Sex, technology and disability – it’s complicated

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Media portrayals of sexuality often focus on a visual and verbal vocabulary that is young, white, cisgender, heterosexual and…not disabled.

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People living with disability are largely excluded from conversations about sexuality, and face overlapping barriers to sexual expression that are both social and physical.

Media portrayals of sexuality often focus on a visual and verbal vocabulary that is young, white, cisgender, heterosexual and … not disabled.

My research into inclusive design explores how design can – intentionally or unintentionally – exclude marginalised or vulnerable people, as well as how design can ensure that everyone is included. That might mean design of the built environment, everyday products, or even how information is presented.

UTS has been collaborating for over a year with Northcott Innovation, a nonprofit organisation based in NSW that focuses on solutions for people with disability, to understand the barriers people face, and how inclusive design can help break them down.

When it comes to sexuality, new technologies have a role to play – but we need to look at both the opportunities and risks that these developments bring.

Starting the conversation

David* is a young man living with cerebral palsy who expresses a deep frustration about being unable to have his sexual desires met. He revealed his thoughts during discussions around sex and disability.

I can’t get into a lot clubs in my wheelchair – or restaurant or cafés for that matter. So where do I go to meet someone? Or go on a date? Let alone if we wanted to be intimate!

Northcott Innovation’s executive director Sam Frain isn’t surprised by what these conversations are revealing:

People with disability want to date, fall in love, or even fall out of love. They want to be recognised as the adults they are. In acknowledging their capacity for meaningful relationships, we must also acknowledge their sexuality – in whatever form that takes.

David faces complex social barriers too. Because it’s hard to for him to discuss his sexuality at all, coming out to his mother feels particularly fraught:

My mum doesn’t really know that I want to meet a future husband, not wife. I want to go on more dates. I don’t just want to meet other men with disability either. I want to meet lots of guys – but where can I go and how do I do this?

Inclusive sex toys

People living with disability have diverse physical and social support needs when it comes to expressing their sexuality. That means there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Rather we need a design approach that allows for customisation.

A new research project at RMIT, led by industrial design lecturer Judith Glover, is investigating the design of customised, inclusive sex toys.

Aside from some engineering research undertaken earlier this year at the University of São Paulo into the neurodildo – a sex toy operated remotely by brain waves – inclusive sex toys are an under-explored area of design research.

Glover feels strongly that designing sexual health products or services – whether for therapy or for recreation – should be treated as any other area of design. She acknowledges that the sex toy industry has barely started to address sex toys for an ageing population, let alone solutions for people with various disabilities:

Some of the people I meet, who are physically incapable of holding and moving objects, may have trouble communicating verbally – yet who really yearn to be able to develop their own sexual practice. Plus who doesn’t need to just get off every once in a while?

David agrees:

I really want to explore the option of sex toys more, but I don’t know what to try, or how to use it.

Social media and intellectual disability

Connecting communities together is an important strategy to overcome marginalisation and amplify the voices of people with disability.

Social media is a space where technology brings like-minded people together. But creating safe online spaces for people to express their sexuality can create unforeseen challenges – particularly for people with intellectual disability.

Deakin University and the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) set up a closed Facebook support group earlier this year for people with intellectual disability who identify as LGBTQI. Jonathon Kellaher, an educator with IDRS, says:

Group administrators quickly realised that people who were not “out” and did not understand that group members can be viewed publicly were at risk of accidentally “outing” themselves when requesting to join the group.

To address this issue, the group privacy setting was set to “secret”. But this meant new members had to wait to be added, so it became a barrier to the group’s potential as a social connector. Deakin is now working on a project with GALFA to learn more about how people connect in this space.

Technology must promote inclusion

Then there is the elephant in the room: sex robots.

Manufacturers claim sex robots provide health and social benefits for people with disability, but researchers have been quick to point out that there’s no evidence to support the range of claims that have been made.

While it’s possible to see the introduction of sex robots as a form of assistive technology – a new way to experience pleasure, or to explore preferences and body capabilities – there’s another, more tragic, side.

Viewing sex robots as a solution to the loneliness of people with disability (or anyone for that matter), or as a remedy for a lack of available dates, risks perpetuating and exacerbating the social and sexual exclusion of people with disability.

Technology can’t replace human connection, so it’s critical that new technologies support greater inclusion for people living with disability. It’s a human right to be able to safely express and enjoy sexuality, and have the choice to live a life with pleasure.

For David, that fits in to his ideal world very clearly:

One day I really want a husband to love me, two children, and to own my own restaurant.

Complete Article HERE!

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Art of Presence: Pleasure Mapping

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by KinkKit Team

Try the Yoni Pleasure Mapping Technique:

(Yoni, pronounced (YO-NEE), or “Vagina”, is derived from Sanskrit.)

The objective is not to achieve orgasm, though that may happen. The objective is to thoroughly learn and discover your partner’s pleasurable spots in a relaxed setting, with no expectations. As you massage your partner, focus all your loving emotion onto them.

1. Get your partner relaxed and comfortable.

Have your partner lie face-up with legs spread apart and knees bent. Optional: place a pillow under your lover’s head and/or hips. 

2. Both partners must remember to breathe.

Mindful breathing is a large part of what separates Tantra from regular sexual experiences. While you give your partner the lingam massage, try something called Ujiayi (ooh-JAH-yee), or “Bliss Breath”, in tandem:

To perform Ujjayi breathing:

  1. Close your mouth
  2. Take a long, deep inhale through your nose, while lightly constricting the back of your throat (your breath will make a whispery kind of noise)
  3. Hold it for a second
  4. Exhale slowly through your nose, while lightly constricting the back of your throat (your breath will make a whispery kind of noise)

3. Encourage your partner to breathe deeply.

Before you begin the yoni massage, tune into your partner by engaging in the “bliss breath” together. Just taking a few breaths at the same time will put you both at ease and match your bio-rhythms. You’ll both get all the good vibes. Ask your partner if you may continue before you begin.

4. Begin with both hands (or tool) well-lubricated.

Massager: If you started with Round 1, your hands may have the other hemp massage oil on them. Wash your hands and switch to the lube (it’s specially formulated to bio-match with the natural pH of the vagina). You may wish to also lube up the Gläs massager as well, if you plan to use this tool for pleasure mapping. Make sure the Yoni stays well lubricated throughout the entire Pleasure Mapping.

5. Massage the vulva first before slipping inside.

Gently rub the lube on the outer lips of the Yoni at least nine times. Using your thumb and index fingers, gently squeeze each lip of the vulva, sliding your fingers up and down the entire length of each lip. Then, carefully repeat this with each inner lip of the Yoni, being careful to vary the pressure and speed of your touch. Next, gently stroke the clitoris in a circular motion, clockwise and counter-clockwise. Then, squeeze the clitoris between your thumb and index finger.

As you do this, continue asking your lover to give their pleasure rating from 0 – 10. When a spot is given a rating of 5 or higher, push, caress, and gently squeeze that area more firmly to see if the pleasure rating changes. 

6. Move into the vagina.

Next, slowly and with great care, insert your middle finger into the vagina. Very gently explore and press the inside of the Yoni with your finger. As you do so, ask your partner how that feels and prompt more pleasure ratings. Varying the speed and depth of your finger, feel inside the Yoni up, down and around. With your palm pointing upward and your finger inside your partner’s Yoni, bend your finger to make contact with the G-spot. 

7. Continue for as long as your lover desires.

Continue massaging with different speeds and pressures. At this point, your lover may wish not to give pleasure ratings anymore — let your lover just relax and keep breathing. If your lover has an orgasm, keep up with the breathing, and continue massaging if your lover desires. More orgasms may occur at this point, though, if they do not, just enjoy the ride! 

Keep massaging until your partner requests that you stop. Slowly, and with respect, remove your hands. Allow your partner to lay there and bask in the afterglow of the Yoni massage, while you experience the joy of being of service. If your lover wishes, at this point you can gently massage the hands or feet using the mushroom massager.

Try the Lingam Pleasure Mapping Technique:

(Lingam, or “Penis”, is derived from Sanskrit.)

1. Get your partner relaxed and comfortable.

Have your partner lie face-up with legs spread apart and knees bent. Optional: place a pillow under your lover’s head and/or hips. 

2. Both partners must remember to breathe.

Mindful breathing is a large part of what separates Tantra from regular sexual experiences. While you give your partner the lingam massage, try something called Ujiayi (ooh-JAH-yee), or “Bliss Breath”, in tandem:

To perform Ujjayi breathing:

  1. Close your mouth
  2. Take a long, deep inhale through your nose, while lightly constricting the back of your throat (your breath will make a whispery kind of noise)
  3. Hold it for a second
  4. Exhale slowly through your nose, while lightly constricting the back of your throat (your breath will make a whispery kind of noise)

3. Encourage your partner to breathe deeply.

Before you begin the lingam massage, tune into your partner by engaging in the “bliss breath” together. Just taking a few breaths at the same time will put you both at ease and match your bio-rhythms. You’ll both get all the good vibes. Ask your partner if you may continue before you begin.

