She felt really bad about it, like she was doing something wrong,” he said.

The two met in London, though they were both raised in Bulgaria, an environment Ms. Kirova described as rigid. “If you’re not straight, you’re not normal,” she said. Ms. Kirova considered herself and Mr. Trifonov to be open-minded — “artistic” is how she put it — but it took her a long time to question her own straightness. “That moment when things started shaking and changing, I was like, I’m losing my identity,” she said.

Mr. Trifonov and Ms. Kirova wanted to stay together while also giving Ms. Kirova space to try other relationships, but they didn’t like the options available to them. (They decided to search as a couple.) They felt unfairly judged by the label “swingers,” and recall users on other dating apps reaching out to say they shouldn’t be in spaces intended for single people.

Thus, Feeld was born.

The company struggled to find funding at first: Mr. Trifonov said many prospective investors considered the app “adult entertainment,” which venture capitalists tend to avoid for reasons as legal as they are moral. (On that, Mr. Trifonov said: “How come you can’t differentiate pornography from sexuality? These are two different things.”) Apps like Tinder and Bumble don’t advertise their utility when it comes to polyamorous exploration, but they can be used to the same end. (OkCupid recently added a feature that allows couples to link their accounts in their pursuit of a third.)

Eventually an angel investor swooped in to save Feeld, but the fact that the business is sex-related has presented other challenges.

An attempt to build a Feeld integration for Slack, which would allow co-workers to anonymously confess their office crushes, was, unsurprisingly, shut down — a human resources complaint waiting to happen (the company told Mr. Trifonov it was a violation of their developer policy). The money transfer app TransferWise temporarily blocked Feeld’s ability to collect money for paid memberships (which offer more privacy) because Feeld was considered “adult content.” Mr. Trifonov also claims he was refused an office rental because the landlord didn’t approve of the nature of their business.

Now, the company is up and running more or less smoothly, with some 20 people employed. In the tradition of small businesses everywhere, all workers do multiple tasks, and titles are given more for the benefit of people outside than those within it. (The company also runs an event series on nonmonogamy and put out a magazine.) Ms. Kirova describes herself as being responsible for general product leadership, long-term conceptual ideas, as well as much of the hiring and personnel decisions. Mr. Trifonov, the founder and head of the operation, believes she’s just being modest: “She’s like the unicorn of the company,” he said.

If they had stayed simply a threesome app, Mr. Trifonov believes it would have died as a threesome app. “When I started Feeld I thought — like every other founder, I guess — this company isn’t going to be like other companies,” he said.

I asked if he thought that there was some overlap between the two expectations: that social mores, from business to the bedroom, are better overthrown than followed. “I guess they overlap somehow, don’t they?” he replied. “When you have the mind-set of questioning things, it applies everywhere. We questioned our relationship. We questioned the way the business will work.”

Complete Article HERE!

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When Brooklyn was queer: telling the story of the borough’s LGBT past

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In a new book, Hugh Ryan explores the untold history of queer life in Brooklyn from the 1850s forward, revealing some unlikely truths

The cover of When Brooklyn Was Queer.

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For five years Hugh Ryan has been hunting queer ghosts through the streets of Brooklyn, amid the racks of New York’s public libraries, among its court records and yellow newspaper clippings to build a picture of their lost world.

The result is When Brooklyn Was Queer, a funny, tender and disturbing history of LGBT life that starts in an era, the 1850s, when those letters meant nothing and ends before the Stonewall riots started the modern era of gay politics.

The book grew out of Ryan’s other project, The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, a sort-of travelling museum that creates installations celebrating the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Ryan and his friends had done shows about local queer history in other cities but never in Brooklyn, where many of them lived. When they decided that they should do a Brooklyn event, they put out a call for information and got little reply. “People just didn’t know Brooklyn’s queer history,” says Ryan. “I thought I’d just go to the library, get the book about queer Brooklyn history. It’s probably from the 1970s and all of 10 people have read it. There wasn’t one.”

Ryan started collecting information and then got a grant from the Martin Duberman Fellowship in LGBT studies at the New York Public Library. “They said to me when you are done with this grant you should have your book proposal written.”

One recurring theme in his research that fascinated Ryan was how Brooklyn’s rise from rural backwater to New York’s second city mirrored the rise in interest in sex and gender studies and – sadly – the rise in homophobia, bigotry and abuse.

Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge started in 1869, the same year that human rights campaigner and journalist Karl-Maria Kertbeny first used the terms homosexual and heterosexual.

Shortly before that, the Erie Canal finally connected the city to the Great Lakes, bringing jobs and the urbanization that allowed queer life to flourish – especially along Brooklyn’s waterfront.

“Brooklyn’s growth runs along the same timeline as the evolution of our modern ideas about sexuality,” says Ryan. “You could chart the two against each other. I used Brooklyn as an example of how things were developing in the world and America generally.”

The poet Hart Crane.

The book is studded with the stories of Brooklyn-based A-list gays of yesteryear: Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Truman Capote. Then there is The February House – a Brooklyn townhouse that was once home to WH Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee and which also hosted Salvador Dalí, his fearsome wife and muse Gala, and the writers Paul and Jane Bowles (a cast that would make the most cerebral Celebrity Big Brother house ever).

But the book also excels in uncovering what life was like for “ordinary” queer folk such as Loop-the-Loop, a trans woman and sex worker from Brooklyn at a time when “trans” was not part of the vocabulary (Loop preferred “fairy”) and Coney Island’s working-class gay bath houses.

Much of the information Ryan gathered was from sources who hated the LGBT community – and increasingly so as it was studied and categorized.

One of those groups was the Committee of 14, a group of morally righteous New Yorkers who drove for prohibition, then against (straight) prostitution and, on discovering the queer community, went after them, too.

“They were crazy,” said Ryan. “On the one hand I am glad they existed because otherwise the records they kept wouldn’t have existed but at the same time it’s shocking. They were a very strange group of people.”

One of the fascinating aspects of the book is how accepted the queer community was in Brooklyn at certain periods (and by certain people). During prohibition, gay and straight bars merged while during the war, queer life flourished as sailors poured into town, categories were looser than today and – again with caveats – there was acceptance.

Hugh Ryan.

“Before World War II, especially in 1920s, there were a lot more spaces where queer and non-queer people mixed,” says Ryan. “There was even this period ‘the pansy craze’ where it was fashionable to have limp-wristed men in movies who may have been gay or trans or entirely outside that in movies.”

But as queer profiles rose, so did the backlash. The repeal of prohibition drove gays and straight apart and the queers went underground where the police – and the mafia – came after them.

America’s love affair with eugenics, the “science” of improving the population by controlled breeding, caught up with the queer community as it had with people of color. Queers were dangerous to the health of the nation, easily blackmailed, not to be trusted. They were driven out of public life, academia, the movies; society turned against them.

By the 1940s, thousands of men would be arrested each year for “degeneracy”. In 1942, Senator David Ignatius Walsh’s career was destroyed in a sensational sex scandal that involved rumours that he had frequented a gay Brooklyn brothel that was being used by Nazi spies. The New York Post, which had fought for the US to join the war against Germany when Walsh was set against it, broke the story which became known as “Swastika swishery”.

Ryan thinks Walsh was probably gay but that the claims he attended the brothel were dubious.

The brothel’s owner, Gustave Beekman, and several others were arrested. Beekman cooperated with the authorities but still received a 20-year sentence in Sing Sing for sodomy and wasn’t released until 1963.

