The right to say yes, no, maybe

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Lessons from the BDSM community on why consent is not a one-time thing

By Jaya Sharma

[S]he asked for it,” they say. Really? To be groped on the street by strangers when all one is trying to do is have a good time on New Year’s eve? Some years ago, at a sexuality workshop with teachers in Rajasthan that I was conducting while working with a feminist non-governmental organization, one of the men said, “Uski naa mein toh haan hai (When she says no, she actually means yes).” The men sat on one side, and women on the other (not by design), of the big hall at an ashram in Pushkar where the workshop was taking place. One of the women turned around and asked this man, “If a man makes a move on a woman, and if, instead of an initial no, she says yes, what happens? She is instantly labelled a slut.” The discussion concluded with what to me, in my 30 years in the women’s movement, seemed to be a pearl of wisdom: Women have the right to say no only when they have the right to say yes. It makes perfect sense, therefore, to discuss consent in the context of our ability to say yes, precisely at a time when the country around us is rife with conversations, online and offline, on gender-based sexual violence.

There is clearly an urgent need for a fundamental shift in our thinking about consent; about adding “yes” to the existing focus on “no”. We need to recognize that our ability to say “no” and our ability to say “yes” are inextricably linked. And, if I may move full steam ahead, there is also a need to recognize that there is a range of possibilities beyond “yes” and “no” in sexual encounters, which we may not talk about or bring into our struggle against sexual violence, but which exist nonetheless. And only a discussion on consent which acknowledges a woman’s freedom to say yes opens up the space for this.

I’m talking of the space for “maybe”, which allows us to explore, change our minds halfway through, surrender control completely—ways of “doing” consent that are in sync with the nature of our desires. I say “do consent” rather than “give” it, because consent is not a one-time-only thing to be given and never sought again. The most widespread and insidious assumption about consent is that it already exists—it is presumed. Another assumption is that negotiations around consent will kill the intense, spontaneous passion that we feel. If talked about at all, it is considered to be a thing that people are meant to do only before they have sex. “Are you okay with this?” In any case, what is “this”? I suspect it might be the ultimate peno-vaginal penetrative act (one act among thousands, but more often than not, considered a synonym for sex). None of this is necessarily any individual’s fault. In the midst of all these assumptions is the truth that societies, globally, don’t have a culture of talking, teaching, or learning about consent. Let’s move to a better scenario.

I am part of a community that has great expertise on consent—the Bondage Domination Sado-Masochism (BDSM) community. In BDSM, consent is sacrosanct. There are a range of mechanisms to ensure that consent is given and taken proactively and enthusiastically. Although not everyone uses the same mechanisms, these include “hard limits”, which are acts identified beforehand that can never be attempted. “Soft limits” refers to those acts which don’t fall within one’s comfort level, but which one is not entirely averse to trying or experiencing. Then there is of course the safe word, which is a predetermined, typically easy-to-recall word (many friends and I choose “red”) which would instantly and unconditionally end whatever is transpiring. The limits are negotiated beforehand. The process of negotiation can be hot.

Although I always ensure that I have a safe word, I have very rarely used it. Having a safe word gives me tremendous confidence to explore my desires and allow my boundaries to be pushed. The safe word also gives the other person the confidence to push my limits. I am not referring only to pain when I talk of pushing limits, but also to giving up control. In my experience, dominants often stop short of providing the extent of control that submissives desire, because they fear that they might push them too far. In this context, the safe word gives each person the confidence to continue going much further than they otherwise might have. I hope that others would like to try to use the safe word in their sex lives, however kinky it may or may not be.

Other than soft limits, hard limits and safe words, the other useful consent mechanism in my experience is the conversation that happens after the session, talking about how one felt about what happened. Such conversations have really helped me to connect in a deeper way with what turns me on or off, about my triggers and resistances. The honesty, directness and trust that has typified these conversations, even with virtual strangers whom I have played with (we call these BDSM sessions “play”), is precious.

The significance of these mechanisms goes well beyond BDSM. In the Kinky Collective, the group that seeks to raise awareness about BDSM and of which I am part, we share a lot about consent because we believe that everyone can learn and benefit from the ways in which consent is understood and practised in our community. It shows us ways of “doing” consent which are sexy, which help move us out of the embarrassment associated with negotiating consent, which don’t interrupt the flow of desire but, in fact, enable and enhance it. Most importantly, these ways of understanding and giving consent are in sync with the nature of human desire and with our need to explore, give up or take control, and importantly, our need to pursue pleasure, and not only protect ourselves from harm. BDSM shows us that making consent sacrosanct is not only the responsibility of the individual, but of the community. A lesson worth learning from the BDSM community is also that “slut”, whether used for a woman, man or transgender person, can be a word of praise and not a slur. It is not surprising perhaps that a community which enables this space for agency and desire, beyond the constraints of shame, to say “yes”, is also a community which has at its core consent.