4. Lubricate and massage lightly around the penis with both hands.

Massager: If you started with Round 1, your hands may have the other hemp massage oil on them. Wash your hands and switch to the lube or a food-grade oil (coconut oil is fantastic: not only does it smell delicious, it has a very light, slippery texture without being sticky.). Make sure you oil both the shaft of the penis and the testicles. Start by sliding up and down the thighs before getting to the good stuff. This will also make your partner feel more relaxed. Feel free to compliment your partner, though don’t lose focus on the Ask and Answer. 

Receiver: Give your Pleasure Rating on the sliding scale of 1 – 10. Don’t worry about whether or not you are impressing your lover; only focus your breathing and on the pleasure you are feeling.

Massager: Move onto the testicles. Gently, slowly massage them. You can use your fingernails gently on his testicles, or pull them slightly. You can also cup them in your hands and fondle them in the palm of your hand.

Massage each of the areas around the testicles and penis (i.e., the pubic bone in the front, the inner part of the thighs, and the perineum—or “taint”—which is the area between the testicles and the anus).

5. Massage the shaft.

Once you’ve teased the areas around the lingam, move to the shaft. Vary your grip between harder and lighter. Vary your stroke sequences between straight up and down and a twisting motion.

Vary the action from one hand to two hands. When using just one hand, alternate between using the right and left hands.

Start slowly and build up to a faster pace, then make it slow again. Keep alternating the pressure, speed, rhythm, and methods.

Also, alternate the shaft strokes to start from the root of the shaft all the way up to the head. Once at the head, you can either continue the straight up and down motion, or you can do the twist—going from the root of the shaft and stopping just below the tip of the penis.

Variety is the key here.

When using two hands, you can do it a few different ways:

1. Both hands hold the penis in the same direction with the fingers pointing the same way.

2. One hand holds the penis facing one way and the other hand faces the other way.

3. Both hands move up and down at the same time. Use plenty of lube to keep the texture slippery and smooth.

4. The bottom hand moves up and down while the top hand does a swirling/twisting action at the tip of the penis.

6. Edge your lover – don’t allow climax. Rather, keep your lover at the edge of orgasm.

By now, your lover might be very worked up and might want to come. If you are paying close attention to breathing patterns, how the body moves, and the moaning, you should be able to predict whether your partner is nearing orgasm. At this point, slow it down and remind your partner to breathe and ride the wave of orgasmic feelings. At this point, your lover might go from being rock hard to semi-hard. Don’t worry. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

7. Continue for as long as your lover desires.

Continue massaging with different speeds and pressures. At this point, your lover may wish not to give pleasure ratings anymore — let your lover just relax and keep breathing. If your lover has an orgasm, keep up with the breathing, and continue massaging if your lover desires. More orgasms may occur at this point, though, if they do not, just enjoy the ride! 

Keep massaging until your partner requests that you stop. Slowly, and with respect, remove your hands. Allow your partner to lay there and bask in the afterglow of the Yoni massage, while you experience the joy of being of service. If your lover wishes, at this point you can gently massage the hands or feet using the mushroom massager.

Try the Prostate Pleasure Mapping Technique:

8. Stimulate the p-spot externally.

The prostate, or “male g-spot”, which is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis. When stimulated properly, it is very pleasurable.

You can access the prostate either internally (by inserting your fingers or the Gläs curved massage toy into the booty) or externally (through massaging the outside without penetration).

If your lover isn’t experienced with prostate massage, start externally. Look for an indentation somewhere between the size of a pea and a walnut midway between the testicles and the anus. Push gently inward. As you do so, have your lover continue to give you numbers. Be careful to go slowly and let your lover guide you in terms of pressure.

When you hit the right spot, massage it by pushing in with your fingers or knuckles, then backing off and pushing in again. You can also use a circular massage motion. If he’s especially hairy, use more lube so you can get to the area more easily.

9. If your lover is comfortable, stimulate internally.

If your lover enjoyed the prostate massage, take it to the next level with an internal massage. If the game, you’ll want to loosen up the anus with lube. Start by massaging the outside of the anus with your fingers in a slow, smooth, and gentle circular motion. Don’t insert a finger without express permission. Ask if your lover is ready for more.

If he is ready for insertion, make sure his anus and your fingers are oiled up. Make sure your nails don’t have any jagged edges. Start by inserting just the tip of one finger at first. Wiggle it back and forth to loosen him up. Once he’s comfortable with that, you can insert your finger(s) more deeply, as the prostate is about 2 to 3 inches inside the anus, closer to the anterior wall of the rectum.

Once there, you can gently caress it by moving your finger from side to side, up and down, or “milking” it with a come hither motion with your finger(s). Continue asking for Pleasure Ratings.

10. Keep massaging until your partner wishes to stop.

Continue massaging with different speeds and pressures. At this point, your lover may wish not to give pleasure ratings anymore — let your lover just relax and keep breathing. If your lover has an orgasm, keep up with the breathing, and continue massaging if your lover desires. More orgasms may occur at this point, though, if they do not, just enjoy the ride! 

Keep massaging until your partner requests that you stop. Slowly, and with respect, remove your hands. Allow your partner to lay there and bask in the afterglow of the Yoni massage, while you experience the joy of being of service. If your lover wishes, at this point you can gently massage the hands or feet using the mushroom massager.

Complete Article HERE!

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Mindful sex: could it put an end to unhappiness in bed?

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Mindfulness has been used to treat depression and encourage healthy eating. Now, with huge numbers of men and women reporting sexual dissatisfaction, it is being applied to our relationships

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So there you are, in bed with your partner, having perfectly pleasant if serviceable sex, when your mind starts to wander: what was it you meant to put on your shopping list? Why didn’t your boss reply to your email? Don’t forget it’s bin day tomorrow.

Many of us feel disconnected during sex some or most of the time. At the more extreme end, sexual dysfunction – erectile problems, vaginal pain, zero libido – can severely hamper our quality of life and our relationships. In many cases, there could be a relatively simple, if not easily achieved, fix: mindfulness.

In essence, mindfulness involves paying attention to what is happening in the present moment and noticing, without judgment, your thoughts and feelings. It can reconnect us with our bodies – stopping us spending so much time in our heads – and reduce stress. It has been used by the NHS as a treatment for recurrent depression and popular books and apps have made it part of many people’s everyday lives. After mindful eating, drinking, parenting and working, mindful lovemaking is starting to be recognised more widely as a way to improve one’s sex life. (Earlier this year, the couples therapist Diana Richardson gave a TEDx talk on mindfulness in sex, which has been viewed 170,000 times on YouTube.)

A survey published in June by Public Health England found that 49% of 25- to 34-year-old women complained of a lack of sexual enjoyment; across all ages, 42% of women were dissatisfied. The most recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, published in 2013, found that people in Britain were having less sex than they once did, with low sexual function affecting about 15% of men and 30% of women. Difficulty achieving orgasm was reported by 16% of women, while 15% of men suffered premature ejaculation and 13% experienced erectile dysfunction. Problems with sexual response were common, affecting 42% of men and 51% of women who reported one or more problems in the last year.

At the time, the researchers said modern life could be affecting our sex drives.
 
“People are worried about their jobs, worried about money. They are not in the mood for sex,” said Cath Mercer from University College London. “But we also think modern technologies are behind the trend, too. People have tablets and smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and Facebook, answering emails.”

Mindfulness is one of the tools that can help people focus in a world full of distractions. Kate Moyle, a psychosexual and couples therapist, says mindfulness is a recognised part of therapeutic work, even if it has not always been given that name. “When people have sexual problems, a lot of the time it’s anxiety-related and they’re not really in their bodies, or in the moment. Mindfulness brings them back into the moment. When people say they’ve had the best sex and you ask them what they were thinking about, they can’t tell you, because they weren’t thinking about anything, they were just enjoying the moment. That’s mindfulness.” Moyle says the techniques involve “encouraging people to focus on their sensations, explore their senses, hone in on what is happening in their body and how they’re experiencing it”.

A simple exercise Moyle recommends is “getting in touch with the senses in the shower – listen to the noise, the sensation of the water on your skin, notice any smells, see what the water tastes like, look around you. You’re really encouraging people to try to stay in their bodies, rather than be in their heads. It’s about refocusing their attention on what they can feel right now.”

Ammanda Major, the head of clinical practice at the relationship support organisation Relate, says mindful sex “is about focusing in the moment on what’s going on for you and making sure all the extraneous things get left behind. For example, if you’re being touched by your partner, it’s really focusing on those sensations. People may find themselves very distracted during sex, so this is a way of bringing themselves into their body and being totally aware of themselves in that moment.” It is now part of the standard advice and support Relate offers to clients, she says. “It can feel clunky to start with, but with practice people realise they’re able to engage in mindfulness without realising they’re doing it.” In short, it becomes a way of life. Other than focusing on sensations, people can bring into sex an awareness of “how nice your partner feels, or how nice they smell, or the sound of their voice – something that will bring you right back into the moment. When you have thoughts that distract you, one of the key issues is not to blame yourself, but just to acknowledge it and cast them adrift.”