“The legacy of all of this is when we get this turn towards homophobia – 45 to Stonewall or the early 80s – there is this really negative idea that gay life is sad, small, limited, dirty, painful, persecuted. And I think that we have internalized that. Anytime before Stonewall that was what gay life was, when really it was just what gay life was like when gay life was becoming speakable in most of America and was getting its history written,” says Ryan.

“We have this ahistoric idea that what life was like in 1957 was ‘What Life Was Like’ for gay people.

An image from Brooklyn Pride 2015

“Well, it’s not like that now. Today Brooklyn is arguably the epicenter for queer New York culture, vibrant, diverse, out and proud. It’s awesome,” says Ryan. “It’s exciting, it’s more diverse than it’s ever been. More powerful. I think people are paying attention. what happens in Brooklyn sets the tone – and not just in queer culture.”

But is it sustainable? Can we keep the gains we have while we strive for more?

“It’s very hard to tell. There is an amount of retrenchment that happens anytime there is progressive gains. We are always on a pendulum. I worry about that but I do think that some things have changed forever.”

There’s probably no better time for us to relearn Brooklyn’s queer history.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay Sex And Censorship:

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How Gay Spaces Are Being Changed By “Family Friendly” Standards

By Devin Randall

As gay society continues to be accepted into the mainstream, its sexual identity is thinning out.

Gone are the days where a gay man could experience an establishment full of other gay men. Instead, the gay man is losing the place he so greatly needed. Spaces of self-expression where attraction and inclusion were guaranteed.

Now, our gay bars have become mainstream. The place to be. Now, a gay man will enter “the straight man’s gay bar” where female friends will feel comfortable and safe, and straight male friends will complain about having their butts groped.

Of course, some spaces do still exist. The occasional sex shop with a backroom used for unspoken exploration, the remaining bathhouses that pale in comparison to the social hotspots of the past century, and the leather bound clubs stationed in plain sight but covered with a “need to know” front. But these spaces don’t speak for all queer men.

Then there are, of course, gay apps. Apps like Grindr, Blued, and Scruff have become the calling card of gay men. They are the digital spaces where men can converse and, more likely, hunt for their next sexual adventure.

But the distance from our screns has created distance in our hearts. We have devolved into dehumanizing each other in preference of jockstraps and headless torsos. While gay men have always been overtly sexual, this digital age has made us less empathetic than ever before.

And worse of all, even these digital gay spaces are under attack of the mainstream eye. Social media apps like Grindr, Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook are under attack from censorship.

Grindr is fighting a court battle with a man named Matthew Herrick. Herrick’s ex created several fake accounts of him. These accounts then pointed strangers to the man’s home address and place of work. But instead of suing his ex, the man is suing Grindr. He claims the app and company are negligent in monitoring its users.

If found guilty, Grindr’s case could change the face of the tech industry and apps in general. Companies will then increase their monitoring of users in fear of also being sued. While this result might, at first, seem appealing, it ultimately will lead to stricter rules and more oversight on apps.

We’re already seeing how that can be a bad thing with Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Last month, Scruff released an update to its policy on profile pictures. Users are no longer allowed to post pictures of themselves in jockstraps, underwear, or bikini styled swimsuits.

While some may celebrate this change as an effort to humanize and de-sexualize users/the app, the real effort was made to fit in with family friendly standards. Scruff made the change after its app was taken off the Apple app store. They want to appeal to the mainstream program’s regulations and are thus changing this gay space to do it.

Then there’s Tumblr with a very similar story. Tumblr got taken down from the Apple app store because child pornography had slipped through its censors (never mind the fact that the site was riddled with porn bots for years).

To fix this, Tumblr banned all adult content. Their very sloppy way of enforcing this is by flagging any pictures, videos, and gifs that can seemingly appear sexual in nature. If a post or picture includes too many flesh colored pixels, it’s flagged down.

In the process of this NSFW visual crackdown, LGBTQ users have found their accounts and posts flagged for deletion. Some with reason, but many without.

And then there’s Facebook. Ever since the site was used as a tool for influencing US voters, it has been changing its algorithms and policies left and right. Then late last year, the site updated it’s Community Standards Policy.

Now, gay users on the social media app have been flagged and outright banned for sharing LGBTQ content. In this case, even the inclusion of certain words and terms can incite a ban.

It’s not just everyday citizens who are getting banned or flagged for sharing gay content. Gay publications and sites are also feeling the pressure. Perhaps even more.

Due to Facebook’s constant tweaking of its algorithm, posts from gay sites get flagged and are shared less. Facebook will make it so fans and page-likers won’t see posts about gay content. This is partially because they are gay in nature, and partially because Facebook wants to avoid the spread of fake news.

In a business where clicks equal pay, the inability to reach your audience is a punch to the stomach.

But speaking of advertisers, there’s another problem here. Advertisers are pushing for more “family friendly” content from gay sites. That means tweaking the way that gay stories are told and presented.

On top of that, mainstream sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have dedicated separate staff and sections for LGBTQ stories. Some believe that gay sites like Instinct, Queerty, and more will soon disappear. Then, queer citizens will have to go to these mainstream sites to find their news.

Clearly, there’s a change in the air. As gay men become more accepted by the mainstream, we are being forced to work under their restrictions. Our spaces, real and digital, are fading into theirs. Meanwhile, our self-expression and sexual exploration are being pressed down or outright banned in order to fit a global standard.

But here’s the thing, is all of this bad news? Not every gay man finds comfort in the gay sex scene. Once idolizing the gay club and sex scene through shows like Queer as Folk and movies like Not Another Gay Movie, I too have found the gay sex scene to be tiring. As I wrote last year, the hyper sexualized spaces no longer excite me but discomfort me.

It appears that specifically for gay men, this mainstreaming of LGBTQ culture is focused on watering down the heightened sexuality that we’ve indulged in for decades and centuries.

And as much as it’s a shame to lose the clubs and the sexual history, we gay men have evolved beyond it. Even further, we are not beholden to sex.

Gay men can be gold medal winning athletes, business men, singers, actors, politicians, teachers, lawyers, construction workers, drivers, and more. Sex is only one factor of what it means to be a gay man.

It’s a difficult issue, because gay men should fight to maintain our existence, our safe spaces, and our right to sexual expression. But, are we still only defined by our love of sex in dark and secluded spaces?

We are under attack by censorship, and we certainly should fight back. But, our pursuit of happiness is not determined by merely our right to sex but by our right to sex, love, and life.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Having Sex With Women Taught Me About Myself

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By Tanya Compas

Until I was 23, I had only ever slept with cis men and always felt conflicted when it came to sex because on one hand, I love it – like, really love it – but equally I was scared to enjoy it because of the stigma attached to being a sexually active woman. From a young age, a woman’s sexual agency is policed by society and I found myself sleeping with men to validate my femininity – often men who would play upon my insecurities. After some unhealthy relationships with men, at 21 I consciously became celibate to find out what I actually wanted from relationships. At 23, I realised Hey, I think I might like women too.

Soon after, I went on my first date with an androgynous woman I met on Tinder. After a few drinks at a rooftop bar, we hit a club and I ended up in an Uber back to hers. My celibacy came to an end that night. From that moment, the way I viewed myself, my sexuality, my body, my sexual agency and gender changed.

