How the Nazis destroyed the first gay rights movement

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In 2017, Germany’s Cabinet approved a bill that will expunge the convictions of tens of thousands of German men for “homosexual acts” under that country’s anti-gay law known as “Paragraph 175.” That law dates back to 1871, when modern Germany’s first legal code was created.

It was repealed in 1994. But there was a serious movement to repeal the law in 1929 as part of a wider LGBTQ rights movement. That was just before the Nazis came to power, magnified the anti-gay law, then sought to annihilate gay and transgender Europeans.

The story of how close Germany – and much of Europe – came to liberating its LGBTQ people before violently reversing that trend under new authoritarian regimes is an object lesson showing that the history of LGBTQ rights is not a record of constant progress.

The first LGBTQ liberation movement

In the 1920s, Berlin had nearly 100 gay and lesbian bars or cafes. Vienna had about a dozen gay cafes, clubs and bookstores. In Paris, certain quarters were renowned for open displays of gay and trans nightlife. Even Florence, Italy, had its own gay district, as did many smaller European cities.

Films began depicting sympathetic gay characters. Protests were organized against offensive depictions of LGBTQ people in print or on stage. And media entrepreneurs realized there was a middle-class gay and trans readership to whom they could cater.

Partly driving this new era of tolerance were the doctors and scientists who started looking at homosexuality and “transvestism” (a word of that era that encompassed transgender people) as a natural characteristic with which some were born, and not a “derangement.” The story of Lili Elbe and the first modern sex change, made famous in the recent film “The Danish Girl,” reflected these trends.

For example, Berlin opened its Institute for Sexual Research in 1919, the place where the word “transsexual” was coined, and where people could receive counseling and other services. Its lead doctor, Magnus Hirschfeld, also consulted on the Lili Elbe sex change.

Connected to this institute was an organization called the “Scientific-Humanitarian Committee.” With the motto “justice through science,” this group of scientists and LGBTQ people promoted equal rights, arguing that LGBTQ people were not aberrations of nature.

Most European capitals hosted a branch of the group, which sponsored talks and sought the repeal of Germany’s “Paragraph 175.” Combining with other liberal groups and politicians, it succeeded in influencing a German parliamentary committee to recommend the repeal to the wider government in 1929.

The backlash

While these developments didn’t mean the end of centuries of intolerance, the 1920s and early ‘30s certainly looked like the beginning of the end. On the other hand, the greater “out-ness” of gay and trans people provoked their opponents.

A French reporter, bemoaning the sight of uncloseted LGBTQ people in public, complained, “the contagion … is corrupting every milieu.” The Berlin police grumbled that magazines aimed at gay men – which they called “obscene press materials” – were proliferating. In Vienna, lectures of the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” might be packed with supporters, but one was attacked by young men hurling stink bombs. A Parisian town councilor in 1933 called it “a moral crisis” that gay people, known as “inverts” at that time, could be seen in public.

“Far be it from me to want to turn to fascism,” the councilor said, “but all the same, we have to agree that in some things those regimes have sometimes done good… One day Hitler and Mussolini woke up and said, ‘Honestly, the scandal has gone on long enough’ … And … the inverts … were chased out of Germany and Italy the very next day.”

The ascent of Fascism

It’s this willingness to make a blood sacrifice of minorities in exchange for “normalcy” or prosperity that has observers drawing uncomfortable comparisons between then and now.

In the 1930s, the Depression spread economic anxiety, while political fights in European parliaments tended to spill outside into actual street fights between Left and Right. Fascist parties offered Europeans a choice of stability at the price of democracy. Tolerance of minorities was destabilizing, they said. Expanding liberties gave “undesirable” people the liberty to undermine security and threaten traditional “moral” culture. Gay and trans people were an obvious target.

What happened next shows the whiplash speed with which the progress of a generation can be thrown into reverse.

The nightmare

One day in May 1933, pristine white-shirted students marched in front of Berlin’s Institute for Sexual Research – that safe haven for LGBTQ people – calling it “Un-German.” Later, a mob hauled out its library to be burned. Later still, its acting head was arrested.

When Nazi leader Adolph Hitler needed to justify arresting and murdering former political allies in 1934, he said they were gay. This fanned anti-gay zealotry by the Gestapo, which opened a special anti-gay branch. During the following year alone, the Gestapo arrested more than 8,500 gay men, quite possibly using a list of names and addresses seized at the Institute for Sexual Research. Not only was Paragraph 175 not erased, as a parliamentary committee had recommended just a few years before, it was amended to be more expansive and punitive.

As the Gestapo spread throughout Europe, it expanded the hunt. In Vienna, it hauled in every gay man on police lists and questioned them, trying to get them to name others. The fortunate ones went to jail. The less fortunate went to Buchenwald and Dachau. In conquered France, Alsace police worked with the Gestapo to arrest at least 200 men and send them to concentration camps. Italy, with a fascist regime obsessed with virility, sent at least 300 gay men to brutal camps during the war period, declaring them “dangerous for the integrity of the race.”

The total number of Europeans arrested for being LGBTQ under fascism is impossible to know because of the lack of reliable records. But a conservative estimate is that there were many tens of thousands to one hundred thousand arrests during the war period alone.

Under these nightmare conditions, far more LGBTQ people in Europe painstakingly hid their genuine sexuality to avoid suspicion, marrying members of the opposite sex, for example. Still, if they had been prominent members of the gay and trans community before the fascists came to power, as Berlin lesbian club owner Lotte Hahm was, it was too late to hide. She was sent to a concentration camp.

In those camps, gay men were marked with a pink triangle. In these places of horror, men with pink triangles were singled out for particular abuse. They were mechanically raped, castrated, favored for medical experiments and murdered for guards’ sadistic pleasure even when they were not sentenced for “liquidation.” One gay man attributed his survival to swapping his pink triangle for a red one – indicating he was merely a Communist. They were ostracized and tormented by their fellow inmates, too.

The looming danger of a backslide

This isn’t 1930s Europe. And making superficial comparisons between then and now can only yield superficial conclusions.

But with new forms of authoritarianism entrenched and seeking to expand in Europe and beyond, it’s worth thinking about the fate of Europe’s LGBTQ community in the 1930s and ‘40s – a timely note from history as Germany approves same-sex marriage and on this first anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges.

In 1929, Germany came close to erasing its anti-gay law, only to see it strengthened soon thereafter. Only now, after a gap of 88 years, are convictions under that law being annulled.

Complete Article HERE!

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How the homophobic media covered the 1969 Stonewall uprising

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The New York Daily News and the Village Voice used slurs in their reporting about the police raid that galvanized the gay rights movement

A sign at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and national historic landmark where a police raid and riots in 1969 galvanized the gay rights movement.

By Gillian Brockell

The most striking thing about the media coverage of the Stonewall riots — the 1969 uprising that was a turning point in the gay rights movement — is how offensive much of it was.

“Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad” blared the headline on the front page of the New York Daily News. “Lilies of the valley” “pranced out to the street” when the cops showed up, the paper said.

“The police had difficulty keeping a dyke in a patrol car,” reported the Village Voice. And from inside the bar, where police and the Village Voice reporter were briefly trapped, “the sound filtering in doesn’t suggest dancing faggots any more.”

And if you’re wondering if those words were as derogatory then as they are now — “Yeah, these were not friendly words,” said historian Hugh Ryan after reading both articles. Ryan is the author of the book “When Brooklyn Was Queer.”

Both the Daily News and Village Voice stories were long and detailed, but the focus is on prurient descriptions of gay and transgender people meant to highlight their difference.

Consider the decidedly non-news lead in the Daily News:

“She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.”

We know now that most of the participants in the Stonewall Riots were gay men, though transgender women and lesbians also played vital roles. But more often than not in the Daily News story, the rioters are referred to as “lad[ies]-in-waiting,” “spokesman, or spokeswoman” and “girls.” Stonewall is described as a bar where “they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do.”

Ryan says this may be shocking to read now, but he can’t say definitively whether the reporter is being intentionally offensive. Nowadays there is growing understanding of the difference between transgender women, like Laverne Cox; gay men who sometimes dress in drag, like RuPaul; and other people who just like to mess with ideas about gender by, say, wearing a dress and growing a beard.