Complete Article HERE!

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This is the secret to great sex in a long term relationship, study suggests

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Science may have discovered a way to keep the spark alive long after the initial fireworks have faded

By Liz Connor

Is this the secret to better sex in a long term relationship?
Is this the secret to better sex in a long term relationship?

How do you rekindle the passion and improve your sex life in a marriage or long term relationship after the honeymoon period is over?

While magazine articles might advise candles, hot baths and music, a new study suggests that the answer may lie in the way that you treat your partner.

Psychology professor, Gurit E Birnbaum conducted a series of experiments, setting out to determine the best conditions for a healthy sex life, for both men and women.

The results of the study, which were published in the American Psychological Association Journal, found that the secret to optimum sex is all to do with the way you talk to your partner and respond to their emotional needs.

What women want? A sensitive partner

Birnbaum found that being responsive and empathetic to your partner’s wishes made them more receptive and open to spicing things up in the bedroom.

Researchers conducted three experiments in order to determine the factors that might affect sexual desire.

The first saw 153 couples discuss a positive or negative experience with their partner. Afterwards, they were asked to comment on how compassionate their partner was, and how much they wanted to have sex following the conversation

Following the trial, men’s interest in interest in sex remained the same, whether they were met with empathetic or completely unresponsive remarks from their partner.

However, women reported feeling a “greater desire” when talking to a sensitive partner, rather than an unresponsive one.

Another tip for turning on your SO? Don’t dwell on the depressing anecdotes

The second experiment asked the couples to discuss both positive and negative life experiences with one another, face to face.

The results showed that both men and women experienced heightened sexual attraction to their partner – but only when they were telling a cheerful story.

According to researchers, this may be because moaning about bad life experiences can render a partner less desirable – as you’re more likely to notice their personal weaknesses or stressors.

The most important thing for both sexes? Listen to your partner’s needs

The final experiment saw 100 couples complete a diary of their nights together for six weeks.

They were challenged to write down the quality of their relationship based on how their partner made them feel.

Both genders reported feeling ‘special’ if their partner was compassionate and responsive to their conversation, although the number of women who reported this was far greater than the amount of men.

While women may be more sensitive to their partner’s conversational hospitality, all three experiments concluded that both men and women who felt valued in their relationships had the highest level of desire for their partners.

In short, listening + empathy = sexual chemistry.

Time to put the bubble bath and Barry White on ice and start working on your best listening face…

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Tips for Better Married Sex

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Becoming a sex educator didn’t prepare me for the challenges of married sex, but here’s what I learned along the way.

M:F couple2By Jeana Jorgensen

Around the same time I graduated with a Ph.D. and started to pursue a career as a part-time academic and part-time sex educator, I got married.

I’d heard about how marriage can change a relationship, and I was confident that with my budding sex ed knowledge set and tool kit, I could handle it. After all, I was going to major sex education conferences like Woodhull and AASECT, networking with the stars of our field, voraciously reading books, taking workshops (like the SAR, or Sexual Attitude Reassessment), writing for sites like MySexProfessor and Kinkly, and stuffing as much sexuality knowledge into my head as I could. What could go wrong with this plan?Plenty, as it turns out. I was so focused on acquiring sex facts and tips that I forgot to take into account my own needs, and the needs of my partner, in our marriage. I forgot about how much of a toll major life transitions – and concurrent ones at that – could take on a person’s sex life. Plus, I wasn’t really prepared for how much intertwining my life with another person’s would change how we interacted, which in turn impacted my ideas and expectations around sex. The good news is that we put in the work, and I was able to use my sex ed skills to level up my married sex. Here’s how I did it.

 

Complete Article HERE!

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Does Manspreading Work?

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Participants in a “No Trousers Day” flashmob ride the London Underground in 2012.

A study suggests people find expansive, space-consuming postures more romantically attractive

Manspreading might make you the villain of the morning L train, but a new study suggests it could also make you lucky in love. People who adopted “expansive postures”—widespread limbs and a stretched-out torso—in speed-dating situations garnered more romantic interest than those who folded their arms in “closed postures,” the researchers found.