At the Jane Wadsworth sexual function clinic at St Mary’s hospital in London, mindfulness is used in almost all sexual problems, says David Goldmeier, a clinical lead and consultant in sexual medicine. These approaches have been used in sex therapy since the 50s, but they were not known as mindfulness at the time. The American researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson used a technique called “sensate focus”, emphasising the exploration of physical sensations rather than focusing on the goal of orgasm.

A mindful approach can help men with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. “If you have a man who has an erection problem and is stressed by it, a lot of his mind [during sex] will be worrying: ‘Have I got an erection or not?’” says Goldmeier. It is also used to help men and women who find it hard to orgasm or have low desire, as well as in sexual problems relating to abuse. “In our clinic, we see an awful lot of people with historical sexual abuse and [mindfulness is] a foundation for the trauma therapy they have. It is useful in sexual problems that are based in large part on past sexual abuse,” he says.

Lori Brotto, one of the leading researchers in this area, agrees. In her book Better Sex Through Mindfulness, she wrote of a study she published in 2012, which noted that “teaching sexual abuse survivors to mindfully pay attention to the present moment, to notice their genital sensations and to observe ‘thoughts’ simply as events of the mind, led to marked reductions in their levels of distress during sex”.

Brotto is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and the executive director of the Women’s Health Research Institute in Canada. Having started sex research during her graduate degree, she began studying mindfulness in 2002. Mindfulness-based treatments had been used effectively for people with suicidal tendencies – these ancient techniques started to be used widely in western medicine in the 70s – and Brotto realised they could also be helpful for addressing the sexual concerns of women who had survived cancer. “What struck me was … how the patients I was seeing with suicidal tendencies, who would talk about feeling disconnected from themselves and having a real lack of awareness of their internal sensations, were very similar to the women with sexual concerns,” she says. “At that time, I thought: ‘If mindfulness could be an effective way of staying in the present and helping them manage these out-of-control behaviours, I wonder if it could also be a tool to help women reconnect with their sexual selves and improve their sexual functioning.’”

Sexual problems can be caused by a huge range of factors. Depression and stress can be triggers, as can the side-effects of antidepressants. Over time, these side-effects can become a psychological factor, as people worry that they are no longer sexually responsive. Problems can also be caused by physical conditions such as vaginal pain, or inhibitions and shame about sexual desire, particularly for some women and people in same-sex relationships. Survivors of sexual abuse, who learned to dissociate during an assault, can also experience distressing sexual problems in a later consensual and otherwise happy relationship. “Mindfulness is such a simple practice, but it really addresses many of the reasons why people have sexual concerns,” says Brotto.

At its most basic, she explains, mindfulness is defined as “present-moment nonjudgmental awareness. Each of those three components are critical for healthy sexual function. For a lot of women who report low desire, lack of response and low arousal in particular, all three of those domains are problematic.” Being “present” is critical. “Then there is the nonjudgmental part – countless studies have shown that people who have sexual difficulties tend also to have very negative and catastrophic thoughts: ‘If I don’t respond, my partner will leave me,’ or: ‘If I don’t have an adequate level of desire, I’m broken.’ Mindfulness and paying attention nonjudgmentally is about evoking compassion for yourself.”

Body image issues come up consistently, she says. “Women will often say they prefer to have the lights off, or they’ll redirect their partner’s hands away from the areas of their body they’re not happy with, or they may be worrying that a partner is perceiving their body in a negative way. All of those things serve to remove them from the present moment.”

As for awareness, Brotto says, “lots of data shows us that women, more so than men, tend to be somewhat disconnected from what’s happening in their bodies”. Her experiments have shown that women can experience physical arousal, such as increased blood flow to their vagina, but it barely registers mentally. “There may be a strong physiological response, [but] there’s no awareness in their mind of that response. We know that healthy sexual response requires the integration of the brain and body, so when the mind is elsewhere – whether it’s distracted or consumed with catastrophic thoughts – all of that serves to interrupt that really important feedback loop.”

It can be the same for some men, she says, but “there tends to be more concordance between the body’s arousal and the mind’s arousal. When men have a physical response, they’re also much more likely to have a mental sexual arousal response.”

While working with a group or a sex therapist can be helpful for people with sexual concerns, others can teach themselves mindfulness techniques using books or any number of apps. In her book, Brotto says mindfulness practice can be as simple as focusing on your breath. An exercise she uses involves focusing on a raisin (this is a well-established practice and there are many tutorials online). First, scrutinise it – its shape, size, smell, feel, its ridges and valleys – then put it to your lips and notice your anticipation and salivary response; finally, bite into it and observe, in detail, the taste and texture. This can teach us to focus on sensations and the moment, rather than mindlessly eating a handful of raisins. The same sort of attention can be applied to sex.

In Brotto’s eight-week group programme, people practice mindfulness techniques for 30 minutes each day, followed by a maintenance plan of between 10 and 15 minutes a day. For someone doing it on their own, she recommends starting with 10 minutes a day and trying to include a few 30-minute sessions. “The benefit of a longer practice is you get to deal with things such as boredom and frustration, and physical discomfort in the body, all of which you want to be able to work through,” she says. “A body scan is one of our favourites within the sexuality realm – that involves closing your eyes and really tuning in to the different sensations in different parts of your body and not trying to change anything, just observing. If people can start to do that in their life generally, on a regular basis, they strengthen that mindfulness ‘muscle’ and start to become more aware generally and they can take that newfound awareness into their sexuality.”

When we have better sex, we tend to want more of it, so it becomes a satisfying circle. “Desire is not a fixed level that each one of us has, but rather is adaptive and responsive to our situation,” says Brotto. “When sex is not satisfying, it makes sense that the brain adjusts itself and creates less [desire].”

Mindful sex does not have to be an intense, time-consuming session. “It can be very everyday; it doesn’t have to be a different type of sex,” says Moyle. “You might have sex the same way, in the same position, but you’re in a different headspace, so you’re experiencing it differently. People can think: ‘I’m not into mindfulness,’ or: ‘It’s a bit spiritual and I’m not,’ but it doesn’t have to be that. It can just be really straightforward – focusing your attention and fully experiencing sensations.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships

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By Samantha Cooney

Polyamory — having more than one consensual sexual or emotional relationship at once — has in recent years emerged on television, mainstream dating sites like OkCupid and even in research. And experts who have studied these kinds of consensual non-monogomous relationships, say they have unique strengths that anyone can learn from.

Consensual non-monogamy can include polyamory, swinging and other forms of open relationships, according to Terri Conley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied consensual non-monogamy. While there aren’t comprehensive statistics about how many people in America have polyamorous relationships, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five people in the U.S. engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy throughout their lives.

But these relationships can still be shrouded in stigma. And people in polyamorous relationships often keep them a secret from friends and family.

“Often they’re scared of losing their jobs, not getting a job, losing family or friends who won’t respect them anymore or scared that their children will be taken away,” says Carrie Jenkins, a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia and the author of What Love Is: And What It Could Be.

But Jenkins, who participates in polyamorous relationships herself, cautions that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to relationships. “One impression that I don’t want to give is that I think polyamorous relationships are better for everyone,” she says. “We’re all very different from one another.”

Still, experts who study relationships say polyamorous relationships can provide useful lessons for monogamous couples. Here are a few areas where, researchers say, polyamorous couples are particularly successful:

Communication

Successful monogamous relationships require communication about desires, needs and problems, says Joanne Davila, a professor of clinical psychology at Stony Brook University who studies monogamous relationships. And this is one area where polyamorous couples excel.

A May 2017 study published in PLOS One noted that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships communicate to “negotiate agreements, schedules, and boundaries, and to work through the kinds of problems that emerge when negotiating polyamory, amongst the typical relational problems that can emerge in any relationship.” The study found that polyamorous individuals tend to communicate better with their primary partner than secondary partners — because “greater communication may be necessary for primary relationships to endure while other relationships are pursued.”

This is one area particularly relevant to monogamous couples, according to Benjamin Karney, a professor of social psychology at UCLA who researches monogamous relationships. “I don’t see studying non-monogamous couples as studying a totally separate country with no relevance to monogamy at all,” he says. “Consensually non-monogamous couples might have a lot to teach everybody about negotiating desire and competing interests.”

Defining the relationship

Polyamorous partners often define boundaries and form agreements about what each relationship should look like, and Conley says these agreements can be beneficial to monogamous relationships, where partners might assume they’re on the same page about what monogamy means.

When deciding to enter a relationship, “there might be a conversation beyond that about what that means: does it mean we’re monogamous? What does it mean to be monogamous?” Conley says. “For some people, even mere thoughts of attraction to someone else can be defined as cheating. For other people, anything but intercourse is OK.”