For example, one of the rioters was a gay man named Martin Boyce who told Ryan that at the time of the riots, he was a “scare queen” — someone who “wore just enough drag to freak out the straights.”

“What does that mean in terms of how he would have been covered?” Ryan asked. Reporters may not have seen or known the difference between Boyce and transgender activists like Marsha P. Johnson. (Many newsrooms and journalism groups now have guides on how to cover LGBT subjects.)

Jerry Lisker, who wrote the Daily News article, died in 1993. Howard Smith, who wrote the Village Voice article and was a noted chronicler of the hippie movement, died in 2014. His New York Times obituary says many people first heard words like “Stonewall” from his reporting, without mentioning that Smith used gay slurs in the same report.

Coverage of Stonewall in the Times was certainly less salacious — and just less, in word count. A few hundred words describe the first night of the unrest under the headline “4 policemen hurt in ‘Village’ raid.” And the next day, when protests continued, a few hundred more words were printed under the headline “Police again rout ‘Village’ youths.”

The Washington Post was even more spare; toward the back of the July 1, 1969, edition, just 60 words follow the headline “N.Y. Homosexuals Protest Raids.” The Post didn’t mention Stonewall again for 10 years.

But according to Ryan, the fact it was covered at all is significant.

“Part of what is important about Stonewall is that it gets a certain amount of straight recognition,” he said.

That recognition was not accidental. Stonewall participants such as Jim Fouratt were actively seeking media attention.

Ryan said that when he spoke with Fouratt, the activist recalled, “The first thing I did when I got home from Stonewall is I picked up my Rolodex and I called everyone.” Fouratt, who was well-connected in the antiwar movement and music industry, called reporters and activists to amplify the impact of the riots.

Some of that coverage wasn’t exactly accurate. One of the long-standing myths of Stonewall — that it was sparked by the death of gay icon Judy Garland — springs from that coverage. While a few of the participants have told historians that, yes, they did stand outside Garland’s funeral earlier that day, Garland’s death had nothing to do with why they were rioting. Plus, most of the rioters were young street kids, not the older gay men more associated with Garland fandom.

In fact, the only mention of a Garland connection appears nearly two weeks after the police raid, in an insulting Village Voice column that began: “The combination of a full moon and Judy Garland’s funeral was too much for them.” The columnist then calls Stonewall “the Great Faggot Rebellion.”

“I think [the Judy Garland myth] persists because it’s a good story, because it’s easy to pass on … and that makes it survive,” Ryan said, “But I do think it trivializes” Stonewall to repeat the myth.

The most important thing about Stonewall, though, wasn’t that it happened or that it made the newspapers. Three days into the unrest, Fouratt and his friends founded the Gay Liberation Front, a gay rights group that took a much more assertive approach than its forebears.

The next year, with other groups including the Gay Activists Alliance, the GLF organized the first pride march on the anniversary of the riots.

But the GLF held its first protest the previous year on Sept. 12, 1969 — against the Village Voice for using gay slurs in its coverage of Stonewall.

Complete Article HERE!

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Demystifying the internal condom

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A guide for anyone whose sex life demands options

By Elizabeth Entenman

Getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be scary. But regular STD and STI testing is an important part of your sexual health. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018, STD rates have continued to increase for four consecutive years. From 2013 to 2017, gonorrhea cases increased by 67% and syphilis cases nearly doubled.

April is STD Awareness Month, and now is a good time to get tested and learn more about your prevention options. When you think of prevention methods, regular latex condoms probably come to mind first. But you should also know about the internal condom (formerly the female condom). It’s an easy-to-use alternative that we think everyone should consider including in their sexual repertoire.

We spoke with Julia Bennett, director of learning strategy for education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, about internal condoms. Bennett explained what internal condoms are, how they help protect against STIs, and how they’re different from regular condoms. Here are answers to some common questions you might have.

What is an internal condom?

“Internal condoms (formerly known as ‘female condoms’) are an alternative to regular (external) condoms. They provide great protection from both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. However, instead of going on a penis or sex toy, internal condoms go inside either the vagina (for vaginal sex) or anus (for anal sex). People of any gender can use them for vaginal or anal sex. To use an internal condom for anal sex, simply take the inside ring out.”

How do internal condoms work?

“Internal condoms are made of nitrile (a type of soft plastic). They create a barrier between people’s genitals during anal or vaginal sex. This barrier stops sperm and egg from meeting, which prevents pregnancy. It also helps prevent STIs from spreading. Internal condoms put up a barrier, so you don’t come in contact with each other’s semen (cum), pre-cum, or genital skin, all of which can spread STIs. But you do have to use them every time you have sex, from start to finish, for them to work.”

Can anyone use an internal condom?

“Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) renamed the internal condom, as it was previously known as the ‘female condom.’ The FDA moved the internal condom from a Class 3 medical device to a Class 2 medical device—the same as other condoms. This change will help make internal condoms easier to access in the future. The reclassification also underscores their versatility—anyone can use them, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

How effective are internal condoms?

“Internal condoms are really good at preventing both STIs and pregnancy. About 21 out of 100 people who use internal condoms for birth control get pregnant each year. If you use them from start to finish every time you have vaginal sex, they can work even better. Keep in mind that you can get even more pregnancy prevention powers by using internal condoms along with another birth control method (like the pill or IUD). That way you’ve got protection from STIs, and double protection from pregnancy.”

What are the benefits of using internal condoms?

“There are a lot of benefits to internal condoms:

They help prevent STIs. Condoms, including internal condoms, are the only method of birth control that also protects against STIs.

They may feel more comfortable. Some people find internal condoms more comfortable than other condoms since they don’t fit snugly around a penis. They may feel even more comfortable (and pleasurable) if you use water or silicone-based lube, too. [Editor’s note: Internal condoms are a great option for those whose penises are larger than standard- or large-size condoms.]

They’re latex-free. This makes them a great option for people allergic to latex.

• They can increase sexual pleasure. During vaginal sex, the internal condom’s inner ring may stimulate the tip of the penis, and the external ring can rub against the vulva and clitoris. That little something extra can feel great for both partners. You can also insert the internal condom before sex, so that you don’t have any interruptions.”

Are there any disadvantages to using them?

“You need to use an internal condom every time you have sex, which may be hard for some people to stick to. You also have to be sure to put them on correctly. They also may take some getting used to, if you/your partner are new to them. Practice inserting them, or even make it a part of foreplay by having your partner insert it.”

Where can you buy an internal condom?

“While the recent reclassification will hopefully lead to easier access in the future, right now internal condoms can sometimes be a little hard to find. Currently, the only brand available in the U.S. is the FC2 Internal Condom. It’s available online at the FC2 Internal Condom website, at many Planned Parenthood health centers, family planning and health clinics, and by prescription in drugstores. Some health centers may provide them for free. Otherwise, internal condoms cost about $2-3 each if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost. They’re usually sold in packs of 12.”

If you use an internal condom, should you still use a regular condom, too?

“There’s no need to double up on condoms, no matter what kind of condom it is. One is all you need. Each kind of condom is designed to be used on its own, and doubling up will not give you extra protection.”

What’s a big misconception around internal condoms that isn’t actually true?

“There are so many kinds of condoms to choose from to meet the needs of you and your partner. Trying different kinds can be a fun way to help you find what works best for the both of you. And contrary to popular myth, condoms don’t ruin the mood—people who use condoms rate their sexual experiences as just as pleasurable as people who don’t. Using any type of condom, including the internal condom, is a good way to lower stress and focus more on having a fun, pleasurable sex life. In fact, many people say they find sex more enjoyable when they use condoms because they aren’t worrying about STIs or unwanted pregnancy.”

What should you tell your partner if they don’t want to use a condom?

“If your partner doesn’t want to use a condom, ask why. That can help start an honest conversation about your health. Sometimes it’s about finding the right type of condom, using condoms along with lube, or explaining why you want to use them. Stress that your health (and your partner’s health) is your priority—and that sex without protection is not an option. Then decide who will get the condoms, and make a plan to use them every time, the whole time you’re having sex.”

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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LGB people face higher risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse

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By Chrissy Sexton

Researchers at Penn State are reporting that individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are at a higher risk for several different health problems. The experts found that sexual minorities were more prone to anxiety and depressive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Study co-author Cara Rice explained that stress associated with discrimination and prejudice may contribute to these outcomes.