The unwritten rules of dating and sex in the hetero world rob women of their sexual agency; I didn’t realise just how little agency I had over my own sex life until I began dating women. I realised I was either abstaining from sex out of fear of being seen as a ‘hoe’ or having orgasm-less sex because I prioritised a man’s pleasure over my own. I’ve since had to spend a lot of time unpacking and unlearning the toxic behaviour and language I inevitably picked up through my years of heterosexual dating, in order to have healthy relationships with women.

One of the biggest things I have learned since sleeping with women is that there is no shame in being a fluid person. My gender expression is both masculine and feminine. Yet when I was dating men, my femininity became a performance because in my head the man already ‘fulfilled’ the masculine role in the relationship, so I felt like I had to hyper-feminise myself and hide my masculinity. This continued to play out as I dated the first woman I slept with. She was androgynous and masculine presenting, so I found myself once again performing my femininity. Every time I saw her, I’d wear tight dresses and makeup, and during sex I became a ‘pillow princess’ – receiving, never giving pleasure. I’m not going to lie, it was a role I was happy to play because shit, I deserved orgasms after my years of having none

It was weird that having sex with a woman felt natural; it didn’t feel awkward and for once I wasn’t squirming to hide my body. But I was still trying to hide my masculinity. Not because I was told by the girl I was dating that I had to fulfil the feminine role or that she didn’t like to receive pleasure, but I couldn’t shake myself from the heteronormative gender roles or realise that relationships could exist outside of this binary, same sex or otherwise.

Having sex with women has also made me feel comfortable enough to explore sex and the various ways of receiving pleasure, from switching between dominant and submissive roles to different positions and the use of toys. While I’m now a proud owner of a plethora of sex toys, when my ex-girlfriend took me on a surprise date to a sex shop to buy my first toy – a strap – I did a double take, thinking Omg what if somebody sees me? I felt so embarrassed going into the shop; evidently, I still carried so much shame around sex. I was avoiding eye contact with absolutely everybody, while my ex was grabbing dildos, asking me which size and colour I wanted. I was just like, “Fam, I do not know”. She asked a shop assistant for help and I swear at that very moment I wanted the ground to eat me up. Which is ironic because here I am writing a very public article about my sex life. What do we call that? Growth.

As I grew more into my queerness and became more comfortable expressing my fluidity, I began to notice how misogyny, sexism and gendered thinking still exists within the LGBTQ+ community and how the way I presented myself dictated my own experience within the community. Now, as a more masculine presenting person, I have found that some women will assume I am the ‘dominant’ person in bed and adopt the role of the ‘man’. While there are women who are happy to play that role, I’m not one of them. A couple of years ago, a girl I was dating asked me to ‘strap’ her (have sex with a strap-on dildo) the first time we slept together. I had a strap but we’d never spoken about it – I’d only ever used it with my ex-girlfriend and to be honest, she strapped me more than I did her – so this girl must have assumed I had one and that I wanted to take the ‘dominant’ role in bed. Wrong. I like to throw it back, too.

Sex with women has shown me intimacy and reciprocity in ways that I never had with men and has given me levels of body confidence I never knew I could reach. I’ve had my naked body described in ways I’d never imagined; my vulva, which I’ve always been embarrassed about because it doesn’t look like the ‘perfect pussy’ you see in porn, no longer brings me shame.

It sounds really cheesy but I’ve never had my body complimented in the way I have had it complimented by women. My unfiltered naked body, appreciated in ways I didn’t know I deserved. Through seeing the beauty in other women, I was able to see the beauty in myself. Women have shown me compassion, intimacy and acceptance. I am my most vulnerable during sex and have seen my fluidity stripped bare. Without clothes, my fluidity is still valid. I’m now at a point in my life where I’m happily in love with a woman who has both affirmed my fluidity and allowed me to explore what it means to me, without shame.

Through sleeping with women I’ve learned that there is no shame in having sex and we should normalise speaking about it. During sex, you need to communicate. The moment I rid myself of shame, I was able to communicate what I liked in bed, how I liked to be pleasured and importantly, what I wanted from the relationship. Without the need to lie, manipulate or shame. Was it just sex? A one-night stand? A relationship? Communication really is key. The more I communicated what I wanted, the more orgasms I had. Sleeping with women not only gave me my voice; it gave me the orgasms I deserve.

Complete Article HERE!

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The pansexual revolution…

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How sexual fluidity became mainstream

Rigid definitions of sexuality are on the way out, as a younger generation embraces a ‘never say never’ approach to sex and gender

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Nick Meadowcroft-Lunn has a girlfriend, whom he has been seeing for three years. Jezz Palmer has a girlfriend, too, and they have been together for five. You might assume therefore that Nick is straight and Jezz is gay; or, if not, that both must be bisexual. But you would be wrong.

“I always describe my sexuality as: ‘If you’ve got nice hair and pretty eyes, I’m down for it,’” explains Jezz, a 26-year-old editor working in historical publishing. “It’s not that gender doesn’t matter, because it can be important, but it’s a bit of an afterthought. It’s just like: ‘Oh, hello.’” For a while, she wasn’t sure what to call this, but eight years ago she settled on “pansexual” as the closest word. “It took me a while to figure it out. [The TV series] Torchwood was about the only thing I’d heard of. I was talking about maybe being pansexual and someone said: ‘Oh, like Captain Jack in Torchwood.’”

Nick, a 22-year-old physics and philosophy masters student at the University of York, initially thought he was bisexual as a teenager, but also now feels “pansexual” better fits his view that attraction isn’t really about gender. “I just find characteristics generally about people attractive. Pan is simply easier to understand, and much closer to the truth for me. It’s not specific to any gender.” He often explains it, he says, by talking about height: a bi person might find tall guys attractive, and short girls. But he tends to fancy tall people, regardless of whether they are male or female.

Last year, “pansexual” briefly became the online dictionary Merriam-Webster’s most searched word of the day after the singer Janelle Monáe defined herself as a pansexual and “queer-ass motherfucker”. The Panic at the Disco frontman Brendan Urie and the singer Miley Cyrus both also identify as pan, with Urie explaining that, to him, it means: “I really don’t care … If a person is great, then a person is great. I just like good people, if your heart’s in the right place.” The singer Demi Lovato, meanwhile, identifies as “sexually fluid”, or “having a shifting gender preference”, while other labels for being neither exclusively straight nor gay include “heteroflexible” and “questioning”.

For bisexual activists who have long felt erased from the picture, many of these new identities can sound suspiciously like elaborate ways to avoid the word “bisexual”. But Meg-John Barker, psychology lecturer and author of The Psychology of Sex, argues that, while “bisexual” is a useful and widely understood umbrella term for being attracted to more than either gender, labels such as “pansexual” do capture a specific sense that fancying someone isn’t just about gender. And if all this seems confusing, the all-purpose “queer” is increasingly used to mean anything other than plain-vanilla 100% straight, a visibly expanding category.

Pansexual performer Demi Lovato (left) live in Lisbon.

When YouGov asked people to place themselves on a sliding scale where zero equals exclusively straight and six equals exclusively gay, more than a quarter of Britons polled identified as something other than 100% heterosexual. But strikingly, 54% of people aged 18 to 24 did. That arguably makes them the most sexually liberated, least socially repressed group of adults in British history.

Baby boomers saw homosexuality decriminalised, if not destigmatised. Their children grew up with Brookside’s celebrated lesbian kiss and the scrapping of Section 28. But it is their grandchildren who have grown up taking the idea of gay rights almost for granted. “The working assumption is that’s because we have progressed as a society in the last 30 years. We’ve become much more accepting and that’s allowed people to explore their sexuality,” says Paul Twycock of the LGBT rights group Stonewall.

