A Big Reason Why Some People Don’t Enjoy Sex As Much

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Some of the biggest things that can get in the way of good sex: performance anxiety, relationship stress, life stress, lack of variety, lack of time, physical conditions that cause pain, sexual dysfunction where certain parts don’t work the way they should, mental health, antidepressants, orgasm focus, clitoris negligence, selfishness, selflessness, lack of communication, lack of lubrication, internalized shame about having sex…and those are just the ones that initially come to mind.

But here’s one that we don’t often hear or talk a lot about: childhood trauma. And that doesn’t include only childhood sexual abuse (although that’s a large and pervasive type of childhood trauma). It also includes being neglected by your parents, seeing aggressive or emotionally abusive behavior between your parents, getting bullied or mistreated by peers, dealing with identity-related discrimination, and more. These early negative experiences can psychologically shape us and the way we behave, think, and move throughout the world. And new research suggests those traumas can actually affect the way we experience our sexuality in a very specific way.

Researchers surveyed 410 people currently in sex therapy about their sex lives, childhoods, levels of psychological distress in the past week, and how mindful they are as people.

The results showed people who’d experienced more instances of trauma throughout their childhood tended to have less satisfying sexual lives than those without childhood trauma.

Why a bad childhood can lead to a less satisfying sex life as an adult.

It has to do with those other two variables: psychological distress and mindfulness. Predictably, the findings showed people with more childhood trauma tended to experience more daily psychological distress (that is, moments of fear, worry, anxiety, or other negative emotions felt throughout the day) than those without childhood trauma. That psychological distress was linked to lower mindfulness (i.e., the tendency to be attentive and aware of what’s happening in the present moment as it unfolds), and that lack of mindfulness was what was making sex less enjoyable. 

“Psychological distress (i.e., depression, anxiety, irritability, cognitive impairments) may encourage the use of avoidance strategies to escape from suffering or unpleasant psychological states, which may in turn diminish attentiveness and awareness of what is taking place in the present moment,” the researchers explain in the paper. “The numbing of experience or low dispositional mindfulness may diminish survivors’ availability and receptiveness to pleasant stimuli, including sexual stimuli, therefore leading to a sex life perceived as empty, bad, unpleasant, negative, unsatisfying, or worthless.”

In other words, people who’ve experienced bad stuff as kids tend to deal with more stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, and because of that, they’ve developed a specific coping strategy that involves distancing themselves from being fully aware of their emotional and perhaps even physical senses. That lack of mindfulness, however, ends up making good things—like sex—also less enjoyable.

How mindfulness affects sexual pleasure.

Plenty of past research has demonstrated how important mindfulness is to enjoying sex. One study earlier this year found people who are more in tune with their senses tend to have more sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, a higher sense of sexual well-being, and even more sexual confidence.

This isn’t just about woo-woo feel-your-feelings stuff—mindfulness is particularly key to physical pleasure. Here’s how the researchers explain it:

A lower dispositional mindfulness may be particularly detrimental to sexual functioning. Namely, individuals who are distracted, less present, less aware, or unmindful might report lower sexual satisfaction because (1) they may show less awareness of sexual stimuli or less capacity to identify and experience pleasant states as they unfold, therefore potentially experiencing less sexual satisfaction; and (2) their lack of self-regulation of attention might preclude psychological distance from anxious thoughts and decrease their contact with moment-to-moment experiences, hence tempering arousal reactions toward sexual stimuli. … A greater disposition to mindfulness has also been related to one’s ability to fully experience the sexual act.

If you’re someone who had a rough childhood for whatever reason, it’s possible that those experiences have shaped your ability to be fully present with your senses, which in turn can make sex just feel less good.

According to the study, the trauma-distress-mindfulness-pleasure connection accounted for nearly 20% of the variance in sexual satisfaction among people—in other words, these variables together were responsible for 20% of the difference between how good sex felt across all the people in the study, from the people with the lowest sexual satisfaction to those with the highest. That means this is something to seriously pay attention to if sex tends to not feel so great for you!

The researchers suggest people with childhood trauma consider spending time working to deal with their negative emotions via mindfulness—that is, learning to sit with those emotions instead of trying to avoid them. That practice, if mastered, can begin to seep into all parts of your life and change the way you tune into any and all experiences, good and bad.

“Higher levels of dispositional mindfulness may help to reroute one’s focus away from negative, critical, or anxiety-provoking cognitions and onto sensations that are happening during sexual activities with their partner, as they unfold from moment to moment, therefore promoting satisfying sexual experiences among partners,” the researchers write. “Partners presenting higher levels of dispositional mindfulness could be more aware of their internal (e.g., arousing sensations, thoughts, emotions) and external cues (e.g., erotic cues such as seeing the partner’s naked body).”

Here are a few of the best meditations for improving your sex life, plus a guide to staying present during sex itself.

Complete Article HERE!

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Goodbye Bad Sex…

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How To Rewrite Your Sexual Story

By Us

Now, the team behind the raved-about podcast, led by Lisa Williams and Anniki Sommerville, are putting their considerable expertise down on paper with their debut book, More Orgasms Please: Why Female Pleasure Matters. In the book, the collective, who firmly believe that sex, relationships and body confidence are feminist issues that can no longer be ignored, take on everything from feminist porn to body image and the menopause.

Like the podcast that inspired it, More Orgasms Please is like a great conversation with friends: at once punchy and playful, normalising and educational. Featuring insight from doctors, bloggers, politicians, therapists and celebrities, it’s an eye-opening read that puts women’s pleasure firmly on the map at a time when it couldn’t be more crucial.

In the extract below, Anniki recounts a bad sexual experience she had as a teenager, which left her feeling anxious about her future sex life. If, like so many of us, you too have had a less-than-brilliant encounter between the sheets, you’ll want to read on for The Hotbed Collective’s straight-talking advice…

ANNIKI: It’s the late Eighties. I’m fifteen. I’ve been out at a nightclub with a bunch of friends. We’ve drunk Grolsch, and been chatted up by some students from St Martin’s School of Art. They are channelling the Levi’s 501 ads and wear white T-shirts and baggy jeans.

One of them asks if I want to go back to his room. My best friend Hannah accompanies me. He lives in a hall of residence in Battersea. To cut a long story short, the boy and I snog while Hannah sleeps in the same bed. This is not unusual as beds are often at a premium and we’ve become used to sharing this way. Without warning the boy clambers on top of me and starts thrusting. Hannah mumbles, ‘Can you please stop?’ but the boy continues. Eventually after three minutes he groans. I am still wearing my thick Wolford tights. They must be at least 200 denier.

‘You are completely gross,’ Hannah says waking up. ‘I’m getting out of here.’

I don’t want to stay without her so we leave. On the early-morning bus up the King’s Road, I look down at my tights. There is a white sticky substance. ‘I can’t believe you had sex in the bed next to me,’ Hannah says.

The conversation ended right there. Had I had sex? Was that it? The problem was I lacked the necessary vocabulary to explain what had happened. My sex ed lessons hadn’t included a session on ‘dry humping’. ‘Could I be pregnant?’ I wondered. There were rumours that sperm was so powerful that it could survive outside your body and crawl up your leg if it was determined enough. I never talked about this experience with anyone – not even my best mate.

I also felt ashamed but wasn’t quite sure why. There was no one I could talk to about it. I spent many hours fretting that my future sex life would be one where I always had sex through a pair of tights because I didn’t know any better.

‘Bad sex’ experiences such as the one Anniki describes above unfortunately are the norm for many young women embarking on those first few formative sexual experiences. Without a meaningful, realistic idea of what to expect or useful education about how sex is supposed to be pleasurable, then it’s a miracle that we ever end up enjoying it at all

If you don’t know your own anatomy, what a clitoris is, or the difference between foreplay and penetration, then having sex through a pair of tights can be the unfortunate outcome. Sex education lays the groundwork. It also encourages us to talk about our experiences so we don’t think we’re abnormal. It gives us the information we need to make the right choices (and these will hopefully lead to more orgasms and less worry, anxiety and ignorance).

Bad sex probably shares a few common traits (for us anyway).

FIRSTLY: no orgasm. Of course, you can have nice sex without an orgasm but if you are physically capable of an orgasm, it’s a bit like eating rhubarb crumble without custard. Or not having a bun with your burger. Or going out with trainers and no socks so your feet get blisters (come up with your own analogy here). You can fake an orgasm (and sometimes it’s just simply the easiest thing to do: if it’s someone you haven’t had sex with much yet and you like them but you haven’t finished this book yet and are therefore still mid-journey to becoming a fully qualified sex goddess who can ask for what she likes) but this isn’t a sustainable way forward and the sooner you can put things right, the better.

SECONDLY: bad sex often hurts. This may be because you’re not lubricated enough and your sexual partner has no clue or has forgotten about foreplay, or because they’ve watched too much porn, and think frantic, crazy, Jack Russell-style action is what turns you on (maybe it does, in which case: thumbs up).

THIRDLY: bad sex sometimes entails something happening which is so humiliating that your face burns whenever you think about it, even when it’s twenty-odd years later.

We know from our own conversations and from feedback from The Hotbed that plenty of bad sex is happening each and every day. Here are some quickfire stories about bad encounters, shared with us by our listeners:

The time I tried to give a blow job but thought you had to blow instead of suck…

The time toilet paper was still stuck to my bum and I was really into a guy and he discovered it there…

I had to pee really bad and ended up weeing all over our sleeping bag…

My entire first relationship involved sex which was OK but which never made me have an orgasm…

His mum rang him while we were at it, and he answered and had a full conversation with her before carrying on again…

In Not That Kind of Girl Lena Dunham describes a bad experience of cunnilingus, ‘I felt like I was being chewed on by a child that wasn’t mine.’