“It’s generally believed that sexual minorities experience increased levels of stress throughout their lives as a result of discrimination, microaggressions, stigma and prejudicial policies,” said Rice. “Those increased stress levels may then result in poor health in a variety of ways, like unhealthy eating or excessive alcohol use.”

Professor Stephanie Lanza said the findings shed light on health risks that have been understudied.

“Discussions about health disparities often focus on the differences between men and women, across racial and ethnic groups, or between people of different socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Professor Lanza. “However, sexual minority groups suffer substantially disproportionate health burdens across a range of outcomes including poor mental health and problematic substance use behaviors.”

It has been previously documented that sexual minorities have an increased risk of substance abuse or anxiety disorders, but Rice said that studies have not yet established whether these health risks remain constant across age.

“As we try to develop programs to prevent these disparities, it would be helpful to know which specific ages we should be targeting,” said Rice. “Are there ages where sexual minorities are more at risk for these health disparities, or are the disparities constant across adulthood?”

The investigation was focused on data from over 30,000 participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, who were between the ages of 18 and 65. The survey collected information about alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, as well as any history of depression, anxiety, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or cardiovascular disease.

To analyze the data, the researchers used a method developed at Penn State called time-varying effect modeling.

“Using the time-varying effect model, we revealed specific age periods at which sexual minority adults in the U.S. were more likely to experience various poor health outcomes, even after accounting for one’s sex, race or ethnicity, education level, income, and region of the country in which they reside,” explained Professor Lanza.

Overall, sexual minorities were found to be more likely to experience all of the health outcomes. For example, these individuals had about twice the risk of anxiety, depression, and STIs in the previous year compared to heterosexuals.

The experts also determined that risks for some health problems were higher at different ages. An increased risk for anxiety and depression was highest among sexual minorities in their early twenties, while an increased risk for poor cardiovascular health was higher in their forties and fifties.

“We also observed that odds of substance use disorders remained constant across age for sexual minorities, while in the general population they tend to be concentrated in certain age groups,” said Rice. “We saw that sexual minorities were more likely to have these substance use disorders even in their forties and fifties when we see in the general population that drug use and alcohol use start to taper off.”

Rice said the results of the study could potentially be used to develop programs to help prevent these health problems before they start.

“A necessary first step was to understand how health disparities affecting sexual minorities vary across age,” said Rice. “These findings shed light on periods of adulthood during which intervention programs may have the largest public health impact. Additionally, future studies that examine possible drivers of these age-varying disparities, such as daily experiences of discrimination, will inform the development of intervention content that holds promise to promote health equity for all people.”

The study is published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s What Sex Therapists Really Think About Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’

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The show gets a lot right.

By Kasandra Brabaw

When Netflix’s new show Sex Education dropped earlier this month, it became an instant hit among basically anyone who has sex or thinks about sex. The show follows an awkward teen, Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), who knows a lot about sex thanks to his sex therapist mom, Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson). Otis teams up with school outcast, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey), once they realize that Otis’s sexual knowledge means they can both make some major cash from their peers via “therapy sessions.” In each episode, Otis addresses a new classmate’s sex and relationship issues, all while dealing with his own sexual inhibitions and his mom’s serious prying.

Those who love the show love how relatable it is in showing the awkward situations and weird sexual questions that teens are inevitably going through but aren’t usually talking about. And with Otis as acting as a sex therapist for his classmates, we get to see what it would be like if teenagers actually had a thoughtful, insightful outlet for talking about sex and relationships.

It also broke barriers in a lot of ways, like showing teens finally having honest, progressive conversations about sex and sexuality. And also showing a full vulva on TV. Of course, that doesn’t mean every bit of Sex Education is 100 percent accurate. This is still TV, after all, and TV shows tend to rely on clichéd tropes and unrealistic drama to make the show entertaining.

So we talked to six real-life sex therapists about their thoughts on the show. Here’s what they had to say.

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched the whole season!

1. The show’s portrayal of an actual licensed sex therapist—Jean (Otis’s mom)—is a little clichéd.

“Sex therapy is a bit unconventional as a job, but it’s still a job to us,” Kate Stewart, a licensed mental health counselor based in Seattle, tells SELF.

Although some sex therapists may constantly talk about sex and have lots of sex with lots of people, the majority don’t. “I rolled my eyes at the trope of the mom banging all these people because she’s a sex therapist,” sexologist Megan Stubbs, Ed.D. tells SELF. “Banging people all over the place is not a job requirement.”

Then there’s the issue of the job itself—Jean makes it look like being a sex therapist is a cakewalk. It’s not. “For the most part, sex therapists don’t just sit around in big houses barely doing anything and looking gorgeous all day,” Rosara Torrisi, Ph.D., a sex therapist based in Long Island, tells SELF. “We see clients, we write articles, we give talks, we lecture, we teach, and so on. Looks nice, though.”

2. But her dildo-filled office is pretty realistic.

“I want to say that I don’t have nearly as much crazy sex art, but I do have two nude paintings and a bunch of crystal and stainless steel dildos decorating my office,” Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and creator of Finishing School, tells SELF.

3. Most sex therapists are generally better with personal and professional boundaries.

Not only does Dr. Milburn openly hold therapy sessions in her home—breaching her patient’s privacy, as well as her and Otis’s potential safety—she also pries into her son’s sexuality and disrespects his wishes on a few occasions. Sure, lots of moms do this and it gives us the kind of drama that makes TV interesting, but it’s not exactly how you’d expect a sex therapist to act.

“Many of the sex therapists I know have children, and they are all very respectful of their children’s space and ability to explore sexuality in their own way and on their own time,” Stewart says. “I think we would all talk to our children about our work if they were interested, but we wouldn’t get into such graphic detail about our clients being interested in pegging.”

On top of that, we discover that Jean and her ex-husband (also seemingly a sex therapist) had a toxic relationship complete with a lack of boundaries that probably led to Otis’s own sexual inhibitions (specifically, his inability to masturbate). Remember that scene when young Otis sees his dad having sex with a patient? “Completely against our ethics and care for a client,” Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex therapist in New York, tells SELF. Later, we see a scene in which Jean explains to young Otis that sex can be wonderful but can also destroy lives. “So it’s not that Otis is just inhibited,” says Fleming. “He was taught and conditioned by his own mother that sex is destructive

But then again, nobody is perfect, even therapists. And Jean’s behavior shines a light on that fact.

“Otis’s mother was one of my favorite characters,” sex therapist Megan Davis, M.Ed, tells SELF. “She shows the reality that even though we are therapists, we’re sometimes at fault for crossing boundaries with those closest to us (by writing a book about Otis’s sexual difficulties), being unclear in our communication, and reacting in stressful situations.” She adds, “I can admit, I am sometimes guilty of not taking my own advice or keeping my cool.”

4. But Sex Education does a great job depicting real sex and relationship problems—and solutions.

“My favorite scene was when Otis counseled the two lesbians in the pool,” Dr. Torrisi says. “At some point one of them remarks that the issue can’t be the relationship, that it’s just the sex. I hear this a lot. Yes, having a good relationship can help sex. And having good sex can help the relationship. But often as a sex therapist, I see people scapegoat the sex in order to hide their fears about the relationship.”

In fact, pretty much every therapy session Otis has with fellow students rings true. “Otis addressed issues such as low or no desire, pain during sex, lack of orgasm, erectile dysfunction, and sexual orientation issues,” Davis says. “We have a tendency to shame and silence discussions of sexuality and sexual issues, but Otis was able to help his peers to remove the shame and begin openly talking about their bodies, their sexuality, and their issues.”

The way people react to his advice is realistic as well. “There is an immense power in just being able to talk about sex out loud. In the scene in the bathroom with Adam, you can practically see the weight coming off of his shoulders when he acknowledges that he’s having issues with his erection and orgasm,” Marin says. “I see that same kind of relief with my clients, too.”

5. Ultimately the program shows that sex therapy—or at the very least better sex education—can be helpful for pretty much anyone.

“Otis debunked many myths about sex during his sessions with his peers. For example, the myth and expectation that men should last 30-45 minutes before orgasm, when in fact most men only last three to five minutes. And the myth that vaginas [or, more accurately, vulvas] are supposed to look a certain way, particularly the labia,” Davis says.