And yet, for all that, heterosexuality is hardly dead yet. According to the Office for National Statistics, 93.2% of Britons still call themselves heterosexual, although that figure is down slightly from 94.4% in 2012. So how did YouGov get its headline-grabbing figures? It changed the question, which turns out to change the answer significantly.

It is well over half a century since Alfred Kinsey, who was himself bisexual, published his conclusion: “Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual … The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats.” His successors are still arguing over whether the godfather of research into human sexuality was broadly right to describe it as a sliding scale with numerous stopping points along the way, or whether that is overly simplistic. But in popularising the idea that same-sex attraction was far more common than acknowledged, Kinsey’s work was a landmark moment for gay rights nonetheless.

When YouGov asked its respondents whether they were straight, gay, bisexual or something else, 89% identified as heterosexual and 6% as gay. But when asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale, that fell to 72% straight and 4% gay. The more choices people are given, the more shades of grey they acknowledge. But does that mean heterosexuality is genuinely rarer than we think, or is sexuality more multifaceted than was previously accepted?

According to one US study, half of male college students and eight out of 10 female ones have fantasised about someone of the same sex. (Evidence is divided on whether women are more sexually fluid than men or just more willing to admit it.) More than a quarter of British 25- to 39-year-olds told YouGov they had had some kind of same-sex experience. But Generation Z are not necessarily having more adventurous sex than anyone else; they are more inclined to what might be called a “never say never” approach, with a quarter of those identifying as straight saying they couldn’t rule out a gay relationship if the right person came along.

“This suggests that being attracted to more than one gender is becoming a majority, not a minority, position,” says Barker. “But wider culture is taking a long time to catch up to that fact, still tending to assume that people are either straight or gay, and presenting non-binary attraction as confused, a phase, or somehow suspicious.” The gradual easing of those assumptions, however, has implications for more than one generation.

Andrea Hewitt has known since her schooldays that she was attracted to girls. But growing up in the US south in the 1970s, she didn’t dare think too hard about what that meant. “I didn’t really know any gay people until I was an adult. I didn’t understand a lot of the feelings I was having, so I put them on a shelf,” she recalls. “It just wasn’t an option. Nobody spoke of it.”

So, she duly got married and had two children; when that marriage broke down, she married again. It was only after her older daughter left for college that she finally plucked up courage to come out as lesbian and ask for a divorce.

Hewitt’s children and her wider family were supportive, but it was, she says, an isolating time. “I Googled ‘coming out’, but it was all geared towards teenagers coming out to their parents, and here I was a 40-year-old woman with two kids. I truly thought I was the only person who had ever done this.” It was only when she started her blog, A Late Life Lesbian Story, that she realised she was very far from alone.

Two years ago, the author Elizabeth Gilbert revealed she had left her husband Jose Nunes – the man she described travelling halfway round the world to meet in her bestseller Eat Pray Love – for a female friend, Rayya Elias. The British retail expert Mary Portas famously fell in love with the fashion writer Melanie Rickey after an amicable divorce from the father of her two children. Hewitt now runs a Facebook group for women coming out in later life with more than 1,100 members worldwide; while some identify as lesbians, others prefer not to define their sexuality or swear they were straight until the moment they fell for a woman. But one common thread, says Hewitt, is having parked their own lives on a back burner while they were raising children. “I’d say a lot of the people in my group have a very similar personality type. We’re mothers, we’re fixers, we’re problem-solvers; we want to focus on everything but ourselves. It isn’t until you have time to do some self-reflection that you go: ‘Wait a minute, what about me?’”

Hewitt, who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her partner Rachel, says she cannot be sure that if she had been born two decades later she would have identified as lesbian from the start. But while some of her Facebook group wish they had had the courage to do so years earlier, she cautions against assuming that the marriages of women who come out later must have been a sham all along. “You can only know what you know when you know it. You can’t go back and judge your past self on thoughts you didn’t have.”

Changing social attitudes are clearly enabling some older people to explore feelings repressed for decades. But coming out in middle age does not necessarily imply a life spent in the closet, according to Barker, who points to the US psychologist Lisa Diamond’s landmark study following 79 non-heterosexual women for 10 years. The women originally identified as either lesbian, bisexual or preferring not to put a label on their sexuality. Over time, two-thirds of their sexual identities shifted, and a third changed more than once; overall the most common identity adopted was “unlabelled”, and more women moved towards identifying as bi or unlabelled than away from it.

Yet, as Hewitt points out, the idea that sexuality can change across the course of a life is threatening for some. “If you allow for the possibility that people can change their sexuality, what’s to say your wife couldn’t do that, or you couldn’t?” Some of the later-life lesbians she knows were asked when they were going to “change back” to being straight, while one of her own friends suggested that perhaps she hadn’t just met the right man yet.

And if it is difficult for seemingly straight people to come out as bi, then it is perhaps even more controversial for gay people to do so. If sexuality really is fluid, then it might logically be expected to flow both ways; yet in practice it is not always easy for members of a historically oppressed group to admit to sleeping with the perceived enemy.

The idea that sexual identity is set in stone has been useful in some ways to the gay community, especially in tackling the offensive idea that homosexuality might somehow be “cured”. Parents struggling to deal with their children coming out are often encouraged to accept that sexual preference is just something we are all born with, as immutable as race or age and just as deserving of protection from discrimination. So, what if it isn’t as fixed as we thought?

In the US, Diamond’s work has been used by campaigners against same-sex marriage, who argue that it shows some gay people can change their minds – even though Diamond has stressed the changes she saw were involuntary and sometimes against the women’s wishes. Meanwhile, even pointing out that having visible bi role models in public life can help teenagers to come to terms with their own bisexuality risks being twisted into an argument that kids are only choosing it because it is fashionable.

But the pressure to argue for gay rights on the grounds of fixed identities has, Barker argues, led to some inconvenient truths being swept under the carpet. “Part of the reason bisexuality and sexual fluidity are so erased and rejected is because they’re seen as muddying the water.” When Antoni Porowski of the TV show Queer Eye, which involves a panel of gay men making over a generally hapless straight one, came out as sexually fluid, he was accused on social media of being a traitor and a fake, despite having been with his boyfriend for seven years.

Kate Harrad is a bi activist and editor of Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain, a collection of essays exploring all forms of bisexuality. One of the recurring themes in the book is, she says, people describing going to an LGB group or bar for the first time “and being rejected by the gay and lesbian people they met because they ‘weren’t really queer’ or ‘hadn’t made a choice yet’ or because they were seen as innately faithful and untrustworthy. Imagine finally getting up the courage to go to a place you think will accept you and instead experiencing hostility or scorn, or disbelief that your sexuality even exists. It’s no wonder bi people have worse mental health than any other orientation.”

Bisexual people are also less likely than gay ones to be out at work, which Harrad argues is not surprising: “Bisexuality is heavily associated with explicit sexuality, for a lot of people even more than gayness is. So people feel entitled to ask weirdly intrusive questions, like how many people you’re sleeping with, or to assume that you’re interested in them sexually.”