Polyamorous relationships can take many different forms. Sometimes, partners will know each other and form a family-like network sometimes called “kitchen table polyamory“, according to Kate Kincaid, a psychologist at Tucson Counseling Associates who works with polyamorous couples. Another style, known as “parallel polyamory,” means that all of the partners are aware of each other, but have little to no contact, Kincaid explains.

Kincaid says that she works with couples to figure out which model is best for them — though she often recommends kitchen table polyamory because it’s often more efficient for all parties to communicate directly. She says that one of the biggest challenges she encounters with polyamorous couples is time management.

“Everyone jokes that love is not a finite resource, but time is,” Kincaid says. “You can have multiple partners you want to see a lot — you have to negotiate time and space to do that.”

Practicing safe sex

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that individuals in polyamorous relationships were more likely to practice safe sex than those who cheat in monogamous relationships. The study showed that monogamous individuals often consider monogamy a safe sex practice in and of itself, so “sexually unfaithful individuals may reject safer sex strategies because of the presence of a stable relationship.”

Kincaid says that she works with clients to fill out a questionnaire about what sexual acts they’d be comfortable with them doing with other partners to make sure they’re on the same page. Amy Moors, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University who conducted the 2012 study with Conley, says consensually non-monogamous couples often make explicit agreements with partners to use condoms and get information about STI history with each new partner.

“They have to navigate the sexual health of a bunch of people,” Moors says. “Implicit in that is that there’s very clear conversations about sexual health that are happening in consensual non-monogamous relationships that may not be happening in monogamous relationships.”

But in monogamous relationships, couples often “stop using condoms as a covert message of intimacy: now, we’re really dating,” Moors says. But if a monogamous individual decides to cheat on their partner, there’s no guarantee he or she will practice safe sex.

Managing jealousy

You might think that having multiple romantic partners would elicit more jealousy than being in a monogamous relationship. But according to a a 2017 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, that’s not necessarily the case.

The study, which surveyed 1,507 people in monogamous relationships and 617 people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, found that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, including those who engaged in polyamory and swinging, scored lower on jealousy and higher on trust than those in monogamous relationships.

“People in monogamous relationships were really off the charts high on jealousy. They were more likely to check their partners’ phones, go through their emails, their handbags,” Moors says. “But people in consensual non-monogamous relationships were really low on this.”

Davila, who also works as a couples therapist, says that she’s observed monogamous couples avoid addressing jealousy altogether, whereas consensual non-monogamous couples might be more vocal with their feelings. “In consensual non-monogamous relationships, jealousy is expected,” Davila says. “But they see what feelings arise and actively work to navigate them in a proactive way.”

Maintaining a sense of independence

Another area where polyamorous couples tend to excel, according to Kincaid, is allowing their partners to maintain a sense of independence outside of their relationship. Conley and Moors found in their 2017 study that monogamous couples are more likely to sacrifice their own needs for the sake of their relationship, while polyamorous couples put their own personal fulfillment first.

“The biggest thing that I appreciate about poly people is that they focus on knowing what their needs are and get their needs met in creative ways — relying more on friends or multiple partners instead of putting it all on one person,” Kincaid says. “Once [monogamists] get into a relationship, they tend to value their romantic partner above everyone else.”

She suggests that doing the former allows your relationships to be deeper and can enable you to get a lot more support from your loved ones.

Karney says that he could also see how having your needs met by others might strengthen consensual non-monogamous relationships.

“If we’re a married monogamous couple, we have to figure out what to do about our problems. We’re either going to avoid them, resolve them or break up,” Karney says. “But if I’m in a non-monogamous relationship and I have the same problem, I might not have to resolve it if I’m not getting all my needs met from you.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A Professional Dominatrix’s Advice For Powering Up Your Sex Life

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A professional Dominatrix explains how a trip to the dungeon can help average couples enhance their sex lives.

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It’s been said that every hopeful needs a mentor, and it may be so. But when it comes to sex, there’s not a lot of hierarchy around to guide you. Unless, of course, you look to the professionals. Mistress Justine Cross has been a professional BDSM consultant and lifestyle Dominatrix for more than a decade. In that span, she’s helped a lot of individuals bring their deep-seated fantasies to life. More recently, however, she expanded her practice to include a new demographic of potential clients: married couples. She brings couples down to her dungeon and offers them tips, tricks, and a little bit of rough treatment. Considering how one of the most popular sexual fantasies in America is BDSM, it’s a smart business move. We spoke to Cross about what the dungeon can teach these duos about intimacy, communication, and good sex.

Booking an appointment with a professional Dominatrix seems like a pretty extreme move, especially to the pedestrians out there. What could regular couples gain from a trip to the dungeon?

I think heterosexual couples tend to have one idea of what sex is and why it needs to be a certain way. BDSM allows you to explore things that fall outside of the standard penis-in-vagina sex. There are other intimate things to do. I do consultations with people who want me to talk them through different dynamics and role-plays. Other times, I introduce couples to some new moves. I teach them how to tie each other up, or how to hit someone without hurting them. I’m there to spice things up for them. I’m there to make things more fun.

How often do they come back for more?

I get some repeat clients. It’s not usually something they do all the time. It’s kind of a special occasion thing. I get a lot of birthdays and anniversaries. A lot of women come in on their own, too. They want to learn about BDSM and bring home some skills to surprise their husbands with.

Sex is a pretty intimate process. Why would a committed couple want to bring a third person into the mix?

When there are two people, there’s no referee. I kind of act as a mediator. I get to see what the dynamic is between the couple, and then I get to call them on their shit. Sometimes one partner is trying to communicate something but the other isn’t listening. That’s when I get to tell them to shut up and let their partner talk. I can also be nicer than that. But, basically, the goal is to give both people what they want in a way where they can both be seen and heard. I also leave some time towards the end of the session for couples to be alone. It’s important for them to reconnect within the space without me there.

Sexy stuff aside, how can this kind of experience bring couples closer together?

Well, it’s kind of weird coming in here. I mean, a lot of people come in excited, but it is kind of weird, if you think about it. You’re about to go into this dungeon located in a strange part of town, where you’re going to take off your clothes and this tall, mean, and beautiful woman is going to do things to you. I mean it’s exciting, but also scary and weird as hell. It’s definitely different from going to pick up the dry-cleaning together. It’s a different kind of adventure.

Which BDSM staple would you most recommend couples adopt?

Communication. I’m always trying to get couples to really express what they like, and what they don’t. It’s important to have an idea as to what those things might be. Sometimes people spend a long time fantasizing about a certain scene, or a certain kind of sex that they want to have, and then realize it’s not actually for them. It’s important to recognize why they didn’t enjoy it, what they might want to change, and how they might want to experiment in the future. It’s important to give yourself room to make mistakes. You might not know what your limit is until you meet it. Being able to talk about it is what makes people feel safe.

Are there any common requests you get from couples?

With heterosexual couples, the guy is often put in the dominant position. But some guys want to switch it up. If their partner is also submissive, I can top both of them. Or maybe I’ll co-top one of them alongside their partner. There are a lot of different ways it can play out. I just cater to the couple in terms of what they want.

Is there anything else the dungeon can teach us about a healthy approach to sex?

I think it’s important to remember that sex can also be funny. It’s important to be able to laugh. Maybe you have a whole scene mapped out in your head, but you trip and fall in the middle of it all. It’s ok to laugh about it, even if your partner is tied up across the room. You have to give yourself room to make mistakes.

 

Most people become parents as a result of having had sex. At the same time, “parenthood” and “sex” aren’t exactly considered compliments. How do you think BDSM can help bridge the gap?

When people have sex, there’s really no plan. But BDSM scenes are very directed. You can put together a checklist of things you want to happen, or don’t want to happen. It’s like, ‘I have an hour to play with you, and it’s going to run this way.’ It can be very convenient when you’re on a schedule. You know you’re getting your carnal needs met in this specific way, in this specific time window of time. You get to look forward to it. And that’s an approach you can apply to more vanilla scenarios as well. People don’t really schedule sex as much as they maybe should. They think it should always be spontaneous. But that’s just not reality. It’s not a bad idea to have some kind of arrangement in place. Especially after kids.

Complete Article HERE!

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America’s Sexual Fantasies Laid Bare in New Book

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Author Justin Lehmiller calls it the most comprehensive survey of America’s sexual fantasies.

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Ever fantasized about a politician naked? How about a threesome involving a coworker and your partner? Ever considered what it would be like to take a robot to bed?

There’s at least one man in America who wouldn’t bat an eye if you answered yes to every single question. His name is Dr. Justin Lehmiller.

A social psychologist with credentials from Villanova and Purdue University, Lehmiller spent time as a lecturer at some of the best universities in the country, including Harvard, before publishing his brand new book, Tell Me What You Want.

The tome delves into a comprehensive study he conducted several years ago into what exactly Americans are fantasizing about — and the results don’t just give insight into the secret desires of a person’s neighbors, friends and coworkers. They also reveal something about the individual.