Author and columnist Caitlin Moran refers to bad sex as ‘the straight-up awful hump – a tale you will tell for the rest of time’. She tells a story of going back to a famous comedian’s house in the Nineties: ‘As we began the “opening monologue” on the sofa, he reached around for the remote control – and put on his own TV show

Perhaps you too have your own bad sex story to tell. Often the accounts of these experiences share certain commonalities: we’re disempowered, passive, naïve and insecure. We do something stupid and embarrassing and we don’t have the guts to ride it out.

Our partner is too rough, not rough enough, too fast, too slow, rude, arrogant, or picks his toenails afterwards.

Samantha from Sex and the City famously declared, ‘Fuck me badly once, shame on you. Fuck me badly twice, shame on me.’ You will have noticed that we’re not blaming our sexual partners exclusively for our bad sex. Of course, they should get clued up: read about some techniques; buy lube; ask you what you like and dislike; and know that women don’t tend to get turned on by having their head forced down into the crotch area. But while they should be able to read your body language, they can’t be expected to read your mind.

Bad sex can happen when expectations are running very high. It can happen when you’re fifteen and it can happen when you’re eighty-five. Unless women take responsibility for their own pleasure and get educated about what pleases them, and have the confidence to tell or show their partners, bad sex can last an entire lifetime

Here’s our Hotbed advice:

REMEMBER IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO REWRITE YOUR SEXUAL STORY. Just as we can change jobs and have multiple identities, so we can change the course of our sexual history. Have a frank look at your own sex life – look at the overarching narrative from teen to now. What percentage has been bad? Are there any patterns in terms of things you’ve put up with but would rather not anymore? How can you build on the stuff you love?

THINK ABOUT THE BEST SEX YOU’VE HAD AND WHAT SHAPED THOSE EXPERIENCES. Was it a specific technique? A mood? Location? It might not be possible to recreate a summer in Spain when you were twenty-two, but there will be certain ingredients that you can integrate into your sex life now…

GET OVER THE IDEA THAT SEX IS BEST WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG. The reality is often quite the opposite. The Public Health England survey that we referred to earlier found that forty-two per cent of women aged between twenty-five and thirty-four complained of ‘a lack of sexual enjoyment’, but in the fifty-five to sixty-four age group this percentage falls to twenty-eight per cent. Bad sex can be edifying in that it teaches you what you don’t want from a sexual encounter, meaning you can learn and improve as you grow older (despite the media’s failure to portray any woman past thirty as fuckable).

TAP INTO FANTASY. When we’re younger we have rich fantasy lives. Usually these take the shape of imagining sex with pop stars and actors. How can fantasy help now? How can you tap into that teen mindset where sex lived in your imagination?

OF COURSE IT MAY BE EASIER TO FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT, ESPECIALLY DURING NEW ENCOUNTERS, BUT THERE’S NO REASON WHY YOU CAN’T HAVE GREAT SEX WHILE DATING HOT STRANGERS. Showing someone where and how you liked to be touched, bringing along a tube of lube, and saying ‘softer’, ‘this is amazing,’ or ‘ooh, that hurts a bit’, are all completely acceptable from the first bonk, and could spare you both some embarrassment and wasted time.

OWN YOUR BAD SEX STORIES. Talk about them. You’ll soon discover that they’re pretty much universal. A bad sex story shared is a bad sex story out in the open and you can have a good old hoot about it and relieve yourself of any shame. We’re talking about the sex-through-tights stories here, of course. If they’re about anything abusive or damaging in any shape or form then seek help from a counsellor or therapist. The experience of abuse can’t be brushed under the carpet and will oftentimes leave heavy imprints in your memory, but with proper support and therapy they don’t have to be a barrier to improving your sex life either.

Bad sex may be a rite of passage but as we’ve explained, it can also continue from our teens into our twenties, thirties and beyond. There may no longer be Wolford tights involved, but there will certainly be times when your partner can’t perform, or you lose interest, or the baby cries, or you’re too tired, or the quality of sex is just not there for you.

In order to stop the rot and make sure that it’s not happening all the time, look out for unhelpful patterns that emerge. Do you always tend to prioritise your partner’s pleasure more than your own? Do you feel grateful if your partner makes your orgasm a priority but then worry afterwards that you were being too demanding and pushy? Do you cringe when you tell your partner about what turns you on?

It’s also worth remembering that famous Nora Ephron quote about how you can turn embarrassing stories around so you become the heroine: ‘When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh.’ That’s how Anniki feels about the whole tights story anyway. She’s ‘owning’ that bad boy.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex bans are manipulative and destructive to your relationship

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By Rebecca Reid

There’s a Greek myth called Lysistrata.

It’s a story about how the wives of the Greeks, sick of their husbands pissing off to war and coming back with a limb missing or not coming back at all, took matters into their own hands.

To create peace between various Greek factions, they went on a sex strike. No nookie for anyone until the war was over. And basically, it worked.

Lysistrata was first performed in 411BC. 2,430 years ago. And yet women are still doing the exact same thing – going on sex strike to get what they want.

Earlier this year Alyssa Milano suggested that we women go on strike from sex until the Georgia six-week abortion limit is overruled.

If you Google ‘sex strike’ you find hundreds of stories from women who got ‘their own way’ by going on strike. One woman got a new kitchen. Another convinced her husband to have another baby. Other women simply use it as a disciplinary measure to correct their husband’s behaviour.

Doesn’t anyone else find this unutterably depressing?

It’s 2019 and apparently the axis of our power as humans is still whether or not we will open our legs for our partners.

Sex shouldn’t be a reward. It should be an expression of lust, or love, or anything else that you want it to be. It should be fun, gratifying, enjoyable.

Sex shouldn’t be the adult equivalent of giving a child a chocolate button for hanging their coat up after school.

By taking sex away from your partner as a punishment you send the message that it’s an activity that you partake in for them in the first place – it suggests that sex is a favour you’ve been doing them and will no longer be doing until they toe the party line.

In every single example I could find online, the person doing the banning is the woman and the person on the receiving end is a man, which further perpetuates an untrue stereotype that men like sex and women put up with it.

Another problematic aspect of the sex ban is that often it’s women putting one in place because she wants to make a financial choice – like a new car or a holiday – that her partner isn’t comfortable with.

Instead of compromising – the money belongs to both of you – or just paying it for themselves, these women perpetuate the idea that their husbands are Chancellors of the Exchequer in their marriage.

They might as well be applying for more housekeeping money.

If your sex life is so lukewarm that the idea of giving it up to punish your partner is appealing, then you’ve got a wider problem which needs addressing.

If however you enjoy sex and withdraw it at your own deprivation then you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even if it works, do you really want to have won an argument with your other half by taking away sex, just like you would get a child to do their homework by offering screen time?

Back in 411BC Greece, women really didn’t have much power. Sex was one of the few things you had the ability to grant. But the world has moved on, and we are equal partners within our relationships and therefore we do not need to withdraw sexual favours to claw back power.

We’re intelligent, mature, sensible women with critical reasoning skills. Why would we resort to such reduced tactics to alleviate conflict?

Of course there is an element of sexual politics in any relationship – when you feel happier and closer to your partner you’ll probably have more sex. When you’re fighting or struggling through issues it might well be less. That’s normal.

No one is suggesting for a second that you should have sex with your partner if you don’t want to or you’re not in the mood. You should only ever have sex when you want to have sex. The issue is when you use ‘I’m not in the mood’ as a bargaining chip, which is patronising and controlling.

If your partner doesn’t take you seriously when you say you’re annoyed about the division of labour within the household, or that you think you need to redecorate your kitchen, then they’re not a good partner.

If you ignore their responses to your marital problems and decide to ‘punish’ your partner rather than compromising, then you’re not a good partner.

Relationships that work don’t involve point scoring. They’re not based around depriving someone else of privileges to train their behaviour. That’s how you treat a naughty child, not a spouse whom you respect.

You might get what you originally wanted – your partner might do more housework or ‘let’ you buy a new car, but what cost is this ‘victory’ to the long term health of your relationship?

Complete Article HERE!

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How to have a polyamorous relationship…

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because it’s more complicated than just casual sex

Being in a polyamorous relationship is more complicated than just casual sex. We spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of “Many Love,” on what you should know about polyamory.

By Elizabeth Entenman

“In a city like New York, with its infinite possibilities, has monogamy become too much to expect?” When Carrie Bradshaw uttered that rhetorical question during a 1998 episode of Sex and the City, little did we know how common polyamory would become. Carrie was never in a polyamorous relationship, but if the show premiered today, the topic would probably come up in her column quite often.

Polyamory (or “poly” for short) is the belief that you can have an intimate relationship with more than one person, with all partners consenting. Being in a polyamorous relationship is not, as many people wrongfully believe, an exotic trend or an excuse to sleep with as many partners as you want. It’s an alternative to monogamy for people who don’t see themselves being with only one partner, emotionally and/or sexually, for the rest of their lives. Some research suggests that about four to five percent of people in the U.S. are polyamorous.

Polyamorous relationships (also known as consensual non-monogamy) require a lot of honesty and communication. To get a better idea of what it’s really like to be in a poly relationship, we spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s). She opened up about challenges, offered advice for maintaining strong communication, and shared important safety precautions for exploring polyamory. Read on if you’re curious about what it’s really like to be poly.

HelloGiggles: Is a polyamorous relationship the same thing as an open relationship?

Sophie Lucido Johnson: I describe it as being like squares and rectangles—you know, how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square? Every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship, but not every open relationship is a polyamorous relationship. Polyamory requires enthusiasm, knowledge, and consent from all people involved.

HG: What are the basic communication “rules” of being in a polyamorous relationship?

SLJ: Every poly relationship is different, so the rules will absolutely depend on the people participating in the relationship. In my relationship, it’s 100% communication about everything all the time. Defusing the tension around talking about my partners’ other relationships has taken away the power there. For me, that works really well. I very rarely experience jealousy anymore, and when I do, it’s a great opportunity for my partners and me to talk about where it’s coming from.

HG: How can people in polyamorous relationships set boundaries?