Despite the TV tendency to solve complex problems in 30 minutes or less, Otis uses very real sex therapy tactics to help his fellow students. “He provided education to his peers, homework (i.e. when he sent Aimee home and encouraged her to masturbate on her own in order to tell her partner what she likes or doesn’t like in bed), brought in both partners to work on communication strategies, worked with couples on conflict resolution skills, and encouraged experimentation individually or as a couple,” Davis explains.

Although the show portrayed sex therapy in both realistic and unrealistic ways, it’s strides ahead of similar teen shows about sex. In Sex Education, sexual issues like erectile dysfunction and sex injuries aren’t laughed off—they’re given serious thought and discussion.

If after watching the show you think you might benefit from sex therapy of your own, here’s how to find out more about it.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual desire can spark a real connection

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Sex helps initiate romantic relationships between potential partners, a new study finds.

“Sex may set the stage for deepening the emotional connection between strangers,” says lead author Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel. “This holds true for both men and women. Sex motivates human beings to connect, regardless of gender.”

The study, which appears in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, was limited to heterosexual relationships. According to Birnbaum, some believe that men are more likely than women to initiate relationships when sexually aroused, but when one focuses on more subtle relationship-initiating strategies, such as providing help, this pattern does not hold true: in fact, both men and women try to connect with potential partners when sexually aroused.

In four interrelated studies, participants met a new acquaintance of the opposite sex in a face-to-face encounter. The researchers demonstrate that sexual desire triggers behaviors that can promote emotional bonding during these encounters.

“Although sexual urges and emotional attachments are distinct feelings, evolutionary and social processes likely have rendered humans particularly prone to becoming romantically attached to partners to whom they are sexually attracted,” says coauthor Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

An attractive stranger

In the first study, the researchers looked at whether sexual desire for a new acquaintance would be associated with non-verbal cues signaling relationship interest. These so-called immediacy behaviors are displayed in the synchronization of movements, close physical proximity, and frequent eye contact with a study insider who worked with the scientists. The study participants, all of whom identified as single in addition to heterosexual, were recruited at a university in central Israel.

Study 1 included 36 women and 22 men who lip-synched to pre-recorded music with an attractive, opposite-sex study insider. Afterwards, participants rated their desire for the insider, whom they believed to be another participant. The scientists found that the greater the participant’s desire for the insider, the greater their immediacy behaviors towards, and synchronization with, the insider.

Study 2 replicated the finding with 38 women and 42 men who were asked to slow dance with an attractive, opposite-sex insider, whom they believed to be a study participant. Again, the researchers found a direct association between synchronization of body movement and desire for the insider.

Study 3 included 42 women and 42 men and established a causal connection between activating the sexual behavior system and behaviors that help initiate relationships. In order to activate the sexual system, the researchers used a subliminal priming technique in which they flashed an erotic, non-pornographic image for 30 milliseconds on a screen, which participants were not aware of seeing.

Next, participants interacted with a second study participant—essentially a potential partner—discussing interpersonal dilemmas while on camera. Afterwards judges rated the participants’ behaviors that conveyed responsiveness and caring. The scientists found the activation of the sexual system also resulted in behaviors that suggested caring about a potential partner’s well-being—an established signal for interest in a relationship.

Study 4 included 50 women and 50 men. Half the group watched an erotic, non-pornographic video scene from the movie The Boy Next Door. The other half watched a neutral video of rainforests in South America.

Next, study participants were assigned an attractive opposite-sex insider and told to complete a verbal reasoning task. The insider pretended to get stuck on the third question and asked the participant for help. The researchers found that those participants who had watched the erotic movie scene were quicker to help, invested more time, and were perceived as more helpful, than the neutral video control group.

Bonding for baby’s sake?

What then could explain the role of sex in fostering partnerships? Human sexual behavior evolved to ensure reproduction. As such, sex and producing offspring don’t depend on forming an attachment between partners. However, the prolonged helplessness of human children promoted the development of mechanisms that keep sexual partners bonded to each other so that they can jointly care for their offspring, says Birnbaum. “Throughout human history, parents’ bonding greatly increased the children’s survival chances,” she says.

Prior neuroimaging research has shown that similar brain regions (the caudate, insula, and putamen) are activated when a person experiences either sexual desire or romantic love. The researchers surmise that this pattern hints at a neurological pathway that causes sexual activation—the neural processes that underlie a sexual response—to affect emotional bonding.

They conclude that experiencing sexual desire between previously unacquainted strangers may help facilitate behaviors that cultivate personal closeness and bonding.

“Sexual desire may play a causally important role in the development of relationships,” says Birnbaum. “It’s the magnetism that holds partners together long enough for an attachment bond to form.”

Support for the research came from the Binational Science Foundation (BSF).

Complete Article HERE!

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The sex trends experts predict will be huge in 2019

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By Ellen Scott

You might not think that sex has trends.

Sex is sex, right? There can’t be that much you can change about it.

But sex trends do indeed exist, whether in terms of the tech we’re using to get off, the type of relationships we have, or our views of sexual acts.

The good news is that as long as you’re having consensual fun, it really doesn’t matter if you stay ahead of the curve.

If you are keen on being at the cutting edge of sexual stuff, though, you’re in luck, as sex toy brand Lelo has just released their predictions for the top sex trends of 2019.

Just do everything on the list then pat yourself on the back for being the trendiest, sexiest person ever. Congrats.

Open relationships and polyamory

Of course, polyamory is not a new concept. But thanks to documentaries (oh hey, Louis Theroux), celebs and influencers sharing stories of how polyamory and open relationships can work, the idea of non-monogamy is becoming more widely accepted.

Think of how BDSM was pushed on to everyone’s radar by Fifty Shades Of Grey. The same sort of thing is happening with polyamory.

Sex dolls

Not the ones you’re imagining, blow up ones with holes for mouths.

We’re talking fancy sex dolls made to feel and look incredibly lifelike, made with silicone and internal skeletons for a more human feel.

Artificial Intelligence

With the rise of household devices such as Alexa and Google Home, it’s no surprise we’ll start using artificial intelligence in the bedroom, too.

This can range from vibrators that collect your data and adjust to give you an orgasm every time to sex robots who respond to dirty talk and adjust their personalities to fit your desires.

Yes, the techphobes among us will be freaked out, but 2019 will be a cool year when it comes to seeing how far we can take sex tech.

Being single

Blame Ariana Grande.

Lelo reckons that in 2019 we’ll see more women remaining happily single later into their lives, with no desire to get into relationships.

Self-dating will be on the rise, as will treating yourself to all the toys you could ever want to provide satisfaction solo.

Male pleasure

Will 2019 be the year we finally accept that men can enjoy sex toys too?

The sex toy market will launch a bunch of new male sex toys this year, including prostate massagers and masturbation sleeves, which will hopefully normalise something that’s, well, very normal: using tools to masturbate more effectively.

New sensations

Vibration is great, but Lelo says 2019 will see the rise of newer, fresher ways to stimulate pleasure.

The brand’s Sona sex toy, released in 2018, uses sonic waves to stimulate the clitoris, to drive pleasure much deeper in the body.

You’ll also spot more toys that use pulsing or suction.

Complete Article HERE!

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Tumblr’s adult content ban means the death of unique blogs that explore sexuality

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Creators and readers alike don’t believe there’s another website like Tumblr

By Shannon Liao

Tumblr recently announced that it would ban all adult content from its platform and said any user who was hurt by the decision could simply migrate to another site. But creators and readers alike don’t believe there’s another website that fosters the same kind of sex-positive spaces that Tumblr has. It’s as though Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio has failed to understand his own platform, how unique these communities are to Tumblr, and how unlikely it is for them to survive beyond the shutdown.

“Sex wasn’t this separate, shameful thing. Tumblr allowed it to exist right next to every other facet of our messy, millennial experience,” says Vex Ashley, who runs the blog Vextape that’s inspired by her work as a cam model and making DIY porn. “We shared it, discussed it, debated it, and curated it.” Porn, she says, was as appropriate on Tumblr as song lyrics.