For her recent paper, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, performed two studies. First, she and her team watched videos of 144 speed-dates and correlated them with the participants’ ratings of each other. People who sat in expanded postures were deemed more attractive, and for both men and women, postural expansiveness nearly doubled their chances of getting a “yes” response to a second date. Even laughing and smiling didn’t work as well as spreading out, Vacharkulksemsuk found.

Examples of expansive postures used in the study
Examples of expansive postures used in the study

Next, Vacharkulksemsuk posted pictures of people in open and closed postures on a dating site. Again, those in the expansive postures were about 25 percent more likely to generate interest from another user. However, this strategy worked much better for men than women. Men, overall, received far fewer bites than women did, but 87 percent of their “yesses” came in response to an open posture. For women, meanwhile, 53 percent of “yes” responses came when they were in an expansive posture.

Examples of contractive postures used in the study
Examples of contractive postures used in the study
In a separate test, Vacharkulksemsuk found that both the male and female “expansive” photos were considered more dominant than the “closed” photos. That dominance might suggest an abundance of resources and a willing to share those resources. When potential romantic partners are evaluating each other for just a few seconds, in other words, money talks—mainly through bodily breadth.

So should you rush to change your Tinder picture to something a little less pouty and a little more Backstreet Boys cira Millennium? Like with almost every study, there are reasons to be skeptical. “Power poses” made a big splash in 2010 when it was found that adopting them could tweak hormone levels—then sparked controversy after a follow-up study failed to replicate the effect.

Several researchers who weren’t involved with the study expressed doubts about its methodology. Agustín Fuentes, a professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, said the findings might be a sign of general social preference for openness, but not necessarily that open-looking poses are sexier. “The connection to mating/dating assessment they suggest is superficial,” he said in an email.

Irving Biederman, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, said some of the “expansive” women might have looked vulnerable, rather than powerful.

To Vacharkulksemsuk, though, the fact that her study subjects rated both the male and female “expansive” photos as dominant—and found that dominance attractive—might signal the start of something very exciting. For decades, women have been told they’re most attractive when they’re demure, high-pitched, and generally non-threatening. This data “may be signifying a change in what men are looking for in women,” she said. Perhaps commuters should brace themselves for the rise of fem-spreading.

Complete Article HERE!

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What’s a mother to do?

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What we have here is an exchange I had with a woman and while I don’t know anything about her, not even her name, I can make some inferences. If I had to guess, she’s in her 40’s. She’s married and has kids.

You must talk to a lot of women in your practice and hear from a lot of women through your advice site. What would you say are the main sexual concerns of women over the age of 40?

Research shows that approximately 40% of women experience sexual problems. But a 2008 study out of Harvard suggests that only a few — 12% — are concerned enough with these issues to do anything about them. I find that not only surprising, but shocking! That suggests to me that sexual wellbeing is not a high priority for a good number of women.  What a bummer!sexual-Frustration

Low libido, diminished arousal, difficulties with orgasm, pain with sex or body image concerns all play a part. A lot of this is directly connected with having an ineffectual partner. I mean, I’d give up sex too if I was consistently frustrated and unfulfilled. But what about masturbation? Are sexually frustrated women seeing to their own needs through self-pleasuring? I don’t see any hard data, you should pardon the pun, on that topic.

We hear a lot about the horny dad and the tired mom, but what do you do if the “roles” are reversed – and dad is tired and mom is horny?

Curiously enough, I hear from way more men these days, who are exhausted, depressed or overweight and who have little or no libido, than I hear from women with the same problems. Sign of the times? You betcha!

But don’t sink to the lowest common denominator. Here’s one of my most popular tutorials, Sex Play — Tips and Techniques.

How can parents find common “ground” when it comes to when they might have sex (as in day of the week or time of day)? Does it always involve compromise? Can our internal clocks ever synch up?

Synching up schedules my not always be the solution. If we wait for that to happen, we could die waiting. The answer might be finding a middle ground. “I may not be up for full on fucking at the moment, but I’ll give you a fantastic hand-job.” Or “I can’t seem to get it up right now, but hand me your vibrator and I’ll send you to heaven!” I’m a huge proponent of mutual masturbation.

Another suggestion might be something like The MoodSign. We reviewed this very clever gismo awhile back. In fact, it was among our Best Products List for 2013. Check it out and see if something like this would help.

If parents are interested in kinking it up, what are some simple, not too scary ways to introduce it into the relationship?

