Tag Archives: Communication Skills

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

She 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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