“I think the book is important for a couple of reasons,” Lehmiller told RealClearLife in a recent phone interview. “One is from a research perspective, because the last major review paper on sexual fantasies in scientific literature was published in 1995, and a lot has changed in our sex lives since then. I wanted to look at sexual fantasies today, how pornography use is connected to our sexual fantasies — given the increasingly availability of porn in our every day lives — [and I] also wanted to look at questions that had never been answered before, such as how we see ourselves in our sexual fantasies, and what that means.”

What does it mean?

For one, if you fantasize about something — no matter how seemingly obscure or “out there” it is — you likely aren’t alone, even if there aren’t a huge number of people who share your taste.

“A lot of people feel a lot of shame and guilt about their sexual fantasies, and I wanted people to better understand just how common most of their sexual fantasies are,” Lehmiller said. “So this was in some ways an attempt to normalize people’s fantasies, which would allow them to have an easier time talking about those fantasies with a partner, and maybe even acting on some of those fantasies.”

So what exact fantasies are we talking about here?

“I [asked] people whether they had ever fantasized about politicians, and what I found was that political fantasies were not very common,” Lehmiller said. “I don’t remember the exact number, but it was a relatively small number of people. People were much more likely to have fantasized about a celebrity or porn star. I don’t know exactly why that is, but one of the things that I thought was interesting was that heterosexual men — their biggest political fantasy was about Sarah Palin. For women, their biggest sexual fantasies about politicians were about Barack Obama and JFK, and Bill Clinton.”

Here’s another thing we learned from Lehmiller’s work: A person’s personality can have an impact on what they fantasize about. For example, if you’re generally an agreeable person — meaning you’re kind, considerate, and want to make other people happy — you’re less likely to fantasize about infidelity or emotionless sex, according to Lehmiller. You also care about the satisfaction your partner is receiving in bed — so messing around with, say, a robot, is less likely to rank high on your “to-do” list. On the other hand, if you have a high degree of intellectual curiosity and an active imagination, you might be more likely to seek out a machine with benefits.

“Fourteen percent of my participants said they’d fantasized about having sex with a robot before — that suggests that a fair number of people are probably open to that idea,” Lehmiller said. “The real question I think is whether, when they start creating these sex robots, what budget they’ll be made for — so whether that’s actually an attainable fantasy for people, that they could actually act on, I don’t know.”

So does all this normalization mean, one should immediately go and blab about all their fantasies to their partner?

“While there are potential benefits, there are ways that acting and sharing these fantasies can potentially harm us or our relationships, so we need to be very careful when approaching this subject,” Lehmiller said. “I try to lay out in the book a lot of suggestions and guidelines that people might want to take into account for sharing and acting on their fantasies in a safe, healthy and consensual way.

“The more comfortable we can all get communicating about sex, the more we all stand to benefit.”

Excerpts from Lehmiller’s book below, in which he reveals some of the most common sexual fantasies he came across in his research, shows that many people’s imaginations overlap:

“By far, the most common taboo activity Americans fantasize about is voyeurism. What we’re talking about here is the desire to watch other people undress or have sex without their knowledge or consent. Believe it or not, most of my participants (60 percent) reported having fantasized about this before! The point of voyeurism fantasies is to observe others without being seen. For example, one straight man in his fifties described his voyeurism fantasy as “being unnoticed and anonymously watching beautiful naked women masturbating.” “Spying” would therefore be another way to think about this.”

But there are also other impulses that are common:

“Fetishes are another popular taboo that appears in many Americans’ sexual fantasies. In fact, nearly half of the Americans I surveyed (45 percent) reported that they fantasize about fetish objects— objects that one relies on for feelings of sexual arousal. When this object is present during sex or masturbation, one typically has an easier time becoming and staying aroused and reaching orgasm. Some fetishes are very mild, meaning that the object isn’t absolutely necessary for one to enjoy sex. However, other fetishes are more intense, in the sense that one’s ability to become aroused and enjoy sex just isn’t the same in the absence of that fetish object. People can have fetishes for virtually anything. Among the more unusual ones I’ve read about are cars, dirt, and medical devices.”

“Following closely on the heels of fetishism in popularity was exhibitionism, which involves exposing one’s genitals or engaging in a sex act while others look on. There are really two types of exhibitionism that differ based on the desired reaction of others to what you’re, um, “exhibiting”: Do they want to see it, in which case they’ll enjoy the show? Or are you planning to take them by surprise, in which case they’ll likely be shocked or offended? The former—consensual exhibitionism—was about four times more common among my survey participants than the latter, nonconsensual type (42 percent and 10 percent, respectively).”

“This suggests that, in most exhibitionism fantasies, the goal is not to violate or offend onlookers—rather, the hope is that others will like what they see.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How Orgasms Actually Happen

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The complicated ways we experience sexuality.

By Gigi Engle

What leads us to orgasm? What if we haven’t experienced an orgasm? What happens to the body during orgasm? Have you had an orgasm? Is orgasm important?

These questions have been asked for many, many years. We’re constantly trying to break down orgasm. We want to know how to have one, how we get there, and how we get our partners there.

There is so much variance in the way women experience desire, pleasure, arousal, and orgasm. There are no true black and white answers. “Most of us tend to think of sex as linear and it doesn’t have to be. It’s great to use it as a guideline, but everyone’s experience is subjective,” Dr. Emily Morse, a sexologist and host of the Sex With Emily podcast tells Brides.

While we can suss out facts based on scientific research, it is important to recognize that there are vast personal differences. We each fall on a kind of spectrum. In no way is this information meant to incite feelings of “lacking” or “abnormality.”

The only normal that exists is the abnormal. We are all complex, unique, and different.

That being said, here is everything we know on the stages of sexual response and, yes, orgasm.

A wee bit of history

Not to bore you with a bunch of facts and history, but it’s actually quite important when discussing the ways we’ve come to understand (and not understand) female sexuality. If we don’t have the facts, what do we even have? It’s not like the information we receive on sex from school or family is highly reliable. (If you hate history and facts, just skip to section three).

When we talk about human sexual response, orgasm, etc. we usually jump to the original model created by pioneering sex researchers, Masters and Johnson, in the 1960s. These groundbreaking researchers broke the human sexual response cycle into excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. While a huge contribution to sexual science, Rena McDaniel, a certified sex therapist, tells Brides that this isn’t where the story ends.

In the 70s, this original model of human sexual response was further developed by Helen Singer Kaplan, adding in desire as the beginning of the sexual response cycle. This made way for a new framework which broke sexual response into a Triphasic Model: desire, arousal, orgasm.

“I’m most concerned with women knowing the difference between desire and arousal. Desire is our sex drive, our pilot light, or mental stimulation – whereas arousal is what happens when we’re physically turned on,” says Morse. Desire is in your mind, arousal is in the body. Including desire in the overall sexual cycle is crucial.

This three-part model may seem a little simpler than the Masters and Johnson’s, but it actually accounts for the overlapping, broad way we experience desire and arousal. Each of these three phases is complex and are experienced differently from woman to woman.

But, there’s more!

Sexual response was even further developed by researchers Janssen and Bancroft’s Dual Control Model and Basson’s Sexual Response Cycle.

These models map out sexual response as a super complex, overlapping, nonlinear system. McDaniel tells us that for female sexual experiences, desire may not be the first thing you feel; it might develop as you brain recognizes and codifies sexually relevant contexts. For example, your partner has lit candles and you start making out. Your vagina may lubricate before you think, “This is hot. I’m into it.”

“The Dual Control Model speaks to a similar system of ‘accelerators’ and ‘brakes’ that govern sexual response in a non-linear way,” McDaniel says. Accelerators move you forward in the sexual response cycle, while breaks slow you down. (To learn more, read on here.)

It’s complicated to say the least!

So, why does this matter?

It’s, like, why are we talking about this history stuff when there are juicy sex things to discuss? Because if you’re a woman, or a man, or a genderqueer person, or a non-binary person, or ANY person, you know that sexuality is complex AF.

It’s important to know how far science has come in order to get a better grasp on how your body works. If anything, all of this history and research can show you how we’re still figuring stuff out. You are not broken or lacking. Bodies are not a one-size-fits-all model.

Orgasm is not some ‘big finish” or “goal”

If the history lesson above should teach you anything it’s that sexual response and experience is anything but simple. Orgasm is defined as the involuntary release of sexual tension. That’s it. The word pleasure ain’t present in there, y’all.

We put a bunch of pressure on “orgasm” as this exciting big finish. If we don’t “get there” or if our orgasm is anything other than earth-shattering, we’ve failed. This is the wrong way to think about it. And frankly, it just makes women feeling like crap about themselves.

Orgasm isn’t the goal—sexual pleasure is the goal. If orgasm happens to take place, great. If not, your sexual experience is not invalidated. “When we reframe orgasm as the ‘cherry on top’ of a pleasurable and intimate sexual experience, it takes the pressure off and gives us more space to be present and enjoy the pleasurable sensations for their own sake instead of a means to an end,” McDaniels explains.