That may go double for pansexuals. As Palmer puts it, there is often a knee-jerk assumption that they are all out swinging from chandeliers when “half the time you’re spending Saturday nights watching documentaries in your pyjamas”. When bi or pan people settle into long-term relationships, that can prompt hurtful assumptions that they have either finally “picked a side” or else may secretly hanker after whichever gender they are not currently with. “There’s this whole thing coming from the LGBT community: ‘Oh, you’re dating a girl, you must be gay,’” says Palmer. “But I’ve also had a partner’s parents saying: ‘Aren’t you scared Jezz is going to run off with a man?’ as if you’re always wanting what you can’t have, when it doesn’t really feel that way.”

Yet as Generation Z grow older, and become the dominant cultural influence, their belief that, as Meadowcroft-Lunn puts it, “people have the right to identify however they choose” is only likely to become more mainstream. Could we eventually reach a point where heterosexuality, or at least the uncompromising version at one end of the Kinsey scale, is no longer considered the norm and “coming out” as anything else is practically superfluous? “It’s still true that over 90% of the country identifies as straight, so I don’t want to overstate this,” says Harrad. “It’s more that awareness-raising is a virtuous circle – the more you know about minority sexualities and the more people you meet who identify as one of them, the less it feels like a big deal. And in an ideal world, why wouldn’t it be?”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Sexy, Secret History of Leather Fetish Fashion

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From post-war motorcycle groups to modern-day sex apps, this is the story of how leather became a symbol of masculinity and sexuality

By Louis Staples

This article is part of a series on AnotherManmag.com that coincides with LGBT History Month, shining a light on different facets of queer culture. Head here for more.

“When I’m wearing my leathers, I like the way I get to be such a symbol, a trope, of masculinity and sexuality,” explains Max, a 38-year-old gay man from London. Max is a “leatherman” or “leatherdaddy”, two common descriptors for gay and bisexual men who fetishise leather clothes and accessories.

“Fetish fashion” is the term used to describe the intrinsic link between clothing and sexual fetishes, with materials like leather, lace, latex, and rubber holding particular prominence. Dr Frenchy Lunning, author of the 2013 book Fetish Style, writes that fashion has historically been the easiest way to “traverse” from one spectrum of fetish to the other. Lunning gauges that, in the history of fetish fashion, there have been two climaxes – no pun intended – with the first occurring between 1870 and 1900. “The Victorians went crazy over silk and velvet,” writes Pat Califia, author of Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. “As quickly as new substances were manufactured, somebody eroticised them.”

When fetishwear resurged for its second peak a century later, between 1970 and 2000, leather was the material of choice. On the gay scene, an infatuation with leather was alive and well as early as the 1950s. Today, leather fetishwear is worn by leathermen like Max in sex clubs, parties, Pride parades and hook-ups, but some incorporate leather into their everyday lives, too. Common clothes and accessories include leather trousers, boots, jackets, gloves, ties and caps, with harnesses, masks and jockstraps more often worn during sexual encounters.

While leather fetishwear is not exclusively queer, there is a widely acknowledged parallel between the increased visibility of gay and lesbian identities and leather-based fetishes in contemporary culture. Recon – a fetish app for gay and bisexual men – allows leather wearers to connect with others and follow a year-round calendar of global events such as “London Fetish Week” and “Leather Prides” in cities from Los Angeles to Belgium. Paul, a 34-year-old Recon user, tells me that he equates leather with “power, strength and dominance”. He doubts that he could be with someone “vanilla” – a term for someone who doesn’t have any fetishes. “There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity,” he says. Max, who was first drawn towards leather five years ago, also associates it with manhood. “It’s just so fucking masculine,” he explains. “The more masculine I’ve become over time, the more I’ve been into it. When I wear leathers, it feels like my exterior is reflecting my interior. It’s weighty too: the opposite of something light, diaphanous and feminine.”

“There’s nothing hotter than the feeling of leather on my skin, it’s peak masculinity” – Paul, 34

These remarks reveal leather fetish fashion’s significance to masculine gay identities, particularly those relating to sadomasochistic (S&M) sexual practices. In Hal Fischer’s seminal photography book Gay Semiotics, which analyses coded gay fashion signifiers in 1970s San Francisco, leather accessories like caps were indicators that the wearer was interested in sadomasochistic sex. Lesbians also adopted leather and, nowadays, female sex workers and dominatrixes often wear the material. Though, traditionally, the gay leather scene centres on “dominant” men wishing to “own”, or exert control over, a “submissive” male partner.

Sociologist Meredith G. F. Worthen, author of Sexual Deviance and Society, writes that the leather community first emerged after the Second World War, when military servicemen had difficulty assimilating back into mainstream society. For many of these men, their military service had allowed them to explore homosexual desire for the first time. When the war ended, a void was left by the absence of homosexual sex and same-sex friendships. Instead, many found sanctuary in motorcycle communities where leather clothing was popular. The men who rode these bikes were icons of cultural masculinity, conjuring up an image of dangerous rebelliousness that was alluring to many gay men who were weary of seeing themselves depicted as effeminate pansies. Peter Hennen, author of Faeries, Bears and Leathermen, believes that this caused gay men to “invest in leather with a certain erotic power intimately tied to the way it signalled masculinity.” Queer cultural historian Daniel Harris suggests that the “raw masculinity” that leather evokes “shaped a new form of masculinised gay identity among leathermen.”

Leather’s military routes, combined with its significance in hierarchy-driven male social groups, are thought to be behind its importance to sexual practices like S&M, which centre on order, discipline and control. Yet outside the leather fetish scene, artist Andy Warhol famously used garments such as the leather jacket as a device to appear more masculine from the 1950s to 1960s. Transforming his personal style, Warhol sought to present a more macho, aloof persona to the heterosexual male-dominated New York art establishment.

“Tom of Finland ‘set the standard’ for the ‘quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock’”

Max tells me that cultural imagery, such as “Tom of Finland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Marlon Brando and James Dean” contributes to his love for leather. Finnish artist Touko Valio Laaksonen, commonly known as Tom of Finland, is behind leather’s signature homoerotic aesthetic. According to feminist studies professor Jennifer Tyburczy, Finland “set the standard” for the “quintessential leatherman replete with bulging chest, thighs and cock.” By depicting working-class men like construction workers, bikers and lumberjacks, Finland allowed gay men to feel masculine and strong while maintaining their interest in those of the same sex. His images are the antithesis of the effeminate gay stereotype that was widely circulated at the time, bringing connotations of hyper-masculinity, strength and, of course, sex to black leather. After being circulated in physique magazines such as Physical Pictorial throughout the 1950s, his work quickly became emblematic of the gay fetish community.

Following the popularity of leather in the queer sanctuary cities on America’s coasts, international travel increased its global appeal, with leather kink scenes developing in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and parts of Scandinavia. Imitations of Finland’s images became the customary advertisement of fetish events in these places, which were often disguised as motor sport or biking clubs. For the first time, Finland’s reclamation of masculine imagery provided gay men with what communications professor Martti Lahti describes as an “empowering and affirmative” gay image.

Though after years of resurgence, the leather fetish scene is facing challenges. Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers. Lesbian leather wearers, who have traditionally operated their BDSM club scene separately, have been most harshly impacted by club closures as most gay leather nights purposely ban women from entering. With a full outfit of leathers costing several thousand pounds, it is little wonder that younger kinksters are turning to cheaper alternatives like rubber or sportswear to fulfil their fetish needs.