SLJ: Once again, every poly relationship is different. Every person has to establish their own boundaries and communicate about them; their partners have to listen and honor those boundaries. But I’m working on a book right now where I asked a therapist about boundaries, and he said that boundaries are tricky because it’s hard to know where yours are until they’ve been crossed.

HG: What’s the biggest challenge of being in a polyamorous relationship?

SLJ: The biggest challenge is also the biggest gift: Polyamory asks for its participants to get in bed with their uncomfortable emotions. You can’t push away feelings of fear or jealousy or anger; you have to go into those feelings, pick them apart, and try to understand them. This is hard work, but it’s profoundly rewarding, too. Polyamory and radical honesty are closely linked, in my opinion. The truth isn’t always pleasant and lovely and comfortable. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell it.

HG: Are there any safety precautions people should take?

SJL: All the precautions. My brand of polyamory is not super sex-focused—I’m more interested in emotional intimacy with some kissing on the side. But when I do engage in sex with people, it’s always protected, except with my husband, with whom I am fluid bonded. Ask people when they last got tested; ask them if they’ve been with anyone since then; ask them what they feel is important to share about their sexual history. Always check the expiration date on your condoms and dental dams. Use condoms on sex toys and invest in some sexy latex gloves for hardcore finger play.

And then beyond that, work to de-stigmatize sexually transmitted infections. Most of them are relatively harmless (meaning: they’re not going to kill you, although they’re unpleasant). We have ideas about STIs that are way out of line in comparison to the way we look at other chronic infections. They’re not grosser because they’re on your genitals. Sexual health is just health. It is crucial that we begin to talk about it that way.

HG: How can someone bring up the subject of opening their relationship with their partner?

SLJ: Don’t open up your relationship because something inside your relationship is broken. Opening it up is not going to fix the broken thing. Work on the broken thing first and establish whether it can be fixed. If one person wants to be open and the other person really doesn’t, then that relationship is probably not going to work in the long run. Honor each other’s realities. If both partners are eager and excited to pursue other relationships—versus, say, terrified or desperate—then establish what rules and boundaries make the most sense for you.

I have personally never met a couple who has made a parallel polyamorous situation work out for more than a year, but the internet swears that it’s possible. Parallel polyamory is the sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell version, where you and your partner date on the side but don’t tell each other details. I’m a big advocate of telling the truth. The difficult conversations are the ones that bring us closer.

HG: What’s the biggest misconception about polyamorous relationships?

SLJ: That polyamory is all about sex. For me (and tons of poly people I know), it’s about two main things. One: accepting and embracing that relationships do not stand still and will change over time, and committing to a partner or partners that everyone is going to communicate, constantly, about those natural changes. And two: shifting priorities to embrace friends, chosen family, and non-sexual romantic relationships, where traditionally our social priorities have been around a single partner. None of that has to do with sex. Assuming that polyamory is all about orgies and millennials three-way kissing in bars does the culture a tremendous disservice and excludes a ton of people who are asexual or sexually transitioning and are uncomfortable with sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Want to have better sex?

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Talk about ‘it’ with your partner more, say Texas researchers

Conversation helps sexual satisfaction and desire, especially with partners in committed relationships.

By

  • A new meta-analysis from the University of Texas at Austin finds that better sexual communication leads to better sex.
  • The survey of 48 studies discovered that communication plays a key role in helping with a number of sexual dysfunctions.
  • Both genders benefit in regard to orgasms and satisfaction, while desire is an important component of female sexuality.

We know communication leads to better results. An entire library of business books discuss the importance of honest and, if necessary, tough conversations to drill down and specify potential problems in the corporate environment. The same holds true for societies and politics — dialogue is better than silence. Yet, for some reason we seem to forget that lesson when we get home to slide into bed.

A new meta-analysis from three researchers at the University of Texas at Austin argues for the importance of frank conversation at bedtime (as well as leading up to it). According to their survey of the literature, better conversation leads to better sexual satisfaction, orgasms, and desire levels.

Looking over 48 studies on sexuality, sexual dysfunction, and conversations about sex, the team of Allen Mallory, Amelia Stanton, and Ariel Handy wanted to know if there is a link between sexual communication and sexual function. Are couples that talk about sex better at it?

First, the researchers opened by discussing two different aspects of avoidance. Sometimes couples with sexual problems dodge the topic out of shame, fear, or uncertainty. Likewise, couples that have difficulty discussing their sexual lives might be more likely to encounter problems down the line. They continue,

“Either way, it is likely that sexual function and sexual satisfaction are both directly impacted by sexual self-disclosure, which may protect against future sexual dysfunction and ultimately enhance future communication.”

The pathways that open up possibilities of better sex include the disclosure of one’s preferences. If your partner knows what you like (or hate), you’re more likely to please them. And if such a discussion is had early on, if either (or both) partner change their preferences over time, they’re likely to feel comfortable discussing that change, leading to further trust and pleasure.

Another pathway leads to better intimacy: Couples that are open enough to share their pleasures are more likely to be intimate with each other. Failure to communicate needs and desires leads to the opposite — that is, discomfort and distrust, fomented by a lack of dialogue.

Both pathways are especially important in long-term, committed relationships. The well-known “honeymoon phase” of every relationship creates an addictive chemical cocktail in the brains and bodies of sexual partners. Yet our biology is not designed for sustaining the intensity of this period. Communication, the authors declare, is an essential key to ensuring both partners are pleased as the dopamine and serotonin surges decrease.

The studies the team pored over, which included more than 12,000 participants in all, looked at a variety of topics related to sexual dysfunction, including desire, emotion, lubrication, arousal, erection, and pain. While communication appears to be helpful to everyone involved, Mallory notes that one sex cherishes dialogue more:

“Talking with a partner about sexual concerns seems to be associated with better sexual function. This relationship was most consistent for orgasm function and overall sexual function — and uniquely related to women’s sexual desire.”

From their literature review, it appears that both genders experience better orgasms and overall sexual function when more talking is involved. For women specifically, desire is greatly enhanced with conversation. These links appear to be strongest in married couples.

The authors note that correlation is not always causation. As with every study, they add that more research is needed. The good news is this field might be the most enjoyable for humans to experiment with.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ridiculously Common Worries Sex Therapists Hear All the Time

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For anyone asking, “Am I normal?”

By Anna Borges

Fun sex things to talk about: enthusiastic consent, pleasure, sex toys, kink, orgasms, positions, intimacy. Less fun sex things to talk about: insecurity, inadequacy, unwelcome pain, dysfunction, internalized stigma, embarrassment. Understandable. No one wants to sit around chatting about their deepest sexual anxieties. But when you rarely see people having these less sexy conversations, it’s easy to assume you’re the only one who might have a complicated relationship with sex. You’re not.

“The sex education standard in North America is fear-based, shame-inducing messages that erase pleasure and consent,” sex therapist Shadeen Francis, L.M.F.T., tells SELF. “Because of this, there is a lot of room for folks to worry. Most of the insecurities I encounter as a sex therapist boil down to one overarching question: ‘Am I normal

To help answer that question, SELF asked a few sex therapists what topics come up again and again in their work. Turns out, no matter what you’re going through, more people than you might think can probably relate.

1. You feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Listen, good sex takes practice. It’s not like sex ed often covers much outside the mechanics: This goes here, that does that, this makes a baby. For the most part, people are left to their own devices to figure out what sex is actually like. A lot of the time, that info comes from less-than-satisfactory places, like unrealistic porn that perpetuates way too many myths to count. So if you’re not super confident in your abilities and sometimes feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re not the only one.

This is especially true for people whose genders and sexualities aren’t represented in typical heteronormative sex ed. “Intersex people, gender non-conforming people, and trans people rarely have been centered in sexual conversations and often are trying to navigate discovering what pleases them and communicating that with partners outside of gender tropes,” says Francis.

People also worry that they’re straight up bad in bed all the time, Lexx Brown-James, L.M.F.T., certified sex educator and the founder of The Institute for Sexuality and Intimacy in St. Louis, tells SELF. “The most common question I get is, ‘How do I know if I’m good at sex?’” This, Brown-James emphasizes, isn’t the right question to be asking. Not only is everyone’s definition of “good sex” different, but it’s not going to come down to something as simple as your personal skill set. It’s about consensually exploring and communicating about what feels good, emotionally and physically, with your partner or partners.

2. You’re embarrassed about masturbation.

Depending on a few different factors, you might have a lot of internalized shame and self-consciousness around masturbation. Maybe you grew up in an environment that told you it was dirty or wrong, maybe no one talked to you about it at all, or maybe you’ve always felt a little nervous about the idea of pleasuring yourself. According to Francis, a lot of people have masturbation-related hangups.

If that sounds familiar, it’s important to remember how common masturbation is and that there’s no “right” way to do it. Not only do people of all ages, abilities, races, genders, religions, sizes, and relationship statuses masturbate, but there are tons of different ways to go about it, too. “People masturbate using their hands, their body weight, their toys, and various household or ‘DIY’ implements,” says Francis. Same goes for how people turn themselves on—people masturbate to fantasies, memories, visual and audio porn, literature, and a lot more. Some masturbate alone, while others also do it in front of or with their sexual partner or partners. Sex therapists have heard it all.

Basically, if your way of masturbating feels good to you and does not create harm for yourself or others, then it is a wonderfully healthy part of your sexuality and you should embrace it, says Francis. (Just make sure you’re being safe. So…don’t use any of these things to get yourself off.)

3. You worry that you’re not progressive enough.

You’ve probably noticed that lifestyles like kink and polyamory are bleeding into the mainstream. It’s not unusual to stumble across phrases like “ethically non-monogamous” and “in an open relationship” while swiping through a dating app.