Tumblr is home to a myriad of sex-positive and body-positive blogs, in additional to indie porn blogs and curated archives that provide something not found on Pornhub, YouPorn, or any of the other mainstream adult portals. It’s also been relatively unique among social media sites for allowing nudity and sexually explicit content to be posted. Most sites, like Facebook and Instagram, prohibit nudity and regularly remove posts that are flagged. With Tumblr gone from the equation, creators and readers fear their hubs of sex-positive and body-positive content will vanish.

“There is a lot of value in being able to share images of and information about sexuality. This change will erase years of content from countless Tumblr users,” says the anonymous author behind Bijouworld, which curates photos of vintage gay porn, old magazine covers, and newspaper clippings. They believe that other blogs focused on the history of erotica will also suffer. “This was a good spot for us all to exchange and combine our info and knowledge, so I hope we can find a new way to do that.”

Bijou Classics, the gay adult company behind the blog, also posts regularly to Pornhub and maintains an extensive web presence across multiple platforms that allow adult content. But Tumblr, the blogger says, filled a void when the company wanted to explore the archival and historical aspects of gay porn.

“I do think Tumblr is unique … [it] was one of the few platforms that is broadly open to the public where we could share explicit photos in any sort of organized fashion.” The anonymous person behind the blog says that since 2011, Bijou Classics has “used our Tumblr presence to post images from our archives, written blogs, trivia, and more.” The purpose is to “keep information circulating about the history and evolution of erotica and gay culture.”

Many sexuality blog authors don’t see a way forward without Tumblr. That includes lawyer and journalist Maddie Holden, who runs Critique My Dick Pic, a blog that’s received attention from sites including The Hairpin, Jezebel, and The Daily Dot.

Holden takes a media that’s often considered a nuisance to receive and approaches it satirically as an art form, going in depth about the shadows and positioning of each photo. She ends her reviews with: “thank you for submitting to critique my dick pic” and a grade ranging from A to F. The latest lyrical review of a dick in the shower, posted on November 30th, reads, “your photo is certainly not coy but it avoids being dick-centric, and apart from minor flares of distraction — a green towel in the bottom-left corner and a blue razor in the windowsill — the background is uncluttered and effective.”

Critique My Dick Pic has been described by its followers as “hilarious and useful,” says Holden. She says a trans woman recently told her that the trans-inclusive nature of the blog factored into helping her decide to come out and transition.

The blog has been around since 2013, but Holden says she’s not sure if she’ll move to another platform after Tumblr hides her content from public view on December 17th. Holden tells The Verge, “I mean, it will be the end of the blog as far as I can tell. I receive a portion of my income from CDMP, which will end, and the site has been pretty beloved for years now, so it’s a shame for its followers.”


 
The operator of another quirky, body-positive blog, called Things My Dick Does, says he plans to keep his Tumblr open after the ban, but only to share safe-for-work posts to keep in touch with his readers.

Started by an anonymous man in 2015, the blog’s creator draws mustaches and smiley faces on his dick, often placing props around it in amusing situations. He tells The Verge, “I know it’s a silly dick blog, but I’ve gotten to know some pretty amazing people through here. (My girlfriend included!)” He says that as he continued to post pics of his dick sipping coffee, dressed as Batman, or just smiling cheerily, he received positive feedback and even had a woman reach out to him because they lived in the same city. She later became his girlfriend. “People say they’ve overcome some serious rough spots in their lives because of the laughs I brought them.”

The man says he can migrate to other platforms, but his presence on YouTube and Instagram is distinctly different. It’s covered up and less NSFW, obscuring the very quality of his blog that disarmed audiences — a charming, dressed-up dick that more resembled a cartoon than graphic porn. “It’s definitely a loss to the adult content creators out there,” the man behind Things My Dick Does says. “Seems like it’s getting more and more difficult to express yourself.”

There just isn’t anywhere else to go. Other than Tumblr, there aren’t many mainstream, well-acknowledged platforms that allow unique adult communities to grow. Facebook and Instagram both prohibit sexual content and nudity; Twitter allows it, but it’s not exactly known for its positive, supportive communities.

Ashley, who runs the curated, often DIY porn blog, explains that Tumblr was a livelihood and a home for people who didn’t necessarily conform to mainstream porn sites’ ideas of what is sexy. “As our lives move increasingly online, spaces that are safe for sex are becoming smaller and smaller,” she says, in words that are now published on Medium. “If we continue to push our depictions of sexuality into the shadows, we allow them to continue to be defined and co-opted by the status quo — whatever is on the first page of a porn tube site.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Tumblr’s ban on adult content is bad for LGBTQ youth

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Tumblr’s new rules will likely shut much of the LGBTQ youth activity. Here a chaptered LGBTQ youth themed comic on Tumblr.

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As of Dec. 17, Tumblr will no longer allow “adult content,” defined as that which shows “real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content — including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations — that depicts sex acts.”

Before this, the platform’s lenient policies contrasted significantly with those of Facebook and Instagram, which have stricter content moderation guidelines.

This update follows the removal of Tumblr’s app from Apple’s app store after child pornography was found on the platform. However, it also reflects broader changes following Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo, Tumblr’s parent company.

Katrin Tiidenberg, a researcher who has studied self-expression on Tumblr, conjectures that this change may have more to do with advertising sales than protecting users. Regardless of Tumblr’s motives, this update will seriously affect LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) youth who rely on Tumblr and its communities for self-discovery and support.

‘Safer’ online spaces

Since LGBTQ identities have often been stigmatized, the internet has been pivotal in helping those with diverse gender and sexual identities learn about themselves and find each other. Tumblr has provided a safe space for this through many of its key features (e.g. pseudonymous accounts, reblogging) and the communities it attracts.

Given this, it’s not surprising that a large Australian survey found LGBTQ youth use Tumblr much more frequently than the rest of the population. Many respondents indicated content on Tumblr broadened their understanding of sexuality and gender and facilitated self-acceptance.

The Tumblr logo is displayed at Nasdaq in New York in July 2013.

Tumblr has served as an essential outlet for LGBTQ youth in relation to other popular platforms. Alexander Cho, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Irvine, has written about Tumblr’s “queer ecosystem” where “users circulate porn, flirt, provide support to deal with homophobia as well as advice on coming out…” Cho has found that queer youth of colour experience Facebook as a space of “default publicness” and prefer Tumblr for sharing intimate and personal content.

LGBTQ people have also found Tumblr to be powerful for self-representation. Through sophisticated hashtagging practices, transgender people share art, stories and engage in dialogue that challenges cisgender norms.

Researcher Tim Highfield and I have explored how sharing queer GIFs – short, looping media — not only allows LGBTQ youth to engage in Tumblr’s fan communities but also playfully displays queer culture en masse. This broad representation of LGBTQ identities may dissuade homophobic harassment, as some of the queer women I’ve interviewed perceive less discrimination on Tumblr.

What’s porn got to do with it?

Porn is a portion of the multiple forms of media resonating among LGBTQ users. This media allows them to knit together non-mainstream identities and survive in a world where heterosexuality is ubiquitously portrayed across social media and broadcast outlets.

Not all LGBTQ content contains genitals, “female-presenting nipples” or sex acts, but not all content with these elements constitutes what we would generally think of as pornography. Much of the sexualized content circulated among LGBTQ Tumblr users make available depictions of sexuality that are frequently rendered invisible or marginalized.

These can take the form of fan art, remixed film clips of sensual embraces and selfies. This media allows LGBTQ people to see themselves as sexual beings — something that is particularly important for young people developing a sense of sexual and gender identity.

Even if you disagree with teenagers accessing this type of content, Tumblr’s new policy bans it for everyone regardless of age. Formerly, users could voluntarily mark their blogs as “NSFW” (Not Safe for Work) if they posted occasional nudity and “adult” if posting substantial nudity. This provided a sort of checkpoint to hinder younger users in accessing this content.

Now even adults won’t be able to access “adult content.” This means that young people over 18, who may be facing formative life changes, like starting post-secondary education or moving away from home, won’t have access to media that may help them learn about their identity and feel supported while doing so.

Commercial platforms shape culture

Strict content moderation policies tend to have negative outcomes for already marginalized users. In my research with Jean Burgess and Nicolas Suzor, we found that some queer women experienced Instagram’s content moderation as overly stringent.