“Rising rents and gentrification in the world’s queer-friendly cities have caused most clubs to shut their doors. Fetish apps and websites now mean that attending a leather event is not necessary to connect with leather admirers”

The extended rights and freedoms won by queer people in recent decades have also resulted in pressure from wider heterosexual-focussed society to assimilate to their norms. Queer historian Lisa Duggan has described how the pressure to comply with what she calls “neoliberal” aims has resulted in a “depoliticised” and “desexualised” gay identity revolving around “domesticity” and heteronormative institutions like marriage. This gay identity can be exclusionary to those that fall outside its “acceptable” norms.

As the visibility of “vanilla” gayness has extended, heterosexual kink aesthetics have moved further into the mainstream, ushered in by pop moments like Madonna’s Justify My Love, Rhianna’s Disturbia and Christina Aguilera’s Bionic era, plus books such as 50 Shades of Grey. Reality star Kylie Jenner even graced the cover of Interview magazine dressed as a “sex doll”, clad entirely in skin-tight black latex. Though despite figure skater Adam Rippon wearing a leather harness once on the red carpet and the occasional performance costume from Jake Shears, the Village People’s Tom of Finland-inspired outfits and Robert Mapplethorpe’s extremely explicit photographs – both almost 40 years old – remain gay fetish fashion’s most visible representations.

With visible mainstream gay identities remaining “desexualised”, the false link between kink, sexual deviance, immorality and even criminality – a trope peddled for decades to depict gay men as “socially wrong” or “sick” – still lingers, even within the LGBTQ+ community. Andrew Cooper, author of Changing Gay Male Identities, suggests that overt sexuality has become less important to gay identities since the AIDS crisis, when sex – and communities like the leather scene that revolve around sex – became associated with death and shame. In Beneath the Skins, a book that analyses the politics of kink, Ivo Dominguez Jr writes that, as gay identities and attitudes become more sanitised, “leatherphobia” remains a significant barrier. Dominguez suggests that those who practice leather are seen by the wider LGBTQ+ community as “poor relatives they wish to hide” or an “albatross around their public relations neck”.

Yet the leather scene could certainly be more inclusive itself. In addition to its exclusion of women, it is overwhelmingly white. When combined with the fact that elements of the leatherman aesthetic have been co-opted by various sub-fetishes and groups that eroticise white supremacist roleplay and Nazi iconography, this paints a particularly objectionable picture. Then there’s the fact that much of the hyper-masculine culture that surrounds leather promotes the idea that feminine men are inferior. Society’s ever-evolving understanding of the effects of entrenched, socially-constructed gender binaries and toxic masculinity has undoubtedly reduced its appeal further.

However, despite its current challenges, the history of leather fetish fashion is as fascinating as the black cowhide is transformative to those who lust over it. Leather can conjure solidarity among those who feel alienated, while acting as a symbol of sexual liberation. Its history tells a nuanced, important story of just how integral fashion can become to communities and subcultures. To its devotees, it represents more than mere aesthetics or the leather-clad bikers of the past. To them, leather fetish fashion is a way of life.

Complete Article HERE!

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A lesson on consent

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The difference between writing and BDSM is… kind of a lot

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Despite living mere blocks from a sex shop, I’d never been inside. Until one sweltering evening this past summer, when my writer friend, Elle, invited me to a “Scene Building 101” class hosted by Pleasures & Treasures (2525 University Ave.).

It sounds like a writing class, we joked. Let’s go learn a thing or two! 

But, no, it was not a writing class. This was a BDSM class. “Scenes” and “play” are what we plebes lump into the cliché umbrella of roleplaying, but to the BDSM community this sort of thing is fundamental.

Scene Building 101, taught by Bikkja Amy, is considered a “soft skills” class. Hard skills, on the other hand, are things like spanking and mummification. (I’ll save you the private browser googling session: Mummification is wrapping your sub entirely in plastic wrap for an escape scene or for sensory deprivation.)

Elle, it turned out, had been to a Pleasures & Treasures class before (FYI it was a hard skills class). I learned this as we went around the room for introductions. Everyone was asked to identify themselves as a top, a bottom or a “switch,” and whether it was our first time at a class. It was hard for me to focus on everything I had just discovered about Elle, but I was up next.

“I’m Julia. I’m–” Oh god. I didn’t want to out myself as a nothing, nor did I want to pretend. I also didn’t want to out myself as a writer because it felt just as incriminating to either be a journalist or a wannabe BDSM novelist who was there to gather material.

For the love of God don’t say, “I’m a writer,” I thought.

“Just say you’re a switch,” Elle whispered.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

The class was primarily structured around where to find new ideas, and how to start and configure a “play date.” Seated in folding chairs in a circle, it was less instruction and more of a brag-adjacent discussion. I wrote in my notes, I think this class could really benefit from narrative and character elements!

I also wrote down some of the zingers: “I saw someone with a fishnet outfit and people cutting it off with a knife. And I was like, gonna try that!” one woman said. “I like to light people on fire and throw them in the pool,” someone else said.

As the class progressed, I was so busy marveling at the sheer variety of previously unfathomable BDSM kinks that I almost didn’t notice the bulletproof lesson on consent rippling quietly beneath the surface. 

Everyone here had braved a stuffy evening discussing pervy stuff with near-strangers to master the “ask,” and to learn how to lay groundwork. Scene building in the BDSM community is not about developing relatable characters with a full narrative arc ahead of them. It’s laying out expectations, boundaries and, most importantly, consent.

“If I didn’t mention it [beforehand], those things are off the table. It is the stupidest thing on the planet to say you have no limits,” the instructor explained.

A woman spoke up, in a weirdly chill voice: “So, I’m a masochist? And I don’t want to top from the bottom.” Her concern was that spelling out her boundaries ahead of time can sometimes feel like “topping,” but the instructor was steadfast. Set the boundaries and exchange consent, all the time, and every time, they told us. Find creative ways to do it, but definitely do it.

It wasn’t the place I expected to hear such a clear message on something so wholesomely universal. I think I found my kink.

Complete Article HERE!

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How this polyamorous couple makes their marriage work

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‘Just because it doesn’t look or sound ‘normal,’ doesn’t mean that it can’t be wildly beautiful’

Bryde MacLean and Jeremie Saunders, a married polyamorous couple, talk candidly about sex and relationships on their podcast Turn Me On.

Bryde MacLean and Jeremie Saunders have talked about sex and relationships more than most couples.

That’s partly because they co-host Turn Me On, a podcast they describe as “a no-holds-barred conversation about what it is to be a sexual being in the world.”

It’s also because they’re a married, polyamorous couple, and in the last few years they’ve been navigating the rocky terrain that comes with opening up a committed relationship. Polyamory is a form of non-monogamy in which individuals form intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved.

Today MacLean has a long-term boyfriend. Saunders has a long-term girlfriend and casually dates other people.

“Together the four of us have a very platonic and supportive relationship,” said Saunders.

He recognizes that their marriage is not a conventional one.

“I also feel like it’s important to remind people that just because it doesn’t look or sound ‘normal,’ or doesn’t fit inside a particular box that that you’re used to, doesn’t mean that it can’t be wildly beautiful and work really well, and be super valuable to the people involved.”

Here are some of things that have helped keep their marriage on track.

Put it on paper

Bryde MacLean: “[Before opening up our marriage] we wrote up a contract [which is on our website] in as much detail as we could about all the potential concerns we had. Don’t talk about our problems with other people, don’t criticize each other with other people, have lots of respect and no sleep-overs… We pretty much reviewed and edited that, almost every day, if not once a week, for the least the first six months to a year. It really helped us define what we were doing as we went.”