According to sex therapist Ava Pommerenk, Ph.D., this increased visibility is having an unfortunate side effect: Some people who aren’t into the idea of polyamory or kink have started to feel like they’re…well, boring or even close-minded. Which is not true! But plenty of people equate alternative sexual practices with progressiveness when it’s really about personal preference. If you’ve been thinking your vanilla nature makes you old-school, just keep in mind that it’s totally OK if any kind of sexual act or practice isn’t your thing

While we’re on the topic, it’s worth noting that both non-monogamy and kink can be wonderful but require a lot of trust and communication. Some people who aren’t educated on the ethics involved are taking advantage of these practices as buzzwords to excuse shitty behavior.

“I get a lot of people, particularly women in relationships with men, whose [partners are] making them feel guilty for not opening up their relationship,” Pommerenk tells SELF. At best, that kind of behavior means there’s been some serious misunderstanding and miscommunication, but at worst, it can suggest an unhealthy or even emotionally abusive dynamic, says Pommerenk. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s worth unpacking, possibly with the help of someone like a sex therapist. You can also reach out to resources like the National Dating Abuse Helpline by calling 866-331-9474 or texting “loveis” to 22522 and the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 800-799-SAFE (7233) or through email or live chat on the hotline’s contact page.

4. You feel pressured to have sex a certain way or amount.

“One aspect of this that I see a lot—and this is true for all genders—is pressure to perform,” sex therapist Jillien Kahn, L.M.F.T., tells SELF. “[That] can include things like the pressure to have sex at a certain point in dating, feeling expected to magically know how to please a partner without communication, and/or fear of sexual challenges and dysfunctions.”

Kahn likes to remind her clients that sex isn’t a performance. “The best sex happens when we forget the pressure and are able to connect with our bodies and partners,” she says. “If you’re primarily concerned with your own performance or making your partner orgasm, you’re missing out on so much of the good stuff

Pommerenk also says it’s not uncommon for her clients to worry about the consequences of not being sexually available to their partners. For example, they feel like they’re bad partners if they’re not in the mood sometimes or that their partners will leave them if they don’t have sex often enough. A lot of this is cultural messaging we have to unlearn. It’s not difficult to internalize pressure to be the “perfect” sexual partner. After all, people in movies and porn are often ready and available for sex at all times. But much like worrying that you’re not open-minded enough, if this is how your partner is making you feel or something that they’re actually threatening you about, that’s not just a sexual hangup of yours—it’s a sign of potential emotional abuse.

5. You’re freaked out about a “weird” kink, fetish, or fantasy.

“Many of my clients seem to have a fantasy or enjoy a type of porn they feel ashamed of,” says Kahn. Some of these clients even feel ashamed to mention their fantasies or preferred porn in therapy, she adds. “The thing is, the vast majority of your fantasies have been around far longer than you have. The porn you look at was developed because a lot of people want to watch it. Even in the rare exception of unique fetishes or fantasies, there is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Kahn.

It can help to remember that just because you have a fantasy or like a certain type of porn doesn’t necessarily mean you want to do any of it IRL. According to Kahn, that’s an important distinction to make, because people often feel guilty or panicked about some of the thoughts that turn them on. For example, rape fantasies aren’t unheard of—in fact, like many fantasies, they’re probably more common than you’d expect, says Kahn—and they don’t mean that a person has a real desire to experience rape.

“I try to make sure my clients know that the fantasy doesn’t necessarily mean anything about them, so it is not necessary to try and analyze it,” says Kahn. “Whatever you’re fantasizing about, I can confidently tell you that you’re far from the only person excited by that idea.”

What if you do want to carry out a fantasy you’re worried is weird? Again, as long as you’re not actively harming yourself or anyone else, chances are pretty good that whatever you’re into sexually is completely OK—and that you can find someone else who’s into it, too.

If you’re still feeling embarrassed about any of your sexual practices, desires, or feelings, Kahn has these parting words: “Sexual anxiety and insecurity [are] such a universal experience. There’s constant comparison to this continually changing image of sexual perfection. [People should] discuss sex more openly for many reasons, and if we did, we would see how incredibly common sexual insecurity is.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Oral Sex Advice For Men

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International sexologist Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright offers some tips on how to enhance the quality of your time in the bedroom.

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When oral sex is on the table, women have a better shot at achieving orgasm. And that’s not just a random hot take. According to the researchers over at the Kinsey Institute, men have a pretty good shot at attaining orgasm through vaginal sex alone. Women, on the other hand, prove to be much more orgasmic through a variety of sex acts. And yeah, that includes oral sex. Of course, incentives to engage in cunnilingus extend far beyond the promise of orgasm.

Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is an international sexologist who’s been recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Health as an expert and key leader in the area of sexual and reproductive health. She’s spent the better part of her career steering individuals toward a healthier approach to sex and relationships. And oral sex just so happens to be part of that equation In fact, Fulbright is so enthusiastic about the act she even authored a guide to help instruct men on their approach. Fatherly spoke to Fulbright about how oral sex operates in service to both pleasure and partnership and what men should keep in mind.

Why do you think oral sex is such an important area to explore within a relationship?

When people indulge in sexual experimentation or when a gal gives the green light to let a lover go down on her, there is a certain degree of vulnerability involved. The variety could be a reflection of other things in the relationship that are beneficial, like a strong sense of trust. Unfavorable relationship dynamics can act as barriers, first in a lover feeling up for being adventurous, and then being able to let go knowing that you’re a safe person to be vulnerable with. Consider how you engage your lover outside of the bedroom, and if there are things you could be doing better in building trust.

Why do you think there’s so much ambivalence surrounding oral sex on women?

People are largely unfamiliar with the vulva. They’re lucky to simply learn the names of each intricate part in a high school biology class. Female sexual pleasuring is still a relatively new concept in human history, and for those up for the task there’s still the fear that they don’t know what they’re doing. A number of females don’t even know how to provide a lover with instruction, given they still face the taboo of exploring their sexuality, especially on their own.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. What are some of the most common mistakes men make when performing oral sex?

Some men think that the urinary opening is the clitoris. A number of them don’t warm her up properly. They dive right in, and that can make for a lot of discomfort. Also, any signs of hesitation or being turned off by what you’re about to do can cause her to shut down. Men need to at least come across as confident with what they’re doing.

How might porn have changed the way things are performed?

For better or for worse, people learn from porn. It can show some techniques for pleasuring, but at the same time, it puts a lot of pressure on women to react a certain way, and that includes being able to produce female ejaculation as part of her reaction. One other related point is that some women who have seen the airbrushed vulvas of porn stars may feel self-conscious that their vulvas don’t look as symmetrical, hairless, or otherwise “perfect.”

Is that what motivated you to put together a “guide to going down” for men?

There was a need for a female expert’s guidance and opinion on things. A lot of men would like to learn about cunnilingus from the ladies themselves. I welcomed the opportunity to deliver facts, clear up myths, empower lovers, and equip readers with a number of hot ideas for better lovemaking.

Do you have any favorite “techniques” you’d recommend to someone who isn’t exactly confident in their oral sex skills?

A big part of this is taking your time. It’s about tending to other parts of the body and making her feel good about herself. It’s also teasing as you’re warming her up. Instead of zeroing in on her clitoris and going to town, get the entire vulva wet. Firmly brush over the clitoris on occasion, but tease it. After some build up, firmly push the tip of your tongue against it as you rhythmically massage it, gradually building up the speed and paying attention to signs of whether there’s too much stimulation or if she wants more.

How can more oral sex increase a woman’s odds of achieving orgasm, really?

For a number of women, cunnilingus is the only or most effective way she climaxes. For a number of women, receiving oral sex is necessary if lovers want her to ultimately orgasm. Though, I warn lovers to avoid making orgasm the goal of any kind of sex and to enjoy the ride. This takes pressure off of the situation and people involved, and keeps you in the moment. Hopefully, this means that lovers won’t rush, especially if they know that the woman tends to be more easily orgasmic via oral sex.

Some say that more cunnilingus in the bedroom could help end the orgasm gap. Would you agree? 

Yes and no. For some lovers, more is desirable, especially for women who know this is a primary way for reaching climax, whether as the main play or foreplay. But for ladies who cum as effectively during certain sexual positions involving vaginal penetration, more cunnilingus may not be necessary. Every couple needs to figure out what’s best for them and communicate about that.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to take charge of your sexual energy and revolutionize your sex life

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By Kara Jillian Brown

We’ve all heard the maxim that you can’t really love someone else until you love yourself. A few prominent experts contend the same logic applies to sex, sexual energy, and your identity as a sexual being.

And really, it makes sense: “The most important sexual relationship you will ever have is the one that you have with yourself,” says sexuality doula Ev’Yan Whitney. “Your sexuality isn’t meant to be activated by someone else. You are a fully autonomous, sexual human being with your own needs, your own desires. It’s essentially your job to make sure that you cultivate a relationship with your sexuality.”

 

And while masturbation is a great way to connect to your sexuality, Whitney says it’s far from your only option. You don’t need to engage in any physicality at all. Instead of framing sexual energy as something that manifests during sexual activity, she says we can frame our sexual embodiment as a character trait that’s always with us rather than a hat we only wear when things take a turn for the dirty. Think of it as doing energetic kegels—you can access it always and no one has to know. Like, always. Even while sipping coffee or taking a walk or, even watching paint dry, you’re still a sexual being.

 

“Your sexuality is a fundamental part of you that needs to be put into every aspect of who you are,” Whitney says. “I’m not talking about humping things. I’m not talking about like flirting with people. I’m talking about you having a connection and a belief and an intention that says, ‘I am a sexual being here, as I sit, at this at this coffee shop.’ There’s a freedom in that.”

Okay, great, but…um how? Unlike doing something like your daily kegel reps, which you can know you’re doing even though no one else can tell, harnessing your identity as a sexual being isn’t so checklist-friendly. Below, find a few tips tapping into your sexuality in a way that’s uniquely and authentically you.

Become in tune with your senses

Tyomi Morgan-Nyjieb, a certified Authentic Tantra practitioner and certified sexologist, explains that there’s a difference between sensuality and sexuality, and that to best experience the latter, being able to access the former is a necessary prerequisite.