What this all means

Stop forcing an orgasm! It’s not doing anything for you. Putting pressure and stress on yourself will not result in the framework needed to relax into an orgasm.

If your partner is constantly asking you, “Did you come?” Have a conversation with them about how orgasm works. Pressure = breaks.

“It’s most important for women to figure out what turns them on and explore their body rather than worrying about whether or not they’re experiencing the ‘correct’ model of sexual arousal,” Morse says.

If we stopped freaking ourselves out so much, we’d probably all have more orgasms. Ah, a lovely sexual catch-22. Take time for yourself and figure out what works for you. Whatever works is right. That’s all there is to it. “Self-exploration is the key to understanding what it takes to orgasm during sex,” Mose says.

Masturbate, masturbate, masturbate. Consider this your call to action.

Complete Article HERE!

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Midlife sex problems?

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New research says you’re not alone

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Around 30 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 40 and 59 report at least one problem in the bedroom.

The most common sexual problem is low desire, according to a research study we recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Around 40 per cent of the women we asked, and 30 per cent of men, reported experiencing problems with low desire during the last six months.

Many women also reported difficulties reaching orgasm (15 per cent), as well as problems with vaginal dryness (29 per cent) and vaginal pain (17 per cent). Nearly a quarter of the men had difficulty ejaculating and maintaining or acquiring an erection.

These rates suggest that a variety of sexual problems are quite common among midlife Canadians. Our findings are also largely consistent with published research from the United States and the United Kingdom.

I am a PhD candidate in family relations and human development at the University of Guelph and my research typically focuses on “keeping the spark alive” in long-term relationships. My main interest is the intersection of relational and sexual elements within romantic relationships.

This study was co-authored with Robin Milhausen from the University of Guelph, Alexander McKay of the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada and Stephen Holzapfel from Women’s College Hospital Toronto. It was aimed at addressing a lack of available data on the frequency and predictors of sexual problems among midlife Canadians.

Novel sex enhances desire

Individuals who are married are more likely to report low desire than those who are not married, according to our results. Married men are more likely to report ejaculation difficulties.

These are interesting findings, and not unexpected. Other research has shown that sexual satisfaction decreases over time in long-term relationships. Together, this suggests that over-familiarity with a partner in some cases may lead to the sexual “spark” burning less bright, which may also contribute to sexual problems.

After years of marriage, it can take work to rekindle the sexual spark.

Our research also suggests that participating in novel sexual activities may enhance desire by breaking up routine and therefore enhancing the spark.

We also examined the effect of menopause — finding that postmenopausal women were more likely to report low desire and vaginal pain. This is consistent with other literature showing declines in desire for postmenopausal women. It complements other research, which suggests that physiological changes like thinning of the vaginal walls and reduced lubrication that can occur after menopause may lead to vaginal pain.

When doctors don’t ask

We conducted this research with a large national sample of 2,400 Canadians aged between 40 and 59. Our findings showed that sexual problems are very common in this age group. This is one of the largest Canadian demographics and will continue to grow. More national Canadian data is needed to understand the health-care needs for this group.

One important limitation of this study is that we based our research on participant self-reports and did not assess whether they met the diagnostic criteria for a clinical diagnosis of sexual dysfunction (e.g. erectile dysfunction).

Previously published research reveals that more midlife Canadians would like to be asked about sexual problems by their doctors, but more than 75 per cent had not sought help for these problems.

Read together with the results of our study, this suggests an emerging health-care issue that requires attention and research.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Ways To Have Sex Without A Penis

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— Because You Really Don’t Need One

By Kasandra Brabaw

When most people think about sex, their minds likely jump to penis-in-vagina (P-in-V) sex. And it’s no wonder, given that the sex ed many of us had (if we had it at all) focused on teaching us how to not get pregnant. When pregnancy is the concern (or the goal) then the only kind of sex that seems to “count” is P-in-V sex. We’re so invested in the penis’ involvement in sex, that when the story of a man who lost his penis in a childhood accident came out on Reddit, people had one burning question: How can he fuck his girlfriend?

“We typically end up having this picture in our brain that sex involves a penis and vagina,” says Laura Deitsch, PhD, resident sexologist of Vibrant. “It starts when a penis is hard and it ends when a penis ejaculates.” That fixation on penis-in-vagina penetration as “real sex” not only leaves a bunch of people out, it also ignores all kinds of sexy things couples could be doing instead of sticking a penis into a hole, she says. Plenty of people default to penis-less sex because they have to — including cisgender women in queer relationships and trans or non-binary people who feel gender dysphoria around their genitals — but even straight, cisgender people could benefit from giving the penis a break. Taking one night off from P-in-V sex could inspire creativity in straight couples’ sex lives, and that helps to stave off boredom.

Whether you’re a cis queer woman wondering what to do with her penis-less partner, a trans person looking for ways to avoid gender dysphoria, a straight and cis person whose partner can’t use his penis for medical reasons, or someone who simply wants to add a little excitement to your sex life, we’ve rounded up five ways to have sex without a penis. So, consider giving the P-in-V sex a break, and trying something new.

Put your tongue to work.
You’ve likely heard of the orgasm gap — the fact that straight women orgasm significantly less often than straight men — but have you heard of the oral sex gap? According to at least one study, women are more than twice as likely to go down on a sexual partner than men. So if you’re in a straight pairing, use your penis-less night to start filling in that gap.

Often, oral sex is way more effective (in terms of having orgasms) than penetrative sex alone for people who have vulvas, because there are about 8,000 nerve endings in the clitoris. But, regardless of your gender identity or sexuality, eating someone out for the first time can be scary. Vulvas and vaginas seem like this big mystery, simply because no one talks about them.

So let’s shatter the mystery. All it takes is a little bit of anatomy knowledge and some stellar communication to know what you’re doing. Things to remember: 1) All clits look different, but they’re generally located toward the top of your partner’s vulva. If you can’t find your partner’s clit, ask if you’re in the right spot. 2) Talk to your partner about what they like. It’s the best way to get them off, promise. 3) Have fun! Oral sex is hot.

Get your fingers (or fist) in there.
Fingering isn’t just for foreplay. When done correctly (meaning, there’s plenty of lubrication and it feels good), fingering can be just as satisfying as other forms of penetration. Plus, if your partner has a vulva, using your fingers gives you plenty of mobility to add another finger, tongue, or vibrator circling their clit. And that combo is amazingly good at creating explosive blended orgasms.

If your partner has a penis, you can finger them, too. It’s called “muffing.” People with penises have two spots tucked behind the scrotum and testicles called inguinal canals, which are about the diameter of a finger (but also stretch). Mira Bellwether first wrote about this kind of fingering in a zine called Fucking Trans Women, but the sex act can feel good for anyone who has a penis, regardless of gender identity.

Kick it old school.
Think back to the days of your first romance. You were likely waiting a while to have “real sex.” So, instead, you’d rub your fully clothed body against your partner’s. That, my friends, is dry humping and it can count as sex, too. If you rub in the right places, it can also result in orgasm.

“The main thing for people to remember is that you’re going to try getting some constant friction on the clit,” Laura McGuire, PhD, a sexologist and consultant, previously told Refinery29. So just swivel your hips around on a partner’s erection, hip, thigh, or a sex toy, until you hit a spot that feels good.

Take out the toy box.
Sex toys are your friend, and they can make any kind of sex much more interesting (whether or not the penis is in play). If at least one partner has a clitoris, toys like vibrators and dildos can be used either in combo with oral sex or fingering or they can be used on their own to stimulate any part of the body, Dr. Deitsch says.

Strap-ons can also be a great addition to your sex adventures, whether or not your partner has a penis. And if they do have a penis, toys can still come in handy. Anyone who has a prostate can get lots of pleasure from anal sex, so you can use a strap-on to peg your partner (aka, enter them from behind).

Share your fantasies.
Sex means so many different things to different people that it sometimes doesn’t require much touching at all, Dr. Deitsch says. “If we opened our minds, we’d realize that sex is a whole lot of stuff,” she says. “And I challenge someone, if they’re thinking that something like tying your partner up and reading them erotic fiction isn’t sex, would they do that with a family member or with someone who they just met at the grocery store?”

To some people, sharing sexual fantasies can be highly erotic. So Dr. Deitsch recommends laying with your partner and describing the sexy things you want to do to them, or watching porn together, or engaging in some light bondage as you read sexy stories.

Experiment with texture and touch.
If non-penetrative sex is new for you, then now is a great time to really get to know your partner’s body. “An interesting way to conceptualize a partner is having them be your canvas,” Dr. Deitsch says. Use whatever you can find, that your partner feels good having on their body, and explore different parts of your lover’s body. That can mean a wooden spoon or spatula, a comb, an ice cube, a smooth piece of cloth or a fork. “Rake a comb across their back or take a piece of cloth in between the cleavage area,” Dr. Deitsch says. “Just making a big long production out of feeling different types of touch with different materials.” It’s fun, but can also help you get intimately acquainted with all of your partner’s sensitive spots. (Maybe you can even attempt the elusive nipple-gasm.)