Instagram asks users to report content and responds through automated mechanisms. Therefore, queer women’s content was subject to removal based on other users’ whims and the banning of certain hashtags like #lesbian. Tumblr’s new updates promise a similar mixture of user reporting and automated content detection tools.

Several scholars have begun to critically examine how platforms’ decisions shape our social and cultural norms.

In Canada, Chris Tenove, Heidi Tworek and Fenwick McKelvey have pointed out that content moderation is not standardized and lacks federal oversight. Platforms often apply content moderation categories, such as “adult content,” without transparency or accountability.

Tumblr’s CEO, Jeff D’Onofrio, said: “There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community.”

It seems that with this new change, youth who want to encounter sexual content will need to relocate. While some young people may turn to pornography sites, many of these sites are not designed with diverse sexual and gender identities in mind.

Youth entering these sites may be more likely to encounter stigmatized, stereotypical and demeaning representations of women and transgender people. Even LGBTQ-friendly pornography sites don’t have the elaborate community networks unique to Tumblr.

Such communities help youth to make sense of sexual content in relation to who they are becoming as they grow up. Tumblr’s decision means LGBTQ youth will have one less outlet where they can learn about sexual identity and gain support from peers who are like them and sharing content for them.

Complete Article HERE!

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What the Bears Can Teach Goldilocks

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By Frank Strona

“Bear Culture” — a supportive, global community of mostly large, mostly hairy gay men — has evolved and thrived through ideas of inclusion, diversity, self-acceptance and self-expression. Health advocate, diversity specialist and “Daddy Bear” Frank Strona explains what Bear Culture gets right as lessons for Goldilocks and the rest of mainstream society Frank Strona, health planner, shares his unique perspective on diversity and inclusion in explaining bear culture history and lifestyle This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Find out more about Frank Strona HERE!

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7 Amazing Women Who Made It Easier For You To Have Sex

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By Kasandra Brabaw

Sunday, August 26, marked the 98th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which officially granted women the right to vote. And as we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, which August 26th is known as now, we think about those incredible women who fought for our right to vote and won. Often, we also think of women who fought (and are continuing to fight) for women’s equality in the workplace. But, there’s another kind of equality that we can thank brave women for: sexual equality.

Without the tireless work of some badass women in history, single women would still be expected to be celibate. We wouldn’t have access to the birth control that makes it safe for us to have sex without fear of pregnancy. And we’d probably still think women can only orgasm when someone sticks a penis inside of them (although, some people really do still think that). So, let’s raise a glass to the women who made it okay for us to have as much (or as little) sex as we want.

Ahead, we celebrate 7 of the women who pioneered conversations about sexuality and sexual health.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940)

Emma Goldman

In 1917 a U.S. Attorney General wrote, “Emma Goldman is a woman of great ability and of personal magnetism, and her persuasive powers make her an exceedingly dangerous woman.” Goldman gained a reputation for being “exceedingly dangerous” partly for spreading the idea that women should have access to birth control. She was also a hardcore anarchist who spoke with such firey passion that the man who assassinated President William McKinley in 1901 credited one of Goldman’s lectures as the inspiration. So, you know, that could also be part of it.

Perhaps because her lectures were so “inspirational,” Goldman was frequently harassed and arrested while speaking about radical reform. So, she worked with the first Free Speech League to insist that all Americans have a right to speech, no matter how radical or controversial.

Although she was active during the time of first-wave feminism, Goldman shunned the suffrage movement and instead called herself an anarchist. She held lectures on politically unpopular ideas like free love, atheism, capitalism, and homosexuality. After Margaret Sanger, who coined the term “birth control,” printed information about contraceptives in a pamphlet called Family Limitation, Goldman took it upon herself to make sure people had access to the information. She distributed the pamphlet and in 1915 went on a nationwide speaking tour to raise awareness about birth control options. In 1916, she was arrested outside of one of her lectures under the Comstock Law, which prohibited the dissemination of “obscene, lewd, or lascivious articles.” She spent two weeks in prison.

Goldman was deported back to her native Russia in 1919.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

Margaret Sanger

In addition to creating the birth control pamphlet that got Emma Goldman arrested, Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood, along with her sister Ethel Byrne and fellow-activist Fania Mindell.

Sanger’s mother died at 50-years-old, partly due to complications from delivering 11 babies and having 7 miscarriages. Inspired by her mother’s pregnancy struggles, Sanger went to Europe to study contraceptive methods, even though educating people about birth control was illegal in the U.S. at the time.

When she came back to the U.S., Sanger was frequently arrested under the Comstock Law for distributing “obscene, lewd, or lascivious articles.” In 1912, she wrote What Every Girl Should Know, in which she argues that both mothers and teachers should clearly explain sexual anatomy in order to rid children of shame about sex. She wrote: “Every girl should first understand herself: she should know her anatomy, including sex anatomy.” (Preach.)

Two years later, Sanger wrote Family Limitations, an instructional pamphlet in which she coined the term “birth control.” And two years after that, Sanger, Byrne, and Mindell opened the country’s first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which the police shut down only nine days later. Sanger spent 30 days in jail after the Brownsville clinic was raided (where she instructed the inmates about birth control).

In 1923, Sanger opened the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau to distribute birth control to women and to study the long-term effectiveness and side effects of contraceptives. She also incorporated the American Birth Control League, an organization that studied global impacts of population growth, disarmament, and famine. Eventually, the two groups merged to become what we now know as Planned Parenthood. Sanger continued to fight for contraceptive rights and sexual freedom along with other birth control activists, and in 1936 their efforts led to a court ruling that using and talking about birth control would no longer be considered obscene. Legally, birth control information could be distributed in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. It took another 30 years for those rights to be extended to the rest of the country (but birth control was still only legal for married couples until the 1970s).

Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012)

Helen Gurley Brown

In 1962, when birth control was still illegal in most states for anyone who wasn’t married, Helen Gurley Brown wrote Sex And The Single Girl, a book that argued for single women’s right to have as much sex as they wanted. (The book later inspired a 1964 movie.) At the time, many publishers rejected the book for being too provocative, because it did such scandalous things as encouraging women to pursue men, and suggesting that women actually enjoyed sex (gasp!). When the book eventually was picked up, the publishers omitted a chapter dedicated to birth control. So unmarried women at the time could have sex, they just couldn’t know how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies.

Three years after her book published, Gurley Brown became Editor-In-Chief of Cosmopolitan. But the magazine many now associate with brazen sex advice wasn’t so risque back then. And although the staff at the time was not thrilled with her message, it was Gurley Brown’s influence that turned Cosmo into the go-to mag for learning how to please your man.

Virginia E. Johnson (1925-2013)

If you’ve watched Masters Of Sex, then you’re already familiar with Virginia Johnson’s story. Johnson was first the research assistant for and later wife to William H. Masters, a gynecologist and sex researcher. Together, the two studied sexual responses in hundreds of men and women and published groundbreaking studies that transformed how people understood sexuality.

Many of their participants credited Johnson’s warm and encouraging nature as the reason they felt comfortable enough to participate in Master’s studies (which often required them to masturbate or have sex while hooked up to machines that registered heart rate and other bodily functions). Although Johnson never finished her degree, she’s considered a sexologist for her help in Master’s work. Often, it was her who collected patients’ sexual histories and recorded data as they became sexually aroused.

Masters and Johnson made several important discoveries in their work, many of which broke negative assumptions about how women experience sex. In their 1966 book Human Sexual Response, they established that the clitoris is essential for women to have orgasms and that women can have multiple orgasms during a single sexual experience. After their book was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, it became a bestseller, making it common for people to say words like “clitoris,” “orgasm,” and “masturbation,” for the first time.

In 1964, Masters and Johnson founded the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (later the Masters and Johnson Institute), where they treated sexual dysfunction until the institute closed in 1994.

Joani Blank (1937-2016)

Anytime you pass a sex toy shop with large glass windows that proudly displays dildos, vibrators, and butt plugs instead of hiding them under seedy lighting, you can thank Joani Blank. In 1977, she founded the first Good Vibrations store, a feminist-leaning sex toy shop and one of the first to be run by a woman.

Blank had noticed that all of the sex toy shops she’d encountered reeked of men. The windows were covered, as if you should be ashamed of the products inside, and often, there would be men watching porn at quarter-operated booths once you got inside. It was a hostile space for women. “Over and over, women would say they were afraid to go into one of those places,” Carol Queen, the staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, said in Blank’s obituary.