“Sensuality is being connected to your senses. And being connected to your senses means being connected to life, because now, you’re really being aware of how you are taking in, or experiencing the world around you through your five senses,” says Morgan-Nyjieb. “So if we can learn how to tap into that energy through our senses first and learn how to receive pleasure through our senses first, then people will feel more comfortable, when even connecting to their sexual energy. ”

Practice sexual self-care

According to Whitney, sexual self-care can be anything you do that brings “mindfulness and intention to your sexual energy. So it can literally be any sort of self-care act that you do regularly,” she says. “It’s all about, saying affirmations, saying intentions, and being very present to those affirmations and those intentions.”

Really this can be anything, even simply hydrating: “When you’re drinking water, it’s having this intention that I am nourishing my sexual body as as water is coming into my, my belly and like cleansing my pores,” Whitney says. Or, if you’re prepping your skin for a sheet mask, try thinking of washing your face as connecting to your sexual body and your sensuality in the moment.

Learn how to channel your sexual energy and own it

Maybe embodying your sexual energy means dressing to the nines every day, or maybe it means repeating mantras that remind you of your sexual autonomy. “There’s no right or wrong way to do this, because it’s all about mindfulness,” Whitney says. “It’s all about intention, about being receptive, about finding space to connect with your sexual energy.”

Once you’ve found comfort in your sexuality, you can use it to fuel you throughout your day. “Because we all come from sexual energy, sexual energy is creative energy,” says Morgan-Nyjieb. “When people feel aroused, sometimes that’s that creative spirit saying, ‘Hey, you have all this extra energy right now. Let’s put it into the project, let’s put it into making a difference, let’s put it into building up ourselves.’”

And this can make your sexual experiences, both solo and with a partner, more fulfilling. “The more sexual autonomy I have, I’m able to ask for what I want in the bedroom, I’m able to be more connected to my body on like a daily basis,” says Whitney. “It’s a holistic and beautiful way to connect with all parts of yourself.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Nonmonogamy Is Not The Answer To All Your Relationship Problems

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By Effy Blue

Nonmonogamy is becoming more recognized as a legitimate relationship structure with more people talking openly about their practice. Although it certainly is not for everyone and definitely not the “easier” option, it is piquing the interest of plenty of people for many reasons.

For some people, monogamy or nonmonogamy is an orientation on par with sexual orientation. It’s a part of who they are. For others, monogamy or nonmonogamy is a choice. It’s in line with what they want to create in their lives and in their relationships. It’s a reflection of their value system. Some people may value security, safety, and stability, and those may opt for a monogamous relationship, while others may choose nonmonogamy because they value multiplicity, sharing erotic energy, or exploring broader sexual orientation.

In an ideal world, partners are on the same page: They either decide on a structure at the beginning of their relationship, or they decide to shift into a different structure later on in the relationship with a consensus, through open communication.

Actively and consciously designing your relationships, including deciding on whether you want to be monogamous or not, can be a very powerful force for your relationship and set you up to thrive as a couple in the long run. However, if you’re currently in a monogamous relationship and considering opening it up, it’s important to note nonmonogamy is not an effective strategy to solve your current relationship problems or alleviate the boredom you associate with it.

When nonmonogamy doesn’t work.

Because I am a relationship coach specializing in consensual nonmonogamy, so many people come to me thinking an open relationship will fix their relationships. They come defeated, disconnected, and dissatisfied while still feeling very attached to each other. It soon becomes obvious they are reaching out for a life raft in the shape of nonmonogamy. A desire for nonmonogamy turns out to be a bid for space, a bid for attention, a bid for autonomy, a bid for a solution. 

But despite all its potential benefits and excitement, opening up your relationship is not a “solution” or a way to “fix” a relationship that feels negative, stale, or otherwise off.

The best relationships to open are healthy and thriving ones. A healthy relationship of any kind—but especially a nonmonogamous one—requires a foundation of vulnerability, open communication, and trust. Kindness, compassion, mutual respect, and joy for one another along with a desire to address and resolve conflicts create the ideal environment for people to thrive in nonmonogamous relationships. It’s essential for partners to feel heard and their needs highly regarded. If I were to be listening in to a relationship with a stethoscope like a physician to gauge the health of it, I’d be listening for thank you’s and I’m sorry’s. The more genuine gratitude and heartfelt apologies, the healthier and stronger the connection.

Monogamous relationships that lack these fundamental qualities and skills likely wouldn’t be able to withstand the transition to nonmonogamy. If you are finding yourself in the same arguments over and over again, exclaiming “I want an open relationship” as you slam doors; or if you have a closet full of desires that you’ve decided cannot be satisfied by your current partner, and you are not willing to talk about it; or if you feel you are drifting in a haze of sameness and can’t figure out how to break out, nonmonogamy is not the answer.

If you are in a sexless relationship and you aren’t able to have conversations about it; or if you feel chronically lonely in the relationship and aren’t able to restore frayed connections; or if you feel either unheard, unappreciated, uncared for, dissatisfied, smothered, or trapped, and you can’t find words to express these feelings to your partner, nonmonogamy is not going to save you.

Similar to any big change, be it moving to a new state or deciding to have kids, opening up a relationship will shine a sports-stadium-sized spotlight on the issues in your current relationship. Unresolved arguments, hidden resentments, ignored boundaries, delayed conversations, shelved desires, and unmet needs will all come to light and will demand attention. Without well-practiced tools and skills for communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution, nonmonogamy will only apply further tension to the relationship.

Further, if you do open up your relationship with current issues unaddressed and unresolved and start dating other people, you’ll be dragging unsuspecting new partners into your dysfunction.

Do some soul-searching. Are you saying, “I want an open relationship” because you can’t bring yourself to say, “I want to break up”? Are you running away from real or perceived conflict? Have you checked out of the relationship but you feel you can’t leave? If the answers are yes, I recommend you either get support to resolve these issues or find the courage to end your relationship in a kind and compassionate way.

Doing the work.

The truth is “wherever you go, there you are.” If you think the relationship or your partner is the problem and you are trying to get away to have something different, chances are you’ll only have more of the same. We are the common denominators of our lives.

Start with yourself. If it’s available to you, spend a period of time in personal therapy. Also invest in some personal development in the areas of sex and relationships. There are some excellent books, workshops, and online courses and communities dedicated to pleasure-based sex education for adults and communication skills. I also strongly recommend working with a professional, be it a couples therapist, counselor, or coach to address the relationship struggles. Make sure the people you choose to work with are open-minded to the idea that ultimately you may want to move to a nonmonogamous structure.

And last but not least, spend some time focusing on your relationship rather than running away from it. Find ways to have those unresolved conversations. Schedule time to reconnect in line with the way you show and receive love, be it a sensual massage or a picnic in the park.

Here’s the thing: There is no relationship free of conflict or struggle. It doesn’t mean you have to address everything before you can even begin to think about opening up your relationship. Research does show people in consensual nonmonogamous relationships are “more satisfied with and committed to their relationships,” suggesting nonmonogamy can absolutely breathe new life into a relationship. When practiced consciously and ethically, it can be an agent for new energy and connections, self-expression, adventure, discovery, and community.

Nonmonogamy can be a part of a creative, solutions-based approach to making sure everyone gets what they need in the relationship. It requires a goodwill effort to address the relationship as it is today, to hear and attend to the needs of the people in the relationship.

When will you know you are ready? When you feel you can approach nonmonogamy with curiosity and a spirit of exploration—not as a cure-all or an escape.

Complete Article HERE!

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When and why is pain pleasurable?

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Many people think of pain and sex as deeply incompatible. After all, sex is all about pleasure, and pain has nothing to do with that, right? Well, for some individuals, pain and pleasure can sometimes overlap in a sexual context, but how come? Continue reading this Spotlight feature to find out.

The relationship between pain and sexual pleasure has lit up the imaginations of many writers and artists, with its undertones of forbidden, mischievous enjoyment.

In 1954, the erotic novel Story of O by Anne Desclos (pen name Pauline Réage) caused a stir in France with its explicit references to bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism — an array of sexual practices referred to as BDSM, for short.

Recently, the series Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James has sold millions of copies worldwide, fuelling the erotic fantasies of its readers.

Still, practices that involve an overlap of pain and pleasure are often shrouded in mystery and mythologized, and people who admit to engaging in rough play in the bedroom often face stigma and unwanted attention.

So what happens when an individual finds pleasure in pain during foreplay or sexual intercourse? Why is pain pleasurable for them, and are there any risks when it comes to engaging in rough play?

In this Spotlight feature, we explain why physical pain can sometimes be a source of pleasure, looking at both physiological and psychological explanations.

Also, we look at possible side effects of rough play and how to cope with them and investigate when the overlap of pain and pleasure is not healthful.

Physical pain as a source of pleasure

First of all, a word of warning: Unless a person is specifically interested in experiencing painful sensations as part of their sexual gratification, sex should not be painful for the people engaging in it.

People may experience pain during intercourse for various health-related reasons, including conditions such as vaginismus, injuries or infections of the vulva or vagina, and injuries or infections of the penis or testicles.

If you experience unwanted pain or any other discomfort in your genitals during sex, it is best to speak to a healthcare professional about it.

Healthy, mutually consenting adults sometimes seek to experience painful sensations as an “enhancer” of sexual pleasure and arousal. This can be as part of BDSM practices or simply an occasional kink to spice up one’s sex life.

But how can pain ever be pleasurable? According to evolutionary theory, for humans and other mammals, pain functions largely as a warning system, denoting the danger of a physical threat. For instance, getting burned or scalded hurts, and this discourages us from stepping into a fire and getting burned to a crisp or drinking boiling water and damaging our bodies irreversibly.

Yet, physiologically speaking, pain and pleasure have more in common than one might think. Research has shown that sensations of pain and pleasure activate the same neural mechanisms in the brain.