Make it booty-licious.
(Almost) everyone has an anus, Dr. Deitsch says. So anal sex is the great equalizer. “There are a plethora of new toys on the market, like butt plugs and anal beads, that you certainly don’t need a penis to be able to utilize,” she says. And whether any partner involved has a prostate or not, anal sex can feel amazing.

But, it’s also easy to have anal sex that hurts. So, if you’re a first-timer, make sure you’re buying smaller butt plugs that have a flared base and using plenty of lube.

Complete Article HERE!

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Men, like women, can have post-sex blues

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By Cheryl Platzman Weinstock

After sex, men can sometimes experience a myriad of confusing negative feelings, a phenomenon called post-coital dysphoria (PCD), which can interfere with relationships, researchers say.

The research team analyzed responses from over 1,200 men to an anonymous international online survey that asked whether they had ever experienced symptoms of PCD, which can include tearfulness, sadness or irritability following otherwise satisfactory consensual sex.

The men, aged between 18 and 81 years, were primarily in Australia and the U.S., but the sample also included men in the UK, Russia, New Zealand, Germany and 72 other countries.

The study team, led by Joel Maczkowiack, a master’s student at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, found that 41 percent of the men reported having experienced PCD in their lifetime, with 20 percent saying they had experienced it in the previous four weeks. Between 3 percent and 4 percent of the men reported experiencing PCD on a regular basis.

“I would like to think that this study will help males (and females) reflect on their experience of sex, as well as encourage communication between partners about their experience,” Maczkowiack told Reuters Health by email.

“In addition, we hope that this type of research will help people whose experience of sex is dysphoric (or dysphoric at times) to know that they are not the only ones who feel this way. In this sense, we hope this study normalizes a variety of human experiences following sex,” he said.

Past research has found that PCD is common among women. This is the first time it has been documented in men, Maczkowiack said.

PCD can occur despite satisfying and enjoyable sex. One man in the study reported that PCD made him feel “self-loathing.” Another reported, “I feel a lot of shame.” One participant said, “I usually have crying fits and full on depressive episodes following coitus that leave my significant other worried . . . .”

The study, published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, found that PCD may be related to previous and current psychological distress and past abuse, including sexual, emotional and physical abuse in childhood and adulthood.

Emotional abuse was the most common form of abuse reported by the men both before and after age 16, researchers found. Sexual abuse in childhood was reported by 12.7 percent of the men and sexual abuse in adulthood was reported by 3.5 percent of the men. Their most common reported mental health concern was depression (36.9 percent), followed by anxiety (32.5 percent) and bipolar disorder (3 percent).

Current psychological distress was the strongest variable associated with lifetime and four-week PCD. Higher levels of psychological distress were more strongly associated with PCD.

The data for this study was collected from February to June 2017 and drawn from a larger questionnaire that examined the post-coital experience of men and women.

“While this research is interesting, the study of PCD needs psychometrically valid instruments, said Rory Reid, an assistant professor of psychiatry and research psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.

The study used a few questions to measure PCD, but there is ambiguity in those items, Reid said in a phone interview. “They lack precision and there was no specificity about frequency in responses as to exactly how often was ‘a little’ or ‘some of the time’,” he noted.

“Future studies of PCD need to utilize qualitative approaches where participants are interviewed about their PCD experiences so we can further understand this phenomenon, why people might experience it, the extent to which it is causing individuals psychological distress, and whether it is negatively impacting their romantic relationship,” Reid added.

One of limitations of the study was that the men self-reported their emotional response to previous sexual experiences. “This information can be difficult for participants to recall,” Maczkowiack, said.

“The findings of this study could influence marital therapy by normalizing different responses. In addition, it may open up communication between partners,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

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Yes, we can.

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And we can also change the way we talk about disability and sex

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There are major barriers for disabled people who want to pursue sex and relationships. They are real and deeply felt. Yet the stigmatising tone of public conversation makes me wary, writes Henrietta Bollinger

“Um … advice? From me? Yes, we can,” was my cautious, then tongue-in-cheek answer. “As Obama would say!”

The others laughed. It was a joke. But I’d just been asked what advice I might have for young people like me who were exploring sex and sexuality. It was also a pithy summary of what 16-year-old me had needed to know.

As a disabled woman this was not something I’d been sure of: could sex be part of my life? When I later conducted research on the experience of young disabled people in sexuality education the question repeated itself. Being unsure if sex and relationships would feature in their lives meant they were unsure if any of the information about safe sex or healthy relationships applied either. They largely disregarded what they had learnt as irrelevant , increasing the risk of abuse. So, I know how important it is to clearly say: “Yes. As a disabled person sex is for you, too.”

This sentiment in the piece headlined “The reality of having sex when you live with a disability” I had to agree with. I also agree that there are major barriers for disabled people who want to pursue sex and relationships. These range from a lack of affirmative education, to the inaccessibility of places where people usually meet potential partners, disabled people’s social isolation and stigma towards disabled people, including assumptions that may come from their own families or the people who support them. There are related issues too, like people’s rights to marriage, fertility or to have children. In this country, it is still legal under the Adoption Act for children to be removed from their parents’ care on the grounds of parental disability. Disabled people are also still far too frequently subjected to sterilization.

The barriers are real and deeply felt. They absolutely need addressing as part of realising equitable and full lives for disabled people. I would absolutely advocate for the removal of all barriers that inhibit us from exploring sexuality or entering sexual relationships as equals to non-disabled people. Yet the tone of public conversation makes me wary. On the rare occasions we do talk about disability and sex it is either to highlight the barriers or to equivocate about sex work. Advocacy which claims the act of sex as something we are entitled to often misses the fact that good sex should be a negotiation, a social interaction. Nobody – including those who work in the sex industry – owes it to anyone.

Sex work as a way for disabled people to access sex has been brought to popular attention by films like The Sessions or Touching Base. The Sessions was a dramatization of Mark O’Brien’s life; a man with polio who decided he wanted to have sex before he died. Touching Base is a documentary about an Australian sex worker who visits disabled clients. Stories like these have a lot of value in terms of amplifying the “Yes we can” message. For many disabled people working with sex workers provides intimacy they may not have and the opportunity to explore their own bodies, take “safe-risks”. But these stories are told into a context where sex workers continue to be stigmatised and so do disabled people.

When this is made the dominant narrative, it allows the rest of “able” society off the hook in terms of examining its own prejudices. Instead of asking hard questions about attitudinal, social, educational and physical barriers that exist to all people being full sexual citizens – we outsource. We tell sex workers that there are morally more and less acceptable ways of doing their jobs, instead of constantly supporting them in their choice of work.

Disabled people, we say to ourselves, are entitled to sex as a service, the uncomplicated meeting of a need. But as partners, lovers in their own right?

There is another story, too, a story that we tell less often – maybe because it is more mundane.

This is the idea that disabled people can and do have sex – without the help of any support or sex workers. We are straight, queer, alone, together. We are partners, lovers, parents and all the rest. It is the kind of conversation that is happening privately, or being just lived. It is the mundane story we need to make sure people know is out there too.

Because after we understand that “Yes we can” we ask: how? And we have to know there is not one reality of sex and disability but many. The more varied the stories we tell, the more will seem possible to the disabled kid in their sex ed class, as well as to their potential partners.

Complete Article HERE!

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

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By Aliyah Kovner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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What Do You Do If You Have An STI?

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Stay Calm, Here Are 3 Steps To Take

By Laura Moses

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

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

Step One: Get Tested

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

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

Step Two: For Real, Get Tested

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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It’s time to reimagine consent in our romantic lives

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Often we talk about consent in terms of power: who has it and how are they wielding it? What if we thought of it in terms of attention?

‘New ways of consent can re-shape our relationships—and our entire culture.’

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Since the short story Cat Person was published in the New Yorker late last year, my friends and I have spent a lot of time talking about bad sex. If consent is a spectrum with an enthusiastic, joyful yes at one end and sexual assault at the other, bad sex lives in the middle. There are lots of reasons why so many women have had so much bad sex: an impulse to please, the shame or discomfort of acknowledging your own needs, a misplaced hope that if you just go along with it, a bad experience might eventually get better. We are women in our twenties and thirties and forties and the question underlying these conversations is the same for each of us: what is the value of my desires?

We’re getting better at talking about consent when it comes to sex. The #metoo movement has encouraged people of all genders to really imagine what an enthusiastic, joyful yes can look like—and to understand how prioritizing mutual pleasure makes sex better for everyone. But we’re missing an opportunity to consider how these more sophisticated ways of practicing consent might re-shape our relationships—and our entire culture.