Prior to opening Good Vibrations, Blank was working at UCSF’s medical school with women who struggled to have orgasms. She encouraged them to try vibrators. And her experiences with these women also informed her plans for the sex toy shop. In addition to having a place that felt safe for women, she wanted to train her staff to be able to answer questions about sex and sexual health. She wanted her customers and her staff to be able to have frank conversations about sex. It was all in an effort to take some of the shame and stigma out of having sex, especially for women.

Loretta Ross (1953-present)

Anytime you’ve ever used the term “reproductive justice,” that was because of Loretta Ross. Ross coined the phrase in 1994 following the International Conference on Population and Development.

Ross is co-founder of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, which organizes women of color in the reproductive rights movement. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of social justice and on building a human rights movement that includes everyone. She was co-director of the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, the largest protest march at the time, which saw 1.15 million people gather to advocate for abortion rights, birth control access, and reproductive healthcare.

Ross also started the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s, where she brought delegations of women of color to international conferences on women’s issues and human rights. In the 1970s, she became one of the first African American women to direct a rape crises center.

Complete Article HERE!

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Brands Are Dipping Into Life Coaching and Sex Advice

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Lola tampons, Coach, and more are offering life advice with your purchase.

An ad for Lola’s hotline.

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In a calm voice, Dr. Corina Dunlap gave me a short overview of the meaning of low libido. “One thing I really want women to know is that many factors can impact libido,” she said. “These interests and desires can be impacted by a number of internal as well as external factors, ranging from anxiety, relationship conflict and stress to vaginal infections, hormone imbalances, and common medications.”

I had called a sexual advice hotline created by reproductive health company Lola and, after weighing my options, selected a recording of Dunlap — a naturopathic doctor based in Portland, Oregon — who gave a short spiel and then requested that listeners leave a message after the beep for “a chance I’ll be calling you back.” It was a little thin on helpful information, but it did advise me to consult a professional with any questions.

On July 11, Lola (which started off selling tampons but expanded into a broader reproductive health products line in May) launched its month-long “Let’s Talk About It” campaign, including the new temporary call service (supported by dedicated phone booths set up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) aimed at encouraging open conversations about sexual health. The service, which ended the weekend of August 11, was described as a “one-of-a-kind national hotline that features Lena Dunham, Bethany C. Meyers, Shan Boodram and other thought-provoking women” on a variety of topics, from the right to orgasm and sex after surgery to opening up about your sexuality and period sex as great sex.

Women typically look to tampon companies to fulfill utilitarian purposes like comfort and absorbency, but Lola has also been thinking about what value it might add when it comes to overall sexual health and fulfillment. And Lola isn’t alone in its effort to provide consumers with life advice related to its core product line. A number of brands are starting to offer a new twist on the idea of retail therapy.

Stole My Heart, a lingerie shop in Toronto, recently hosted a “Ladies’ Night” on the topic of “dating in 2018,” where a panel of female experts (including relationship columnist Jen Kirsch and Bumble representative Katryna Klepacki) tackled sex and love in the contemporary age. Marks & Spencer, the UK-based department store, recently launched mental health drop-in sessions at several of its store cafes, noting that the brand aimed to provide a space “where people can talk openly with others who understand how they are feeling.” In June, Coach launched Life Coach, a new interactive NYC pop-up designed to encourage self-discovery through tarot card readings and sessions with the AstroTwins, identical twin sister astrologists. And the online sex toy vendor Unbound started a temporary promotion in April that offered free sessions with a sex coach.

Hotels are also adding a range of personal betterment options: The William Vale in Williamsburg has a course on “applied empathy” and the art of building better relationships, and the Hoxton in Amsterdam has launched the “Motherhood Project,” which covers everything from eating for improved energy to attaining balance in a hectic world.

Encouragingly, a lot — though not all — of these brands have partnered with experts with some degree of legitimacy, which means much of the advice being dispensed is through referral to a knowledgeable organization rather than a customer service rep expected to dispense answers about low libido in addition to facilitating returns. Collectively, they underscore a key point: the idea that their customers are ravenous for certain conversations, whether it’s about sexual or mental health, work-life balance, or building confidence.

Earlier this year, the womenswear brand Tuxe — perhaps best known for making polished bodysuits, including one famously worn by Meghan Markle — launched a Coaching + Clothing program, which offered a free life coaching session with every purchase. Tuxe is presently revamping its coaching offerings, but it’s working on a series of pre-recorded sessions with an all-female cast of performance coaches on topics including dealing with setbacks and building confidence, and setting achievable goals.

Tamar Daniel, the founder and CEO of Tuxe, refers to this program as “part of addressing the whole woman.” She says her business model has been heavily influenced by a 2011 Northwestern University study that suggested that how you dress affects not only how others perceive you but your actual behavior. “As a team, we got really excited about this whole idea and felt that it speaks to the core of what we had been trying to express,” she says. “I never liked the idea of just selling product. I want to put our money where our mouth is and delivering on more than just what you wear.”

Daniel says she launched the Tuxe coaching program in response to customer feedback. “We were getting a lot of emails from people telling us that they bought Tuxe to boost their confidence before an interview or a big presentation, or from mothers who bought them for their daughters on their first day of college or other big milestone events,” she says. The emotional connection between their clothing and the hopeful ambitions of their consumers created an opportunity to tighten the weave.

Daniel sent me a sample video being prepared for their late summer relaunch in which career coach Katie Fogarty talks about building a strong personal brand (Martha Stewart is cited as a role model) and offers practical tips for getting there. There’s nothing revolutionary about this advice, of course. But it’s the kind of thing you might watch to get fired up just before you head into an important pitch meeting while wearing your new Tuxe bodysuit. “It’s very TED talk-y but these positive messages can make a difference,” says Daniel. “It can get your blood pumping.”

Getting your blood pumping — especially when it creates a positive brand association — is a big part of the goal. Peter Noel Murray, a consumer psychologist based in New York City, says these programs tie into a very current self-care trend that says to the customer, “We care about you and we care about your mental health.”

“It’s a way for retailers to say, ‘We’re good people and we’re not just after your money,’” says Murray. “A brand is just a mental image of something; from a psychological perspective, this is just a way to enrich that mental association the customer has with whatever brand. We are naturally attracted to things that are positive and make us feel good.”

This feel good, self-empowerment-oriented Goop-ification of a spectrum of businesses speaks to a some very contemporary issues: rising concerns about mental health and accessible care, the pervasiveness of the self-care movement, our obsession with self-improvement, and the increasing lengths retail and hospitality brands will go to cultivate a “lifestyle” persona in order to create perceived intimacy and drive customer loyalty.

“Programming like this allows us to offer a space for our customers to talk about these intimate things that they care about,” says Amy Pearson, co-owner of Stole My Heart in Toronto. “You take out the impersonal business aspect and connect on a more personal level.”

Connecting on a more personal level can be tricky, depending on the angle. Mary Pryor, a digital marketer based in New York City, visited Life Coach in June and thought the pop-up served as an interesting introduction to the metaphysical or paranormal world. “Coach is in the business of leather handbags, not crystals, so I’m glad they brought in programming by people who know what they’re talking about,” she says. “It was the kind of thing that might leave some bread crumbs in your brain.” She also noted that there wasn’t a heavy push on product but rather overall brand awareness. “It would be hard to push self-reflection with a leather bowler bag. That would be a stretch.”

But the promise of authentic engagement and subsequent customer loyalty is a powerful incentive for brands to keep building platforms for engagement in the self-care space. Pryor’s sense as a consumer is that many of these associations are being driven by a particular sense of vulnerability — especially among women. “I think people are really looking for tools and answers to find their way,” she says.

Brands are seemingly happy to light a path. Polly Rodriguez, the co-founder and CEO of Unbound, says her company’s partnership with Maven (an online sexual health clinic) was based on a conversation vacuum. “The government and public education system should be addressing sexual health and wellness, but over and over, we’ve seen these institutions walk away from that role,” she says. “So there’s a place for us to provide that value for our customers. We want women, femme-identifying, and nonbinary people to be able to find these resources and tools that they need. And when you offer your customers genuine solutions and help, it builds customer loyalty in a way that’s authentic.”