Keep it safe and consensual. Always have a safeword. I developed a workshop called; The Gospel of Kink. I’ve also conveniently packaged this workshop into a workbook with the same title. You can find the book HERE!

GOK small cover

Both the workshop and book are designed to help people, like you, develop the skills they need to effectively communicate with one another and improve their problem solving skills. The workshop and book, as the title suggests, are specifically geared toward folks in kinky, BDSM, and alt-culture relationships, but even vanilla couples will find what I present very helpful.

Bondage games are always fun. And you don’t need anything beyond what you already have in your closets — silk scarves, belts, shoe strings, etc.

Nipple clamps, playing with sensations like ice cubes and hot wax, hair pulling, making use of blindfolds and gags

Discipline/Spanking is always fun too — a ruler, a hairbrush, a wooden spoon, a belt, rubber bands. See my tutorial: Spank Me, Daddy.

Role play is always a delight. Don’t forget about phone sex.

There are tons of instructional videos at Dr Dick’s How To Video Library.

I always suggest that couples read erotica aloud to each other. That never fails to get one’s motor purring.

I’d also love to talk with you about the taboo of sex, particularly with the parenting set, and how parents, moms, and dads, can work to break stereotypes without feeling like a sexual “deviant.”

Really? What would be so wrong about being a deviant?

Good luck

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Early Summer 2014 Q&A Show— Podcast #423 — 06/30/14

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[Look for the podcast play button below.]

Hey sex fans,

My inbox is overflowing, so it’s time to turn our attention to the sexually worrisome in our audience. I have another swell sweet crackQ&A show in store for you today. Each of my correspondents is eager to share his or her sex and relationship concerns with us. And I will do my level best to make my responses informative, enriching and maybe even a little entertaining.

  • Bluetail Man ain’t gettin’ any at home so he’s thinkin’ about takin’ his needs elsewhere.
  • Mike is saddled with a meth monkey and we have an exchange about that.
  • Hanson is into pain; he wants to know if that’s normal. He and I have an exchange about that.
  • Ted wants his GF to give up her booty; she doesn’t want to.  We have an exchange about that
  • Sean is afraid his kinks will get him in trouble. He and I have an exchange about that.
  • Anonymous is filled with fear, rage, and lust.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Sex Advice and Dr Dick’s Sex Toy Reviews.

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

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Touchy Little Bugger

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Name: Lilla
Gender: Female
Age: 27
Location: Evansville, IN
My BF and I have been together for a three years. We have a great sex life together…or we did. Recently he asked me if I would be interested in some anal play — me inserting something in his butt. I thought ok; lets give it a try. After some fumbling around the first time, (I was very self-conscious) I really got into it. It was very empowering. I never imagined how different it is inserting a dildo into someone as opposed to being inserted into, if ya know what I mean.
We were both having such a good time and I could see that he was totally turned on by the play.
After one of these very fun sessions I made an off-handed comment that all the butt play was going to make him gay. This innocent remark had an immediate and devastating effect on him. It was as if I had slapped him in the face. He stormed out of the room and sulked all the rest of the day. I told him I was just a joking. But he didn’t believe me and now there’s no butt play at all. In fact, there’s not much sex between us anymore.
I really screwed up, I know. I had no idea he would react this way. Is there anything I can do to redeem myself? I feel absolutely dreadful.

Wow, touchy little bugger, isn’t he? What we have here is some unresolved masculinity issues on the part of your novice butt-pirate BF. Too bad he’s cutting his nose off to spite his face instead of dealing with his issues in an up front way.

And just to put your mind to rest, Lilla, this implosion was bound to happen sooner or later. I know you feel bad about triggering it, but it’s not really your fault.

In his defense, we can chalk up your BF’s regrettable response to you poking (no pun intended) fun as the result of a lifetime of homophobic conditioning. One can only guess at the virulent anti-gay messages he’s received throughout his lifetime there in one of the reddest of red states. I think we can all agree that Evansville, Indiana is no San Francisco, California.ShameHands

All us men, including all us gay men, have some vestiges of homophobia inside us. And some have a whole lot. It’s regrettable, but that don’t make it any less true. This fear we all carry around inside of us can turn us inside out. It can get in the way of us accepting and loving ourselves for who we are, if we are indeed gay. And this fear can lead us to all kinds of destructive antisocial behavior against others if we are straight.