Be trustworthy

Bryde MacLean: “I remember the first time Jeremie told me that he was in love with somebody else. That was really, really challenging. After a couple of weeks of them hanging out a lot, I had to ask him, to ask them both, if they could take it a little slower, if they could limit the number of days per week … Neither one of them wanted to do that, because you’re in the the energy of a new relationship and it’s exciting … But they did and it was really respectful. It’s really important to be trustworthy.”

Work together

Jeremie Saunders: “It was always an experience that we were doing together, not separately, even though we are separately seeing other people, we’re doing this as a team.”

Choose your path

Bryde MacLean: “It doesn’t have to be … one path fits all. And if you choose monogamy, that’s fantastic. You’ve just got to choose it. If it’s something that you just fall into, because that’s all you’ve ever been taught, then you might feel like something’s wrong with you if it’s not working. It’s just important to recognize that there are there are other choices and they don’t have to threaten one another.”

Family matters

Jeremie: “My parents are super cool and they’ve always been very supportive. We struck gold with the people we’ve chosen to surround ourselves with, because they’ve all been extraordinarily supportive and understanding and excited for us.”

Bryde MacLean: “In Jeremie’s family, Bekah (his girlfriend) and I will both be over for Christmas and birthdays… That evolution has been really nice.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why are we so coy about sex education for gay teens?

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For novelist Lev Rosen, school sex ed involved putting condoms on fruit. We need to be much more creative – and fun, he argues

By Lev Rosen

When I was 13 years old, when I knew I was queer but wouldn’t be saying so for a year, I remember some boys at school during lunch talking about gay sex. They called it “gross”, they laughed about it. That’s what I heard from my peers about the topic. I heard nothing from my teachers; I wasn’t about to ask my parents; and the gay people on TV never did more than peck each other on the lips.

Sex education for teens is one of those topics we tend to dance around. No one wants to talk to them about sex. It sounds pervy to tell kids how to have sex – as if you’re ruining their innocence or, worse, grooming them. I don’t know what your sex education was like, but I remember mine: it was putting condoms on bananas.

Fun fact about bananas: they’re all genetically identical. Every banana you’ve eaten is the same as every other banana you’ve eaten. And many of the sex-education classes taught today are exactly the same as the one I attended more than a decade ago. Condoms on bananas, STDs, reproduction – no talk of pleasure or consent, much less gay sex.

So, I wrote a novel for teens that features guides to oral sex, anal sex, and basic BDSM. I didn’t do this just so people had someone new to send hate mail to; I did it because teens have heard all this already from TV, playground talk, and online porn. Even sheltered teens already have some idea about how sex works; pretending they don’t isn’t going to help anyone. And while not all of them want to try these things, those who do, need to know how to do it safely, and with consent. Instead, they learn all of that from the media.

In most media aimed at teens, queer men tend to be sweet and sexless. You’ve seen or read the gay best friend character who talks about how hot guys are but never touches one. Or you’ve experienced mainstream gay romance – with gentle kissing, hand-holding, maybe a hug (fully clothed). Even when they get to say what they want, these boys on TV or in film rarely long for more than a kiss and a cuddle. We never see the mimed, under-the-covers sexy-and-shirtless making-out that our straight peers are treated to. Straight teens get to have sex on TV. Gay ones, not so much.

There’s this thing I call the glass closet: the idea that liberal-minded, well-meaning folks who genuinely don’t think they have a problem with queer people tend to confine them to a rigid definition of “good” queerness. For women, this means not going too butch, usually. For men, it means not going too femme, and also, not being too slutty. “I love gay people, but do they have to be so in-your-face about it?”; “I love gay people – but not being ‘too gay’, OK guys?”

And gay sex? That’s way too gay.

Society likes to keep gay teens sexless. It likes to maintain that gay content (even something non-sexual, like the representation of gay parents) is inappropriate for children’s TV or books. Those who complain say it’s too adult – implying that queerness, essentially, is all about sex, while straightness is just what a normal relationship looks like. It’s a weird dichotomy: straight people holding hands are non-sexual, while queer people holding hands is somehow the same as broadcasting pornography. The message is clear across all media: gays have to be kept sexless because they’re already too much about sex.

And so, if all the gay teenagers on our screens are portrayed as “good” gays, kept safely in the confines of the glass closet, and sex-ed doesn’t discuss more than bananas and STDs, then real queer teens turn to the one place they can see their desires: porn.

If you haven’t seen any gay (male) porn, let me describe most of it: everything is clean and polished (yes, even most of the dirty stuff). Everyone has lots of vocal fun. No one ever flags until they finish.

Of course, porn is fantasy, and the men in these videos do massive prep for these scenes. It looks much easier than it is – that’s half the fantasy. And as fantasy, it’s fine. But as a primary source of education, gay porn leaves young queer men with an idealised, routine set of acts that suggest a (wrongly) regimented set of requirements for “real” queer sex. Standardised sexual imagery, it turns out, is just bananas with abs.

I’ve also spoken to queer women about their sexual education. They didn’t always go to porn for their sex-ed, but they didn’t find it at school or home either. Those who did look for it in porn had the additional problem that the fantasy being presented wasn’t even being presented for them.

“Many young women will encounter lesbian sex through mainstream porn,” says Allison Moon, sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101. “This means everyone, not only girls, can get some very wrong ideas about lesbian sex, because the lesbian sex in mainstream porn is designed for male visual pleasure. So queer women have to navigate male sexuality whether or not it interests them.”

And that leaves queer teens in sex-education classes in an awkward place. Straight teens can ask about things they’ve seen on TV, they can apply condoms-on-bananas to what they learn from the media, and come away with a basic framework of sex. Queer teens can only turn to porn.

The good news is that, in some places, things are changing. When I contacted my old high school to find out how the condom bananas were going, I spoke to the director of health and wellness about how the sex-education curriculum has changed, and how it’s about to change even further.

“We can do better, and we’re on the cusp,” she told me, before going into future plans: a curriculum that covers the usual safe-sex issues, but also talks about consent, healthy relationships, porn literacy and queer sex. I was thrilled to hear it. I may have even become a little teary, thinking about a class of young queer people who get a real sexual education that applies to them.

But not every school does this. And they need to, because queer people are everywhere. We’ve made strides in acceptance, but today I still see gay men in their 20s and 30s online saying they don’t know how things work. I get emails from men saying my book taught them things they wish they had learned as a teen. Teens today tell me that it’s so nice to hear someone talk about gay teens having sex, about how they feel, as though, even if they’re out, they’re still not allowed to act on their desires – or are unsure how.

Right now, teenagers’ choices for learning are two extremes (the “good gay” or the “bad gay”) – neither of which is helpful. Either way, these teens end up feeling as if they’ve done something wrong. And we can fix that so easily. Just start talking about it, teaching it. We do it with straight sex. We can fix this the way we can fix most things in life: just gay it up.

What gay teens should watch and read

Another Gay Movie (2006) A raunchy teen sex comedy about four gay guys trying to lose their virginity before graduating. There are gross sex gags, some nudity, and the pressure to lose one’s virginity is problematic, but if you wanted a queer male version of the American Pie movies (or the more recent Blockers), this is it.

I Killed My Mother (2009) A French-Canadian film that features young gay men having fun, sexy sex without being porn – like many of the straight teens you see on TV today.

Release, by Patrick Ness There are plenty of graphic, but beautifully wrought sex scenes in this book about a queer teen trying to find some freedom for himself in a small American town and with his deeply religious family.