One way I’ve tried to reimagine consent in my romantic life is by creating a relationship contract with my partner. It’s not a legal contract and there are no penalties when one of us doesn’t do what we’ve agreed to. It’s really an opportunity for the two of us to sit down together and discuss our expectations about everything from chores to date nights to sex. When I first wrote about our contract, I was surprised by the strong responses it elicited. Some people – often young straight women – loved the idea. Others accused my partner and me of being “robots” or “unromantic nerds.” But these readers are missing the point: being heard is the most romantic thing I can imagine.

Of course these critiques sound a lot like the complaints of those who think talking about sex beforehand – and actually asking the person you’re with if they’re into whatever you’re doing—ruins the experience. At the heart of these accusations of “ruining romance” is the notion that you shouldn’t voice your needs or desires: mutual understanding should happen all on its own—in sex and in love.

When I was young, I assumed that once I found the right person, I wouldn’t have to ask for anything—he would just understand me. I probably don’t need to say that this approach didn’t serve me well. For one thing, the assumption that the right person would know what I wanted – intuitively, telepathically – prevented me from ever bothering to figure it out for myself. In this fairy tale model of consent, mutual understanding requires nothing more than the machinations of fate to bring partners together. This promise of being uniquely and perfectly understood is seductive—and it’s baked into our language: the right person “completes you”; they are “the one,” or “your other half,” or your “soulmate.”

There’s some interesting research on “implicit theories of relationships” – which is really an academic way of describing the metaphors we use to think about love. One study found that those who thought of love as “perfect unity between two halves” (an idea as old as Plato) were less satisfied with their relationship after a conflict than those who framed love as “a journey with ups and downs.” Another study (charmingly titled “Great Sexpectations”) found that partners with high “sexual destiny beliefs” experience lower relationship quality. In other words, we are happier with our relationships when we assume that sex is something we get better at together.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that straight women are the ones most eager to reject the fairy tale of effortless mutual understanding. Same-sex couples tend to be better at communicating, which means that women in same-sex relationships are having (significantly) better sex than straight women. And same-sex partners distribute domestic labor and caregiving responsibilities more fairly than those in different-sex relationships. Maybe it goes without saying that women do more of the housework and childrearing in heterosexual relationships—and that this decreases their relationship satisfaction—but I’ll say it anyway.

The Oxford English Dictionary provides two definitions of the word “consent”: to “give permission for something to happen” and to “agree to do something.” The first – giving permission – is essentially what sex educator Jaclyn Friedman calls the gatekeeper model of consent. This model requires the person with the least power—the most vulnerable person in a relationship—to be the one to set boundaries. It also normalizes the idea that the one with more power will maximize that power in an attempt to get what they want. The second definition – agreeing to do something – sounds more mutual, but only slightly. Both definitions are the equivalent to checking the “terms and conditions” box on a new software download and hoping for the best.

But consent hasn’t always been so one-sided. The etymology of the word gets closer to the culture of consent I’m imagining. The Latin consentire literally means “to feel together.”

Often we talk about consent in terms of power: who has it and how are they wielding it? But we might also think of it in terms of attention. One reason romantic idealism is so appealing is because it suggests that love is an adequate stand-in for attention; if you are perfectly matched with someone, you don’t have the obligation of really bothering to know them.

What would it look like if we built a culture around the idea of “feeling together”? If we began with the assumption that we should shape our relationships – sexual, personal, even professional – with another person, bearing both our experiences in mind?

“Feeling together” requires us to acknowledge that privilege is, by definition, an imbalance of attention, an absence of care. And it implies that it’s the responsibility of those with privilege and power to offer more attention, to give more care. What I love about this version of consent is that demands intimacy. It ties us more tightly to one another by suggesting that empathy is not a burden, but an opportunity.

Complete Article HERE!

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6 reasons why sex is important in a relationship

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By Gabrielle Kassel

I want to start by saying that sex doesn’t need to be a part of every relationship. It might be important to you to wait a certain amount of time or until a particular life milestone (like, say, getting married) to have sex. Or, as Liz Powell, PsyD, an LGBTQ-friendly sex educator, coach, and licensed psychologist, points out, “There are people who are asexual who are in relationships where sex is mutually unimportant or undesired, and those relationships are just as valid, loving, and intimate as any others.”

But for people who do decide to have sex be a part of their relationships, it’s super important. Because when it comes to sex—both having it and talking about it—you and your partner need to “navigate, communicate, and compromise,” says Shadeen Francis, a sex, marriage, and family therapist. Are you in-tune with each other’s needs and wants? Do you trust your S.O. enough to be vulnerable with them? And to handle your bod with respect?

Beyond the emotional benefits, there are also a slew of health perks that come with doing the deed. And that helps your relationship, too—because when your stress is down and confidence is up, it’s the perfect environment for your love to *flourish.* (Bonus: The physical benefits aren’t reserved for penetrative sex alone, says licensed clinical psychologist Sarah Schewitz, PsyD. “It’s important to realize that there are a lot of ways of being intimate physically: deep kissing, hand jobs, mutual masturbation, even watching porn together,” adds Powell.)

So while there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to just how important sex is in a relationship, the experts agree that it is.

Keeping reading to learn 6 expert- and science-backed reasons why sex is important in a relationship.

1. It gives you an emotional high

The blissful afterglow is one of the main reasons people do mega-intense workouts. And, it turns out, you experience a similar high after sex, thanks the release of feel-good hormones.

Here’s how it works: Sex releases dopamine in the brain, which increases your ambition and sense of happiness; testosterone, which improves your performance at work; and endorphins, which reduce your stress level and minimize pain. “All of these hormones together play a complex role in human pair-bonding and are essential in maintaining the glue of a relationship,” says psychologist and relationship expert Danielle Forshee, PsyD.

Plus, a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has found that having sex promotes overall well-being and fosters positive emotions, particularly within 24 hours of gettin’ down. So, in addition to the immediate gratification, the physical encounter with a partner creates a sort of lasting “hangover” that can strengthen your relationship, mood, and emotional bond.

2. Sex can help relieve stress

By now, you’ve probably tried the de-stressing staples: deep-breathing, massages, hot baths, and even hotter yoga. But why not add sex to the mix? “Sex releases oxytocin into the bloodstream, which promotes relaxation and stress relief,” says Francis. “And oxytocin also combats cortisol, the main stress hormone,” says Schewitz.

In fact, researchers have found that sex is similar to eating pleasurable “comfort food” in its ability to reduce tension by stimulating the brain’s reward system. And orgasm isn’t necessary to reap the benefits: Your body releases oxytocin after only 20 seconds of skin-to-skin contact, so any sort of physical touch is beneficial.

While the reduction in stress is beneficial to both parties individually, it’s beneficial to the relationship as a whole, too. “Even if stress is not relationship-specific, it can interfere with how good you feel in it,” Francis says.

3. It can boost your confidence

Sex may not give you an automatically turn your BDE levels all the way up to Rihanna, but “it can be an incredibly confidence-boosting, body-loving moment for some people,” says Francis. “Most of us have some degree of insecurity, whether it be something about our physical body or not. But being validated by someone that we love and trust can help build confidence.”

That dopamine rush we’ve talked about also helps boost your mojo, says Courtney Cleman, CFA and co-founder of The V. Club, a wellness and education center in New York City. “The more we have dopamine, the more we feel good and we feel good about ourselves,” she says.

That’s key, because your self-image has an impact on your sexual satisfaction. A 2012 review of research on the topic found that “body-image issues can affect all domains of sexual functioning,” from desire to arousal to satisfaction.

4. You’ll both get a better night’s sleep

In addition to increasing oxytocin and decreasing cortisol, sex also improves your sleep because you release a hormone called prolactin when you orgasm. This chemical can lead to deeper sleep and more time in the REM stage—the part of the sleep cycle when your brain and body are re-energized and your dreams occur.

A good night’s sleep is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, in no small part because increases your mental wellbeing. And increased mental wellbeing means less irritability, which means you pick fewer fights with your partner.

For a bonus bae-boost while you snooze, scooch close to your S.O. before you doze off. According to research from the University of Hertforshire, people who go to sleep touching report the highest rates of relationship bliss.

5. The intimacy extends beyond the bedroom

“[Sex creates] an intimacy feedback loop,” says Cleman. “The more intimacy you have in the bedroom, the more intimacy you’ll have outside the bedroom, and vice versa.” Research backs this up. A series published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that sex predicts affection and affection, in turn, predicts sexual activity.

“This loop is particularly beneficial to people who have physical touch as one of their primary love languages,” says Francis, referring to the concept introduced by Gary Chapman in his best-selling book. “If intimate touch is how you express love and receive love from our partners, then sex is a gateway for how you share affection and love,” she says.

6. Post-sex cuddles are the best (but really)

Getting all snuggly-wuggly with your boo is not only one of the greatest parts of the relationship for some people (it’s like a blanket burrito, but better), it can also make your relationship stronger. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that kissing and cuddling after sex leads to a more satisfying and happier relationship. (Oxytocin FTW, again). But of course, to reap those post-sex benefits, the sex has to come first.

Complete Article HERE!

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