Pleasure and pain are both tied to the interacting dopamine and opioid systems in the brain, which regulate neurotransmitters that are involved in reward- or motivation-driven behaviors, which include eating, drinking, and sex.

In terms of brain regions, both pleasure and pain seem to activate the nucleus accumbens, the pallidum, and the amygdala, which are involved in the brain’s reward system, regulating motivation-driven behaviors.

Thus, the “high” experienced by people who find painful sensations sexually arousing is similar to that experienced by athletes as they push their bodies to the limit.

Possible psychological benefits

There is also a complex psychological side to finding pleasure in sensations of pain. First of all, a person’s experience of pain can be highly dependent on the context in which the painful stimuli occur.

Experiencing pain from a knife cut in the kitchen or pain related to surgery, for instance, is bound to be unpleasant in most, if not all, cases.

However, when a person is experiencing physical pain in a context in which they are also experiencing positive emotions, their sense of pain actually decreases.

So when having sex with a trusted partner, the positive emotions associated with the act could blunt sensations of pain resulting from rough play.

At the same time, voluntarily experienced pain during sex or erotic play can, surprisingly, have positive psychological effects, and the main one is interpersonal bonding.

Two studies — with results collectively published in Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2009 — found that participants who engaged in consensual sadomasochistic acts as part of erotic play experienced a heightened sense of bonding with their partners and an increase in emotional trust. In their study paper, the researchers concluded that:

Although the physiological reactions of bottoms [submissive partners] and tops [dominant partners] tended to differ, the psychological reactions converged, with bottoms and tops reporting increases in relationship closeness after their scenes [BDSM erotic play].”

Another reason for engaging in rough play during sex is that of escapism. “Pain,” explain authors of a review published in The Journal of Sex Research, “can focus attention on the present moment and away from abstract, high-level thought.”

“In this way,” the authors continue, “pain may facilitate a temporary reprieve or escape from the burdensome responsibilities of adulthood.”

In fact, a study from 2015 found that many people who practiced BDSM reported that their erotic practices helped them de-stress and escape their daily routine and worries.

The study’s authors, Ali Hébert and Prof. Angela Weaver, write that “Many of the participants stated that one of the motivating factors for engaging in BDSM was that it allowed them to take a break from their everyday life.” To illustrate this point, the two quote one participant who chose to play submissive roles:

”It’s a break free from your real world, you know. It’s like giving yourself a freaking break.”

Potential side effects of play

People can also experience negative psychological effects after engaging in rough play — no matter how experienced they are and how much care they take in setting healthful boundaries for an erotic scene.

Among BDSM practitioners, this negative side effect is known as “sub drop,” or simply “drop,” and it refers to experiences of sadness and depression that can set in, either immediately after engaging in rough sexual play or days after the event.

Researchers Richard Sprott, Ph.D., and Anna Randall argue that, while the emotional “crash” that some people experience immediately after rough play could be due to hormonal changes in the moment, drops that occur days later most likely have other explanations.

They argue that feelings of depression days after erotic play correspond to a feeling of loss of the “peak experience” of rough sexual play that grants a person psychological respite in the moment.

Like the high offered by the mix of pleasure and pain in the moment, which may be akin to the highs experienced by performance athletes, the researchers liken the afterplay “low” with that experienced by Olympic sportspeople in the aftermath of the competition, which is also referred to as “post-Olympic depression.”

In order to prevent or cope with feeling down after an intense high during erotic play, it is important for a person and their partner or partners to carefully plan aftercare, both at the physical and psychological level, discussing individual needs and worries in detail.

Whatever a person decides to engage in to spice up their sex life, the key is always consent. All the people participating in a sexual encounter must offer explicit and enthusiastic consent for all parts of that encounter, and they must be able to stop participating if they are no longer interested and willing.

Research suggests that fantasies about unusual or rough sexual play are very common, and some people decide to take the fantasy out of the realm of imagination and make it a reality.

If you decide to stray from “vanilla” sex and try other flavors too, that’s fine, and there’s nothing wrong with you. Just make sure that you stay safe and you only engage in what you enjoy and feel comfortable doing.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gender-free sex toys are the future of personal pleasure

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By Kells McPhillips

You can buy a sex toy in almost every shape, size, and color, but they still don’t run the gamut. The pursuit of personal pleasure largely excludes non-binary bodies. Fortunately, a handful of brands with a focus on gender-free sex toys recognize the need for improvement. Soon, anyone with the desire for some self-love will have a toy at the ready in the drawers of their nightstands.

“Making a sex toy gender-free makes it more accessible to everybody,” says Amy Boyajian, CEO and co-founder of Wild Flower. The adult store for sexual well-being will release its first gender-free vibrator, Enby ($74), at the end of this month. “We want to bring queer experiences to the forefront because gendering sex toys—or subscribing only to certain ways of using a toy—often leaves out queer bodies and experiences.”

“When we label a sex product ‘for women’ or ‘for men,’ it doesn’t take into account all of the people who don’t identify with those labels.” —Logan Levkoff, PhD

The marketing of personal pleasure products can also be damaging to those who don’t identify within the gender binary, according to Logan Levkoff, PhD, a relationship and sexuality educator. Much of the market stills splashes the toys in colors traditionally associated with being male or female (i.e., cotton candy pink and baby blue). And the slogans are no better. “When we label a sex product ‘for women’ or ‘for men,’ it doesn’t take into account all of the people who don’t identify with those labels and winds up preventing people from exploring their sexuality using these items, because of an assumption that it’s not ‘for them,’” Levkoff says.

Brands like Wild Flower—and PicoBong, the maker of another gender-neutral toy called the Transformer ($130)—are re-writing the rules. These companies design toys that accommodate the needs of every gender, and thus revolutionize the way people masturbate and/or play with their partners.

The inspiration behind Enby is one example. After going through a gender affirmation surgery, one of Boyajian’s friends shared that she had to throw out all of her sex toys and start over. “That was one of our light bulb moments: we wanted to create something that could take you through any transition, no matter your anatomy or identity,” says Boyajian. “No one should feel like their body or sexual desires are an afterthought.”

“No one should feel like their body or sexual desires are an afterthought.” —Amy Boyajian, CEO and co-founder of Wild Flower

The innovative curves of Enby reveal how it can caters to the sexual hotspots of every body. But Boyajian says the sexual creativity Enby encourages is the biggest source of pride. “We had folks of all anatomies and identities test Enby to ensure we were meeting all their needs. Many of them came up with even more creative ways to use Enby, so the possibilities are endless,” says Boyajian.

The hand-sized device really is a giant step in a more inclusive direction. And they’re only just getting started. Picturing the future of the industry, Boyajian sees a world where users—not brands—dictate the use of each device. “For too long, the sex toy industry has prescribed identities and preferences onto its users. When we give customers the room to explore, we’re creating space for them to prioritize self-love and pleasure on their own terms,” says Boyajian.

Complete Article HERE!

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If I Don’t Talk to My Patients About Consent, Who Will?

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Here’s why I bring it up with all my patients.

By Natasha Bhuyan, M.D.

As a primary care physician, a significant part of my job is helping patients better understand and deal with the public health issues that affect our society—whether it’s the dangers of smoking tobacco or the importance of getting a flu shot or the need to get tested for STIs.

But there is one health issue in particular that is impacting so many and yet talked about by so few: consent. Talking about the nuances of consent can be complicated and uncomfortable. The subject has long been dismissed as a “mood ruiner” among sexual partners—and as a result, many choose to ignore these conversations altogether, creating a silence around something that desperately needs to be discussed and unpacked.

Since I know that many of my patients are not having these conversations with their friends, family, or even partners, I make it part of my regular practice to bring up the subject of consent with my patients. I talk to my patients about other necessities when practicing safe sex, such as birth control and STI-prevention, so I’m in a unique position to be able to also discuss consent with them. Even a simple question like, “How do you give and receive consent with your partner?”, can make a huge difference when it comes to starting a conversation and, ultimately, creating a safer, more comfortable environment for sex

When it comes down to it, consent is all about respect for another person’s bodily autonomy: when you want to touch another person or have sex with them, you should ask first (verbally) and continue to give and receive consent in this way throughout a sexual encounter. That doesn’t necessarily mean running through a monotone checklist of “can I…,” but it does mean paying attention to the physical and verbal cues of the person you’re with, while maintaining clear and open communication. Consent also doesn’t have to be sexual. Getting and receiving consent extends to situations such as borrowing your friend’s shirt or using your coworker’s phone. We wouldn’t do either of those things without asking, so of course an act as intimate as sex deserves the same consideration.

It also means being sure that the person is able to give consent. A few important factors to consider: is your sexual partner above the age of consent in your particular state? Are you certain that they are not under the influence of mind-altering substances, and they are in no way being coerced or pressured into saying yes?

The unfortunate reality is that a lack of consent can often be difficult to prove, which is one reason an estimated 80 percent of sexual assault and rape cases go unpreported and around 995 of 1000 perpetrators of rape will avoid prison. This lack of action through the justice system is one reason why it is critical to address the underlying cultural and societal issues as swifty and resoundingly as possible

This is why I talk to all of my patients (and anyone else who will listen, really) about the importance of both giving and receiving enthusiastic consent with all partners. In my work as a primary care physician, I have spoken to many patients about their experiences with sexual assault and consent. It’s a subject I believe all PCPs should broach with their patients if they have the training and resources to do so, since it directly impacts the physical, emotional, and psychological health of the people in our society

The taboo and shame surrounding non-consensual experiences coupled with the physical and mental trauma many survivors experience can cause severe health problems for years to come. Health issues like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and long-term physical challenges are far from uncommon in survivors and can cause irreparable damage, both mentally and physically</a

But, as it currently stands, only eight states require consent or sexual assault to be mentioned as part of public school sex education curriculum. These are typically as pieces of a larger discussion on healthy relationships, which doesn’t always help young people make the necessary associations between safe sexual activity and consent.