I’d be willing to guess your BF is the kind of guy that tells fag jokes and laughs loudest when he hears the same. I’d be willing to guess your BF is the kind of guy that raises an eyebrow (and possibly even a fist) when he encounters an effeminate man. I’d be willing to guess your BF is the kind of guy that over-compensates for even the slightest perceived feminine tendency within himself. I’d be willing to guess your BF is the kind of guy that has a very structured and uniform notion of what a woman’s place in society should be.

stubbornI added this last one, because I’m convinced that the root of all homophobia is actually a fear and hatred of women. In the worldview of most men, masculinity is privileged, making it superior femininity. To these men, it’s an affront to their world order to see any another man behave in a less than masculine way, even if that behavior is in the privacy of his own bedroom. This strict sex-role stereotyping has them in a strangle hold, choking all the joy and pleasure from their lives.

One can only imagine the massive internal conflict your BF must have struggled with before he asked you to bugger him. Imagine his chagrin when the only person in the whole wild world he’s ever opened up to about this mortifying desire of his; turned around and make a joke about it…and a fag joke on top of it.

I know, I know, you didn’t mean it to be a fag joke, but it was one nonetheless; at least in his mind. Your harmless little comment went to the heart of his insecurities. He had been found out, as it were, and the tables turned on him. And all he was left with was his shame. How enormously sad!

Can I tell you a story? Early in my therapeutic career I had a couple come to see me for marriage counseling. They were a pretty conservative heterosexual couple with two preteen children. They were both prim and proper and neither one had so much as a hair out of place. Can you say: buttoned down?homophobia2

When I got around to asking them to tell me what was wrong, the wife broke into sobs. She couldn’t talk. I thought to myself, “this is gonna be juicy.” The husband hung his head in shame and began to spill the beans. After 10 years of marriage he finally got up the courage to ask the little woman for some oral sex. Apparently she was mortified at the suggestion. Good girls don’t do that! It took another two years of supplication before she finally relented and gave him his one and only blowjob.

I was spellbound as he recounted the fateful night that he finally got his wish. His wife, on the other hand, was completely beside herself, holding her face in her hands. With a little prompting from me, the husband continued his story. The blowjob started out very tentatively. The little woman was doing all she could to suppress her natural inclination not to gag as she got closer to his johnson. But then she finally relented. And, after all those years of patiently waiting and fantasizing about this moment, she took a deep breath and wrapped her lips around the head of his dick.

He was so overjoyed and completely lost in the moment when somehow he let pass from his lips, the unfortunate word — cocksucker — in reference to the mother of his children down there between his legs smokin’ his pole. Where this word came from; he couldn’t say. It wasn’t a word he could ever remember consciously using before in his life. But there it was on that night of nights. And that, dear Lilla, was all she wrote. Before the husband knew what was happening, his wife spat out his boner with a yelp and fled to the bathroom to wash out her mouth with soap.

From that night to weeks later when they found themselves in my company, not only were there no more blowjobs, but no nookie whatsoever.

It took us weeks and weeks to uncover the root of the wife’s aversion to oral sex — giving or receiving. An unhappy childhood, an abusive father, catholic guilt, countless messages about sex being dirty, low self-esteem and her being pre-orgasmic all fueled her disconnect with sex in general and oral sex in particular. This coupled with the unfortunate and untimely exclamation by the husband was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Isn’t it amazing how one word can short-circuit the whole shebang?

homophobia002I suppose you see where I’m going with this, huh Lilla? Your little comment triggered a landslide in your BF’s psyche. The delicate house of cards he was able to assemble to hold on to his homophobia and still take it up the ass, was simply not strong enough to withstand the word “gay,” joking or not.

Clearly your BF has issues. But I’m probably telling you something you already know. I can’t really say if there’s a possibility for the two of you to overcome this on your own. Is there any chance your BF would acquiesce to some counseling? If yes, that would be the way to go. He needs to do a bunch of reprogramming on himself, don’t cha know.

If counseling isn’t in the cards all I can suggest you do is stroke his masculinity as much as you can. There will be a price to pay for this, but maybe you’ll be able to address that later. You can tell him that you’ve been reading all over online about how much straight men are getting into ass play these days. How they are throwing off the yoke of their ass-phobia and enjoying all the god-given sensations their backdoor has to offer. You might even offer up your pucker by way of example.

If he ever does relent and allow you to touch him “down there” again that would signal that the crisis is over, but you won’t be out of the woods quite yet. If the ass play does resume, you could chat him up sometime (not in the bedroom though) as to why he had such a virulent response to your joking. If he is honest with you, he will tell you what you already know from reading my response here. And I’d be willing to bet my last dollar on that.

Good luck

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