Unbound is also planning to expand on this idea — though it’s looking to build online tools to connect women who need support. Rodriguez says she hopes the program will launch in the early fall. “We’re seeing a really organic community emerging on Instagram and at events,” she says. “There’s palpable demand for women to feel less alone.”

Jordana Kier, a co-founder of Lola, says that their recent initiative is also part of a broader effort to build community. “In this day and age, so much of our lives and interactions are online,” she says. “But people like that IRL interaction and they want to feel connected.” Lola was inspired, she says, by concerns related to continuing stigma surrounding sex. “We wanted to find a way to use advertising to drive a touchy conversation. We’re providing women an opportunity to ask questions and feel supported.”

There’s an interesting duality to these new offerings: On one hand, they’re clearly feeding a need from a group of consumers hungry for information about how to be a woman in today’s world; on the other, there’s an undeniably cynical rationale behind this kind of programming, drawing a customer or potential customer closer while engaging in a form of emotional manipulation — even when intentions extend beyond a company’s bottom line.

San Francisco psychotherapist Daphne de Marneffe says there’s a risk that in attempting to create positive associations, some brands might inadvertently present the idea of a quick fix to sometimes serious mental or sexual health problems. “Sitting with strangers in a closed cafe is not going to resolve your psychotic break or addiction issues,” she says.

Still, de Marneffe acknowledges that creating spaces to have these conversations is valuable. “Some of these programs acknowledge that people are feeling emotionally stressed out and that they can’t always talk about things with their spouses or friends. There’s a question of whether there’s a false promise in here, but it could serve as a gateway for people to get help.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Men And Women (But Especially Men) Are Confused About How Much Sex Everyone Is Having

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By Aliyah Kovner

Psychologists and social theorists are well aware of the fact that popular culture has been perpetuating myths about human sexuality since, well, forever. But given that we are living in an era of increasing sexual liberation, at least in Western nations, and social media oversharing, this has gotten better in recent years – right? Maybe not.

According to a survey by polling firm Ipsos, both men and women in the UK and US are wildly out of touch with reality in regards to the intimate activities of the opposite sex. But (some) men are particularly clueless.

The research data – collected from online queries given to between 1,000 and 1,500 people, aged 16-64 or 18-64, in each country – reveals that the average guess among men for how often a typical young woman (18 to 29 years old) has sex is 23 times per month in the US and 22 times a month in the UK. However, the women of this age group who were polled reported having sex an average of five times per month – a more than four-fold difference in expectation vs reality.

“It’s interesting that this misperception is so profound. It really illustrates the extent to which men really don’t understand female sexuality,” Chris Jackson, a spokesperson for Ipsos, told BuzzFeed News. “Men just don’t seem to have a good understanding of the reality for women. I guess that’s not actually news.”

Guesses about young men’s sexual frequency were also far off the mark, but not as dramatically. The overall average estimate (from both men and women) was that 18 to 29-year-old males are doing it about 14 times per month, whereas the average self-reported number was four.

And demonstrating that women are not free from misunderstanding, the Ipsos survey showed that the average guess among females of all ages for the frequency of young women’s sexual encounters was 12 times a month.

Of course, because the survey assessed a broad group of people, likely with large differences in lifestyle, and didn’t account for differences in sexual activity between those in relationships or single, the “real” figures listed must be taken with a massive grain of salt. In addition, relying on people’s self-reported numbers leads to dubious accuracy, and it is important to note that this survey is not peer-reviewed research and focused only on heterosexual encounters.

Keeping these limitations in mind, it is still amusing to look at the outcomes of the next section of the study, which asked participants to guess how many sexual partners the average man and woman in their country have had by age 45 to 54. Men and women in the US, UK, and Australia (where another ~1,500 people were polled) were pretty good at guessing the average man’s number (between 17 and 19), as you can see in the chart below. But American men did an appalling job at guessing for women – estimating an average of 27 compared to the reported 12 – and both men and women in the UK and Australia were also far off.

When guessing why men’s numbers are so much higher than women’s considering that heterosexual sex involves one of each, the Ipsos pollsters report that such findings are common in sex polls.

“There are a number of suggested explanations for this – everything from men’s use of prostitutes to how the different genders interpret the question (for example, if women discount some sexual practices that men count),” they wrote.

But it seems most likely to be a mix of men’s rougher and readier adding up, combined with men’s conscious or unconscious bumping up of their figure, and women’s tendency to deflate theirs. It seems that the most reasonable conclusion is that men up their number a bit, women downplay theirs a bit more, and we actually reveal something close to the truth when guessing for ‘other people’”

Complete Article HERE!

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What Do You Do If You Have An STI?

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Stay Calm, Here Are 3 Steps To Take

By Laura Moses

Years ago, a friend raged into my apartment with bad news: the guy she had been hooking up with had given her an STI. She knew he was seeing other people, but he had just written her a lovey-dovey email from his business trip, asking about her upcoming schedule, and saying how much he missed her. She was gobsmacked about what to do. I mean… what do you do if you have an STI? Like a good friend, I made her a drink and then we made a plan. She wrote a nice email back to him saying she’d check her schedule, hoped he had a nice trip, and ended with “P.S. We have gonhorrea.” Boom.

Although we still laugh about that to this day, your sexual health is something to take very seriously. If you think you might have an STI, you probably feel anxious, scared and pretty physically uncomfortable. I connected with Dr. Gillian Dean, Senior Director of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, about this topic. She observes, “The reality is that there are 20 million new STI cases each year. Getting an STI or having a partner with an STI is extremely common — it’s the result of intimate contact with other people and not something to be embarrassed about. It doesn’t make you any less valuable or worthy of love, and your STI status doesn’t make you “clean” or “dirty.” So take a deep breath, you got this, and read on for steps to take to address what might be going down… down there.

Step One: Get Tested

It’s important to note what your specific symptoms are and when they first occured. While a girl’s gotta pay attention to everything going on below her belt, keep in mind that not every itch or sore spot is caused by an STI. Dr. Dean explains, “painful or frequent urination could be a symptom of an STI — or it could be caused by a urinary tract infection or vaginitis. Both yeast infections and pubic lice cause itching. Is that bump a wart or a pimple? It can be hard to tell sometimes.”

While noting and keeping track of your symptoms is important, most common STIs out there — chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV — often don’t have any symptoms, Dr. Dean says. That’s why there’s no accurate way to tell if you have an STI without being tested. STI testing is quick, easy and painless. All STIs are treatable, while many are curable — but you have to know your status before you can get treated. So go.

Step Two: For Real, Get Tested

Let’s say you feel fairly fine, just a little irritation down south, but you would rather wait it out and hope it goes away than trek to your gyno’s office and do the whole pelvic exam thing. Most of the time, STIs have no symptoms or may be so mild that they don’t bother you, but that doesn’t mean they’re not harmful.

Dr. Dean cautions, “Just because you don’t have physical symptoms doesn’t mean you can’t pass it [an STI] to a partner or that it can’t lead to more serious health problems in the future. If you’ve had vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners, you should talk with a nurse or doctor about getting tested.”

Now, if you have physical symptoms such as sores or bumps on and around your genitals, burning or irritation when you pee or flu-like symptoms like fever, body ache, and swollen glands… then please put your phone in your bag and go right to the doctor. (You can finish reading this later!) You can also get rested — often for a reduced rate or even for free — at Planned Parenthood or a sexual health clinic.

Once you’ve been tested and you know exactly what you’re dealing with, the treatment your doctor prescribed to you will get to work. Going forward, be sure you take all precautions to protect your precious health, like using protection and getting tested regularly. Dr. Dean explains, “At a minimum, sexually active people should get tested once a year — but it also depends on your personal risk factors, such as if you use protection or if you have a new sexual partner since you last got tested.” She suggests talking with your doctor about what makes sense for your life.

Also, you should talk to your sexual partner or partners about this. If you’re unsure how to have this super fun talk with a sexual partner about STI testing and protection, or that you have an STI, Planned Parenthood created a set of videos to help you out. If you truly don’t want to have a face-to-face chat, you can always do it in an email postscript, like my dear friend once did. Your sexual health is part of your physical, emotional and mental health, so being able to communicate with your sexual partners is key.

Complete Article HERE!

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