So, why should I—a family medicine physician—be the one bringing this up? The number one reason for me is that it ensures that someone does. Too often, other leadership figures for young people, like their parents or their schools, either don’t know how to bring up consent or simply don’t feel comfortable. Unless someone else—like a primary care provider—takes on the subject, sometimes it never gets broached at all.

When talking to patients, I do my best to normalize discussions about sexual activity by asking about things like the body parts they use for sex (vagina, anus, penis, mouth, etc.). In these discussions, I ask patients open-ended questions about how they would describe their communication with their partners, or any tension they feel in those relationships. I also ask them how they typically give and receive consent. Patients are often surprised by these questions. They may expect to be screened for STIs or asked about pregnancy, but they don’t usually associate consent with their overall health.

But the reality is that consent is a hugely important component of a patient’s sexual and overall health. Talking about consent can help me identify other conversations that I should be having with that patient and may lead to a bigger discussion about past experiences, mental and physical health, and sexual practices.

The reality of consent is that it’s not always as cut and dry as “yes” or “no,” which can make it difficult for people to speak up when a non-consensual encounter has occurred. In the past, I’ve had patients open to me about situations such as partners taking off the condom during sex without asking, leading to thoughtful discussions about bodily autonomy that they may not be having otherwise.

In my professional opinion, consent is a public health issue. I believe that viewing the prevention of sexual assault and rape through the lens of public health will help protect the overall mental and physical well-being of our society. But what exactly does treating consent as a public health issue look like—and why does that matter?

First, this would mean funding studies about attitudes toward consent and the long-term impact of non-consensual encounters by qualified researchers, helping advance policy that would advocate for explicit consent in sexual encounters as well as creating and promoting educational materials to introduce the subject to children in school.

Recognizing consent as a public health issue would also shape evidence-based guidelines for clinicians, allowing us to treat it as we would any other widespread health problem—by making it common practice to talk about consent with our patients in the context of their overall health, and by giving our patients a safe place to discuss non-consensual experiences. Smoking tobacco is a good example of a public health issue that both the medical world and general society have made strides towards improving. Many of us can remember watching anti-smoking ads on TV, or being shown an image of a blackened lung in a health class. When we go to the doctor, we’re always asked whether or not we smoke tobacco. It’s not a perfect comparison, but it shows the positive impact a multifaceted approach can have on public health issues.

As with any public health crisis, laws won’t be passed overnight and changes to education requirements can take years to go into effect—though we have and will continue to see strides made in these areas. Importantly, individuals also have the opportunity to take action now in small, deliberate ways. Perhaps the most critical thing that an individual can do to address consent is to discuss it in whichever ways we can with those around us—our sexual partners, our friends, and even our children.

While starting with the youngest members of society may sound difficult, parents and schools should introduce the concept of consent in elementary school, in the right way. While some might argue that doing so would expose children to sexual content too young, the truth is that consent can easily be introduced and reinforced in non-sexual contexts from a very early age. Familiarizing children with the idea of bodily autonomy—that no one has the right to touch them without their approval—can go a long way toward applying the concept of consent to their own bodies and those of their peers as they mature. For example, the District of Columbia’s requirements space out this subject over the course of an entire public school education. In the third grade, schools teach the importance of respect for other bodies. In fourth grade, students learn why talking about sexuality can be helpful. And in sixth grade, the curriculum includes a discussion on the repercussions of unhealthy or violent relationships.

When I look at how society has evolved in the last few years, it is clear that progress has been made. We are far more aware of what consent is and why it is important, but this education very often comes too infrequently and too late. Too many of us have long been uncomfortable discussing healthy and consensual sexual activity, but it is critical that we do so in order to set an example for future generations. One way to do this is to start talking about consent with people you trust. And in the meantime, I’m going to continue talking to my patients about the subject to ensure that they have at least one safe space—and a trusted confidant—to share.

Complete Article HERE!

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14 Sex Questions To Ask Your Partner

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To Ensure Sexual Consent

By Stacie Ysidro

Get comfortable talking about sex.

Before getting intimate with your partner, there are a few consensual sex questions that are worth asking.

Over  the last 10 years of coaching and connecting, I have worked with mostly men and couples. I started out with tantra and sacred sexuality focusing on premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.

I have helped men connect to get out of their heads(quiet thoughts) and into their bodies(feel sensations), harness and control their sexual energy and orgasm. I have helped them get to know women’s bodies and women’s sexual response.

They have gained confidence and knowledge that helped them have more sex and importantly more satisfying sex.

Along the way many men have opened up to me about their concerns and fear around dealing with masculinity and understanding women in and out of the bedroom. Men either feel like aggressive entitled jerks or passive pushovers stuck in the friend zone.

Men need an assertive safe zone.

In the wake of this ‘Me too’ movement there has been a rise in fear around masculine energy. It has been framed as toxic and detrimental.

Not every touch, compliment or glance is an assault. Not every woman feels like a victim. The toxic masculinity frame has harmed men as well as women! The time has come to bring the conscious divine masculine to clarity and shatter the toxic masculine image!

Instead of taking sides let’s come together and communicate in a healthy, loving way.

Fact is, we have a lack of sex education in our country and most of the world. We are not taught communication skills in general. It is clear why we have so much miscommunication or lack of communication about sexuality.

Women and men have been taught opposite messages around sexuality. It is time to unlearn these harmful ideas, attitudes and beliefs.

Always talk about sex before diving in. If you are not comfortable talking about it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Here are some helpful questions everyone can use, for having sexual consent conversations with your partner/partners or a potential partner.

Say out loud and agree up front: there are no judgments or expectations and nothing will be taken personally, this is all just information.

What to say, what to ask:

1. Do you want to be in a monogamous relationship?

2. What does monogamous mean to you? 

3. I’m really into XYZ are you comfortable with that?’

4. I recently saw this type of play and I am interested in experimenting.

5. How do you feel/what do you think about that?

6. Would you like to try XYZ with me?

7. Tell me if I am using too much or too little pressure.

8. Does XYZ feel good to you?

9. Would you like more pressure than this or less?

10. What are your boundaries in the bedroom? What is completely off the table?

11. What do you find pleasurable?

12. What is not pleasurable to you?

13. What are some things you would like to experiment with?

14. What is you definition of kink? what is taboo to you but is a turn on?

Always keep in mind that in the heat of the moment a yes can become a no but a no can not become a yes. The last thing you want to do is break trust.

You can always have another conversation and create new boundaries for next time. Better to take it slower and be conscious than to have remorse later for crossing a line in the heat of the moment.

A little bit of communication even if it feels awkward, can guarantee a more satisfying experience for you both. Keep in mind the more you have these conversations the more comfortable they will become.

Complete Article HERE!

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What’s the sexual taboo that will define the next generation?

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By Almara Abgarian

Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z.

As human beings, we like to attribute societal trends and cultural shifts to a specific generation.

Sexual trends are no exception.

Generation X, people born in the early to mid-60s to early 80s, were influenced by the sexual revolution and ruled by the blowjob, while Millennials embraced anal sex.

Back in 1992, 16% of 18 to 24-year-old women reported they’d tried anal sex. Now, it’s 40% of people by age 24.

Data suggests 94% of women who had anal sex in their last encounter achieved orgasm. That compares 81% for oral sex and 64% for vaginal orgasm.

It’s not as simple as anal sex equals orgasm but having anal sex as part of people’s sexual experience seems to show more sexual satisfaction.

Generation Z has seen conventional sexual roles removed and have taken anal play one step further with pegging – a woman wearing a strap-on and inserting this into the man’s anus.

LoveHoney reported a 200% increase in sales of strap-ons in 2017 and it has continued to grow since then.

So what’s the next taboo to be broken?

‘Society is moving away from the idea that vaginal penetrative sex is the only accepted form of sexual intercourse,’ said Sienna Halliburton, sex expert at Je Joue.

‘Blowjobs, anal sex and pegging have moved, or are still moving, away from being seen as taboo subjects into the realm of “normal” conversation.

‘Greater interest in sex education and liberalising attitudes towards gender and sexuality are largely responsible for these shifts.

‘So what is still a taboo subject that can be broken? Mutual masturbation.’

Masturbation ‘will overtake penetration’

People now developing their sexual identity have been born into an era concentrated on social media and technology, where interaction can be confined to a computer or smartphone.

Research shows that they’re given less opportunities to interact with others at school, with young people half as likely to meet up with peers in person, compared to 2006.

Some experts conclude that this will lead to a lack of social skills, which in turn will cause the next generation to become less interested in penetrative sex with a partner and more focused on masturbation.

‘Sexual content is at their fingertips 24/7 as they navigate the world via smartphones, tablets, and laptops,’ Chelsea Reynolds, assistant professor at the Department of Communications at California State University, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Because they are exposed to porn, sexting, and online dating at a young age, they feel online-mediated sexuality is natural.

‘What they aren’t comfortable with is face-to-face communication.

‘If Gen X’s thing was the blowjob, millennials’ thing was anal, and Gen Z is into pegging, the next generation will likely be the masturbation generation.

‘For 20 years now there has been a downward trend in teen sexual activity.

‘Teenagers have been consistently losing their virginities at an older age and having fewer sexual partners overall. Although teen sexuality may [be] less taboo than it used to be, teens have a million sexual outlets today that don’t involve genital contact.’

Virtual Reality sex

Another sexual trend influenced by technology is the rise of virtual reality (VR).

Through VR tools, people will be able to act out their wildest fantasies without judgement, as well as find (or create) sexual partners without having to step outside their door.

The opportunity already exists to some degree; the US-based company, Naughty America, allows its users to ‘star’ in porn films, while on adult sites, there are entire sections dedicated to virtual reality-inspired porn.

‘Naturally, the next step from here to take sex to the next level is virtual reality sex,’ Paul Jacques, technical manager at Lovehoney, tells Metro.co.uk.