Under The Lights, by Dahlia Adler This fun romp on the set of a Hollywood television show has explicit lesbian sex behind the scenes, as the character deals with who she’s playing on TV, and who she is when she’s with her publicist’s daughter.

Princess Cyd (2017) In this quiet and beautiful film about a teen girl (Cyd) spending the summer with her aunt, there’s one great scene between Cyd and Katie, who is a “little bit boy” (and played by a non-binary actor). It’s exactly the sort of sex we should be seeing everywhere.

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by LC Rosen is published in paperback by Penguin on 7 February at £7.99.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why So Many People Ignore LGBTQ Dating Violence

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These people shared their experiences.

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Talking about dating violence is complicated, particularly when it can take many different forms, some far more subtle than others. When we think about domestic or relationship abuse, we often think of physical violence. That’s certainly one component, but it’s not the only one. We tend not to think about other symptoms of abuse, like the debilitating impact of gaslighting, constant check-ups, and financial control. Misunderstandings surrounding abuse and the ways it can manifest means that it can be difficult for the person being abused to identify it when it’s happening, but it’s sometimes harder when these abusive behaviors are taking place within an LGBTQ person’s relationship.

In 2012, a Stonewall report found that one in four lesbian– and bisexual-identifying women experienced domestic abuse in a relationship, two thirds of which say the perpetrator was a woman. It also stated that nearly half of all gay and bisexual men have experienced “at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.” Published research focused on the experiences of trans and non-binary people remains extremely limited, however, in 2010, findings from the Scottish Transgender Alliance indicated that 80% of trans people have experienced “emotionally, sexually, or physically abusive behavior by a partner or ex-partner.” Despite these staggering figures, misconceptions surrounding queer people in relationships persist, including the myth that abuse doesn’t exist in relationships in which both people identify as LGBTQ.

Galop, a leading LGBT+ anti-violence charity in the U.K., notes that stereotypes also include ideas that “abuse in same-sex relationships is not as serious as heterosexual abuse,” “women cannot perpetrate violence,” and “sexual abuse doesn’t happen in same-sex relationships; a woman cannot rape another woman and men cannot be raped.” With this kind of prevalent misinformation, it’s no wonder that someone in an abusive queer relationship may feel unable to talk about the harm they could be experiencing.

Michelle*, a black, lesbian, cisgender woman, was with her ex-partner for two years and says she experienced physical and emotional abuse. She felt unable to disclose the violence taking place with friends and family, particularly because of the way she presents and how it could be perceived by others.

“As a 5’6” masculine-presenting woman dating a 4’11” feminine-presenting woman, I was always very vague when explaining the issues that I had in my relationship,” Michelle tells Teen Vogue. “Being masculine-presenting, I sometimes felt that I was supposed to be her protector, despite the fact that she was physically stronger than me.”

Additionally, Michelle, like many other black women in abusive relationships, faced a host of unique problems. According to Domestic Shelters, “Black women experience domestic violence at rates 30-50% higher than white women,” yet are often deterred from reporting or speaking about the abuse due to fears of adhering to stereotypes, such as the “strong black woman” narrative and not wanting to engage with police.

Oftentimes abuse can be characterized as just another rough patch in a relationship, making it difficult to determine certain behaviors as harmful or violent. This is further heightened when much of the information and resources around abuse relates to the experiences of cisgender, heterosexual women. David*, a white, gay, cisgender man, says he experienced emotional and mental abuse from his former partner who would purposefully ignore him and isolate him from other people. It wasn’t long before his former partner kicked him out of his home after accusing David of making arrangements to sleep with other men. Maya*, a black, queer woman, says she was financially and emotionally abused by her ex-partner who would manipulate her into giving her money, but then would make Maya feel that it was her fault for being bad with her finances. Naomi*, a queer, cisgender, mixed-race woman, says she didn’t realize that she was in an abusive relationship until she started directly working in domestic violence services. She thought that her experiences didn’t count as abuse because, she says, she “was never physically hit or strangled,” despite being spat on, having her possessions taken away if she didn’t act in an amenable way, and being threatened with rape. All three interviewees expressed that they weren’t aware they were experiencing abuse or that they had never known that such abuse was possible.

The assumptions made about LGBTQ relationships might act as another barrier to reporting abuse. Sadie*, a queer, black, cisgender woman, found people she told of her abuse to be dismissive: “Other people didn’t view my abuse as authentic because it came from another woman. They thought I should be able to overpower her or fight back.” Galop notes that the idea that abuse is about strength is another common misconception; according to the report, the reality is that abuse is about gaining power and control over another person, regardless of age, size, appearance, or any other physical factor.

Another unique form of abuse used against people who identify as LGBTQ is using their sexuality or identity against them in order to isolate and deter them. Domestic Violence London notes that women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, and queer can be threatened with being “outed” and having their sexual orientation or gender identity disclosed without their consent, or criticized for not being a “real” lesbian or bisexual woman if they’ve have had a previous heterosexual relationship.

Ruby*, a bisexual, non-binary/questioning woman, says she was in an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship with a man for three years. She says she often felt isolated and without community in the straight world and in LGBTQ spaces. “I think my ex could sense my vulnerability and saw that as an opportunity to abuse. I actually started [identifying] as bisexual during the period of time I was with my abusive ex, and it was something he used against me to increase my isolation,” Ruby says. “I couldn’t be friends with anyone of any gender, as I might cheat. He also sexualized my identity which [was] very difficult [for me] when it was something I was really struggling to express and understand.” Even after the relationship ended and people found out Ruby was bisexual and an abuse survivor, they would assume that the trauma had led her to be attracted to women, again leading her to question her identity and feel invalidated.

Rachel*, a mixed-race, cisgender woman who also identifies as bisexual, was in a relationship in which her ex gaslighted her and used physical violence during the relationship. She says she knew that they were not sexually compatible but also believed that she owed him sex for being with her. “I put up with the abuse because he was willing to stay with me, and I needed that because I was insecure. I would cry after we had sex every time. Deep down I knew that I didn’t want to be with him in that way, but I could never put my finger on what made me cry when we were intimate. I later figured out I hated it. I hated sex with a man; I felt so used.”

These stories illustrate that there are so many barriers to seeking help as a queer person in an abusive relationship, many of which point to the fact that some people simply don’t acknowledge that abuse is real between LGBTQ people. All these stigmas can also contribute to LGBTQ people not knowing where to turn if they do want to report abuse, particularly if the victim doesn’t want to disclose their sexuality or gender identity to organizations and agencies like the police, according to Domestic Violence London. End The Fear also notes that such agencies may “misunderstand the situation as a fight between two men or [two] women, rather than a violent intimate relationship, and therefore LGBT people may be discouraged from disclosing if service providers use language which reflects heterosexual assumptions.” The truth is, there is help available if you’re an LGBTQ person in an abusive relationship. Organizations like LGBT Domestic Abuse Partnership, Love Is Respect, the Anti-Violence Project, and many more are here to help you, because as the numbers show, you’re definitely not alone.

Looking back, Ruby says she believes that if more support for bisexual survivors had existed at the time, it would’ve made a big difference. “More awareness of the statistics about intimate partner violence and sexual assault against bisexual people would’ve helped me feel validated in my experiences and confident taking up space as an LGBTQ survivor.”

*All names have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you can call the Loveisrespect hotline at 1-866-331-9474, the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or text ‘loveis’ to 22522. The One Love Foundation also provides more resources, information, and support.

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