The best of The Future Of Everything

‘Virtual reality as an industry is booming, and the adult industry is right there taking part in it, with haptic feedback devices (the application of forces, vibrations and motions to help recreate the sense of touch for the user) and full-rendered environments fulfilling consumer fantasies.

‘Companies like Kiiroo and Fleshlight have created toys like the Launch, that combine a really great sex toy with an automatic device that can be linked to online content. CyberSkin’s twerking realistic butt comes with a VR headset that provides a link between the motions you see onscreen and the movements of the toy itself.

‘Particularly of interest is the rise of app-controlled toys, which are shaking up the industry in every way, and ultra-realistic, highly sophisticated sex-cessories, which are starting to make even the most unusual sci-fi fantasies seem like reality.’

Sex will be less important in relationships and introduced later in life

If masturbation becomes the sexual trend that defines the next generation, could people stop having sex altogether?

Sally Baker, a senior therapist, explains that not only will young people have sex later in life – starting in their 30s – but sex will also lose its importance in society as a whole.

This may have already come into motion, with research revealing British people are having less sex than before.

Additional statistics from dating website OKCupid show similar trends, with both millennials and Generation Z prioritising love over sex, or opting out completely because they are ‘risk-averse’.

‘Abstinence or non-penetrative sex could be the next thing,’ Baker tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Friends of any gender mix and sexual orientation will commit to having a primary sexless relationship with each other. Couples or small cores of people will no longer be defined by a shared sexual orientation but by shared values, drives and their mutual emotional need to be together.

‘Young people will commonly delay sexual experience with anyone well into their 30s even if they are already living in a committed relationship.

‘Sex if and when it does take place might well happen externally of the central relationship. A couple may choose to have sex with other people while maintaining their core sexless relationship as their primary commitment.

‘Sex with other people will not be a cause of jealousy or a disruptor of their primary relationship.

‘Sex with others will not overshadow the primacy of their key relationship because they consider the supremacy of their key relationship transcends all base instincts.’

Couples will focus on ‘non-hierarchical’ sexual experiences

That all sounds like a really progressive way to experience relationships but, for those in the older generations, it could look from the outside to be very confusing.

‘If sex happens within a young couple, it will often be solitary and perfunctory,’ Sally Baker says.

‘If they do have sex together, the emphasis would be on mutual extended foreplay and de-emphasising or excluding penetrative sex. This ensures the sex they experience is non-hierarchical and non-binary.

‘Couples will not value sexual imperatives and sexuality takes second place to their desire to experience deep commitment and loyalty for and with each other.

‘Gen A will be highly motivated to form long-term committed relationships as a survival strategy to cope with the disconnect they experience in their lives and careers.

‘Feeling overwhelmed and anxious while living in increasingly inhospitable economic conditions will make it impossible to be single and to thrive.’

If that’s the case, then the sexual taboo of the next generation could be no sex at all.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Know If You Should Talk to Someone About a Low Sex Drive

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Plus where to get help

By Carolyn L. Todd

Feeling concerned about a low libido can be such an isolating experience. When your psychological drive to have sex isn’t where you would hope it is, you might feel like you can’t even discuss it with a partner—the very person you may normally turn to for basically everything else. But a persistently low libido that bothers you is not something to ignore. Here’s what could be behind a low libido, as well as guidance on who to talk to and how to find them.

Factors that can affect your libido

“There are so many physiological, psychosocial, and environmental factors in a [person’s] life that can have a very strong negative impact on their sex drive,” Leah Millheiser, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and ob/gyn at the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Medicine, tells SELF.

Some of the most common libido-killers include stress and fatigue, says Dr. Millheiser. Relationship issues like mismatched expectations about sex or a lack of emotional intimacy can also contribute. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations can sway a person’s libido, including the changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause, as SELF previously reported. Several common prescription drugs, like some hormonal contraceptives and antidepressants can also affect your libido, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While tons of situational factors can affect your libido, this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you’re currently single, crushing it in like three different areas of your life, and honestly, sex and intimacy just aren’t top of mind for you right now. If you don’t really feel any type of way about that, carry on!

Conditions that can cause chronic low libido

So, we know there are situational factors that can impact libido, but health conditions can play a role too. Virtually every aspect of health can impact the physiological and psychological aspects of desire, which in turn can influence each other, Madeleine M. Castellanos, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in sex therapy and author of Wanting to Want, tells SELF.

That includes numerous conditions that dampen desire by causing pain during sex, including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, vulvodynia (terrible chronic pain surrounding the vaginal opening), and vaginismus (muscle spasms that make penetration uncomfortable). Circulatory issues caused by conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes can result in a lack of sufficient blood flow to the genitals that hinders physical sexual arousal (which can impact the mental portion), according to the Cleveland Clinic. Then there are mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, which can make sex feel like the last thing you want to do.

So what happens if you’re experiencing chronic low libido without any of the aforementioned risk factors? If your libido has been absent for more than six months and you really can’t pinpoint why, you may have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which some experts think is linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

In sum, there are plenty of reasons why you might be dealing with a low sex drive. Figuring it out on your own can be confusing. That’s where experts may be able to help.

When to see someone about a low libido

The expert wisdom here is pretty simple: If you’re distressed about your libido or it’s causing issues in your relationship, it’s time to talk to a pro, Dr. Millheiser says.

Not only could low libido be a sign of an underlying health concern, but enjoying sex regularly can be good for you. “It’s a wonderful connection with another human being, but it’s also an important piece of your health,” Dr. Castellanos explains. In some people, sexual activity can help do things like make you feel great and less stressed, take your mind off menstrual cramps, and maybe even help you get to sleep, as SELF previously reported. Being satisfied with your libido and having a fulfilling sex life can have a positive impact on your psychological well-being as well.

“Don’t put [low libido] on the back burner if it persists,” Dr. Castellanos explains. “The earlier you address it, the easier it is to correct the problem.”

But keep in mind: You should only consider seeing someone about your libido if you view it as a problem. If someone like your partner is trying to make it seem as though your libido isn’t “high enough,” that doesn’t necessarily mean anything’s wrong with you or your sex drive. Your partner might be making assumptions based on their own libido, or maybe your libido really has changed over time but it’s a change that you’re mentally aligned with. While it couldn’t hurt to talk to someone about a change in your libido, you should never feel pressured to do so.

Who you can talk to about libido issues

The person best equipped to help you depends on what’s causing your low libido and your access to care, Dr. Castellanos explains.

If you have no idea where to start: See your primary care provider (PCP) or a general internist. “Any physical condition can affect your desire, so it’s always worthwhile to get that checked first,” Dr. Castellanos says.

This type of doctor can discuss your symptoms, order tests to help you uncover potential underlying medical issues, and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

If you’re having vaginal health issues: See an ob/gyn. Symptoms like pain with intercourse merit an exam and discussion with a specialist, Dr. Castellanos says.

If you’re having mental health issues: See a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. They can help you figure out which mental health condition may be contributing to your low libido and potentially provide a treatment plan.

If you suspect the problem is a medication you’re taking: See your prescribing doctor. They can talk to you about how likely it is that your low libido is a side effect of the drug and possibly recommend potential alternatives.

If no underlying medical condition is at play: Consider seeing a sex therapist. Sex therapists have the interpersonal training and depth of expertise to “get into the nuance and the nitty gritty of the psychology of sexual desire with you the way other clinicians don’t,” Dr. Castellanos explains.

The Mayo Clinic recommends looking for a certified sex therapist with a certification from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). Here’s more help for finding a sex therapist in your area.

If you’re having problems with your partner: You may not be sure whether relationship wrinkles are to blame for your low libido. Ask yourself if you still feel desire when you think about somebody else (like your celebrity crush) but not your partner, Dr. Castellanos says. If you do, that could point specifically to your relationship as your issue

In that case, you might want to see a sex therapist or couples’ counselor. They can help you dig into dynamics that could be affecting your libido, such as poor communication in or outside the bedroom. (Not all couples’ counselors cover sex issues, though, Dr. Castellanos notes, so check about that before you make your first appointment.)

If you think you have HSDD: See any kind of clinician specializing in women’s or sexual health, Dr. Millheiser says. That includes a PCP, nurse practitioner, licensed counselor, or psychiatrist. Diagnosis involves taking a medical history, ruling out any other factors, and, ideally, using a five-question screener based on diagnostic criteria developed by the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), Dr. Millheiser says.

How to talk to someone about your libido

Discussing sex in a medical setting isn’t always easy, and doctors know this. “I tell all my patients that I know talking about your sex life is very personal, especially if it’s not going well,” Dr. Castellanos says. “You might be anxious, but remember that only by saying what the issue is [can you] get help.” Here’s how to start the conversation.

1. Bring it up right off the bat.

“It’s very important to actually say why you’re there. If you don’t start off by telling them what the problem is, they don’t know what questions to ask,” Dr. Castellanos says.

Don’t wait until the last minute to see if your doctor brings it up. Unless this is their specialty, they may not. “That doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate to talk about with them. It just means that they’re busy thinking about other aspects of your health,” Dr. Millheiser says.

2. Be straightforward and specific.

It benefits both of you to be as open and honest as possible here, Dr. Castellanos says. Try something like, “Over the last three months, my sex drive has really dropped off and I’m not sure why. My partner and I used to have sex about twice a week, but now it’s more like once a month. We’re pretty happy otherwise.” And, of course, if you are having other symptoms, like fatigue or pain with intercourse, bring those up too.

3. Get a referral if necessary.

Some caregivers are more informed about libido or feel more comfortable talking about it than others, Dr. Castellanos says. If you’re not sure whether yours is the right person to help you or you’re not getting the care you want, Dr. Millheiser recommends asking your provider to connect you to someone else. Try something like, “If you don’t treat these things, can you refer me to somebody who does?”

“They probably know someone or can at least point you in the right direction,” Dr. Millheiser says.

And remember, your doctor has heard it all before. As Dr. Millheiser explains, “There is very little that could shock a clinician, and sexual function concerns are so common.”

Complete Article HERE!

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